Denim: Making the transition from corporate to startup

There was a moment when Charlie Turri knew he made the right decision.

Turri, 51, had worked for large insurance companies for nearly 25 years. But as he advanced in those large companies, he got farther and farther away from what he really enjoyed doing.


So as Turri explored different opportunities to get back in his natural habitat he would reach out to Gregory Bailey, the founder of Denim, a Des Moines-based technology company offering mobile and social media advertising automation. The two had worked together prior to Bailey leaving the corporate world to start Denim in 2015.

“I had known Greg for a while and called him to let him know I’m looking for something different,” Turri recalls. “We started talking about what Denim needed and what I could bring to the table.”

Nearly two months later, Turri left a company with an IT department of over 350 people and was named Chief Technology Officer for Denim, a company of five full-time employees.

His first day was March 26.

Turri is the first of a three-part series where Clay & Milk talks with professionals who decided to leave Corporate America and join a startup company.

It’s just a different process

Turri moved to Des Moines four-years ago from Nashville and was “kicking and screaming” the whole way. The New Jersey-native says he wasn’t crazy about moving to Des Moines at first but after some research on commute times, cost of living and entertainment options, he was sold.

And when he started looking for new opportunities earlier this year, Turri had opportunities to leave Iowa but…

“Here I am,” Turri says.

Turri has been in the corporate IT environment for about 25 years and says he enjoys building and being part of the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation. But the further he rose in a larger company, the further away he got from that spirit.

But he found it again with Denim.

“We sit around a table, make a decision and it sticks,” Turri says. “We spent one morning talking about what a screen should look like, how it should act and it was me, Mike and Greg going through a product design and build in a couple hours. Something like that would take weeks at a larger institution because of all the different stakeholders. It’s just a different process.”

Being a disruptor

Turri says it can be hard to realize how little creativity larger companies offer until you are no longer part of it.

But making the jump to Denim Turri says made him realize not only how little creativity there was, but that he missed it too.

“That’s why Greg and I spent so much time on the front end because we probably spent six or seven weeks thinking about this,” Turri says. “I knew it would be a different way of working.”

He says one of his first projects with Denim is adding an artificial intelligence piece. And using his experience, Turri will create and grow an international market for Denim, which is something he’s done for previous employers.

“I can really talk to the struggles that those financial institutions are facing every day,” Turri says. “They aren’t going to go out and look to disrupt themselves, firms like Denim are going to have to bring that to the table.”

Turri said Denim is looking to double its team from five to ten by the end of 2018.

Previous coverage

Bailey: Denim Summit 2017 explores future of InsurTech – Nov. 2, 2017

Q&A: How Denim powers the social ad space for the insurance industry – July 11, 2017