Making Work Better: Humu Applies Behavioral Science and AI to Optimize Employee and Enterprise Performance

As the world shifts towards a knowledge economy, enterprises need to re-imagine how they do business. They are realizing that their employees are their most important asset and are searching for a smarter way to engage, encourage, and drive the best performance. Enter Humu, a platform working at the intersection of behavioral science and AI to solve that very issue.

Humu, a recent addition to the TCV portfolio, is rapidly gaining adoption from some of the world’s largest and most complex organizations. Its intelligent technology platform coaches managers and employees into developing work habits that are scientifically proven to drive performance. Humu was co-founded by CEO Laszlo Bock, former Google SVP of People Operations, and is the output of decades of his work and experience in helping make HR a more data-driven function. Laszlo is uniquely positioned to build the Humu technology platform into a must-have for organizations looking to drive employee engagement, optimize performance, and improve productivity.

Specifically, by nudging employees with short, behavioral science-backed recommendations, Humu provides personalized guidance that’s unique to each employee, helping workers to build better habits, while also driving towards organizational goals, including employee retention, manager effectiveness, productivity, and inclusive cultures.

TCV is thrilled to lead Humu’s $60 million Series C. The investment, which follows two years of significant growth for the Company, will fuel new product innovations geared to support managers and their teams. TCV venture partner Jessica Neal, former Chief Talent Officer at Netflix, has joined Humu’s Board of Directors as part of our new partnership.

TCV’s experience in seeing the magic in the Right Content, Right Person, Right Time

TCV has long understood the value of delivering engaging, timely content to the right person at the right time and has invested based on this thesis for over two decades, including in companies like Netflix (video), Spotify (music), Peloton (fitness), and Newsela (K-12 instructional content).

TCV believes that timely content curation and delivery should extend from our consumer lives to our work lives: if Netflix can feed us more of what we need to keep us entertained, why wouldn’t we benefit from similar capabilities in the workplace? Businesses need a system that serves us the right content at the right time to help us perform better.

What is exciting about Humu? Humu is driving real outcomes

Humu’s AI-based Nudge Engine™ technology drives timely “nudges” to encourage employees to do more of what creates optimal outcomes and experiences for employees and enterprises. Nudges are delivered in curated pathways that are algorithmically generated, sequenced, and tailored to a particular initiative and employee.

At a glance:

  • Every Humu nudge is based on academic research and carefully crafted by Humu “people analytics” experts
  • User experience panels ensure nudges are easy to understand and act on. Feedback loops make it possible to turn off what’s not working, and send more of what is
  • Employees turn to nudges more and more over time. Sustained nudge engagement rates across customers are as high as 95%

At Silicon Valley Bank, Humu’s nudges focus managers and employees on what matters most – and remind them at just the right moments to adjust their habits. That could be in supporting managers who may be too focused on execution at the cost of supporting employee development and encouraging them to find ways to offer their people personalized growth opportunities. Don’t take our word for it…hear it directly from Humu’s customer SVB:

“People don’t have to wait for management to roll out a time-intensive program. Humu provides our employees with relevant, customized feedback that’s not generic or mundane. Nudges democratize the employee engagement process; they make learning much timelier and easier for everyone involved. We have a 70% open rate, which means it’s going really well. The right nudge at the right time really makes all the difference.”

Chris Edmonds-Waters, Chief Human Resources Officer at Silicon Valley Bank

A team that helped build a trillion-dollar business, and is now on a mission to solve work for everyone

Humu’s CEO Laszlo Bock helped build and lead Google’s people function for ten years, a role in which he was responsible for attracting, developing, retaining, and delighting ‘Googlers’ (he distilled a lot of his practices and insights into his book published in 2015, Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead).

He co-founded Humu in 2017 with former Google colleagues Wayne Crosby (former Director of Engineering) and Dr. Jessie Wisdom (former People Analytics Manager). Together, this formidable team founded Humu “to make work better through machine learning, science, and a little bit of love” – not to mention everything they had learned about smart use of data.

“When we began this journey in 2017, we knew our experience in pioneering the field of people analytics would help us build what we believe is the best technology for supporting managers and employees, and we’re proud of the impact we’ve made.

This latest investment, led by TCV, signals our partners’ confidence in our ability to deliver on that promise long into the future, and we’re excited for what we’ll bring to the market, especially for managers, in the months to come.”

Laszlo Bock, CEO of Humu

TCV is excited to be a partner in building a category leader

TCV believes Humu represents an opportunity to back an emerging leader in the HR technology sector, led by a world-class team that’s uniquely positioned to penetrate a massive market with compelling industry growth tailwinds. With this latest round of funding, Humu aims to take steps towards executing its bold vision of facilitating building a unique, high-performing culture for its client organizations based on proven best practices. As a firm that focuses on long-term value creation, TCV believes that Humu, with its deep background in people analytics, has the potential to make a positive impact on the way we all work.

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The views and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the speakers and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This post is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this interview and blog post, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


Ramping Sales Teams, Shortening the Sales Cycle, and Increasing Revenue in Six Months

Growth Hacks – Moving the Metric

Shortening the sales cycle and creating measurably aggressive growth can seem like a pipe dream in a world where nine-to-12-month sales cycles for enterprises are the norm. What if it didn’t have to be?

For TCV portfolio company Vectra AI, a leading creator of machine learning software that detects and protects against cyber attacks, that dream became a reality in less than a year. By implementing a mindset of continuous growth into its hiring process and carrying that same mindset through its approach to sales and KPIs, Vectra saw more than 50% of its revenue come from recent hires in just six months.

In this episode of Growth Hacks, Kunal and Katja talk to Marty Sanders, head of American Sales at Vectra AI, about how he implemented a mindset of continuous growth into the sales team at Vectra, how it helped shorten the sales cycle, and why he treats recruiting as rigorously as he does multi-digit dealmaking.

Key Takeaways

  • Make continuous growth an organizational mindset. For Vectra’s sales team, continuous growth isn’t just a mission statement, it’s a top-to-bottom mindset. Since Marty joined Vectra last year, the team has refined its hiring process to hire sales leaders who prioritize ongoing growth, focused on shortening sales cycles and improving processes, and created internal benchmarks that reflect the importance of ongoing improvement, rather than just sales notched.
  • Make shortening the sales cycle an obsession, not a nice to have. Continuous improvement is something Vectra hires for and instills into new team members once they come on board. It’s also the first step Marty took to shorten Vectra’s traditional nine-to-12-month sales cycle. New candidates shared his belief that sales cycles could take place over 90 days and worked together to articulate Vectra’s value proposition in under a minute and a half. Additionally, Marty created a “culture of compression,” treating every Friday like a month end, every month end like a weekend, and every quarter like a year closing. The success of the approach at Vectra has been immediate. Over the last two quarters, sales have increased with more than 50% of Vectra’s revenue being earned by salespeople hired in the last six months.
  • Create the right scorecard to measure success; then reward it. It’s tempting to bring on board the flashy hire with the large Rolodex; but how do you ensure that their work is actually showing results? That’s why Marty creates scorecards to measure success, so that both he and his sales team are aligned on verifiable outcomes that build Vectra’s pipeline. Because the KPIs are wide ranging, from identifying stakeholders and setting meetings, to modeling TCOs and identifying organizational pain points, Vectra ties draw to those KPIs. Doing so incentives its sales team and sets clear metrics for success.
  • No goose eggs, ever. Hiring for growth is only one piece of the puzzle. Vectra takes that step further, by making sure that its salespeople never put a zero in their commit. That can give someone a subconscious right to fail, says Marty. By not allowing for a zero forecast, growth becomes the automatic mindset. Because this pace can be grueling for even the best salespeople, Vectra is aggressive about recognition, and maintaining open communication with its salespeople to ensure the pace is right.
  • Treat recruiting like you would treat a multimillion-dollar deal. At Vectra, hiring is treated as mission critical as a seven-figure deal. It’s why Marty specifically incorporates a review of recruitment activities into the business reviews he does with his managers. Vectra also leverages technology and science by using a personality DNA test with every candidate, that assesses how well a candidate might fit into Vectra’s continuous improvement mindset. If a candidate doesn’t pass the test, the company doesn’t move forward.

