Working Geek: Madrona’s Growth Guru Ryan Metzger Uses Data to Stay Organized at Work and at Home

Working Geek is a regular feature on GeekWire that profiles technology and business leaders, offering tips, tricks and insights into how busy professionals get work done.

Madrona Venture Group’s Ryan Metzger is a diehard Seattle sports fan. (Madrona Photo)

As Madrona Venture Group’s in-house growth advisor, Ryan Metzger supports more than 60 companies at any given time.

He’s also a father of two, a runner, hiker, and avid sports fan. So how does he keep it all in balance? By relying on data.

A combination of health-tracking apps and productivity tools help Metzger stay focused on his goals in and out of the office.

At Madrona, he helps startups scale by offering marketing advice and customer data.

“How I help companies depends on their stage and their target customer. It could mean helping a company understand the value of different customer cohorts, getting a new marketing program up and running, or connecting a marketing lead with people and partners relevant to their business,” he said.

Before he joined Madrona, Metzger worked in customer acquisition and product roles at Zulily, Microsoft, Google, and Blue Nile.

“Some of the advice I give comes from my past, but I also stay current by learning from others who are executing well in a particular area,” he said.

We caught up with Metzger for this installment of Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.

Current Location: “Downtown Seattle, Wells Fargo building, 34th floor. Views are nice, but it also has Seattle’s best sandwich shop in our lobby. My wife, Erin, oversees product there so please pass along any feedback on what you’d like to see in their summer seasonal.”

Computer types: “Windows 10 PC. Sometimes I have Mac envy since most people here and at startups use them, but I’m sticking with Windows. I sometimes get deep into Excel and the Mac version has let me down before. I also grew up not far from Redmond so have a little extra hometown pride that should keep me using Windows for the foreseeable future.”

Mobile devices: “iPhone 6S and Kindle.”

Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: “Microsoft Office, Smartsheet, Airtable, Waze, Twitter, Slack, Spotify and Feedly. That last one doesn’t get much mention in these columns, but I still use RSS to keep up-to-date on the latest developments.”

Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? “When I’m at Madrona I work from an office, but more often I’m out meeting with companies either at their office or at a coffee shop nearby. My current favorite is Slate on 2nd Ave near the Smith Tower. If you see me there and want to chat about the latest NBA/NHL arena development or growth strategies of your startup, please say hello!”

Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? “In both work and life, I try to use data to make sure I’m staying on track as it relates to my goals.

At home, it’s important to me to stay healthy so food and exercise logs have been good ways to make sure I’m eating right and staying active. A few years ago, I ran some experiments in those areas and wrote about what I learned here.

At work, I support over 60 companies, so I sometimes look at data on who I’m meeting with and who I’m emailing to make sure I’m balancing my time across the people and activities where I can have the biggest impact. I also seek out projects that can apply to multiple companies so that I’m getting leverage out of my role.”

Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? “Social networks are critical to marketing these days so I keep tabs on all of them, but if forced to choose I’d say Facebook. It’s a place where nearly every consumer brand is active so I take a lot of screenshots when I see a marketer doing something unique. Lately, I’ve been in the crosshairs of Stitch Fix Men and they’ve been throwing everything but the kitchen sink at me. I’ve been served video ads, canvas ads, images of people wearing clothes, and images of clothes laid out flat. I’ve not yet signed up, but have been impressed with how they’ve been executing!”

Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? “9. I’m writing this in the morning and going through emails is one of the first things I try to do. The number was quite a bit larger a few hours ago.”

How do you run meetings? “I don’t run as many meetings as I once did now that I’m in an advisory role instead of managing a team. Most of the meetings I’m involved in today are ones where I am trying to be as helpful as possible to marketing or growth leads at startups. I come prepared to these meetings with a few ideas, but the form they take depends on who I am meeting with and what they are focused on.”

Everyday work uniform? “Button down shirt, khakis or jeans. Unless it’s the day of an important Seattle sports event. Then I’ll tap into my extensive jersey collection and support the home team.”

How do you make time for family? “Weeknights between 6 and 8 p.m. is my main time to spend with my wife and two kids and I try to be off phone and email then. Weekends are also important for family time and you’ll often find us out on a walk together or at a local park.”

Some of Metzger’s sports memorabilia.

Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? “Being in the stands at Century Link or Safeco Field cheering on the home teams. I’m a native Seattlite so have lived through the ups and (more often) downs of the Seahawks, Mariners, Sounders and Sonics over the years. A few times a year I really unplug and tailgate for Seahawks games where I’m the guy who goes out of his way to make food related to the opposing team’s city. Next year’s schedule doesn’t have too many great opportunities, but there may be some Philly Cheesesteaks being served along Utah Ave that you won’t want to miss.”

What are you listening to? “Ben Harper, Pearl Jam, Guster, Pat McGee Band. I once read that people stop discovering new music in their 30s and those are all from my college days so it seems to be true with me!”

Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? “Mattermark Daily and their growth-focused newsletter Raise the Bar, Growth Hackers (though I don’t like that terminology), GeekWire, Recode, Stratechery by Ben Thompson, Venture Pulse.”

Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)?Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice by Clayton Christensen. I was a big fan of The Innovator’s Dilemma by the same author and was excited to hear what he had to say about generating new ideas. I’m halfway through and have already jotted down a few applications of his ideas that I’m excited to share with a few startups.”

Night owl or early riser? What are your sleep patterns? “Some of each. Pre-kids I was more of a night owl, but they are doing their best to turn me into an early riser.”

Where do you get your best ideas? “My best ideas come when I am outside going for a run or on a hike. Being outside removes distractions and helps me focus. It’s common that I’ll come back with a few new marketing ideas to share or even a new business that I may want to start or seek out.”

Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? “This might be a surprise coming from a lifelong Seahawks fan, but former 49ers coach Bill Walsh. His teams were dominating when I first started following the NFL, but I didn’t truly appreciate how they got there until I read his book The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership. Though I’ll never be a football coach, I still took away many lessons on preparation, teaching, and leadership that apply as much to the business world as they do to the football field.”

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