Why This Repeat Entrepreneur Based Frank, a Software program Platform for Employees. And Does He Assume Chicago Is a Good Place for Entrepreneurs?
Logan is one other a type of of us that I can’t recall particularly how or why we met, however I’m so grateful for his friendship. He’s somebody I actually take into account a ‘good egg’ as we’ve loved the tales of his personal entrepreneurial journeys and strongly held opinions on Chicago espresso. I’m excited to shine the sunshine on Logan and Frank, a software program startup centered on employee empowerment. Thanks Logan!
Hunter Stroll: Frank, your present startup, is a platform for employees to arrange so as to defend or advance their rights. After I learn this mission assertion I feel ‘unionize,’ however perhaps that’s only a tactic, not a requirement. Are you able to assist me perceive the distinction?
Logan LaHive: First, the issue… The unbelievable imbalance of energy in workplaces is driving continued acceleration of revenue inequality, which together with local weather, is a high subject going through society immediately. I don’t profess to have the answer — simply imagine that employees having a stronger voice of their workplaces is an effective place to begin. There are a lot of types of employee voice, and differing approaches to exercising it — so you can definitely say that unionizing is a tactic… but it surely’s clearly probably the most established, strongest, and legally-protected path to employee energy.
Different choices for employees might be taking collective motion, solidarity unionism, forming unbiased unions, worker useful resource teams (ERGs), guilds, becoming a member of a employee heart, new improvements/concepts, and so on. All of which have benefit, and could also be finest in several circumstances. Being trustworthy, unionizing is fucking exhausting. Deliberately. Many many years of company lobbying, republican coverage, and close to non-existent enforcement of labor legal guidelines has fairly efficiently established roadblocks to employees exercising their proper to unionize.
However unionizing has clear advantages — past bettering wages, advantages, and office circumstances — it gives the sources and backing of skilled representatives (the union) for collective bargaining, by which the employer is legally obligated to take part and negotiate in good religion (make your individual evaluation of “good religion”).
Our mission at Frank is to supply employees with instruments not solely to have a voice of their office, however to make sure that they’re heard. Our product is purposefully constructed to pursue the tactic of unionizing. We construct organizing software program for unions and labor orgs — a customizable and personal platform for Organizers to assist employees all the best way from curiosity / onboarding by means of to submitting union authorization playing cards. So, whereas personally supportive of any and all employees searching for to enhance their office circumstances, we spend our days centered on offering higher software program to unions enabling them to enhance effectivity and accessibility of union organizing.
HW: However on the similar time we’re seeing a lot of tales about new segments of employees searching for to unionize (resembling Amazon). What’s your tackle the potential right here? Are we going to see a brand new technology of service and commerce staff turning to unions? Will these similar teams each formalize for segments like engineers?
LLH: Sure. Subsequent query.
The traits and knowledge are fairly clear. Union elections are manner up (NLRB), unionizing is extremely in style — with individuals underneath 35, assist for unions is equal to marriage equality and legalization of weed (Gallup), and practically 50% of employees within the US would be a part of one if given easy sure/no likelihood (MIT). Employees are mad and not prepared to take a seat idly by being spoon fed “we’re household” bullshit from bosses making 350x greater than they’re, doing layoffs over zoom from a yacht.
It’s a certainty that issues are and can change… How briskly? What’s going to unionization charges in personal workforce be in 2025? 2040? I don’t know. Like talked about beforehand, employee energy can tackle many varieties. For most individuals, once they say or hear “union” they consider one cookie-cutter sort establishment… however the actuality might definitely be extra a mixture of escalating assortment motion (demand letters and walkouts), unbiased unions (Amazon Labor Union, Dealer Joe’s United, and so on), worker-led union organizing (Starbucks Employees United), extra Employee Facilities, and so on. (and sure, I’m deliberately not throwing DAOs or web3 within the combine right here as simply doesn’t but deserve implied parity).
For anybody studying this, for those who work at an organization with 100+ individuals, there’s 98% likelihood that at the very least two of your coworkers are actively discussing unionizing. However like I stated, it’s exhausting, and it should turn into simpler. I’m no coverage wonk, nor do I put a lot religion in our present political panorama to enact sustained change (although you’d actually count on higher ROI on the $Billions that Labor has funneled to Dem politicians over previous few many years). So a honest hope of mine in constructing Frank isn’t that we’re proper, it’s that we might be a part of rising an ecosystem or group of oldsters constructing instruments particularly for employee energy (LaborTech).
HW: Frank is enterprise backed. I’m going to imagine that your funding conversations right here had been a bit completely different than your final startup. What number of instances did you get referred to as a socialist?
LLH: It’s been fascinating. Frankly, elevating capital to work on this downside is and was privilege. Straight cis white man from background in tech/startups, who ran an accelerator program so has a few years of relationships with VCs, and elevating preseed within the yolo period of 2019 (rip). Constructing instruments for unions is definitely not a class or product that the majority VCs wish to exist, not to mention see develop. I’ve heard many quick and exhausting passes. Lot of individuals I’ve identified for a few years definitely aren’t returning emails the best way they used to. Infinite anti-union tantrums, delivered with the arrogance that solely a VC who had a single private interplay with a union 7 years in the past might muster. Loads of confused, raised brows, “Wait, aren’t unions unhealthy?” then a passing reference to Jimmy Hoffa.
