Product, People, and Employee Engagement: How Zillow’s Path to Growth Eschewed the Traditional Marketing Playbook

Growth Hacks – Moving the Metric

Nowadays, growth minded leaders know that a strong corporate culture and engaged employees are a central part of any company’s growth playbook. Yet when Zillow first launched, placing people on the same level as product innovation was an audacious move. Still, Zillow took the time to invest in improving its employee engagement, knowing that engaged employees were the bedrock for a company’s long-term success.

On this episode of Growth Hacks, Kunal and Katja talk to TCV Venture Partner and former CMO, COO, and current Zillow board member, Amy Bohutinsky. We discuss Amy’s perspective on C-suite leadership and bucking the traditional marketing and operational playbooks in order to drive growth and create better company cohesion. As board member of various technology companies, Amy also walks us through what boards are discussing now more than ever.

Key Takeaways

  • Why Zillow focused on product over marketing to drive early growth. When Zillow launched in 2004, they’d seen many of their startup peers spend lots of money on brand marketing without a proven revenue model. Rather than tread the same path, Amy says the Zillow team “saw an opportunity to build a company in a really different way, which was to focus deeply on product. Product was absolutely the best marketing we could have.” By adopting a no budget marketing budget, the team was further incentivized to create products, like Zillow’s Zestimate, that customers would truly love using.
  • Strategies for successfully merging companies post-acquisition. As Zillow has grown, it’s acquired companies of all sizes, including its $2.5 billion acquisition of fellow real estate juggernaut Trulia. To navigate a smoother post-acquisition merger after she became COO, Amy took a page from her former CMO playbook when considering how to best scale Zillow’s employee base while retaining what was special about its culture. During the Trulia acquisition, the companies combined their individual sets of values to create a new shared set of driving core values. “That gave a nod to what was great about both, but also showed that we were bridging two companies together and two different cultures together and creating something new,” says Amy.
  • How shared values in a shared language build connective tissue between disparate teams. One of Amy’s goals during her time as Zillow’s COO was to drive better cohesion between sales, marketing, and product. Though each team had its own values in addition to Zillow’s shared corporate values, everyone across the company bought into what Zillow called its “product personas” — mental sketches of the people they built for. “They had names, they had photos, they had a whole life…And these are individual personas that everyone across every department at the company understands deeply,” says Amy.
  • The most important metrics all C-suite leaders should be paying attention to. When Amy shifted her role from CMO to COO, she viewed Zillow employees the same way she did end consumers; what did they have to say, what were their concerns, and what could Zillow do to make sure they retained the workforce that made them successful. Even now, Amy says all C-suite leaders should be paying attention to a key metric: employee engagement. “If you get that right, it’s a whole lot easier to meet all of the business-related metrics you need.”
  • What corporate boards are most concerned with currently. In addition to the board of Zillow, Amy sits on the boards of Modsy and Duolingo, and has sat on the boards of companies including Gap and HotelTonight. She says that in the last seven to ten years, the conversation on boards has shifted away from growth at all costs to an emphasis on people and how to keep and retain a healthy workforce.

To learn more, tune into Growth Hacks: Treating Employees Like End Consumers: How Zillow Scaled Successfully While Reinventing the Traditional Growth Playbook

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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/.


Invest Like the Best: Jay Hoag – Calibrating Market Adoption

Post by Patrick O’Shaughnessy

My guest today is Jay Hoag, co-founder of TCV. If you look at Jay’s investment track record, it’s a “who’s who” of tech giants with Airbnb, Netflix, Peloton, Zillow, and a list that does not stop there. Needless to say, Jay has a Hall of Fame career. During our conversation, we talk about his own journey founding TCV, what advice he has for visionaries, and why he sees advantages for private to public crossover investors. Jay has such a wealth of experience that is on display throughout this episode. Please enjoy my conversation with Jay Hoag.

For the full show notes, transcript, and links to the best content to learn more, check out the episode page here.

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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/.


