“At some level, no one else is going to believe in your idea like you do. You have to have real passion and real belief. If it were an easy or obvious thing, somebody else would’ve already done it.” With Cardlytics Co-founder Lynne Laube & Phil Laboon
At some level, no one else is going to believe in your idea like you do. You have to have real passion and real belief. If it were an easy or obvious thing, somebody else would’ve already done it. Find your real, true, steadfast belief in what you’re doing and don’t let it go. Listen to and absorb all of the stories you hear because you can learn things from them. Learn from the celebratory endings and also from how people and companies have recovered from the hard times. In our case, we got kicked out of every bank in the country when initially pitching our idea. We were told that it was stupid and there was no way anyone would ever let us build an advertising platform within the banks’ digital channels. Everyone will tell you no, but you have to push through — don’t take no for an answer and keep trying. You must believe in your idea and know when to pivot, and when you do, pivot very, very quickly.
I had the pleasure to interview Lynne Laube. Lynne Laube is the chief operating officer and co-founder of Cardlytics (NASDAQ:CDLX), a business recognized as one of the country’s fastest growing technology companies by Deloitte Fast 500 and Inc. 5000. Founded in 2008, Cardlytics helps marketers understand how and where consumers spend money by partnering with the top financial institutions around the world. Cardlytics unlocks the value inherent in consumer transaction data in a way that protects both the bank and its customers. Cardlytics helps companies better target their marketing, and importantly measure the impact of their marketing using actual customer purchases. Cardlytics was recently named the 5th Best Entrepreneurial Company by Entrepreneur Magazine. In February 2018, Lynne took Cardlytics public on the Nasdaq, making Cardlytics the first tech IPO of the year. From 2008 through 2017, Lynne secured more than $200 million in capital from leading investors and scaled the company to become the dominant global leader in purchase history-based analytics. In 2016, Lynne was named one of the top 10 venture-backed female founders by Inc. Magazine and Entrepreneur 360. In 2012 and 2013 Lynne was a finalist for E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Lynne has tremendous passion around helping women excel in the workplace and has led a number of development and mentoring initiatives. At Cardlytics, she launched Women of Cardlytics, a program that provides education and mentorship to help women grow their careers. This program is one of the reasons Cardlytics has won top places to work in Atlanta for several years. Before founding Cardlytics, Lynne held multiple executive positions with Capital One from 1994 until 2008. Lynne began her career at Bank One. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in finance and marketing from the University of Cincinnati’s College of Business and is a graduate of Darden’s Executive Leadership program from the University of Virginia. Lynne is the mother of two teenage children and enjoys working out and cooking in her limited spare time.
Thank you so much for joining us Lynn! Can you tell us what has drawn you to this specific career path?
Before co-founding Cardlytics, I worked at Capital One for 13 years. Throughout my career in banking, I saw tremendous potential in being able to aggregate purchase data from the fragmented U.S. banking system, interpret it, and make it actionable.
With this insight, my co-founder, Scott Grimes, and I decided to build a Purchase Intelligence platform that uses this purchase data, layered with analytics, to solve major challenges for both banks and marketers, and simultaneously gives customers rewards for everyday spending.
Can you share your story of grit and success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Being an entrepreneur and starting your own business, no matter who you are, requires a good amount of grit. Starting a company takes more time, more energy, more dedication, and more money than you think.
My entrepreneurial journey began with an idea, and in the beginning, that’s all Scott and I had. It was our mission to take that idea and make it a reality. We underwent many, what I like to call, “near-death experiences” along the way, where I really figured out what my true level of grit was. Those near-death experiences included everything from founding Cardlytics in the spring of 2008 — having no idea that the U.S. would suffer from a global, economic meltdown just a couple months later — to the time our car broke down, and caught on fire, on the way to an important meeting. (Yes, that really happened!)
