Whether earning a Division 1 college scholarship, an internal company promotion, or a round of Series A funding, Boston Tech Startup CEO and former starting guard, Matt Engel, has always kept his sights set on team-oriented success.
Through high-pressure athletic performances and years of intensive off-season training to become a Villanova starter, Engel developed an unparalleled regard for hard work and teamwork. With these two core values developed on the field, Engel called one important play to pick up yardage throughout his personal career and the growth of his company.
It has been a year under Engel’s leadership for Attend, Inc., — a Boston-based startup and emerging leader in intelligent event technology that specializes in streamlining event management, empowering attendee engagement and measuring event ROI. I had a chance to sit down with Engel on his one-year Attend-iversary. I took the opportunity to pick his brain about building Attend and his journey to the top of the professional ladder.
Prior to Engel joining the team, Attend’s SaaS platform was evolving from a check-in app to a more robust event management platform. Engel accrued extensive experience around events throughout his years working on a number of boards, in active early-stage investing and as an active executive in the Boston area. He had faced the challenges of driving successful event management and was excited about the opportunity Attend had begun to explore in its early stages.
“One of the biggest spends in the marketing budget is event marketing,” says Engel, “and yet, there’s limited support and technology to drive that strategic initiative.” Armed with the market opportunity, Attend’s dedicated internal team, early paying customers and a strong team of financial backers, Engel joined Attend with confidence in the market and a realization that a huge opportunity lay ahead of him.
Attend marks Engel’s first experience as a CEO, previously advancing to new roles and assuming greater responsibilities throughout his early career in the finance, venture, and tech industries. His journey to becoming the CEO paralleled his journey to becoming a D1 athlete. Engel says that climbing the ladder is a result of following the rule — “make your boss’s job easier.”
Engel went on to explain that whether you’re on the football field or running a company, there is one play he has called to advance down the field in his life:
“Really understand your organization’s high-level goals, draw a line down to your role in the organization, and work your butt off to help it achieve them.”
It’s a simple call, but Engel says it’s one that’s often left out of the professional playbook.
Find your role, drive value, and always take on more. That, Engel says, is “the beauty of a startup….there’s always something that needs to be done, and there’s always more responsibility to take. If you want to take it, prove you can, and then take it.” Engel’s passion has always influenced his success, but it’s the raw work ethic he developed on the football field that made it happen. Just like training in the off-season, no one can make you put in the extra work it takes to build a company. Once you line up your organization’s high-level goals with your role in executing them, it is good old-fashioned hard work that moves you from Point A to Point B in executing your growth strategy.
It’s a play he’s called to advance down the field of his professional career, moving the chains with every advancement through the org chart. Now that he has advanced to the top of org chart, Engel is calling the same play to advance Attend down the field in the market.
In order to do so, Engel and his team examined the high-level goals of the companies in their target market from all angles, and drew a line to events and the role events play in driving the success of these companies’ goals. From there, Engel recognized how Attend could optimize events’ role in driving business and marketing teams’ business strategies.
Vision and strategy in place, Engel’s first priority was to build-out the team. Already equipped with a strong foundation of core team members, including local tech thought leader and sales warrior, Jim McDonough— the team’s VP of Sales and Customer Success– Engel wanted to invest in the folks who are dedicated to building a company from the ground up. Over the course of his first year, Engel helped sign on innovative tech trendsetter, Eric Bisceglia, as the team’s VP of Product and Engineering, and seasoned B2B demand and event marketing professional, Courtney Pierce, as the VP of Marketing. He has also helped to build out an impressive engineering team from companies like Groupon, Etsy and Paypal and other committed team members from Brightcove, Mashery, Zipcar and LogMeIn.
As Attend continued to attract high-quality talent to its team, it further bolstered Engel’s belief the team could execute Attend’s vision. With things constantly changing and growing throughout the year, there’s one thing Engel said he hopes to keep constant: the company culture. However, Engel was quick to clarify:
“People have gotten culture and perks confused. The culture here is very simple. We’re going to work hard to make something amazing, we’re going to service our customers, maintain transparency across the board, and those who work hard and drive value will be rewarded.” Most importantly, added Engel, “no finger-pointing.” For an innovative company like Attend, risks need to be taken to grow, and Engel feels it is imperative that everyone on his team feels empowered to take risks every day. Failing is okay, and mistakes will happen. “Try new stuff, but fail fast, and learn.That mentality is what drives a high-performing, innovative organization.”
It’s a simple and transparent mentality that fostered his team’s success on the football field, and what continues to make Engel’s team excited to work hard and grow Attend every day.
It may not be a comparison that is often made, but Engel sees a lot of striking similarities between football and startups. In both cases, the team is everything. And in both cases, passion drives the team to want to work hard and execute the growth strategy of the coach or senior leaders. With Engel in the Coach’s seat, Attend is primed with the strong core values and a vision that will lead it to unchartered market success.