On the path to becoming an entrepreneur, there are seeds of inspiration in every story. Howard Brown was a former owner of a marriage and family therapy practice, who turned an internal tool into a nationwide referral service for booking, meeting and insurance management – before eventually selling it to a Bain Capital company. Today, Brown is making strides as founder and CEO of ringDNA – with help from Bryant Stibel, an early-stage investor in his business. ringDNA was the recipient of a $30 million round of equity financing from Goldman Sachs in late 2018.
As the leading AI-powered, sales engagement and voice solution, Brown has led ringDNA through its early successes – and now, given the new round, the company is poised to make an even greater impact looking ahead.
CEO & Founder, ringDNA
Q: How did ringDNA originally get involved with Bryant Stibel?
A: Over the course of a couple years talking business with Jeff, it became evident that he had both the experience and team to put the infrastructure in place to be a sound financial partner – as well as just great mentors and, if nothing else, a sounding board. When I talked about doing a small round, they immediately showed interest and we basically worked through it.
Q: What drew you to work with the Bryant Stibel team?
A: In general, the ability to have access not to any single partner, but to all of them at any given time – I think that’s such a massive value-add. They’ve also been wildly helpful because they bring so much operational experience to so many areas of my business and, when they don’t have the answers, they’ll make strategic introductions to their peers throughout Los Angeles.
Q: How does working with Bryant Stibel compare to working with the usual suspects?
A: Honestly, I feel like they’re an extension to my ringDNA family. They’ve been more than partners, they’ve been more than investors, and I feel as if they’re not pushing their own agenda, which has been my experience with a lot of investors in the past. Their agenda is simply to be as helpful as possible in any way I need it, and that’s hugely valuable because it allows you to drop your guard and just be who you are as a founder and entrepreneur.
Q: Are there any areas where Bryant Stibel has supported your team in unexpected ways?
A: I think up and down the organization, they’ve been super-helpful. They’ve provided a welcoming space in the Malibu office for some of our senior team to work out of on Fridays. They’ve also let us use the office as a backdrop to invite clients, prospective partners and recruits, sort of as a “show and tell” and way of introducing people to the Bryant Stibel team.
Q: How does Bryant Stibel approach challenges differently than others?
A: The life of an entrepreneur in general is: How do I look at the problems that we face and turn those into opportunities and solutions? At Bryant Stibel you have a group of operators – which to me translates into problem solvers that are available whenever I need them. Whether it’s been problems in negotiating longer-term contracts or contract terms with our current customers or in challenges as it relates to data and privacy, having a team there to guide you through that and be understanding has certainly been making it okay to make mistakes and fail along the way. That has been hugely helpful.
Q: Has the Bryant Stibel team influenced the culture at ringDNA?
A: As entrepreneurs you tend to want to boil the ocean and solve a lot, and I think that one piece of solid advice early on from the team – especially from Jeff and Pete – was to focus on what we’re good at and build on that, as opposed to trying to solve too much at once.
Q: What was it like to be on the floor of the NYSE with Bryant Stibel?
A: That was awesome. It was great to meet Kobe – he was very disarmed and watching Jim Cramer and Jeff up there with the team was super exciting. Honestly, the stock exchange basically shut down when Kobe walked through there – I mean people brought their basketballs. It was like parting the sea – it was amazing.
Q: What would you say to another company considering working with Bryant Stibel?
A: If you’re looking for more than capital, if you’re looking for an extension to your team, if you’re looking for operational experience that’s “been there, done that” and isn’t afraid to get dirty with you, they are the team to go with.
Q: Would you work with Bryant Stibel again on future endeavors?
A: Oh, we’re not done yet! I feel like they are and have helped us achieve our short and intermediate and they’re going to play a key role in helping us achieve our long-term goals because I have a lot more I need from them. I would expect to always work with them in one capacity or another.