Empowering the growth mindset: Next gen people SaaS

The employer-employee relationship is being reshaped and the next generation of HR software vendors are helping employers attract and retain the best talent

At long last, companies are waking up to the reality that the talent they employ is their most strategic, and ultimately differentiating, asset. However, in a somewhat ironic twist of fate, attracting and retaining talent is more difficult than ever before, driven by near decade-low unemployment rates, the much touted Covid-induced “Great Resignation”, and global competition for increasingly diverse and inclusive talent. Employers are also facing hybrid work as the new normal, as well as a generational shift to Millennials as the dominant employee base. 

The task for navigating these challenges is being laid at the feet of HR teams, whose responsibilities now span everything from driving Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) initiatives and improving organizational health and wellness to reducing employee attrition and navigating hybrid work / the return to the office. All of this in turn necessitates a much more strategic approach, and has escalated the importance of People teams to mission-critical as organizations recognize they need to do everything in their power to hire, nurture, and retain top-tier talent.

At the same time, People teams have historically relied on a legacy stack of outdated and inflexible software tools (e.g. ADP, SAP Successfactors, Oracle HCM, and Ceridian) that have acted primarily as systems of record rather than systems of engagement built for a hybrid work-environment and focused on employee user-experiences and organizational ROI. These tools are unable to drive employee engagement and lack the functionality required to enable People teams to operate effectively.

Enter Next Gen People SaaS, the new-age of HR software tools seeking to empower People teams looking to align People operations with overarching company strategy. 

These vendors are going after a massive market opportunity – Paychex, Workday, and ADP alone comprise $200Bn in market cap. That said, the market is not homogeneous, and the dynamics in each segment are nuanced. For instance, while the SMB market is largely greenfield (running many HR processes on paper and Excel), the enterprise market is rife with legacy solutions that are difficult to integrate with and thus organizations are left with tool sprawl, where a spaghetti-mix of 50+ different HR tools is not unusual. 

We at TCV have been lucky enough to partner with next gen HR leaders including LinkedIn, Grupa Pracuj (the largest job board in Poland), Hirevue (AI-driven talent assessment and video interview platform), Perceptyx (employee surveys and people analytics platform), OneSource Virtual (Business-Process-as-a-Service vendor for the Workday ecosystem) and more recently Darwinbox (cloud-native end-to-end HRIS platform for Enterprise), and Humu (enterprise-grade digital training platform). In addition, we have also had the opportunity to both collaborate with and learn from a deep bench of People-team leaders across our portfolio, including TCV Venture Partner Jessica Neal, the former Chief Talent Officer at Netflix. We continue to believe there are enormous opportunities ahead in HR and expect to see innovation arise from every corner of the globe. Here are three of the major themes we believe will shape the HR-tech landscape in the coming years.

#1: HR products built for employees

While we are now used to frictionless, user-friendly tech experiences everywhere in our personal lives, the software tools many of us use daily in the workplace are clunky and counter-intuitive. Next Gen People SaaS is changing this paradigm by putting employee experience at its heart and, in the process, turning systems of record into systems of engagement, driving ever-higher ROI, as well as enabling flexibility with how employees engage with employers.

Best-in-class UX is required for Next Gen People SaaS

Superior UX enables employees to self-serve to a much greater degree, alleviating the administrative burden on People teams. Geographic and vertical context also becomes relevant. For example, offering a truly mobile-native and mobile-optimized (note: not the same as just having an app) UX in emerging markets and frontline industries can be critical in driving access and engagement across the full employee base. This is a key factor that underpins the  strong momentum seen in companies like Darwinbox. Many new-age tools also monitor traditionally “B2C” KPIs (e.g. DAU/MAU, sessions per day), while also continuously A/B testing to drive better user engagement, thereby unlocking workforce insights that legacy tools with poor user uptake are simply unable to access. By utilizing Next Gen People SaaS, People teams can drive heightened employee engagement while also gaining meaningful insights in culture, sentiment, and employee performance.

Employing talent on its own terms

The days of inflexible, full-time, in-office employment are largely behind us. Companies have realized that, in the war to hire world-class talent, the ability to offer flexible employment (e.g. remote work from anywhere in the world, freelancing) can be a critical differentiator. That said, this creates enormous challenges for People teams, as running onboarding and compliant payroll and benefits across full-time and freelance employees in several countries is fraught with complexity. This has driven the rise of a host of new tools (e.g. employer of record, aggregated global payroll, end-to-end freelancer management tools) to simplify this process and alleviate companies of onerous compliance and administrative burdens. We believe these tools will further embed themselves into the core-HR stack of the hybrid workplace of the future.

#2: Talent is at the forefront of HR product innovation

The ongoing war for talent will dramatically reshape the HR tech-stack in the years ahead. Given the criticality of talent as a key differentiator, we expect to see accelerated innovation and the rise of best-in-breed point solutions (particularly for larger enterprises) at every stage of talent management process:

Sourcing

Professional networks, such as former TCV investment LinkedIn, have become staples of the HR toolkit. That said, there are further opportunities to enrich data from existing networks and build more advanced, automated searches powered by AI:  e.g. aligning with an employer’s diversity and inclusion goals, helping to automatically elevate talent at the right stage in their careers, prior candidate rediscovery, etc.

Screening and recruitment

We are seeing two major, and often simultaneous, themes reflecting the growing war for scarce talent – 1) a pivot towards building candidate-friendly recruitment experiences vs. being employer-centric (as much as employers are trying to better evaluate whether a candidate is a good fit for them, savvy candidates are doing the same with potential employers); 2) a pivot away from interview processes focused on subjective individual assessments towards more quantitative, standardized screening that collects dozens of data points along the candidate journey to reach better, less biased recruiting outcomes. 

Enablement

Retaining and nurturing talent have become highly strategic areas for employers, exacerbated by the generational shift towards a Millennial employee-base. We have seen the rise of increasingly sophisticated solutions for engaging and training talent, including a focus on individualizing content delivery. For instance, TCV portfolio company Humu helps teams instill and develop effective workplace habits through the use of behavioral nudges. At the core of Humu’s differentiation is the focus on delivering the right content, to the right person, at the right time.

Although the supply of world-class talent in every department is scarce, nowhere is the effect of the war for talent felt more acutely than in R&D. As ‘technology’ has shifted from being a standalone industry vertical to a horizontal foundation that nearly every industry depends upon, demand for engineering talent has never outweighed the supply more dramatically. Given that analysts continue to forecast a global technology talent shortage of nearly 5M workers by 2030[1], we anticipate this will be a defining trend of the 2020s and will continue giving rise to engineer-focused talent solutions.

