Why ex-Airbnb, Coinbase, Uber will build the next $1B+ workplace product

In a recent interview with TechCrunch, I shared why I’m betting on the consumerization of enterprise and why outsiders (consumer product builders) are likely to build the next great product at work.

“The next generation of applications for the workplace sees people spinning out of Uber,  Coinbase  and Airbnb,” 

“They’ve faced challenges inside their highly efficient tech company so we are seeing more consumer product builders deeply passionate about the enterprise space.” Read more here.

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Prior to joining Zendesk, I was on the buy side running nearly a dozen RFPs per year and putting tens of thousands of SaaS dollars on a corporate credit card each month.

I spent 4 years at Expedia scaling from a performance marketing role into the Head of Social Media, which owned acquisition, engagement, customer support (on-shore and off-shore with a tiered escalation strategy) and community (a growing team of in-market brand managers + translation experts).

Expedia, like many high-growth tech companies, have a “do everything in house culture.” We hired SEO, SEM, FB and Customer Support specialists and gave them freedom to choose their own tools. We rarely used agencies and we taught individual contributors how to purchase tools without engaging procurement (within reason and with a goal of freeing up procurement to focus on higher profile projects).

After 4 years of deeply analyzing tools and in some cases engaging internal engineers to build our own, I made the leap to full-time B2B by joining Zendesk to scale the product portfolio from one to seven products include live chat, analytics and tools beyond the core help desk ticketing software.

If you’re thinking about building something for the workplace, here’s what you should know

⚠️ Caution: Tough feedback ahead ⚠️

  1. In the early days of the company, things will come easy.

It feels a lot like building a consumer product, but maybe better (early users pay $) Keep in mind: these users are the easiest to acquire Selling to other startups is a great strategy, but that well easily dries up

Startups churn at a higher rate & have a lower expansion rate. I wrote about the challenges of a purely self-serve business here

2. Purely self-serve businesses are easily commoditized.

Think you’re the only “product person” working on this problem?

You’ll quickly uncover others, especially as you are out fundraising.

To quote @davidu: “Good ideas comes in bunches.”

Some recent example: Tandem/Around & Linear/Height

3. Sales is an achilles heel, figure it out sooner rather than later.

Behind closed doors, every self-serve SaaS companies talks about revenue they missed by not figuring out sales sooner.

Find an advisor who has done it before and build the muscle before you need it.

Keep in mind: Dropbox created whitespace for Box. Microsoft Teams fast followed Slack with an enterprise-grade product.

4. Hiring will get harder and your company culture will change.

Self-serve is a life phase and you’ve chosen to build in a space with an evolving business model I call it “horses for courses”

The people you hire today are likely not the same people you’ll have around in later funding rounds

On the product side, product people love joining self-serve SaaS businesses. But once the core tech is built, those same people don’t want to be handed feature requests from large customers.

Read: Enterprise Products Vs. Consumer Products

On the sales side, there will always be challenges If a sale team doesn’t hit their quota, guess what? They’ll leave for a company where they will In the early days, I suggest a Head of Sales and Customer Success someone who can partner directly with founders.

But eventually, you’ll need to layer in a more traditional sales org If you’re a product person, this will feel uncomfortable Company culture will change and guess what? You’re now running a real B2B company.

As you think about the transition from consumer to workplace tech, talk to folks who have made the switch Be mindful of the changes that come with a constantly evolving business model.

5. The day-to-day doesn’t scale well, that’s the point.

Somedays it will feel like a consumer business, other days you’re flying across the country for one meeting.

But trust me, you’re not flying to SXSW… You’re going to Newark, San Jose, Omaha and Orlando for conferences

You will have to fly to meet customers, save customers and speak at industry events. Welcome to the wonderful world of B2B!

For more thoughts on early stage company building, especially SaaS business models, please subscribe to my newsletter.

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Introducing SaaS School

Learn from the fastest growing software companies through a series of expert talks and office hours.

Join leading experts from Airtable, Dropbox, Drift, Slack, Twilio and more for a full-day of sessions on SaaS Growth, Monetization, Sales and Customer Success.

Save the date: Thursday, February 21st in San Francisco

This event is for companies with traction and signals which indicate product market fit. It’s best suited for companies with at least $1M ARR.

Space is limited, but please note we will review each submission and follow up with next steps.

Apply now 

Speakers include:

 

 

Guillaume Cabane, VP of Growth at Drift

G is a growth scientist, focused on marketing automation and personalization at scale. He’s an advisor to Madkudu, Hull.io & more. Follow G: @guillaumecabane 

 

 

 

 

 

 Fareed Mosavat, Self-serve Product at Slack 

Fareed has led product and engineering teams at Zynga, RunKeeper, Instacart and Slack. He’s an active advisor on Product & GTM. Follow Fareed: @far33d

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clair Byrd, Enterprise GTM at Twilio 

Clair leads enterprise GTM, sales enablement and competitive intel at Twilio. Clair was previously Head of Marketing at InVision. Follow Clair: @theClairByrd 

 

 

 

 

 

Elena Verna, Product & Growth at Malwarebytes 

Elena leads marketing, design, growth, and product teams at Malwarebytes. Elena was previously SVP of Growth at SurveyMonkey. Follow Elena: @ElenaVerna 

Previous experts include executives from Atlassian, Dropbox, Zendesk & more. Want to get involved? Apply here

Topics we’ll cover:

    • Self-serve revenue
    • Pricing & packaging
    • Sales: inbound and outbound
    • Customer Success: churn, retention & customer programs

FAQs:

What are the requirements to attend? To qualify, startups should have signals which indicate product market fit. It’s best suited for companies with at least $1M ARR. Space is limited, but please note we will review each submission and follow up with next steps. Qualifying startups will be required to complete a 15 minute video interview prior to the event.

