It’s a question that startup CEO’s get asked about their companies as often as parents ask it of children (and sometimes young adults), and I’ve found it’s a good question to keep in mind.
During a coffee meeting with an experienced investor and startup founder last week, he suggested that perhaps describing Organizer as the “Uber for canvassing” was a way to quickly gain interest in what we do.
Although I recognize the power of association with a familiar, powerful brand, I’ve resisted the “Uber-for-X” descriptor* as both an inaccurate metaphor for what we do and not capturing the scope of our mission. However, the question did have the desired effect of getting me to think about what would be a good comparison, and one that captures both what we do now and where we see ourselves in the future.
I came up with the “Salesforce for community engagement”. Much as Salesforce streamlined processes and made enterprise-level CRM available to organizations regardless of size and in doing so helped professionalize sales, at Organizer we want to provide solutions that help organizations engage with their communities regardless of size or location This is not to say we want to be a CRM - we don’t - but we do want to provide tools that have previously only been available to the largest and best-funded programs along with easy-to-follow workflows that enable customer to run highly effective campaigns, even if they have limited experience in doing so. At the same time, we aim to provide experienced professionals with the most efficient tools to run sophisticated field programs.
How can you do both? Again, I like the Salesforce analogy. Understanding what the most demanding professionals needed to be efficient allowed Salesforce to capture the logic that drives their system, and package that knowledge into tools for smaller organizations. Working with hundreds of campaigns with anywhere from 5 to 1,000 field workers is allowing Organizer to take the same approach. As we grow, we’ll continue to deliver the insight and innovation that comes with listening to and analyzing how our tools are used to an increasingly broad customer base.
What does Organizer want to become as we grow up? If we can be anywhere close to achieving in our domain what Salesforce have in CRM, then I’ll be proud of what we’ll have achieved as a company.
* Elaborating on why I don’t like the comparison with Uber in our particular case. Uber is a transactional system that connects a single provider with a customer for a specific service. Organizer provides a management system for planning, tracking, and analyzing field programs to engage with communities using multiple methods. While Uber has a very sophisticated system that manages their network of providers and customers and a groundbreaking quality process, field programs are a team-based activity that have a broader range of resource and service dynamics. Algorithms definitely have their part in making field programs more efficient and effective, but need to be applied in the social and methodological context of the particular program. More on that later.