I'll let you know when we're a two-broom company...


A couple of weeks ago, we raised our first little chunk of angel money. When it hit the bank account, a friend had left this box of generic Oreo cookies on our desk. I loved it.

First of all, I loved it because I don’t really believe in celebrating fundraising. Don’t get me wrong, fundraising is good and it’s important, but it’s not a value creating activity. I much prefer to celebrate value creating activities (like product releases, positive results on a marketing campaign, sales, big milestones, etc) and the value created from fundraising isn’t realized for a long time down the road (at which point, celebrations are definitely in order). So this one box of cookies represented the perfect “recognize, but don’t celebrate” token for our initial fundraising.

I also loved it because it wasn’t a box of real Oreos. It was a box of generic chocolate & vanilla cream-filled cookies. It made me think of a great story I heard a bunch of years ago about my father’s approach to management.

I’ll let you know when we’re a two broom company.

My Dad is a biotech CEO who has been involved with many startup companies in that space. After selling one of these companies to a much bigger company, the employees of the company threw him a party (as he wasn’t going on to work for the acquirer) — which ended up being more of a roast. There were lots of great stories, but my personal favorite came from a young scientist who happened to be the company’s first intern. He told this story about his first encounter with my father:

The company had just moved into a new office building after raising a Series A (I don’t know how much they raised, but I’m sure it was north of $5mm) and the young man telling the story had just started as a summer intern working in the lab. My Dad called him into his unfurnished office, handed him an envelope with some cash and a list of random items he wanted the intern to pick up from the hardware store. One of the items on the list was a big push broom.

The intern made the run without any trouble. But, later in the day, the intern was told that my father was looking for him in the front hallway. When he arrived in the hallway, my father was pointing to the wall—against which two brooms were leaning.

“What is this?” my father asked.
“Umm…the brooms?” the intern replied.
“I thought I told you to buy one broom?”
“Well, I thought we could use one for the front of the office and one in the back by the loading dock.”

My father looked at him, hoping he didn’t need to say anything. The intern didn’t seem to follow, so my father clarified,

“I’ll let you know when we’re a two broom company. Take one of them back.”

And with that, the intern was on his way back to to the hardware store to return one of the brooms—lesson learned. He told the group at the party that he didn’t need anything more than this little moment to understand the type of company he was joining. He graduated school the next year and started his career there. He stayed for 4 years and eventually moved on with the team after the acquisition.

I have always loved this story. And I loved how our little box of generic chocolate & vanilla cream-filled cookies helped us recognize that we’re not yet a “real Oreo company.”

I’ll let you know when we are… ☺