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Why co-founders are the foundation of any startup

Q&A with Sam DeBrule, co-founder of Journal, on how his co-founders came together to build to form the foundation of their startup.
docsend startup index newsletter co-founders Journal

This week we’re featuring a Q&A with Sam DeBrule, co-founder of Journal, to hear about how he and his co-founders came together to build their startup, what characteristics make their team unique, and how they were able to raise their Seed round. We also update you on last week’s Pitch Deck Interest metrics, invite you to enter to win a $500 Amazon gift card by filling out the DocSend Fundraising Research survey, and share recommended articles to read this weekend.

Q&A with Sam DeBrule

Sam is a co-founder of Journal, where he leads Marketing & Growth. Journal makes it easy to organize all your online content in one place.

Among other accomplishments, Sam’s responsible for growing the company’s blog, Noteworthy, to 1 million+ monthly visitors.

Prior to starting Journal, the three founders of Journal were working together at Mattermark. How did working together impact the company and product you wanted to build?

As Mattermark employees, SamiurAvi, and I each experienced firsthand the problem that we eventually started Journal to address – people feeling scattered and overwhelmed with all the apps and content they use on a daily basis.

Through our experience, we also formed a unique perspective on how to solve the problem. Samiur’s experience building a conceptual search engine, Avi’s experience designing interfaces that made complex data easy to digest, and mine leveraging content marketing to drive user growth and build community have all shaped Journal into what it is today.

What characteristics make your team unique? How have they helped shape your company culture?

Our team shares this belief that mental space and wellness are the keys to unlocking people’s creativity.

This belief forms the foundation for everything from how we communicate internally to how we connect with people using our product.

For example, we ask our team members to create “operating manuals” with their preferences for communication and collaboration, start meetings with “red/yellow/green check-ins” to understand how everyone is feeling before diving into challenging discussions, and host weekly calls in which team members listen directly to community members as they describe the happiness (and frustrations) they experience while using our product.

Since 2016, your team has raised a $1.5 million dollar Seed round led by Social Capital. What was the fundraising process like for your team and how long did it take to close your round?

Journal is currently backed by Khosla Ventures, Slack Fund, Social Capital, Abstract Ventures, and Product Co-op.

Since we’ve built meaningful relationships with investors who share our vision, our fundraising process usually begins when one investor introduces us to a later stage investor who is excited to get involved.

From start to finish, our last fundraise took about *3-4 months. It involved talking to at least 50 different firms, and digging in on our long term vision, growth strategy, and how well we’d work together. The latter might actually be the most important thing, particularly at the early stages of a company.

* Note: The Journal team raised their Seed round within the average range of 3-4 months we recorded in our Seed Fundraising report. The average number of investors founders contacted to raise their round was between 58-77 with an average of 40 meetings, resulting in raising between $1.2 to 1.8 million. Get more data and read our full report, “The High Stakes and Hard Work of the Seed Round”.

Do you have any advice for early-stage founders on building the right founding team or anything you’d like to add?

Look beyond the “hard” skills that your potential co-founders bring to the table.

What will it be like to work with that person every day for the next few years? How will you communicate when things are going well? What about when things get hard? Will you be willing to work with that person to repair your relationship when there are miscommunications and misunderstandings?

Building a startup has been the most difficult undertaking of my professional life. I consider myself extremely fortunate to be doing it with people that I respect deeply!

Pitch Deck Interest Metrics Update

Last week’s investor interest dropped slightly, but remains high for this time of year compared to data we’ve recorded since 2018. The average investor time spent reading per pitch deck went up to 2 minutes and 52 seconds. (retweet our tweet)

View data trends and changes in the fundraising marketplace.

Win $500 while helping the founder community

If you’ve enjoyed all of our fundraising research this year, you can be part of the next round by participating in this year’s fundraising survey. Founders and investors from anywhere can submit their responses. All data is aggregated and anonymized.

And, if you fill out the survey, we’ll enter you into a drawing to win a $500 Amazon gift card.

Recommended Reads

Startups: The Very Beginning
Jessica Livingston, co-founder of Y Combinator and author of Founders at Work, has given a lot of advice to startups over the past 15 years. During a recent talk she gave at Y Combinator’s Future Founders Conference for women, she focused on just the advice that matters in the earliest stages. It all starts with the right co-founders, the foundation of any startup.

Read the full post on Jessica Livingston’s blog.

How To Find a Cofounder: Ask These 20 Revealing Questions
Co-founders seeking to find the right match need mutual investment to ensure their working relationship will withstand the pressures of building a startup. How co-founders address conflict and make decisions determines the ceiling of your partnership. Dr. Matthew Jones provides twenty questions to better understand the values, personality, and character of your potential cofounder.

Read the full post on Entrepreneur’s Handbook.

The First-Time Founder’s Guide to Learning Everything the Hard Way
Steve El-Hage co-founded Drop when he was just 22 years old. The CEO picks his head up from an eight-year grind of building a company to reflect on the hard-won lessons that stick with him.

Read the full post on First Round Review.