Pondering going in-house or looking for your next in-house counsel gig? Do you enjoy working on a wide variety of projects? Do you want to truly lean-in and be integral in a fast-growing emerging VC manager? If so, we’d love to hear from you.
Applications will close on Friday, 24 March 2023. We will let you know if you have made it through to an initial interview which will be held over Zoom. We will then hold interviews in person with our wider team in April.
You can find more details about Crane and what the role involves on the application form.
Everyone in the Crane Herd is excited to announce our newest co-conspirator, Guy Bentley. Guy is returning to an investing role after spending the last 3+ years in operating roles at startups.
Guy started his career as a deep tech investor at Future Planet Capital but an interest in fintech led him to Flatfair where he was an early employee. At Flatfair, he worked directly on go-to-market before becoming the Operations Lead where he scaled the Operations function. He then joined Onfido as a Business Operations Manager working on special projects before getting his MBA at INSEAD.
We spoke with Guy on what motivated him to return to investing. Please enjoy.
Scott: You started your career as an investor working with founders building products that originated in research institutions and Universities. What prompted you to go and spend time in operating roles at two separate startups?
Guy: I realised that to support founders effectively and truly appreciate the issues that were keeping them up at night, I had to live through the day-to-day rollercoaster myself. On some days I definitely missed being in an investment team, but I think my operating experience has helped me to be more understanding, as I know what it feels like to be on the other side of the table.
Scott: So what was your most memorable challenge from life in the trenches?
Guy: As someone with limited knowledge of technical data science jargon when I started, I remember having an impasse with our chief data scientist late into the night on Christmas Eve. We were going back and forth over defining logic for the sales architecture in our data warehouse; what was and wasn’t “theoretically possible”. I had the tough job of translating our commercial ideas, negotiating, and finally executing with the data team. This meant working through all possibilities with a fine tooth comb and having a crash course into the modern data stack. That was a pretty memorable Christmas looking back.
Scott: And what led your interest to go and get an MBA at INSEAD?
Guy: I think as an operator in a startup you often have to act on reflex. There are occasions when everything is on fire and there is no time to stand back, gain perspective and question whether you are driving deliberate action. I felt that the MBA was a good option to develop some of that theoretical, top level thinking, whilst building a network of incredible people. Having already studied and lived in Bordeaux for a year during my undergrad, INSEAD was a natural choice for me to return to France. It is an extremely international school with 95 different nationalities represented in our class, and has the largest number of alumni unicorn founders in Europe.
Scott: As lucrative as the offers must have been to go work in banking or consulting, why did you decide to move back into VC? 😉
Guy: My PowerPoint skills were never good enough to be a consultant! I prefer to be at the coal-face, rolling up my sleeves and helping, where I can, to build lasting companies. I love meeting and building relationships with people, so getting to work with passionate founders on a daily basis is hugely positive for me.
Scott: Why did you choose Crane?
Guy: Crane has a great reputation in the market and is one of the few funds that take a truly active role in supporting founders to build enterprise software businesses from pre-seed all the way to $100m+ in ARR. I was impressed by the line up of venture partners in customer success, go-to-market strategy and product marketing, who run workshops with founders immediately post investment. This really stood out for me when compared to other funds’ approaches to supporting their portfolio.
Comments Off on Introducing Ben Wright (and being pathologically obsessed)
We are very excited to welcome Ben as Crane’s latest Advisory Partner. Ben is London based and spends 100% of his time on the sales end of GTM with our portfolio companies. He’s already making a material impact.
Ben brings decades of experience in product management, marketing and sales in every conceivable GTM motion—large enterprise, mid-market, open source bottoms-up etc—coupled with having advised over 60 companies from Seed to Series A. Add to that his work training hundreds of sellers and sales leaders at the Sales Impact Academy. Bringing Ben on was a no-brainer.
We sat down with Ben to talk more about his craft. Please enjoy.
Scott: What draws you to the earliest stages of startups?
Ben: I really enjoy this stage when there are so many unknowns in so many areas of a company’s GTM motion where I can help founders focus on their key problems and put meaningful plans in place to solve them. It’s a phase where we can add so much value, where we can set the foundations for world-class execution.
Scott: What are the biggest mistakes founders make in their initial GTM?
Ben: The two that I see most commonly:
Very early stage – not narrowing down the Ideal Customer Profile, the ICP. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but you need to start placing some bets earlier than you feel ready for. You’ll inevitably sell some deals into sectors / geo’s / profiles of companies that end up not being right for you, which is a necessary part of getting closer to your real ICP. But as soon as you start seeing traction, you need to be pathological in looking for what’s common about those users or customers, and then concentrating just on them.