While we expect the proliferation of talent-focused point solutions to continue, at the same time, we expect to see other segments of the HR stack begin to rebundle. Many mid-market and enterprise People teams have experienced massive tool proliferation over the last years (some using as many as 50+ different HR apps!) and tool sprawl is now becoming increasingly challenging to manage. As a result, we expect to see many core HR tools (e.g. time & attendance, benefits etc.) naturally aggregate thereby providing HR teams and employees with seamless, end-to-end integrated workflows.

#3: The specialization (and verticalization) of HR

In spite of the fact that both employer and employee needs vary significantly by size, industry, and geography, many vendors historically have offered a ‘one-size-fits-all’ HR proposition. As a result, there have been a number of historically overlooked and underappreciated market segments that represent massive greenfield opportunities when innovators focus on them explicitly. Going forward, as we have seen with broader vertical SaaS over the last decade, we expect to see the rise of verticalized HR vendors who focus on a specific customer segment and offer a much deeper, more tailored proposition than a generic, horizontal platform. In addition to this, we believe there are clear parallels with our theses around the office of the CFO and SaaS as a network whereby the verticalization of HR also gives rise to the opportunity for vendors to offer a bundled solution which in turn can drive TAM expansion, improved retention, better unit economics, and a more strategic relationship with customers. Two major expressions of this that we are focused on are 1) the rise of SMB-focused platforms and 2) tool-building for frontline workers.

Rise of SMB platforms

People teams in SMBs have historically been notoriously overstretched, understaffed (or even nonexistent!), and undertooled. More often than not, the “core People” platform is pen-and-paper or an Excel spreadsheet that is error-prone, time-consuming to update, and only acts as a very basic system of record. 

Increasingly, as SMBs are having to up their game and offer great employee experiences irrespective of resource constraints, we are seeing a new generation of arms dealers cater to this enormous yet enormously underserved market segment. Given the greater propensity for SMBs to purchase bundled solutions, we believe that vendors who can land with a mission-critical beachhead have an opportunity to expand their footprint and build a single-aggregated People suite for SMBs. 

We see two primary beachheads into the SMB today – the central people data repository (“HRIS”) and Payroll (mission critical from day one). Companies in such a position have a unique opportunity to build an ecosystem of integrations with best-in-breed tools (e.g. for performance, engagement, training and onboarding, interviewing, etc.), further embedding themselves as the epicenter of the new SMB People stack, and potentially over time branch out and cross-sell other People modules and even financial services (e.g. insurance, expense management, etc.). As outlined above, this drives a multitude of benefits (ARPU expansion, improved retention, deeper customer relationship, etc.). 

Given the sheer scale of the SMB base (e.g. SMBs typically represent ~50% of national GDPs[2]), the market opportunity for even national or regional champions is enormous.

Building for the frontline

Despite the fact that nearly 2 billion people currently work on the frontline and nearly every organization employs a combination of desk-based and frontline workers, HR tools have historically catered primarily to longer-tenured, desk-based employees. That said, this is changing as organizations are increasingly recognizing the importance of engaging their frontline workforce, in no small part catalyzed by the recognition of the critical role frontline workers played in helping navigate the Covid-19 pandemic.

The requirements of frontline employees can differ significantly from those of desk-based workers. As a starting point, many frontline workers lack access to a desktop (so being truly mobile-optimized and deliverable to a variety of endpoints is mission critical); they may not have a company email address (which has implications for security as well as means of communication); and they often have more flexible, shift-based working hours (which has implications for time/attendance/payroll). In addition, hiring, training, and onboarding may need to happen in a matter of hours, versus days or weeks for desk-based employees.

We are now seeing the rise of HR tools optimized to service the unique requirements of this historically underserved segment of the workforce. Going forward, mirroring the rise of vertical SaaS in the past several years, we expect to see continued specialization of HR platforms by worker type, which in turn is a stepping stone towards industry verticalization. As with the SMB opportunity, this could in turn drive opportunities to offer bundled HR solutions such as employee learning, time and attendance, and payroll.

What excites us

While great progress has been made modernizing the HR technology stack in recent years, the unprecedented challenges HR teams face when looking to hire and retain world-class talent are more pertinent today than ever before. We believe this will continue to create massive opportunities for problem-solving technology vendors across the HR stack, especially into historically underserved market segments. We at TCV are incredibly excited about what the future holds for HR tech and look forward to backing and supporting visionary teams building the seminal businesses of tomorrow across every corner of the globe.


[1] Future of Work: The Global Talent Crunch, Korn Ferry, 2018

[2] 2020 Annual Report on European SMEs, European Commission; & “Measuring the Small Business Economy,” Bureau of Economic Analysis, US Department of Commerce, 2020

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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 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, 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 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/


Top Ten Takeaways from TCV’s Q1 Sales Ops Roundtable

To support our family of portfolio companies navigate these turbulent times, we have been hosting a series of webinars and roundtables, focused on sharing business fundamentals and best practices for c-level executives. We recently brought together members of the TCV family for the quarterly TCV Sales Ops Roundtable featuring Ronnie Gurion, COO of ClioMatt Cox, VP of Rev Ops at FinancialForce, and Fred Sanders, VP of Rev Ops at OneSource Virtual

We gained some great insights. Here are our top 10 takeaways:

  1. Early in the Go-To-Market planning process, push for the key strategic pillars. This will allow the rest of the teams to march in unison. Unless there are fundamental shifts in the business, 70 to 80% of strategic pillars should carry over year over year.

  2. Planning is an expansive process, but too often it becomes sales-centric. You often see account expansion get the short straw of resources, and you often miss some of the biggest opportunities for growth through in-app or product opportunities. Often, the latter have a bigger impact than the sales-centric approach, so be aware.

  3. The most effective way to kill a sales team is through a poorly thought through sales comp plan. And to insert nails further in the coffin, deliver that plan late.

  4. We often see companies rolling out new product and simply telling Sales, “Here’s your new quota.” But adding quota or new product targets to sales teams in this way does not create alignment. We find the most competent and most confident resources in the company are the best set of resources to use in introducing new product. It also works as a learning tool when you more broadly introduce the new product, as it sorts out all sorts of operational issues and gives your top resources visibility into the management team in a new way.

  5. Rather than having annual budgets, we optimize on a few metrics like LTV/CAC or percentage of sales team above quota. That gives leaders a pathway to invest more in Sales in an uncapped way.

  6. When you look at your win-rates, model it out by stage. What moved the needle from stage to stage? Do you know? How closely did your propensity to buy models align to win-rates? Do the same for losses as well to make sure reps are not just warehousing deals.

