Introducing Drew Payne of UpMetrics
I had the fortunate opportunity to grab lunch and chat with Drew Payne, founder and CEO of UpMetrics, an awesome for-profit organization helping youth and community impact programs collect, analyze, and interpret data to inform decisions, build capacity, and increase access to funding opportunities. This work is especially important in disadvantaged communities, where many youth and community organizations are providing quality programming but lack the engagement and outcome data required in today’s funding environment.
I was inspired by Drew’s background- he grew up on the youth and community impact programs that he is now dedicated to supporting, and he has spent time in the social impact investing space. In fact, it was this investing experience that led to his realization that outcome data is critical to philanthropy, but many programs lack the internal tools to make this strategic shift. Drew decided to start UpMetrics to empower high-quality youth programs to capture their own data and to gain access to capital more efficiently. Here are three key takeaways from my conversation:
- UpMetrics employs a local, relationship-based approach to their work: For the UpMetrics team, the work with youth and community impact organizations is deeply personal. The company employs a partner-first approach, meaning that they spend a ton of time learning and understanding the challenges their partners face and build deep relationships with their partners. How does UpMetrics do this? They have opened multiple regional offices in cities like Chicago, Nashville, and Philadelphia, and have hired lots of folks with first-hand experience in these types of organizations. Additionally, all team members (product, eng, etc.) do continual partner visits so the entire team has a solid understanding of who they are building for, regardless of their role.
“We feel that it’s really important to be involved with the community, school districts, and foundations to enable the ecosystem of data sharing”
- Finding folks who understand and value the mission has been critical to UpMetrics funding model: when Drew was looking for the first set of investors for his burgeoning idea, he mostly raised money from family offices investment arms of high net-worth individuals that want to invest that understood the value of the mission. “The investors we bring on have to have a real passion for access and high quality programming,” Drew said. Additionally, Drew is seeking investors that can look for the double bottom line- there is a focus on financial and social impact return. Given the nature of the work, investors need to care about the impact that UpMetrics is having on the problem statement as a whole in addition to being a sustainable venture.
“There has to be a real alignment and expectation that the work we’re doing is difficult and will take time to scale, and there has to be an aligned expectation on return.”
- Drew had no experience working in technology or computer science before starting UpMetrics. “I was a world history major, with a background in social impact investing and real estate,” Drew says. “I had experience working with foundations as well, so I understood how complicated the ecosystem was… but I didn’t have a rolodex of product and engineering in my background.” Drew found the challenge of building the product, especially one as tech driven as UpMetrics, to be the most challenging part of building the company. Fortunately, Drew was able to find a strong technical leader, one who would help him build the product (through an inbound message on LinkedIn!) Taking a step back, this demonstrates the importance of building a strong team with relevant experience and diverse expertise to take on complex challenges and to truly transform a broader ecosystem.