‘Career Conversations’ Podcast: Bridgette Farrer Muir ’15, Arrange
Bridgette Farrer Muir ’15 is the Founder & CEO of Arrange, a consumer platform built on top of a previously overlooked medium: the calendar. Prior to founding Arrange, Bridgette was a VP and founding team member at Common, where she joined as the second hire. During her five-year tenure, Common grew from an idea to the nation’s leading designer and operator of coliving apartments, with 3,500 units under management and 200 team members across 8 markets nationally.
Bridgette Farrer Muir (00:03):
When I started, we didn't have any buildings, we didn't have any residents. We had this idea and some thoughts about how to get there, but by the time I left, the business was unrecognizable from when I had started, we had thousands of units and counted really blue chip institutional owners as clients. And, even though that was always a vision, it was so hard to imagine how we were going to get there on day one.
Marie Gautier--Blanc (00:29):
Welcome to Career Conversations, a podcast from the Yale School of Management. I'm Marie, a student in the global business and society class of 2022. Each episode of Career Conversations is a candid chat between the student here and SOM, that's me. And the member of the Yale community, who's doing something that I'm curious about, like an informational interview, except you get to listen in today's conversation is with Bridget Farrer Muir, a 2015 graduate of Yale SOM, after focusing on venture capital and entrepreneurship, during your studies at Yale, she went on to work as a VP at Common, a co-living rental platform. Most recently, Bridget launched her own venture. The calendar platform Arrange Bridget calls, Los Angeles home.
Bridgette Farrer Muir (01:16):
My name is Bridget Farrer Muir, and I am the founder and CEO of Arrange.
Marie Gautier--Blanc (01:21):
Okay, great. So first of all, out of curiosity, you pursued a bachelor in masters of art, focused on Southeastern studies and mostly on Cambodian culture. That's pretty unusual. Where does this interest come from?
Bridgette Farrer Muir (01:37):
Yeah, so I went to Berkeley for undergrad and they are unique in that they have a Southeast Asian studies department. So I took a class there my freshman year and really just fell in love with it. I had the opportunity to following summer to study abroad there through Berkeley. Soon as I got back for my trip, declared my major and dove right in. So, perhaps a little bit serendipitous that the school offered that, but yeah, it really started with that first class and then that first trip and it was really sealed after that.
Marie Gautier--Blanc (02:08):
Okay, great. So, completely new, didn't know anything about Cambodia before.
Bridgette Farrer Muir (02:15):
So, I would say there's a tiny bit of backstory, which is that I grew up reading a lot of national geographic with my dad. He had gone to Southeast Asia in the 80s. So, I at least had heard of a lot of these countries. I knew about Pol Pot, I knew about Encore. I'd seen his photos from Thailand and Burma and Sri Lanka. So, I could point to it on a map, which is probably better than most people. So you could say I was perhaps a bit predisposed, but it was really that first class and that first trip that got me super interested in it.
Marie Gautier--Blanc (02:48):
Awesome. And so, after you master's, which company did you join?
Bridgette Farrer Muir (02:54):
So, I did my master's in Southeast Asian studies thinking I would go into a PhD program. I really wanted to be an academic and I really had a quarter-life crisis during my master's. I started in 2009 and I watched a lot of other friends in academia post crisis just really struggle to find jobs. And I had this moment of realizing perhaps this would be better suited as a hobby than, than as a career, especially in niche area studies. So, I decided to leave after the masters and ended up working at CBRE, it's a large fortune 500 professional services firm, particularly around real estate. So, I joined in 2011 after my master's and I had a little bit of real estate exposure before that I had lease apartments, but it was fairly new to me at the time.
Marie Gautier--Blanc (03:47):
Okay. And you liked it there, what you learned, the exposure that you had?
Bridgette Farrer Muir (03:53):
Yeah, I mean, it was really my first exposure to business at scale, when I was at Berkeley, I mean, I was so heads down studying Southeast Asia. I didn't even take an ECON class. And so, CB I feel like I was really cutting my teeth for the first time, not just with real estate, but with business in general and being at CB is a lot of what inspired me to get an MBA. It felt like I would really benefit from some of the foundational skills that you learn. I just specifically remember dialing into earnings calls and thinking like, "Man, I would love a 101 to just know more about what I'm hearing." And so it was an awesome first foray into business and into real estate. And it's really the thing that got me interested in startups and what led me to business school.
Marie Gautier--Blanc (04:50):
Okay. Well, if I can reassure you, even after taking a course of finance, earning calls are still so confusing. And so, then you decided to go for an MBA and why Yale SOM specifically, did you think that SOM was the best student school for your goals, to learn more about business?