  7. If you are part of a private equity team, make sure to connect with your peers at other companies. We have found it useful to run meet-ups with specific vendors that have a center of gravity in the portfolio where they can share what the best companies are doing. It’s always useful to learn where companies are hitting obstacles as well, of course.

  8. Many companies build propensity to purchase models primarily focused on new logo growth. Don’t forget to model out propensity to spend for your existing accounts as well. That is just as important in your planning and prioritization process, but often given less focus by sales leaders.

  9. If you are trying to become a platform or moving off a single product, the hot question is going to be bundling. Prototype this out well in advance.

  10. When interviewing sales op talent, the best candidates are the ones that did research about you and your addressable market prior to the interview. Make sure you ask candidates about what they know, and where they see potential opportunity to add value based on what they have learned.

TCV runs quarterly roundtables across executive roles to surface best practices, drive networking and road test ideas. We are looking forward to the Q2 TCV Sales Ops Roundtable, where we’ll focus on sales management team best practice, cadences, as well as share the insights of our ever-growing network of battle-tested leaders.


Insights from Collective[i]: How Data-Driven Decision Making is Transforming the B2B Sales Industry to Be More Efficient, Accurate, and Optimized for Success

Growth Hacks – Moving the Metric

As the founder of Collective[i], a leading platform for AI-enabled digital sales, Stephen Messer spends a great deal of time thinking about how sales organizations can better use technology to drive intelligent transformations of their sales processes. As Stephen has seen firsthand, one of the biggest pain points for any sales organization is manual data entry. While the process can be cumbersome, the need for accurate lead capture is higher than ever. Sales decisions have been shifting away from one to two points of contact towards a circle of influence that can involve multiple members of a target business, and by leaving a bulk of those decision makers out of a CRM, both sales and marketing teams are denying themselves the ability to leverage their connections to this larger team of decision makers. What’s worse, they’re limiting their ability to analyze this data that would help them better understand a target’s buying decisions and optimize the best route to close deals and influence their own go-to-market strategies. 

In the latest episode of Growth Hacks, Stephen breaks down for Kunal and Katja the reason that he believes the B2B sales industry is on the precipice of undergoing a major digital transformation that will move the field away from its existing qualitative mentality into one driven by data-heavy analysis that can actually move the needle. He walks us through some of the surprising takeaways he’s seen through Collective[i]’s Intelligent WriteBack product, such as the fact that most sales teams spend 20% of their time – up to an entire day per week – on forecasting and predictions that often don’t yield highly accurate results. He offers solutions for ways that sales teams can better think about forecasting and predictions, and explains how better data capture and data analysis will allow for better modeling and optimization of go-to-market strategies in both the short and long term for businesses that are willing to invest time into better data capture. 

Key Takeaways: 

  • Why companies are still wasting time on ineffective forecasting, and ways to do it better.

    One of the major themes that Stephen has seen through Collective[i]’s platform is that organizations are still spending roughly 20% of their time working on forecasting. When looked at from a different lens, that’s one day per week that’s being dedicated to a non-revenue producing task. Compounding the issue is the fact that it is rare for marketers to predict the future, which means that one-fifth of each week is spent chasing an accuracy rate that may never be reached. Collective[i] instead leverages its AI-powered platform to better understand what’s changing in a business’ landscape on a day-to-day scale. While it can be easy to get sucked into the standard model of months-ahead forecasting, Stephen suggests using data to understand how the world is changing in the near term. As he puts it, “What [boards] really want to understand is how the daily change is affecting their likely future, so that they can decide, ‘Do I open up the budget or do I close it down?’ They want to make sure they’re on track, that it’s reliable, and that everything is predictable.”
  • How the sphere of influence in purchasing decisions has grown to involve larger networks.

    As any salesperson knows, one of the largest challenges of managing a CRM database is the time spent on manual data entry. While skipping the process of entering leads may seem like a minor trade-off to make in pursuit of revenue-generating activities, Collective[i] has seen that the sphere of influence in purchasing has expanded significantly. What used to be one or two contacts has now become seven to eight buyers involved in a transaction, many of whom remain unknown to the larger sales and marketing organizations. Stephen estimates that these days, roughly 70% of people involved in a deal never even make it into a CRM. But if sales organizations start paying attention to the importance of making sure those contacts are accounted for, it becomes imminently clear that purchasing decisions are influenced by a much larger group. 

    “It changes the way you think about how the buyer is going through their buying process, and that can give you a real advantage if you know who’s there,” says Stephen. “Take account-based marketing. If you never know who’s there, and you don’t know the personas, you’re not going to be able to get that marketing tailwind from your organization simply because you can’t get that information into the CRM.”
  • Ways that AI can help sales teams to better understand buying decisions and optimize go-to-market strategy.

    Once teams begin to internalize the idea that buying decisions are made by a larger circle of influence, they can unlock the value in all the data being collected around buying decisions. Companies can better leverage opportunities using the full force of their networks, and capitalize on the social connections that can be uncovered through that data. By using AI, sales organizations can take this one step further. Rather than sifting through contacts in a CRM to find the best set of first and second-degree connections to a circle of influence, B2B sales organizations can use technology to analyze large data sets and better understand how buying decisions are made by that buying group. “If I can observe that same buying group across multiple sellers, it allows us to really start making good predictions about when they do this, what it means, or what they’re going to do next. And then we can look across an even larger network to start to understand what people do that leads to certain wins or losses,” explains Stephen. 

    Once those predictions are being put into action, savvy sales organizations can even use the data from their hits and misses to optimize their go-to-market strategy for the future. “The cool part of AI is that you can run the time forward [and say] here is the stack pattern of what we’ve done today. What is the optimal thing [I] can do next? How do I personalize my sale to the way this buying group likes to buy?” 
  • Why Stephen is bullish on sales organizations changing their operational playbooks as the industry further digitizes.

    As evidenced by the data Stephen has collected on time overspent on forecasting, it’s apparent that the sales industry is ripe for changing how it has operated in the past. For decades the industry has operated on a qualitative model of decision making, but Stephen and his team at Collective[i] are confident that the industry will begin to move towards a much more data-driven sales process. “The biggest myth is that sales organizations are going to continue to operate in the same way they’ve done over the last 30 to 40 years. I think a lot of people are tweaking around the edges. I see this as a transition from being a very qualitative, very opinion-based world, to a very quant heavy world,” says Stephen. 

