A few weeks ago, I got an email first thing in the morning from Danielle Morrill of Twilio. She told me I absolutely needed to meet a girl named Amanda Schwab. I hadn’t heard from Danielle since 2008, so it’s not like I get these requests from her all the time. And I’d never heard of Amanda.
I looked her up online and saw she was the co-founder of a site called The PhenomList, which I also hadn’t heard of. Danielle’s email was quickly followed up by a Yam from our own Greg Kumparak who was cc’d on the email. “Did you see that girl Amanda’s site? It’s rad as hell!” he wrote.
Ok. Ok. I’ll look at this site. Calm down, everybody.
Still groggy, I looked up the URL over my morning tea, and I was immediately taken aback by Amanda’s work. Because there was no one else in my kitchen except my six-month-old and Paul didn’t immediately answer his phone, I told my nanny, Megan, she had to come look at it immediately. “This is exactly how we would do lists, if we did lists!” I exclaimed to Megan.
Amanda doesn’t do slide shows of the same big names over-and-over again, and she doesn’t just default to well-known CEOs and founders. Her goal is to surface people you don’t know but should. That’s a perfect fit with what we want to do at PandoDaily: Report on not only the hot startups but everything in the supporting startup ecosystem that makes Silicon Valley work.
Founders are always irritated their teams don’t get more credit, and for good reason. It takes more than one person to build a $1 billion company. And with the all-out war for talent going on in tech, I knew if Pando could help surface top performers going mostly unnoticed inside companies and universities, that could be pretty valuable information.
I immediately emailed Amanda and convinced her to come meet with me that afternoon. She struck me as hardworking, entrepreneurial, loyal, and someone who cares passionately about giving the unsung heroes in the tech world the credit they deserve. I learned that she also played lacrosse at Stanford. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that means two things: She’s a good team player and could probably kick some troll ass. (That’s her in action above. Watch. Out.)
By the time she’d left my house that day, I’d told her I wanted her to work for Pando, no matter how we had to make that happen. To my delight, she was just as excited about joining Pando and bringing the untold stories of the people who really power the tech industry to a much bigger audience.
After she left, I smiled widely at Megan who was sort of stunned at the day’s progression of events, from “Who-the-hell-are-you?” to “Oh-God-how-do-we-get-you-here!” ”Did you move this fast with your husband?” she asked me. (Answer: No.)
We explored an “acqui-hire” since Amanda is the only employee of PhenomList. Unfortunately, her investors decided to go in another direction, and we wish them all the best. But Amanda is joining us full-time today.
Amanda has a master’s degree in media studies from Stanford and started the PhenomList with cofounder Laura Yao as a way to surface up-and-coming computer science grads. (Yao has since moved on to a new project.) The PhenomList soon expanded into categories like “Top Five Big Data Scientists” and “Top Five CTOs at Emerging Startups,” areas where the rock stars rarely get the rock star treatment they deserve.
Amanda doesn’t have some fancy algorithm or a voting process to find these people. She does good old fashioned reporting, cold-calling dozens of industry vets seeking names, and then cold-calling those people for interviews and more names, and on and on. It’s painstaking research, but that’s how you find people under the radar. We’re optimistic we can support her with more staff and resources to make the end result even better.
Amanda will produce her people list weekly for PandoDaily, running on Fridays. Since she’s coming in mid-week, we’ll have the first one up a week from this Friday. If you have suggestions for categories or people to consider you can email her at amanda at pandodaily dot com.
Welcome to the team, Amanda! We’re thrilled to have you!