Bob Moore: And have an open mind and be curious and and don’t don’t allow yourself to be defensive about anything, like you being wrong is maybe one of those powerful things can happen to you, especially at that at that stage. So start with something that you know and you’ve empathy for and you think you can have some success behind, and that success will propel you potentially into that thing being great and huge. And you can do it forever, but it might give you the ability to see something you couldn’t see before because of the momentum behind you and the access that you get. And maybe that’s where the real idea is. You’ve got to run really hard and fast or else you’ll you know, you waste a lot of time and up a lot of debt along the way, too.
Stephen Cummins: Welcome to 14 minutes of SaaS! The show where you can listen to the stories and opinions of founders of the world’s most remarkable SaaS scale-ups!
This is is the 3rd and final episode of three with Bob Moore, CEO and Co-founder of Crossbeam. It’s episode 114 of 14 Minutes of SaaS. Bob has a healthy obsession with SaaS ecosystems. He feels RJ Metrics was an opportunity missed because they didn’t focus heavily enough on ecosystems. Salesforce is the largest pure-play SaaS company in history and its single biggest achievement is its ecosystem. Looker’s 2.6 billion exit value to Google was, in part, a function of the fact that it positioned itself in the centre of a large ecosystem. And Looker was a competitor to RJMetrics. That’s the key to why, for Crossbeam, growing the network … growing those inter-connected ecosystems … is the single biggest metric for the business. And as always there’s some advice for SaaS entrepreneurs.
Stephen Cummins: Who are your typical customers. Obviously, it’s a fairly horizontal play, but…but at this stage in your evolution, what verticals and regions would you be strongest in at the moment?
Bob Moore: Yeah. So the honest answer is right now our our best stuff is North American B2B SaaS companies with at least one employer….one employee that’s got the word partnerships in their title. Like that is… that’s my…
Stephen Cummins: That’s who you sell to and through.
Bob Moore: The 100 percent of businesses that meet that profile we want to get them on this network. And you’re right, it’s a big horizontal play. We’ve got inroads in retail and financial services and large consumer brands. A little bit of health care stuff; we’re looking at HIPPA compliance. So there are a lot of places to put it, but because the business requires that both partners be on the platform, you get all these extreme network effects which are good and bad, right. In the early days, it’s a major ‘chicken and egg’ issue because the first person should never sign up because they don’t have anybody to partner with. So every deal is like closing two deals at once. So, we have to stick to these really narrow verticals and own the network graph where… where the mesh is the most dense and that happens to be B2B Saas. And then what we do is … we build out these concentric circles from there as… as we get more… more adoption.
Stephen Cummins: So.. so you’re definitely on the right podcast. So where do you see Crossbeam going in the next two to three years?
Bob Moore: Care a lot about the creation of value out of these ecosystems that is measurable and attributable, and that turns the partnership function into something that’s truly scalable and is a hero within the organization. There’s a lot right now where due to the lack of data, people that are in partner manager roles are kind of reduced to a lot of checking calls, a lot of emails, different styles of attribution, depending on which partner they’re dealing with. It’s chaotic and what we want to do is just provide a means by which we can create comfort and standardization in how data gets exchanged and collaborated on between companies that are working with each other. And then actually help build out the workflows that people used to turn that data into value for their companies. So from a product standpoint, that’s a big point of focus. And then from a market growth standpoint, there are some very interesting kind of winner take all effects in this market because of those network effects. And I think it’s just important to us that we are … it’s a core value of the company that the network comes first. And what that means is in any decision, if we have an opportunity to grow the network, to get more partners on board, we’re going to prioritise that over, over just about anything else that might be kind of a secondary path to success or metric … traditional SaaS metric.
Stephen Cummins: It’s a very attractive market. And you’re very shiny right now. So there’s going to be … there’s gonna be a lot of heat in that domain. So there’s a land-grab aspect to that.
Bob Moore: Oh, yeah. There’s a … there’s a moat to be dug. And there will be folks certainly trying to cross that moat. No doubt, we’re already seeing it.
Stephen Cummins: And I know I get the impression just from what I’ve seen of you in research, that you love your city. You love Philly. You love Philadelphia. So, you know, are you largely a co-located company, is that how you’re built or … because you mentioned Zapier. And I actually don’t know. I didn’t get a chance to check that. But did you, you know, do you have remote employees or you primarily co-located in a few offices? How do you, how are you structured.
