Winning High Growth Companies – Hard Problems and Great Teams


Having been around the Start Up block a few times in my career (I’ve been a co-founder or early stage team member in 4 VC funded start ups), I view new companies and opportunities through a filter of four basic questions:

  • How Good is the Team? It all starts with the team. Great teams can make a Lemonade Stand successful. Not so great teams destroy solid ideas.
  • How Big is the Problem? – Is the problem the company solving truly driven by a Market “Need” (as opposed to a “Want”) and at sufficient scale to create a big company?
  • How Difficult is the Problem to Solve? – If the answer to #1 and #2 above is yes, then the next question is “how hard is this Problem to solve?”
  • Vision? – The last question is how many companies are funded to solve the same basic problem set? Is the company in the first wave attempting to solve this problem?

Most recently, (prior to 6sense) I’ve been in the AdTech/Digital Marketing space as a Co-founder of Bizo (founded in 2008 and sold to LinkedIn in August of 2014). It’s been an amazing and entertaining space to be a part of, as VC money came pouring into this relatively new market. It’s been a fun ride so far. For your entertainment, here is just one example of an attempt to encapsulate just the display portion of the space.

As with all good Gold Rushes, only a few find a vein (an early, truly hard problem to solve), and of those, only a further few have the drive, skill, leadership and determination (the team) to come out the other side successful, by any measure.

Just take a look at any high growth space, in this case the AdTech/Digital Marketing space, and apply these four questions in retrospect to any VC funded company in the space. This approach holds up pretty well when applied to the real world of high growth markets.

Look at the SSP’s, DSP’s, DMP’s etc. and you’ll find these were hard problems with real market need – and the winners had great leadership and teams, and got to market early.

After we sold Bizo to LinkedIn, I was fortunate to be offered several fantastic opportunities to remain in the space, which I really enjoy being a member. I’m a Start Up person at heart and looking at the world through the filter of the four questions highlighted here – I thought finding another “Bizo” like company, a company in which I could answer “Yes” to all four questions – was going to be extremely unlikely.

I was wrong.

Having one successful outcome is extremely rare, but two in row? In a word, yes…I believe so.

6sense passes the Four Question filter with flying colors.

Team? – The 6sense Team is amazing. Of the 4 start ups I’ve been a part of – 3 have had successful outcomes – so I’ve seen first hand what kind of teams win – this team will win, we have all the intangibles.

Market Driven Problem? – This problem is very real and very pronounced across many industries. Solving this problem represents a significant step forward in Digital Marketing.

Hard Problem? – This is an extremely hard problem to solve. Separating “noise from signal” in the world of Big Data coupled with the Internet – almost defines the word Difficult. Finding Needles in the Haystacks of Billions of Data Events – well, enough said.

Vision? – Amanda Kahlow – 6sense’s Founder and CEO – has been way ahead of the curve with regard to vision. She started working on this problem over 5 years ago while leading a technology-consulting firm. This is not a new problem for Amanda or this team; we’ve been working on a solution for years.

So the bets are being placed and the game is on. I’m betting the next phase of my career on 6sense – we’ve got all the right answers to the questions that truly matter.

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