#HerImpact: “We’re All Here to Win”
Endeavor Mentor and Cardlytics Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer Lynne Laube reflects on her vision as an entrepreneur, the journey to IPO, and building a company people want to work for
Lynne Laube affectionately calls Cardlytics, the Atlanta-based company she founded with Scott Grimes in 2008, her third child. Listening to her talk about Cardlytics, it is immediately clear the company is a labor of love. Together the pair have nurtured it from its inception, building a strong company culture of innovation and transparency, attracting a devoted team, and scaling up in a big way, taking Cardlytics public in February 2018 — the first tech IPO of that year.
Cardlytics uses purchase intelligence to make marketing more relevant and measurable by partnering with financial institutions to run their banking rewards programs. These programs ultimately help marketers drive meaningful sales growth, and promote customer loyalty for banks and marketers alike. Today, the company has been recognized with numerous accolades, including one of the country’s fastest growing tech companies by Deloitte Fast 500 and Inc. 5000, and as a top place to work in Atlanta for several years. Lynne recently sat down with Endeavor’s Women in High-Impact Entrepreneurship (WHIE) Team to chat about Cardlytics’ journey since the IPO and what remains most important to her as co-founder and leader. Here’s what she had to say:
WHIE: Last February you took Cardlytics public on the Nasdaq, making it the first tech IPO of the year. What factors went into that decision to go public?
Lynne Laube (LL): When CEO Scott Grimes, and I started Cardlytics 10 years ago we talked about two things: the fact that we had a cool idea, and the fact that there were certain things we felt were required to make a young company successful.The one thing we always said was: “We need to be in control of our own destiny.” When you start a company, certainly a lot fail, some are bought, and a handful go public. We always knew the end goal was to become a public company. It’s not the end of the journey in any way, shape, or form. It’s a milestone.
WHIE: Who did you go to for advice when evaluating that move?
LL: We sought a lot of advice on how to make the transition from private to public, and how to do it well. One of our board members, Mark Johnson, who also built his own company and took it public, has been a mentor of mine. He’s given me a kick in the butt when I’ve needed it, the mental pat on the back when I needed it, and the encouragement when I needed it. The reason he was so great was because he had been there and done that, so he knew the challenges we were going to face, and the milestones we were going to have.
WHIE: You mentioned you wanted to build something that you had control over. How did you think about that in parallel with going public?
LL: There’s an enormous amount of public scrutiny with being a public company, and an enormous amount of pressure to deliver results. If we miss, that’s our fault, no one else’s. We still have to do it in a public limelight, and there are still rules, but at the end of the day it’s about executing it well — and that is within our control.
WHIE: Were you surprised by how your role changed after the IPO?
LL: When you’re a private company, you’re selling your vision of what you’ll do some day to a small group of investors. Once you become a public company, you are proving that you can deliver what you said you were going to do. And you’re doing that to a much wider group of people, many of whom you don’t know. Intellectually I knew that. But that transition was a hard mental transition to make, especially after 10 years of selling the vision.
WHIE: What were some of the challenges you faced in scaling yourself as a leader as Cardlytics itself scaled? How did you address those challenges?
LL: I am constantly learning. When I try to describe my leadership style, I try to constantly be in a learning mode as much as possible, and I try to be as humble as possible so I can be open to learning new things, or doing things differently, and changing rapidly. By no means do I say that I know everything I’m doing — I certainly don’t because [there are things] I’ve never done before. It’s a constant learning journey, and you have to be okay with making mistakes.
WHIE: Do you have any frameworks that you apply to recognizing a failure or weakness and trying to turn that around?
LL: I try to spend a lot of time with people inside the company, whether one-on-one or in group sessions, where I ask a lot of questions and find out what’s going and what’s on people’s minds. Once a month, I invite 20 people, completely randomly from across the company — all different jobs, all different levels, all different titles — to come in for an hour, and we just chat. I ask: What’s going well? What’s not going well? I try to learn a lot by just being present in the company and spending time with people. I try to make sure I’m very aware of what’s going right and wrong a lot sooner than I would be if it came to me in a formal structure.
It’s been a big part of our culture since day one. We don’t have offices and never will. I meet with every employee who walks through the door, so that every employee has had a conversation with me, and knows who I am and where I sit. We do town halls every month. We do a lot to make sure we’re very transparent leaders, and as a result I think people are not afraid to tell us if something looks stupid.
WHIE: Cardlytics has been consistently rated one of the top places to work in Atlanta. What is your philosophy on company culture?
LL: When I sit down with new hires, I describe the culture that we are trying to build. There are three tenets:
The first is, we are all here to win. We didn’t just build a company, we built an industry. We are not only the first to do it but in the U.S. we’re the only ones left who are working with banks to get access to customers and insights that enable advertisers to have stronger marketing. I think you really feel it when you walk in the door: Everyone who is here believes in what we’re doing.
The second tenet of our culture is we hire the best and brightest from anywhere we can. We go out and hire people with lots of diverse backgrounds and experiences, but at the core, we are looking for people who are smart, people who want to innovate, are comfortable doing things differently, are comfortable trying new things, and are comfortable learning and failing.
Finally as a byproduct of the fact that we’re here to win, and that we have a lot of smart and motivated people at the company, we have a lot of fun. But it’s not forced fun. We have all kinds of employee-led organizations that are truly organic. We really help people bring the things that they’re passionate about in their life into the workplace, whether it’s fitness or brewing beer.
WHIE: How do you create an environment where people feel comfortable innovating?
LL: First, we have a very open culture, no offices, no closed doors — even our conference rooms are glass. We talk about the fact that failure is ok, as long as you don’t do the same thing again. Fail fast. Failing is fine.
We also talk about innovation a lot. Our attorney does patent classes, where he talks about what’s a patentable idea, because many of you might have one. We try to incorporate new thinking and innovation into everything we do.
WHIE: Finally, what advice would you like to share with entrepreneurs?
LL: First of all, you have to believe in your idea more than anyone else, because everyone is going to tell you you’re crazy initially. But don’t get so wed to your idea that you don’t know when to change it.
Second, whatever amount of money you think you need, multiply it by 10, and maybe you’ll be closer to right. I say that somewhat jokingly, but not really. It almost always take more money than you think you’re going to need initially.
Endeavor’s #HerImpact series is part of our ongoing commitment to increase gender diversity within the Endeavor network. #HerImpact is devoted to elevating the voices, sharing the perspectives, and showcasing the professional expertise of women in Endeavor’s global network. Learn more about how you can get involved with Women in High Impact Entrepreneurship at Endeavor here.