To learn more, tune into Growth Hacks: Turning a Continuous Improvement Mindset Into Successful KPIs.

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The views and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the speakers and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This interview and blog post are not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this interview and blog post, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


Instant Global Identity Verification: How Trulioo’s Technology and Data Marketplace is Transforming Digital Customer Onboarding

Digital innovation has transformed how consumers and businesses access a range of online services – from streaming media, booking travel, setting up bank accounts, or financing a car. As more and more high-value services are performed through digital channels, it is increasingly important for businesses to know who is using their platforms. Many fintech applications need identity verification to comply with ‘Know Your Customer’ (KYC) regulations, while online marketplaces need it to maintain trust and safety on their platforms. These requirements have created a huge market opportunity for identity verification technology – a market TCV has been tracking for several years, looking for the right opportunity.

We found such an opportunity and are thrilled to announce our investment in Trulioo, the market leader in global consumer and business identity verification technology. Through its network of 450+ data partners, Trulioo can verify identities across over 5 billion individuals and 330 million businesses in more than 195 countries and territories. That’s the broadest reach of any vendor in its industry – and it’s all delivered via a single API.

For Trulioo’s customers, the opportunity is to maximize the number of clients they onboard globally via a frictionless experience, while seeking to ensure regulatory compliance and preventing fraud. We believe, this compelling value proposition has created significant momentum in Trulioo’s business – revenue has more than doubled over the past year, and growth is accelerating.

And while Trulioo has built a market-leading identity technology business, its ambition is to become the first global end-to-end identity verification platform by introducing AI/ML functionality and additional software applications. We are confident that our investment and partnership will help Trulioo accelerate its growth and achieve its platform vision even sooner.

Identity Verification Data with a Difference

Trulioo commands a leading position in its field, providing an API-driven marketplace of rich identity data. This is triangulated across multiple sources, normalized, and then delivered to customers via a single, modern API. Customers embed Trulioo’s API into their onboarding and compliance platforms to perform KYC/KYB (Know Your Business) verifications. The API and data-centric approach renders accurate identity verification quickly and enables a frictionless customer onboarding experience.

Trulioo’s identity data marketplace is built from a rich network of relationships with over 450 country-specific data providers that the company has developed over more than a decade. This adds up to a compelling value proposition for companies with global growth ambitions and has established Trulioo as the market standard for international identity verification. As Trulioo grows its customers and data sources, it creates a virtuous cycle that makes its value proposition more attractive to both sides of the marketplace. Finally, Trulioo has built a rich set of value-added features, rendering it well positioned to become an end-to-end identity technology platform.

This powerful data-driven proposition quickly drew our attention, and the people who are working to build Trulioo into a franchise technology leader are just as impressive. Founded in Vancouver, Canada a decade ago, the business is led by Steve Munford, a veteran software industry CEO, who TCV has known for more than a decade. Previously, Steve has scaled multiple highly successful companies including Carbonite, Absolute Software, and Sophos.

Steve joined Trulioo in 2020 and is surrounded by a world-class team including COO Zac Cohen (formerly Strategy & Operations at Global Relay), CTO Hal Lonas (former CTO of TCV-backed Webroot); CFO Leigh Ramsden (formerly CFO at Absolute Software); CRO Matt Schatz (former SVP of Sales at WP Engine); along with 240+ talented team members. That’s quite a line-up, and we’re delighted to work with everyone there to help Trulioo execute its growth strategy.

Glowing References from all Angles

Our conversations with Trulioo have been exciting from day one. It was immediately obvious that we share a belief in the vast market potential for identity verification, in addition to our conviction that the winning technology will increasingly need to be global, creating a unique opportunity for Trulioo to be the end-to-end platform of choice.

We first met Trulioo’s team in 2015 and heard rave reviews about the product from customers within TCV’s portfolio. When Steve joined Trulioo in 2020, we increased our dialogue with the team – holding multiple meetings where we discussed the company’s growth strategy and Steve’s vision for the business.

On top of our portfolio references, we conducted calls with many of Trulioo’s customers, partners, and identity market observers. The market feedback was effusive about the company’s value proposition, with customers seeing its product as clearly differentiated from other vendors thanks to its 360-degree data-driven approach.

A Shared Belief in the Global Identity Verification Opportunity

TCV has already invested extensively in the companies and industries that Trulioo serves which has fueled our excitement and conviction in the company’s value proposition. We believe that fintech companies – including payments and remittance companies, challenger banks, and trading platforms – will continue to grow globally. It’s why we’ve backed leaders – including Payoneer, WorldRemit, Nubank, Revolut and Wealthsimple – that are embarking on global growth agendas.

Given the importance of API-driven identity verification for digital KYC and other related applications, we believe Trulioo will be a valuable partner as fintech vendors grow. And, as many companies across verticals embed fintech capabilities into their products, we think Trulioo’s offering will resonate with an even broader market.

We’ve also seen firsthand how critical it is to maintain trust and safety for online marketplaces, through having Airbnb, Nerdy, and Rover in our portfolio. Similarly, we’ve witnessed many other industries, including e-commerce and gaming, investing increasingly in identity verification technologies, using trusted third-party sources, as they pursue global growth agendas.

Drawing on experiences from our portfolio companies, we also have high conviction in the rising importance of governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) technology, and have backed leaders including AxiomSL, OneTrust, ETQ, and Watermark in this space. As a critical aspect of their GRC strategies, we think identity verification – and Trulioo in particular – will grow in importance as global digital onboarding continues to expand.

A Powerful Partnership to Build on

We’re delighted at this meeting of minds and ambitions in a vast, emerging industry with powerful tailwinds. Trulioo is addressing a huge problem that applies to many of the most innovative, fastest growing verticals, and we are excited to help them seek to revolutionize their industry.

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The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any of the data or statements by the author and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This blog post is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified above are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this interview and blog post, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


FarEye Helps Enterprises Delight Their Consumers at Every Step of the Journey

By Gopi Vaddi, General Partner at TCV

After perusing slick digital shopfronts for hours, checking AI-enabled online catalogs, and paying through seamless single-click checkouts, you may eventually be rewarded with ‘your delivery should arrive in 5-10 working days’ and left to pray that the shiny new gizmo you ordered will arrive in one piece. Sound familiar? For all the innovation and investment across most steps of the online purchasing journey, the actual delivery experience has been largely neglected. Yet, the surge in remote purchasing shows no signs of abating and consumers are demanding faster, better, and cheaper deliveries. This has placed the status quo under immense strain and the need for new solutions to help companies navigate this complexity today is greater than ever.

