'Your body isn't wired to deal with that': Inside Kris Hartvigsen's Rollercoaster Year
How the CEO of Dooly honours his late father through the business he's building.
“It’s been a journey to get there, I’ll tell you.”
Kris Hartvigsen, the CEO of Dooly, is on the other end of my Zoom call. It’s mid-February and a few weeks before his company is set to announce a combined seed and Series A round of funding that totals $26 million. Like most of us in the tech sector, which has been noticeably resilient to the pandemic’s economic impacts, you could say that he’s at-once upbeat, but also a bit fatigued—not of anyone or anything in particular, but of the state of reality: the ongoing uncertainty and unpredictability and daily intermingling of good and bad news across the social, economic and personal spheres of our lives.
“It’s been a journey to get there, I’ll tell you,” he says in reference to the imminent financing announcement. “Pandemics, and all sorts of interesting things that pop up in between, it's been quite an experience.”
Fast forward to this past Wednesday (March 3) and many of his business associates are celebrating his company’s news, and to be sure, he is too. But he’s also thinking about his father who passed away in the weeks between the very seed and Series A round being written about in countless tech publications this week.
Dooly started its fundraising process last March. Kris and his executive team planned a trip to Sand Hill Road, the legendary strip of tier-one venture capital firms in California, but it was obviously cancelled. And then for a few months, Kris says it seemed as though most investors were focused on shoring up their existing portfolios. But at the same time, he says, “You had all this pent-up energy from people that didn't spend for a quarter and a half.” So, while he was outbound pitching, he was eventually inundated with a spike in inbound interest. “We ended up in a really surreal experience where we lined up an investor and we had a cheque come in September 1st,” he told me. But tragically, his dad passed away three days later.
Kris’s father had been sick with pancreatic cancer. He had received surgery, however, and his family believed he had managed to get through the worst of it. Kris told me he had even played a round of golf with him last July. His dad’s death came as a shock.
”We ended up in this world where it's like, I just have this moment of great elation because we've got funding and the business is going to be prosperous moving forward,” Kris recalled. “And then he died. And it was like, totally unexpected.”
Kris barely had time to process what was happening before he was faced with accelerating interest in Dooly after the seed funding closed. “The whole investor community, they're a very gossipy group,” he notes. Dooly went from raising a seed amount to what Kris called a wave of people wanting to give them more money. Only seven weeks passed between the seed and Series A.
“It was super, super surreal. You've got this moment of euphoria followed by a really big thud, followed by another euphoric moment,” he recalls. “You know, your body isn't wired to deal with that.”
Hearing Kris tell this story was a reminder that everyone we all engage with in business is first and foremost a human. They’re more than the titles we see, more than the companies they represent, and much more than the digital avatars being Liked and retweeted online. More so, we can never know the burdens people are carrying as we all try to do our jobs, do well and get by every day.
Kris is also an example of how we can honour the people we have lost in the work that we do. “We have this thing in our product that we early on called a Doodad (it's like an API connector inside our app),” Kris explained. “For me, it's become a rallying cry for the man that didn't get to enjoy seeing how things would progress for me and our business.”
“My internal mantra and one we share across the business is "doodad proud',” he said. “I hope he was. I know he's smiling down on us with this announcement.”