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Jeb and Ximena, Phone2Action Co-Founders

Q&A with the Co-Founder

Ximena Hartsock

Ximena Hartsock

Co-Founder

  • Before partnering with Frontier, what were your ambitions for the business?

    We wanted to build a business that will change the way that people engage with our governments and officials. We wanted this to be the best technology suite for advocacy—the easiest to use and most effective.

    Our goal has been (and is still today) to build the very best, most effective tools that public affairs entities, non-profits, and corporations can use to run their public policy campaigns.
  • Was there any sort of inflection point that made you seriously look at an investment?

    There’s a key difference between venture capital and growth equity. Venture capital doesn’t necessarily provide business support. They provide financial support but they don't offer all of the other help that Frontier brought to the table—their Growth Partners, their expertise in the vertical.

    At this stage of the company, we knew we’d built a solid business. We knew we had something scalable. But we didn't necessarily have the expertise to find what those next steps were, what we had to do to create something significantly bigger and more impactful.

    Growth equity is a more thoughtful approach to growing a business. But many companies are not ready to take advantage. We were lucky enough to be ready.
  • What were the main business challenges that the partnership with Frontier helped to address?

    The main business challenge Frontier helped us address was how we could scale to the next level. They helped us think about the processes that we have and what we needed to change.

    So we have started to reorganize the customer success team. They’ve also helped us look at our talent, building greater leadership capabilities. And they’ve been very hands-on and helpful in the interview process for key new hires.

    They understand the type of leader different departments need and have helped us identify what to look for.
  • What’s the key to hiring great people and developing a strong culture in the business?

    The culture of the company is extremely important to us. We have been very deliberate in building a culture that is positive and which is also effective in building high performance.

    We have values that we all identify with. So, for example, one of them is to take care of each other. But that also means taking care of our office, trying not to be wasteful, thinking about ways to repurpose things if we can. We’ve organized flu shot drives and give women three months of maternity leave. We provide civic engagement day for the entire company to do some charity work or participate in election drives.

    These are all important parts of the overall picture.
  • What would you say is the biggest result to date of the partnership with Frontier?

    We now have a different approach to hiring people—Frontier has given us a lot of help in the process. I think that is the number one asset they’ve brought.

    Also having a Growth Partner to offer another set of eyes on the business and to bounce ideas off has been very useful.

    It’s been great to see the business embrace Frontier. It hasn't been difficult at all. It's been the opposite. The transition was very, very smooth.
  • What would you advise other businesses like yours to focus on in finding the right growth equity partner?

    I think it’s important that founders shouldn’t look at this partnership the same way you might look at venture capital. Venture capital is all about growing at all costs. You can just try everything, throw everything at the wall.

    Growth equity involves a much more thoughtful approach. Only an effective organization with a proven track record can help you to do that. If you're an entrepreneur looking for the next stage for your company, you need to identify those entities that have shown that they can help you to hit that next level.

    If an entrepreneur is looking for a partner, you want to think about someone that is going to bring the specific resources you need because it's going to make your life much easier.

    Money is not everything. Especially when you're trying to grow. It's not like getting to your first million, you need a different approach.

Q&A with the Co-Founder and CEO

Jeb Ory

Jeb Ory

Co-Founder and CEO

  • What did you expect going into the deal? What was the reality?

    When we were first looking into it, everybody always talks about what their value-adds are. But the question is, how do they actually do it? There were a whole range of playbooks. Some would want to pursue pretty aggressive rollout strategies. Some would want to tuck you into their portfolio and so on.

    We wanted to fully control our own destiny as a business. We wanted to find a partner that would capitalize us to do whatever made the most sense in the next phase for the business.
  • Was there any sort of inflection point that made you seriously look at investment?

    We had a lot of options for the business. We were venture backed before and had gone up to a series A round. So I think fairly conventional wisdom would have been to go do another venture round, which is certainly something we considered.

    We also looked at whether we could find one specific partner that wanted to be with us for the long-term. One that was really excited about where the business was and where it could go, and who could also bring in some new ideas.

    And that’s just the way that it worked out with Frontier.

    One thing I really, really love about Frontier is how founder and entrepreneur friendly they are. There's just a reverence in the company for founders and entrepreneurs. That is really exciting to work with. It helped us recognize that they are going to be in it for the long haul with us.
  • What made Frontier stand out?

    What we quickly learned is that all of these funds have access to a lot of money. So the differentiator is not capital, it is their philosophy towards growth. It is the type of companies they invest in. And it really is the learned experiences within the firm.

    With Frontier, I could immediately tell that they weren't just sizing us up as an investment. They really wanted to understand if they could work with us and whether we would be open to their value add. It was exactly what we were looking for—a partner that could help us accentuate our strengths but also complement our weaknesses.
  • What were the main business challenges that the partnership with Frontier helped to address?

    I think a constant opportunity for every business is getting great leadership onboard and Frontier has brought in a very clear process on how to assess talent. It has been a breath of fresh air because their Growth Partners are experts in functional areas such as HR.

    It means if there are key hires that we want to move on, we have this great partner that can make sure that candidates have the characteristics that are most often aligned with success. Ultimately, it's the business's decision, but it's really great to have that structure and insight into what has worked well in other companies.
  • Operationally, what were the key levers of your growth after becoming a portfolio company?

    It starts with a go to market strategy that is right sized for our organization, which accentuates our strengths and mitigates our weaknesses. It’s a plan we can execute against and then be held accountable to. It gives us a strategic lens to evaluate decisions.

    What that does is give us clarity—whether we should build a feature or acquire a company or partner more or exit that segment altogether and focus on an area of higher leverage.

    It comes down to: Who are you selling to? What are we selling? And who's on the team selling it? Frontier supports us in all those areas.
  • Did you use Frontier’s Operating Partners? What value did they bring?

    A key area has been HR. As part of ensuring our team has the skills we need, we’ve been taking advantage of a cross-portfolio management training program called Foundations of Leadership that was created by Rob Smalling, a Frontier Growth Partner focused on talent.

    At first we sent three of our managers to Charlotte for a day-and-a-half to learn what we're doing well and where we need to improve. We were so impressed by the results that we're now having Frontier come in to run that same curriculum for all of our 15 mid-level managers.

    That’s hugely valuable, especially because one of the things that we talked about with employees when we did the investment was that this was going to create new leadership opportunities. That's something we're really excited about.
  • What would you advise other businesses like yours to focus on in finding the right growth equity partner?

    I think I think it's really important people speak with the founders and look at the businesses that they invest in.

    So, if you're between $10 million and $25 million in recurring revenue, and a firm typically only invests in companies of $50 million or above, you're going to be outside their core capability.

    As such, you may not have great experience if the firm has a playbook that they want to implement on every investment they take on.

    What I liked about Frontier is that they have these plays, but it's not a playbook. They look at all the different functional areas where companies need to level up to realize their full potential and then they customize the plays around the needs of the business.

What They Do

Digital grassroots advocacy

Headquarters

Arlington, VA

Status

Active since 2019

News

  • May 22, 2019

Frontier Capital Announces Strategic Growth Investment in Phone2Action

We are pleased to announce a strategic growth investment in Phone2Action, a digital advocacy platform that connects citizens to lawmakers.  Based in the Washington, DC area, Phone2Action’s platform enables companies, non-profits, and associations to engage customers, members, and stakeholders in grassroots advocacy, connecting them to lawmakers over social media, email, text, and phone to make their voices heard on the issues that…

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