Another big mistake is hiring a VP of Sales, or worse, a CRO, too early. A founder needs to run the GTM motion and team themselves to understand what works and what doesn’t for their combination of product and market. VPs of Sales are great at executing, but they’re rarely good at figuring out where the market is, or how to approach it. Only hire a VP Sales once you’ve narrowed down your ICP and worked out the whole sales process from lead gen to deal close.
Scott: What piece of advice do you share with founders who are still iterating towards PMF and only have a handful of customers?
Ben: Stay as close as you possibly can to customers and prospects. You should be talking to both every day. When I meet with founders who aren’t doing this, I often set a target number of customers for them to speak to. Doing so transforms their understanding of what their customers need and the value they get from the product. Founders need to understand everything about the pain they have, how this impacts them, their department and their business, how your solution takes this pain away, and what value is created by doing so. You need to understand this for both Users and for Buyers. I too often see the Buyers, the people who actually need to sign-off on the purchase of your product, getting left out of this conversation.
For some help with that, I highly recommend reading The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick and implementing his method of questioning.
Scott: How do founders know that they’ve figured out their GTM motion and that it’s time to scale?
Ben: When you’ve narrowed down your ICP, have a reasonably consistent flow of qualified leads and understand how to close deals, that’s the time to start hiring. A couple of examples of hires to make at that point below.
Top-of-funnel is always the hardest to get right, so the first hire I’d make is a generalist marketing manager, with strong content and digital marketing experience, who can build and run your inbound machine. A mistake I regularly see is companies hiring too late for this role.
From a sales perspective, if you’re blessed with inbound that is either in or pretty close to ICP, hire an SDR to have them qualify leads and book meetings for the founder who’s running GTM.
Scott: That sounds like a lot of work for the founder to do before they start hiring.
Ben: Well, no one said building a tech company was easy! But, yes, it is a lot of work, and I have huge respect for founders who manage to cross this chaotic phase of growth to start building a more predictable revenue machine. No founder ever really has time to do this, but the reality is that those who go on to build great companies find a way to make this work.
Why? Because if you don’t lay the foundations of a predictable GTM motion yourself, you won’t know what good looks like, what types of SDRs or AEs to hire, and what to look for in a good Sales Leader or what makes someone a good Sales Leader. You’ll also have no idea of how to measure and quantify success, because you have no idea of what is possible. Is 30 qualified opportunities and/or $200k a quarter in new business a great result or should you be aiming for 120 qualified opportunities and/or $600k per quarter? How would you even know?
Scott: What do the best early-stage AEs do that others don’t?
Ben: Building enough top-of-funnel, coupled with founder-like pathological obsession to continuously improve the sales process. They’ll be constantly trying out new ways of attracting and talking to prospects about the pain they have and the impact of that pain. Top performing AEs in any company, but particularly early-stage, are great at Discovery. They’re deeply curious and genuinely interested in understanding as much as they can about their prospects’ worlds, and really unpacking the challenges they have and the value that can be created by solving them.
I’d recommend caution hiring AEs who only have big, well-known brands on their CVs, because they’ll never have experienced – and will likely struggle with – the chaos of early-stage. I’d also be careful hiring AEs who have had startup experience, but not for 5 years or more because the world of early-stage sales has changed a lot in that time.
These first AEs are tough to hire, it’s more like you’re looking for people you want to partner with to help you through this difficult stage of growth. Not only are these AEs going to bring crucial new customers to the business, they’re also going to help you build out your sales playbook to make your sales machine more scalable. Think about the characteristics you’re looking for and optimise your hiring process to test for those rather than simply their experience. Things I look for are coachability, adaptability, resilience, mental agility, curiosity and a great work ethic.
Scott: What are the most important lessons you have learned from your career so far?
Ben: Well, that’s a pretty big question! My first answer will probably be a surprise, but I think kindness, in life in general, but particularly in business, is an under-appreciated value. Kindness doesn’t mean giving people an easy ride, it doesn’t mean not dealing with difficult decisions, and it certainly doesn’t mean not holding people to account for their actions or targets. But in every situation you find yourself in, there is always a kind and a not-kind way of dealing with it.
If you have a sales rep who’s missing their target, is your first question ‘What the hell is going on?’ or is it ‘How can I help you?’. If you’ve just sat through or watched a recording of a terrible Discovery call, do you start your feedback by explaining all the things you think went wrong, or do you ask ‘How do you think that went?’ and really listen to what they have to say before giving your feedback on specific areas, with meaningful suggestions for how they can improve.
When it comes to early-stage, one of the best pieces of advice I was ever given (by an Ariba cofounder) – better to have a ‘B’ strategy ferociously executed than the endless planning that goes into the search for an ‘A’ strategy.