The year we launched our company was an incredibly bad time to be raising money from investors. The stress was insurmountable, and even though we thought we had a pretty great idea, we weren’t sure we were going to get it off the ground, because we weren’t sure we’d get any funding. We got kicked out of every bank we met with, but we didn’t give up.
Despite the many set-backs, we kept pushing, believing, and trying. Maybe the stars aligned, or maybe grit carried us through. Either way, we celebrated every single success, big or small, and didn’t give up. We knew we weren’t just building a company, we were, and are, building an industry.
How did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?
One of my favorite examples of grit leading to success is when Cardlytics was gearing up to launch its first material bank in 2012. Like most young companies embarking upon their first major launch, we had funding contingent upon it. The funding was going to happen right after we went live, and our payroll was due two weeks after that. About three hours before the official launch, the bank called and said, “Something’s wrong, we can’t display the offer program.” This bank happens to be about two hours outside of Atlanta, where Cardlytics is headquartered, and we knew that missing this launch window would result in a minimum wait of 90 days until our next opportunity to go live. There were only a handful of us at the company at the time, so we loaded almost every technology-savvy employee into a van and sped down the highway to get to our bank partner before the launch window closed at midnight.
Upon arrival, we found the problem — it was a configuration set-up that wasn’t quite right — so we made the correction, the bank launched successfully, we secured the funding, and all was good! We literally came within minutes of missing our launch window. Had we missed it, we wouldn’t have gotten our funding, but with a tremendous amount of grit we persevered to make the seemingly impossible, possible.
What is something you are most proud of accomplishing as a result of creating Cardlytics?
Not only am I proud of our successful IPO on NASDAQ, I’m also proud of the industry we’ve created. Our platform has a unique, three-pronged benefit in that it helps banks by increasing their customer loyalty and engagement, helps advertisers by driving revenue and brand awareness, and helps consumers by saving them money on everyday purchases.
Since our launch 11 years ago, we’ve been able to create more than 400 jobs in multiple cities and countries, and I’m extremely proud to say that most people who work here actually do love their job. The reality is, we spend more of our waking lives at work than anywhere else, so it’s important that work is a place we want to be. If it’s a place where you have to be different than who you are everywhere else, you’re not going to be happy. We very much strive to create an environment where employees can be their best selves and share their passions, and we empower them to drive those passions with innovation and excitement. We rally around each other, we support each other, and we lift each other up. We want our people to be fulfilled on both a professional and personal level, not just because they’re doing a job, but because this is a place where they actually want to be.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
One of the transitions I’m currently navigating is being the co-founder and COO of a company that was once a privately held company, now public. Transparency and authenticity have always been two of my core values. So, it’s been a bit of a change for me to say there are at least a half dozen projects I’m currently working on that are super cool, but I can’t say a word about them because I’d violate SEC security laws. As someone who wants to be completely transparent with employees all the time, not being able to share everything all the time is a difficult transition to make. Learning how to still be authentic and transparent in a public company environment is something I’ve been working hard to excel at.
What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Creating an engaging workplace is very important to me and something Cardlytics has maintained throughout its growth. To help my team thrive, I feel it’s my job to provide ongoing, two-way dialogue, and to listen and be open to feedback from all levels of the organization.
To do that, I personally meet with every new employee who joins Cardlytics. Once a month, I host an intimate new hire meeting where I share my vision and goals for the company — why we created it in the first place — discuss our culture and answer any questions. I do this because I have an expectation that if someone sees something that looks wrong or broken, I want them to be able to come to me with their concern and/or advice for resolution. I can’t expect our people to share ideas with me if we’ve never had a conversation or open dialogue.
Our offices are a clear example of this philosophy, too, because we don’t have offices! We built an open environment so that people can talk to each other, learn from each other, collaborate, and engage. We host monthly town hall meetings that all employees are invited to attend, where the leadership team stands up in front of the whole company and answers any questions from the group, either in person or anonymously. Further, we host monthly forums called Grime Time and Lynner Circle (named after Scott Grimes and myself), that encourage open conversation in an intimate setting of no more than 25 people. In these meetings, it’s not just our employees who are asking us questions, we ask them questions, too.