  • Will I be able to connect directly with the experts? Yes, startups will be connected directly with experts on the day of the event. Please note: this event is purely a learning opportunity. Any formal advising or investment opportunities will need to be arranged directly with the expert.
  • What if I’m not able to attend the event? Please fill out the application and let us know that you will not be able to attend this event in person. We will share notes following the event and try our best to connect you with relevant experts.

A completely customizable car with 580 parts

While Silicon Valley is obsessed with electric scooters and Model 3 deliveries, France is quietly building a completely new vehicle class. XYT is a modular, customizable electric car with only 580 parts.

Early XYT model

Electric vehicles today mimic traditional gas-powered vehicles: design, production and delivery processes are inefficient and outdated.

Tesla Inc. vehicles are loaded onto a truck for transport at the company’s manufacturing facility in Fremont, California, U.S., on Wednesday, June 20, 2018.

The XYT’s 580 parts can be transported and assembled locally. This creates new opportunities for upgrades and customizations, particularly for international markets.

I remember when I saw my first “ute” in Australia. Holden is famous for their utility vehicles specifically designed for Australian culture. “Chuck your 🏄‍♀️ in the back of the ute” is unique to AU. XYT has the potential to unlock customizations like this globally.

2008 Holden VE SS Ute

The XYT be easily customized into a number of new vehicle types including delivery & utility vehicles. This creates new ways for companies to reduce logistics costs and own the delivery process up to 200 kilometers.

Possible service and utility vehicles using XYT.

The most exciting thing about XYT is its open source platform. Renault released the first major open source platform at CES 2017. The XYT platform is fully customizable across car capabilities and connected services.

Images source: YXT Twitter account

I’d love to connect with founders who are working on hardware and software in urban mobility and transportation to learn more about the space.

Follow me: @briannekimmel 

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Hi friends,

It’s been a busy month as I continue to explore the new building blocks for consumer technology, which I call “the unbundling of cool.”

I’ve asked dozens of founders working on social apps, gaming and other consumer tech: When do you build vs. use an API or Platform as a Service? What technology do we need to make online feel more IRL?

Based on these conversations, I have a few updates:

  • Why I invested in Voxeet, the best API for live video
  • How I killed the phrase “I’m not curing cancer”
  • New CEO office hours: Summer School 

Why I invested in Voxeet, the best API for live video.

In 2018, I believe many of our best moments will happen online.

With real-time video calling, we’re connecting with friends and family in a more meaningful way. We’re celebrating holidays, reconnecting with old friends and creating new memories from our phone.

And even though the experience is getting better, it still doesn’t compare to IRL. There’s distracting background noise, garbled noise and cross-talk.

What if we could add “same room” technology to make every video call feel real? With Voxeet, developers can bring IRL quality video to any website, app or hardware integration.

Voxeet’s TrueVoice™ 3D audio and video technology provides a true surround sound experience and removes distractions like background noise.

With Voxeet’s API library, widgets and UX toolkit developers can easily add real-time communication such as live broadcasting, video calling and messaging to websites, applications and hardware integrations on iOS, Android and all web browsers.

I’m excited to join a great group of investors:
Jason Lemkin (SaaStr), John Kim (CEO, Sendbird), Nicolas Dessaigne (CEO, Algolia), Bill McGlashan (Founder, TPG Growth)

P.S. If you’re an investor, please reply if you would like to receive my weekly update on companies. 

How I killed the phrase “I’m not curing cancer” 

When my dad was a kid, he was diagnosed with leukemia. He dropped out of school, my grandmother quit her job and they moved across the country so he could get treatment at St. Jude.

My dad can tell you a million stories about his experience, but most are related to the board games he played, snacks he ate and friends he made. When you’re sick, you need distractions to keep your spirits up. My dad frequently says he wished he had video games.

Fast forward to early 90s. Due to years of cancer treatment, my dad needs a heart transplant. We waited a long time for a heart and ultimately my dad gets on the list for an artificial heart at UPMC. As a kid, I spent an entire summer in Pittsburgh.

The entire experience was scary. I sat for hours in waiting rooms and my only distraction was video games. I made friends with kids who were in a similar position to my dad. We played Mario for hours and as a result, I believe in video games, silly apps, etc.

As a founder, you may never know the impact you have on the lives of individual users. There is so much more to life than curing cancer. Anything that makes someone smile & feel better about their current situation is worth building.

Follow me: @briannekimmel 

Sign up for CEO office hours: Summer School️

Want to practice your pitch, get product feedback & growth advice? Sign up for Summer School.

Keep building & stay cool! 😎
Brianne