Bridgette Farrer Muir (05:13):
So I joke that SOM picked me. My husband had gotten a job in New Haven. And so, at the time I had planned to just transfer and stay at CBRE they have a big office at 200 Park in New York. I thought I would do that. And then once he got this job in New Haven, I thought, "Well, what the hell? I'll throw Hail Mary and I applied." Really late in round three and ended up getting in. And so, I did that. I just went to New Haven for two years and ended up moving to New York afterwards.
Marie Gautier--Blanc (05:47):
That's pretty funny and very interesting because usually it's the other way around, because many spouses follow their MBA partners to New Haven, you did it the other way around. Well, that's very good. What was your best memory there at SOM?
Bridgette Farrer Muir (06:00):
Oh, best memory. I don't know if I can choose a single one. Probably what a lot of people would say as well, is just the people I met are really what stuck with me the most. I still had so many friends, colleagues, now people on my cap table that I met at SOM, I stay close to a couple folks that are on campus, and it's just a really special place. I had this unusual, what I thought was unusual for an MBA candidate background, having studied Asian history. And then I got to SOM and everyone has some unusual background there. It just really attracts that type of student. And so, even though SOM chose me, I think it really ended up being a fit and I met amazing people there.
Marie Gautier--Blanc (06:48):
That's great. And what is the best class that you ever took there?
Bridgette Farrer Muir (06:54):
Oh, there were a lot of good ones. I specifically remember PEVC, private equity and venture capital taught by the late great David Cromwell. That was a super popular class when I was there. And I think for years before I was there, I remember bidding a lot, a lot of my points, I don't remember how the system worked exactly, but throwing all my eggs in that basket and getting it. And I still think about things from that class today. I can't say that for every class, but that was a really, really fun one.
Marie Gautier--Blanc (07:25):
Great. And so, well, you talked about PEVC in this, in this class and you were also highly involved in other VC and entrepreneurial initiatives here at Yale SOM who even founded startups. And I know for a fact that the wide array of social events, classes, business related opportunities, can be quite overwhelming. So, was it hard to juggle between classes and your projects and what did you do with those projects after SOM?
Bridgette Farrer Muir (07:54):
Yeah, I mean, I think a big piece of the opportunity with school is that you get to try things before you buy them. And so, when I got to SOM I knew I wanted to do something around early stage ventures when I had worked in commercial real estate in Chicago, in office brokerage, I had seen through the lens of commercial real estate and an office brokerage in particular, how dynamic these early stage companies were, and understood how high growth and high potential they were through the lens of their real estate footprint. And so, when I got to SOM I knew that I wanted to do something with early stage companies. I didn't know if that was VC or joining a startup itself.
Bridgette Farrer Muir (08:46):
So I did a little bit of everything. I had a couple different VC internships. I worked on a couple new ventures. Yes, I was very involved with the entrepreneurship club, and bringing speakers to campus, and all of that. So, I think I just viewed it as taking full advantage of what business school has to offer. And again, being able to try things before you commit to them, for example, I really didn't love VC. I found that I really preferred working on ventures, just different perspective. I liked being on the inside of a company and had I not gotten to try those things on, I may not have learned that.
Marie Gautier--Blanc (09:28):
So you definitely made most of your two years here to try different things and get to know what you really wanted to do later.
Bridgette Farrer Muir (09:38):
Marie Gautier--Blanc (09:39):
Are you still involved with SOM today? Well, you are definitely doing this podcast today, so I guess that's.
Bridgette Farrer Muir (09:47):
Yeah, I think so. I graduated in 2015. I've probably come back to campus either in person or virtually, I guess once a year, since then, Jen McFadden, the associate director of entrepreneurial programs at SOM runs a founder practicum course. I have spoken in that many years, a few years back, I actually worked with Common's CFO at the time on a finance case for professor Will Goetzmann class on Uncommons Growth. So yeah, I have stayed fairly involved with campus. I haven't been back in person in a while, but I love coming back virtually and look forward to coming back in person sometime soon.
Marie Gautier--Blanc (10:31):
Soon I hope. And that's also super inspiring and a great step forward because at first you didn't know anything about business and now you write finance cases, for instance, so super impressive. And so, now let's talk a bit more about your time after SOM. So, you met Brad Hargreaves and you joined Common as a second hire. Can you tell us a bit more about the company?
