Built By Humans
78: Gong CEO & Co-founder Amit Bendov- playing it safe is risky business

78: Gong CEO & Co-founder Amit Bendov- playing it safe is risky business

November 23, 2021

Starting third to market and rising to be the market leader in just a few years is rarely heard of, but that’s exactly what Gong has done. Gong is a revenue intelligence platform that gives sales and customer success teams insights on what is happening with their customers without anyone having to lift a finger. Their vision is to build the best autonomous applications in the world. By prioritizing quality, Gong has managed not only to become the best at what it does, but to stay on top, always running fast to keep making its product better than the alternatives. CEO and Founder Amit Bendov  joins Scott Britton and Andrei Newman on the Built by Humans Podcast to discuss the future of autonomous applications, how to pull away from the competition, and the importance of being able to ‘zoom out’. 

 

Here are some quick takeaways:

 

  • As time goes on, businesses will only continue to favor autonomous software solutions over human-curated ones. The goal is to make what was hard work effortless and more consistent.
  • There’s no moat between you and your competitors in the SaaS world. While in competition the strong tend to get stronger,  you shouldn’t assume the advantages you have will last any longer than 12 months: you have to run like crazy to stay ahead.
  • A strong collaboration between sales and product is vital for either team to work effectively. The goal is to have a product so good even a mediocre sales team would work, and a sales team so good even a mediocre product would work.
  • When it comes to marketing, be bold and be comfortable with polarizing decisions. Being safe with marketing is a risky choice; taking risks is your safest option.
  • In many markets, you’ll have to make the product decision of whether to be the budget option or the expensive solution to your problem. In either case, make sure to stick to your decision: if you decide to be the best solution, don’t also feel the need to lower your prices as a competition strategy, and instead market on being worth the high cost.
  • Job interviews are a tremendous source of information for learning about organizational design. 
  • The ability to “zoom-out” can be a great addition to your skill set as you move forward in business. Constantly challenge yourself to think bigger to find new solutions and ideas.

 

77: Course Hero CEO and Co-Founder Andrew Grauer- using empathy to build teams and products

77: Course Hero CEO and Co-Founder Andrew Grauer- using empathy to build teams and products

November 12, 2021

The recent uptick in online learning has drastically changed what has long been a stagnant industry: education. Course Hero capitalizes on these changes, providing a massive affordable library of online supplemental resources for both students and teachers. Through their model, Course Hero wants to fix the nearly universal problems each student experiences. Founder and CEO Andrew Grauer joins Scott Britton and Andrei Newman on the Built by Humans Podcast to discuss how to build on a good opportunity, what the future of the education industry looks like, and why it’s so important to put company culture first.

 

Here are some quick takeaways:

  • When creating any product, make sure to prioritize understanding and empathizing with the problems of your end-user. Finding a widely shared pain point can be key here.
  • When building a business in a typically low-speed industry like education, it can be better to start with discipline: keep your fixed costs low and wait for expansion stages.
  • The future of education will likely solve for learning speed and cost. Technology that makes education widely available and easy to learn will rise in the coming years.
  • A large portion of today’s students are parents or workers - many are working to pay off debt and many don’t graduate after 6 years. Companies that try to act as an alternative to college and supplementary resources like Course Hero aim to fix this problem.
  • Building your company’s culture always comes before building a product. Treating others well and building a community of trust is necessary for overcoming inevitable future challenges for your business - make sure to be intentional in your day-to-day interactions with coworkers.
  • The “pod model”, when done effectively, is a great way to maintain the shared culture at a large scale. Split into teams, and try to balance team autonomy with cohesive leadership.
76: Dialpad Founder and CEO Craig Walker-  building and scaling a platform business

76: Dialpad Founder and CEO Craig Walker- building and scaling a platform business

November 9, 2021

Scaling is often a major problem for rapidly growing startups; rarely does a company adapt to and fill out its product as well as Dialpad has over the past 10 years. Today, Dialpad can claim to be a standalone solution to communication in the modern workplace. Dialpad Founder and CEO Craig Walker joins Scott Britton and Andrei Newman on the Built by Humans Podcast to discuss how to start building an “all-in-one” company, why to prioritize workspace culture, and how to adapt to the modern SaaS world.

