Will Glaser is the founder and CEO of Grabango which is a provider of checkout-free shopper technology for existing stores. Prior to Grabango, Will co-founded Pandora (internet radio and recommendation services) which was acquired for $3.5 billion.
In this episode you will learn:
- How Grabango works for everyone
- Why file patents early, even if law isn’t your business
- Will’s unique way of thinking about pitching and raising from investors
- Due diligence and how he sees fundraising more as recruiting
- How a great company culture is identified by how it handles mistakes
- How a Jackson Pollock painting can teach you the art to startup success
For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash.
The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks
Moreover, I also provided a commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400 million (see it here).
Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
About Will Glaser:
Will Glaser is the founder and CEO of Grabango.
Grabango is the leading provider of checkout-free technology for existing, large-scale store chains. Grabango delivers a next-generation shopper experience and is the only enterprise-class, checkout-free solution on the market today. The Grabango platform is a fault-tolerant, edge computing network that accurately processes millions of simultaneous transactions. The system places no limits on who can enter the store, what can be sold there, or how the shelving is configured.
Prior to Grabango, Will co-founded Pandora Media, and served as its CTO and COO during the first five years of the company’s history. The technology Will built at Pandora became the first machine learning algorithm ever deployed on a large consumer scale. Will was awarded a rare triple major from Cornell University in Computer Science, Mathematics, and Physics.
Connect with Will Glaser:
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FULL TRANSCRIPTION OF THE INTERVIEW:
Alejandro: Alrighty. Hello everyone, and welcome to the DealMakers show. Today we have a very exciting founder. A founder that literally has changed the [0:00:10]. I think that he’s going to be telling us a lot about building and scaling, a lot about how you engineer the early days of hypergrowth. Without further ado, let’s welcome our guest today so that he can tell us more about it. Will Glaser, welcome to the show today.
Will Glaser: Hi, Alejandro. I’m really glad to be here.
Alejandro: Originally born and raised in Berkeley, California. How was life there, Will?
Will Glaser: I love Berkeley. It’s like no other place on earth. It’s full of very smart people with very independent thinking, but the folks here are not all the same as each other.
Alejandro: I hear you. On the West Coast, you have amazing universities and amazing education. How did you land on the East Coast?
Will Glaser: My dad was a professor at Berkeley, a professor of physics, and then later, microbiology. You really can’t go to school where your dad cast a shadow that my dad cast. So, I went about as far away as I could go without leaving the continent, which landed me at Cornell University.
Alejandro: There, you studied mathematics and then also physics. Why did you go with these types of studies?
Will Glaser: In fact, I did a triple major: computer science, mathematics, and physics. Computer science is the field in which I earn my living. Mathematics I consider to be a toolset. If you’re a carpenter, you have hammer and nails. If you’re a metalworker, you have lathes and welding machines. If you’re in computer science or in physics, for that matter, mathematics is a tool kit. Physics is sort of a hobby. It is an interest of mine in how the world works, but I rarely get to use what I learned there in my profession. My profession is computer science.
Alejandro: It’s interesting because all these different things are all towards problem-solving. Growing up, was there a specific point in time where you were super attracted to resolving complex problems?
Will Glaser: I had a little bit different upbringing than many folks. I have kids of my own, and kids ask questions about the real world. They ask questions like, “Why is the sky blue? Why does that little puddle of water at the top of the candle not put out the flame? Why is the crazy person on the street at Berkeley yelling at a parking meter?” Just by happenstance, my parents were the kinds of people that could answer those questions. I grew up not believing in magic. I grew up in the idea that any question you can pose has an answer, and the only question is, do you know someone who knows the answer is you have to figure out for yourself? It gave me a lifelong interest in learning.
Alejandro: Very cool. Once you got your studies on the East Coast, then you returned to the West Coast. Then you were going at it in Silicon Valley. What was that like?
Will Glaser: I came to Silicon Valley in the early days. It was the time of expansion. There were still parts of the Valley that were empty fields that had been apple orchards, buildings were going up, and people were inventing and building things all around me. I was the young, wide-eyed kid, and I got involved right away. My career has been starting and running companies and helping others do the same in a variety of technology—some hardware, some software, some SaaS around the fields of technology and all around building newness in one form or another.
Alejandro: Before one of your biggest success stories with Pandora, you went at it with Hydra Systems. What did you do there?
