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Ep. 307: Jaleh Rezaei is the Founder & CEO @ Mutiny, the startup that allows you to personalize your website for each and every visitor. Jaleh has raised from some of the best in the early stage business with Mutiny including the likes of Y Combinator, Uncork Capital and Cowboy Ventures on the fund side and then Mathilde @ Front, Henrique @ Brex and Shan-Lyn Ma @ Zola on the operator side. Prior to founding Mutiny, Jaleh spent an incredible 4 years at Gusto seeing their hypergrowth first hand as one of the first 10 employees. If that was not enough, Jaleh has also enjoyed advisory roles at both Google and Y Combinator.Pssst 🗣 Loving our podcast content? Listen to the start of the episode for a promo code to our upcoming events! In Today’s Episode We Discuss:
- How Jaleh made her way into the world of SaaS as one of the first team members at Gusto and how that led to her founding Mutiny most recently?
- What were Jaleh’s biggest takeaways from her time at Gusto? How did that time impact her operating mentality with Mutiny today? How did her time at Gusto teach her about the right way to build company culture? Where do so many go wrong with this?
- What does Jaleh believe is the biggest problem in SaaS marketing today? How does Jaleh specifically use ABM to acquire customers and leads effectively? What price points is required for an ABM strategy to be viable?
- How does Jaleh approach the issue of determining the success of marketing? Should marketing be held accountable to a number tied directly to revenue? How does brand marketing play into this? Where are the nuances here?
Jacob Eiting Below, we’ve shared the transcript of Harry’s interview with Jaleh. Harry Stebbings: We are back for another week in the wonderful world of SaaS on SaaStr with me, Harry Stebbings, @hstebbings1996 with two Bs on Instagram. And it’d be great to see you there, but to the show today, and I’m very excited for this one. I’ve been a fan of this product for a while and so I’m thrilled to welcome Jaleh Rezaei, founder and CEO of Mutiny, the startup that allows you to personalize your website for each and every visitor. Harry Stebbings: Jaleh has raised from some of the best in the early stage business with Mutiny, including the likes of Y Combinator, Uncork, and Cowboy on the fund side, and then Mathilde at Front, Henrique Brex and Shan-Lyn Ma Zola on the operator side. Prior to founding Mutiny, Jaleh spent an incredible four years at Gusto, seeing their hypergrowth firsthand as one of the first 10 employees. Harry Stebbings: And if that wasn’t enough, Jaleh has also enjoyed advisory roles at both Google and Y Combinator. And I do also want to say a huge thank you to both Layla Sturdy at Capital G, and Andy McLaughlin at Uncork for some fantastic questions suggestions today, so appreciate that. Harry Stebbings: But that is quite enough of these dulcet British tones and so now I’m very excited to hand over to Jaleh Rezaei, founder and CEO at Mutiny. Harry Stebbings: Jaleh, it’s absolutely fantastic to have you on the show today. I’ve had so many good things, both from Tomer at Gusto and from Layla at Capitol G. Thank you so much for joining me today. Jaleh Rezaei: Absolutely. Thanks for having me, Harry. Harry Stebbings: Not at all, but I do want to kick off a little bit on you. Tell me, how did you make your way into the wonderful world of SaaS to start, but then also come to found Mutiny most recently? Jaleh Rezaei: Yeah, I found Gusto actually through Tomer, which is amazing that you recently had a chat with him as well. He was classmates with me at Stanford. He was on the computer science side, I was getting an MBA, and we were in an entrepreneurship class that mixed the students from different backgrounds. And so, him and I met there and when, it was called Zen Payroll at the time, they had about maybe eight or nine or so employees, and they were looking to expand the team. He got a recommendation from someone to chat with me. Jaleh Rezaei: And so him and I met at a coffee shop in Soma and then I ended up meeting with Josh. I think my first response was why would I want to work at a payroll company? This is crazy. And then, I met them and I was like, wow, this is so much more than a payroll company. I love these people. I love their vision. And I ended up joining the team at that very early seed stage. And many adventures later, then left after about four years, about 500 employees to basically start Mutiny. Harry Stebbings: I absolutely love it and I loved that start in the coffee shop in Soma with Tomer. I do want to ask you, because you saw such incredible times of scaling and hypergrowth with them, what were your biggest takeaways from that experience? I guess, how did it impact your mindset of how you run Mutiny today? Jaleh Rezaei: I think the biggest takeaways for me were around culture and how do you specifically build a culture where you attract the most amazing talent and create an environment where they love coming to work every day. And for me, there’s probably three things in particular around that that I very much adopted at Mutiny. The first one was because I was there from the early days when we were in this loft in Soma that would always get overheated