Mitch Coopet is no stranger to growth. As one of the co-founders of Code42, he has plenty of experience with building a company from the ground up and watching it balloon into a commercial and consumer hit.
But his path to becoming the CTO of the Minneapolis fintech company (and Webby winner) Branch wasn’t only paved with Ws.
In his CTO Spotlight, Coopet talks to Jac and Nels Pederson of Livefront about his journey to the position, what questions were the most important when seeking a new gig, and so much more.
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Special thanks to Livefront for sponsoring our CTO Spotlight series. Livefront works with partners to design and build world class digital products. Their senior level team of engineers and product designers are guided by four core principles, and are excited to hear about your next project!
Check out a short excerpt from the interview!
Jac Stark: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do at Branch for the five people who don’t know what Branch is?
Mitch Coopet: Sure. I’m a technology entrepreneur. I started a company called Code42 back in 2002 with two other founders, Matthew Dornquast and Brian Bispala. We grew that company to a respectable size — a hundred million revenue number and over 500 folks.
Our product, CrashPlan, went on to become the number one backup product and disaster recovery product for Macs, and then ultimately just for enterprise in general. Then we pivoted the company to a security value prop, and then I left in 2016. I started another startup, an AI startup, called Ramble. And then did that for three years. Raised seed money, went to market, did the whole MVP thing… It was actually really refreshing because I got to start over from a blank slate. I learned a lot of things. So, unfortunately, I had to shut that one down in January, 2019. I had to take an L on that one, but the L stands for “learning.” I learned a lot. Learned tons.
So, now I officially am a real entrepreneur. I have one win, one loss. And I took a pretty, you know, hard look at my own personal interests. What I wanted to do. I’ve always been excited about technology and what it can unlock in terms of business value.
“So, now I officially am a real entrepreneur. I have one win, one loss.” — Mitch Coopet
I’ve been in Minnesota my entire life. I’ve always been trying to help out with, you know, new startups, new CEOs, the incubators, the folks like yourself, Livefront, BETA, and all the people that are hopefully helping us make this a great community. I was like, well, you know, maybe that’s what I want to do. I just want to see if I can’t pitch in here and there.
That didn’t last very long. I got recruited to come back into the operator side of things. A company called Branch, which had been known for doing workforce management software scheduling work shifts for large enterprises, reached out. The CEO, Atif Siddiqi, and then an investor in his company who was also an investor in Ramble, my company, reached out and said, “Hey, you should come check us out. We’re doing something new. It’s growing just off the charts. It’s taking off like a rocket, and we really could use some help on the growth leadership for product and engineering.”
I sat down and had lunch with Andy [Johnson, Head of Revenue]. That night, I had dinner with their board. I think that might’ve been planned. I think it might be a little bit orchestrated.
Nels Pederson: [Laughing] Get a few drinks in you…
MC: [Laughing] Yeah.
But the board members were really excited about the direction that Branch was taking. They were moving into what’s now known as the earned wage access space. But the difference there was that because they had this enterprise angle… and enterprise is hard. I mean, just breaking into enterprise… people throw that around like that’s an easy thing to do. That’s not an easy thing to do. They had great enterprise logos and the route to market through the employer, I felt, was real differentiator than what other people are doing. They were going directly to the consumer. As we all know, you can fix products, but you can’t fix market demand. There’s a demand for something or there isn’t. And I was seeing that the Branch had tapped into something that had extremely high-growth demand. Everybody has the core problem that they were solving at the time, which is, you know, you need more money than you have.
“As we all know, you can fix products, but you can’t fix market demand. There’s a demand for something or there isn’t.” — Mitch Coopet
I was like, wow. I mean, how big can’t this go?
So, that was really exciting. I realized that there were definitely things I could improve as I was talking to engineering folks, support folks, product folks…
But the most important thing to me was, did I believe in the CEO? Did I believe in the product’s mission and the market problem it was trying to solve? And, most importantly, did the culture have the right mindset? Meaning that they’re flexible, they’re adaptable…
And all those things were, you know, checking the right boxes for me.
So, here I am. I’m CTO of Branch.