RINGDNA & BRYANT STIBEL
The Science of Conversation
Howard Brown first met Jeff Stibel on a trip to the sidewalk in front of his house. At the time, Jeff was placing a sign in front of his new home that said, “Welcome to Malibu.”
A seemingly common scenario, except they were not in Malibu – and Jeff was putting the sign out there as a playful wink to his wife who yearned to live in the suburbs, leaving Jeff’s heart stranded on the Malibu beach, from where they’d just moved.
That was Jeff and Howard’s first conversation – two neighbors having a laugh on the street. From that day on, a friendship blossomed that would one day transcend more than just a neighborly bond when Bryant Stibel would provide the seed round for Brown’s startup in 2014, ringDNA. One fateful/foretelling conversation that eventually led to the birth of Brown’s baby – a platform that rather brilliantly unleashes an untapped goldmine of conversation data powered by artificial intelligence (AI).
Ask Brown, a three-time entrepreneur, why he chose to go with Bryant Stibel? “It became evident that Jeff had both the experience and a team that was starting to put the infrastructure in place to be a sound financial partner as well as just great mentors.”
Cut to 2019. With ringDNA landing a $30 million growth equity round of financing in November 2018 (led by Goldman Sachs through an introduction from Bryant Stibel), the company seems poised for an even bigger growth spurt this year, and beyond.
For Brown, success so far is due in part to Bryant Stibel being much more than just sheer partner or investor. “I feel like Bryant Stibel is an extension to my ringDNA family,” says Brown. “They’re not pushing their own agenda and that’s been my experience with a lot of investors in the past. The agenda is simply to be as helpful as possible in any way I need it. Hugely valuable because it allows you to drop your guard and be who you are as a founder and entrepreneur.”
No surprise that Brown would have the vision to identify a suitable partner. After all, his former career was as a licensed marriage and family therapist.
Part of the Right Conversation
“I think that their experience with massive data sets from Dun & Bradstreet and before that Web.com coupled with Jeff’s understanding of brain science and the network effect has added quite a bit,” admits Brown. “Jeff brings the human understanding piece. The team in general brings data and the understanding of data.”
This situation has proven to be an ideal fit because, as Brown reveals, “What ringDNA truly is, it’s the combination of those two things; it’s massive data sets from the actual transcription and voice that happens during a conversation and it takes that with all of the workflow information – actually what happened during the phone call, what led up to the phone call through campaign data – and mashes that up and figures out behaviorally what you should be doing next as well as on the phone call.”
All of this, of course, may just be a way for two friends to keep the conversation going – especially when it comes to developing ringDNA’s ability to read and analyze “conversation data,” which Brown sees “as the holy grail of business intelligence insights.” Which, at this point, is at 60 million conversations… and counting.
A Winning Team
At the very least, it’s a reason to bring the conversation to Bryant Stibel’s Malibu office, where Brown’s found infinite value in leveraging for business.
“We invite both clients and prospective partners as well as prospective recruits to the Malibu office as a show-and-tell to introduce people to the Bryant Stibel team. That helps with recruiting. You’re across the street from Nobu and Soho House… it’s super helpful to meet the investors and other entrepreneurs who work out of that office.”
But at the end of the day, it’s about the team who works on his business or as he calls it – “the intellectual capital” – that make the partnership worthwhile. “I think that with any great team, you have great players and great coaches and it’s a combination of those things,” Brown concludes. “You have experience that each of those individuals bring – only by bringing that all together can you really achieve success.”
Turns out maybe the move from Malibu wasn’t such a bad thing after all.