Will Glaser: Hydra Systems was an interesting company. We started out with the idea of cloning the Apple Macintosh. We reversed engineered and re-engineered the Apple Mac. But rather than selling it as a standalone PC, we sold it as an add-on card that went inside an IBM Compatible back in the days when people put cards inside compatibles. If you bought a standard PC and bought the hydro card, you would have a computer that would run all Mac software and all PC software and interoperate between the two; and all at a price-performance point below either one of them. It was a very powerful machine that was more compatible than anything else you could buy in the day.
Alejandro: What happened with the business?
Will Glaser: Well, I made a mistake. Microsoft came out with the early version of Windows. I saw it, and I thought to myself, “The main advantage that Apple has over Microsoft is the user interface, the desktop Windowing interface. The main advantage that Microsoft has over Apple is scale and the enterprise approach to business. If Microsoft starts selling Windows, Apple’s really in trouble. In fact, I was sort of right in that that version of Windows led to the demise of that version of Apple. But I was really wrong about the timescale. It took them many years for that to happen. Then Apple recovered, and that’s a whole other story for another podcast. I panicked. I saw the demise of my company, which lived at the intersection between those two as going away and hired a new CEO whose job was to sell the company. He sold the company. The investors all made money, but if I had been more patient and built the company for three or five more years, it would have been a much bigger exit. I guess I saw the future and didn’t appreciate how slowly business moves around technology sometimes. It was an error.
Alejandro: What happened next?
Will Glaser: I went to consulting. The bulk of the consulting that I did at the time—we’re talking about the 90s now—was tech turnarounds for businesses that were somehow in trouble: there was an engineering project overbudget or behind schedule, or somehow they weren’t meeting predictions, or it was a new product architecture for a large organization wanting to get into a new market.
Alejandro: This eventually led you to Pandora. Tell us about that transition, and how did the idea of this incredible, iconic company come to life?
Will Glaser: The original idea was weirdly, not music, but it was videos. Back in the day, you used to rent videos. The idea was in a video rental store, which don’t exist anymore, you would decide what to rent based on what you had seen and what you had liked, but not what you hadn’t yet seen. So, the prediction problem is difficult. “How do I know what I want to buy, what I want to watch?” Standing there in the aisles of the store, I had the early stages of an invention, the concept that I wanted to work on. Then I went away and spent a couple of weeks with a notepad and a pencil and invented the actual algorithm. The algorithm that became Pandora presumes to understand human tastes, artistic taste by humans in pieces of art, which is to say music. It does it using a computer. Raising money for Pandora was a challenge because I had to convince people not only that music was about to move from physical plastic discs online, but that I, some kid relatively fresh out of school was able to teach a computer to understand subjective human taste in art and then evolve that taste forward overtime. Those ideas are now called personalization and machine learning. We didn’t have either of those at the time. We just called it the algorithm. That was the genesis of Pandora, those couple of ideas that one could do, and the solution was in math.
Alejandro: Correct. I’m thinking they probably thought you were crazy because we’re talking about the 90s. Now, everyone, every single founder that I’ve talked to, they’re telling me some form of artificial intelligence. It seems like everyone is doing it now, but back then they probably thought you were from a different planet.
Will Glaser: Absolutely. We pitched a lot of venture people that thought we were out of our minds. At the time, I thought, “Why can’t you see it?” But now, in hindsight, I guess I appreciate how unusual it was.
Alejandro: How did the founding team come together, Will?
Will Glaser: We were three acquaintances. We’re friends now, but at the time, we knew each other but not particularly well. There was me to do technology and product. There was John, who was the business guy, and Tim, who was a musician. John and I had each started and run companies before and had exits of medium success. I wouldn’t say stratospheric success, but John and I were each moderately success entrepreneurs, and Tim was a musician, and we started the company that way. John left fairly early for reasons that don’t have a lot to do with the company; they had to do more with his personal art than anything else. When John left, I took over everything inside the walls of the business. I was already running the entire tech team and the product team. I took on finance, facilities, operations, everything inside legal, and everything inside the company. Tim took over everything outside the company: investor relations and business development. Tim and I ran the company for years. I was there for the first five years and then left after that. Tim stayed on for quite a bit longer than that. We built the company to when the technology was ready to begin scaling.
Alejandro: Here you are, someone that has studied computer science, mathematics, physics. How is it going from engineering to all of a sudden, here you are managing people and operations and business stuff? How was that transition?