right around 3:00 PM, from those days when there was just very few of us, all the way to when it was a very large company, I got to really internalize the impact of early decisions on the company’s DNA. Jaleh Rezaei: So I could look back at 400, 500 employees and say we have a particularly analytical approach when it comes to problem solving because of X, Y, Z hire or because of these things that we implemented when we were very early and there’s good and bad that comes with that. And so, when I started Mutiny, I was very thoughtful about what type of company did I want to create. The first thing that I wrote was this Medium post on the values for the company. And at the time, my co-founder and I hadn’t even finalized the plans to work together. And I really thought about what that means for me. What were the values that I wanted to be similar to Gusto? What were the values that were going to be different and more unique to me? And I’ve made every decision with those things in mind. Jaleh Rezaei: The second thing that I learned there about the culture was just how to help people scale. I think watching what hypergrowth does and how people evolve in that environment was a once in a lifetime experience and I learned a lot about how to scale and nurture talent, including myself. And so, leveraging external mentors, bringing in executive coaches very early on, doing monthly reflections to make sure that we’re constantly looking back at what happened the month before and what’s coming ahead and how do we want to adapt and adjust and setting expectations well with people and investing in that growth was probably the second biggest takeaway. Jaleh Rezaei: And then finally, this last one I learned from Josh, which is all of the small tweaks and care that you need in order to build a great culture, it just takes so much commitment early on. I remember I joined Zen Payroll. This was my second week or something, and I was just sitting in the kitchen doing some work and Josh walked by and there was some water on the ground and he was in the middle of something, but he just stopped, grabbed a paper towel, cleaned it, threw it away and then left. And it’s such a small example, but it gives you the sense of if you have this culture of we want to take care of our office as like our home, and there isn’t someone cleaning up after us, and we have this humble existence as a team, small moments like that that you watch and absorb, that really make the culture come alive. Jaleh Rezaei: And I think as we grew, we had to scale a lot of our processes and things to maintain that culture. And today at Mutiny, we have a value that’s work should feel like play. And so, we cook dinner together every Wednesday, we have a chore bot on Slack, so that everyone can chip in. We have these counter corporate mugs. There’s just a lot of stuff that we do that creates and builds the type of company that we want to create. And I think to wrap it up, a lot of seed stage companies view things as I’m so busy, we’re trying to get to product market fit, we’re trying to build a company. So first, I’m going to build a product and a company, and then once we get big, then I’ll build a culture. And I think that that’s just such a mistake. Culture is very much built at that seed stage and I feel really grateful that I got to see that at Gusto and can now take those lessons to Mutiny. Harry Stebbings: I love that work feeling like fun, and really cool to hear about the dinners. I do have to ask and I expected to go off schedule, but as always, my mind takes me sooner than I thought off schedule. You mentioned that impacts growth. The hardest thing for me always is you have the decision where you have to promote someone or hire someone external. How do you think about that decision and how do you approach it when you have to bring in someone external and manage the expectations of that existing employee who maybe didn’t get the role they wanted? Jaleh Rezaei: It really is one where it takes practice to get it right. I think, for me, the biggest thing around scaling is, first, I make it really clear to my team that I always prefer to promote from within. And I really live that and they see how much we invest in every individual here so they have clear goals. We are very direct with feedback about what’s working, what’s not working. And I don’t really hesitate to try to invest, either through classes or pairing them with mentors. And so, I think they really feel that when we say we really want to promote from within and grow our talent, that that is something that we’re committed to. Jaleh Rezaei: At the same time, I try to have a really transparent conversation about what is the next job that they are trying to grow into and what are the expectations for that job, and how do they compare relative to that. And a lot of times, when people come in to the company, the bigger role hasn’t actually been created. So maybe you need to hire a VP level person or the head of a department, but initially, you don’t necessarily need that role. And so, we try to be really transparent about, hey, you’re joining, we see a lot of potential and opportunity in you to scale with the company. That role hasn’t necessarily been created or we don’t need that role today, but when we