Danielle Morrill

Request For Startup: Personal CRM for Grown-up Friendships

My life is really full, as a startup founder and CEO there are endless things to do. There are always more meetings I could take (maybe should take?) and by the time Friday evening rolls around I’m usually pretty happy to head home and curl up for the next two days on the couch with a book, a drink, and some good music.

This is probably not new… but lately, the signals have been getting through.

“It’s hard to support someone I never see.”

“You’re really hard to get a hold of.”

These aren’t coming from business contacts, and they’re not coming to me by email. They’re coming from friends who I have to admit I don’t know when I last saw, and they are texts, Facebook messages, Twitter DMs. I saw friends 2 weekends ago who I met separately, knew as they met, courted, and got married and I was at the wedding… but that was 6 months ago! We are all shocked when we added up the time.

These are not casual acquaintances, theses are real friendships and the message is coming through loud and clear: invest here or you risk growing apart, losing touch.

Growing up I was one of those kids who wasn’t really part of any one clique, but had a friend or two in every single one. I was a serial monogamist when it came to best friends, usually those relationships would last a few years at a time and then we’d grow apart and move on. Now as a married career-focused woman, living in a major city, not planning to have kids I am realizing that my friendships are really important to my happiness in life. They are my chosen family, and the aloofness of how I’m acting doesn’t line up at all with how I actually feel.


Over the years I’ve tried to solve this by building better habits, trying to bring my professional best practices to bear on my personal life. Off and on again I’ve had lists, Excel spreadsheets, even entered people into RelateIQ just so I could skim the list from time to time and make sure we were staying in touch. I always have this fantasy of sending Christmas cards, I even buy them!, and then it never happens because I don’t have the addresses. I’d say we host a party at our house every other month at most… it used to be every couple weeks. Frankly, Kevin and I aren’t even great about proactively scheduling dates — we usually just wing it and I’m pretty happy with that, until suddenly I’m like, “why haven’t we gone on a REAL DATE in 6 months?” and then I’m not happy with it til we do (I know you husbands out there are LOLing).

I need a CRM for my personal life, but not called a CRM obviously and much more tailored to stuff like birthdays, kids names, anniversaries, food preferences, and other stuff that matters but is just hard to remember. On top of that, I want to know when I last spoke with or hung out with a friend and I want to be reminded to do things like send flowers, write a quick congratulations email, invite them to a wine night or book night or boardgame night or whatever at my house.

I know this sounds super mercenary, but I bet it would work.

I think NextDoor could have been this, but won’t be because it’s too gossipy and impersonal. It isn’t Facebook. It isn’t anything I use today, because brand-wise I want it to be private. My Mom had this pretty blue book where she’d record all of this stuff about her friends and family. I remember they each got a page, and it was usually on the desk in our kitchen next to the phone. I want something like that, but for the modern age… preferably on my phone.

Who will build it?

How to Network to Startup Investors

Tonight I hosted an impromptu AMA on Twitter, and I was surprised by how many people asked about how to network to startup investors. The question itself isn’t surprising, but when I responded with “get introductions via their current portfolio founders, or do some good old fashioned networking to get there” the reply was “on what platform?”

Oh boy.

Platforms have adverse selection. They say, “I am too lazy to actually network!”

AngelList and LinkedIn have this problem, and when investors are looking for the top 1% you better believe they don’t have fleshed out profiles on these platform a lot of time. And so what if they are there, they’re already picked over. Is this true? No. But it is how investors think.

If you are a founder who wants to get in touch with investors I would take two approaches, and do them simulatenously.

1. Just cold email / call them. I mean, why not? You’re going to have to sell something to someone, someday. Why not start here? And if you are seriously thinking the lack of contact information is the barrier you are one lazy motherfucker and should not be funded.

2. Network your way there. Draw a map on a piece of paper of each person you want to get to, and identify with your email, alumni network, friends and family, facebook, twitter, linkedin, etc. how to get to them. It might not be just 1 degree of separation. I have people several degrees away from me that I have been working on for 5 years. This is the game, and if you are a founder (and particularly CEOs) get ready to play. At each meeting, your goal is to sell why you should meet with the next person in the chain. Along the way, you need to be charming, interesting, add value for the person you are currently talking to, and maintain that relationship so that when you finally do get to the person who was your target your reputation is impeccable.

TRUTH: Fundraising is hard because 99% of people are not willing to do #2. This is how we got connected to Brad Feld, who lead our Series A. A warm introduction via Rand Fishkin of Moz. I had tried the cold angle on Brad and kept following up for 6 months until we finally got the warm connection. Remember, do #1 and #2 simultaneously.

DARE: Drink a whisky right now and email that investor you admire most and have up on some pedestal with the best one liner of your life. That’s what I did when we had just $150K left in the bank, and he came through.



Monica for CEO

A fictional scene from the hours leading up to the emergency board meeting held by Raviga Capital that we weren’t allowed to see, during the HBO Silicon Valley finale.

Season 3; Episode 1: “Monica for CEO” — with a new look and new found confidence, there are going to be leadership changes at Pied Piper.

“But how can you do this to Richard? Especially after all he’s just been through!” Monica exploded, leaning back against the jagged brick and taking a long drag from her cigarette.

“Monica, the choices you are making don’t make sense to me. I propose we go inside and my assistant will get you a bottle of VOSS, and we can talk this through rationally,” sighed Laurie, as she internally categorized and ranked the damage she was doing to her home life and personal sanity by having a conversation like this in such an ugly setting, so late at night.

Grinding out the half-finished Davidoff under the heel of her flats, Monica ducked her head deferentially and headed inside. As she entered the office again she stopped suddenly, so suddenly that Laurie collided into her back. “Monica!” she gasped.

“I know what we need to do to make this work,” the associate turned to her boss, eyes determined and a bit glassy with ambition. “I’ll take over as interim CEO and make sure we don’t lose the team. They trust me, and Richard trusts me… we can get through this.”

The two women stood for a moment in the silence of the empty office, looking at each other without really seeing. Another minute, Laurie mused, and she would have broken the agreement she made with Peter for the first time in 10 years. Well it was too late now she thought, looking her young rival up and down with a mix of disdain and admiration.

“Okay. We’ll try it for a period of 90 days, during which I will actively recruit a permanent replacement for Richard Hendricks. His leadership is veritably non-existant and I simply can not tolerate his presence, so please keep him out of my sight during the transition.”

Monica held her tongue, it would be easier to just let things lie for now until she could sneak back into Erlich’s house and do some damage control.

“Thanks Mom.”