A New Frontier for Innovation in E-Commerce Enablement

E-commerce enablement has been a key investment theme for TCV, and we have made multiple investments across each step of the value chain. In early 2019, we invested in RELEX Solutions (Helsinki, Finland) which provides an AI-driven platform helping global retailers forecast demand and prepare their supply chain to execute against it. In 2020, we backed Spryker (Berlin, Germany) which helps enterprises build beautiful digital commerce platforms for B2B, B2C, and marketplaces. We also invested in Mollie (Amsterdam, Netherlands) which provides a seamless, easy-to-integrate online payments solution for merchants across Europe. Another recent investment is Trulioo (Vancouver, Canada) which provides seamless know-your-customer (KYC), and know-your-business (KYB) verification checks globally, enabling smooth onboarding of merchants and consumers onto online marketplaces and fintech platforms. Paradoxically, while the e-commerce experience may appear increasingly effortless for consumers, the underlying technology landscape has become increasingly sophisticated and complex.

Following our investments upstream in the ecommerce value chain, we cast our eye further down, identifying logistics as the natural next step. Within this untapped, vast market, last-mile delivery from a fulfilment center to a delivery endpoint like a consumer home has always been the most operationally complex and resource-intensive leg of the journey, absorbing nearly 50% of total logistics dollars spend, driven by inherent lack of economies of scale (disparate drop-off points) and its on-demand nature. Complexity has also compounded due to new delivery and fulfilment modes like micro-fulfilment centers, curb-side pick-up, etc. which strain already razor-thin margins for retailers and carriers alike. Even Amazon, the most sophisticated logistics machine in the world, has not been spared — as a percentage of retail-related sales, Amazon’s cost of fulfilment/shipping grew from ~16% to 32% between 2010-19. On the end-consumer front, delivery experiences have become a critical driver of satisfaction and repeat purchases, with delivery constituting the only physical touchpoint for online brands with their customers. In fact, 55% of US consumers have bought goods from one retailer over another because they provided more delivery options[1]. Throw all of the above in the mix and you have a market that is ripe for disruption. Enter FarEye – a next-generation intelligent software platform that helps enterprises to orchestrate all of their delivery logistics requirements.

We were thrilled to recently announce our investment in FarEye. Founded in India in 2009 by Kushal Nahata (CEO), Gautam Kumar (COO), and Gaurav Srivastava (CTO), the trio started their journey as logistics consultants, before settling on their strategy of building a software platform that would help companies navigate the immense complexities of managing last-mile deliveries. Having spent several years developing the product in India and South-East Asia, where delivery logistics challenges are even more pronounced than in Western economies, FarEye relocated headquarters to Chicago and moved towards global expansion, addressing the vast demand across Europe and the U.S.

Compelling ROI and an Enormous Market Opportunity

We first came to know FarEye through its superlative customer feedback and enormous ROI generated for customers – 22% improvement in first-attempt deliveries, two times improvement in courier satisfaction, and 24% increase in on-time deliveries all while providing complete visibility across the entire logistics operations. Spurred by these reviews, we got in touch with Kushal and were blown away by the depth of the platform as well as Kushal’s strategic and product vision.

The FarEye platform provides an incredible range of end-to-end functionality today — all deployed on fully multi-tenant, cloud-native infrastructure — that benefits retailers, carriers, manufacturers, and end consumers alike. Shippers and carriers benefit from automated order allocation and dispatching, real-time dynamic routing, loop optimization and electronic proof of delivery; their customers get slot-based & flexible delivery scheduling, automated alerts and notifications, the ability to real-time track their deliveries, and 24/7 chatbot-based customer support. FarEye also empowers enterprises with the latest advances in real-time tracking and tracing, ETA prediction based on real-time constraints such as traffic bottlenecks, and control-tower visibility of enterprise delivery activity.

At the heart of the FarEye platform is a low-code BPM engine that allows users to rapidly build delivery workflows that can be customized to meet the demands of a particular industry and customer. Customers today span hot-food delivery, pharmaceutical, packaged goods, housewares, industrial equipment, and more. FarEye even counts some of the largest global carriers among its clients. FarEye Delight has helped the company to quickly expand its existing customer base which increasingly rolls out the platform across new geographies and business units while growing its functionality with net retention that is best-in-class.

As e-commerce and broader home-delivery become the new normal, retailers across the world are racing to adapt, while those that do not face the risk of quickly falling behind. For TCV, FarEye is an excellent fit with our overarching strategy of investing early in what we believe to be the franchise technology companies of the future – no matter where they are founded. FarEye joins Cognite, Trulioo, Redis Labs, Revolut, Relex, Nubank, Klarna, Mambu, Mollie, Spryker, and Dream Sports among recent investments made outside the U.S. Based on our experience investing in many other global leaders that were once young growth-stage companies, we believe FarEye has the technology, talent, expertise, and strong track record to become a truly generational software business of the future.

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The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any of the data or statements by the author and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This blog post is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified above are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this interview and blog post, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


[1] MetaPack Global eCommerce Consumer Report, 2020


From Siloed to Contextualized Operational Data – How Cognite is Driving the Digital Transformation of the World’s Largest and Most Vital Industries

Everyone talks about the transformative power of big data, often in relation to consumer insights. Yet there is a river of information flowing just as powerfully out of industrial facilities around the world – information that could be harnessed to make our planet more sustainable, industries more efficient, and jobs safer.

Industrial companies are waking up to the power of that information, and today we’re excited to announce an investment in Cognite, a global industrial Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) leader, whose mission is to digitalize heavy-asset industries and unlock the power of their operational data.

The Industrial Leaders’ Choice

Founded in Norway in 2017 by Dr. John Markus Lervik, Geir Engdahl, and Stein Danielsen, Cognite has made huge headway in transforming the use of data across oil and gas, power and utilities, renewable energy and manufacturing, using its cloud-based Cognite Data Fusion (CDF) platform. Companies like bp, Saudi Aramco, Alfa Laval, Statnett, and Mitsubishi are already optimizing the way they operate using Cognite’s platform.

In Good Company

Cognite is an exciting addition to TCV’s portfolio and fits squarely with our thesis on the next-gen industrial software space. This dates back to our support for Seismic-Micro Technology (SMT) from 2007, which gave us early insight into how oil and gas companies value operational intelligence – and its importance from a regulatory and operational efficiency perspective.

This investment led to us finding and backing OSIsoft in 2011, which has since become a standard in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) market due to its ability to pull data from sensors and industrial equipment at scale for the world’s largest industrial companies.

Another investment is IQMS, one of the first manufacturing software vendors to natively connect manufacturing execution systems to the ERP software of their suppliers/smaller manufacturers, so they could harness the power of the factory data to hone business decisions.

Across these investments we have seen big data and data-driven decision-making soar and drive a huge opportunity for innovation and investment.

Bridging the Gap Between Business and Operational Data Insights

Digital-first companies inherently operate in a data driven way. They produce a sea of business performance data via their IT systems and are able to collect, analyze and manage that data to plan more strategically and run more efficiently. The opportunity in the industrial space is to extend these benefits, harnessing the oceans of operational technology (OT) data generated by every asset and piece of equipment making up factories, processing plants, or broader industrial estates. To date, turning this data into business value has proved a challenge – not least because OT covers a diverse range of data sources and formats.

The sensors on a single piece of equipment may hold the key to insights about production quantities, efficiency data, motor speeds and heat readings. The challenge is how to combine all those different data points into the right context to assess and improve equipment performance. This is a problem that, until recently, no one had solved – and, frankly, few companies even understood.