do, here’s what’s expected in that role, and these are the metrics. And we very much want to groom you and enable you to grow into that role. But at the same time, just keep in mind that it’s not necessarily easy to scale exponentially your own skillset with that. Jaleh Rezaei: What I can’t do is change what the job is because I like somebody. My responsibility to the company is to hire the best person for a particular role. But what I can do is always be transparent about what’s needed, where you’re at, and try to invest to the extent possible to get the person there. And when it’s not possible, then just be transparent about that. So I think expectation setting is huge. And I think having seen how difficult it is for people to scale, that has also made me very wise to not over promise and to be extremely thoughtful early on. Jaleh Rezaei: I think at Gusto, it was like me and–there weren’t really that many people who made that leap as the company scaled. So more likely or not, the scopes and the roles are going to change. And at the end of the day, it’s about building an environment where the person has the right mix of what they know and where they’re being challenged such that they can operate in this happy, awesome flow state and continue to grow, versus be so overwhelmed by the role where they’re just terrified every day. And so, it’s a lot of honest and thoughtful conversation. There isn’t a silver bullet. Harry Stebbings: You mentioned there a particular role, and I do want to double click, so to speak, on a particular role, being SaaS marketing, so to speak, because when we spoke before, you said the biggest problem in SaaS marketing is the problem no one is working on, and what a cliffhanger, I have to say, but what is the biggest problem in Sass marketing? And secondly, why is no one working on it? Jaleh Rezaei: I think in B2B, one of the biggest things that we have known for decades is that B2B products are sold really differently depending on who the buyer is. And we have leveraged salespeople for decades to help understand the customer, their unique needs, and then adapt the use case and the feature set and the buying process to those needs. And without doing this, it’s actually extremely difficult to be effective at selling B2B products. Jaleh Rezaei: And in the past five years, the interesting thing has been that because of SaaS, because of digital online platforms, because of change in the way consumers and people buy within businesses, everyone has a credit card and we’ve shifted from IT and procurement to a lot more buyers within the companies, we now see about two thirds of customer interactions are happening online as opposed to offline. And I would argue for, this is a official stat across B2B, but I would argue for SaaS companies, it’s probably much more closer to 90%, 95% of touchpoints are happening online. Many that we probably can’t even track. Jaleh Rezaei: And what’s crazy is that despite the shift from human and sales to online, nothing about our online presence has shifted to adapt to that particular customer. And we’re still leveraging more or less generic ads, generic websites, generic emails. And I don’t know if you’ve been to a B2B website recently, but often when you go, you don’t even understand what they’re saying because they’re trying to combine messages for multiple audiences. So let’s say they sell a customer data platform and one group, large enterprises, buy the products because they want more accurate data. And small companies buy it because they want something that’s easier to implement. And there’s other industries and use cases for different reasons. And the only way to combine all of this is to come up with some confusing message like redefining data platforms, enterprise. Jaleh Rezaei: And you’re like, what is this product? And any customer that doesn’t know you, that doesn’t have history, that hasn’t heard about you, which is where most of your growth is going to come from, is going to look at that, say WTF, and close their browser. And we see this in 99% of drop offs in B2B funnels. And certainly the website is one of the biggest places where this happens. And so, I think we sit and we optimize every little ad copy and we pay Google and Facebook millions of dollars to go acquire customers. But then, once we get that customer and they come and actually engage with us, instead of putting our best, most relevant foot forward, we give everybody the same experience. And it’s like having a salesperson close his ears and shout from a script. Like that’s what our marketing materials are doing. And of course, it’s not effective. And of course, we lose a ton of potential customers in that process. Jaleh Rezaei: So this is something that I very much learned as I went from VMware, where I saw the personalization that we did with our sales team, and then tried to do that online at Gusto and saw how difficult it was. We came up with a lot of manual processes and things to be able to personalize our buying experience and got to see how effective it was whenever we were able to pull it off. And so, I’m a big believer that we really have to change the way we think about B2B marketing now that more and more interactions with customers are shifting online. We have to stop