    While the concept may seem cumbersome, leading organizations to believe they shouldn’t rock the boat, he implores companies to remember that change isn’t as hard as it seems – after all, brand marketers were able to adapt to a new generation of digital marketing over the past decade, and in the last couple years alone, many organizations that had never used tools such as video conferencing quickly adapted to a new remote normal in a matter of weeks. “I think sales is going through a huge transition as it digitizes, and that will change everything about how we operate for the better,” says Stephen.

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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/.


Building the operating system of the CFO: SMBs and beyond

The Opportunity Today

The notion that SMBs have been underserved by financial institutions is not a new one – for years, small business owners have complained about opaque pricing, lengthy onboarding processes, overly burdensome compliance, siloed & poorly integrated integrations, and painfully manual customer support. In many ways, SMBs have been a forgotten middle child; harder to serve than retail customers while lacking the deep pockets of large enterprises. It is no surprise then that only 18% of small businesses in the U.S. completely agree that banks are providing them the services they need to run the financial side of their business[1]. The number is likely lower in emerging markets where incumbent FIs are even more underinvested (and often even more profitable). Despite this, traditional FIs have had neither the impetus (owing to limited competitive pressures) nor the ability (owing to enormous tech debt) to change.

In recent years, we have seen this unstable equilibrium rightfully challenged by a number of businesses, several of which we at TCV have been lucky enough to partner with including Qonto, Brex, Revolut, Razorpay, Mollie, Xero, and Toast among others. While many of these vendors have unique landing points into the SMB (e.g. bank accounts / company incorporation, corporate cards, online payments, PoS), their propositions are widening (and increasingly overlapping), and many businesses are vying to become the Financial OS (Operating System) for the SMB.

Why should we care, you may ask? Simply put, the aggregation of these services makes a lot of sense, and the market opportunity ahead is enormous. The financial services stack of the SMB has become increasingly fragmented over time (see below) and dealing with this fragmentation is not trivial. On the other hand, the benefits of consolidation to both the SMB and the vendor are compelling. SMBs benefit from having fewer vendors to manage, improved integrations between applications that reduce human error and save time for already-overstretched finance teams, and the ability to effectively leverage data across their financial flows (e.g. payments processors who are directly in the flow-of-funds are able to both underwrite loans more accurately and collect repayment more seamlessly). On the other hand, vendors benefit from having improved customer retention (notoriously challenging in the SMB space where structural churn is high), increased ARPU, and more strategic customer relationships.

In addition to this, the SMB market is enormous. SMBs typically comprise ~50% of GDP, and comprise ~99% of total business count[2]. B2B payments are ~5x larger than B2C payments with SMBs comprising roughly half of this[3]. That said, we are at an inflection point today driven by a combination of technological & regulatory tailwinds (e.g. PSD2), growing customer acceptance (in part driven by growing B2C penetration), and the mass-migration to online-only services driven by Covid-19.

Furthermore, while SMBs have historically been able to access financial services through traditional FIs albeit in a high-friction manner, access to software has been severely lacking. Most SMBs today use Excel (or potentially even pen & paper) to manage the bulk of their finances. Given finance teams at SMBs are forced to wear multiple hats and notoriously understaffed, the potential ROI from optimising workflows and increasing automation alone is massive, not to mention the value in having greater control & understanding of your financial position. Today, we are still early in the adoption curve, but the direction of travel is clear and the question is when, and not if.

Understanding the landscape

The suite of services falling under the remit of the CFO is broad, encompassing managing cashflow across customers, suppliers, & employees, compiling management and financial accounts, and increasingly producing forward-looking forecasts that help drive strategy. The universe of vendors attacking the Office of the CFO is similarly broad and can be largely segmented along the two axes below:

The software vs. financial services distinction is an important one, with several key differences:

  • Regulation: software products are largely unregulated while financial products require some sort of license (e.g. payment institution license, banking license etc.)
  • Monetisation models: software products are typically fixed monthly subscriptions while financial products are largely volume-driven (e.g. % payment volumes or fixed cost per payment, interest rate on a loan)
  • Incumbent competitors: traditional FIs have largely offered financial products without providing accompanying software tools; next-gen SMB software vendors are primarily replacing excel and other largely manual solutions today
  • Drivers of ROI: software products mostly drive value through automation & workflow efficiencies while financial services is more around enabling a transaction to happen in the first place

While the earliest businesses to emerge typically serviced one function (e.g. accounting software, online acquiring, lending, payroll etc.), businesses are increasingly expanding their offerings across both of the axes above from their initial landing point. While this may seem straightforward, we’ve learned a few things along the way:

  1. The initial wedge will heavily influence the target customer base…
    1. While SMBs are often treated as a homogeneous group, the reality is very different. The needs of a freelancer, 10-FTE, 50-FTE, and 250-FTE business vary significantly and there is a standard ‘roadmap’ of evolving requirements as businesses scale. For example, a bank account and basic payments are mission critical from incorporation, credit is relatively rare among freelancers but becomes increasingly relevant & complex (e.g. corporate credit cards, loans) with scale, accounting software is most relevant for small businesses rather than micro business/freelancers, most other software products (e.g. cashflow forecasting, spend management) are most mission critical for larger SMBs
  2. …and natural product adjacencies
    1. Not all product combinations are created equal; this is driven by both the maturity curve outlined above (e.g. an accounting software vendor may find it challenging to cross-sell a banking offering as the target customer likely already has an existing banking provider) as well as the strength of synergies between the products (e.g. the combination of corporate card issuing & spend management is particularly powerful)
  3. Product velocity is a powerful differentiator…
    1. While rate of product innovation is important for any business, this is particularly true for those executing along the ‘Financial OS’ strategy, especially as competitive boundaries between historically siloed products begin to blur. Particularly amongst SMBs, the benefits of bringing more parts of the finance stack under one roof often outweigh the benefits of going best-in-breed with the exception of a few more complex/regulated products (e.g. payroll). Increasingly, we expect to see a turf war with the spoils disproportionately accruing to those able to offer a broader, integrated suite of ‘good enough’ solutions
  4. …but be practical about the buy vs build vs partner decision
    1. That said, not all parts of the stack need to be built in-house especially in instances where there are clear regulatory barriers (e.g. providing on-balance-sheet lending and acquiring a lending/banking license) or where there are potential win-win partnerships at hand (e.g. GTM partnerships) particularly where customer acquisition economics permit
  5. Verticalised solutions have the potential to extend beyond financial services
    1. For vertical vendors, there is an opportunity to bundle together industry-specific workflows with financial services potentially taking control of multiple systems of record. This in turn drives enormous TAM expansion, competitive moats, customer delight, and with it, economic potential. This is a concept that we, at TCV, have long advocated through our ‘full-potential SaaS’ framework
  6. Let your customers lead the way
    1. Size is not static and (much like my waist size over the holidays) an S today might be an M tomorrow. Similarly, many Ms will eventually graduate beyond ‘SMB’ designation and into large enterprises. Nowhere does this happen more quickly than among tech businesses which, often being early adopters themselves, typically comprise a disproportionate share of the customer base of next-gen financial services disruptors, particularly in their early innings. The advantages of this for vendors are twofold – 1) business models with a volumetric pricing model benefit from organic customer expansion, 2) vendors enjoy a constant stream of product feedback from increasingly demanding customers thereby allowing them to efficiently move up-market and, in an archetypal expression of Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma, leapfrog incumbents serving larger & deeper-pocketed customers

