14 Minutes of SaaS

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14 Minutes of SaaS

Listen to 14 Minutes of SaaS  Spotify Apple podcasts / Google Podcasts / TuneIn Stitcher

E79 – Sean Percival, CMO at Whereby, Ex 500 Startups. 4 of 5. Freedom to live & work where you thrive.

Episode 79 of 14 Minutes of SaaS is the fourth instalment of a 5-part mini-series. Stephen Cummins chats with Sean Percival, CMO at Whereby, formerly of 500 Startups and Myspace. Sean talks about big players in the video meeting space – from Webex to Zoom to Goto Meeting to Skype. He gets into the values of Whereby and how they’ve built a remote-friendly hybrid culture. He describes why their go-to-market style is similar to Slack. We talk a little about entrepreneurs making time for the arts, mentioning artists like Simon Stålenhag. And the tragedy of entrepreneurs not making time to read other than social media snacking.
Stephen Cummins

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Tip: Sean removed all the apps from his phone and resolved never to look at emails outside of normal work hours in order to regain more personal freedom and improve the quality if his life.
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Transcript

Sean Percival

Cause this is what we’re also trying to figure out …. we just hired a woman in Argentina … and how does she get to know a company? It’s 30 people. They’re all over the world, time zones as well. But we thought about … like ‘how do we make her feel included?’ Like that’s a big thing ..inclusiveness. We have a few values. Inclusiveness is one of them. And that’s not just in terms of like gender or racial diversity. That’s actually like if you’re not in the office. How do you feel like you’re part of this? So that means in Norway, we do a lot of stuff late in the afternoon because that’s the morning of America. You know, so we’re ensure that we have this overlap. We do a hackathon and we make sure that our remote people are dialling in remote – and part of the hackathon – and watching and feeling like they’re part of it too. So we’ve actually built a schedule, a framework. A format for meetings. A format for introducing the culture and the values to a new employee, but we’re still learning. We’re still figuring it out.

Stephen Cummins

I’m Stephen Cummins and this is episode 79 of 14 minutes SaaS, the fourth instalment of a five part mini-series with Sean personal CMO of Whereby, formerly of 500 startups and Myspace. Sean talks about big players in the video meeting space – from WebEx to Zoom to GoToMeeting to Skype. He gets into the values of Whereby and how they build a remote friendly hybrid culture. He describes how their go-to-market style is similar to Slack. And we reflect a little bit on the tragedy of entrepreneurs not making enough time for the arts and reading in general.

You do have a competitor in the space … that some people say they love as well … which is Zoom. In fairness.

Sean Percival

Great product!

                                                         Stephen Cummins

It’s a big market out there. Plenty of space for everyone. What really differentiates appear.in [Whereby] for you from Zoom.

Sean Percival

I get this question a lot. And sometimes it’s hard to answer. And I mean depending on who I’m talking to I say …  ‘Well, you know … Zoom has raised hundreds of millions of dollars : ) And we have not. You know, kinda depends. But really what we’re trying to do is not allowing ours to become a large feature, bloated product, which is what happened to Skype, what happened to WebEx, and happening to so many these products. Zoom feels get might be going down that path – where we want to focus on…  also Zoom is a lot like for large meetings … your town Hall format. That’s not what we’re about… we’re about like typically one-on-one. And we’re all about collaboration .. so whether you’re bringing in Google docs, Trello, Slack, other things…  coding together … we have lots of these integrations where we really have thought about ‘what’s the best way to make you collaborate and actually work together? And a lot of our roots are based on remote work. We’re a remote work company. So we’re trying to focus in on that. We’re kind of owning that. It’s not to say that Zoom is not a good product … it’s an amazing product I mean … the execution and the quality so good, but at the same time I don’t think video meeting is a winner take all market. I think there will always be four or five players, because it’s not just Zoom. Remember there’s Skype there’s GoToMeeting, there’s BlueJeans. There’s all these others out there. And their not small companies, you know. They all have a lot of users as well. And nobody really talks about WebEx, but they’re the Monster. They’re much bigger than Zoom. People might say they hate that as well too, but like … So to me it’s not a winner-take-all I think. We’ll all have our sort of different types of brand affinity and different use cases and that’s great. I don’t think there should be … I don’t like monopolies. Zoom challenges us. I mean yeah a, much bigger company. But like we aspire to do as they did. When I read their S1, I was like ‘this is the most beautiful document I’ve ever seen’. That’s why I’m doing what it is. It’s a beautiful well run company that’s going profitable you know. And right now they probably look at us … like ‘yep, cute Norwegian startup that nobody has ever really heard of’, but that’s not true. We have millions of users. So if anything it’s like … yeah I’m, going, to be a little bit of a thorn in their side … and if they’re not thinking about us like …  they will be soon you know. That’s like a great challenge. Let’s challenge each other. That’s how you make great products. Let’s fight and let the market decide.

