Texas native Lindsey O’Niell made a job switch early on that helped her understand the trajectory of her career for the next few years.
In 2011, the recent computer science grad had taken a job in software consulting at a company that was soon acquired by IBM, and the smaller company feel was soon gone. Per a friend’s suggestion, she started looking at local accelerators for companies that might be looking to add technologist to their growing venture.
She got in even earlier: After meeting QuotaPath’s AJ Bruno in Austin, O’Neill became the then-first time founder’s first hire for TrendKite, a PR analytics software company.
“I remember craving having more autonomy over things that’s just not possible at larger companies,” she said of her switch to the startup.
O’Neill stayed with the company until September 2018, when its staff had grown to more than 200 people. She got a lot of say in the hiring and culture aspects of the startup, but after five years was beginning to get the itch to jump back to early-startup days. The southerner had never lived outside her home state, and decided it was time to try out another city (and its startup scene).
After setting her sights up north, Bruno told her that if she was considering moving to Philly at all, she needed to seek out Bob Moore. Cut to a few months later, and O’Niell became Moore and cofounder Buck Ryan’s third hire at the Crossbeam, the 2019 RealLIST Startups list topper that describes itself as “LinkedIn for data,” in 2018. (Her work there got her named to the inaugural RealLIST Engineers this past October.) By August 2019, the company announced a $12.5 million Series A, and in early 2020, has about 20 employees.
“Lindsey has helped take Crossbeam from pitch deck to live product, leaving her mark on just about every feature we’ve shipped since launch,” Moore told Technical.ly. “Most importantly, while her impact on our work has been profound so far, I have a distinct feeling that the best is yet to come.”
Here’s what O’Niell had to say about her move to Philly, jumping in to a new startup and the growing pains that come with it. The conversation has been lightly edited for length or clarity.
Technical.ly: What drew you to Philadelphia?
O’Niell: I wanted to move somewhere colder. I spent my whole life in Texas up to this point and Austin felt like a big town, which I liked. So when I was looking north, that eliminated New York City and Boston. I was drawn to the size and atmosphere here in Philly and had gotten a good sense from AJ Bruno about the startup scene here. I really like it now; if you asked me six months in, it probably would have been different answer. The people in the Northeast in general are different than those in Texas and the South, and that took some adjusting. But I love how direct and blunt people are. And I love being able to walk everywhere.
How has your experience with Crossbeam been different or similar to when you were at TrendKite?
It has been a very different experience this time around. At Trendkite, all the founders were first-time founders and a lot of the people who joined early were kind of in similar spots in their career. But at Crossbeam, Bob is a third-time founder, it isn’t Buck’s first time either, so the group in general has a few more battle scars. There’s at least one level of guess work that’s taken out of the equation.
I thought going back to an early-stage startup would be easy. But having the knowledge of where a company should grow is a challenge. It was definitely challenging to step back from how a 200-person company was running and knowing which pieces to pull back on, remembering parts of my job that I had to relearn because there had been full-time people doing them for me at TrendKite.
What do you like about getting in on a company so early?
One of my favorite parts about joining early is experiencing the journey. I really enjoyed getting to go through all the different stages. I’m invested in the journey here, seeing it grow.
Do you see yourself continuing the pattern of working on small startups?
Generally, yes. For me, I feel like it’s time to move when I stop getting what I need or want out of the job. My goal is to grow with the organization. I think when I was earlier in my career, I didn’t grow with the org as much as I would have liked. I want to make sure that we’re ready to get there, making sure we have the right amount of process in place, adding the right process that will let us scale really quickly. But after that, I could see myself seeking out an early-stage company again.
Do you ever consider becoming a founder yourself?
Ahh, I go back and forth about that. Being really early on at two companies and getting close with the founders, you get to see everything they deal with. Ownership-wise I think it would be fun to feel like I owned something and all the fun stuff that goes along with that, but at the same time, there’s a bunch of stuff that you have to do that doesn’t look fun at all.-30-