Hypergrowth, High Value Partnerships, and Hyperlocalization at Mollie, All By Putting the Customer First

Growth Hacks – Moving the Metric

Mission statements, company values, guiding principles — every company has them. Yet even at the most mission-driven companies, it can be easy to focus more attention on activities such as unlocking growth and winning market share, than it is to make sure the company values are being consistently conveyed.

On this episode of Growth Hacks, Kunal and Katja speak with Ken Serdons, chief commercial officer at online payments processor Mollie, about how being loved by customers is more than just words on a mission statement. Ken takes us deep into the strategy of how Mollie restructured its hiring process, reengineered its partnerships with external service providers, and strategically chose the number of markets it entered, all in pursuit of creating a Mollie experience that its customers loved. In the process, the company gained tremendous market share in each of its local markets.

Key Takeaways:

  • Why Mollie adopted a customer-first mentality. After seventeen years of growth, the Mollie team realized they’d outgrown their initial mission statement that cited values such as passion, courage, and impact. When they coined “Be Loved” as the first of three new company values, they found that applying it to every part of the customer experience helped them offer a vastly different consumer experience from their competitors. Whether it was figuring out how to “Be Loved” by customers based on how they price their product, or on the breadth and functionality of partnerships with other apps and services, that hyper-focus on the soup to nuts customer experience has helped Mollie gain market share year over year.
  • How to drive partnerships that unlock their full potential. Because of Mollie’s global footprint, the team has inked countless partnerships with companies of all sizes that also provide services to online merchants. But signing a partnership and building an integration is just the start of a successful partnership. Ken’s team also innovates on ways to create value for partners outside of monetary incentives, whether that’s joint marketing activities, or providing trend analysis for partners using Mollie’s transaction data. To successfully maintain such robust partnerships, Mollie split the traditional partner manager role into two jobs — the first for “hunters” who love finding and structuring creative new partnerships, and the second for partner success managers, who continually think about ways to create joint growth with Mollie’s partners.
  • How a localization strategy that prioritizes fewer markets can unlock hypergrowth. When Ken first joined the Mollie team in 2019, like most companies, Mollie had ambitions to scale to as many markets as possible. Yet they made a conscious decision to focus on markets where they knew they could see demonstrable success. One example was when Mollie pulled back on expanding into Italy, in order to focus its efforts and resources on growing in Germany, France, and the UK. Though the number of countries Mollie was available in was lower, the company’s market share has soared in each market, seeing successes in Belgium in 2020, and growing more than 1000% in Germany year over year.
  • Why they don’t do any bespoke development at Mollie. A hyper-focused localization strategy doesn’t mean the company doesn’t want to be able to hit the ground running when expanding into additional markets. That’s one reason why Mollie decided early on never to create bespoke development. “Bespoke development creates legacy technology, and that’s expensive to maintain and it’s also not scalable,” says Ken.
  • How to hire candidates for their future roles. Because of the pace that Mollie is growing, effectively doubling its headcount year over year, Ken has learned that hiring the right candidate for right now is short-sighted. Instead, they aim to hire people slightly overqualified for the initial role, knowing that Mollie is going to continue expanding, and the job with it. “That only works if you hire low ego people. People who put the customer first and the company first,” cautions Ken.

To learn more, tune in to Growth Hacks: How Mollie’s Mission to Be Loved by Its Customers Has Fueled Hypergrowth.

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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 for the Multi-Cloud Era: How Aviatrix is Simplifying, Securing, and Accelerating the Enterprise Cloud Journey

Companies are increasingly moving their IT infrastructure to multiple public clouds, driving some of the most vibrant growth potential in today’s IT sector. That’s just one reason we are excited to announce that Aviatrix, a leader in cloud networking and network security, is joining the TCV family.

