Thoughts: From Kevin Daniels, CPO of C2FO… along with my take on it

By Kusalwin Kularatne (with content originally appearing on The Caesura Project)

READ TIME: 5 minutes

On identifying a high-growth startup during its early stages…

“Look to see if they have signed on a marquis client. For C2FO, when I saw that they had closed big brands like Costco and Amazon, I saw potential there.”

For me, there were two “light bulb moments” with blooom. First: they’d closed Cerner, and had been managing 401ks for the employees there. The second: blooom was the fastest roboadvisor in the world to reach $1B in AUM (assets under management), destroying the competition by years, and doing so at a fraction of the capital needed.

On hunting for the next big IPO…

“Two things to look out for are to see if A) they have at least a $100 million in revenue, and B) if their growth is predictable.”

When Snapchat had their moment in the spotlight back in March with the IPO, people began to take the company more seriously than a simple social media startup. Granted, I probably know next to nothing about stocks and investing; but I’d still keep my eyes peeled on the palette of Kansas City startups that are growing fast.

Why we both like startups that haven’t scaled yet…

“As a company tends to grow bigger and bigger, you start to lose some of that initial energy and culture that brought everyone together - it gets more and more diluted.”

During my time at YEP, I interned at Dimensional Innovations (a 25-year-old design engineering firm with more than 250 fantastic employees) and blooom (a three-year-old financial advisory with 25 equally awesome employees). While DI was great, blooom was my calling. I like the fact that I know everyone’s names; that I can have a cup of coffee with the CEO while he gives me tips for running my own company; that I can prank call scammers with the CPO over lunch; and that we celebrate life’s moments together as a team, whether it’s a wedding or someone becoming a new mother. But hey, that’s just me...

On keeping company culture, even as the company grows…

“There’s no textbook answer to that question, it’s extremely case-by-case, and is inherently difficult to crack. But you can look to those who’re doing it well and take some lessons away. Google has their 20% time policy, where all employees can spend 20% of their time working on their personal projects, and Facebook has built a fantastic campus that’s just mind-blowing to see in person.”

Heck if I know.

On the difference between a startup employee and a corporate employee…

“Depends on what stage that particular startup is at, but most of those who go to work at early-stage startups are crazy, passionate, and are comfortable with ambiguity. On the other hand, if you’re career-focused and like security, then a corporate job is your cup of tea.”

Can you believe I actually wanted to be an investment banker back in the day? Not joking. That was a weird phase of my life. More to the point, it took me a while before I became comfortable with the idea of working at a startup and building my own. This conditioning involved watching multiple pitches at 1 Million Cups, several visits to coworking spaces right here in Kansas City like Village Square and the Plexpod, and best of all, meeting a bunch of great people to guide me along the way.

On the importance of data…

“Three steps on interpreting data: 1) gather it all together, 2) organize it, and 3) tell a story. ‘What if I don’t like data,’ you ask? Too bad. Suck it up and learn it.”

To be honest (or tbh, for my millennial/Gen Z readers,) I thought I’d hate sifting through never-ending rows of Excel spreadsheets at blooom, but I’ve actually learned a LOT from doing that, and it’s given me a work ethic that I’m proud of.

How to start a company that can change the world…

“You have to be a bit irrational to do this. I know this is probably a bad example, but the dudes who started Uber never let society’s norms stop them. Getting in a car with a stranger? Who knew that’d be a thing.”

Some C-suite officers are absolutely crazy. I know of one CEO who literally wears cowboy boots to work in 100-degree weather; a CPO who’s obsessed with chugging butter coffee (look it up, it’s a thing); and a CTO who dropped out of a full-ride to KU to run his own business. And I truly believe that each and every one of them can change the world. (No Mom, I know it’s crazy to tie 100 balloons to the dog so he can fly, but just watch this video go viral tonight and the crazy boost in engagement we’re gonna get tomorrow. Think about the brand, Mom, the BRAND).

It’s WHAT you do at school, not WHERE you go

“Blow people away with doing something that’s outside of school, that’s pretty awesome to talk about. When going through applicants for C2FO, I look for the most interesting thing on their resumes. Have a startup idea? Make it. Like a sport or club or hobby? Do it. It doesn’t matter where you go.”

Granted, I was a bit skeptical to hear a guy who got his undergrad at Duke and an MBA at Tuck (b-school at Dartmouth) say this. Then again, my boss and his co-founders went to state schools, and are some of the smartest people I know. People say it so often that I wonder if it’s a cliche - “it’s what you do at school, not where you go, that matters.” But then again, I’m always ready to prove someone wrong, especially if their first impression of me is based on where I’m going to school.