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What does it mean to be a "startup"? Is a startup defined solely by when it was born?

Or is it defined by the level of uncertainty-- as Neil Blumenthal, founder of Warby Parker puts it, “a startup is a company working to solve a problem where the solution is not obvious and success is not guaranteed.”

Or is the true definition of a startup simply a "company designed to grow fast" as Paul Graham would argue?

Could it be all three?This week's Startup of the Week, Closed Loop, has been in business for well over a decade and has a blue-chip customer base, yet they still consider themselves a startup.

Closed Loop is different in other ways, too (and it's not just the fact they all ride kids' bikes with retro handlebar streamers). Read on to find out more.

Startup #12: Closed Loop

In just one sentence, what is your company offering/what do you do?

Closed Loop is a growth-focused digital advertising and experience design agency.

Briefly, what makes you unique / different / special?

We aren’t your typical startup, for one. We’re a marketing and UX agency that’s been in business for 14 years. But we’re growing 30%+/yr so facing many of the same issues that newer startups deal with.

We offer a combination of ROI-driven digital advertising services and very creative and strategic UX services. While it seems like a strange mix at first, having both sides actually keeps us better balanced. On the digital advertising side, many agencies fall into the trap of managing by spreadsheet. But our company-wide focus on user experience helps us to maintain focus on the qualitative elements like ad copy and landing page testing, which is often where the big gains can be found. Likewise many UX agencies can get too academic and rigid. But our direct response mindset ensures we stay focused on providing actionable recommendations and driving results. So these two seemingly disparate services are like yin and yang - they actually go together quite well and are more powerful when combined.

What is the one thing you love the most about running a startup?

Every day is different.

What is the hardest or most surprising part of running a startup?

The company needs different things from you as a leader at different times. So you have to evolve as a leader and a person - sometimes very quickly - in response to different phases of growth. Being willing to subvert your preferences and natural operating style to provide what the company needs is critical - but really hard.

Do you have a success story (big or small) you would like to share?

We’ve worked behind the scenes to accelerate growth at some very high-growth companies - including PayPal, StubHub, Tableau Software, Harvest, New Relic, and many others.

How, if in any way, has Foundersuite helped your company?

We use FounderSuite to help keep our Board of Advisors up to speed on how the company is performing. The visual milestone tracker is absolutely brilliant for that purpose. And it’s incredibly powerful but easy to use, which makes the UX geek in me happy.

Finally, what is your best tip, hack, or piece of advice for entrepreneurs?

An A player is worth 5x a B player, and 10x a C player. So invest and commit to hiring only A players and you’ll stack the odds hugely in your favor. The book “Who” is helping us develop a more disciplined approach to hiring only A players. I highly recommend it.

Thank you so much to Lance Loveday and Closed Loop.

Topics: advertising, Startup of the Week, A players, accelerate growth, Board of Advisors, creative, design, ROI, Uncategorized

Nathan Beckord

Written by Nathan Beckord

Nathan Beckord is Founder and CEO of, a venture-backed startup that makes the leading CRM for raising capital. Previously, Nathan ran VentureArchetypes and served as advisor or interim CFO at dozens of startups, including Kickstarter, Clicker, Autonet, Zerply, and many more. Nathan has an MBA and CFA and is a fanatical sailor.