The rapid global shift from on-premise IT infrastructure to public cloud is a once-in-a-generation event that impacts hundreds of billions in legacy spend across security, networking, data infrastructure, IT operations management, and developer tooling. Over the past decade, cloud adoption has increased exponentially, with 80% of enterprises today utilizing two or more public cloud providers (‘multi-cloud’), and 60% of enterprises regarding the move to multi-cloud as one of their most critical strategic IT priorities. The adoption of public cloud, and increasingly multiple public clouds, enables organizations to remove the operational burden of building and managing their own on-premise datacenters. We believe this tectonic shift to “infrastructure-as-a-service” offered by public cloud providers like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google is analogous to the shift to software-as-a-service a decade ago. We believe the move to the cloud will be much bigger than SaaS and have a profound effect on how applications are built and delivered.

There are many reasons for companies to move to multiple cloud providers. The optionality helps to avoid vendor lock-in, save costs, and enables utilization of best-of-breed tooling from each cloud provider. The multi-cloud approach also increases application performance and reliability and creates flexibility and scalability that’s simply not achievable by single threading on a single cloud provider.

However, the complexity of managing multiple cloud environments for an enterprise is enormous as each cloud environment’s tooling is idiosyncratic, and cloud providers don’t interoperate well with each other—there is simply no economic incentive to do so. Combine all that with the fact that there is a major shortfall of skilled cloud infrastructure talent, and it becomes clear why companies are increasingly looking to software and automation to deliver the true promise of the cloud.

Enter Aviatrix. Founded in Santa Clara, CA, in 2014, Aviatrix provides a cloud network platform that delivers advanced networking, security and operational visibility required by enterprises with the simplicity and automation of cloud. Its platform effectively provides a single pane of glass to manage and automate the inherent complexities of enterprise workloads that are increasingly spread across multiple public cloud providers. The particular problems that Aviatrix solves include network traffic latency, resiliency, scalability, application performance, and network security.

Aviatrix is a pioneer in this market, launching well before other third-party competitors in this space even existed, and the company enjoys hyper growth at scale. It also has a customer base that is highly diversified across different industries and includes household names such as Nike, AbbVie, Disney, Splunk, NASA, Roche, and PwC. In speaking with their customers, we were blown away with both how difficult it is to build what Aviatrix has architected and how much value Aviatrix is able to provide. Aviatrix acts as the brains of any enterprise cloud architecture configuration. The company interprets each individual cloud provider’s language, serving as a common denominator across cloud environments, and empowering IT / cloud / networking teams to realize value from different cloud vendors without needing to be experts in any one vendor. This value proposition extends from individual enterprises to the whole of the cloud provider ecosystem as Aviatrix allows for higher volume and velocity of cloud adoption.

Aviatrix’s key product offerings include:

* CoPilot: a centralized management console providing a global operational view of the enterprise cloud (or multi-cloud) network—an offering available from no other cloud provider. It means administrators can gain insight into the overall performance of their network environment, easily spot performance issues, and monitor network health via intuitive visualizations. Without CoPilot, cloud teams have to stitch together data and view multiple consoles across vendors, and the level of data available from cloud providers is far less granular than what Aviatrix can generate.

* Transit: a basket of networking and security solutions that result in increased bandwidth, connectivity for both multi-cloud and multi-region, and the ability to determine optimal paths for traffic flows to enhance performance. Security solutions include network segmentation (across business units, geographic regions, etc), encrypting traffic flows, provisioning firewalls, and traffic inspection controls. Transit also brings efficiencies to cloud teams through infrastructure as code (via Terraform, a HashiCorp product), facilitating the automation of the manual work otherwise needed when leveraging cloud infrastructure (e.g., configuring certain geographic regions or user groups, etc.)

In addition to the strong technical underpinning of the product built by visionary co-founder Sherry Wei, Aviatrix also benefits from an ambitious, proven, and operationally-focused CEO with deep networking and security experience — Steve Mullaney. Steve is the former interim CEO of Palo Alto Networks and was also CEO of software-defined networking pioneer Nicira. Unable to resist the opportunity to build a next-generation, multi-cloud-first networking, and security giant, he came out of retirement and off the Aviatrix board to become CEO of Aviatrix in early 2019. Since joining, Steve has recruited a world-class team of executives including a new CRO, COO, CPO, and CFO, all of whom share background experienced at firms such as Rubrik, Infoblox, Google, Oracle, and Uber. In a little more than two years, the team has more than doubled the growth rate of the company.

