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Danielle Morrill is an an entrepreneur, blog author, and speaker living in the United States. She his currently the co-founder and CEO of Mattermark, a data-driven analytics company that provides venture capitalists with data to help generate leads.

Background

Early Life & Seattle

Danielle Morrill was born in Seattle, Washington in 1985. Upon graduating high school in 2002, Morrill quickly began advancing her career by working at various established organizations around Seattle. Her first long-term position was as an analyst at Reliant Consulting & Research, a registered investment advisor company.

However, Morill would later claim that she was unsure in which direction she wanted to take her life.

Interests

Before starting community college, Morrill already knew that she had a passion for software development.
In 2003, aged 19, she dropped out of college to pursue a career in software development, first working as a business process analyst at an international freighting company.

Seattle Employment

Dates
Role
Organization
Organization Description
Role Description
2001 – 2005
Analyst
Reliant Consulting & Research
Registered investment advisor
Built software to scale practice
April 2005 – August 2007
Business Process Analyst
Expeditors International
International freighting, import/export company
Built software to automate business processes, such as customs entry
September 2007 – February 2009
Data Team Lead & Community Manager
Pelago
Venture-backed startup. Used "check-in" functionality similar to Foursquare for user sharing experience. Acquired by Groupon in 2011
Data Team: Managed call center-based collection of local business data.

Community Manager: Created guerrilla user acquisition tactics (e.g., flash-mobs) and managed press to advertise company

Morrill also contributed to the "Seattle 2.0" initiative of 2009, an initiative designed to attract start-up founders to the city. As part of her contribution, she created the Seattle Startup Index, a growth metric designed to track the growth of start-ups currently in Seattle.

Move to San Francisco

Twilio

In March of 2009, Danielle Morrill moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to join telecommunications start-up Twilio. Apart from Twilio's three founders, Morrill was the company's first employee. She served as the Head of Marketing at the organization until April 2012. In her position, Morrill helped Twilio achieve its first 100,000 users.

Start-up #1: Referly

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Morrill left Twilio in April 2012 in order to pursue a side-project called Referly. In the summer of 2012, Morrill graduated the Y-Combinator with Referly as a solo founder. There, she m
et and received advice from Paul Graham.

Problem

As Head of Marketing at Twilio, Morrill noticed how difficult it was to get word out about any new product, simply due to the sheer number of sources which must be contacted in order to achieve initial customer discovery. Inspired by social media like Facebook, Morrill wondered if the customers themselves could be incentivized to market their favourite products.

Customer Segmentation

Referly specifically targeted merchandise vendors who had a large list of products they wished to market and were seeking a simple platform to do so. Vendors would be ableto upload catalogues of recommended products, along with links to purchase them.

Value Proposition

Morrill believed that Referly would bring value to vendors by simplifying the process of marketing, by way of allowing their own customers to recommend products on a central platform that was easily accessible via a Facebook account. Customers would enjoy the service because recommending products would earn them various rewards.

Search for Product-Market Fit

Referly struggled to convince users on both ends of the market to fit the product into their lifestyles. Vendors were unsatisfied with the returns on advertising with catalogues as opposed to traditional methods. Social media users, meanwhile, did not find the process sufficiently rewarding to use the service, instead merely recommending products via word-of-mouth.

Failure

Despite more than 15,000 vendors creating nearly 25,000 product catalogues, Referly struggled with a negative gross margin. Finally, the startup was closed in March 2013, only eleven months after its founding.

Interactions with Paul Graham

Feeling dejected and disillusioned with Silicon Valley, Morrill approached Paul Graham for help. When Graham prompted her to find 'that thing that drives you crazy', Morrill responded: "I really hate TechCrunch." Morrill later explained that she believed the tech journalism website was only covering technological giants like Apple and Microsoft, rather than the small start-ups which Morrill and her friends were founding. Upon hearing this, Graham responded:

"If you're shutting down Referly, why not start over with something completely different? If you want to kill TechCrunch, then do that."

Start-up #2: Personal Blog VC Listings

As a response to TechCrunch, Morrill set out to publish thirty tech-related blog posts on her personal blog in as many days.
Two of her articles, which listed "zombie" startups and venture capital firms (respectively), created outrage in the tech community. Morrill saw this as encouragement, as it meant that people cared what she was saying and that she had an audience; indifference, conversely, would mean she was being ignored.

