Baldwin Cunningham – Co-founder and CEO of Partnered

When I think of something, I do it. That’s the only way to: 1) know if it’s something people value and 2) get direct feedback. Outside of that, an idea is just an idea. Everyone has them, it’s the people that execute them that end up changing the game.

Baldwin Cunningham is the co-founder and CEO of Partnered. His passion is connecting people who haven’t yet met, but who could explode each other’s capacities to build and achieve great things. As CEO of Partnered, he is driven by a belief that brands can build deeper, more authentic relationships with their customers and animated by finding new ways for brands to bring their stories to life.

He was formerly the Brand Manager for Zehnder, an ad agency on the east coast. Prior to Zehnder, he served as Marketing Director for What’s Up Networks, an agency focused on experienced-based marketing for alcohol and clothing brands (Vineyard Vines, Harpoon, Firefly Vodka) in Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

Where did the idea for Partnered come from?

Partnered was an iteration of our initial company Sponsorfied. Sponsorfied originally connected brands with event owners looking for sponsorships. Going through Y Combinator and living in San Francisco, most of our activity revolved around brands sponsoring tech events and tech events looking for brands. What we realized was, the reason both parties were interested wasn’t really about event sponsorship – but about brands getting access to the most important new technology platforms. Event sponsorship was just a way of gaining those relationships. When we realized that the real problem was about how brands and startups meet to do business, we decided to attack the problem directly and the result was Partnered.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

5:30am – Wake Up
6:30am – Gym
7:30am – Breakfast/feed the dog/take him for a 45 minute walk
This early morning routine allows me to clear my head and think about what’s important for the day
9am to 5pm – Emails, new business meetings, team meetings and doing everything possible to keep the wheels turning
5pm – Feed and walk the dog
6pm – 8pm – Meetings over drinks or dinner
9pm – Wind down
10pm – In bed

How do you bring ideas to life?

When I think of something, I do it. That’s the only way to: 1) know if it’s something people value and 2) get direct feedback. Outside of that, an idea is just an idea. Everyone has them, it’s the people that execute them that end up changing the game.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Offline data. The past few years online behavior has been increasingly tracked and followed. When that tracking is done right it leads me to discovering new products and services. Now that we have things like wearable technology and in store beacons tracking real world movement and behavior, we’ll be able to inject quality information and services offline.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I spend 4-6 hours completely isolated on Sundays to think high-level about where I am personally to make sure I’m moving in the right direction.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I was a sales associate at Express in high school. I just hated trying to get everyone to buy a store card. What I learned was how to pick up a conversation with anyone and make them feel comfortable within the first two minutes.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Have more confidence in myself. I let a lot of successful people influence some of my decisions. Looking back, 90% of the time, what I thought was right ended up being exactly that. It’s hard to believe in yourself when you’re doing something you’ve never done, but those successful people were successful in their areas, not yours, which is a key thing to keep in mind.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Over communicate the end goal. It’s easy for your vision to get lost when someone’s tackling short term problems. As more arise and you get stuck in the weeds, it’s hard to take a step back and look at things with a different perspective.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

I ask for what I need. People genuinely want to help but without knowing how to go about it, chances are it will never happen. It’s also overcoming the fear of asking for help. The worst someone can say is no, and if you’re an entrepreneur you probably hear that often. What’s a few more?

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Prior to pivoting into Partnered, we were Sponsorfied. In theory, the company should have worked but the logistics and market weren’t there. Part of our problem was creating a closed marketplace but not figuring out what people will pay for right away. However, we used all of that information and applied that to Partnered which has been great so far.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I have two.

1. A social network for quotes. On Instagram, you are starting to see a rise in people posting pictures with memorable quotes on them. What if you took that content and verticalized it so people can see and follow their favorite people and see what inspires them.

2. “Doppleganger.” This is a basic social app where you tag two people that look alike. Over time, I can search Baldwin and see everyone in the world that someone else thinks looks like me.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Whistle – It’s a dog activity tracker. It’s important for me to analyze how active my dog, Parker is versus how much rest time he’s having, especially when I have a dog sitter.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

RelateIQ is my CRM and I live in it. I love how it lives in my Gmail so I don’t have to take additional steps.
Intercom is our customer service software. I’m obsessed with creating the best experience for our users so it’s a must have. Hipchat is our internal work chat room. Communication within the company has to happen and continue to improve.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Hard Things About Hard Things’ by Ben Horowitz. Being an entrepreneur can seem cold and lonely at times. This book give you insight on some of the problems he had coming up and it makes you feel slightly better about some things that may seem terrible for you in the moment.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

CEO of Expa, Garrett Camp Twitter: @GMC
Shervin Pishevar, founder of Sherpa Ventures Twitter: @Shervin
Marc Andreessen, entrepreneur Twitter: @pmarca
Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia Twitter: @garyvee


Twitter: @baldwin
Instagram: @baldwinner