chasing traffic, and we have to start thinking about optimizing and personalizing the experience for that traffic that we pay so much for, especially if we don’t want our cost of acquisition to increase 50 to 100% every year. Harry Stebbings: Totally. Which we definitely don’t from this point on. My word, it terrifies me to see the [inaudible 00:16:08] state. But anyway, I do want to ask because it seems like a highly scalable solution to account based marketing, which is a glossy phrasing that actually always quite frustrates me because there’s nothing new about account based marketing, and it’s really existed for years and years. Do you think my assessment of current accounts based marketing is fair and right? Jaleh Rezaei: ABM is a bit of a buzzword but it’s also an approach to marketing that works. And maybe I would have not been as much of a believer, but we use ABM at Mutiny, that’s how we acquire our customers. And it works beautifully. And I think the best way to think about ABM, and really anything in marketing, is to simplify it to what is it really. And to me, ABM is just about, you know your customer profile, your average deal sizes are large enough where you can actually just create a small list of folks that fit that profile. And then, sales and marketing are coming together to say, how can we nurture and close these customers? Jaleh Rezaei: And so, the easiest way to understand ABM is if you had to bring in, let’s say, 500 K in revenue, some small amount, and you hired a well rounded marketer and a sales rep and you put the two of them in a room, and you said, figure out how to get this revenue. They would probably sit and say, okay, well, who do we think would be a good fit? And maybe the salesperson would call them and email them and try to get intros to the account while the marketing person goes, well, let’s host a dinner for them. Or maybe let’s send them a piece of mail. Together, they would figure out how to close those customers and hit that revenue target and I think what’s become ABM is just the idea of how can you scale that and how can you make that work with many more salespeople and many more marketers and a lot more technology to facilitate that scaling. Harry Stebbings: Totally get you there. I do have to ask, you mentioned your usage of ABM. Can I ask, how do you strategically use ABM to acquire customers today with Mutiny? How do you think about that kind of process and workflow? Jaleh Rezaei: Well, when I switched from Gusto to Mutiny and discovered that we could do ABM at Mutiny, I was like a kid in a candy store, because with Gusto, an average deal size of $500, it’s extremely challenging to acquire customers and you don’t know who your customers are. And so, you have to, I don’t know if you’ve heard the term of net fishing, you’re going out there and you’re bidding on search terms, you’re optimizing audiences and you’re trying to hit the largest volume of people that you think have potential to buy and you have to be extremely thoughtful about how much time and effort you spend on them because your deal size is so low that you can’t really nurture and grow the relationship. It’s much more transactional. You’re basically trying to find out, are you in market or not? And if they’re not, you want to exit from paying to get in front of that user as fast as possible because otherwise the costs aren’t going to work out. Jaleh Rezaei: And I joined Gusto, at the time, I think our average deal size was $450. It’s obviously gone up quite a bit with the addition of new product lines. But nonetheless, it’s still very much an inbound driven process. And then when I got to Mutiny, our average deal sizes are higher. We can do ABM and it was awesome. The fact that we could sit there and say, well, who do we think would be a great fit and who are the first thousand or 500 companies that we want to go after? And actually, we can even get intros into the first 50. It was amazing because we know exactly who we are talking to and we can create a very tailored experience for them. So we can show them ads to specifically those departments within those companies. We can send them tailored emails, we can spend time and effort on personalizing that. Jaleh Rezaei: We actually use our own products. For those of you who don’t know what Mutiny does, we help personalize the buying experience for B2B companies. And a lot of that is done on an inbound basis. But we also have an outbound ABM product where we can create one-on-one personalized pages. And so, we actually create personalized pages for everyone in our target account and we send that to them, which basically is this custom intro based on, hey Joe, based on your role, based on what you’re doing, based on the advertising platforms you use, et cetera, and the number of sales people you have. Here’s what we think you are struggling with and here’s how we can help you. And we have an extremely high cold outreach to demo. It’s about 8% that people book because we get to be so tailored. And that’s not uncommon in really effective ABM programs. You can also do events and direct mail and things like that that can get you really high conversion rates. I love ABM because I just think it’s so much easier than inbound. Harry Stebbings: Listen, I totally