A Meeting of Minds and the Missing Contextualization Layer

In 2018, not long after Cognite’s founding, Øyvind Eriksen, President & CEO of Aker, and Kjell Inge Røkke, the majority owner of Aker, came to visit our California offices along with Cognite’s CEO, John Markus – to discuss what they were building at Cognite.

It was clear to us from that first meeting that Aker’s support and industrial expertise, combined with John Markus’ product brilliance, addressed the need for this missing contextualization layer – and that Cognite’s product strategy would be aimed at solving this critical issue. That initial meeting led to a relationship which has culminated in TCV’s investment today.

Cognite uses the latest technology – in particular machine learning – to enable large amounts of information to be ingested in real time and, crucially, contextualized so it can be leveraged for a wide range of use cases. This approach, which improves data’s accessibility and governance across an entire organization, significantly shortens the time to value and scalability of high-ROI applications including predictive maintenance, production optimization, and remote work.   

Fueling Cognite’s Next Growth Chapter

Cognite is the perfect fit for TCV’s strategy of investing early in potential franchise companies of the future. We are thrilled to be part of their next growth chapter and help them scale and catalyze the full-scale digital transformation of heavy-asset industries.

The company joins Brex, Redis Labs, Revolut, Relex, Klarna, Mambu, Mollie and recent investments in Europe and around the world. Like OSIsoft, IQMS, Genesys, Netflix, Spotify and many other global leaders in our portfolio that were once young growth-stage companies, Cognite is forging ahead in a fragmented field to become the category leader.

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The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the author and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This blog post is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified above are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this interview and blog post, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


AxiomSL: A Fintech Franchise Takes Off

The financial crisis of 2008 came as a resounding shock for countless companies, including many in the financial industry itself. But not for AxiomSL, a leading provider of cloud-enabled software for governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) regulatory reporting solutions to the financial services industry.

AxiomSL was founded by Alex Tsigutkin and Vladimir Etkin in 1991. As data management experts they had seen disorganized, unintegrated GRC processes even in highly regarded financial firms. “Everywhere I went, it was the same. The data was all over the place, in different systems and different departments,” explains Tsigutkin, CEO of AxiomSL. “We saw a real need to bring all of this enterprise data together at a granular level.”  Large financial institutions soon began adopting AxiomSL’s software to assemble data they used for assessing risks and reporting financial results to investors and regulators.

Then the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Banking Act in 1999 freed financial institutions to diversify into a wide range of new activities, and GRC processes took a back seat comparatively. The new priority was financial innovation and growth, to extend the United States’ position of prominence in global finance. “For years, the government and regulators didn’t put that much pressure on financial institutions,” Tsigutkin points out. “That changed completely after the 2008 financial crisis, and that’s when AxiomSL really took off.”

By this time, the company’s software data management platform and related algorithms organized operating data to align with the latest requirements of various regulatory authorities in multiple countries globally. These category-leading capabilities spurred AxiomSL’s sales growth into double-digit territory. International business began climbing too. “We were growing like wheat in the fields,” says Tsigutkin, a native of Ukraine.

But growth also brought some challenges. AxiomSL had always given its customers attentive support, especially when they were new to automating GRC processes. With rapid growth, that level of care was becoming harder to sustain; a successful strategy for landing and expanding clients was reaching its limits. “It’s very difficult to do everything on your own, especially dealing with a large and growing client base at the same time,” Tsigutkin says. “I felt this was a great opportunity to put some expert disciplines together. When I got advice on how to do that, it was to bring top notch growth equity into the mix.”

So Tsigutkin invited growth-stage investors to present their ideas for AxiomSL, including TCV, a firm he knew well from regular interactions in the past. With around $2 billion already invested in fintech, TCV understood that AxiomSL’s business could grow even faster for three interrelated reasons: an explosion of data in the financial world, proliferating regulations around the globe, and sharply higher consequences for financial companies that mismanaged them. With tighter financial discipline, more proactive sales efforts and scaling up systems and processes, AxiomSL believed it could become not just a category leader but the global standard for risk management and regulatory infrastructure solutions for the financial services industry.

“As we talked with private equity firms, TCV was distinctive in a number of aspects,” recalls Etkin, the company’s CTO. “They had proven success with fintech and GRC companies, so their long-term vision for AxiomSL and their approach to collaborative business-building really stood out.”

TCV invested in AxiomSL in June of 2017, and the new partnership moved fast. “TCV knows how to focus on what’s key for scaling a company, not just growing in the same way,” Tsigutkin explains. For example, TCV pinpointed the need for industrializing sales, sales leadership as well as more robust processes for planning and budgeting. “They also helped us understand how to use equity to attract and reward people,” Etkin notes, which enabled the company to recruit multiple new executives with significant experience scaling similar organizations.

“TCV saw in AxiomSL a category leading industry-specific software business with next generation technology, a highly satisfied client base, a mission-critical use case, – and most importantly, product-centric co-founders and partners in Alex and Vlad who had deep subject matter expertise and a strong growth orientation.” recalled Nari Ansari, TCV general partner and former board director at AxiomSL.

The collaborative approach between AxiomSL management and TCV helped AxiomSL accelerate growth, increasing software revenue over 150% in three years. Its ControllerView® intelligent data management and analytics platform could provide thousands of reports across dozens of jurisdictions and more than 100 regulatory agencies. From 60 employees during the financial crisis, the company had grown to nearly 900 globally. According to Tsigutkin, “having such a strong team really helped us to build a world-class organization.”

Consistent with TCV’s longstanding investment thesis for governance risk and compliance solutions, change and complexity can provide for significant opportunities for leading software vendors.  Indeed, AxiomSL’s positioning for its offering set has been as a “Platform for Change” given the constantly evolving regulatory environment for financial services market participants.  As the business entered 2020, that change orientation would become even more paramount.

“As COVID-19 started in early 2020, the world changed quickly, and the swiftness of market happenings was adding increased complexity for banks and regulators alike. During this period, AxiomSL’s value proposition in understanding and managing risk continued to demonstrate its importance and the business saw sustained momentum throughout 2020,” remarked Amol Helekar, a TCV principal. 

When the pandemic hit, AxiomSL as an organization had to adapt as quickly as its customers. “Being with TCV during this period was absolutely a blessing,” Tsigutkin recalls. “First they helped us to stay calm and provided very sound advice about our talent strategy and the welfare of our valued Axiom team members. Then they helped us focus on execution and growth. Moving more into digital marketing, for example, really enabled us to keep growing in 2020.  TCV also supported us as we increased our investment in cloud offerings which became even more important in a distributed COVID world for our bank clients.”

AxiomSL’s hyper-growth during the TCV partnership resulted in consistent market share gains. Along with the company’s strong profitability, blue chip client list and technology leadership, these attributes brought interest from outside parties, particularly private equity firms. As Rick Kimball, TCV founding general partner and former AxiomSL board director remarked, “Alex, Vlad, and the team transformed the organization during our partnership while deftly executing a growth agenda that expanded the business on multiple dimensions.”

In the fall of 2020, TCV worked collaboratively with Alex, Vlad, and the AxiomSL management team to assess this external investment interest and prepare the business to explore various alternatives. Ultimately this brought an offer from private equity firm Thoma Bravo to acquire a majority stake in the company.  The new investment closed in December of 2020 in one of the largest GRC transactions of its kind, and Tsigutkin took a moment to reflect, “Our growth is due in no small part to the contributions of TCV, who has been a critical partner for AxiomSL for the past three years as we grew the franchise at a record pace.”


