Espresso Capital recently sat down with Jeff Brenner, Co-Founder and CEO of Pressly to discuss his journey as a founder and CEO, and what starting a company in Canada is like.
EC: How did Pressly come about?
JB: I founded Pressly with Peter Koteka. He and I met in university, and actually started our first company together in our last year at McMaster and have been working together ever since. We started Pressly as a side project in an agency Peter and I co-founded, but then when we saw the impact that mobile was going to have, we decided to make Pressly its own company and own focus.
EC: What problem does Pressly solve?
JB: The real problem we are tackling is what we call the “content graveyard” in the enterprise today, by which we refer to the roughly 65 percent of enterprise content that never gets used. We have a platform which acts as a content router to get the right content to the right people at the right time.
EC: So what makes Pressly different from other marketing technology companies?
JB: Pressly is certainly more of a communications platform, but what really differentiates us is that we are bidirectional. What I mean by that is, we help our customers avoid one-directional broadcasting. We make it bidirectional, a model in which the employees are partners or advocates within and around the business. They have the ability to build their own personal thought leadership presence online, but they do so in a way that benefits the organization as a whole. No one wants another company to market to them. How do you elevate the experts, the individuals, and the people behind that company to really have a human and authentic communication?
EC: What is it like working at Pressly?
JB: When we began Pressly, one of the key areas of focus when it comes to culture was the mentality of craftsmanship of quality and taking time to build a great product and company. We try to enable people to feel ownership over what they are doing, trying to set goals that will work as a team. We try to keep it fun, whether it’s the ping pong table, dart board, or beer machine. It’s important that you enjoy building the team that is around you, and tackling and solving a problem together. Every Friday we come together to share successes, failures, or challenges as a group in a casual setting to make sure we’re on the same page as an organization.
EC: What was it like building a company in Canada?
JB: We are very proud to be Canadian. I think it is an amazing country. There are certain advantages, such as tax credits and less competition for tech talent compared to other markets such as the Bay Area. In Canada, it is a massive benefit for startups to be able to claim some of the outlay on R&D as a tax credit to receive cash back from the government. I think it’s a very good balance of opportunity for quality of life and ability to find talented people to join the team.
EC: Tell me what your funding journey has looked like.
JB: We funded Pressly initially by incubating it within the agency we owned at the time. When we decided to make Pressly our entire focus, we raised a round of seed financing. From there we focused on executing on building up revenue and, most recently, decided to bring on some debt financing with Espresso Capital. Having Espresso as a funding partner made it a win for the whole team. A win which the whole team can participate in is very important to us.
EC: What attribute do you think is important as an entrepreneur and founder?
JB: When it comes to being an entrepreneur, the ability to persevere would be right at the top of skill-sets. It’s definitely a long haul; we like to say “It’s more of a marathon than it is a sprint.” I think the other key thing is the ability to make a decision. It is difficult to take that leap of faith, to go and start a company. It is hard and always takes longer than you want it to, so the ability to keep working towards that vision and goal is essential.
EC: Is there any advice you would give your 19-year-old self?
JB: It’s not about getting to an outcome or getting to a destination. It’s a journey and making sure you are taking time to enjoy it and reflect on the success you are having as it progresses. It is also important to make sure you are taking care of yourself, both physically and mentally. Personally, I am staying active and fit because it is the type of job that requires a lot of energy and produces lots of stress. Making sure you are at that peak performance level certainly carries through to the job.
Pressly was acquired by Vision Critical in September 2017.