Will Glaser: It’s kind of funny. I prepared for it all my life in a certain sense because dinner table conversation for two decades with my dad, the scientist, was he wanted to figure out what projects he should work on that were so hard, he probably couldn’t do it, but if he could, it would advance the frontier of science. That’s how he chose a project. I, as the entrepreneur, wanted to choose a project that was so hard that most people probably couldn’t do it, but that I probably could, and that also made business sense. So, my projects had to not only work, they had to be repeatable, and they had to make financial sense. I used to joke with him that my job was way harder than his, which is always fun to say to a scientist.
Alejandro: Very cool. In this case, how were those early days of Pandora?
Will Glaser: They were not dissimilar from the early days of Grabango. The two companies are similar in a lot of ways. Both companies are solving a very human problem, which is to say a problem that I have because I’m a human and the problem that my wife has and that her family has and that strangers that live in another state or another country have as well. We all hate waiting in line in the case of Grabango, and we all want access to more music in a more organized way in the case of Pandora. For both companies, the solution is mathematics. In both cases, the solution is to solve the problem using this toolset that I fell in love with as a college kid, build a team that has an overlapping set of skills to go after it, build a product and wrap that product in simplicity so we can all use it, and then ship it to the world. In the case of Pandora, it’s: take all the mathematics and musicology and put it behind a search box, a play button, and a thumb up and a thumb down. In the case of Grabango, it’s: use a store with the part of the store you want, which is to say the shopping and the products and skip the part of the store you don’t want, which is to say the line. So, they’re sort of similar companies in that way.
Alejandro: Very nice. We’re going to be talking about Grabango in just a little bit. In Pandora’s case, it ended up being an incredible company. I know that when it comes down to doing the hypergrowth route, you need money. During the economic downturn and especially the bubble bursting, I know it was super tough to secure financing. It’s incredible what you guys went through and also your employees. Would you mind telling us about this experience?
Will Glaser: Sure. We did the first funding to start the company. John and I had very strong track records going into the company. Raising that first round during the dotcom boom was relatively easy. I don’t want to say it was trivial, but comparatively speaking, it was not a heavy lift. We ran and grew the company through the dotcom recession. During that time, raising money was very difficult, and in particular, raising money for a B2C, a company selling products to consumers wasn’t possible. So, we abandoned the dream of radio and became technology providers to others, companies like TYE Records, AOL, Barnes & Noble, Borders Books & Music. Other brands that already had relationships and customers, we would be the tech provider behind them. Even then, even with the B2B business model, which the value was preferring at the time, raising money was very, very difficult. There were times when we ran out of money. What we would have to do is during that period, we would have to stand up in front of the all-hands meeting and announce to the team, “We have the money in the bank to make your payroll for the present period, but we don’t have the money in the bank to make the payroll for the next period. We’re working to raise it. We may raise it; we may not. We’re using our best efforts, but I cannot stand here and promise you you’ll get paid for the next pay period. If you need to leave, I will not blame you. I will understand; there will be no hard feelings. If you’re able to stay, we’re going to founderize you.” Founderize is a word we invented at the time. The thinking was, in the early days of startups, founders often work for free in exchange for equity. Of course, all the employees of that company, Pandora, and certainly Grabango, today, have equity in the company. So when the company succeeds, everyone succeeds. We gave them additional equity as interest on the loan of their salary. “If you can forego your salary for the upcoming pay period and work essentially for free, we will endeavor to pay back that debt and then give you a bonus of the stock options.” This happened a number of times, and we were probably, at the end of the day, a million dollars in debt, not to wealthy investors but to regular employees. That was a heavy burden that these people were betting their past—by this point, every time you opt-in, the money goes by—their past salary on our ability to fundraise, and build the company. It turned out okay. We raised the money. We paid back everyone dollar per dollar, plus the additional equity, and those people that were able that were in a financial situation to be able to stay with us did fabulously well. We made many millionaires from that period of time when Pandora went public. There was a lot of success to go around, and all those people shared in it. There were a few people that weren’t able to who were in a financial situation where they couldn’t forego salary, and they had to leave, but the vast majority were thankfully able to stay and became the core of the company.
Alejandro: Typically, when events of this nature happen is where it builds the culture and that uniqueness of the team that all work together behind the trenches. What do you think were two or three characteristics that made this team so unique?
