Last week, it is was announced that one of our portfolio companies, Hitch, had been acquired by Lyft. I am excited that their innovative ride-sharing algorithm and platform will now be available to even more riders. This summer, two weeks after launch, Hitch completed their first pairing of three riders (3 distinct pickups w/ 3 distinct dropoffs) in a single vehicle, representing a huge step towards maximizing the use of vehicles, reducing pollution/congestion and ultimately the need to own a car outright.
But I actually wanted to use the Hitch story to highlight the importance of coachability. As an Olympic athlete, if my coach had told me that I would have a better chance of winning a medal by standing on my head, well, I would have done exactly that. If you weren’t coachable, you would usually find your way off the team pretty quickly. But companies are a little bit different, since founders are both the athlete (competing) and the coach (managing a team, building a vision, etc.). There is often nothing forcing them to take advice, and yet the best seem to build trusted networks (investors, board members, advisors, etc.) that they leverage to great effect. This avoids building product in a vacuum, getting high on your own supply and more often than not leads to a better outcome for all (Fred Wilson wrote a great blog post about building a company board with independent directors).
We met the founders of Hitch, Noam and Snir, in March of this year, just before they were about to get off the ground. We found their idea and product compelling, loved the team but weren’t crazy about the name, which at the time was Corral Labs. I asked them if we could come up with a few ideas and they were open to it. So we sat down, put pen to paper and came up with the following:
Snir and Noam loved “Hitch” and a new name was born. This was one of several things we put our heads together on over the past 6 months and I am thankful for the opportunity they gave us to roll up our sleeves and work with them. It’s what makes investing in the seed stage so much fun. As I like to tell our portfolio companies, “We will be as hands-on or hands-off as they want us to be, just let us know.”
So, did the name change make a big difference? I doubt anyone can say for sure but if you can improve a variable, why not? More to the point, the exercise is indicative of a mentality. The early stage venture space is a world of many unknowns that is too often met with a confidence that can be blinding. Coachability and maintaining a healthy dose of self-doubt is a good thing. You can be sure, for example, that Zenefits founder Parker Conrad (a company that we use for our payroll and is growing like gangbusters) isn’t getting complacent or over-confident anytime soon. He recently told the New York Times, “We’re obviously growing very quickly, but I can tell you that that is just as scary as the other way around”
I would invest in entrepreneurs Parker, Snir and Noam any day of the week.