Meet our extended family.

Whether it is your first time out as an entrepreneur,  your second pass with a little history under your belt, or you are flat out addicted to building companies and it is not your first rodeo. Pelion has them all, companies and entrepreneurs in all stages of their lives.

Dan Kador
Keen IO
1st Time Entrepreneur

Keen IO

What inspired you or made you (and your team) angry enough to start Keen? What do you (and your team) see as your mission?

We started Keen for a few reasons, but the overriding mission (and still what keeps us up at night / drives us during the day) is creating a new kind of workplace. We’re committed to creating a company that allows its employees to self-actualize and become better versions of themselves. We’re committed to avoiding the typical problems that occur at scale – specifically, systemized de-humanization and de-valuing of the individual. And we’re committed to having fun while doing it. Life is too short to do otherwise..

What is the hardest thing you (and your team) have had to do as an entrepreneurs?

Two answers:

The hardest thing, emotionally, we’ve ever had to do was confront the reality that we might fail. In the summer of 2013 we were /very/ close to selling / shuttering the company. We had hit what we now know is a pretty typical trough in a company’s lifecycle. We had built some really cool product, had a handful of amazing customers we were really proud of, and the capital markets just seemed totally uninterested. We had to spend a long time looking at ourselves in the mirror, and it wasn’t fun. Luckily, at the last minute, we landed a couple more great customers and met some investors that got our business. Pelion was one of them.

The hardest thing, strategically, we’ve ever had to do is reinventing how a company does work together. That work won’t ever stop. We’re not taking any corporate strategies for granted. We’re approaching problems from first principles. When we talk about building Keen, we’re not talking about only product, or only sales, or only marketing. We take a holistic view of our entire existence. It’s simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating.

What is the best and worse advice received from a VC?

I love this question.

We’ve really focused on surrounding ourselves with great investors and advisors. So we’ve received a TON of advice. Our view is there’s no bad advice – there’s just advice given without context. One of my favorite things is that sometimes what could be seen as “bad” advice makes us think differently about our business. Here’s one example:

When we were raising our seed round, we met with an investor in Mountain View. One of the things we were wrestling with was what to call the round. Was it a big seed? A small A? What was the difference?

This investor gave us a bunch of feedback, but the only thing I really remember was his view on the round title. He told us, without a trace of humor, that regardless of the specifics of the deal, his fund only invested in A rounds. He told us that, because he wasn’t interested in investing in Keen then, if we called the round “Seed”, he could invest in the next round (because it would be an “A”). But if we called the round we were raising an “A”, he couldn’t invest in the next (because it would be a “B”).

I remember leaving that meeting with Kyle and remarking on how ridiculous the investment community seemed. But after we thought about it, we realized he had given us some really useful and transparent feedback on the /optics/ of investment. And more importantly, it was /actionable/ feedback.

We made the decision to call the round a seed round to preserve optionality.

What was your first impression of Ben & Carl: What don’t we know about them?

Ben is our partner at Pelion. My first impression of him was how “normal” he seemed. And I mean that in the best way possible. So many investors cultivate an air of superiority and aloofness. Ben has none of that. He’s a guy you want to be friends with. And then on top of that he’s got a ton of relevant experience and knowledge that he brings to bear to help us at Keen. Great combination.
My first impression of Carl was that he might have been the smartest VC I ever met. You can just tell, sometimes, that somebody’s got an incredible motor upstairs. He’s one of them. My first meeting with him was at the partner pitch. My clearest memory is of him learning that my co-founders and I went to a math and science-focused high school (IMSA!). He immediately gave us a math problem that was quite tricky. After the meeting ended, we went to the restroom on our way out of the building. One of my co-founders solved the problem before we left and e-mailed the solution to Carl. I’m still convinced that’s why Pelion invested.

 family-integralScott Knoll
Integral Ad Science
Repeat Entrepreneur

Integral Ad Science

What inspired you or made you (and your team) angry enough to join IAS? What do you (and your team) see as your mission?

We believe that digital marketing holds great promise for the future, but is in dire need of repair. The Integral team is maniacally focused on building better technology and providing more intelligent solutions for media players, so the industry may realize its potential.  The company’s mission from day one has been to improve every single ad impression decision transacted globally and we are well on our way to accomplishing this.

What is the hardest thing you (and your team) have had to do as an entrepreneurs? 

We see the digital advertising world differently than just about anyone else. We have refused to accept the status quo and have pushed the industry to do the same. When something doesn’t seem to be broken, it’s harder to get people to make the changes necessary to fix the underlying issues. We have met with a lot of resistance and have been told on many occasions that we were wrong or even crazy. Refusing to change our vision in the face of skepticism and push back has been very hard, but it speaks to our confidence in our views and commitment to our mission.

What is the best and worse advice received from a VC?

Best advice: “You can either sell your dream or build it and it’s a lot easier to do the former than the latter.” Worst advice: “You should spend a lot more time on your company’s exit strategy as your business will never grow big enough to go public.”

What was your first impression of Ben: What don’t we know about them?

My first impression of Ben wasn’t entirely positive. I thought, here is another VC who knows nothing about ad-tech, but will nonetheless tell us how best to run our business. I quickly learned that Ben knows more about the industry than just about any VC I know and yet possesses the wisdom to realize that he is not the expert on our business.  He gives sound advice when assistance is required, but doesn’t feel the need to impose his will on every matter.  

family-primarydataDavid Flynn
Primary Data
Serial Entrepreneur

Primary Data

What made you mad enough to fix the problem you’re working on?

I try to be driven by analysis more than emotions, per my response to the next question below. So my motivation is driven more by seeing what needs to be fixed now that datacenters can get speed through flash and capacity through the cloud. Solving one problem often introduces another new one, and I’m driven to find the smartest way to fix the new problems as I see them emerge.

What is the hardest thing you have had to do as an entrepreneur? 

Learning not to react emotionally is a challenge when you are passionate about your work, as entrepreneurs tend to be. I’ve learned that anything that raises high emotions needs more discussion among teams before it can move forward. Someone who causes you to get angry may be trying to provoke that reaction. Someone who seems to be buttering you up may also be trying to secure a certain outcome. Staying neutral emotionally can be tough, but it helps give you the space to evaluate if someone is trying to to get you to react in a certain way.

What is the best and worst advice you received from a VC? 

The best advice I have received from a VC is not to trust VCs. The worst advice I have received from a VC is to “trust me.” Trust is hard to gain and easy to lose. Building it takes time and honesty, and those are extremely valuable resources for both VCs and entrepreneurs alike.

What was your first impression of Blake. What don’t we know about him? 

My first impression of Blake was that he is friendly, no-nonsense, smart, and well connected. Something others don’t know about him is that he is actually really good at the video game Rock Band, and we have video to prove it.