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14 Minutes of SaaS

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E27 – Ysiad Ferreiras, ex-COO @ Hustle – the magic of Sales Engineering – 2 of 3

Part 2 of a 3-part mini-series with Ysiad Ferreiras, ex-COO of Hustle. Deep dive into Hustle’s value prop, the magic of sales engineering, and why he’s wired to be a successful COO. Recorded in Tech Open Air, Berlin. “if I were trying to set myself up to be an executive at a place like GE, I’d be bouncing around to the different jobs that I’d want to do. Well. I just made that happen for myself by moving out to Silicon Valley and getting an enterprise sales role. And the one that I thought I would learn the most from the fastest would be a sales engineer one, because then I would get to work with multiple AEs, see different styles, and see people having different levels of quota attainment, and differences there. So it was a very tactical and strategic move for me.”

Transcript of Mini-series, part 2
Ysiad Ferreiras talking with Stephen Cummins
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Ysiad ferreiras

There’s a world I would imagine where I take the time to figure out what is the specific problem that I want to solve and become the CEO of that company. But frankly to me that’s way less interesting than … I as I meet people and somebody is solving a problem that they’re really passionate about that I can intuitively understand is going to be big … just joining that, helping us get to that level, and sticking with it until we can find somebody strong as a replacement.

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 ScaleUps.

This is episode 2 of a 3-part mini-series recorded at Tech Open Air in Berlin [TOA], with Ysiad Ferreiras, ex-COO of conversational marketing software, Hustle –  a peer to peer and texting platform. In this part of the interview, we dive much deeper into Hustle’s value proposition. We find out about the huge learning power of filling multiple roles, especially being a sales engineer in SaaS. Why he usually prefers being the COO to CEO. And his unusual relationship with sleep.

Hustle is a messaging app that empowers organizers to connect with supporters over text messages – both personally and efficiently. And I know by the way that Salesforce Ventures participated in an A and B round. They’re almost a beacon for something that’s going to be successful there – they’ve such a good hit rate. Just tell me a little bit about Hustle and what made it so successful.

Ysiad ferreiras

Sure! So, so the, we solve is that … so like imagine you’re trying to talk to a bunch of people, right? Our biggest early customer was the Bernie Sanders campaign. And what he was doing his he was, he was trying to capitalize on the enthusiasm that people had for him. And it was all ramping up very quickly. And when you’re building a political campaign, one of the most important tools you have is candidate time, right?… So Bernie Sanders’ personal time. How do you maximize it? So it got to the point where they were like … ‘Well, let’s see if we can have him show up here and we can fill up say … football stadium with people. Well to do that you need to message a bunch of people and let them know that he’s going to be at that football stadium.

So what Hustle allowed them to do was get the phone numbers of probably Bernie Sander supporters, upload them into our system, and then have a bunch of their volunteers very quickly … and in a personalized manner … individually text message every single one of those people, and then respond to everybody who replied to them. This is done by humans and not by robots. Right. So these are not chat bots that are doing it. That’s the thing that we did.

And then when you think about the full life cycle of that communication, many of the people listening to this are sales leaders, you know … if it’s not in Salesforce, if it’s not in whatever your CRM of choice is, it didn’t happen. Well, all of those text message conversations would synch back to their their CRM …. and in their case it was all this campaign management tool called NGP VAN. So they would have all these conversations back and forth using our tool. And then it would sync up to NGP VAN – and they were able to drive additional decisions and track people as RSVP’d. They’re able to let people know ‘Hey, here’s where the primary is going to be et cetera’. So we worked with the Bernie Sanders campaign. The Hillary Clinton campaign use us as well. They did that .

Now we work with, I think every single state party … no, sorry …  there’s a handful that we don’t work with in the US. By the time this comes out we will probably be working with the DNC as well. I mean we’ve worked with them in the last election cycle but now we’re doing a bigger deal. There’s a lot going on. But that’s a main problem that we solve in that context.