agree with you and I so much prefer as I think there’s a term, fishing with a spear versus a net. I do want to ask, you mentioned the conversion rate from initial outreach to demo there. And I’m always slightly challenged actually when it comes to determining marketing success. I think that’s a huge problem we have in marketing today. I always think that it should be tied to a number directly related to revenue, but it’s not always that easy and simple. First, would you agree with me in terms of the challenge of determining marketing success and how do you internally think about, hey, what are the metrics I use to determine the success of my marketing today? Jaleh Rezaei: I think it first starts with culture. I think you have to constantly reinforce that everyone and every department is here to do what’s best for the company. And that while we work on different pieces of the puzzle, at the end of the day, we’re all trying to hit this revenue target. And I think in the early days, it’s a lot easier because you don’t really have to worry about controlling people with metrics or people having bad behaviors and having just that cultural view that we’re all held accountable, we’re all honest and reflective, and we all want the same thing. It just makes it all easier. And then as the company grows, then you have to think more about how are you delegating responsibility in the different units. Jaleh Rezaei: So for me, revenue is absolutely the metric that you should be looking at. If you have an inbound funnel, I can’t even begin to describe how much control marketing has over whether leads convert to customers or not. And if they are not judged on revenue, it’s almost impossible to scale your CAC and do everything cost-effectively while you’re in hypergrowth. So we were very revenue focused. Jaleh Rezaei: However, I will say that I saw this a lot at Gusto, as we expanded our sales team and the company got bigger, having everybody just own revenue was a little bit dissatisfying because people wanted to know, okay sure we’re all working towards revenue, but is there a metric that marketing owns and is there a metric that sales owns and is there a metric that product owns because all three of us contribute to ultimately getting the revenue. And I think, at first, I was really against that because I thought that it would hurt us, but I ultimately came around to this idea that it would be better if each department also had a metric that they affected more than anybody else because it would help with accountability and handoffs and things like that. Jaleh Rezaei: And so, for sales and marketing, I would say for marketing in particular, that metric typically ends up being something like pipelines, a sales accepted lead, because you can still generate a lot of discovery calls that the person doesn’t end up showing up, 50% of people or something can miss it. And so, you want to get to a little bit deeper in the funnel where the sales team can accept that lead. If you can’t get that far into the funnel, another way to set a really good metric is to find a point in the funnel where conversion rate from that point is very consistent. And that’s another good way for marketing. For example, we used a step in our funnel, which was when the person has added their bank account. It was a leading indicator, but the conversion rate from that step tended to be very consistent down funnel. And so, that’s another good way to set a metric to separate a little bit the top of funnel activity that marketing does from the more bottom of the funnel activity that sales does. Jaleh Rezaei: But at the end of the day, the reason I emphasize culture is important is that, at the end of the day, I want a marketing team that sees an opportunity down funnel and says, you know what? We can go and build out these different things and we can increase our conversion rate from sales accepted to close by 40%. And I want the kind of team that thinks in that way, that thinks full funnel and that we’re always looking at projects very holistically. And that’s just more a matter of leadership and the relationship between the marketing leader and the sales leader and what you emphasize and role model everyday for your team. Harry Stebbings: I love that element in terms of the split metrics there and how that drives accountability. I do want to move though into my favorite element of any episode, being the quick fire round. So I say a short statement, and then you hit me with your immediate thoughts in about 60 seconds or less. Are you ready to rock and roll? Jaleh Rezaei: Yes. Harry Stebbings: Okay, hiring is always incredibly hard, but what’s the hardest role to hire for today and why do you think that is? Jaleh Rezaei: I honestly think it’s the CMO or the head of acquisition. If you think about a marketing function, every single subgroup within marketing is totally different. You have right brain people, left brain people, you have brand, you have PR, you have analytics, acquisition, operations. Whereas if you look at other departments like product or sales, et cetera, there’s a lot more homogeneity in the different subgroups and the skill sets required. And so, I just think it’s really hard to find a leader that can really cohesively bring all of these