Welcome to The Early Days: a series checking in with kickass Founders sharing honest lessons, tips & tricks and a sneak peek into building from the ground up, in public.
Have you ever wondered what that Founder who sold his company to Apple is going to build next or what someone like Stewart Butterfield is going to build after tending to his garden?
Drake Dukes is helping you keep up with Founders and their next moves with Gravity - an all-in-one platform with billions of datapoints on founders and startups that help you stay one step ahead of the technology trends, funding insights, and companies and founders you need to know.
💡 Where did the idea for Gravity come from?
I initially started an agency selling B2B contact data. I soon realized the biggest problem was that contact data goes bad/stale quickly as people change jobs, companies shut down, get acquired, etc. Titles, companies, and emails are no longer relevant if you can keep track of all these changes and at scale, this causes a lot of issues. We started to obsess over trying to build a system that could track these job changes at scale to ensure live, fresh data.
We built this system to solve our own internal data problems but soon realized there are many use cases for tracking job changes. One key use case was the ability to track new companies that are launched each month. For example, when a key software engineer or executive leaves to start a new company on their own, we could pick up that signal and then dive into what they are working on.
This is the type of info a venture investor would want to know as soon as possible so we essentially built a signaling platform around these new company launches and job changes each month for someone becoming a “founder” which then became the early version of Gravity.
🌱 How do you bring ideas to life?
I like to start with the lightest lift of an MVP to validate the idea before putting any more money or resources behind the idea. For example, Gravity started as a business that sold excel spreadsheets of data. None of the data acquisition processes was automated. We did everything by hand. I cold-emailed prospects and sold our first deal before anything was truly built. I think that was a $25,000 contract for literally monthly excel files wrapped in some aspirational vision I conveyed. After that, we used that money to bring the project to life and build software around it.
So many people build things that no one wants. The world is full of tech looking for a home or a use case. Start small - a newsletter, a Twitter account, a document or playbook - and get out there and share that vision with others. That’s the quickest way to get feedback that will eventually inform your build and help shape your vision.
📈 What’s a trend that excites you?
I’m closely following the way data and data-driven innovation is shaping venture capital. It is still super early but I believe in the next 5 years all VCs will have to have some data-driven sourcing efforts to remain competitive. We saw this trend become commoditized in the public markets - hedge funds leverage data to inform their investment decisions when buying and selling stocks - but now it is starting to trickle into the private markets as more venture investors are going earlier and earlier.
This was all driven by COVID - everyone is in a new digital world where founders can build with anyone, anywhere and the free-flowing amount of capital that was in the market. Competition breeds innovation so I'm excited to see how things continue as the investing landscape evolves.
🥰 What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell myself not to get caught up in little things or attached to one thing. I’ve seen so much change over the last few years as we all have. Jobs, ideas, projects, or whatever the status quo is during that time can quickly change. You have to be ready to adapt to those changes.
When I was younger, I think I had a singular focus on how things will be or what I should expect.
Throw your expectations out of the window cause this is a wild ride!
📝 What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Writing content has been big for my company’s growth. We have a lot of very interesting insights and trends we see within our data so being able to share that with others and turn it into a compelling story creates a viral loop for users to check out our data feeds. I think more specifically I’ve seen a lot of growth with Linkedin content. Everyone laughs at Linkedin since it’s a bit of a dumpster fire of spammy connection requests and messages but with so many active users and only a small percentage (~2%) who actually create content. The rest are consumers of content. The algorithm recognizes this and with consistency, your content will spread quickly generating 10s of thousands of impressions for your business. Everyone wants to be a tech Twitter thought leader but no one is competing on Linkedin. If you are B2B, you should be producing content and repurposing on LinkedIn.
📧 Favorite tool for productivity?
Superhuman is by far my favourite tool for productivity. I manage 5 different inboxes and get flooded with emails daily. Superhuman helps me stay organized and get to inbox zero by the end of each day. It was awkward at first but now I’m stuck paying them $30 / month until I retire. Game changer :)
💭 Closing thoughts
In conclusion, Drake Dukes, the founder of Gravity, a platform that tracks job changes and new company launches, shares his journey of building a successful business. The idea for Gravity came from solving the problem of stale B2B contact data, which led to the creation of a signalling platform for new company launches. To bring ideas to life, Drake emphasizes the importance of starting small with an MVP and getting feedback from others. He is excited about the trend of data-driven innovation in venture capital and advises his younger self to be ready to adapt to changes. Writing content has been a key strategy for growing his business and he highly recommends producing content on LinkedIn for B2B businesses. Lastly, Drake's favourite productivity tool is Superhuman, which helps him manage his multiple inboxes and reach inbox zero daily.
Keeping up with Drake 👀
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