Here are some quick takeaways:

  • The modern workplace has radically changed in how it views employee productivity. Don’t force employees to sit in an office while they work; instead, prioritize giving good software and cloud access so they can be mobile and more active throughout the day.
  • Building an “all-in-one” company that has filled out the scope of its market takes an extremely solid foundation -- make sure you’re confident in your product market, then take the time to build something scalable.
  • Aligned culture and tightly-knit teams are vital for a startup. Agreement on values and the ability to make decisions quickly are the only advantages a small team can leverage over massive corporations.
  • In today’s market, you don’t need to artificially limit yourself to one strata of the SaaS market, small teams have become just as interested in and capable of buying software as large enterprises.  Learn what differently-sized markets want out of your software, and market accordingly.
  • The SaaS market is shifting to meet the needs of end-users - if you create a product end-users don’t need, it will not be used. Always approach new ideas from the consumer side.
  • Mobility and availability will only become more important in the future of video calls. Expect future innovations such as AR calls or advanced ai popups during calls.
75: Public COO Stephen Sikes- building a community-driven business

75: Public COO Stephen Sikes- building a community-driven business

October 20, 2021

The stock market has historically been highly exclusive and highly discriminatory. By instead advocating for accessibility and inclusivity, Public creates a business model for personal investing that has grown wildly over the past couple of years. The company offers a unique avenue for enterprise: combining social media with a goal-oriented product. COO Stephen Sikes joins Scott Britton and Andrei Newman on the Built by Humans Podcast to discuss the future of investing, a community model for business, and what a good revenue model should look like.

 

Here are some quick takeaways:

  • The best way to invest is by balancing passive and active trading. Get excited by stocks but don’t get too emotionally invested in the process.
  • Modern improvements to the availability, accessibility, and inclusivity of stock market trading have brought a massive cohort of small investors.
  • Building a  valuable community means putting community first: start by defining a consistent brand and reinforce that brand upon your community members.
  • There is a huge gap of business opportunities in community-driven content aimed at positive results.
  • The consumer startup world has a two-phase sequence, first focusing on growth over economics and then flipping to economics once large enough.
  • You should align your revenue model with customer satisfaction, not revenue itself. Don’t start a business that predicates on its’ customers’ losses.
74: Momentive President Tom Hale - knowing when to rebrand

74: Momentive President Tom Hale - knowing when to rebrand

October 13, 2021

It’s not often you see a company well established in its product niche completely rebrand, but that’s exactly what Tom Hale and his team at Momentive, formerly SurveyMonkey, have done. Tom joins Scott Britton and Andrei Newman on the Built by Humans Podcast to discuss what an effective rebrand looks like, why modern businesses need AI-generated feedback, and how the workplace can help the world.

Here are some quick takeaways:

  • Automated surveys give the quick data needed to remain agile and move at “ventilator speed” in the modern workplace.
  • All growing multi-product businesses hit a wall where they need to rebrand. Matching different products to buyer profiles is key to getting past this.
  • Brand health can be measured both through traditional metrics like awareness and competitive share but also through monitoring statistics like customer calls and the amount of people directed to your product without a referral.
  • AI, if made well enough, can provide a volume of personal feedback humans are unwilling to expend the time and energy on.
  • Try to look past just money and see the workplace as a way through which to positively affect the world. If you can use business to help people, you should.
73: Semrush Chief Strategy Officer Eugene Levin- everyone is a marketer

73: Semrush Chief Strategy Officer Eugene Levin- everyone is a marketer

October 6, 2021

Whether you realize it or not, part of your job is being a marketer. Broadly, every company is becoming a content machine. Effective content marketing is a crucial part of growing a company. 

According to Semrush Chief Strategy Officer Eugene Levin, marketing is something that you can’t excel at through just studying- you have to practice. Eugene joined Scott and Andrei on the show to elaborate on how trends such as Tik Tok are creating a generation of skilled marketers and why this is a good thing.

 

Here are some quick takeaways:

  • Technology goes through cycles where it begins with a high barrier to entry before becoming accessible to the masses. Marketing is experiencing a similar trend.
  • Discovering and capitalizing on trends is a fundamental marketing skill and one that apps like Tik Tok are honing.
  • Education has historically been highly structured, with an emphasis on hard skills- the future of education will focus on developing soft skills that are necessary for building relationships with others.
  • With an ever-increasing number of channels and a finite amount of time spent online, content discoverability is a pressing challenge.
  • Competing with many competitors over popular keywords becomes a zero-sum game- you need to find a niche and then grow out of it.
72: ServiceNow Chief Customer and Partner` Officer Lara Caimi -what enterprise software can learn from the consumer playbook

72: ServiceNow Chief Customer and Partner` Officer Lara Caimi -what enterprise software can learn from the consumer playbook

September 29, 2021

ServiceNow: the best-kept secret in Silicon Valley. The company, led by the tenets of humility and hunger, has grown in orders of magnitude in the past 3 years. The longtime consultant turned Chief Customer and Partner Officer Lara Caimi joined Scott and Andrei on the show. In a world where every SaaS company claims to be customer-centric, Lara provides specific examples of how to truly embed this into the culture of a company.