What he meant was that it’s far better to come up with a decent plan quickly, start executing, measure the results, improve the parts that are performing the worst and iterate your way to success. GTM is no different.
Comments Off on SenseOn’s Journey from Founder Led Sales to Product Market Fit
In this interview, we sat down with Dave Atkinson, the co-founder of SenseOn to discuss their initial go-to-market (GTM) strategy. This Q&A is relevant for any founders building products for the enterprise and looking to transition away from founder-led sales.
Sneak peek – 5 takeaways:
Hire the right people, and revenue will follow. Hiring is the most important thing you’ll do as a founder.
Be courageous in recognising when there’s something broken in your team or processes. Take a step back and figure out how to self-correct. It’ll be challenging in the short term but will yield huge value in the long term.
Prioritise getting your first customer(s) through the door. Most importantly, ask them the hard questions about their experience. You’ll need their feedback to iterate your product.
Leverage your network. In the early days, it’ll be your gateway to bringing on the right people and reaching your first customers.
Keep iterating your hiring strategy. Your first hires will be radically different to those joining at later stages.
Who are you and what is SenseOn?
I’m Dave, co-founder and CEO of SenseOn. We’re on a bold mission – to equip businesses with a revolutionary cybersecurity platform to address the cyber risks of the future. We’re driven by a host of strategic factors:
Cyber criminals are rapidly advancing their attack techniques, exacerbated by ransomware and blockchain
Enterprise security structures are becoming increasingly complex
The volume of data that companies collect is increasing exponentially
There’s a severe talent shortage in the cybersecurity industry
We believe that the threat from cyber criminals will only become more frequent and more sophisticated, and it’s important that we get ahead of this as a society.
James and I wanted to design a solution from scratch, thinking that “if we don’t do something courageous now, we won’t stand a chance in the future.” We began to sketch out what we saw as the cybersecurity architecture of the future on my dining table in my London flat. With James’ background in national big-data infrastructure and my background as one of the first cyber operatives in the UK’s specialist military groups (my specialty being breaking into networks), we believed we could combine our skills to really address the issue.
What does this mean for our customers? We’re creating a world where they don’t need to buy a plethora of tools that require maintenance to reduce their risk but most importantly the safety of your organisation does not depend on humans doing repetitive, mundane work such as wading through a volume of inaccurate alerts. We hyper automate this process. That’s what drives us everyday. Cyber is exciting as there’s always a moving target.
Where are you on your GTM journey? (company size, traction, who’s selling, how you got there so far, etc.?)
Our focus over the last six months has been to transition away from founder-led sales and we believe we’ve accomplished that now. We’ve grown to 70 people, with a sales team of 10 people, managed by a VP Sales and a Regional Director.
We learned the hard way how to hire the right sales talent at the right time and nurture them with growth opportunities in order to retain them. We’re now extending this strategy to our marketing and channel teams. On the marketing side, we’re looking for a super smart marketing leader to communicate how SenseOn disrupts the legacy cybersecurity technology design. SenseOn is a technical product, so it’s crucial that the sales team has the required support to maximise chances of success. (If this sounds like you’d be a good fit, please reach out to Anna Doyle for more info!)
I sense there were key hiring learnings along the way. Can you please expand?
Our very first hire was a sales leader, who we onboarded way before we found product market fit (PMF). We then hired an AE who’s luckily still with the company as the GTM operations lead. Another 5 new AEs followed not long after.
To be completely transparent, we got GTM very wrong at the start. We thought that bringing more AEs on board would help us collect more valuable data and help us iterate and understand how to actually sell the product. The thing is, when onboarding the initial sales team, we realised we hadn’t figured out our “secret sauce” on how to sell the product, and hadn’t settled on a robust sales strategy. Coming from a large cybersecurity company, we were trying to sell based on marketing led vs. product led strategies. Our sales team at the time was not getting any signals of reaching PMF. We ultimately switched to a product led strategy. It actually took us way longer than expected to find PMF – in hindsight, it always takes longer than you think.
Finding PMF is the holy grail, indeed! What was the initial signal indicating early PMF?
Reproducibility, 100%. I knew we were getting there when the AEs and I could consistently close sizable deals per quarter. It didn’t feel like luck anymore, it was reproducible throughout our funnel, from our cold outreach to actually closing the deal. At this stage (and only then!), you can bring more people on board. I’ve learnt that the hard way.
It’s difficult to face such a hard reality of having an established sales team but no PMF. How did you self correct?