                                                  Stephen Cummins

What do you feel is in store for you in the next two to three years? What’s the focus of appear.in [Whereby]?

Sean Percival

Yep, I need more resources. I need more people. So we’re fundraising … you know. We’re trying to start … we think it’s a series A, although there’s never been a seed round. Never was a seed round. So we’re not sure how to really kind of approach this. But yeah we want to get the people and I want to really lean into more US – that’s where most of our revenues are from anyway. I want us to become a truly global company and I want us to sort of still innovate in collaboration. So like one example … always people are like ‘Can you do phone dial-in?’ and it’s like we don’t get a lot of requests and that’s maybe more of a legacy product. I would never add phone log-in … you know, audio dial-in … unless we innovated in that I mean. Not unless we made it super easy you know. Maybe it calls you and, then everyone’s connected and there’s no fuss – no muss. So that what we’re really gonna push on – like making it easier to collaborate, making the experience joyful.

                                                         Stephen Cummins

So do you… do most of you guys all work out of the same office in Oslo … or are you all working from different places?

Sean Percival

Oslo is the main headquarters. That’s where most people are I would say. 12 to 14 or so are in that office. We have an office also on the West coast of Norway. Sweden, Spain, Argentina and then 2 in America as well. So we’re remote.

                                                         Stephen Cummins

And they’re like one or two people in the other offices … they’re working remotely, right? So you have a hybrid setup at this stage?

Sean Percival

Yeah. We do.

Stephen Cummins

If you look 2 or 3 years out … do you see yourselves as having one or two big co-located offices in the US? … or would you have different individuals? You know, do you see yourself going that distributed model more… or multiple co-located?

Sean Percival

Yeah. It’s a really… really good question. And… I’m not sure we figured it out to be honest. But that’s what challenges us. How do we have an inclusive company that’s spread out and distributed? That’s what’s driving us right now

                                                            Stephen Cummins

Because you would be one of the empowers of, you know, this inevitable evolution towards – in the case of most companies – a more hybrid approach. At the moment, your big focus really is small and medium sized companies, because you’re still in revenue terms a small company. Although you’re… you’re growing fast even revenue terms. You’re still kind of a young company in that sense.

Sean Percival

Yep.

Stephen Cummins

So I’m sure that’s connected to that. Would you see a big advantage in the fact that you’re rolling out lots of projects to lots of different companies and learning perhaps a lot faster that way.

Sean Percival

Yeah, it’s very much like Skype. And I’m sorry, not skype, it’s very much like Slack … where it starts bottom up … and it starts in one team. And really what happened is we look up some companies – Home Depot, McKenzie, different companies … we’re like ‘Why do they have 12 different accounts?’ Paid accounts? Let’s just bring them all into one account.

[*** transcription to be finished]

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.

In the concluding episode of our 5-part mini-series, Sean will talk about why innovating around something you have a passion for, not innovating and building something in a domain just because its trendy. He embraces the fact that he doesn’t speak Norwegian to reduce information. He also expresses a burning desire to become a writer and advises entrepreneurs to focus on doing one small thing with excellence.

Stephen Cummins

You’ve been listening to 14 minutes of SaaS. Thanks to Mike Quill for his creativity and problem solving skills and to Ketsu for the music. 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.

Listen to 14 Minutes of SaaS on Spotify Apple podcasts / Google podcasts / TuneIn Stitcher