Why We Invested: Yardstik
Yardstik is the market’s first comprehensive, fully integrated human security software platform. Pure white–label, it leverages deep background screening, certification administration, verification management, training systems and industry–specific nuance. It offers a unique operating model tailored to marketplaces and SaaS platforms, with an API-first approach adaptable to virtually any industry.
Rally Managing Director Justin Kaufenberg experienced first-hand how critical it is to commit to human security when you are a vertical platform of record. While Justin was the CEO of SportsEngine, a software platform to manage youth sports organizations, his team made the decision to bring safety and human security in-house as a core competency. SportsEngine had to build a version of these systems themselves because a platform like Yardstik didn’t exist at the time.
It became clear that a platform should be built to allow any software company in the world to natively integrate human security into their offerings, which is why we’re thrilled to announce our investment in Yardstik.
There are tens of thousands of software platforms that power hospitals, elder care, schools, volunteer groups, governments, etc — that need integrated safety and screening tools. And now, through Yardstik, any platform in the world can apply this proven model and become a leader and champion for safety in their industry.
Justin recently caught up with Founder and CEO Matt Meents. Below are edited excerpts from their conversation.
Justin Kaufenberg, Managing Director at Rally Ventures: You and I have known each other for a long time. When we reengaged around Yardstik, you had just finished a hell of a run as the Co-Founder and CEO of Magnet360. Walk me through your own journey as an entrepreneur, prior to founding Yardstik.
Matt Meents, Founder and CEO at Yardstik: It’s amazing to look back at that journey and what we accomplished as a team at Magnet360. We started that company in a recession in 2001, and, since I have a real knack for timing, we started Yardstik in a pandemic.
However, starting Magnet360 in an economic downturn ended up being a positive because it helped us really hone in on what needed to be done. One of the biggest lessons I learned during that time was how to focus on the right things. That focus allowed us to become one of the largest salesforce.com consulting companies in the US and then move onto global operations.
With that came a lot of growth and recognition by Salesforce. They then invested in us through their venture group, which was a fantastic experience that really helped us grow and led to an exit in 2016.
Justin: What ultimately inspired you to found Yardstik?
Matt: I really thought through whether I wanted to be an investor or an operator for the next phase of my career.
Like you, going on to be an investor after being a founder is to know that you’ve done this before and can share your learnings with other founders. But I’ve always been a technologist, and I saw that there was this huge need for safety and trust in the internet economy.
The more exciting challenge for me was to lead a company that would disrupt a new industry. And the background screening industry is ready for disruption — the current models are obsolete — and I believe with all my heart that Yardstik is the human security platform to enable that disruption.
Justin: When you think about the mission of Yardstik, how does that align with your own personal core values?
Matt: I believe in building and maintaining trust. That’s at the core of everything we’re doing at Yardstik. Our goal is to set the standard for human security and enable our customers to promote the practice of security, safety and trust on their platforms.
Justin: You now have a business up-and-running. You’ve booked millions of dollars in revenue, you have dozens of customers and a product in-market. What lessons are you taking from the last time you were at this stage (at Magnet360) and how are you applying those lessons to Yardstik?
Matt: There was a point at Magnet360 when we hit a ceiling and needed to break through. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to a book called Traction, which outlines a process called the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS). The idea is that at the core you have your business, but then you have other components like people, vision, processes, data and a way to solve issues, which all come together and form a rhythm to how the business works.
It was when we implemented this process at Magnet360 that we broke through and things really took off. I’ve applied EOS to Yardstik and it really got us up and running very quickly. Focus can be a challenge for a lot of startups. This book is what helps drive that focus to achieve alignment and get everyone rowing in the same direction.
Justin: I’ve been so impressed with how you operate and implement EOS with your team. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another organization at this stage operating with the same set of mature systems and alignment across the company.
Matt: I’ve been doing it for so long that it’s hardwired into the way I operate. Our team is glad to have an iterative, agile methodology to business. It’s a process, but it’s flexible and allows you to pivot, which is important to the stage we’re at, and as we learn more about the market.
Justin: Yardstik capitalizes on the rise of the vertical software business. We saw this first-hand at SportsEngine, where we became the operating system of record for the sports industry. When customers trust you and live all day in your platform, they’re keen to add additional pieces of capability if offered through that same platform.
How do you view the rise of the vertical software company through the lens of Yardstik?
Matt: The human security market is complex with regulations and compliance. We’ve been able to package all of that up. Companies now have the ability to turn on human security with Yardstik, just like you can turn on credit card processing with Stripe.
We’re excited to partner with vertical software platforms to bring safety and trust into the internet economy. The pandemic has driven everything into digital so quickly. We’re a natural piece of the puzzle to make sure standards evolve with the times.
Justin: When I think about the future of our economy, the future of the internet, it’s truly boundless — with one caveat. It’s boundless as long as we make sure interactions both online and in person are safe. Yardstik carries an enormous burden, along with the opportunity, to truly increase the safety of the internet.
Our experience online is only becoming more personal and more immersive. If Yardstik can deliver on its mission, those interactions can be an order of magnitude more safe. This is a key blocker that we have to blow through for the internet to reach its full potential.
On a more personal note, I see four guitars behind you. Tell me more about the role music plays in your life.
Matt: Music plays a huge role in my life. I have a core value of rockin’. This comes from the idea that the core of music is harmony: different elements come together and make something amazing. It’s a great analogy for business in that what we’re doing together will impact our clients, community and culture. That’s the rockin’ value for me and Yardstik.
Justin: You have to be equal parts philosopher, cultural leader and hard-core technologist to truly realize the size of this opportunity and carry the burden of a mission as large as increasing the safety of the internet — and then actually build the human security platform to accomplish that goal. You’re all of those things and I feel fortunate to partner with you in this venture.
Matt: It’s been an amazing journey so far, and I’m looking forward to accomplishing what we’ve set out to achieve.