Here's to the Misfits
On the bookshelf in the conference room where I meet with Fig cofounders Kevon (pronounced KAY-von) Saber and Bart Munro, you can find New York pastor Pete Scazzero's bestseller The Emotionally Healthy Church and The Complete Personalized Promise Bible sharing space with The Product Manager's Desk Reference and Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard's alterna-business manifesto, Let My People Go Surfing.
Like the other Christians profiled in this story, Saber and Munro are not in the least interested in starting or running a "Christian company." And also like the others, they relentlessly ask how their Christian faith shapes the company they have founded and run.
For Saber and Munro, it's about flourishing. We end up in a full-on whiteboard-assisted discussion about the meaning of the word—these are the kind of Stanford Business School grads who think with a marker in their hands and draw four-quadrant diagrams at the drop of a metaphor. Where Misfit makes devices, Fig makes apps, designed to harness smartphones to help people pursue wholeness of soul, spirit, and body.
Fig helps its users set clear goals for physical and spiritual growth and follow through with the help of friends. The idea came straight from Saber's own experience. "In my early 20s while building my first startup, my health took a rapid decline. Over nine months I watched my health decline to the point where I had trouble getting out of bed due to chronic fatigue. That's when I realized that wellness is not something that is nice to have—it's a core lever in my own fruitfulness."
Saber and Munro had been prayer partners and close friends for four years before they started Fig. When they set up the company, they took a different route to compensating their employees. Most Silicon Valley startups pay their early employees peanuts ("rent and Ramen money" is how Sonny Vu put it at one point), keeping them on the hook with stock options. But these options usually must be exercised within 90 days of leaving the company—meaning that getting fired or simply taking a new job before the company goes public can result in no reward at all. Saber and Munro overruled their doubtful lawyers to extend that period to several years—essentially, redistributing their investors' and their own gains, should the company succeed, to the employees.
This leads to some awkward conversations. "Many investors are simply looking for financial returns—as much and as quickly as possible," Saber tells me. "But we strive to ensure that there is strong alignment between our mission, our culture, and our investors." Translated, this means a much smaller pool to raise money from, something Saber and Munro seem willing to accept.
Fig's commitment to "pursuing truth" involves a lot of experimenting—launching and relaunching versions of their product, seeking to figure out what actually works to foster healthy physical and spiritual habits. "We didn't want to go down the usual path to building a wellness business: get people really excited with a powerful hype engine, but fail to empower long-term results." Instead, they have embraced "incremental learning" and a long view—"we are in the second inning of Fig," Saber tells me.