Will Glaser: The Pandora team was phenomenal. They were among the smartest group of people I had met at the time. They were incredibly committed to the mission, which is to say they, along with Tim and me and John in the earlier days, saw the vision and understood that not all people have the same tastes. There is no such thing as good music and bad music. There is just the music that I like and the music that you like. It’s different, but neither is better or worse. That fundamental perspective drove the whole company, and everybody wanted the product to work and were super committed to making it happen, and they were good to each other. They were kind people working toward the common good. As a consultant, particularly as a consultant who does tech turnarounds, you often see really messed-up cultures where they’ve hired the wrong people or, they’ve hired the right people, and they’ve created an environment where it’s difficult to succeed, or people are focused on something other than building the product. That duel experience of being able to build Pandora just the way I wanted it and to be parachuted into the most dysfunctional organizations in corporate America. That dichotomy of my career got me clear that companies succeed or fail based on execution, and execution is 100% about the team. It’s crystal clear to me that you need an amazing team to do anything amazing. We built that at Pandora. We’re building that at Grabango, and it really matters. That was the team at Pandora that pulled us through and built the product. And that’s the team at Grabango, today, that’s doing the same.
Alejandro: That’s amazing. Obviously, the rest is history, and Pandora was later going public and got acquired for 3.5 billion. Really amazing. In this case, Will, for you, your next rodeo is Grabango. Tell us about Grabango. How did you incubate the concept and bring it to life?
Will Glaser: I’m a technology nerd, so I follow a lot of technologies that I don’t work in as a fan, as sort of a tourist. One of the technologies that sparked interest among many was the grand challenge to pilot a car across the desert with no humans on board—the beginning of the driverless car era. I didn’t follow it because I never thought I’d work in it. I followed it just because I thought it was cool. I learned about the technology. In the early days, it worked very badly. Then, maybe eight to ten years ago, one of the component technologies, computer vision, in particular, powered by artificial intelligence, powered by machine learning, so machine learning-driven computer vision took a couple of really important leaps forward that made it substantially more practical for the real world than it ever had been and brought it out of the back of the laboratory to the forefront. It was driven by a couple of tech innovations, some advances in Moore’s law and innovation, driven by the driverless car people. I saw that technology and thought to myself, “This is cool. This will eventually lead to driverless cars. What else can we do with it?” In 2016, I began thinking about other applications of the same suite of technology, and what can we do with it? It occurred to me that you can use it to organize a warehouse in a different way to automate the process. That led to thinking about, “A grocery store is really a special kind of warehouse. If you automate a grocery store, you save everyone’s time by getting them in and out of the store much more quickly, and you save the store operational costs, and the whole system gets more efficient. I began working on that, filed some patents, eventually started building a team, and then here we are 100 employees working in Berkeley on checkout-free shopping.
Alejandro: Why patents? Why did you go with patents? Typically, they’re very costly. They’re very uncertain, and especially when you’re at a very early stage, people, especially lawyers, don’t recommend doing it—the good ones. The other ones want to get you on billing you by the hour. But why did you go for the patents so early?
Will Glaser: Intellectual property control really matters. I had some good experience with patents. I’ve had some patents I filed that led to some revenue for me as an individual that weren’t filed in the context of the company. IP control really matters. The first three patents we filed, we filed in early 2016, which was before anybody was in the space. There’s no prior art, so some of the others had not been founded or if they had been working on it, but working on it in quiet. There was no prior art to our first filings, and we got very broad coverage. So I’m optimistic about the patent coverage. Let me say quickly that we’re not a patent-controlled organization. We have no intentions of going and suing anybody for infringing our patents, although there are already those that are doing it. We’re fine with the multi-player space. The space for checkout-free shopping is enormous. Grabango’s prepared to serve as much of it as is interested in working with us. But Grabango’s not going to succeed or fail based on lawyers. That’s not our business, nor is it my value system. We’re going to succeed or fail based on how well we execute to plan.
Alejandro: What does checkout-free shopping mean, especially for the people that are listening to get an idea and perhaps visibility to what that looks like?
Will Glaser: We have two primary use cases. One use case looks a lot like Uber. The shoppers digitally onboard themselves before entering the store. That means they download an app, and they upload their credit card to the app. Then they walk into the store. They gather the product they want, and they leave the store, and they pay through the app on their phone. It looks a lot like using Uber, which is to say you don’t ever give your driver money, and you don’t use an old-fashioned credit card swipe machine. You just get in the car, take your ride, and get back out, and you tip through the app. We have that similar experience. We call it checkout-free shopping as built by Grabango. In parallel with that, we have a different user interface on the same technology we call checkout-ready. Checkout-ready is for a different kind of user. It’s for the user that either doesn’t have a smartphone, or is not tech-forward enough to want to use it for this application, or they don’t have a credit card, or they simply want to pay cash, or they haven’t been onboarded yet. This is the majority of society. The majority of people who shop in the grocery store today don’t want to pay through an app, at least not yet. That shopper enters the store, shops as normal, and then pays the cashier using whatever means they want. It could be credit card. It could be cash. It could be personal check. It could be SNAP or WIC benefits, government assistance of some form, it could be Apple Pay, or whatever. The payment form is human to human, shopper to cashier. The only thing that’s changed for them is the bar code scanning stuff has been removed. So the line gets 80% shorter, and therefore 80% faster. The person gets in and out of the store more quickly. But the checkout-ready shopper doesn’t need to learn any new technology and doesn’t need to have a bank account. They could be an unbanked member of society, and they still get to use the store. That inclusivity is super important. The idea that Silicon Valley is building technology only for its own members is an idea that really bothers me. I want technology that we build to be available to everybody. So that checkout-ready approach is a super important part of the Grabango business plan.
