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.