Bridgette Farrer Muir (10:59):
Yeah, absolutely. So, fund fact, I met Brad on Yale campus in the SOM bunker. So Brad is a Yaley. He had come back to campus to give a talk about entrepreneurship and that's when and where I met him in the spring of my second year. So, Brad had previously co-founded general assembly and he had recently left to start working on this new business, new idea. So, he was still really early at that point. I had decided, again this was spring of my second year that I wanted to join an early stage company. And I really quickly figured out this was going to be one of the earliest opportunities that I would see and quickly decided that was an opportunity I just wanted to jump at. A lot of the other companies that I was talking to were just further along series B, 20 to 40 to 50 people, where as Common at the time I think was only two people, Brad.
Bridgette Farrer Muir (12:00):
And then he had one hire that he was about to bring on. So super, super early stage, again the earliest thing that I could find, which was very compelling to me in terms of a little bit about Common. Common was one of probably the earliest movers in the co-living space. So, the initial premise was that millions of adult Americans live in shared housing, they live with roommates and yet there is no purpose built housing for them. So if you are an adult looking for roommate housing, you're probably looking on Craigslist. And even then you might be putting up a divider in the middle of the living room. There's just not a lot of inventory that is specifically designed for sharing. So it felt like there was this big mismatch between the supply of rental housing and the demand on how it was actually being used. So that was the thesis Common has grown a lot since then, still has a lot of co-living inventory as well as some traditional inventory.
Marie Gautier--Blanc (13:02):
So you were convinced by the project since day one?
Bridgette Farrer Muir (13:06):
And really the founder, anyone that has the opportunity to work with a serial entrepreneur, I would tell anyone to jump at it because even though there's lots of hard lessons, every time you've at least learned a few the first or second or third time, and you bring that with you into any new venture.
Marie Gautier--Blanc (13:25):
Great. And so when you joined Common, you started first in New York City, and then you moved to California. If I'm right. And I bet that was a big change. Were there any challenges you found particularly difficult to overcome when moving across the country?
Bridgette Farrer Muir (13:42):
No. I would say the best thing about joining an early stage company is that as the company grows, so does the sheer volume of opportunities and if you're doing well in your role, they're there for the taking. And so, in my five years at Common, I had four or five different roles, which I loved. I started as our head of sales, which I tell anyone if you join an early stage company as head of X, you're literally just the only person doing that thing. So I was our first salesperson and then had a number of different roles. I was our West Coast GM. So when I moved out to California, helped get LA, and SF, and Seattle markets off the ground. I ran public affairs for a while, eventually ended up leading asset management. So, all really different sides of the business. It's quite hard to get that experience in a more mature company. So, I think that to me the most compelling part of joining somewhere early stage is just having access to so many unique opportunities in one place.
Marie Gautier--Blanc (15:00):
True. Definitely. And, could you share with us some experience in learnings from your time at Common that were important to you?
Bridgette Farrer Muir (15:09):
Yeah. Yes, so many. I think fundamentally I learned how to build something from nothing that process is, it can seem really glamorous from the outside, but the truth is that it is messy and hard and there's no substitute for being part of that. So, when I started, we didn't have any buildings, we didn't have any residents, we had this idea and some thoughts about how to get there. But, by the time I left the business was unrecognizable from when I had started, we had thousands of units and counted really blue chip institutional owners as clients. And, even though that was always a vision, it was so hard to imagine how we were going to get there on day one, you struggle to chart the path in your head. And so, yeah, I think what you learn, or what I learned and took from it and still tell myself every day, there are no shortcuts.
Bridgette Farrer Muir (16:15):
It's just a lot of hard work and incremental progress and putting one foot in front of the other each day, I'm always wary and remind others to be wary of these stories you hear of overnight successes, those are often years in the making. And, I think you appreciate that when you're on the inside. Another thing I realize is, it's very tempting to think that other people have it figured out, you realize no one really knows, no one really knows the answers. People are just trying their best. And so, I think underneath titles and job experiences, you just have this group of smart people that are trying their best to work together and solve hard problems. And, once you internalize that, I think it unlocks your own ability to play that role and realize everyone is just trying to figure out these things and overcome these roadblocks.
Marie Gautier--Blanc (17:18):
Well, thank you so much. That's a very valuable piece of advice. And I think, especially for students at SOM, because I think most of us are very perfectionist and sometimes it's good to just take a step back and be like, "Okay, this is the best I can do. And let's just go with it and see what I can do next." Right? And so, following on this, I think that the one question that all entrepreneurs ask themselves is now the right moment to launch. And so, why did you decide to launch a range at this precise moment and leave Common?