And then, of course, for sales leaders we solve the problem of … well you have all these AEs …  they’re having conversations. The best way to tell whether their relationship is advancing is are they communicating with people in their preferred manner. Well, nowadays that’s text message, right? So when somebody’s forecasting a deal and I’m looking at what’s the level of depth of their relationship with their champion, I tell them to take out their cell phone. And if I don’t see a text message … If they can’t show me a text message thread with the person that they’re claiming is their champion, like I’m sorry like … this probably isn’t a real conversation. And I’m sure you know, you and any other listeners … like this might resonate with them. That’s just how people communicate now.

Stephen Cummins

Absolutely, it’s always amusing for me to hear things like ‘If it’s not in Salesforce, it didn’t happen’ …  because of course we were all saying that internally – and it just seems like all the memes … or most of the memes succeeded. ….  Did the cloud agnostic approach of Elastic Box …the cloud agnostic approach to building apps … Did the cloud agnostic approach of elastic box, another company you had a leadership role in … that cloud agnostic approach to building apps … Did that stay in your head and has that affected your approach to something I’m very excited to hear about which is Labelbox.com.

Ysiad ferreiras

Yeah, so what’s funny about Elastic Box, you know, … I joined as a sales engineer and by the time I left, I was just like the Director of Sales Engineering. There was a lot of things that I learned there. I’d say that a lot of what I learned there was around how you pitch the products, sales cycles …You know, we had some pretty large clients there.

Stephen Cummins

So you sales engineer… so you were building those demos.

Ysiad ferreiras

I’m working with the sales guys. Yeah, right. Yeah, exactly. So, so that was… that was the thing so I went from being the managing director of Jake Roy Pillar to sales engineering … I wanted to get like a real in depth training on how enterprise sales works. So I just looked at is like well, if I were trying to set myself up to be an executive at a place like GE, I’d be bouncing around to the different jobs that I’d want to do. Well. I just made that happen for myself by moving out to Silicon Valley and getting an enterprise sales role. And the one that I thought I would learn the most from the fastest would be a sales engineer one, because then I would get to work with multiple AEs, see different styles, and see people having different levels of quota attainment, and differences there. So it was a very tactical and strategic move for me to take that sort of job and then, you know, after doing it and learning … I switched to leading sales teams and, you know, went back up to the sea level, which is where I’m most comfortable. But I think that it’s extremely important for me to have gotten that kind of in the trenches knowledge before going back up to the level that I was most comfortable at.

Stephen Cummins

There’s no doubt. I left Salesforce twice, but the first time I came back I went to a couple of levels down lower to do sales – because I knew I didn’t know enough about it. But I’d [already] worked as a CSM sales engineer and training. There’s nothing like that kind of coal-face role to inform you at a later point in time.

Ysiad ferreiras

Yeah. Definitely. Also I felt like it’s kind of interesting. You know, this idea that I can float around between different C level roles, because I don’t have a college degree. Like there’s so many things that I don’t have that somehow or another … there’s certain intangibles about leadership that people seem to be able to pick up on. So that’s the position they want to slot me and …. also I was like in my twenties at that time …. and definitely don’t want to let it get to my head and they don’t want it to limit my potential later on.

Stephen Cummins

Well. I can say from experience, because I have plenty of those letters after my name ….. you’re much smarter than most people I’ve ever studied with your mind is working faster. I can feel it. One thing that strikes me about you Ysiad is that you seem to fallen in love with the COO, the Chief Operations Officer role. When we were talking earlier about how a strong COO builds strong leaders and then leaves the ship in good shape. Obviously you get bored and you want to go on and do another project , but you care about the teams you build. Is that the core reason why you’re so comfortable in that COO position.

