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Most good venture firms provide not just money, but “smart money”. No one epitomizes that better than our friends at Google Ventures (GV). Post leading our round last July, they have consistently and constantly helped with marketing, product design and even recruiting. One area that I would like to specifically point out is the amazing help and guidance we have gotten from their product and web design team, specifically Jake Knapp, Braden Kowitz, Daniel Burka and Michael Margolis.

We’ve been working with them for over a year on both big projects (e.g. the new UI wepartner, enterprise file sharing introduced a few months ago) to small projects. The major thrust of what they do is not to do design for us, but facilitate us in doing better design ourselves.  This comes from asking the right questions, imposing a workflow, and teaching us. They’ve used user testing as a major part of their process and it has proven successful, allowing us to iterate on designs before having development start on them.

They act as an important sounding board of people who know our product reasonably well, but at the same time aren’t down in the weeds every day…which allows them to provide honest and (fairly) objective feedback. The original ‘sprint’ we did with them long ago and the recent Design Boot Camp were both very helpful for us.

Another areas where they have had a significant impact is user testing of side-by-side comparison with other solutions in the space helped us understand bigger wasn’t always better when it came to usability. They helped us to identify and understand user reactions to our designs and to the designs of similar solutions in the marketplace. Equipped w/ these new insights, we improved our UX. It was eye-opening to watch users struggle w/ the UX of major players in the space-whom we had thought were leading the pack and breeze through our own product.

GV states, “We help you build better products”. That is true in every way. From design sprints to user research, they were there to help guide us and not to design for us. Help mentor us by having another set of eyes to see what we might not see. They actually do all they say they do. It’s not just a group of designers trying to design they way they want, but to actually help you validate what’s right and what’s not.

The thing that stands out is that despite their brilliance, they have a tremendous amount of humility and are the first to admit that some of their designs may not work in the real world. In fact, the “humble gene” is part of the DNA of folks at Google, who my team and me interact with regularly. They don’t have the commensurate hubris despite the smarts and the financial success they have achieved. I find that rare in the valley.

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