Bridgette Farrer Muir (17:54):
Yeah, so I left Common in July of 2020, and that was the right timing for a lot of reasons. COVID had a big impact on our business really on all asset classes, in our org structure. And frankly after five years, I'd really gotten what I came for, which was the opportunity to have a front row seat and get to shadow this entrepreneur and founder that I really admired. So, when I left, it's funny I didn't have any set business idea, I didn't have my heart set on Arrange in particular, the only thing I knew was that I wanted to do something outside of real estate. I had been working in real estate for about 10 years by that time and wanted to try something different. So I left, I took a couple weeks off, maybe three, not that many. And then I started tinkering.
Marie Gautier--Blanc (18:53):
And why going solo?
Bridgette Farrer Muir (18:54):
Ooh, good question. Why going solo? I think the honest reason is I just, I didn't have anyone else naturally occurring in my life or in my network at the moment to work on a range with. So, I started going it alone and yeah, I wonder how much of that was colored by shadowing Brad, who was also a solo founder at Arrange. But yeah, I started working on the idea, gosh, probably in August of 2020, and didn't end up making my first hire until about a year later.
Marie Gautier--Blanc (19:35):
Okay, wow. And, do you have a piece of advice for people who want to change jobs just like you did?
Bridgette Farrer Muir (19:44):
Oh, yeah. Advice for people that want to change jobs. So, I think one thing that you always want to have a framework, a rubric, so be clear about what you're optimizing for. Is it comp, are you looking for skill development? Do you want to change functions or change industries? And, learn something net new? Are you looking for the most seniority within the org? Are you looking for a really blue chip brand? Flexibility alignment with mission? There are all of these things that you can optimize for and they're all totally fair reasons. I think it's unrealistic to assume that you're going to be able to check every single box.
Bridgette Farrer Muir (20:26):
So being clear about saying these are the two or three things that are really important to me right now, and I want to optimize for opportunities that map onto these things. I think within this the arc of a career it's fair to expect it even to optimize for different things at different points, but it's really just like any other search and refining it. You have to know what you're looking for in order to be able to assess opportunities. So, thinking about defining the universe and helping you identify your ideal profile.
Marie Gautier--Blanc (21:09):
Interesting. And so, after going through this frameworks, you left Common in July 2020, and you found Arrange. Can you tell us more about what Arrange is?
Bridgette Farrer Muir (21:20):
Sure. Arrange is a web app that makes it easy to add to do's and reminders to your Google calendar. So, the problem we're solving is that people rely on their calendars to tell them where they need to be and what they need to do when, but that's typically at work, and there's this entire swath of personal stuff that really never makes it onto the calendar because there's too much friction required to add it yourself. So an example I like using is let's say you are attending a wedding, my guess is that if you get a save the date in the mail, you will probably add the wedding date to your calendar, but you would never bother to add a reminder to RSVP, or send a gift, or book your block from the hotel website, or order something to wear, or have it dry cleaned, or whatnot.
Bridgette Farrer Muir (22:06):
So, using Arrange you could subscribe to the plan called attending a wedding, plug in the date. And all of the other recommended reminders would be automatically added to your calendar. So, you can just rest assured that nothing is going to be forgotten, you don't have to stress about remembering every tiny detail, Arrange just does it for you.
Marie Gautier--Blanc (22:28):
Awesome. And, I must admit that jumped onto the opportunity to do this podcast with you, because I am crazy about to dos and getting organized and stuff. And also I have a wedding coming up this summer, so I definitely use that. And so, Arrange if I am correct is not monetized yet, but you raised some money, almost a million dollars. And so, what are the next steps now?
Bridgette Farrer Muir (22:57):
Yeah. So the way I think about each fundraise is you are financing your next experiment. So, before raising my first round, I had done a lot of research, done a handmade alpha, had a little bit of data and a lot of conviction to run this next experiment. And so, what are we doing with the precede- proceeds, really hiring early team building MVP and starting to learn from early users. So, we launched our beta product in Q4, made two full-time hires. We've got a number of full-time and part-time contractors. So, at this stage, look we're still early, we're validating some of our riskiest assumptions, will people give us the key's to their calendar? Will they let us add events to it, add these reminders? Once they do, will they engage with the stuff we put on there? We're just trying to learn as much as possible about the first version of the product that we've built.
Marie Gautier--Blanc (23:55):
Awesome. And you also have a blog that is for our listeners, www.bfmuir.com and you talk about your venture, and how you raise capital. And so, are you considering being, or are you already a mentor to young entrepreneurs and have you had one in your career yourself?