Ysiad ferreiras

Well. I think any anybody that I’m working with as a CEO is going to be a pretty smart person. The phase that I’ve really enjoyed working at is that inception state when you’re going from very little to no revenue to the point where you’ve got a rung of real strong VP leadership when you start getting to the point where you can attract real qualified C level people. So in that case, you really benefit from having a product focused CEO who really deeply understands the pain points of customers and had this idea. Had this itch that really wanted to scratch. So in that case the absolute best person to run the company is usually going to be that person – that product focused CEO. And then what I look at as my job … my job is to take all the tactical execution pieces of running a business. Make that something that they don’t worry about that, so they can focus on solving customer problems. And I’ll make sure that we hire a strong inhouse counsel, that we set up good HR policies, that a sales and marketing team is spun up and we’re handling all of that effectively.

I’m happy to handle and loved handling the initial sales. And really just making sure that once we get to product market fit, we really maximize that piece. So I really like that aspect. And so … there’s a world I would imagine where I take the time to figure out what is a specific problem that I want to solve. And become the CEO of that company. But frankly to me that’s way less interesting than I as I meet people and somebody is solving a problem that they’re really passionate about … that I can intuitively understand is going to be big … just joining that, helping us get to that level, and sticking with it until we can find somebody strong as a replacement.

Stephen Cummins

You strike me as a very hands on leader in a good way. An empowering one, but hands-on at the same time. And I guess when a company gets to a certain size that might impact on how engaged you are. I’m guessing.

Ysiad ferreiras

Yeah!

Stephen Cummins

You look finish strong. And I saw you catching a little bit of slumber over there in between things. But on the other side of it, you were telegramming the speakers group ‘Hey is anyone going out tonight at 11.30. And I think you and I must have been talking on telegram until 2am last night. Yeah, are you a bit of a vampire? I know I’m a vampire? Do you sleep very little?

Ysiad ferreiras

I’m in Berlin now. So I definitely wanted to stay out. I was out until about four am or so last night.

Stephen Cummins

You keep fit though, right?

Ysiad ferreiras

Yeah, I make sure that I work out on a regular basis. But, yeah … I have a very erratic schedule. I just kinda sleep when I’m tired, I’m gonna wake up and I’m done.

Stephen Cummins

Yeah, that’s a gift … I can’t do that. I can’t do that in the middle of the day. So you were you actually dead asleep their table that is. Do you have time for hobbies?

Ysiad ferreiras

Sorry, what was that?

Stephen Cummins

Hobbies… hobbies are like a past time that would have nothing to do with your work …

Ysiad ferreiras

Oh, okay. Yeah, hobbies. Yeah. So currently my hobbies are … I take part and creative writing projects. I also do some non-profit work, particularly with children that come from disadvantaged backgrounds and helping them break into tech and kind of have a career development stuff. So I like mentoring people on that front.

Stephen Cummins

You mentioned that you let the kids or the young people in your area just come in and do some coding problems and do some homework and do whatever …. and just be around the StartUp. Because you tend to have all these hot-desks that are empty as you grow. Is that very enriching for the company?

Ysiad ferreiras

Yeah, it’s been enriching for the company. I am right now working to expand that beyond just the companies that I work at – to work with a bunch of other people as well. And the benefit that I find that people have when they do this is that … first, all of the employees can get a little bit more used to seeing people who don’t necessarily look like them at their company …. which allows them to think of themselves as a more inclusive more diverse set of people immediately. So that’s the thing. And yeah, I find it to be very empowering, very enriching all around. It’s a cultural exchange program more than anything. It’s not just a hand out to people who need help.

Stephen Cummins

In the next and final part of this podcast mini-series see we’ll talk about the connection between diversity and Hustle’s success. And why being intentional about who one spends one’s time with is extremely important.

You’ve been listening to 14 minutes of SaaS. Thank you to Ketsu for music provided under a creative commons license. This episode was brought to you by me, Stephen Cummins. If you enjoy the podcast, please don’t forget to share it with your network, subscribe to the series and give the show a rating.