It’s not easy to predict which companies will grow into big businesses but there are often early signs of something special. In 2013 I met Harry Glaser, CEO of Periscope Data, which recently raised $25M at a (likely) valuation north of $100M. Even though Harry and the team were at the beginning stages back then, it was clear from their hustle that Periscope Data could be something big. Here’s some examples of what they did in the early days to build the foundations of a $100M company:
Solutions not Software
What they did: When Harry showed up to SendHub’s office, he didn’t even have a demo. Instead, he got me talking about the core issues we were facing: polluted data, rising costs and minimal value from one size fits all solutions. Then he asked how much I would pay for him to solve these problems and offered to prove he could with no risk or commitment. I was sold.
Why it worked: Most companies begin with an overview of their features and perhaps an example, instead Periscope let me bring my actual problems to them — I didn’t have to worry if their features would solve my problem. Rather than offer software that should solve the problem, they guaranteed a solution with no risk. We only paid if they could actually do it.
Personal Service as Standard
What they did: For the first 2 years, I would email Harry directly for customer support and he would usually respond within an hour. If he couldn’t, someone else would quickly pick up the task. Even though their product was supposed to be self serve, they set it all up and made changes for us on an ongoing basis. We even had their CTO, Tom O’Neill, speak at one of our marketing events.
Why it worked: Whenever there was a problem I was always quickly reassured it was being fixed. I never had to repeat explanations of the situation, everyone I dealt with was knowledgeable and had relevant context. There was no maintenance requirement on us, as customers. Plus, anything new we needed, we got by simply sending an email.
Heroics against Churn
What they did: In 2014 we were going to switch providers, due to issues with dashboards not updating — as we relied on the analytics to diagnose issues in real time. Harry personally debugged the system end to end, down to our office’s WiFi and TVs. He promised a temporary fix immediately and longer term fix in a few weeks. Years later, I learned he sometimes had to drive an hour to our office on weekends, reconnect to the WiFi from the parking lot and reboot the system.
Why it worked: Given the relationship and trust Periscope Data had built with our team, we owed them fair warning before we churned. They responded quickly and focused on our customer needs, rather than their technology problem (which was weeks away from resolution). Even though it took personal sacrifice to retain us, Harry didn’t mention it at the time, as he wanted our trust to be in the product not him individually.
There are many varied paths and a considerable amount of luck on the way to building a big business. However, if you’re always working to put your customer’s needs first, you’ll be following a similar direction to Periscope Data and many other big businesses.
This article is part of a series on Startup Growth.
How to Understand your Customers Before Launch
Your First Product Should Be Terrible
A Simple Framework for Goal Setting
Bad Ways to Set Startup Goals
Hit Goals or Your Startup Will Die
How to Get 10% Weekly Growth
Finding the Right Price for Early Customers
Which Pricing Model is Best for Your Startup?
When Should Startups Pursue Partners?
Early Traits of a $100M Company
Sterling Road invests in pre-seed B2B startups based in North America. Full process here: sterlingroad.com/process.
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Thanks to Kaego Rust and David Smooke for reading drafts of this.