We had to completely hit the reset button – I vividly remember a session where Crane advised us on how to go back to basics. I became obsessed with refining our sales pitch, reframing our ICP and strengthening our qualification methodology using MEDDICC (see my book recommendation at the end). My primary focus became building an excellent sales team, which meant we unfortunately had to part ways with a few people along the way. In 2020, the sales team was back to being only me and 2 sales people – this is when we began achieving reproducibility.
At that time, I was strongly inspired by the Harvard Business School article “The Sales Learning Curve”. It talks about three stages – initiation, transition and execution. There’s a simple formula – you know you’ve made it past the initiation stage when your revenue is larger than the fully loaded cost of your sales team (including the CEO’s salary). You can then move on to the transition phase.
Now that we’ve talked about WHEN to hire, did you learn anything about WHO to hire? What profile do the right people have initially and how does it evolve as the company grows?
Go beyond CVs and skills, and look for traits and behaviours in candidates, especially in the early days. In my opinion, the early sales hires should show intelligence, coachability, unique character, curiosity and hunger. They should also be entrepreneurial and empathetic to customer challenges, as they will relentlessly work on refining the pain points and use cases. You might be surprised that I’ve not really insisted on experience here!
Also, keep a flexible approach – you’ll have to constantly iterate your ideal candidate profile as your company grows and goes through the 3 stages mentioned earlier (initiation, transition and execution). When you achieve PMF and revenue that’s 3-5x the cost of your sales team, you can start hiring more experienced sales reps, who are typically driven by targets and comp. In our case, we recently hired people with deep enterprise sales experience. It’s a recipe for success at our stage given we’re driving a repeatable sales process. But those experienced enterprise sales reps wouldn’t have thrived in the early days when we were scrapping for deals!
Overall throughout the stages of your company, I would say that 2 abilities are key. First, coachability – people need to have a growth mindset to adapt to the ever changing sales process. Then grit – losing a deal is like being punched in the face. You have to be able to get up from the mat. In interviews, you should always ask people about the most difficult thing they’ve worked through, as it’s difficult to find people who are not only used to dealing with setbacks, but can see them as an opportunity to grow!
Now that you’ve successfully transitioned away from founder-led sales, it may seem like an old memory. But can you remember the very first thing you did as a founder to take the product to market?
James and I closed our first deal off the back of a penetration test completed for a finance firm. In the report we produced, we teased details of how SenseOn would mitigate against the risks that were uncovered.
At this point our product was only in the testing phase, and we still managed to close a three-year deal off the back of our recommendations. It took a few sleepless nights and *boom* we launched the first version of our product. It felt exhilarating.
This first customer was pivotal for SenseOn – they produced real data with which James and I iterated the product (we had only a couple of engineers). It also helped me understand that you need to leverage your network. This penetration test opportunity came through an ex military colleague and in the early days, our network was the source of 100% of our deals.
In hindsight, what are your key takeaways from scaling a company?
The three Rs:
Recruitment: Focus on attracting A players into the company.
Retention: inspire and develop your talent.
Revenue: it will follow naturally.
I strongly believe that it’s crucial to recruit and retain the right people before chasing revenue. If you hire the right people, train them and retain them, you’ll find commercial success. Hiring is difficult and a real skill. Hiring is where we as founders make the most mistakes, and yet it’s where most value lies. You can set yourself back years by not recruiting excellent people from the start. For this reason, you should look at becoming as proficient at hiring as coding (if you’re technical) or selling (if you’re commercial). I’m guided by a saying from the military: “slow is smooth and smooth is fast”. Hire slow and get it right. In the long run, you’ll move faster.
What book would you recommend to founders who are starting their GTM journey?
The MEDDICC methodology was my guiding star as I shaped the new qualification process in the journey to building a repeatable sales process. So I would say “The Qualified Sales Leader: Proven Lessons from a Five Time CRO” by John McMahon. And definitely the HBS “Sales Learning Curve” article that I mentioned earlier if you are in the early stage of founder-led sales.
To finish off, any last piece of advice?
A message I want founders to take away is to never give up. I learnt from experience that it’s always possible to turn things around. Success comes from failure and you’re never going to get it right the first time. When we felt we were in the worst situation possible, we emerged with a bigger sense of purpose and mission thanks to our belief and perseverance. I set up this company as I am truly passionate about solving this problem, and that passion got us through the tough times.
Today, we’re lucky enough to have a fantastic team with great growth and strong gross profit margins for a Series A company. Never give up!
Comments Off on Celebrating the Developer Creators, Data Innovators, Deeptech Dreamers and Introducing Crane Fund II
“The Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” – Lao Tzu
And our journey still has some way to go, with many bumps, twists, turns, lows and highs to come.
The privilege of interacting with visionary entrepreneurs – be it those we’ve had the good fortune to back or those we haven’t – is like having an internal wellspring to draw on. Constantly reviving, never endingly energising, humbling.