Bob Moore: Yeah. So we’re culturally extremely remote friendly and I think take a very remote first philosophy around how we operate. So even if it’s two people that are in the same physical office, like there’s gonna be a Zoom, you know, turned on. It’s very possible they might be in different rooms or they might be sitting at different desks. We try to make sure that those team members of ours who are not physically in the same office as others, are not second class citizens within the culture and the operations of the business. That said, about seventy five percent of our company is in Philadelphia in an office we have there. So I think that’s the thing where, you know, at an early stage, kind of less than one hundred people company, it can be managed by a hand-to-hand combat. And we’re all one happy family. I think it does get hard. What I’ve heard and learned from other founders is you’re either 100% remote, or you’re not.
Stephen Cummins: And hybrids are tough.
Bob Moore: Yeah, hybrids are tough. So I think what makes it less tough over time and will make some of that advice get stale quickly … tools we use to run the business are tools that have been built with remote collaboration made kind of in mind. And it’s it’s interesting that tools like Zapier and Invision are fully remote businesses because they can have such tremendous empathy for remote work styles that inherent in their products are these things that just make it easier to, you know, to collaborate even when you’re not in the same place.
Stephen Cummins: And the great thing about it is companies like them and Hotjar and lots of pretty cool hundred percent distribute companies … they write, they tend to write a lot about what they do. And yeah, the ones that are most interesting are usually the ones that are kind of agnostic about the whole thing and just say, well, “this has worked for us and this is how we built it out”. Bringing it back to Philadelphia, you’ve been involved in volunteer activities around economic empowerment, entrepreneurship and very notably education. And you know … me as I guess an Irish guy, but very much a citizen of the European Union who’s worked with a lot of US companies, I would see the US as a global leader in entrepreneurship. But for a developed country, I would see it as compromised somewhat for both education and for, not for elite universities of course, but for education for all or for a reasonable level of economic empowerment for all. I would see the US as having more problems than almost any developed country in the world right now. Developed. How would you feel about that statement?
Bob Moore: I wouldn’t disagree. The experience that I’ve been fortunate to have is one that is somewhat diversified based on what chapter of my life you look at, because if you look at my childhood education, which is in a public school system, in a, you know, middle class school district in southern New Jersey…
Stephen Cummins: Because you made it …
Bob Moore: Yeah, like an extremely diverse student base, both racially, economically. You know, it just … it was wildly different from my experience going to an elite Ivy League University that happened immediately after. And, yeah, the number of times in my freshman year, in Princeton, that like my jaw physically hit the floor just by having experienced, you know, something so wildly culturally different. Whether that is the extremely tremendous academic prowess of the folks that I was competing with or something just, you know, cultural like the the things that are taken for granted in terms of the level of privilege that exist, whether it’s the quality of the food that you’re eating or the tenor of the conversation that you’re having. It was an eye opener for me. And then I think, you know, from there I’ve continued to really benefit from a tremendous amount of privilege that is kind of just been an extension of my education at Princeton. I couldn’t have gotten my job at INSIGHT if not for my Princeton education.
Stephen Cummins: But you give it back. And you’re very self-aware, listening to you. And you’ve given back, you know. Did you feel … did you feel that desire to give back?
Bob Moore: Oh, yeah. I think that’s like … that stark contrast has absolutely never left me. Half of my you know, my formation has been spent in a system that I do think is drastically underfunded. I think the teachers are underpaid and underappreciated and work so much harder and contribute so much more than what they’re recognised for. I also have empathy for the administration which has to kind of grapple with a tremendously underfunded situation where mandates around testing and kind of the flawed quantification of success are coming down from on high. Like it is rough. And just those challenges are just not existent on the other side. You know, you hop over and it’s because of the level of selectivity and exclusiveness of who the student base is, this set of problems that emerge become ones that that are just kind of operate at a higher echelon of kind of that hierarchy of needs. You know, you can stay. Oh, yeah. These things are really different than the question because, like, what do you do about it?
Stephen Cummins: Do you think the U.S. can be more like the European Union in that sense, or do you think we’re crazy? How do you view that kind of difference?
Bob Moore: It’s an equality issue and the access to quality education that’s available to students, even in public school systems … that’s available to students of a certain level of privilege versus those that are, for example, you know, students in the public school system in Philadelphia going into their neighborhood school. It’s appalling that gap. And I think that is a, you know … it’s extremely downstream from just a lot of very complicated legacy reasons that stem from, you know, the way that taxation is being structured, the way that municipalities and school districts have been structured, the a lot of the inherent inequalities that just exist in kind of the systemic history of how populations are kind of divided up, even in a city like Philadelphia, where it where, you know, there’s a major income equality gap. But I think that’s just a sample of what goes on in the U.S. at large.