Alejandro: I love it, especially not having to do the lines when you’re checking out. Very nice. In this case, I’m sure that you guys had it a little bit easier at raising money, especially given your track record.
Will Glaser: Yeah. So, probably, I’m now a known quantity, so it makes me easier for me to get meetings to get in the door. The business is much easier to understand than the Pandora business. The effect that we have on shoppers and on retailers alike is much easier to explain. We’re not really having any trouble raising money. We’re raising money fine. We have fantastic investors. We have a fantastic team of people that are turning the investment dollars into product values. It’s going really well over here.
Alejandro: Now, you’re probably able to compare the fundraising journey with Pandora and the fundraising journey with Grabango. I’m sure that there are certain critical aspects that you now understand about storytelling because storytelling is everything when you’re fundraising or when you’re onboarding customers or partners. What have you learned about storytelling, Will?
Will Glaser: It’s all about empathy. Whether I’m talking to an investor, I’m talking to a customer, or I’m talking to my kids, you need to push yourself in their mind’s eye. In the case of an investor, if I’m saying, “Invest in me because I want it and because I want to go play around with my oscilloscope and my computer programming language.” That’s not a very good investment pitch. That’s a self-centered gimme, gimme pitch, and investors shouldn’t give money to that entrepreneur. But if I say, “Give me a dollar because I’m going to go build something useful for the world that’s going to be profitable, and in three to five years, I’m going to give you back $10, you’ll make money, and the world will benefit.” That’s a much better investor pitch, and all it takes is just a tiny little bit of empathy in their position because investors are not magicians shuffling cash out of a helicopter, they’re investing for business, too. They have a constituency to serve also, and you have to have the empathy to understand what they’re doing and why they’re doing it, and you have to offer them an investment that makes financial sense for them as well. It’s a relatively small insight, but it drives the entire conversation.
Alejandro: I totally get that. One of the things that I always say is that the founders that are able to perform well when it comes to fundraising are the ones that are able to listen. And not the ones that are able to listen to questions, but the ones that are able to fulfill the concerns that are behind those questions. Was that also your experience?
Will Glaser: Yeah. I 100% agree.
Alejandro: Very nice. In your case, how much capital have you guys raised for Grabango to date?
Will Glaser: Twenty-seven million dollars into the company so far.
Alejandro: I’m sure that now you’ve learned that not only people doing due diligence on you, but also you doing due diligence on them. So what kind of wisdom do you have for the people that are listening that are perhaps thinking about getting money from someone?
Will Glaser: When you’re raising money, you’re sort of hiring someone. You’re hiring someone to be on your investment team, whether they’re a board member or whether they’re a member of the investment community. They’re on your team. In a certain sense, they’re your co-workers. You’re not just trying to raise money; you’re trying to decide: is that person across the table from you during the conversation someone you want to work with for the next five years of your life? If it’s not, it doesn’t matter how much money they’re going to give you because you don’t want to work with them. If they’re awesome, you want to work with them, and maybe they want to work with you too. But it’s much more like hiring than it is like making a purchasing decision.
Alejandro: Very cool. Will, let’s say you go to sleep tonight, and you wake up all of a sudden five years from now. You wake up in a world where the vision of Grabango has been fully realized. What does that world look like?
Will Glaser: Let me cast back to the part of the conversation about Pandora. If I go into a coffee shop today, and I see some people sitting at a table wearing the classic white headphones listening to music, I know there’s some chance—not 100%, but there’s some chance that they’re listening to a piece of technology that I built several years ago, and that makes me feel really good. I don’t know the people. I don’t know if they’re using it, but I know there’s some chance they’re using my stuff. The vision for Grabango is similar but broader. I want to go into the grocery store where I currently shop and the convenience store where I may be swinging for a soda and a bag of chips, and see people using that store and walking out without waiting in lines. That would make me really, really happy. To know that’s happening across the city, across the country, and around the world. That people are using it would just delight me.