More than 75% of the companies we backed at the seed stage from that first fund have progressed to Series A businesses. They have raised material rounds at great valuations, but what we take most pride in is the majority having shown commercial success, to the tune of more than $2 million in ARR, and efficiently deployed capital to lay the foundations for their own future success.
We are particularly indebted to every founder we’ve met in the last 5 years for helping us to constantly learn from our mistakes:
Recognising, sometimes painfully, when to trust our instincts and back visionary product founders long before they have a product in market
Learning the interdependence of product and market on the path to PMF, where often finding the right GTM motion can be the key unlock
Surfacing the under-appreciated creative talent of developers
Remembering that open source is not about free, but about freedom, and every critical bit of software will eventually be open source
These learnings have been instrumental in both reaffirming our beliefs and informing the evolution of our strategy for Crane II:
To double down on the core elements of our strategy from the outset:
Backing builders who’ve lived the problem they’re seeking to solve
Products that are data first, machine learned, open source, that put meaningful new capabilities in the hands of builders and operators
GTM as our best means to support founders in their journey to PMF, which is why we have built a team including the incomparable Rav Dhaliwal (our Chief Customer Officer in Residence); Morgane Zerath (our very own Software Sales Guru); Aneel Lakhani (Product Marketer and Data Product geek); Megan Reynolds (passionate Dev advocate & AE talent spotter); our CMO in Residence, the inimitable Richard Snee and last but by no means least Ayala Ples, bringing yet more customer centricity to our team;
To expand and invest in every flavour of Seed – from Pre-Seed to Pre-A
Seek out and back the emerging wave of Developer-Creators
Celebrate OSS builders and empower them to shape the future of software
And it is thus only fitting that as we announce our second fund, we welcome to the Crane herd the companies (which we are able to disclose presently) that we’ve already backed over the past year – Lune, Cerbos, Encord, Qovery, Encore, ZenML, Mycelial, Novu, Timeseer and Nuclia. We expect to announce the other 10 investments we’ve made in the coming months.
If you like what we do or what our portfolio companies do, please reach out – we are hiring and so are they!
Our own journey began with deep belief in the emergence of European entrepreneurs as category leaders and a deep desire to seek out and back them from the very beginning of their journeys. And so we are thankful to all our LPs and to every entrepreneur we encounter for allowing us to continue on this path.
Comments Off on Crane Venture Partners Raises $140 Million for its Second Fund to Empower the Builders of the World’s Digital Infrastructure
Crane’s first fund resulted in >75 percent graduation rate from seed to Series A; the firm almost doubles investment for second fund with consistent focus on early-stage software and deep tech across Europe, Israel and United States
LONDON, May 24, 2022 – Crane Venture Partners, the London based firm leading the industry in graduation rates from seed to Series A, today announced it has raised $140 million in its second fund to back early-stage founders building the platforms and tools that will become tomorrow’s software infrastructure. The fund focuses on the open source, artificial intelligence, data and developer tools being used to build the world’s digital foundations. Across both funds, Crane now has more than 50 portfolio companies, making the venture capital firm one of the deepest specialists in Europe.
“The future is being built today by passionate and diverse entrepreneurs from every corner of the world, and our funds focus on exactly those humans,” said Krishna Visvanathan, co-founder and general partner at Crane Venture Partners. “We are in service of our founders and understand that entrepreneurship is a path to professional and personal realization. When we focus there, the returns naturally follow.”
Most of Crane’s investments are dedicated to founders who have first-hand experience with the problem they’re trying to solve and for which there is an underserved market with massive potential. The firm brings to bear deep expertise in Go-to-Market (GTM) strategies and creates the kind of leverage for seed-stage companies that accelerates their trajectory. It is the success of this approach and its focus on people that are attracting both LPs and founders to Crane. The results are clearly visible in the industry-leading high graduation rates to Series A.
“Crane recognized what Forecast could be before nearly any other investor and they didn’t hesitate to dig in with us to get building. Every VC pitches what they can do for you, but very few actually do anything when you need it. Krishna and Scott have put in the time to help us navigate PMF and raise an awesome Series A,” said Dennis Kayser, CEO and Cofounder, Forecast.
“Shipamax uses NLP and other machine learning methods to automate complex workflows across the supply chain. When we were raising our Seed round, Crane was the only firm that understood what it really meant to be in the trenches of running an early stage B2B startup,” said Jenna Brown, CEO and Cofounder, Shipamax. “Since then, I’ve been able to rely on their B2B knowledge and personal support every step of the way, even through the tough patches.”