Here at TCV, we’ve been watching Aviatrix for over five years. We took time to cultivate our multi-cloud thesis with deep customer and technical research, so when we met Steve and the team and heard the Aviatrix vision firsthand, there was an immediate mutual understanding of the opportunity ahead.

“We respected how much research Tim and the TCV team did to understand what enterprise customers are dealing with prior to approaching us as an investor. Because they put in the work, they were able to see just how big of an opportunity this is for both of our companies. We’re excited to be working with them.”

Steve Mullaney, CEO of Aviatrix

Steve’s track record and ambition to build an iconic public company aligns perfectly with TCV’s investment strategy. We have a history of supporting portfolio companies for the long term as a crossover investor, investing when companies are private, helping them scale to IPO readiness, and investing again at the IPO and supporting them for many years into their public life. We’ve also been fortunate to back other high growth seminal infrastructure software businesses at the intersection of cloud, networking, and security such as Cradlepoint, Silver Peak, HashiCorp, Splunk, Vectra, Rapid7, and Venafi, and we will lean on that experience to help drive growth at Aviatrix.

We view our investment in Aviatrix as a vote of confidence in Steve and the seasoned team of software and networking execs he has assembled, against the backdrop of one of the biggest trends in technology—the ascent of the cloud. We’re grateful for this new partnership and look forward to building a great, enduring, franchise technology company with Aviatrix and its talented employees.

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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/.


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/.


Powering Up PR – Expanding the Aperture When Building Your Brand

Growth Hacks – Moving the Metric

Everyone wants to know about a buzzy, new startup. But finding ways to sustain storytelling momentum and stand out in a crowded news environment has become more challenging than ever, especially for startups that are past their infancy but still growing and scaling. 

That was a challenge that TCV portfolio company OneTrust — the leading B2B privacy, security, and data governance platform — had to navigate during 2020. By expanding the aperture of what a traditional PR campaign might look like, OneTrust was able to continue breaking news even in a remote-work world in late 2020. 

On this episode of Growth Hacks, Kunal and Katja sit down with Gabrielle Ferree, the head of public relations at OneTrust, to discuss how to expand the aperture of PR campaigns, aligning with internal and external stakeholders, and navigating the tech press in 2021. 

Key Takeaways

  • Expand the aperture when thinking about your audience. 
    Major media outlets and legacy newspapers may be where your CEO’s mind goes when they think about press coverage, but it’s important to consider where your audience is when telling your company’s story. Since a brand’s audience may be more active on a specific social channel, or read trade publications at a greater frequency, it’s important to ask yourself where your people are, and build programs around that. 
  • Align PR goals to marketing goals to win C-suite trust. Even if PR and marketing are on different teams, Gabrielle makes sure to align OneTrust’s campaigns with the goals the company’s marketing team is tackling that quarter. Since marketing reports into the CEO, by aligning PR efforts to marketing outcomes, PR teams can show even more intrinsic value than just brand sentiment. 
  • Partner with internal stakeholders to strengthen milestone campaigns. Whether you’re celebrating an annual anniversary, or hitting a major growth milestone, it can be tempting to focus on the press release to ensure that an external audience knows about the milestone. But don’t miss the opportunity to partner with stakeholders across divisions to maximize the milestone message reach. When OneTrust turned five last year, Gabrielle worked with a number of internal teams to turn the milestone into a modified logo that was then used on all OneTrust documentation, marketing collateral, and swag sent to employees, partners, and customers — all already advocates of OneTrust who shared in their success. 
  • Working with the media in 2021. The vast majority of press release never get passed the delete key. With less time and more pitches than ever, short, jargon-free pitches are crucial. Make it explicitly clear why this story is a fit for these readers and why it matters now, say Gagen and Gabrielle. By staying aligned with the C-suite, it’s easy to continue to uncover the sorts of stories that help reporters look around the corner, even years into a company’s narrative.

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The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors 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/.