I just graduated from my first venture backed accelerator and it blew my expectations away holy sh–
Let me back up. I’m Thomas, Co-Founder and CEO of Measure Studio. We’re building the next generation social media analytics app that helps publishers, agencies, brands, and causes make better content.
I’ve been working in social media for about a decade. I was an early MySpace adopter. I remember when you had to text to Tweet. From media buying to growth hacking for Disney brands to building influencer marketing tech, I’ve done pretty much everything you can do with social media as a career.
My team and I started working on Measure Studio two years ago after hearing from people struggling to figure out how to use data to make better content. The people that were responsible for making content succeed were not using the numbers because meaningful takeaways were obfuscated by bad solutions or technical barriers. So we set about solving that problem, working quietly in a closed beta with a few close friends at digital media companies.
One such close friend ended up leading digital at the Biden 2020 campaign. At the time, politics wasn’t even on my radar as a potential customer segment for Measure Studio. I was thinking about entertainment, brands, influencers, sports, etc. (and still am). But it turns out political orgs and causes have a big need for a product like Measure Studio — something that’s easy to spin up, that doesn’t lock them into a long-term contract, that’s non-technical to use, and doesn’t price them out if they’re down-ballot or running on thin margins.
Throughout the tail end of the 2020 campaign their starting team of 5 users scaled up to 10. Then 25. We added a number of features at their request. November came and went, and they were very happy with our product, relying on Measure Studio to inform their social content strategy through Election Day and following weeks without a final result. Enter Higher Ground Labs, who called up the Biden staffers and asked if they used anything new or exciting during the campaign. And wouldn’t you know it, they brought up Measure Studio! HGL called us, and here I am.
It’s important to note that Measure Studio isn’t my first business; it’s technically my fourth. Paladin being the first, led by CEO James Creech, who is also my partner in crime at Measure Studio, along with two hair salons (led by my superwoman wife and her twin sister).
When HGL gave us a call about Measure, I was initially skeptical. My prior experiences with VCs were not exactly amazing, having spent a bit of time pitching other projects and not getting anywhere. I learned a lot from those experiences, but it didn’t exactly make me a fan of the VC model when it turned out I did just fine bootstrapping profitable businesses.
But I quickly changed my tune after meeting the HGL team.
The first thing that hit me was the fact that HGL has a mission. “We’re in the business of saving democracy.” Wow. I’ve spent the last 5 years of my life helping people who are in the business of selling flat tummy tea.
Second, they’re hunters. They don’t ask a junior analyst to take notes on a parade of wantrepreneurs, kicking the billion dollar ideas upstairs to be preyed upon. The partners are closely monitoring the political tech landscape and are deeply committed to giving progressives an edge.
Third, it was clear from the get go that the HGL team are not only extremely successful and qualified individuals, they’re also fundamentally good humans. Their passion for developing and empowering diverse groups of founders was pervasive throughout the accelerator experience.
My expectations for an accelerator were seed funding, startup benefits like service discounts or credits, introductions for business development, and strategic advice. Those first two are definitely available from HGL and very helpful. But the last two greatly exceeded what I had in mind and really made the program for me.
HGL is extremely well connected, putting us in front of decision makers at some of the largest political groups in the country. They gave us a Marauder’s Map of a market we essentially walked into blindly, which otherwise would have taken us years to understand and build a network in. Through various showcases they put us in front of huge audiences of decision makers for national and state party offices, PACs, and labor organizations. Thanks to this, Measure Studio is now part of the conversation at the national level in 2022 and poised to make 10x the impact we made in 2020.
How HGL workshopped our business was really where the program shined. Earlier this year, they invited us and the other founders in the accelerator to a 4 day retreat at a stunningly beautiful woodland resort bubble in Woodside, CA. I described it to my wife as a luxury experience where my entire day, meals, and wellness were planned out for me. I was isolated from all other world stressors so that I could have complete focus on my business. Frankly, it was glorious. They brought in incredibly impressive people to help us improve our pricing model, go-to-market messaging, executive habits, and more.
Beyond that, I was able to get to know my fellow Cohort 4 founders, which I absolutely loved. I’ve spent the last 2 years in my COVID cave in Philadelphia working on this business with little reinforcement for my assumptions other than customer feature requests and bug reports. Meeting 20 odd people from all different backgrounds, hearing their stories, working on common problems and learning how they approach solutions gave me a great sense of belonging. Entrepreneurship can feel very much like you against the world sometimes, especially at an early stage. The comradery and shared experience of startup life is wonderful to share.
So here we are, graduates. With a little pep in our step and a little more grease for our startup engines. We did it. My sincerest thanks to all of Cohort 4, to all of our invaluable mentors, and of course, to Higher Ground Labs.