Playing The Long-Game: A Refreshing Approach to Tech Growth

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A guest blog post by Chris Pinkerton, President at GetintheLoop

In the Fall of 2016, I first met Matt Crowell, the Founder and CEO of GetintheLoop. Matt and I were introduced through a mutual friend from Toronto. I can clearly remember us both ordering large dark roasts, and noticing they were both still full at the end of our conversation. Needless to say, it was a fast-paced and energizing first meeting.

Matt passionately explained the technology business his team had built and the journey that brought him to this point. More importantly, he outlined his clear growth model and a long-term vision that was extremely rare in today’s technology space. What struck me was many start-ups today do not play the long-game. They are usually focused on raising quick venture capital and operating more like what the business could be, than what it is. This was refreshing and powerful.

I’ve been fortunate to meet many founders over the years, but there was something about Matt that was different than the rest.

We discussed our backgrounds, his business, the media industry; but what struck me was his humbleness and willingness to just listen. He had an insatiable thirst to learn and a drive to get better everyday.  

Beyond his growth philosophy, I was struck with the sophistication of such a young company and also how clearly focused they were on solving a growing challenge in the marketplace. Many local businesses were having an increasingly difficult time reaching their modern customer. Today, consumers live on their smartphones - they are streaming TV and radio and print media is rapidly disappearing from local markets; and nobody is bringing modern marketing solutions and services to local businesses to combat this trend.

After many more equally energizing conversations, I joined GetintheLoop as President & COO in October 2017. I joined the company after a decade in digital media, ad tech and user research, primarily working with U.S. brands. At the time, the key reason I joined the company was to be a part of, and hopefully help, the team of 15 transform their innovative technology into a long-term thriving global company in the community I call home: Kelowna, BC. 

I’ve always been attracted to passionate entrepreneurs. Their steadfast belief and commitment to their idea is inspiring to me. I’ve always felt that I had an entrepreneurial mindset working inside the companies I’ve worked with. There is even a buzzword for this: the intrapreneur. But the biggest difference between thinking you are one, and being one, is substantial. The risk tolerance, the ability to self-motivate, the strength to deal with all the naysayers; it’s a remarkable depth of character that’s required.

In my role, I was tasked with ensuring the company runs well, while contributing and helping effectively translate the companies vision into reality. That’s the short answer. At the time we had 15 team members, 300 business partners, 70,000 members and four channel partners who represented our solution in 20 cities in western Canada.

We had a product-market fit, a passionate team and a market opportunity. Now was the time to think bigger.

We set our mark to build the world’s largest local offers network by transforming the way consumers receive and redeem offers, experiences and events.

It was audacious, big and just the task our team was up for....I was hoping.

Easier said than done. In a period of 24-months, we pivoted the business’ go to market model (launched Canada’s fastest growing franchise), re-built our technology infrastructure and established an API integration strategy for audience growth. All this while continuing to add business partners and launch new local markets. This is what they refer to as building the car while you’re driving it. 

Flash forward two years (if only it was that easy) and we are now a team of 40 employees across three countries, with 91 local owners in 40+ markets from coast to coast. We have over 1000+ business partners and hundreds of thousands of members. We’ve re-engineered the business to be built for growth and have attracted a skilled team to get us there. But this doesn’t happen without working hard to find the right people. It’s what makes the team here so special - our Wolfpack is a passionate group of intrapreneurs who all believe in playing the long game to achieve our vision. 

That brings me back to the conversation Matt and I originally had. From the beginning, we talked about the people and the culture it takes to be successful. There are a few key elements to building a successful technology company: you need a clearly articulated and valid strategy, you need a proven product-market fit, you need the right advisors and capital, and most importantly you need a skilled team that’s all-in. Being all-in means that every one of our team members sacrifices time, short-term money, and other opportunities to see this through. This means that they dream, believe, challenge and support each other all the time, every time.  

On a weekly basis, Matt and I commiserate about the roller coaster feeling of building a start-up. No two days are similar and judgement calls need to be made daily that are both right and wrong - we just don’t know which it is until we make it. But the point is, you need to be decisive, make decisions with your vision and your culture in mind, and deal with the results head on.

After we land of the right way, we jokingly say ‘that’s another chapter for the book’, and it seems the longer you persevere and improve the chapters seem to get more exciting and larger than you ever thought possible.

Play the long-game. It’s worth it.