One important caveat – while the benefits of aggregation are clear for SMBs, this also needs to be balanced against the advantages of working with a specialist vendor particularly in instances where the problem being addressed is technically complex or highly localised (e.g. as a result of regulation). This dynamic has been particularly apparent in the software layer where we have seen the emergence of multiple standalone categories (e.g. accounting, tax, forecasting & scenario modelling etc). For vendors in these categories, the key pressure points will be in ensuring seamless integration into the rest of the finance stack, seeking out win-win partnership opportunities, and deepening functionality to avoid the risk of being aggregated into another system of record.

What are we excited about?

Despite the progress made over recent years, the Office of the CFO for SMBs remains a largely greenfield market with traditional FIs still controlling the lion’s share of the serviced market. The sheer scale of the market opportunity (99% of all businesses are SMBs!) and the heterogeneity within the SMB base (both by size tier and even by geography) mean there is plenty of room for many seminal businesses to emerge. Furthermore, this is a truly global phenomenon and SMBs in emerging markets such as India, LATAM, and SEA are even more underserved than their counterparts in the US & Europe. We, at TCV, are incredibly excited to continue backing and working with visionary founders across the world who are building for tomorrow.

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The views and opinions expressed are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the writers 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, 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 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] Designing Digital Financial Services that work for US SMBs, 11:FS, 2020

[2] 2020 Annual Report on European SMEs, European Commission

[3] “How the Next Payments Frontier will unleash small businesses”, Goldman Sachs Publishing, 2019


Understanding the Future of High Tech

If the best way to create the future is to build it, then the best way to understand a possible future is to listen to those who invest in it. Gartner interviewed several leaders at TCV to better understand their views on the future of high technology and high-tech providers. The views expressed below represent TCV’s view on its operations and the future. These opinions are TCV’s own and independent of Gartner positions. Throughout the interviews, the following themes emerged regarding the forces and factors driving technology investments and future success:

  • Top-line revenue growth has replaced cost efficiency as the primary job for technology — it is now Job. 1.
  • Insight is the source of effective strategies for achieving growth through differentiation and specialization.
  • The pace of change is accelerating across the frontiers of technology, including how rapidly companies and consumers adopt it — and few competitive advantages are as decisive as speed.
  • Technology architectures are in the midst of a generational change that is driven by more than the cloud or Hyperscalers.

TCV has invested in these insights, focusing on companies with the technological potential to support rapid, substantial growth in large, untapped markets. Figure 1 shows the ideas and connections TCV leaders described as the future of high tech.

Figure 1. TCV’s Perspective on Technology-Accelerated Growth

Growth Is Job 1 for Technology

“When you cut through all of the jargon and acronyms, the biggest difference for software and tech over the past five years has been in supporting growth,” says McAdam, who contrasts the growth imperative with technology’s prior jobs of taking costs out or getting cheaper computing power. 

“Technology has created operating leverage via business process automation. Now technology’s value rests in driving top-line growth.” This changes the nature of technology, how it is valued, and what it does, according to McAdam.

“Growth is the uber premise when we think about disruptive technology solutions and the digitization of everything that drives our investment themes,” McAdam explains. “Consider CFOs. It used to be that an old-school CFO would be cost-oriented and say yes if the solution saved money and drove EPS. CFOs of today still care about this, but not as much as they care about taking market share from the competition. The clearest way a tech company can get a multibillion-dollar market cap — one that is 10, 20, 30 times revenue, is to provide a product that allows customers to transform their businesses and grow faster than the competition.”

Building for Scale and Speed

Applying technology in support of revenue growth requires TCV to work with companies on their go-to-market (GTM) strategy. TCV uses the ratio of revenue growth to sales and marketing expense (see Figure 2a) to identify points of friction and efficiency.

Figure 2. TCV’s Sales and Marketing Ratio

The calculation indicates how much new growth the company is achieving for every dollar spent on sales and marketing. If the ratio is 50 cents every $1 spent on sales and marketing generates 50 cents in new growth. The lower the ratio, the more opportunity there is to increase efficiency or effectiveness.

Figure 3 illustrates how the sales and marketing ratio can visually depict the performance of a company’s sales and marketing efforts. (Note these ranges are for illustration only; typical ratios vary by industry.)

Figure 3. Illustrations of Sales to Marketing Ratio

Source: TCV

TCV is using technology in a number of ways to move the needle:

  • Implementing analytics and diagnostics to identify growth obstacles, and documented strategies to better orchestrate key GTM practices across sales and marketing.
  • Facilitating forums and collaboration where leaders share ideas and best practices and road-test ideas with other executives.
  • Leveraging GTM practices that are based on best practices within the portfolio and providing other TCV companies with ready-to-programs to speed time to value.

TCV’s head of Marketing, Katja Gagen, added: “We see companies using technology to optimize their go-to-market capabilities. This can range from publishing thought leadership on growing sales pipeline or refining their messaging. The difference with technology is that companies can actively benchmark themselves against industry best practices.”

Blending Human Insight with Analytics to Identify Growth Potential

“We track nearly 10 million companies in our database,” notes Tim McAdam, a general partner at TCV. “We then do a deeper analysis of 2,000 to 3,000 candidates per year in order to select 12 to 15 companies in which to invest.” This puts our information on prospective companies into an analytic engine running proprietary algorithms created from the firm’s domain knowledge, sector expertise and 26 years of investment insights.

The result for each candidate is much like a credit score — a snapshot of investment worthiness that guides subsequent analysis and decision making. As McAdam explains, “Any given result is statistically valid because of the high number of other companies we have ranked against the same set of metrics. It’s an empirically driven assessment of the company’s areas of strength and needs for improvement.”

TCV uses this information to differentiate each of its portfolio company’s situation and connect it with experienced people and resources in support of the company’s success. McAdam compares TCV’s role to that of a coach, “we recognize that the founders of our portfolio companies are deeply invested in their firms. We seek to provide advice for them with humility, intellectual honesty and insight, with an eye toward finding solutions that move them forward.”