things together. It’s an extremely difficult job and there are very few people that fit that profile. Harry Stebbings: Tell me a moment in your life that’s maybe served as an inflection point and changed the way you think. Jaleh Rezaei: After Gusto, I took a sabbatical before starting Mutiny. I traveled alone all over the world. I lived in Italy for a month or two and it was just so amazing to reconnect with myself and think about where I was at and what I wanted and start the next chapter of my life from that point of clarity. Harry Stebbings: Totally. And that living in Italy is always a wonderful thing. Jaleh Rezaei: [inaudible 00:26:24] helps that I was in the city of Barolo for some period of time, which has the most incredible red wine in the world. Harry Stebbings: Oh, I’m a sucker for red wine and really sloppy cheese, one of the reasons I’m still single, I’m sure. But tell me quality or quantity of logos in the early days, what do you think? Jaleh Rezaei: Quality, definitely. Harry Stebbings: Why do you think that is, over quantity, when that drives confidence in sales teams, bluntly real estate of badges on websites? Why quality over quantity? Jaleh Rezaei: Because I think in the early days you need to build a flywheel and it’s really hard to get from this static friction to kinetic friction. Customers don’t care if you have certain amount of revenue. They care about who is using it and do they trust that person. And so, doing whatever you can to get logos that end up, or customers that end up convincing other customers to take a second look at you is critical. And that will get you more logos that other people respect and you can keep growing. Jaleh Rezaei: This is what we did at Mutiny. We were very focused on fast growing companies like Brex and Carta and Segment and TripActions, and these types of folks, and Amplitude. And I can’t stress how valuable that has been for us, because once Amplitude started working with us, then Segment’s like, well, we really respect Amplitude. So maybe we would consider it once Segment starts working with us. And then, Carta’s interested and just keeps expanding from there. Harry Stebbings: What’s the hardest element of your role with Mutiny today do you think? Jaleh Rezaei: Wearing so many different hats. Harry Stebbings: Why and which do you think is the most challenging to wear? Jaleh Rezaei: I try to operate in a really prioritized way. And so, I’d say, especially for a seed stage company, we spend a lot of time thinking about what are we trying to achieve in three months from now, in 12 months from now? And we set OKRs for every quarter, we set OKRs every week in the beginning of the week. And then, we reflect on what worked, what didn’t work and what’s the most important thing for the company. So always trying my hardest to be extremely prioritized on a day by day and week by week basis. Jaleh Rezaei: That said, I think as an early stage founder, part of the job is to figure out how to balance so many different things at the same time. I remember when I started in YC, one of the opening speeches from Michael Seibel, which was the lesson from Paul Graham, was you have to figure out how to be a more formidable version of yourself and that’s just the job. And then, when it came to, for example, we were approaching demo day, they were like, hey, a lot of you have asked, we have to work with customers and keep them happy while we still have to figure out this fundraising and demo date, what can we do? Can we do one or the other? And they’re like, no, you have to do both. And that’s just the job. Jaleh Rezaei: And I think that’s one of the hard parts at the seed stage because you’re very few people in the company. It actually hurts you if you have too many people. So you want to keep it really lean and it’s this constant balancing of figuring out how to prioritize your time and how to simultaneously wear multiple important hats that you can’t really outsource. Harry Stebbings: And then the final one, what do you know now that you wish you’d known at the beginning of your time founding Mutiny? Jaleh Rezaei: Yeah, I wish I knew this from the beginning of my career, which is, at the end of the day, no one really knows what they’re doing. And everyone’s just figuring it out on the fly. So just go on with your bad self and keep your edge sharp and don’t dilute your ideas and your creative thoughts. Harry Stebbings: I totally agree with you. I wish I’d known that when I started too. Listen, I so enjoyed this. As I said, I heard so many good things, especially from Layla and Tomer. Thank you so much for joining me today, and I can’t wait to see the exciting times ahead for Mutiny. Jaleh Rezaei: Absolutely. Thanks so much for having me. This was fun. Harry Stebbings: Wow. I absolutely loved having Jaleh on the show there. And if you’d like to see more from her and Mutiny, you can find them on Twitter. Likewise, it’d be great to welcome you behind the scenes here on Instagram @hstebbings1996 with two Bs. I always love to see you there. Harry Stebbings: As always, I so appreciate all your support and I can’t wait to bring you another fantastic episode next week. The post SaaStr Podcasts for the Week with Mutiny and RevenueCat — February 14, 2020 appeared first on SaaStr.