Hiring for a Discipline You Know Little About

Your startup is growing. You suspect you have initial product market fit. Time to hire the first head of each department. Sales, marketing, customer success, engineering, product management. Some founders might have experience or exposure into one of these teams. But rarely do they understand every one well enough to hire the right department chief. How should you do it? I’ve observed three successful strategies.

First, do the job yourself. Great managers manage themselves out of a job. By doing the work yourself first, you’ll know exactly what the role entails and what questions to ask. You’ll have the experience to judge whether a candidate can outperform you in that role. This is a common strategy for sales. The founders confirm product market fit with the first 10-20 sales and then hire an expert to scale the team and polish the process.

Second, enlist experts from your network and your Continue reading "Hiring for a Discipline You Know Little About"

How Our Remote Team of 15 Runs Daily Video Meetings in Under 10 Minutes

Pulling back the curtain on our daily standup meetings. There are fifteen of us on our remote team. If you’ve ever tried to organize a meeting with fifteen people in the same building, then you know what a logistical nightmare that can be. Now, imagine that chaos, and add the fact that our fifteen people are spread across nine different time zones, from Chiang Mai, Thailand to Newport, Rhode Island.
Scheduling time together when everyone is in “work hours” is impossible. And yet, even if you make an effort to maximize asynchronous collaboration as much as possible, getting face-time with each other is important. The challenge, then, is this: how do we schedule and run a daily meeting that minimizes disruption and inconvenience as much as possible? Today, I want to share what we’ve learned in our mission to overcome that challenge.

3 Reasons We Hold Daily Remote Team
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Maximizing Productivity on My Commute

I commuted to my first job on a bicycle. With my parent’s help, I bought a lemon yellow second-hand road bike that I pedaled 20 miles each way from 30th and N streets in Georgetown, Washington DC, over bustling Chain Bridge and the languid Potomac to an office park buried in Tyson’s Corner in Virginia. That was my workout each week. Then I moved to California and retired the bike. When I started working at Google, I spent the hour on the Google shuttle from San Francisco to Mountain View emailing. Today, I drive most places.

For the past few months, I’ve been listening to stand-up comedy. I’m trying to be funnier, but it’s not working. But at least I’m laughing while maneuvering through SOMA morning traffic. Sometimes, I blend in some podcasts from time to time including Invest Like the Best and Software Engineering Daily. I also try to Continue reading "Maximizing Productivity on My Commute"

What to Do If You Didn’t Get into Y Combinator

Didn't get into Y Combinator? Here's why it doesn't matter, and what you should do. Last Updated: August 23rd, 2017 “I’m gonna get in there.” My friend was frustrated. His startup had applied to Y Combinator for the third time, and the news had just come back: they didn't get in. Again. He wasn’t happy about it. And I was frustrated, too. But for a different reason. My friend is a smart guy. He’s accomplished a lot in his career, and I know he’d have a good shot at building a strong business. But he had convinced himself that he needed YC to succeed. And that’s what frustrates me. There’s a lot of value in programs like Y Combinator and other top incubators. A lot of incredible companies have come out of them. And Paul Graham has probably done more for startups than almost anyone in the last decade. But if
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Has SaaS Become Commodified?

A founder asked me if we had reached the point that SaaS is commodified. “Can you build a venture scale SaaS company anymore?” He made three key points to support the argument.

First, the technology barriers to starting a SaaS company continue to fall. Amazon, Google and Microsoft provide sophisticated, scalable, and easy to use infrastructure as a service. Next-generation machine learning tools are also available by API and improving all the time.

Second, the customer acquisition playbook is well known. Whether it’s Predictable Revenue written by Aaron Ross or Mark Roberge’s The Sales Acceleration Formula, or others, authoritative texts describe step by step how to structure, manage and measure a SaaS sales team. Consequently, this go to market model is no longer a differentiator in the market.

Third, the costs of customer acquisition have risen. Whether it’s Facebook ads, LinkedIn ads, Google search engine marketing and retargeting, email Continue reading "Has SaaS Become Commodified?"

