We’re proud to introduce the first of our new series, PEN Profiles, a series of open-ended interviews that we conduct with members of the Primary Expert Network (PEN). We established the PEN, a select group of NYC Tech’s leading operators and functional experts, to help us support our portfolio companies through the inevitable challenges of the startup lifecycle. We believe that most operational support is best delivered by peers who are fighting similar battles, not by VCs who are three steps removed from where the rubber meets the road. The PEN is our answer to that: a group of NYC Tech’s very best and brightest. They’re such an impressive bunch, we wanted to make sure the community at large knows a bit more about them.
We hope these PEN Profiles will help you get to know some of the great minds of the NYC Tech community in their own words, and give you insights into how these influencers think and lead today’s most exciting startups.
Our first PEN Profile features Michael Manne, VP of Sales at Namely - an all-in-one HR, payroll and benefits platform - where he’s held court since April 2014. After graduating from Georgetown undergrad and NYU Stern School of Business, Michael worked as a business development manager at Ultimate Software.
@MichaelManne | @NamelyHR
Why I love the NYC tech scene right now: New York City really is the land of opportunity, and it’s amazing to be part of this community. A few years ago, the NYC tech scene was mostly characterized by financial services, media and adtech. But the diversity of industries has really bloomed, and now includes companies across consumer, enterprise, healthcare, real estate and ecommerce. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.
Most important bit of advice I give to entrepreneurs: As an entrepreneur, it’s critical to follow your gut and make the hard decisions. At times, it can be helpful to take the advice of others, but at the end of the day, it’s your company, your vision, your sweat and tears that are going to make your company great. So dig your heels in, follow the path you believe in and make the final decisions that will propel you forward.
Favorite business meal/drinks location: New York City is known for its great restaurants, so this could be a long list. The choices really depend on location, but two of my favorites are American Cut in Tribeca and Quality Italian in Midtown.
Hidden talent: I have a pretty good jump shot, but that’s not much of a secret.
What I'm known for at Namely: I’m known for being a strong believer in the vision for Namely and a hardworking, positive leader. I always challenge my team to set ambitious goals and push them to outperform. I also believe in thinking big picture, and my team does a great job of sharing insights and best practices with others in the organization.
Biggest challenge you’ve overcome at Namely: When Namely started, we were one of the few enterprise software companies built in NYC, so we were very conscious of building a great product and superior culture that would compete for talent with the top tech companies in the city. We needed to work hard to attract great talent, so we started regularly attending general technology and sales-specific networking events in NYC, in addition to leveraging a great referral network from our current team members. We’ve been very thoughtful about our recruiting and hiring process, placing a huge focus on finding candidates with a balance of enthusiasm and experience. Now we’re over that hurdle, and we still continue to focus on building a great team and culture. We know that people have the biggest impact on a company's success.
How I keep my team engaged: We’re a close-knit team, and we try to keep things very fun and engaging. We regularly schedule team-building activities, which include team members who visit from our Austin and San Francisco offices. You can find us out in NYC for dinner or drinks and sometimes even late-night karaoke.
Business apps you can’t live without: Salesforce and Google Apps are the obvious ones. We have a great sales stack, so I’m also a power user of DocSend and ToutApp. DocSend is an awesome tool for presentation sharing; we were an initial beta-tester of the platform, and a very early adopter.
What I’m best at: From a professional perspective, I’d say that I’m best at sales strategy and team-building. At Namely, strategy has involved helping identify the market focus and ideal customer profile, developing a sales process and methodology, and executing on a customer acquisition, partner and revenue strategy. When it comes to building a high-performing team, it’s key to find great individuals and leaders who complement each other. Over the past few years, the talent and work ethic on our sales team has truly set us apart.
Proudest accomplishment: I’m most proud of being able to successfully balance both personal and professional aspirations. It’s been amazing to be part of the incredible team at Namely, and over the past few years, I’ve married my awesome wife and we had our first child.
My first job: I was a barista at a coffee shop in South Florida called The Roasted Bean.
My inspiration: My family, especially my one-year-old son Oliver.
Ideal R&R: Anywhere on a beach. I’m originally from South Florida, so I love warm weather and sun.
When I'm not working, you can find me here: I’m usually hanging out with the family or friends somewhere in downtown NYC.
My key mentor: My dad has been a great mentor and inspiration to me throughout my career. He’s an attorney who spent the last 15 years as general counsel for an enterprise software company. He’s always taught me to stay positive, while being a strong a leader and setting a great example for my team.
Other than mine, NYC tech company I most admire: I’m a big fan of Warby Parker. They have a high-quality, affordable product and they are socially conscious - donating glasses to people in need for every pair sold. Very cool company and mission.