Alejandro: Very nice. Now, with your experiences with all these companies, it’s remarkable what you have been able to learn. And the good, the bad, and the ugly also because in the journey of an entrepreneur there’s no such thing as a straight line. If you had the opportunity—this is a question I typically ask the guests that come on the show—to speak to your younger self, that younger self that was entering the Valley or about to launch your first business, knowing what you know now, what piece of advice would you give to that younger Will before launching a business and why?
Will Glaser: It’s funny you ask that question because I spent a lot of time mentoring younger teams starting companies. I have several things I say over and over again. One of them is that building a company is a lot like a Jackson Pollock painting. I think of myself as a splat of one color of paint on the canvas, and you can’t expect yourself to cover the canvas with your one color of paint. No one is that broadly skilled. You have to build a team that is overlapping skills. So my splat of blue and your splat of red, her splat of yellow, and his splat of green together combine in overlapping ways to cover the canvas with skill sets. Building any company is all about building a team that’s got the right skills, personalities, and aptitudes to either know how to do a thing or figure out how to do a thing. Building a product is about building a company, and building a company is about building a team. So it’s all about the team, and it always is.
Alejandro: Got it. You were referring to that, especially when talking about cultures and teams and how you’ve seen that on Pandora and now on Grabango. What does it look like when a culture is working, and a culture is powerful, and it is creating that type of magic?
Will Glaser: A great sign is, how does an organization handle a mistake? Nobody’s perfect. Everyone makes mistakes, particularly when you’re building newness. When you’re building a thing that hasn’t been built before, you’re going to make a mistake. In fact, you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. The closer to the edge of newness you are, the more false starts you’re going to have. The standard advice is, fail fast, and all that stuff. That’s true. That’s completely valid, but a healthy culture values those mistakes. If I get to a fork in the road and I take five steps down the wrong path, I realize I’m on the wrong path, and I turn around, and I come back, and my team is there looking at me and saying, “Will, I’m so glad you figured out that was the wrong path. Let’s go down this other path together.” That’s a win. If I walk my five steps back, my team says, “You idiot. You took the wrong path.” That’s a lose. A culture that embraces mistakes and jointly learns from them—any individual makes a mistake, but you don’t repeat them, and you learn from them, that’s a sign that a lot in the culture is working really well. If there’s finger-pointing, and vindictive behavior, and mote-building, and all that stuff, that’s a sign that something broadly is broken in your culture. In much of high technology and certainly in Garbango, we have a lot of really smart people. The people here were all the smartest kids in high school, the smartest kids in college, probably that smartest kids in their first company, and now they’re among their peers. We have a lot of really bright people here, but they’re high IQ as well. This team bands together and pulls in the same direction because everybody wants to succeed. There’s not a lot of blame, but that’s not to say they don’t make mistakes. People do, but the mistakes don’t linger because no one’s afraid to admit them. That’s what a positive culture looks like.
Alejandro: In your team, Will, how do you guys go about reflection? When you make mistakes, what is also important is to reflect so that you’re able to bounce back and get that breakdown to lead you to a breakthrough. What does reflection, for example, in the Grabango culture look like?
Will Glaser: In some cases, it’s a formalized post-mortem. In some cases where the mistake was a big institutional error, you’ll get the people involved in it, either the people that made the incorrect decision or the people that were forced to act on it. You look at it, and you say, “What could we have known? Could we have avoided it with better knowledge or better judgment? If not, what do we do now to fix it?” Those are how you deal with the larger ones. The smaller ones happen in the course of business. I say, “Hey, Joann. I know I said before that I wanted the green one. I’ve thought about it. I saw the guys across the street try the green one, and in fact, the green one’s not the right idea. I apologize. We should go blue. I think we should do blue and not green.” Those little, minor course-corrections happen all the time. It’s only the big ones that need the proper post-mortem. The little ones just happen, and in a healthy culture, you embrace the change and move forward.
Alejandro: Of course. Will, for the folks that are listening, what is the best way for them to reach out and say hi?
Will Glaser: Twitter works. LinkedIn works. There are a lot of ways to connect with us. The website has a contact page on it.
Alejandro: Fantastic. Thank you so much, Will, for being on the show today. Really appreciate it.
Will Glaser: Thanks. It’s great to talk to you, Alejandro. I appreciate it.
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