Toast: Building a System of Record for the Restaurant Industry

We believe that many SMB and vertical SaaS companies are starting to exhibit platform characteristics. Some of these companies are beginning to build consumer and supplier networks that are dramatically expanding the SaaS model.

Toast is a pioneer in the space, powering restaurants of all sizes with a technology platform that helps them streamline operations, increase revenue and deliver amazing guest experiences. No one lights up a room on these topics more than Tim Barash, Chief Business Officer and CFO at Toast. I’m also excited to welcome Tim as an Executive Advisor to TCV, where he will be working with TCV portfolio companies and helping us to assess new opportunities.

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Dave: Tim, welcome to TCV, and thanks so much for spending time to share your thoughts with us!

Tim: I am excited to be a part of the team — it’s been great to meet with some of the founders of this incredible new class of companies, changing the rules of what has traditionally been considered SaaS.

Dave: Tell us about Toast. What is the company today, what’s its mission, and where is it going?

Tim: Toast is a company that is transforming the hospitality industry with an end-to-end platform, extending from a core commerce engine into guest experience, employee engagement, and financial services. Our mission is to empower the restaurant community to delight guests, do what they love, and thrive. We as Toasters are very passionate about bringing this mission to life for our customers. We launched our core offering in 2013 to the first few restaurants and today are serving tens of thousands of customers while still growing over 100%, with over 1,600 employees globally. It’s been a wild ride these past five years and it’s a really fun space with a creative and diverse customer set.

Dave: You and I recently hosted an offsite on “SaaS as a Platform.” Why is Toast a platform to its restaurant customers?  If you’re the CEO of a SaaS company, how do you know that you are or could be a platform?

Tim: Toast really extends all the way from the front of house to the back of the house, bringing restaurants into the 21st century with a cloud and mobility-first operating system, including hardware such as self-ordering kiosks and handhelds for order & pay-at-the-table and guest feedback. We’ve evolved from this core system of record into other high-value offerings, including payment processing, payroll & employee management software, credit and consumer-facing apps, and we’ve had great feedback from our customer base that they want us to continue to solve more problems for them between our first-party offerings and our deep partner network.

I think being the Platform or System of Record generally means you have the most mindshare and time spent on your system relative to others the same user may have. As important is where the data resides; in the restaurant vertical, the core data sets are menus, orders, guest data, and employee data, whereas other verticals like doctor’s offices might be more around scheduling, billing/invoicing, and insurance connectors. If the key personas are logging in multiple times per day and using your tool as the system of record for their most important data, it’s likely there are multiple platform opportunities to exploit to make their lives even easier.

Dave: Let’s first talk about payments. Generically the opportunity in payments is for SaaS companies to start monetizing flow through GMV. Why is this good for your customers, the end merchant, and your customer’s customer, the merchant’s consumer?

Tim: A lot of companies are starting to integrate payments mostly because it creates a much smoother, simpler experience for the merchant. It starts with onboarding and spans ongoing support and easy reconciliation of transactions and payments through the same software. Small businesses generally do not like having to deal with multiple vendors when they can use one holistic solution for what they are trying to get done.

What’s really compelling is what you can do for the merchant and the end user once you have payments integrated by capturing more data. An example is identifying the end user and better understand buying patterns and be able to help small businesses market to their customers in a more targeted and automated way.

There’s also very significant margin enhancement if you can get payments right, which can fuel higher investment levels in areas like Customer Success and R&D to deliver even more customer value by displacing a horizontal payments vendor.

Dave: I know you could hold a master class on just payments, but quickly what are three tips for getting started? Should you make them mandatory, or an option?

Tim: Understanding your strengths and weaknesses as a team here is important — you can get started with a referral partnership or go full bore and become a payment facilitator and handle all the risk, underwriting, and merchant-facing tech. It really depends on the available talent, domain knowledge, and capital access to get something off the ground. Once you’ve decided what to go with, here are three tips:

  1. Build a dedicated team that understands your payments space at a deep level — there can be a lot of new complexity across product, tech, risk/underwriting, pricing, go-to-market strategy, and customer success that may look and feel different from your existing business. Make sure at least 1-2 people are coming in with real payments or fintech experience. Card-present vs. eCommerce experience will likely be something to think about here.
  2. Resist the urge to over-monetize or make pricing overly complex — traditionally there have been some bad actors in the payments world and, as a result, a lot of these companies have low NPS and very high churn — great SaaS companies have the opposite, so don’t tempt fate for a few extra basis points.
  3. If you are doing anything other than an arms-length referral partnership, you should be taking payments-specific risk, fraud, and security very seriously.

Dave: Ok, so once you’ve launched payments, how would you extend next? I know it depends, so maybe talk about where you would go if you were a front office offering and a back-office offering. Or better yet, what is the prioritization framework for the different offerings?

Tim: I think the prioritization framework begins with mission — why does your company exist and what are the biggest problems in your industry that you have an unfair right to help solve? As an example, Toast is the source of lots of employee data and we kept hearing from our customers that, in the current macro environment, labor was their biggest concern, so we had both the market need and the natural entry point to get deeper into payroll and employee engagement.

On back-of-office solutions it’s likely things like payments, credit, payroll, insurance, and B2B/vendor marketplaces can be interesting depending on the platform and vertical. For front-of-house it’s likely more about CRM, marketing tools, loyalty programs, other commerce touchpoints, and the holy grail of leveraging supply of SMB’s to create a two-sided consumer marketplace. That said, there aren’t many companies that have made the B2B2C transition, yet it can be a tremendous value creator.

Dave: Credit is a big step change because it involves a balance sheet and underwriting to risk. What is your take?

Tim: I think this really depends on the execution muscle of your company — if you’ve already gone deep on something like payments, you may have some experience on the fraud and underwriting side, but getting into credit ups the ante in a big way. You need to feel confident you have some really strong players on data science, finance, and risk to go after this yourself. Starting with a partnership with a Kabbage, Fundbox, or OnDeck could be a way to dip the toe in the water before putting your capital at risk or trying to attract outside investors to supply the capital for a credit offering.

If you are going after this yourself, you will almost definitely want to find outside capital to offload most of the risk and balance sheet implications of a credit business, both for optics reasons with investors and because your capital is better put to use hiring engineering, sales, etc. than lending to your customers.

Dave: How about payroll? Big dollars given the per employee model. How do you know there’s real demand for payroll? Given the 50-state nature, would you do this in-house, partner, or buy?

Tim: If I think about this space, the only software business that didn’t have HCM/HRIS at its core that’s done this really well is Intuit, though Square is also starting to gain traction in their new offerings. Payroll/HCM is its own beast with its own ecosystem of products from worker’s comp and healthcare to newer technology offerings like same-day pay and employee management solutions. Similar to payments, capital, marketplaces, and other platform plays, the decision on whether to extend is all about whether you have a natural right to play. For Toast, we have restaurant employees clocking in and out every day on our platform, and managers/owners running staffing reports and approving hours before downloading the data and uploading to a payroll/HCM solution. This made it a pretty natural move to solve this disjointed experience for our customers.

If you’ve got the natural right to play, demand is probably dependent on the complexity in your vertical — if your customers only have 1-5 employees and not a lot of complexity around time and attendance, they may be using an offering from Intuit through their accounting package, or Gusto, or some other inexpensive and easy solution, making it more difficult to displace.