Growth requires a different Technology Architecture and Infrastructure

Matt Robinson, a TCV principal, explains that “high-tech architectures shift about every decade. Today, the increasing importance of speed, extensible solutions and consumption-based business models is the driver of evolution in architectures and infrastructure. If my technology is designed to drive your top-line growth, then your growth becomes my growth,” Robinson explains. “Our architectures and infrastructures need to be seamlessly integrated together.” Thus, the business case for architecture evolution is at least as important as the technical innovation from cloud and Hyperscalers.

The Future of High Tech — High Growth Potential

TCV does not see the future as one of consolidation around a few large well-capitalized companies — either Hyperscalers or so-called digital giants. “It is an old argument to think that everything will consolidate,” McAdam notes. “That view makes sense only if companies stop finding new ways to grow.” While he believes that Hyperscalers are important, he sees their role as “more of a channel to a stream of future technology-intensive growth and innovation rather than a competitor in the application/solution space.”

Gartner subscribers can see the full published case study at: Case Study: The Future of High Tech and Generative Providers (TCV).


Untraditional Narratives: Why Cognite Ventured Outside of the C-Suite to Identify Spokespeople and Stories to Win Global Press Coverage

Growth Hacks – Moving the Metric

Creating visibility in any market is not an easy task and can be even harder when trying to execute on a global scale. One way the PR team at industrial software firm, Cognite, approaches this is by having a deep bench of non-traditional spokespeople. This enables them to uncover story ideas they might not have spotted only speaking to the C-suite. It also allows them to ascertain the impact, collect materials to illustrate a story, and identify the best spokespeople. Their secret sauce? Attending meetings across all business functions to keep abreast of internal developments that could drive strong coverage.

In today’s episode of Growth Hacks, Katja and Kunal are joined by Michelle Holford, the global head of public relations at Cognite. When Michelle first started at Cognite, she knew that she had to create visibility for her MarComms team to the broader organization. Doing so wasn’t simply to let everyone know there was a new media sheriff in town – Michelle and her team focused instead on building relationships with leaders in the company who would come back to them with story ideas. One of the first things they did was hold meetings to explain to stakeholders how PR worked, what the Cognite brand meant, and how her team positioned the company. “I like to show up where people are and go to the robotics meetings and go to the engineering meetings. People start to raise their hand and say, ‘I might have something to offer,’ says Michelle.

Key Takeaways:

  • How to identify and media train non-traditional spokespeople for creative storytelling. Many organizations rely on the C-suite to sell their narrative in the press. Michelle and her team expanded their aperture, knowing that non-traditional spokespeople can tell stories from a different and complementary perspective. Cognite’s MarComms team is always on the lookout for interesting spokespeople – across the organization. They work with senior executives and junior employees as storytellers. “[We have] individuals that are just starting that are concerned about energy transition and want to talk sustainability. We’re always looking for opportunities to connect Cogniters to best tell the Cognite story,” explains Michelle. 
  • Effective strategies for story mining throughout an organization. Michelle’s top tip for identifying stories is to go where your stakeholders are. If an employee is working head down in robotics or engineering, it’s unlikely that they pick up the phone and let the PR team know what they’re doing. Instead, Michelle and her team go directly to meetings and offsites to ask questions and learn about their remit and the types of problems they’re solving. They do so by putting their reporter hats on in the meeting. Says Michelle, “Ask them questions like you’re the reporter. ‘Tell me more. What does this look like? What’s the impact? Do we have images? Do we have B-roll?’ You have this bank of information that you can think about creatively, to weave together stories to tell year-round.”
  • Cognite’s strategy for running media tours. The first question that Michelle and her team ask when setting up media tours, is “What are you trying to communicate?” This helps them plan how to establish impact and create “a story in a box” ready to go before the media tour happens. As crucial, however, is having pre-existing relationships with journalists already cultivated, to ensure that the media tour gets the right reception. “[When] reaching out to journalists, that should not be the first time they hear from you. Do your homework ahead of time and create relationships with journalists locally and internationally to make sure that they know who your company is and what you’re about, so that when they get an invitation to a media tour, it’s not cold,” says Michelle.
  • The unexpected storytelling benefits of developing Cognite Radio, a news channel with updates for employees. When Cognite first headed into the pandemic, the company decided to create Cognite Radio, an employees-only radio program that helped keep the organization connected around the globe even while all working from home. While the primary goal was to make sure Cogniters didn’t feel isolated during the pandemic, an unexpected benefit was that it helped create visibility across the organization about what was coming down the pike and allowed for more creative storytelling on the part of the PR team. Says Michelle, “It was a way to make sure that we weren’t working in siloes, so that we could innovate in the best way possible…to really create a culture and excitement around what was going to happen next.”
  • Michelle’s must-haves for running a healthy global PR function that is aligned across all forms of earned and owned media. For a team as large as Cognite, managing the relationship between its PR agencies and its in-house team is crucial to make sure that all stakeholders are aligned. But it’s not just a well-heeled PR team that keeps a global PR function operating as it should. Michelle’s strategy of building visibility for the PR team to the greater organization is critical here, because it allows for knowing what the company’s sales and marketing goals are, in order to help drive success through storytelling. “We’re setting the strategy, but we’re making sure we’re connected to the company goals, sales goals, marketing goals, and at the same time, trying to be as creative as possible with our storytelling.”

To learn more, tune into Growth Hacks: Expanding Your Slate of Storytellers: How Cognite Uses Talent Across its Organization to Drive Global Visibility and Media Coverage

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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/.


Empowering the Cloud-First Enterprise: Devo’s Advanced, Cloud-Native Security Analytics Provide a Powerful Defense as the Threat Surface for Business Data Expands Exponentially

‘Cloud-first’ organizations now outnumber on-premise businesses by a ratio of three to one, according to a new report from Devo, a leader in next-generation, cloud-native security information and event management (SIEM), and an exciting addition to our security portfolio, focused on the components of building out a modern security operations center (SOC) that combines endpoint + network + security analytics.

As investors in Rapid7 and Splunk, we’ve gained significant experience in SIEM and we see Devo as the next wave of SIEM for the cloud-native enterprise. We’ve also seen how the threat landscape has evolved on the network side via Vectra, and we backed Webroot, which provides organizations with multi-vector endpoint protection. 

