The super power I'd like to have: Acceptance My favorite quote is: "If we have data, let's look at data. If all we have are opinions, let's go with mine." – Jim Barksdale, Netscape
Reimagining performance reviews to create vibrant cultures of transparency
MOTIVATED BY PEOPLE. The most important thing in Josh Merrill's life is people, so much so that it was the central driving force behind him pursuing a career as an entrepreneur in 2010. "Before then, I worked a traditional nine to five job, and I just couldn't do it anymore. I like working with people on challenging problems. I want to get all my favorite people in one place and see them every day, to work with my favorite investors and talk with customers I love. The world would be a shitty place without people."
Solving problems that impact billions of people across the world is the foundation for Josh's latest enterprise, Confirm. The company's vision is to create a system akin to a credit bureau for employee performance. "Like a credit report is a thing that you can take from lender to lender that proves that you're a good credit risk, I think that peoples' performance in the labor market should be portable."
Attempting to solve the world's "unsexy problems", issues that underpin society that most of us don't consider, excites Josh. "When you think about performance reviews, you sit down and trudge through it and don't think about it for another 364 days. But the bottom line is that getting them wrong greatly impacts who advances and who doesn't, and who gets the promotions and the rewards. If that system is broken, you have many people who will never realize their full potential until it gets fixed. I think that's a problem worth solving."
Josh's previous venture was Carta, a hugely successful equity management software platform that provided Josh with the perfect training ground for his next enterprise. "We had created something really valuable, which, in a way, allowed us to grow and learn. We made every mistake in the book, from scaling a company to hiring talent, but the fact we had a great product subsidized us to learn."
CREATING YOUR SUCCESS. Before Carta, Josh struggled to break into the tech industry, having interviewed at the likes of Google and Twitter to no avail. As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, he says growing up gay and learning to brush off judgment has proven a beneficial skill as a founder, both when it comes to raising funds and embracing all facets of a person.
"The older I've got, the more I've come to see people as a package deal with good and bad characteristics. For example, in my own package deal, I lost my husband to suicide in August 2020, eight months after we started Confirm. That is as much a part of my identity as being gay. Being a widower may not be the thing I lead with at a dinner party, but it's going to come out because it's one of those critical moments that shaped a lot of who I am."
Confirm is still in its early stages, but Josh is keen to negate any unwanted, Black Mirror-style consequences of the platform, emphasizing the need for an inclusive approach to its creation. With performance reviews in America still rooted in methods used by the U.S. military in World War I, Confirm takes a new, science-backed approach that better reflects the way many of us work today. "It's important to get more voices and perspectives around the table. One of the first things we did when we started Confirm was to design our business and write out a checklist of the characteristics we would like our company to have.”
"I've never really believed in bringing your whole self to work, and that sounds strange, but I am a big believer in bringing your best self to work. I love that I can be constructive every day when I'm around my co-workers, but I can also channel some of my frustrations into something positive that will help everyone."