Redeye VC

Josh Kopelman

Managing Director of First Round Capital.

espite being coastally challenged (currently living in Philadelphia), Josh has been an active entrepreneur and investor in the Internet industry since its commercialization. In 1992, while he was a student at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Josh co-founded Infonautics Corporation – an Internet information company. In 1996, Infonautics went public on the NASDAQ stock exchange.

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The Power of Small Gestures

426dentist_1 I think most Americans hate their dentist. I don't. I'm actually pretty happy with my dentist. It's not because my dentist gets my teeth any cleaner than any other dentist. It's not because my dental appointments are shorter. I like my dentist because of his followup. Two examples:

  • My wife recently had some minor dental work done. Nothing major. A pretty standard root canal. It went fine. However, at 8pm that evening my wife got a call at home. It was our dentist calling to make sure everything was OK and my wife was feeling fine.
  • I've referred a few patients to my dentist over the last few years. Everytime I've made a referral I receive a handwritten note of thanks from my dentist. 

I don't know whether my dentist is giving me the best care -- but I feel much more confident in my relationship with him than I do with my doctor. A small gesture - a quick phone call or a two sentence note - has made me feel valued and well cared for.

I believe that small gestures can send a large message -- both internally (inside a company) and externally (to the marketplace). Some examples:

  • At we often had real aggressive development schedules and sometimes engineers often ended up working really long hours. For one critical project we had an engineer work all weekend to  launch new credit card functionality. My co-founder and CTO, Sunny Balijepalli, sent flowers to the engineers wife – in recognition that she was making a sacrifice as well as the engineer. It made quite a statement.
  • I’m a big fan of keeping costs low in a startup. At I had a really strong finance team. However, I had a policy that I wanted to see the first expense report of every new hire. Not because I didn’t trust my CFO. But because I found that if I took the expense report, walked over to the new hire, and asked him a simple question (like “what conference was in Chicago last week?”), he/she would realize that their expenses were scrutinized.

Small gestures send large signals. What signals can you send to your customers, competitors, and employees?

(And if anyone is looking for a new dentist in the Philadelphia area, I'd highly recommend Dr. Markowitz!)


Zaid Farooqui

Josh, this goes hand in hand with the finding that on average doctors that have been sued by patients spend three fewer minutes with the patient than doctors who have never been sued. In one case there was a patient who insisted on suing doctor A even though doctor B was at fault. Doctor A had not done anything technically wrong medically but the patient could not imagine suing doctor B because of how "good" her impression of him was. I talked about this with my surgeon dad and he completely agreed.


Hasan Luongo

great post - for the small biz
the small gesture to clients is so critical and the rewards (referrals, loyalty, repeat sales) are critical to success. also the intimate nature of a call home and a hand written note are golden.

From you posts and investments its clear that customer loyalty, referral marketing are spaces of interest to FirstRound.
(begin shameless plug)
my startup is developing an amazing app that services the referral and loyalty campaign needs for professional service SMB's.
would love to chat if your interested (end of shameless plug)

lv bag

I talked about this with my surgeon dad and he completely agreed.


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