The early-stage investment environment in Europe has changed dramatically over the last five years. When Crane raised its first fund, European and US investors had yet to recognise the caliber and depth of early stage technical founders to be found across the continent. But with highly visible and successful exits for European technology companies, such as Amsterdam based Adyen in 2018 and Bucharest based UiPath in 2021, LPs and other venture capital ecosystem participants have started to invest heavily in the region. Crane, founded in 2015, saw the potential early due to its partners’ combined 30 plus years of experience investing in the UK and Europe from their home base of London. Crane today has amongst the deepest investment and operating expertise in the areas of open source, data, ML-first and deep tech across Europe.
“With a three-part equal focus on financial returns, empowering founders in their personal and professional lives and supporting the digital world of tomorrow, Crane is well-positioned to build upon the success it has realized over the past several years,” said Tim Corbett, Chief Investment Officer, MassMutual. “We look forward to continuing to support its portfolio through leveraging our operating and venture businesses, deep relationships, and presence around the globe.”
Crane has tightened its investment focus while expanding its geographic reach with its second fund. The first fund included 60 percent of investments in the UK, 20 percent in Germany and 10 percent in Swiss companies. Its second fund is expected to put 50 percent of investments in the UK, with the rest being spread across Europe, Israel and the U.S. Nearly 20 companies are already included in Crane’s second fund, including Encord, Encore, Novu, Nuclia, Qovery, Restack, SeeChange and Veratrak. Anchor LPs include Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), British Patient Capital, a Sovereign Wealth Fund and Fund of Funds.
At Crane, we’re huge believers and investors in Developers as the new wave of Creators — empowering the developer-creator has the potential to shape the next few decades.
Hence it was only ever going to be love at first pitch when Andre Erikson and Marcus Kohlberg laid out their vision for Encore — a Backend Development Engine (inspired by game development engines that came before), which frees engineers and unleashes their creativity.
Encore seamlessly bridges the gap between business logic and infrastructure — simplifying all aspects of building distributed systems and writing backend APIs whilst doing away with copy-pasting, automatically instrumenting your application and provisioning/configuring your cloud infrastructure and much more.
This represents a completely new approach to building cloud-native production ready backend applications and a radically improved developer experience — goodbye manual boilerplate hell; hello “write your best product/application code” — faster, better and more creatively.
What makes it possible to deliver this revolutionary experience, is the Encore Application Model which makes heavy use of static analysis to build a detailed understanding of how a developer wants the backend to work, “graphs” it, then helps do it — automatically.
Welcome to Encore. A synthesis between clarity and flow.
And our profound thanks to Andre and Marcus for inviting us to be part of the journey.
Comments Off on Q&A on Tinybird’s Initial Enterprise GTM Strategy
In this interview, we sat down with Jorge Gomez Sancha, the co-founder and CEO of Tinybird, to discuss their initial GTM strategy. This Q&A is relevant for any founders building products targeting developers.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your company.
I’m Jorge, one of the founders at Tinybird. We started Tinybird to help developers build realtime data products at any scale. Traditionally, analytical data has been used to understand past events – how did the marketing campaign go? How did Black Friday sales go? How many unique users clicked on a particular button on the website? And so on.
What we noticed was that more and more businesses needed to react to what’s happening right now and to automate insights from analytical data in realtime. Businesses throw huge amounts of infrastructure and budget at this problem, so we built Tinybird to make these use cases trivial to solve, hopefully without having to employ an army of Data Engineers.
And where is Tinybird now in its go-to-market journey?
Before the end of 2021, we didn’t have any sales or marketing people, so go-to-market at Tinybird was 100% founder-driven up to the first $1m in ARR. It was chaotic and beautiful at the same time. We had tons of valuable learnings from our failures during this period such as taking too long to hire a single person in marketing or sales.
We’re now at the stage where we have over 40 employees, 75% of which are in Product and Customer Success but we still have a lot to fine tune from a marketing and messaging point of view and are putting in place the tools and systems for scaling this. Since our recent Series A round we’ve also hired a Chief Revenue Officer who will be leading the go-to-market charge from the US.
How did you get your first paying customer?
There’s no better validation for your product than having people willing to pay for it, so from the beginning we were very clear that we wanted to put our product in front of prospective customers. Even though we only had a very rough version of our product, we decided to organize a user testing session. We invited people to come to our offices (pre-pandemic of course!) to use our product in a hands-on session to solve a particular data problem. Luckily a bunch of people signed up.
We got to see our product in the wild and got great feedback that we shared publicly. An organization saw what we published – they skipped the user testing altogether and asked for a demo instead. We put everything into making an impressive demo, which led to an initial paid proof of concept (POC), followed by a second longer and more involved POC and, then finally, to a contract. Today they are our largest customer.
