Why Underscore Backed Marlo
People and time. People are a company’s most precious resource, which makes how those people spend their time a critical driver of business success.
As investors who spend time studying the Future of Work (among other areas in our investment thesis), we see lots of founders taking on how to recruit, train, and retain great talent. But how can managers ensure their teams are maximizing their day, and not wasting time in unproductive meetings? That is the important problem that the Marlo team is taking on.
I’ve worked at big companies and small companies, yet somehow my calendar is jam-packed with meetings, and too often ends up looking like this (actual screenshot):
And too often, meetings are not a good use of time. They often have no agenda or clear takeaways. They are boring. Sometimes half the attendees didn’t even need to be there. But how do we break this pattern of unproductive meetings? We all know you can’t manage what you can’t measure.
Prior to Marlo, there has been no good way to collect data on the productiveness of these meetings and diagnose what can be improved or if the meeting even needed to happen. And there certainly wasn’t a service proactively suggesting improvements to broken organizational meetings.
Today, Marlo is addressing our meeting headaches. They’ve started with a beachhead product that collects micro-feedback through engaging and emoji-woven surveys integrated with Slack and gCalendar.
Data captured over time from these integrations are packaged into a web-based analytics suite that Marlo renders to mid-level managers and executives. By tracking these feedback trends overtime and organizations, Marlo is building a differentiated dataset generating intelligence on the effectiveness of meetings.
The team believes that data-driven decisions should be at the core of the 21st-century meeting experience and leverages the concept of a “Net Meeting Score” to focus and summarize meeting health at a company.
Backing people. We had the privilege to meet the Marlo’s founders, Ankith Harathi and John Keck, last year as they pursue their MS/MBA degrees at Harvard. We got to know them well when they first applied to UFirst, Underscore VC’s summer accelerator. Ankith and John displayed all the traits we look for in great founders, as well as strong product-oriented operating experience from fast-growing startups including DoorDash and Gamer Sensai. With a great team, a large, unsolved problem, and early customer traction, we decided to invest alongside a great local syndicate partner, NextView.
Since raising and going through UFirst, Ankith and John have made great early hires and have quickly expanded their user base to include many of the big name companies around Boston, including Wayfair, Drift, and Mavrck, among others. In addition to building an intelligence layer, they are harvesting a data-driven expertise on what makes great meetings. Some of the attributes of successful meetings that we’ve already learned include:
- Only include people who will actively contribute to the conversation
- Share an agenda in advance and stick to agenda
- Make meetings as short as possible
- Ensure all attendees get a chance to talk, including remote workers.
The Marlo team is just getting started, having recently kicked off their public launch, including coverage in the Boston Globe. We are excited to partner alongside of them as they set out to help teams have the best meetings possible. Put your company on the path to better meetings and check it out for yourself at GetMarlo.
You can also learn more from Ankith and John in our “Preparing to Lift Off” series here. And you can check out their UFirst Demo Day pitch below!