So I think like when I think about what is the solution? Sure, maybe everybody should be paying more in taxes, and that would be like a nice overlay, like ‘Let’s lift everybody up by 20 percent in terms of education quality!’ But if you lifted everybody up by 20 percent, you would still have this incredible inequality that exists. And there’d be a huge gap there. Where I spend my time and where I spend my money for education is not at Princeton. I love Princeton. I learned a lot there. They don’t need me. You know, it’s the time and energy that goes back into, you know, local school districts, like specifically the one you see on my background there is the Glassboro Education Foundation. That’s the public high school that I went to. I’m on the board of trustees of a private foundation that kind of helps subsidize the things that the schools need that are just not able to be provided by the government.
Stephen Cummins: What personal quality do you feel that you have that has helped you be serially successful since leaving college?
Bob Moore: Yeah it’s a good question. Yeah, I think it’s there’s a like an intersection of extreme optimism and extreme curiosity that I think have had been beneficial. I think I can definitely be an optimist to a fault in terms of giving every person and conversation and idea enough of the benefit of the doubt to kind of say ‘yes and …’ instead of ‘no, but…’ in the exploration of like where it could go. And I think that that that manifests as curiosity, which is, you know, … always ask me a few more questions … and going down those roads. And I think early in my career, that probably was damaging. Like, I think part of the reason we were able to do in two years at Stitch, what took eight years at RJMetrics was, you know, we went from saying ‘yes’ to everything at RJMetrics to developing enough scar tissue and muscle memory to have a really good sense of why something might not work. And my business partner from RJ and Stitch, Jake Stein … he’s been a Warren Buffett fan. Warren Buffett’s number two guy … this guy, Charlie Munger I think his name is. And Charlie’s nickname is like the “Abominable No Man”, because it’s just like … he is there to say ‘no’ to all the crazy stuff … you know Jake always kind of thought of himself as my ‘Abominable No Man’ because he’s a hyper-rational, super smart guy and I think I tend to like everything. So there’s, there’s a lot there that, you know, just kind of got cultivated over time to tame me down and let me learn from that … and kind of …. but not lose that extreme enthusiasm and curiosity around things which kind of leads you down roads you wouldn’t have been down before.
Stephen Cummins: Last question for you Bob. For any listener that would like to jump into an entrepreneurial role, what might you ask them or advise them?
Bob Moore: Yeah. Probably the most powerful thing you can do is know your customers and just have extreme empathy for the actual problems are solving and how widespread they are and how your customers might value them. I think that’s something that, again, at RJ we kind of like … we had a problem and a technology solution … and we spent a lot of time figuring out who it was for. And then we had to actually get to know a lot of those people and empathise with them and understood like … there was a lot of catching-up to do. So when you’re graduated from college, you know … I judge like college hackathons, you know, sometimes. And it seems like half of the apps there are better food delivery to the dorm rooms. But I’m actually happy about that because it comes from a place of extreme empathy … because the people building it are the customers of the thing. And when you have, you know, some extreme enterprise software solution being developed by a bunch of college students, the hit rate on that is a lot lower. It’s not that it never happens, but it’s like, you know, the people that win in these big B2B enterprises tend to be, you know, wearing Patagonia vests and walking around with some gray hairs. It’s not the folks who come out of Y Combinator.
Stephen Cummins: So would you be a proponent of solve something close to you that you’ve you’ve understood …. and walk, you know, walk in the shoes of the customer. And then if you really feel it, then look to solve. And that can lead to something maybe bigger, further down the road.
Bob Moore: Yeah. I’d say start there. And have an open mind and be curious. And don’t don’t allow yourself to be defensive about anything, like you being wrong is maybe one of the most powerful things can happen to you, especially at that stage. So start with something that you know … and you’ve empathy for … and you think you can have some success behind. And that success will propel you potentially into that thing being great and huge. And you can do it forever, but it might give you the ability to see something you couldn’t see before, because of the momentum behind you and the access that you get. And maybe that’s where the real idea is. You’ve got to run really hard and fast or else you’ll you know, you’ll waste a lot of time and rack up a lot of debt along the way, too.
Stephen Cummins: Bob Moore, thanks for staying with me for so long.
Bob Moore: Beautiful
Stephen Cummins: In the next episode we’ll have Ted Kranz, CEO of mobile data and analytics company App Annie. Thanks for listening.
You’ve been listening to 14 minutes of SaaS. Thanks to Mike Quill for his creativity and problem solving skills, to Ketsu for the music, and to Anders Getz for the transcript. This episode was brought to you by me, Stephen Cummins. If you enjoyed the podcast, please don’t forget to share it with your network, subscribe to the series, and give the show a rating