The Volatility of Multiples in the Public SaaS Market

We’ve seen quite a bit of volatility in the valuations of publicly traded software companies over the last 5 years. In 2014, the average software company traded at 7.7x forward revenues - the sum of projected revenues over the next 12 months. Two years later, that multiple dropped 57% to 3.3x. Today, we’re exactly where we were in 2013, at 5.4x, which is coincidentally, is the average over this time period.

The average figure masks the substantial variance in forward muliples. By breaking out the multiples on a stock by stock basis, we expose the true distribution. Veeva (VEEV) tops the list at 11.6x forward while MobileIron plays cleanup at 1.5x.

In addition to the broad range of multiples, some of these businesses has seen tremendous volatility. HortonWorks and LivePerson have seen greater than 90% increases in forward multiples, while Zendesk and Twilio observed contractions

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Customer Onboarding Success Secret: Don’t Overwhelm Customers

I’ve said this before, but it is worth repeating; Customer Success is not limited to one part of the customer lifecycle, and Customer Success Management is not limited to simply helping the customer get up and running at first or to save them from churning later.

Rather, when a company has Customer Success as their operating model, they see every aspect of the customer lifecycle and every milestone of the customer journey as just as important as the rest.

In this article I tackle one of the biggest problems I see in Customer Onboarding. It’s a problem that isn’t caused by neglecting the customer… in fact, it’s caused by the exact opposite: overwhelming the customer.

Let’s explore this, shall we?

Most of the time, you overwhelm our customers.

You overwhelm your new users, but it’s not because you’re being negative or doing anything wrong. In fact, you’re probably trying to

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The Limiting Factor of Voice and Dictation Adoption

Harry Stebbins published a podcast with David Beisel this week in which they discussed the importance of voice. David says, “Voice is the most natural user interface possible.” I think the biggest challenge for voice is the skepticism and cynicism engendered by a decade or two of poor experiences. It’s no longer the technology.

One of my partners recently switched from an iPhone to an Essential phone and was stunned by the accuracy of the voice interface Google offers. Voice has become far more sophisticated than just a few years ago, and we are quickly moving past the stage of toy applications.

I’ve written before about how each of my emails are dictated. This blog post is dictated and edited entirely by voice. If I make a mistake, I can say “insert semicolon after dictated” and the computer will insert the; after the word dictated.

If I’m curious about Continue reading "The Limiting Factor of Voice and Dictation Adoption"

The Failure Rate of SDR-to-AE Promotions

The head of Sales Development for a $50M SaaS company recently shared some interesting team data with me. Excluding recent hires and the team currently in place, the group had 55 terminations, promotions, transfers, and quits over the last three years. A little high, but not too far above the median.

Breaking down the individual data, I found the following:


Roughly 60% of his SDRs were promoted or internally transferred. That’s great stuff! But on the flip side, and a concerning note, nearly 40% of the SDRs promoted to an AE role had been terminated. That surprised me.

I wondered if these results were above average, below average, or to be expected. I couldn’t find any public data on the post-promotion failure rate for SDR-to-AE transitions, so I turned to LinkedIn to do my own research.

How I Used LinkedIn

My search included AEs at companies located in North America.

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15 Advanced Zoom Tips for Better Video Meetings

Our team’s favorite Zoom tips and tricks. As a remote team, we don’t have our meetings in a conference room, or at a coffee shop. But even though we can’t meet up in person, we do see each other every single day. It’s important for many reasons, but our daily video meeting rhythm helps us to stay productive, happy and close-knit. Each day, we huddle together via video chat, and the best tool that we’ve found for this so far is Zoom. We spend hundreds of hours per year in Zoom, so time-saving hacks, even if they just save a few seconds each time, can make a meaningful difference in how productive we are. But even if you just use Zoom for the occasional meeting, the tips and tricks we’ve fallen in love with can still help you have a smoother, more pleasant experience. Today, I’m sharing our favorite Zoom
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