Barriers to cloud adoption were already lower than ever before the pandemic struck—magnifying the benefits of remote/virtual IT infrastructures, software hosting, and data management. The scale of the ensuing enterprise shift to cloud infrastructure and remote hosting has been driving up security complexity and associated volumes of data, so that this now exceeds the capabilities of legacy security toolsets and the capacity of already-overstretched security teams. 

In this context, Devo—with its cloud-native logging and security analytics platform—is having a huge and fast-growing impact. It is saving enterprise security operations teams untold hours of manual analysis as security data volumes soar, by empowering security analysts to cut through the noise and focus on the threats that matter most.

Actionable analytics: the surge in next-generation SIEM

Next-generation SIEM is big business, and in the cloud-first enterprise market Devo is well ahead of this trend. The company, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is dedicated to producing the most innovative logging and security analytics platform on the market, and its cloud-native solutions strike right at the heart of current enterprise challenges.

“Digital Transformation, and the massive threat surface associated with it, have elevated security analytics to the centerpiece of frontline cyber defenses. Some of the world’s largest businesses choose Devo because we combine unmatched scale, powerful analytics, and the ability to get answers in real time.

The global market potential ahead of us is absolutely massive, and we’re excited at working with TCV’s sector experts to realize that. What really stands out for us is that the TCV team is as enthusiastic and driven as we are. The new funding validates the disruptive force we have become and sends signal to the industry that we will continue to set the pace for innovation and customer value.”

Marc van Zadelhoff, CEO of Devo

Securing the skies by securing the cloud

Devo has already made a name for itself with some of the most security-sensitive organizations in the world, including the U.S. Air Force, which relies on the company as its central security hub for protection, detection, and response for enterprise defense worldwide. 

Speed and scalability are among its many differentiators: Devo supports thousands of concurrent real-time queries, allowing security teams to query petabyte-sized data sets to answer questions quickly, visualize trends, and perform advanced analytics—so they never miss a critical threat.

Providing unparalleled performance, scalability and clarity, the Devo Platform lets security teams ask more questions, visualize more data, and access valuable analytics to defend and monitor their organization. Its data ingestion capabilities are the industry’s most scalable and flexible. The Devo Platform can ingest data from any source, even if it’s unrecognized or the format changes.

Crucially, it is designed to integrate effortlessly with all of the main enterprise IT environments favored by large enterprises—from software giants like IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and Salesforce, to the big cloud platforms (Google Cloud, AWS) and network providers (Cisco, Juniper) to some of the biggest names in IT security, including Sophos, Symantec, and Check Point. This enables a consolidated view of the security landscape and a single point of actionable analytics.

Suffice to say, Devo’s potential market is substantial—and global—and to date we believe the company has only skimmed the surface of the opportunity.

Major new funding will drive global & vertical expansion

Devo has cemented its leadership in the next gen SIEM and IT Ops markets with accelerating growth driven by enterprise demand for modern, cloud-first, SaaS based, AI/ML driven tools. TCV is proud to have led Devo’s $250 million in Series E funding round, and we look forward to working with a world-class team to provide a better, faster, and more economic value proposition for enterprise customers around the world struggling to keep up with security and performance blind spots.

We anticipate that the new funding will fuel strong growth across new regions and market verticals, and significantly increase investment in channel expansion and product innovation. Plans include growth in new verticals and geographies including an expanded presence in the public sector, as well as internationally in the Asia Pacific region. 

Building on the rapid adoption of Devo as the platform of choice for leading resellers and managed security services providers (MSSPs) across the globe, the company is also redoubling its commitment to the channel and integration partners. Devo also expects to invest heavily in technology alliances, content, and people to build out a global security community to usher in a new era for the industry.

Powered by great people

Of course, it’s the people that make a remarkable and investable business, and again this is where Devo shines. The company is made up of some of the world’s brightest minds, all respected experts in their fields yet from diverse backgrounds—giving Devo breadth as well as depth in its market experience. 

CEO Marc van Zadelhoff took the helm as CEO a year ago, marking the start of a momentous year for the company. He has brought to the company some 20 years’ experience working in cybersecurity for organizations globally, most recently as the COO for LogMeIn, and before that as General Manager for IBM Security—a IBM Business Unit he co-founded. Since assuming leadership of Devo, Marc has driven the company to new heights, evidenced by: 

  • Nearly 100% year-over-year revenue growth
  • Over 100% customer growth, including H&R Block, Manulife, FanDuel, Ulta Beauty and AMEX Global Business Travel
  • More than 400 employees across North America, Europe, and APAC
  • Addition of industry-proven leaders including CSO Gunter Ollmann, SVP of Product Ted Julian, CCO Johannes Loeffler and CFO Jennifer Grunebaum
  • Launch of Devo Content Stream, a new high-value content delivery service for Devo customers

The team Marc is building around him is impressive, combining subject matter expertise and commercial depth. 

Devo and its people are the ideal fit for TCV’s investment strategy. Our track record of supporting portfolio companies for the long term as a crossover investor is well established, and our well-documented successes with other high-growth tech businesses at the intersection of cloud, networking, and security (including Cradlepoint, Silver Peak, HashiCorp, Splunk, Vectra, Rapid7, and Venafi, and more recently Aviatrix) provide a strong hint at the ambitions we have for Devo.

We can’t wait to roll up our sleeves and help Devo capitalize on its global potential.

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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/.


Making Community Building More Than a Catchphrase to Unlock Growth – Jonathan Mildenhall Shares Lessons from Airbnb and More for Companies of All Sizes

Growth Hacks – Moving the Metric

Brands like Airbnb and Peloton that have been able to build a loyal community around their products, may seem to have cultivated that community size through an alchemical mix of marketing spend, timing, and luck. But it doesn’t have to be so opaque — especially not for businesses that make community building an essential part of their blueprint to growth, even from the early days. 

In this episode of Growth Hacks, Kunal and Katja talk to Jonathan Mildenhall, former CMO of Airbnb and founder and Chairman of strategic branding firm, TwentyFirstCenturyBrand, about ways to articulate the narrative of a modern brand – with community building as a key element. Jonathan walks us through a four-pillar process for creating strategic blueprints to build brand narrative, and tips for B2B brands to elicit the sort of emotional resonance that B2C brands have found with customers. 

