Interview With Chadwick Carlson and Marc Gingras
Describe your product or service:
“Nook is a calendar app designed to help high performing busy professionals gain clarity and take back their time.”
Describe your company values and mission:
“We are constantly bombarded with thousands of messages, meeting requests, notifications, documents, and recordings. Our attention is being solicited at every moment of the day, and a mere glance at our schedules makes us cringe. What should be simple is now complex.
Our ability to silence this noise and to think clearly is the genesis of creativity and purpose. And when clarity is expressed, significance is created.
That is why our objective is not to simply build a nicer-looking calendar app.
Our mission is to provide clarity by fundamentally changing how busy professionals and teams invest their attention and energy. More specifically, we want to silence the noise and help professionals and teams direct their attention towards the work that matters and allows them to achieve their goals.”
How are you funded? I.e. type of funding, number of funding rounds, total funding amount.
“Friends and family rounds — $1.5 million CAD [$1.16 million USD].”
How big is your team? Tell us a little about them (I.e. co-founders, freelancers, etc.)
“We're four co-founders, three GTM, two developers, and one designer.”
How did you come up with and validate your startup idea? Tell us the story!
“Nook started as a booking system during the COVID pandemic for businesses who were allowing their employees to go to the office but needed a way to book seats and track who was coming in. We scored a couple government contracts which validated the need during the pandemic time but soon after, when the world wasn’t re-opening, it became clear that people weren’t going to need a booking system but a way to show where they were working from in this new remote and hybrid world.
Our co-founders have a background in the calendar space, having founded Tungl, which was acquired by Blackberry 20 years ago, and we realised we could easily pivot from a booking system to a calendar as the foundational calendar layer was built. After analysing the space and finding that the calendars had lacked innovation in the 20 years since we departed, we decided it was time to get back there.
Nook has been built on the premise that busy professionals are bombarded with noise. We want to create a calendar that silences the noise and allows users to focus on clarity.”
How did you come up with your startup's name? Did you have other names you considered?
“Nook was actually named ’GetWorking’ previously. Location was a primary focus of the app in the early days, so we changed to ‘Nook’ to account for that space you take when you’re settled and getting work done.”
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“I have always tried to find short-cuts in life. When I was an intern working as a mechanical engineer at 3M in the masking tape plant, I noticed that all senior managers were old except for one that seemed to be in his 30s. I wondered how he went up the ladder that quickly. I asked him, and he said that he had started a company and 3M had bought it … I saw this as a hack to move up faster. Also, I wanted a business card that said CEO.”
Did you encounter any roadblocks when launching your startup? If so, what were they and what did you do to solve them?
“I had no one in my entourage — family, friends — that were entrepreneurs. So, initially, I made many mistakes. Did not hire lawyers when negotiating contracts, did not hire accountants to do our corporate taxes. [I] was doing it all myself, made many mistakes, and ended up costing a lot. Key lesson learned from [that]: work with people that know more than you.”
Feeling inspired? Learn how to launch your company with our guide on how to start a startup.
Who is your target market? How did you establish the right market for your startup?
“I'd say it has evolved over time. Currently, we're targeting busy professionals (execs, sales, recruiting, VCs, media, aged 30-60, [located in]: NA/Europe, tech, services that deal with tech, 1-300 company size).”
What's your marketing strategy?
“We focused the initial marketing strategy on selecting 50 hard side users who would give us a constant stream of feedback and if they liked the product would then recommend it to their friends. From there, we did cold outreach, targeting specific geographic locations where we, as co-founders, are known. We then used various social channels and content to promote Nook. Currently, we launch on product hunt and earned top product of the day. We will be doing some PR releases and focusing on paid ads, along with podcasts and conferences in the future.”
How did you acquire your first 100 customers?
“Our first 50 were hard side users (friends and folks) we could count on to use Nook [and] provide meaningful feedback to build the best foundational layer. From there, word of mouth and cold outreach got us our next 50.”
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?
“We look at DAU, MAU and new users and churn.”
What's your favorite startup book and podcast?
“Marc: ‘Good to Great.’ ‘Tim Ferris Show.’
Chad: ‘The Cold Start Problem.’” ‘Masters of Scale.’”
Is there a tool, app, or resource that you swear by to help run your startup?
Chad: Most recently, shout out to Loom — huge time-saver!”
What is something that surprised you about entrepreneurship?
“Marc: You don’t have to work 80 hours a week. You can actually have a balanced life if you put your energy [into] the important stuff.
Chad: When there is a shared mindset, how little time needs to be spent on administrivia.”
How do you achieve work/life balance as a founder?
“Marc: (1) Focus on the most important stuff based on the stage of the company. And don’t sweat the irrelevant details. (2) Get awesome team members. People that have the same DNA that know more than you do.
Chad: Learn where/when your involvement is not always needed, and take advantage of applications and services to do heavy lifting; the money is worth the time saved to focus on more important decisions and life.”
What is a strategy you use to stay productive and focused?
“Marc: Have a strong team that you enjoy working with.
Chad: Have a strong mentor and a team without ego keeping everyone rowing the right direction, willing to call each other out before it’s too late.”
Did you have to develop any habits that helped lead you to success? If so, what are they?
“Marc: Get administrative stuff done when people generally are not working.
Chad: I found that I’m most productive between 9–11 p.m. I tried to take advantage of that.”
What was your first job and what did it teach you?
“Marc: Basketball coach and violin teacher. Coach: When they believe, teams can achieve incredible things. Teacher: Explaining context is key to learning.
Chad: LOL, technically a farmer (family farm). It taught me that no matter how prepared you are, certain things will never be within your control. Reading the situation with the information at your disposal, playing through critical scenarios and outcomes (but not obsessing), and being willing to adapt and adjust in an instant are keys to success.”
More on Bloks
Nook Calendar is a startup that’s transforming the traditional calendar and giving busy professionals the ability to schedule smarter.
Marc and Chadwick, founders of software startup Nook, shared valuable insights during our interview that will inspire and motivate aspiring entrepreneurs.