David Corfield MBA ’19, LifeWork
Berkeley Founders’ Pledge member and recent Haas MBA graduate David Corfield never intended on founding a company when he landed at Cal from a career consulting in London. But being inspired by alumni, classmates, and advisors led him to found LifeWork, whose mission is to make remote freelancing a sustainable career choice. LifeWork’s first service, launching in August 2019, is a payment platform that helps freelancers get paid faster. David took the startup through the LAUNCH accelerator program and is now working full-time on the business in the Skydeck HotDesk program.
What will you carry from your Berkeley experience to your work in innovation/entrepreneurship?
My biggest learning is the Lean Launchpad method of iterative test-and-learn cycles. We have conducted over 200 customer interviews by this point, and are by no means finished. I will put the practices I picked up in the Social Lean Launchpad class and the LAUNCH accelerator into action throughout my time as a founder.
What advice would you offer students just beginning their careers in the startup world, either as founders or as early team members?
To not do it alone. It can be incredibly hard to find a cofounder but it will really make all of the difference in the world. There are talented, experienced people out there looking to start companies with visionary founders – it can sometimes just be very hard to find these people. Once you have an idea that you have had some customer validation for, then even spending 90% of your time from then on trying to find the right cofounder is not too much.
What’s the hardest thing about your work in a growing company? What keeps you up at night?
Personally, it is execution. I much prefer to strategize and think through what LifeWork could become than focus on the more mundane tasks that need completing today. I am slowly improving in this regard, but it is just a part of my personality. I do two things to overcome this as much as possible. The first is to surround myself with people that are execution-driven. My cofounder Stefan can focus on a detailed task like nobody I have ever met. The rest of the team are all experienced in getting on with the task at hand and not letting up. My second tactic is to use my excitement for the future to motivate me in the present. Prioritization of tasks is a strength, so once I have set my tasks for the day/week I tell myself that my vision won’t come true unless I complete that list. It’s a mantra I come back to if I ever feel my motivation waning. It has definitely proven effective so far.
How did you bounce back from your early failures and use those experiences to fuel your later successes?
By not viewing them as failures but as learning opportunities. In the early days of any startup you don’t know enough for one piece of unexpected feedback to derail you. A few pieces of feedback might invalidate a closely held hypothesis, but rarely will this mean that your idea is flawed. It will just require going back to the drawing board (or better yet, back to your customers) and figuring out the what to explore and test in light of that learning.
Has Berkeley been helpful to you in your entrepreneurial endeavors? If so, what have you valued most about your interactions with Cal or the resources it provides?
Absolutely! My two years studying for my MBA at Berkeley-Haas were as good as any incubator program I can imagine. You have to be proactive and make things happen for yourself, but if you do that you will have access to everything you could need to get started. The school trusts every student to maximize their own learning and if that happens to be outside of the classroom then that is truly accepted. Through Haas and Cal I have had access to world-class advisors in every domain that I could imagine, and more free resources than I have known what to do with. Particular shout-out to the two programs as Berkeley Law that I was involved with: Startup@BerkeleyLaw managed all of our incorporation filing for free, and more importantly the New Business Practicum run by Professor Bill Kell gave me a team of three top law students to investigate any legal matters I needed. Given the importance of worker classification regulations on our business model, this was a pivotally important program for LifeWork.
What resource/s would be most valuable to you to help you attain your next milestone?
The single most helpful thing anybody can do at this stage is to refer their freelance friends to us. Freelancers are difficult to access as they are distributed by their nature, so the more help we get in getting the word out the faster we can help a greater number of freelancers in the Bay Area and across the country.
We’d also appreciate introductions to angel investors that have a keen interest in the Future of Work and fueling a profitable business while having positive impact on society. We have our list of investors we would love to partner with through our upcoming pre-seed round and beyond, but I’m sure there are superstar investors out there that I haven’t heard of yet – and who haven’t heard of LifeWork!
Where do you want to be in 3 years?
We want to be the operating system for freelancers, supporting them in all areas of their business practices. Three years is a short time in the big scheme of things, but we hope to be well on our way to our mission of making remote freelancing a sustainable career choice. We have an innovative approach to bringing affordable healthcare and benefits to all freelancers, and I’d like to think that we would be supporting a meaningful portion of the freelance population in the US with their benefits by 2022.
Lastly: You’ve chosen to make the Berkeley Founders’ Pledge. What inspired you to do that?
I believe that Berkeley has been fundamental in getting LifeWork off the ground. While it might be a long time until we are able to really give back, the Founders Pledge gave me an ability to signal my intent right now. The community is a self-selecting group of people that believe in showing appreciation to those that have helped you – and that is the kind of community I want to be a part of. I hope that it keeps growing!
Interested in joining David in his commitment to Cal? Make the Berkeley Founders Pledge, like he did, and have an impact from Day One of your latest venture.