Bridgette Farrer Muir (24:19):
Yeah. So, I've been fortunate to have some great mentors, Brad among them continues to be a supporter of mine, which has opened a lot of doors for me as a founder. In terms of mentoring others, I get a lot of inbounds from founders who are starting up and looking for advice on fundraising, or early hiring, or building an MVP, et cetera. On the one hand I'm happy to be helpful where I can, but I also like to remind people, we are all just trying our best, just because something worked for me doesn't mean it's going to work for you, always happy to share my story, but going back to one of my earlier comments about building something from nothing, you learn for better or worse, there are really no secrets or shortcuts.
Bridgette Farrer Muir (25:14):
It's every day you have new challenges pop up and it's just figuring out how to... Every time you're faced to the wall, how to go over it or around it or under it and get past it. And so, like I said, I'm always happy to share what's worked for me with others, but can't make any promises that it will necessarily work for them.
Marie Gautier--Blanc (25:38):
I think you have a lot to tell us. And so, do you think anyone could be an entrepreneur?
Bridgette Farrer Muir (25:46):
Hmm, good question. I don't know that there's a singular profile to be a founder. I think there are certainly some characteristics that help. A lot of people talk about risk tolerance. I think of it more as willingness to fail, statistically you will fail. So, be getting comfortable with that and knowing that's reality and not letting it bother you, being resourceful and scrappy, those things will get you so, so, so far, this is true of early hires as well. But people that know how to figure things out, you don't have to have all of the answers, but you do have to have all of the ideas for how to find the answers. That's usually the thing that is more important at this stage, passion helps a lot. You're going to spend the better part of 10 years, maybe more working on whatever you're working on. So you better care about what it is because if you don't, it's just going to be an absolute slog to get through. I think those are probably the things that I would look for in a founder, willingness to fail, resourcefulness and passion.
Marie Gautier--Blanc (26:58):
Okay. Well, being passionate is key and that is actually a perfect transition. What do you do in your free times? What are your hobbies? What are you passionate about when you leave Arrange?
Bridgette Farrer Muir (27:11):
Yes. So, I obviously think a lot about time management and I'm always tinkering and playing with my own calendar. Think a lot about how I use the hours each day, whether it's work hours or outside of work. In terms of free time and hobbies, the honest answer is I have two very young kids. And so, "most of my free time," and I put that in quotes is usually spent with them nights and weekends. It's interesting, I used to work a ton on the weekends and after having kids, particularly the second one, it's become quite elusive and I've come around, I used to think it was a bug and I now think it's a feature. So, spend most of my free time with them.
Marie Gautier--Blanc (28:02):
Very cute. Do you have any final advice for our listeners today or what's the best piece of career advice you ever received and that you would like to share with us?
Bridgette Farrer Muir (28:13):
Hmm. I would say founder or not, but especially founder or aspiring founder. I would just say keep going. It sounds really simple, but there's a lot of power in just survival and not quitting and not getting beat up. It's again, it sounds so simple, but just getting up each day and continuing to chip away at this behemoth goal that you have, and managing your own psychology through that, it's definitely a learned skill. But keep going is the main thing I would impart on people. Best advice I ever received, I think it's that, but truly just keep going,
Marie Gautier--Blanc (29:02):
Keep going then. And so, what's the best way for all listeners to get in touch with you?
Bridgette Farrer Muir (29:09):
Oh yeah. You can always find me on my website, bfmuir.com or you can add me on LinkedIn Bridget Ferrer Muir. Those are both pretty reliable ways.
Marie Gautier--Blanc (29:21):
Awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time, Bridget today. Super useful, super helpful, it was lovely to have you here.
Bridgette Farrer Muir (29:28):
Thank you, Marie. Thanks for having me.
Marie Gautier--Blanc (29:32):
You've been listening to Career Conversations, a podcast from the Yale School of Management. If you like what you heard today, please subscribe. You can find us on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. And if you're already a subscriber, please go to Apple Podcasts and rate us or leave a review. That's a great way to let all other people know about the show. Career Conversations is produced by Yale SOM. Our producers for this episode are Amy Kundrat and Lisa [inaudible 00:30:01], our editor is Larry Toth. For Career Conversations, I'm Marie. Thanks for listening. And we hope you'll tune in again soon.
In this podcast series, SOM students sit down with alumni for a series of candid conversations about career paths, industries, opportunities for MBAs, and discussions on various career topics including work-life balance and creating a meaningful impact in business and society. This series is produced by Yale School of Management.