Pop Quiz, Monday with Monica Borrell, CEO of Cardsmith

Photo credit: Monica Borrell
The Pop Quiz, Monday is a fun little exam that we love to give to savvy business people. The examination is not a surprise after all since the interviewee already knew about the questions in advance. However, we can always pretend and have fun with the scenario of a young entrepreneur sitting in class nervously biting on their pencil. They are ready to take a pop quiz on a chapter that they were supposed to read the night before. Instead, they played Metroid all night on their SNES (Oops, this was me in high school). The real purpose of the pop quiz is that this is a fun way to introduce business tips from real-world experiences that you cannot learn in a classroom. We want to thank our interviewee for being a good sport and volunteering their time to answer a few questions to help our community grow from their knowledge.

I want to introduce you to our guest today who will be taking our Pop Quiz, Monday.

Can you please tell everyone your name?

Monica Borrell

Photo credit: Monica Borrell

What is your job role?

I am the CEO of a software startup called Cardsmith. This basically means that I get to do everything that no one else on my team wants to do — things like legal and accounting.

Tell us about your company?

Cardsmith is a visual collaboration tool inspired by sticky notes on a whiteboard and design-thinking. It is designed for innovators and creative teams. Cardsmith is especially great for innovative remote teams because innovative projects are non-linear and with Cardsmith you can rapidly pivot between the various non-linear phases of a project: ideation, planning, execution and then back to ideation. It is great for many design-thinking type activities such as brainstorming and mapping ideas.

What do you love most about your job?

I love collaborating with the team on the product direction. While my co-founders, Jo (CXO) and David (CTO) own the product direction, we are a very collaborative team and are all passionate about our mission and making Cardsmith the best product it can be given our resources.

What motivates you to get up every day and go to work?

I am excited to work on Cardsmith every single day. I’m driven by the mission of Cardsmith which is to help teams be more collaborative and creative. I have too often in my career seen creative talent be overlooked, and it is such a waste! The quieter types, who will not push their way into a conversation, go unheard, and so often they are the ones that can offer observations that lead to a breakthrough if only they were included and listened to.

I’m also driven by an inner knowing that we have created something special that the world needs to know about, and also that our product needs to improve to be the best it can be.

How do your co-workers inspire you?

My teammates inspire me with their creativity and intelligence. Everyone on our team approaches problems from a different point of view. We take every opportunity to collaborate on ideas, on problems, and on opportunities and I’m always amazed at how much better we are as a team when we explore the diversity in our thinking.

How do you have fun at work (team building, pranks, etc..)?

My co-founder Jo is an amazing cook. In fact, she and I used to have a food business together! When we get together to work, it typically involves some amazingly delicious and healthy lunch or dinner cooked by her. Her husband also built a brick outdoor pizza oven, and we have team pizza parties on occasion for a team building event where we all get to top a pizza for sharing.

What are some of the challenges of your job?

The biggest challenge is not having the resources we truly need to build Cardsmith as fast as we would like. Obtaining funding for a pre-revenue software startup in Portland Oregon has proven to be nearly impossible, so we had to self-fund the building of the product while all working other jobs. Given our limited resources, one of the biggest challenges is to not try to do too much at one time. It is very easy to take on elaborate marketing campaign ideas or product development projects that are great ideas, but simply cannot be achieved given the limited resources we have to work with. It is a challenge to ship small, bite-sized pieces of work continually, but we remind ourselves that Rome was not built in a day, and neither will Cardsmith be.

What are some lessons learned from a past project that you can share with us?

The biggest lesson we have learned is to not scope projects too large but rather to stay agile and get frequent customer feedback. We learned this the hard way by building a mobile app that attempted to do nearly everything you can do on our web application. It took a long time to build, and when we put it into Beta, it failed because it was too complicated of a UI for users to grasp without training. We will be revisiting this project and releasing a scaled back mobile app in the near future and it will likely have 2 core features that most Cardsmith customers need via mobile- the ability to quickly find and view a card, and the ability to quickly add a card.

What advice would you give to someone who is starting out in your industry?

Make sure you have a solid team that is committed to your project. We would not be where we are without the undying loyalty and determination of my co-founders Jo and David. To sustain yourself and your team, you need to make sure the software product you are building really solves a problem you care about solving.

Realize that things are likely to take 2–3 times as long as you think they will, and to celebrate the small wins along the way. Huge success does not happen overnight, but you can use small wins along the way to keep yourself motivated. And, have fun!

Thank you for taking our pop quiz today. You get an A+ for effort. You can learn more about our interviewee and their business by visiting them on the web:

Instagram and Twitter: @gocardsmith
Join our private Facebook group — Make Great Happen with Cardsmith at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Cardsmith.co