Value Proposition

In one of her posts, she ranked the top hundred companies in the Andreessen/Horowitz venture capital portfolio based on her growth metrics. Andreessen, having read the article, reached out to Morrill, expressing that he wished he would have ranked his portfolio himself. Morrill saw this as proof that this cultivation of data could have beneficial impact in the field of venture capital. She began attaching the spreadsheets she used to write her articles at the bottom of the post.

Customer Discovery

Readers of Morrill's blog began requesting similar spreadsheets of other companies, as well as updates of existing ones. At first, Morrill was able to complete these requests by hand. However, eventually the demand for the sheets grew too large for her to supply. Kevin Morrill, Danielle's husband, then suggested that they port the spreadsheets' data into an online database. From there, they could create a website for public access.

Start-up #3: Cursive

Cursive was launched in 2013.
At this point, the organization contained only three staff members: Danielle, the CEO; Kevin, the CTO; and Danielle's friend Andy Sparks, as COO.

Minimum Viable Products & Iterations

Using a MySQL database and a JavaScript plugin that converted SQL data into interactive tables, Kevin and Danielle created a website called Cursive. Users – who did not need to sign in – could view metrics on all registered companies. By the end of Cursive's lifespan, they were tracking nearly twenty thousand companies.

Sparks and Kevin worked closely to automate the data-collection process. When adding a new company to the database, Sparks would find and add the data manually, documenting the pain points of his method as he went. Then, Morrill would use the documentation to automate the data-collection process, ensuring Sparks would never have to repeat it. This allowed the three to quickly iterate and build the website's coverage.

Leena Rao

On June 1, 2013, TechCrunch Journalist Leena Rao wrote an article titled "The Quantitative VC". The article investigated the possible use of quantitative metrics to improve venture capital in the tech field. The article concluded with a call to action for a new Silicon Valley startup to produce such a product. Morrill was alarmed: Rao had just notified the entire Valley to produce a product similar to hers. Morrill contacted Rao, informing the journalist that she was preparing a product that suited the article, and requested launch coverage. Rao, not knowing that the Morrills and Sparks did not have a launch-ready product, agreed to give them exclusive launch coverage in two days' time. The three founders rushed prepare their product for launch in 48 hours.

Start-up #4: Mattermark

Cursive's successor, Mattermark, was launched on June 4th, 2013. Originally, all data was available for free.

Value Proposition

Mattermark's unofficial slogan was "Bloomberg for start-ups"; unbeknownst to Morrill, Bloomberg actually did launch BloombergBETA – a literal Bloomberg for startups – the same day. Nonetheless, BloombergBETA venture capitalist Roy Bahat offered Morrill a $50,000 contract to add functionality to the website.

Customer Discovery

Morrill spent the next three weeks contacting every venture capital firm in San Francisco, advertising the product to them. Because Mattermark was free to use, many venture capitalists offered to test it. Morrill was able to collect valuable insight from these testers as a result.

According to Morrill, her first question to these testers was:
"Tell me what's hard about your job."

Some VCs wrote blog posts praising the product, which helped greatly to grow its customer market.

Product-Market Fit & Growth

Morrill soon found herself advertising her product to data analysts at Google, Sequoia Group, and other major firms. Morrill wondered if Mattermark was filling a real need in the venture capital market.

Leap to Faith

While speaking on the phone with a venture capitalist about his experience, Morrill noted the comment, "I almost feel guilty not paying for this." Danielle, realizing that her website had no payment options, urged her husband to create a payment platform using Stripe. Twenty-five minutes later, Morrill called the VC back and requested $499 per month to use the platform. The reason for such a specific number, according to Morrill, calls back to her marketing days: above $500, financial advisors would have to receive administrative permission to make payments.

In July 2013, Mattermark officially launched Mattermark Pro, making their business profitable. In the first year, they gained twelve paying customers. Three years later, in 2016, they finished Q4 with more than 600 customers (more than $300,000 in monthly earnings).

This rapid growth proves that Mattermark achieved Product-Market Fit. Currently, the team is seeking to branch out to other markets, such as sales, which are experiencing the same problems with data.

In a 2016 Q&A, Morrill stated that she had a goal to track every company in the world.