In terms of build/partner/buy, this could be a long slog to build, because of all the regulatory/compliance elements. Depending on your scale, partnering is likely the best way to enter into the space and learn this side of the business. Just be careful as one of the reasons to get into payroll/HCM is that it’s a fairly sticky product.

Dave: Ok, let’s get into the next-level network effects for SaaS companies. Most two-level networks tend to be “Big B to small B” in a buyer/supplier relationship. TCV invested in three of them over the years. To give the theme a plug — Ariba in procurement, CCC in the auto industry, and Avetta  in supplier information management and compliance. You sell into large company buyers and help them connect more efficiently to smaller/SMB consumers. Winning into the big buyers gives you a strong value proposition to small suppliers and gaining more suppliers in your network makes you even more attractive to the big buyers. It’s a virtuous cycle.

But every SaaS company, particularly vertical and SMB providers, can look to leverage consumer, employee, and supplier networks. What’s your take?

Tim: It’s a really exciting play that is starting to develop in SaaS. If done correctly, it can be a game changer in helping SMBs get the scale advantages of larger enterprises and change their businesses for the better.

Dave: Let’s take supplier networks first. Who is doing a good job getting into the supplier marketplace?

Tim: I think you just hit a few of the strong players earlier. What CCC has done with the auto parts marketplace is really exciting and a playbook that could be run by a lot of SaaS platforms in other verticals, especially something like construction or home services. I’ve seen a lot of startups try to create the supplier marketplaces in industries such as dental offices, restaurants, and others, but the standalone model can be difficult because they aren’t starting with one side of the marketplace already built up — that’s what’s so exciting about these platform opportunities for existing SaaS companies.

Dave: How about employees?

Tim: There are lot of interesting companies out there. For example, SnagAjob and ZipRecruiter are working on building out the marketplace. I think ZipRecruiter has been a really interesting story as they did leverage existing relationship with employers to create their marketplace. Over time, I think we will see a lot more of these models. There have been a few entrants into the “LinkedIn of hourly workers” space, and time will tell if something like that will be created or if more mindshare will go to vertical-specific SaaS/Employee Network plays. It’s interesting to think about the marginal utility of a horizontal employee network, certainly there are some generalists in this employee population but also a lot of specialization in specific trades and industries.

Dave: Consumers is probably where the big dollars are. Marketplaces regularly capture 10-40% of GMV to deliver consumers.  How can SaaS companies partake of the consumer opportunity?

Tim: I think it heavily depends on how valuable the supply side of the marketplace is. There are verticals including food, certain home services, hotels, etc. where quality and user-specific preference is going to really matter. If you have really compelling supply (especially if it is hard to access online), you can get real leverage in building out a consumer marketplace. If it’s something like transportation, it may be harder to have any real edge against a standalone marketplace startup.

If you are in a position to capitalize on a consumer network, I think creating a separate team to go after that opportunity in a big way is likely the right way to go as so many parts of the business will be different than your core SaaS team is used to working on. You want the unfair advantage of owning supply without a handicap of having a team that hasn’t built a consumer business before.

Dave: Well Tim, I know we could go on for hours on this topic. Thanks so much for taking the time today, and great to have you as part of the TCV team. I’m excited to work with you.

 ***

Tim Barash is an Executive Advisor at TCV.

The views and opinions expressed in the blog post above are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). This blog post is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified above, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this document, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


Tastytrade interview with Chuck Davis of Prodege | Bootstrapping in America

From starting a football newsletter as a teenager that led to an internship with the NFL, to pioneering e-commerce at The Walt Disney Company and leading Fandango and Shopzilla.com as CEO, Chuck Davis has great stories and valuable lessons to share.

Chuck Davis is the CEO & Chairman of Prodege, an internet and media company that is dedicated to “creating rewarding moments” for its members by rewarding them with more than $700 million in cash and free gift cards since inception.

Prodege is the parent company of consumer rewards platform Swagbucks and InboxDollars and cash-back shopping sites MyPoints and ShopAtHome which has awarded over $700 million to its members.

Hear more about Chuck’s journey on this video interview for tastytrade‘s “Bootstrapping in America” episode, hosted by Tom Sosnoff & Tony Battista.

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Chuck Davis is a Venture Partner at TCV. Prodege and tastytrade are TCV portfolio companies. Fandango was a TCV portfolio company.

The views and opinions expressed in the blog post above are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). This blog post is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified above, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this document, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.



Reshaping Online Travel and Surpassing AU$100M ARR From Sydney

Silicon Valley does not have a monopoly on innovation. Great entrepreneurs are everywhere, and we have seen a strong software ecosystem emerging from Australia and New Zealand.

We recently profiled Rod Drury’s Xero journey building a global platform out of New Zealand. Meanwhile, another TCV company, SiteMinder, just reached an important milestone of AU$100 million ARR.

SiteMinder has methodically built a global SaaS leader in hospitality out of Sydney, Australia. Coupled with its impressive revenue milestone, SiteMinder has 35,000 hotel customers in 160 countries and is reshaping the hotel distribution value chain and online travel, itself.

TCV’s Dave Yuan caught up with founder Mike Ford to reflect on his journey.

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Dave: Congratulations, Mike! Hard to believe you’ve grown SiteMinder to AU$100 million ARR. That’s an incredible milestone and a great foundation for things to come, but let’s start from the beginning. Tell us about yourself and how you got here.

Mike: I always had an interest in technology and commerce, having majored in both. This led me to consulting, where I worked on large business intelligence projects for the likes of SABMiller, AngloGold Ashanti, and Chase Bank, bridging technology teams with executive management and getting a good grounding in both disciplines. Being passionate about travel, I embarked on a year-long backpacking adventure in 2000 before I arrived in Australia and took on a three-month contract with a health technology startup to fund further travel. In 2006, I founded SiteMinder, and I am still in Sydney 18 years on, so, clearly, my adventures didn’t work out as expected!

Dave: Tell us about the SiteMinder creation story. What was the original insight? When did you know you had an idea good enough to quit your day job?

Mike: I didn’t quit outright and that was key. I consulted for my then-employer, two days a week, in order to fund the early months.

There were two major influences that led me to take the leap.

The first was the health tech startup I was working at. They were digitising paper-based claims sent from hospitals to medical funds for reimbursement, as paper-based claiming involved a long payment and reimbursement cycle. For hospitals, the digitisation of claims meant instant delivery, faster reimbursement, and a clear digital trail. At the core of the engine was a switch that converted data from different hospital systems into formats digestible by different medical fund systems.

The second influence was an investment I’d made in an accommodation business. Through that, I learned how hotel and other accommodation sales were rapidly moving away from traditional channels, such as wholesalers and brick-and-mortar travel agents, to online booking sites as travellers were increasingly turning to the internet to make their reservations. The shift in consumer behaviour drove a proliferation of last-minute booking sites in Australia at the time, such as Wotif.com and lastminute.com.au, which promised huge discounts if you booked close to the date of your stay. The issue for hoteliers was there was no means of centrally managing all of those websites and keeping their room rates and availability continuously up to date on each. So, they often chose to list on only one or two sites and miss out on others because they couldn’t manage them at scale.

I quickly realised that if I could connect hotel systems with different online channels, as I did in the medical funds world, I could synchronise hotel room rates and availability in real time. For hoteliers, the value proposition was they could get more rooms onto more booking sites to grow their reach online. At the same time, they could reduce overbookings and the operational overhead of manually inputting reservations. That value proposition helped us get a strong foothold quickly in the market.