 

Here are some quick takeaways:

  • You need to be aware of the distinct phases of growth in a software company- at a certain point investing in customer success becomes more important than winning new clients.
  • Be better than yesterday but realize that you are not as good as you will be tomorrow.
  • Enterprises can and should learn from consumer-facing companies to understand how to put the customer first.
  • Remote work is an important step toward the real democratization of talent.

 

71: SafeGraph CEO Auren Hoffman -  unlocking innovation by democratizing data

71: SafeGraph CEO Auren Hoffman - unlocking innovation by democratizing data

September 21, 2021

Data is nothing more than a collection of facts spliced by rows and columns. Yet, this simple concept is the single most important driver of innovation. SafeGraph provides Data-as-a-Service (DaaS) about physical places. The company is in a constant search for truth and lives to provide others with data to build innovative solutions. According to CEO Auren Hoffman, working in such a company requires humility and veracity. As he puts it, data is like high-quality butter that a baker uses to make a croissant- it often goes unnoticed, but it is essential. Auren joined hosts Scott and Andrei on the podcast to elaborate on the democratization of data and how it can be used to do good in the world.

 

Here are some quick takeaways:

  • Data needs to meet different thresholds of accuracy depending on its use (eg marketing vs modeling), ranging from directionally correct to nearly 100%. 
  • Data science as a field is growing as more and more students are pursuing this discipline.
  • As accessibility to reliable data increases, so does the capacity to address issues across areas such as healthcare, economic mobility, and more.
  • The trend of perfectly optimizing your most valuable resource (time) is misguided- it is ok to allocate time to interests outside of work.
  • Treat your past self as a separate person and as someone that you don’t mind disagreeing with.

 

70: Ramp Co-Founder and CEO Eric Glyman- disrupting incumbents by realigning incentives

70: Ramp Co-Founder and CEO Eric Glyman- disrupting incumbents by realigning incentives

September 8, 2021

The “Good Guys” of the credit card industry, Ramp’s goal is to actively help customers spend less. We often are excited by reward points and bonuses when using a credit card; however, these incentives often delude us into spending more

 

Co-Founder and CEO Eric Glyman embarked on his mission with Ramp after discovering how customers were being deceived. The avid StarCraft player joined hosts Scott and Andrei to describe the misalignment between what customers want and what their credit card gives them- and how you can avoid it. Listen in to become a smarter spender and learn about a company disrupting a space dominated by incumbents.

 

Here are some quick takeaways:

  • When services such as expense management are generally provided at a cost, offering it for free is an effective way to secure a foothold in a market
  • Banks and consumers have inherently different goals- understanding this is the first step in becoming a budget savvy person
  • In marketing efforts, directly show how your product or service addresses a customer’s needs rather than how other companies are lacking
  • Be strategic with hiring- talented individuals often run in the same circles
  • Don’t crush the butterfly- acquiring a company should be a delicate process to integrate the two entities
69: Microsoft VP of Startups Jeff Ma- bridging the chasm between innovation and enterprise

69: Microsoft VP of Startups Jeff Ma- bridging the chasm between innovation and enterprise

September 1, 2021

In the mid 1990s, a group of MIT students stunned casinos by winning extraordinary amounts of money playing Blackjack. These students, utilizing a data-driven card counting strategy, gained notoriety and became the subject of acclaimed books and films such as Bringing Down the House and 21. One of the team members, Jeff Ma, went on to become a 4x founder and an executive at Twitter before joining Microsoft as VP of Startups. Jeff joined hosts Scott and Andrei to describe his key learnings from building and exiting several successful companies. The conversation covers misconceptions around funding as an end goal, aligning perspectives between enterprises and startups, and the most exciting areas in tech.

 

Here are some quick takeaways:

 

  • Aligning perspectives to avoid friction should be the first consideration when entering a partnership
  • When partnering with an enterprise, startup founders often underestimate the sheer scale that they are dealing with- fully utilizing their resources is not a trivial task
  • The size of large enterprises can hinder rapid implementation of initiatives; however, it also makes accomplishments more rewarding
  • Starting a company with the hope of being acquired is the wrong mindset
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