At a startup, every year is transformative. There’s the year you come up with the idea. The year you get funded and quit your day job. The year you launch. Each one of these events moves your company to a new, distinct phase. For Talkdesk, 2015 wasn’t the year we launched, the year we quit our day jobs or the year we got funding, but it was transformative all the same. Looking back, the Talkdesk of January 2015 is unrecognizable compared to the Talkdesk of December 2015.
From our incredible founding at a hackathon in 2011 up to this year, we bootstrapped our company. We paid rent, payroll and servers out of our initial revenue, borrowing office space and sometimes living space, just to get by. In 2015, all that changed. Continue reading “Talkdesk Year in Review 2015”
The new year is a time where many people start thinking about their career. For executives, this is time when bonuses are paid, old plans are completed, and new plans are being developed, and for some, it is time for a new job. During 20 years in tech, I have hired many dozens of executives and was interviewed and hired (or not) many times over. As you are thinking of what’s next, here is some practical advice that will help you find the next great fit, without stepping on the same landmines so many have stepped on before.
Focus on the company, not the title
Many people come to interviews with titles in mind. They have to be the CXO, they have to be a VP. Continue reading “Five mistakes executives should not make when interviewing for a startup role”
Little over 3 months ago I joined Talkdesk, a call center SaaS company as a COO. Talkdesk is an amazing success story: it got to $1M in ARR with almost no capital investment, 5 employees in Portugal, 1 CEO in San Diego and no sales people to speak of. Between its seed round in August and the time I joined in January, it grew over 3X in revenue and 5X in people.
I had a really good view into the company before I joined: I knew Jason Lemkin (first institutional investor) and several team members. Tiago Paiva, the co founder/CEO, was very transparent and shared full financials, board decks and challenges. I was ready. Or at least this is what I thought. Continue reading “8 Things I Learned After Joining a Hyper-Growth SaaS Startup”
Stop! What are you doing on LinkedIn right now? Why do you spend time on this site? For most of us the answer has to do with our career. We want to find a new job, get promoted, or make connections who can help us with our current job (like partners, clients, and investors). We are on LinkedIn because we think, right or wrong, that it can help our career and our professional life.
For years, LinkedIn thought the same. It encouraged us to come back, update our profiles, add skills, and recommend our colleagues. It monetized our data by creating tools for recruiters and headhunters and we were fine with that: if LinkedIn makes money and helps our careers at the same time, we all win.
But LinkedIn wants more. People change jobs only every so often but they need to buy stuff all the time. The next big opportunity for LinkedIn is in the sales tools area. Current products like Sales Navigator are only the beginning. LinkedIn’s sales tools help salespeople find relevant leads. The tools provide more information about these prospective customers and help sales professionals easily get in touch with leads.
But there’s one problem: the lead is you. Continue reading “LinkedIn’s Vulnerability: Its Future Success as a Sales Platform”
Back in school, in marketing 101 class (or maybe it was 202 or 303) we learned about brand extension: a TV brand like Oprah Winfrey, launches a magazine, to extend the TV show success. Other known examples are CAT, extending its tractor brand to “worker like” fashion. Successful brand extensions are the ones that makes sense to the consumer: CAT has a “hardy” and outdoors image: if you are this type of person, or want to look like this kind of person, you will buy their shoes.
The ones that failed are the ones that didn’t make sense: Zippo for example, is a “manly” lighter. Their attempt to extend their brand to perfumes was not a huge win.
Why do I write about brand extensions? Because SnapChat just came up with a payment system, which in any marketing term, is a brand extension. If you follow the logic above, you can assume it will fail. SnapChat is known as a tool for sending indecent photos, not a reliable and trusted payment network. It is not perceived as “serious” enough to handle money and while some will try using it, I find it hard to believe it will become a significant business.
Time will tell if I am wrong or right, but the odds are against this brand extension.
Pando is bringing up an interesting point and a use case: snapcash for porn. People (mainly young people) might exchange nude pictures for cash. As disgusting as it sounds, this is a perfectly reasonable brand extension and a way to monetize the service.
I was fortunate enough to take a product globally (on a small scale) at a startup, and later scale a product in 45 markets as part of SAP. A discussion I had with a founder of a large, successful US SaaS company, made me think of some of the challenges and the dos and don’t when selling internationally. Much of the below is based on my own expereince, and targeted at startups taking their first global steps, but some of the lessons are relevant to large, more established companies as well.
Where should you start?
This is probably the hardest question. How do you pick the first country to go after? Should you go for the next biggest market? An English speaking market? Or maybe the most untapped market?
For most startups, the first market is selected by opportunity, and there is nothing wrong with that. If you are French, start with France. If you find out that 50 Brazilian companies are using your product you might want to understand why. If a great guy you worked with before just left his job in Denmark he might be the one starting up the market for you. The key to start selling globally is having a local market understanding. Knowing the language and market, or having customers in a country, will help you gain the knowledge you need, provide feedback as you experiment and allow you to learn.
Get on a plane
Before you do anything, get on a plane and spend good amount of time talking with any customers you already have, and other relevant prospects. Continue reading “Selling Your Product Globally: Lessons Learned From International Expension”
Magneto is working on a new and exciting product and I happened to draft some help articles for it. I was about to draft an FAQs section but my co-founder Ellen Beldner advised against it and claimed they are much harder to parse. When I went back to my desk and looked at some of them I realize she was right: FAQs are not effective.
Why would you waste your header on a question vs. the answer? Instead of asking: Can I connect more than one calendar? Just state: Magneto lets you connect more than one calendar. This way your reader can get the answer at a glance and can read more if she likes. (by the way, imagine newspapers will change their headlines to questions: Did Obama Win The Elections? How annoying will it be?)
People search, they don’t browse. Long gone the days of reading the manual. When people have a question, they go to the help section and hit search. When the search results return answers vs. questions, users can scan them quickly and find the best article without the need to read it. Continue reading “Three reasons why frequently asked questions (FAQs) are not effective”