What I do discover fairly humorous is simply what number of contrarians have the very same response. How private opinions instantly cloud this matter, however what number of new classes are evaluated with some marginal mental curiosity. Most likely a correlation right here with why there was extra enterprise funding for golf tech than girls’s fertility till very not too long ago…
Look, socialists hate enterprise capital, and enterprise capitalists hate unions. However constructing new tech to attempt to handle main issues in a big class (Labor) requires $. It requires valuing the labor of the crew we rent to construct it, to assist our companions (unions) that use it, and to spend money on frequently making it higher. We didn’t have entry to union funding, grants, or luggage of money that fell off a truck. I attempted, and I self-funded for in all probability longer than affordable.
We don’t aspire to be enterprise backed, to be a mark-up, or to chase the headline of a valuation. Nor are we searching for to advance a political agenda. We’re working in an area the place, traditionally, funding has been sparse. So I’ll take some pictures alongside the best way, however hold head down and keep centered on mission we all know to be deeply significant, and on delivering worth for our companions (unions).
HW: After we first met you had based Stomach, a B2B2C loyalty/retention startup. There have been numerous comparable firms shaped across the similar time — I feel a byproduct of cell apps and companies beginning to need extra knowledge on their prospects. What’s one factor you had been proper about and one factor you had been improper about that essentially impacted the trajectory?
LLH: When beginning Stomach in 2011, yeah, we had been monitoring one thing like 15 firms within the Loyalty area. It appeared extra like a market map than a aggressive panorama slide. Most had been in SF, largely early stage, some producing buzz out of YC or 500 Startups, virtually solely ‘check-in’ sort apps. We in a short time outgrew all of them, and inside a couple of yr it was clear there have been 3–4 key opponents.
I feel that with time, the issues we did proper and issues we fucked up get clearer with perspective, however tainted by fading reminiscences compressing themselves into tidy narratives.
Early on, one thing we completely did proper that helped propel us rapidly was spending a LOT of time in shops with prospects (small enterprise homeowners), and deeply prioritizing what they wanted to see inside their 4 partitions somewhat than what we wished to be stated about us in Techcrunch. Many opponents had been constructing cool new issues, that felt sizzling and buzzy… like, they had been cell solely merchandise at a time (2011) the place lower than half of a small companies prospects had sensible telephones. And the POS (point-of-sale) in all markets outdoors of SF had been antiquated, closed methods, that the homeowners didn’t need touched as a result of final time somebody tried so as to add a brand new SKU the “3” key stopped working for six months.
So, we put an iPad on the counter, buyer going through, and enabled customers to sign-up or use Stomach with our app or a bodily key-chain card (QR code). Enterprise homeowners cherished it as a result of it created 100% addressable viewers — all of their prospects might simply enroll and use it — in order that they promoted it. And it created a digital billboard on the highest worth location in a retail retailer (POS) which we used to market on to the companies prospects. It was our flywheel. We had been capable of intensely deal with promoting to enterprise homeowners, they usually drove all shopper acquisition from inside their shops.
As soon as rising rapidly, and pulling forward of opponents, I feel we misplaced observe of whether or not the race was value operating. Being so centered on development, market growth, hiring, fundraising, I satisfied myself and others that dominate market share would allow us to ship XYZ, to “be a platform” 🙄, and increase share of pockets. Laborious to choose only one factor I used to be improper about, however, immediately’s reply: The choice to function stand-alone outdoors of POS (point-of-sale) somewhat than constructing core POS meant we had been a characteristic. There was one thing so core to the companies operations — it took funds, might clock-in staff, course of all SKU/transaction knowledge, and was required to be utilized for each single transaction… and we had been sitting close to it, however we weren’t it. We had been pushing a rock up the improper hill.
HW: The final two years have seen an acceleration of ‘tech startups might be constructed wherever’ and naturally, intense debates about distant work. You led TechStars Chicago for 2 years (2017–2019) and have been linked to the native scene there for a fairly some time. Has Chicago over-performed or under-performed your expectations over the past decade as a house for startups? Any predictions going ahead?
LLH: I don’t know. Chicago VCs and all of the establishments spun as much as promote Chicago tech will say it’s over-performed, and can quote bunch of random stats they gathered in a survey or a Pitchbook article just like the MOIC of Chicago enterprise investments. I do not know what MOIC is. I appeared it up just a few instances. However truthfully couldn’t care sufficient to recollect. Or, I hear concerning the % ROI from Chicago investments being high decile due to decrease entry valuations, as if that’s one thing that’s engaging to founders…. “Hey have a look at me, my midwest valuation obtained you a greater return! Cool!”
Of us in Miami will say Chicago is chilly, Enterprisey, no vibes, and yolo miami bro. No comparative knowledge, simply pumping the hype / meme marketing campaign.
Every tweet storm or weblog put up about Metropolis A vs B, “Prime 10 Hottest Locations to Begin a Startup”, “Is Boise the New Austin?” I learn them understanding the overwhelming majority are biased narratives with a self-serving objective — a politician selling their metropolis, a founder attempting to draw exec expertise, a VC take a look at driving their new geo-concentrated LP pitch… Truthfully, I get irritated momentarily then simply transfer on. Others can waste cycles debating it.
I do know there’s every thing wanted to begin and construct a terrific crew and firm in Chicago. There are some markets that supply benefits vs others, and a few geos finest fitted to startups in particular industries. However distant and distributed groups are right here to remain, and I’m nonetheless studying to successfully lead a distributed crew. So, no, no actual predictions — simply that I’m fortunately staying put in Chicago and attempting to always adapt with new norms.