Dave: What was it like to start a company out of Sydney?         

Mike: We were actually very fortunate to be in Sydney. As with banking and payments technologies, Australia was far ahead in terms of technological innovation in online travel. Where other markets weren’t yet embracing dynamic room rates and availability, there were many booking sites in Australia available for hotels to list on. The multitude of sites, combined with the sheer number of hotels out there, especially independent hotels, meant that conditions were ideal for our entry into the market.

Funding was a big challenge as the technology venture market was very underdeveloped relative to what it is today. The government in Australia also had a myopic attitude to how important tech and STEM jobs were to the future of the economy, so tech startups got very little support in terms of R&D benefits, and sadly that hasn’t changed. In spite of these challenges, more than 80% of our revenue now comes from overseas markets. We are a truly global business that has kept its roots deeply in the city of Sydney where it all started.

Dave: You’ve scaled past AU$100 million ARR. Was it all smooth sailing from there, or were there big doubts and moments of near death?

Mike: In the early days, moments of doubts may have been around survival. Later, they were more focused on growth or new market entry, but they’ve never quite ceased, and I suspect it’s no different for any founder.

If ever there was a near-death experience, it would’ve been pre-angel investment, when I was funding the business and paying my co-founder out of my own savings. On top of that, we learned a competitor was launching a month before us, and they had AU$100 million in funds and an existing product. We had AU$180,000 and a beta release. It was nearly a no-go decision, but I’m pretty stubborn and so we took them on, and they soon went bankrupt.

Dave: What were the big decisions along the way?

Mike: Very important decisions included:

  1. Who we were going to take money from and bring on to our board of directors. We turned down early interest from numerous VCs purely on the first meeting dynamic.
  2. Whether we were going to go global or dominate locally, and what the timing would be.
  3. What not to chase. There are so many opportunities, and you can lose focus quickly unless you’re very clear about what you are and are willing to let go of opportunities that may seem attractive but don’t provide long-term benefits.

Additionally, the most crucial decisions involve the people you choose for the journey and the timing of bringing on key talent. The outlook of a founding CEO, certainly in the formative years, can differ substantially from those of a professional CEO. As a founding CEO, you have grown the team and the business from nothing. You have loyal, committed, and talented individuals who have helped you get the business to a particular stage so the company culture is more familial. Yet, through high growth, it’s hard to stay on top of skills and challenges across the business, and you may find yourself in a situation where you either don’t recognise that such deficiencies exist, or you don’t take appropriate measures quickly enough to address them. Over time, you get better at identifying the skills you need for the future, ahead of the curve.

Dave: How has SiteMinder succeeded in a field that has gotten so much competitive attention?

Mike: I think the definition of success is different for everyone. There are many travel tech companies that I would consider successful, even if they may not all have the size and growth trajectory of SiteMinder.

It sounds cliché, but it comes down to the deliberate process of ensuring many ingredients come together in the right way, at the right time, and in the right sequence. We’ve had a focused and smart go-to-market strategy, plus we over-indexed on personalised support for our customers and doubled down on localising our products and service for many different countries. We’ve invested in strong operational centres around the globe to provide true round-the-clock sales and customer service, and we’ve hired smart people. I could go on, but at our core we are product-driven and customer-obsessed. That permeates our culture and is key. Even if your product is average, you can have early success if your sales and marketing are great. In the long run, you can only continue your success if your product is truly market leading.

Dave: As you look forward, what are the big opportunities for hoteliers? How might this translate into benefits for the consumer and traveller?

Mike: Many hoteliers are still stuck in their traditional ways and aren’t open to the possibilities that technology can offer in making a world of difference. This does vary between hotel segments such as independent versus chain, full service versus limited service, regional versus city, and even by country. The vast majority of hoteliers still struggle to navigate the changing online landscape and are overwhelmed by the extent of the choice out there.

It’s for this reason that we’ve created an ecosystem, not just of our own technology, but of all other technology players that can help hoteliers navigate the online world in search of guests. If hoteliers can connect with customers at every touchpoint throughout their buying journey, they can ultimately create greater guest experiences long before those guests set foot in their lobby and long thereafter.

Dave: If SiteMinder fulfills its mission, what role can it play in the changing online travel ecosystem?

Mike: SiteMinder currently connects to 700+ partners within the travel ecosystem, so hoteliers can hook everything they need into their property management system and harness the power of integration, openness, and choice. Essentially, our platform is the most comprehensive and effective way for hoteliers to bring guests to their hotels, without having to think about or manage technology. It gives them more time to spend on the guest experience, which is the part they really enjoy.

If hoteliers can choose any best-of-breed solution to optimise their opportunities in acquiring guests in an increasingly online-driven world, we’re doing our job.

We also play a big role in the value chain in online accommodation, specifically the supply equation, by connecting hotel room rates and availability in real time to points-of-sale such as booking sites. We enable those booking sites to gain traction in core markets, where they otherwise can’t access a supply of rooms to sell.

There have been middlemen aggregators in the past that have rolled up supply for booking sites yet we connect the room supply directly to booking sites or room demand sources, so there is no ticket clipping and dilution of margin between the supplier (the hotel) and the seller (the booking site). In doing so, we have streamlined the supply chain for hotel rooms, rates, and content.

Dave: SiteMinder’s opportunity is also unique as a SaaS company. Vertical SaaS is seeing a renaissance with SaaS companies taking on platform and network characteristics, meaning “SaaS as a Platform”. What does SiteMinder look like as a SaaS business model over time?

Mike: We started out with a distribution platform for hotels. Over time, we recognised the importance of the direct sales channel and expanded our platform to integrate a hotel’s own website, so they could manage both their indirect and direct sales channels.

Over the years we’ve designed our platform to be more proactive and have powered it with business intelligence that steers our customers and makes them aware of opportunities to improve their hotel business. For example, our platform makes hoteliers aware of changes in market conditions or demand, so they can maximise their guest acquisition capabilities in a rapidly evolving online landscape.

The next evolution is really exciting. We recognise that there are many great applications and tools out there for hoteliers, and they can all improve a hotel’s guest acquisition strategy. These may be upselling tools, airport transfer services or activity bookings, revenue management systems or anything in between. We know that one company will never build the best of all these things. Our brand essence has always been one of openness, so we’ve developed a way to seamlessly link a hotel’s property management system to all the different applications. In doing this, our customers will be able to use all the best-of-breed applications available out there in combination with our own platform. If we are successful in this endeavour, we will have the most open and connected platform the hotel industry has seen, with the greatest number of hotel participants (we already have 35,000 today).

Dave: Outside of SiteMinder, what in online travel gets you excited?

Mike: One important shift is the rise of tours and activities moving increasingly to online with dynamic inventory and pricing. Driving this is people’s desire to seek experiences, not just flights and accommodation. We’re seeing increasing demand among consumers to package their accommodation, services and ancillaries, so they can get the best experience out of their accommodation and the local destination.

Somewhat tangential is the rise of personalisation. For a more personalised experience, including destination advice, many travellers still use a brick-and-mortar travel agent to plan their trip. That said, we’re also seeing the growing dominance of online booking sites. Alone, neither of these options is ideal for at least one segment of the leisure travel market, so I think we will increasingly see hybrids where booking sites get better at offering deeper, more human advice and personalised service. This may even include speaking to a local human expert when booking online. We are already starting to see signs of that happening now.