Key Takeaways:

  • The four pillars of a modern 21st century brand that’s built to scale. Community isn’t just something that comes once a brand has been built. In fact, having a vocal, loyal community is one of the four core pillars of building a modern-day company. In addition to community building, the other three pillars for twenty-first century brands are being purpose driven, making sure your technology is well-designed and human, and focusing on storytelling.
  • How to perform a deep analysis on your own company and create a strategic blueprint to activate on each pillar. One of the first things Jonathan and his team at TwentyFirstCenturyBrand do when building out a new brand is to sit down with the founders and leaders of the company to do what they call a deep extraction. The purpose is to get a better understanding of the brand’s potential size and aspirations. “I don’t just mean in total numbers and size of revenue, but in terms of its cultural impact. We like to say we’re revealing the soul and purpose of the company back to the founding team,” Jonathan says.
  • Specific strategies on building a community that can meaningfully drive growth and brand perception. When Jonathan was the CMO of Airbnb, they had to get creative about how to use their marketing spend, which was a fraction of their competitors’ budgets. Jonathan’s team decided to activate Airbnb’s community of hosts to tell stories, by providing them photographers to take photos of their rentals and turn that into marketing collateral. Those community stories helped drive Airbnb’s initial brand narrative and turned those same hosts into vocal advocates for Airbnb with cities and potential users. Per Jonathan, “if you get community right, you can reduce acquisition costs, content creation costs, and you can drive referrals, word of mouth, and the brand narrative in ways that are unprecedented for marketers.” 
  • Why strategic community building has to come from the C-suite. Community building is an ongoing process and a two-way conversation; not just when a brand needs the community to telegraph its approval. It’s why Jonathan believes that community engagement should come from company leadership, who can maintain that dialog with followers of the brand and the wider community: “The chief executive’s voice and presence needs to be heard.”
  • Lessons B2B marketers can take from B2C campaigns when it comes to eliciting an emotional connection. Whether you’re a B2B company or a B2C company, Jonathan urges marketing teams to think about more than selling a product, and instead focus on the human being receiving the message, and whether that message moves them emotionally. His advice for B2B marketers? “I would love it if B2B businesses made a greater effort to move audiences emotionally and treat them as human beings, as opposed to somebody on the other side of a business transaction,” says Jonathan.


To learn more, tune into Growth Hacks: Elevating Community Building to Drive Meaningful Growth

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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/.


Digitizing One of the Last Unconnected Markets: Built’s Place in the Multi-Trillion-Dollar Global Construction Ecosystem

$1.58T is spent annually in the U.S. construction industry, yet it’s one of the least digitized industries in the world. Paralleling the shift to digital transformation across other industries, this is beginning to change. That’s just one reason we are delighted to announce that TCV is partnering with construction finance cloud leader: Built Technologies.

Construction may be one of the least digitized industries, but that’s not going to last for long. Builders and owners are expecting digital services, just as they do in all other aspects of their lives. When it comes to financing a construction project, customers around the world should expect seamless communication, payments, and procurement through the convenience of their phone. That’s why we are excited to invest in Built, who is seeking to upgrade the functionality and user experience for everyone in the construction value chain. 

Nashville, Tennessee-based Built offers a cloud-based platform solution for construction lenders, owners, developers, and contractors. Its software acts as a digital workspace to allow all parties to collaborate to get projects built and keep capital flowing to the proper destination. The software is used by more than 150 of the leading U.S. and Canadian construction lenders, in addition to thousands of developers and contractors. 

Built is closely following TCV’s thesis for SaaS as a Network – combining software + payments + marketplace, and connecting all key stakeholders on one platform. SaaS as a Network is a strong model for industries lagging in digital adoption, as products are focused on driving solutions, operational enablement, and strong ROI. We’ve seen this at Toast in the restaurant space – where Toast helps businesses operate more efficiently and grow revenue by providing payments, software and services, or with Clio, where law firms are able to manage their employees, and customers, and enable payments.

We believe SaaS as a Network is markedly increasing the possible expected return and economic strength of vertical sector-serving SaaS platforms, given it takes advantage of end-to-end workflows to build “rails” direct to their merchant’s customers, suppliers, and employees. 

When a SaaS provider starts serving a high enough density of merchants, it can leverage that strength to build two-sided marketplaces with the merchant’s customers, suppliers, and employees. That SaaS vendor has now created a marketplace that can enjoy powerful network effects as seen in consumer marketplaces like Airbnb and Amazon. 

Built’s platform started with a Construction Loan Administration offering that improves communication and operations between banks and their borrowers. Built has grown this offering to over 150 lender customers, representing more than $80 billion of unique construction dollars and is the system of record for these lenders’ construction portfolios. In addition, builders use this system to access their capital—the lifeblood of construction.

By following the flow of money from banks into the hands of builders and owners, the Built team realized there was an even bigger opportunity within the construction ecosystem. They started to build more products around payments and value-added services like on-site inspections and other critical support to enable the construction loan process.

Built was able to accomplish all this due to its product-driven team, led by CEO, Chase Gilbert, who has construction industry experience and understands the real-world buyer pain points. In addition, Chase and the Built team have taken a customer-centric approach that informs everything that they do, especially product design. As we spent time with customers, one of the key themes we kept hearing was the operational efficiencies that Built enabled. All stakeholders involved with the Built platform felt that they were able to operate better through their use of Built.

Since its 2015 launch, the platform has been used to manage the financing of over $135 billion in construction, spanning more than 200,000 commercial, homebuilder, land development and consumer residential projects. All these were factors that led to TCV being the lead investor in Built’s $125 million Series D funding round.

TCV first called on Built in 2017, and our team took the time to build a strong relationship with the executive team.  

“We appreciate the great investing experience TCV brings to the relationship. As a result of its deep customer and technical research, TCV understands our vision and can see just how big an opportunity this is for both of our companies. We’re excited for our future together.”

Chase Gilbert, CEO, Built

While the recent funding is a nice milestone for the team, we are even more excited about the tens of thousands of users that access Built on a regular basis to fund their operations, and the opportunity Built has to build more products and do more to help its customers.

We view our investment as a perfect opportunity to add value. We think Built has a superb window of opportunity, as the world moves faster into a recovery being boosted by widespread embracing of digital ways of working. And, finally, we see huge potential in Built’s ability to connect key stakeholders in the construction process, connecting everyone onto a shared system. We’re grateful for this new partnership with Built and Brookfield Technology Partners, 9Yards Capital, XYZ Venture Capital, HighSage Ventures, and existing investors Addition, Index Ventures, Canapi Ventures, GreenPoint Partners, Nine Four Ventures, Fifth Wall, Goldman Sachs, and Nyca Partners among other individual investors. We look forward to supporting Built’s world-class team on their mission to transform a global market. The addressable market is not just the U.S.’s $1.58 trillion, but the world’s annual $10 trillion construction market.

We believe construction finance on a SaaS as a Network footing presents a remarkable future opportunity. Let’s get something great Built here!

If you’re interested in driving change in the construction finance market, Built is hiring!