First of all, how are you and your Family doing in these COVID-19 Times?
Matt Douglas: This has been a time of ups and downs, as it has been for many families. Everyone in my family is healthy, and there’s nothing more important than that. My kids, who were both in elementary school this year, have demonstrated resilience and adaptability. My daughter finished elementary school in June, and she really felt the loss of the end-of-year events and celebrations that traditionally mark an important milestone like that. My son just finished Kindergarten and he missed his friends. That said, we try to keep things in perspective as a family. Overall, we’re blessed.
Tell us about you, your Career, how you Founded or Joined Punchbowl
Matt Douglas: I am the Founder & CEO of Punchbowl, and have led the Company since its inception in 2006. I’m an entrepreneur at heart, and I wanted to build a world-class tech company. The genesis for Punchbowl came out of the opportunity I saw in the market to build a better product for planning events. I had built award-winning desktop software throughout my career, and I saw the opportunity to create a new digital product for the celebrations market. I’m glad I pursued it.
How does Punchbowl Innovate?
Matt Douglas: Innovation is driven by two things: people and execution.
At Punchbowl, we try to hire the smartest person possible for the position. We look for people that are curious but can deal with ambiguity. New ideas from our team are encouraged, supported, and rewarded. We listen to our customers, but we also recognize that the customer doesn’t always know what they want. And we believe that great software “has an opinion.”
As far as execution, it’s what we do best. We have yet to come up with something that our development team could not build. While not every project has been successful, overall, we have a pretty good track record. I like to say that Punchbowl is like an “all-star baseball player” — that means that 2 out of every 3 projects (at-bats) we miss.
How the Coronavirus Pandemic affects your Business and how are you Coping?
Matt Douglas: Our two primary products are online invitations and digital greeting cards. As you can imagine, social distancing has had a significant impact on the number of people planning celebrations and gatherings. The number of online party invitations sent has plummeted.
Very early in the pandemic, we debated about how much we should focus on virtual events. We looked at new features specifically for Zoom and Facetime parties. But here’s the thing — you don’t need the robust features of a digital invitation platform to plan a virtual event. RSVPs don’t matter because you aren’t serving food or planning for guests. You don’t need our Potluck List feature. You don’t need our advanced “co-host” feature because you’re likely at home with your significant other. So while some of our users are sending invites for virtual events, it’s a small number comparatively.
Did you have to make Difficult Choices, and what are the Lessons Learned?
Matt Douglas: In mid-March, we decided to focus on our free ecards product. We believed it was more important to support digital greeting cards so people could stay connected and send thoughtful, memorable greetings that did not require a trip to a store. We’ve been very happy to provide this kind of service to users when they have needed it most.
The lesson here is to have conviction about what really matters and say no to everything else.
How do you deal with Stress and Anxiety? How do you Project yourself and Punchbowl in the Future?
Matt Douglas: I’m fortunate to work with an incredible team of talented people. When I’m stressed, I tell my executive team that I need to step away and “go stare at the ocean.” That’s literally what I do to reset. It’s how I find clarity and some of my best ideas. As I told our entire team during our Q3 kickoff meeting, the state of Punchbowl is strong, and our future as a company is bright. I am aware of how fortunate we are to be able to say that during a global pandemic.
Who are your Competitors? And how do you plan to Stay in the Game?
Matt Douglas: Our biggest competitor is paper. Our vision as a company is “a world where all invitations and greeting cards are digital,” and I think we may look back on this unprecedented moment in history and see it as a tipping point. Punchbowl offers customers a digital experience that is better than paper. As more and more people seek digital alternatives, we will continue to expand our audience because we have the best technology and user experience in the social expressions industry.
Your Final Thoughts
Matt Douglas: I’ve been fortunate to be a mentor to many entrepreneurs and startups. For some, this pandemic is the first time they have really been put to the test. For those of us who have experienced the economic downturn after September 11, 2001, and the economic recession of 2008, this latest crisis looks familiar.
What are the lessons from these difficult times? First, cash is king. You must manage your cash carefully so that you can survive the downturn. Next, it’s more important than ever to say “no” to as many things as possible. Focus on what you can control, and have the wisdom to know the difference. Finally, it’s always important to surround yourself with GREAT people, but never more important than when the going gets tough.
We’ll get through this pandemic — I believe stronger than we were ever before.