You’ve mentioned POCs. They can be hard and time consuming. Any learnings to share?
In hindsight, the key thing was to really understand why they were willing to give a small company like us a chance – it was because Tinybird worked in realtime which provided them with much greater speed-to-market. As they had tried to build something in house for years, they asked us to run the POC with 10 times more data than they had tried – we didn’t blink, and just poured whatever was necessary into getting it done.
Another learning for us was that they had to be properly impressed – not just with the technology, but with us as a company. We made sure that the successful POC was accompanied by a great demo and presentation which largely sealed the deal (well, there was the procurement hurdle of course…but that’s another story!).
Selling your product is hard work, but the POC helped us be crystal clear on what’s important for customers and what isn’t, which was immensely valuable for us.
On that note, at what point during the POC did you understand you were delivering value to your prospective customer?
We knew they were seeing value during the POC when they started onboarding many more internal users, as well as asking us to help them with more and more use cases outside the scope of the POC.
Building a GTM strategy can be overwhelming, especially for founders who have never sold before. What were some of the things you found were important when taking Tinybird to market?
One of the most important things for us was to reach out to relevant people in our network that we knew were dealing with data issues. When nobody knows you, it’s difficult for people to take a bet on doing something in a new way and with a company they’ve maybe never heard of. This is especially true when it comes to data: businesses don’t just throw data over the fence, they need to trust you first.
“Social confirmation” is an important component of B2B sales and you need to establish trust – the way to break through and build that trust is to go through people you already know, and we found that when we asked people for a favor they almost always wanted to help.
Ultimately, you want to put your product into the hands of as many relevant people as possible. And when you do, you also have to make sure that you ask them the right questions, as no one will ever want to hurt your feelings by telling you your product sucks!
So don’t be afraid of asking probing questions, because even if you don’t like the answers, they’ll help you build and sell a better product.
Building “top of funnel” can be a real challenge in the early days. How did you go about it at Tinybird?
We started by creating lots of technical courses around Realtime Analytics (not just about Tinybird, but realtime analytics in general so they would apply to other technologies too). These courses proved to be really valuable and attracted quite a lot of developers and data engineers with many of them signing up to our newsletter after attending. We only had one qualifying question in the form: “Why are you interested in this course?”, which led to quite a few leads from people that were in the process of revamping their data stack or building data products.
With the benefit of hindsight, is there anything about your go-to-market journey you would have done differently?
Looking back I would have definitely started a Marketing function from day one to focus specifically on product marketing and positioning. In our first 18 months, we focused on understanding who cared about our product and why, what use cases were powerful and what we were misunderstanding about our product and potential customers.
I wish we’d had a Marketing specialist by our side at that time to take advantage of this knowledge, learn with us, iterate on it rapidly and try different messages and channels. Without marketing support it was really hard for us to put messaging and content out there at speed!
More generally, if you wait to hire for a specific role until you really need it, it means you’re already late. We felt it deeply with our sales and marketing hires since it took much longer than expected to find people we were excited about.
What’s been your biggest challenge to date?
Dealing with investors! Ha, I’m kidding of course, Crane has been phenomenal. The team has always made themselves available to help, from advice and tactics on sales, customer success, and especially on how best to approach raising our recent Series A round.
Less go-to-market related, and more personally as a startup founder, a big challenge is the ability to detach yourself personally from your startup. It’s fun but also very tough to run a start-up, and you put so much effort into making it a success that when something goes wrong, you can’t help but feel that your whole life is at stake, and if the company fails at something, that you’ve failed too. The opposite is true too – every time the company is successful at something, you feel on top of the world!
The rollercoaster of emotions never really ends. Being conscious of that and managing it is hard but really important. For me, finding balance with family, sport, friends has been the key – you just have to find whatever works for you!
What’s the top go-to-market book that you’d recommend to other founders?
If you’ve never done sales or built a go-to-market function, then “Founding Sales” is a really useful read. “The Mom Test” is also another good one to learn what types of questions to ask to validate your ideas.
And finally, any last pieces of advice to our founders embarking on their GTM adventure?
Listen to everyone, but cut out the “noise” as much as you can and make up your own mind.
Comments Off on Realtime Data Company Tinybird raises $37m Series A
Congrats to Tinybird on their Series A led by CRV and Singular. They want to enable any developer to build massively scalable realtime data products with the tools they already use everyday – SQL and APIs – and in the way they already build software. This investment will allow them to double down on that mission, delivering even more exciting features for developers and data teams, as well as improving how they support our existing customers.
Comments Off on Q&A on Tessian’s Initial Enterprise GTM
In this interview, we sat down with Tim Sadler, the co-founder of Tessian to discuss their initial GTM strategy. This Q&A is relevant for any founders building products for the enterprise.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your company.