There are also relatively new entrants like Google making a wave in the space with disruptive models that are attractive to hoteliers. I think the race is on for OTAs to create a seamless end-to-end experience for the consumer, including research and advice, flights, hotels, car hire, transfers, in-destination activities and experiences, restaurants and everything in between.

Dave: Thanks so much, Mike, and congratulations again! AU$100 million ARR is an amazing milestone that only a few reach. Savour it!

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The statements, views, and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the speakers and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This interview is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies. For additional important disclaimers, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at
https://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


Factory Software from Wine Country

It began over dinner. Nancy and Randy Flamm, who worked for competing suppliers of materials to small manufacturing companies, were out with a shared customer who wished that his factory had the kind of MRP and ERP software that large manufacturers had. Randy sensed opportunity: As production manager at a small manufacturer in the early 1980s, he had written his own software for inventory and scheduling. In short order the Flamms quit their jobs, took a second mortgage on their house in Los Angeles, and launched IQMS.

They had 100 customers within a year.

The innovations came quickly. Randy converted his software to the newly introduced Windows platform, creating one of the first Oracle-based client-server programs for small manufacturers. Then he connected the application to factory equipment so that the machines automatically sent operating information to a data warehouse. Next, he linked the warehouse to back-office financial and human resource systems for the industry’s first end-to-end solution. He changed the whole game by delivering comprehensive views of factory performance in real time.

Now IQMS enabled small factories to do what the big ones did: monitor operations moment by moment around the clock, adopt lean principles, organize just-in-time supply chains, cut downtime with proactive maintenance, and determine production cycles and unit costs within minutes and cents.

Growth and Challenges

With growth came both challenges and opportunities. The Flamms had moved IQMS to Paso Robles, a wine region midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, which made them one of the handful of high-tech companies near mid-state universities such as California Polytechnic University (“Cal Poly”). But then Silicon Valley began attracting talent from those schools, and the Flamms had to get creative with their recruiting. One tactic was doing interviews on local talk radio, encouraging parents and grandparents to tell college-age kids that Paso Robles had its own high-tech employer.

Meanwhile Randy was the company’s CEO, CTO, and software designer, and nearly everybody in the company reported to him. Nancy, the controller, pulled in her brother and his wife to run sales and marketing. When the Flamm’s babysitter Shannon Holloway showed interest in IQMS, they discovered she had management talent and hired her, too.

At the 20-year mark, IQMS had annual revenue of $35 million, no debt, a strong competitive position – and the Flamms were turning down dozens of investor inquiries each year. When they decided to recapitalize in 2014, one company stood out. “TCV was heads above everybody else,” Randy Flamm says. “We spoke the same language, and everything they ever said was exactly what happened.”

Strong Partnership

“IQMS caught our attention well before we invested, because of our experience with other founders who achieved the same kind of technological and competitive breakthrough,” explains Jake Reynolds, general partner at TCV who led the investment with fellow general partner Kapil Venkatachalam. “We weren’t worried that they had taken little or no outside investment, because that meant they were going to judge us based on what we could do for their business, not the size of our check.”

TCV presented a roadmap for moving IQMS toward cloud-based, SaaS solutions that generated revenue from subscriptions rather than licenses. TCV also advocated for tools to surround the company’s customer-focused products with stronger support and professional services, and for increasing speed by building out the software architecture to a true multi-tenant solution. Significant investments in all these areas would take several years to accomplish but prove decisive for scaling the company.

Just as importantly, TCV had abundant experience with transitioning founder-led, family-run companies to experienced manage teams. That’s why everyone was delighted when Gary Nemmers, formerly COO of HighJump Software, agreed to become IQMS’ new CEO in 2015. Nemmers was a veteran of other founder-led businesses, and he had helped grow and scale multiple businesses and prepare companies like HighJump for its successful exit via acquisition. “The first time I met Randy and Nancy, we clicked, and I knew it in my gut that the time of the transition was right,” Nemmers recalls, and that was the beginning of IQMS’ next phase of rapid and sustainable growth.

Smooth Management Transition

Respectful of IQMS’s close-knit culture, Nemmers worked closely with TCV and brought in seasoned veterans to take leadership positions the company had never staffed before, including Matt Ouska as CFO, Dan Radunz as CTO, and Cheri Williams as SVP of professional services. Under Nemmers’ leadership, the team formalized and aligned the company’s core business processes so they could accelerate product management and development, serve more customers, and scale more efficiently than in the past. They also established an office near San Francisco to increase the company’s accessible pool of software talent.

“Our mantra was ‘people, processes, playbook’,” says Nemmers of his first year leading IQMS. “Once we added a few key people, we could bring in strong processes across the entire firm and establish playbooks to do things in a consistent, repeatable way.” As for working with private equity, his advice to other CEOs is equally clear. “You listen to and align with your board and your investors. At the same time, you follow what has made you successful in the past because that’s why they hired you to run the company.”

New Growth

IQMS flourished and significantly increased its customer base. Growth was not always smooth, but TCV had Nemmers’ back. “License revenue is inherently lumpy,” he points out, “so sometimes revenue was a rollercoaster. We’d crush our plan one quarter and miss the next, but we had a plan and knew how to execute. The board was super helpful in thinking long-term and strategically versus focusing on quarter-to-quarter swings. They were great sounding boards.”

With a broader and deeper solution set plugged into a professional marketing engine, IQMS emerged as one of the top software providers for small and medium-sized manufacturers around the world. The company naturally started attracting attention from the strategic players in the ecosystem. “We knew that IQMS offered the best route for enterprise software providers who wanted to expand into the SMB space,” Nemmers points out, “so we played from strength. It wasn’t just the enterprise players evaluating IQMS, it was also us looking for an ideal fit.”

Strategic Exit

Dassault Systèmes of France stood out for exactly that reason, and Nemmers seized an opportunity to kickstart the conversation. During a visit to Europe, he picked up the phone and called Philippe Charles, SVP of manufacturing and supply chain for Dassault. “I told him I was in Zurich and a whole day had opened up on my calendar,” Nemmers recounts. “He said ‘Give me five minutes.’ Then he called back with an invitation to meet him and his team in Paris, and that was the beginning of the great relationship we built with Dassault over the next year and a half that led to the merger.”

Nemmers and his team had carefully and strategically grown the business and poured energy into building relationships with customers, serving 1,000 manufacturers located primarily in the U.S. whose 2,000 manufacturing facilities in 20 countries produce for the automotive, industrial equipment, medical device, consumer goods, and consumer packaged goods industries. The core MES and ERP platform could be expanded with more than 20 additional modules including CRM and payroll, all integrated in a single database.

“Dassault is a strategic vendor for enterprise manufacturers and was looking for a way to get into the SMB segment,” explains Venkatachalam. “Initially we talked about channel partnerships, but we had a feeling the discussion would pivot toward something more strategic.” Nemmers worked with TCV to conduct a robust M&A process that included more than 20 strategic vendors and investment firms. Dassault won the deal and completed the acquisition in early 2019.

The two companies already share around 600 customers, who use both IQMS solutions and Dassault’s SolidWorks platform to run their factories. From this foundation, IQMS can market to over 55,000 SolidWorks customers and Dassault can now address the world’s estimated 250,000 SMB manufacturers. Even the timing is perfect, because so many SMB manufacturers are now replacing legacy software that is reaching end-of-life. Randy and Nancy Flamm are happily ensconced on their ranch near the Pacific coast, while Nemmers guides his team and IQMS through its integration with Dassault and onward toward even greater success.

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