The wonderful thing about connecting with our employees in an open, trusted setting is that we always leave with a new piece of information, or a new idea, that we didn’t have before. And we act on it! Two-way dialogue is very important to us — we truly value what our employees have to say and follow-through by acting on their feedback and initiating change for improvement.
Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)
I’m just one entrepreneur in this world, and we all have experiences to share. But the advice I would give is this: At some level, no one else is going to believe in your idea like you do. You have to have real passion and real belief. If it were an easy or obvious thing, somebody else would’ve already done it. Find your real, true, steadfast belief in what you’re doing and don’t let it go. Listen to and absorb all of the stories you hear because you can learn things from them. Learn from the celebratory endings and also from how people and companies have recovered from the hard times.
In our case, we got kicked out of every bank in the country when initially pitching our idea. We were told that it was stupid and there was no way anyone would ever let us build an advertising platform within the banks’ digital channels. Everyone will tell you no, but you have to push through — don’t take no for an answer and keep trying. You must believe in your idea and know when to pivot, and when you do, pivot very, very quickly. Lean on your advantages, too, and be resourceful with what you have. All of these efforts and attributes build grit. It’s there, inside of everyone, sometimes you just have to let it lead the way.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?
This is very true — none of us can achieve success without some help along the way! In the early days, one of our board members gave us some great advice on how to build a company, but most importantly, helped us with financial institution introductions, which led to our very first deal with our first big bank. We would not have secured a partnership with this bank had our board member not made the initial introduction for us.
Sometimes help can come in the form of a lucky introduction or present itself through an unparalleled advocate. In the case of our first launch with a large, national bank, there was a guy named Jason, who I hope reads this one day. Banks are very risk-adverse in nature. There are hundreds of bank employees who will say no, with only a few people who are willing to say yes. Jason said yes, putting his own reputation on the line. He believed in us and our product almost as much as we did. Jason fought for Cardlytics. He knew it was an untapped channel that would work and work well! We’re so thankful for his help and support throughout our journey and couldn’t have done it without him, or others alike.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My life lesson quote is really just one word…..TRY! Throughout this journey, countless people have approached me to say, “Oh I had that idea!” or “I still want to be an entrepreneur.” And my response to them is, “Then go try it! Just try, and don’t give up.”
Another lesson I’ve learned along the way is that entrepreneurs should form a network of peers to bond and connect with. All entrepreneurs are different, but we have common themes: we all have a little bit of crazy, we have “near-death experiences,” we get a little bit lucky sometimes, we have grit, and we try. Starting a company can be very lonely, so having other entrepreneurs to relate to and share stories with can make all the difference.
Finally, I always recommend having a co-founder, someone who is the “ying” to your “yang.” Owning a company is nonstop, 24/7 — it never goes away. I was an extremely dedicated employee to the various companies I previously worked for, but at the end of the day, I went home and could turn it off for the evening. Being an entrepreneur is never just a job — Cardlytics is my third child — and I’m so thankful to have a co-founder to share the wins and losses with. Also, so that when your car catches on fire on the way to a meeting, someone else is there to witness and reminisce with you about crazy experiences!
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About the Author:
Phil Laboon wants to live in a world where actions speak louder than words, people shout their stories from roof tops, and where following one’s passion is the norm. As a serial entrepreneur and investor, his personal and professional life has spotlighted in hundreds of publications such as People Magazine, Rueters, Forbes, Inc, HuffingtonPost, and CBS This Morning. When he’s not building memorable brands or launching exciting startups, you can find him backpacking exotic countries looking for new inspiration and challenges.
If you would like to book Phil for an entertaining speaking engagement about inbound marketing or growing a business, he can be contacted HERE