I’m Tim, co-founder and CEO of Tessian. My co-founder and Tessian’s Chief Technology Officer Ed Bishop and I founded the company in 2013, with a goal of building the “Human Layer Security Platform” for the enterprise so that we could empower people to do their best work without security getting in the way. And we started by focusing on securing email. Why? Because it’s the lifeblood of the enterprise, and also its most vulnerable channel.
Before Tessian, there were lots of ways to secure infrastructure but no layer to secure people’s digital interactions on channels like email, so we built a machine intelligent platform to prevent threats like misdirected emails, data exfiltration and advanced phishing.
And where is Tessian now in its go-to-market journey?
We’re a growth stage company and completed our Series C in May 2021, bringing us to raise a total of $120m in funding. Regarding our go-to-market journey, we have just over 75 people in the sales function, with more than half of them carrying a quota.
Building a GTM strategy can be overwhelming, especially for founders who have never sold before. What were some of the things you found were important when taking Tessian to market?
One of the most important skills I think for founders to master, and one of the very first things I did, even before we had a website, is getting used to writing cold emails to complete strangers.
This is an important skill to master, especially if you’re selling to enterprise customers as it really forces you to succinctly communicate what you’re selling, and more importantly, it helps you to learn what resonates with them enough to meet with you.
So even though it can feel like a tedious task, I’d really encourage founders to A/B test different cold email templates, remembering that everything that’s boring is usually a barrier to entry – other founders might not be open to doing it.
For founders that are not from a sales background like me, attending as many pitches as possible is also incredibly important. It’s the best way to learn what’s important to be successful. One of our angel investors joined me on a lot of early sales pitches and gave me really valuable feedback and coaching and we always got the technical co-founders to attend too.
This was so instrumental to our success; I’d recommend every founder complete at least 10 successful closed/won deals – I was the one closing those early deals and I feel it went a long way in our journey.
With the benefit of hindsight, is there anything about your go-to-market journey you would have done differently?
I definitely would’ve built the sales function to scale from day one. Our first few sales hires were amazing and in the early days this worked perfectly, but as the business grew we started to hit roadblocks. So I’d recommend founders to think very early on about what a repeatable sales motion is, who deals with it, what the KPIs should be and how to drive continuous improvement.
And make sure you invest dollars as well as people into that structure so it scales. A big part of that is making sure the right sales leadership is in place at every stage of your go-to-market journey at the right time.
What’s been your biggest go-to-market challenge to date?
Not being able to replicate a lot of the institutional knowledge from our brilliant early hires was definitely a big challenge. In the early days you’re generally hiring young, hungry but less experienced people and there’s an appealing family culture which gets harder and harder to maintain as you grow because you have to layer in processes and structure. At that point, a lot of the early hires move on so what I’d do differently is to manage their expectations better and paint a picture of what the company may look like in a year’s time.
How has Crane helped you and the team on your go-to-market journey?
Funnily enough I met Scott (GP, and co-founder of Crane) when I was still in college and he was on the jury for the VC challenge that my team won, so I actually got to know him way before Crane even existed as a fund.
The Crane team has taught me so much about lead generation and building a sales funnel. What really sticks out to me most was working with me on “reverse planning” or how to work backwards from your revenue plan. How much ARR do I need in a year? How many leads do we need to achieve the ARR and how many sales reps do I need to convert those leads?
The Crane team were the first ones to show me how to do this and the importance of it.
What’s the top go-to-market book that you’d recommend to other founders?
For series A founders and beyond that are thinking about scaling and building urgency, Amp It Up is an amazingly useful read. For more of a tactical read I’d recommend Predictable revenue which was the book we had all our early sales hires read before joining.
And finally, any last pieces of advice to our founders embarking on their GTM adventure?
I would suggest to founders to think very deliberately about what kind of company they want to lead and then what product they want to sell so as to be more intentional about what go-to-market model would work best.
Should I go bottom-up or would top-down work better? Some models are harder than others, but they each have different challenges. For example, with a bottom-up motion you wake up every morning with 50 new customers!
So, if I was starting a new company today, I’d definitely put more focus on building the product and company with go-to-market in mind.
Comments Off on Data Detection and Response Leader, Cyberhaven, Raises $33m Series B
Cyberhaven, inventor of the industry’s first Data Detection and Response (DDR) platform, announced today it has raised $33M in an oversubscribed Series B funding round. The investment was led by Redpoint Ventures with participation from new investors Forgepoint Capital and Wing as well as existing investors Vertex Ventures US, Costanoa, and Crane, and brings the company’s total funds raised to $52M.