Introducing Velocity – TCV’s New Fund Targets Expansion-Stage Investments, Raises $460 Million

Menlo Park, New York, January 31, 2022 – We are delighted to start 2022 with the announcement of Velocity, a $460 million fund geared towards expansion-stage investment opportunities. After a momentous year in 2021 – resulting in 14 public listings, which include IPOs, direct listings, and SPAC transactions – TCV believes that Velocity will allow us to continue the firm’s history of partnering with leading companies from early investment rounds through IPO. We believe that Velocity is ideally placed to take advantage of a growing investment segment and will complement our parallel investment activity with ambitious tech companies at later stages of development.

Apply the insights of proven companies to ambitious growth companies

Velocity builds on our long history of success backing category leaders and is specifically designed to help founders of innovative companies as they shift from product-market fit to scaling up. With a dedicated team of investors, Velocity will draw on the resources and reach of the entire TCV platform to help ambitious expansion-stage companies achieve the next phase of growth.

TCV’s investment approach since day one has been our willingness to invest and reinvest through thick and thin, and across the company growth lifecycle, from early-stage funding to IPO and beyond. It also has been our steadfast belief that the strongest investment partners provide something far more valuable than assets alone. Since inception in 1995, TCV has backed category leaders across both B2B and B2C tech markets, executing 79 public listings and 69 M&As as of the end of 2021. 

The firm has $28 billion of assets under management as of September 30, 2021. We believe our high profile and strong performance are due to our thematic approach (including fintech, education, prop-tech media/entertainment, e-commerce, healthcare, vertical SaaS, and DevOps security); our success in identifying future category leaders; our end-to-end operating support/rolled-up-sleeves approach; and our patient investment style. We work with entrepreneurs over the long term as their capital partner and believe that we can support them with acquisition capital as well as secondary funding to IPO anchoring, post-IPO support, and beyond.

About Velocity

The Velocity fund is already off to a promising start with several portfolio investments, including BenchSci, a global leader in machine learning applications for novel medicine development, and Passport, a modern international shipping carrier built for e-commerce DTC brands and marketplaces. Our aim is for a concentrated portfolio with access to the full TCV platform across investments of Series A, B, C, and beyond. 

TCV Velocity features a dedicated team of investors and operators. It is headed by General Partners Matt Brennan and Gautam Gupta, who together bring a powerful blend of operating and investing experience. The Velocity investment team also includes three additional investors who have joined TCV in the past year from other leading venture growth firms.

Velocity investment themes

Although this list is by no means exhaustive, the Velocity team will be keeping a close eye on opportunities linked to the following high-growth sectors, which are already proven success themes for TCV:

  • E-commerce enablement
  • Tech disruption across health & wellness
  •  Democratization of financial services
  • Acceleration of AI/ML adoption
  • Supply chain digitization and optimization

Strategically timed for success

We believe the timing of our new Velocity fund has been well planned. With technology companies scaling faster and looking to expand earlier, we see what we believe to be a perfect opportunity to leverage our established platform to address the unique growth needs of younger/earlier-stage companies.

The Velocity fund intends to partner with TCV’s Growth funds to provide full lifecycle capital, generally from Series A through IPO. With Velocity, we’ll be taking our deep insights into what we believe makes a great company and applying them much earlier. TCV’s goal is to allow CEOs to think longer term and introduce them to TCV as a capital partner for the next decade, across all stages of their lifecycle, pre- and post-IPO.

A differentiated multi-stage investor

TCV’s “long view” and crossover approach, for which we are well known, is linked to our flexible approach that we intend, in turn, to tailor to the particular needs of each company and its early investors. TCV can lead or follow and has no minimum ownership requirements.

As well as investing across the lifecycle of a company, with both the Velocity fund and our Growth fund, our interests are no longer confined to a particular investment bracket: we generally write checks from $10M to $400M+. As such, TCV can support companies across a variety of requirements – from acquisition capital and secondary funding to IPO anchoring, post-IPO support, and beyond.

There are all kinds of new tech innovators out there that we believe are ideally placed to help; and in 2022, we look forward to joining them on their scale-up journey.

“TCV is using its vast experience of taking companies to IPO and beyond to help expansion-stage companies with equivalent ambitions. We’re enormously excited about the year ahead, as we formally bring to market this much anticipated new fund and engage with founders of companies that are rich with potential and aggressive ambition.”

– Matt Brennan, General Partner, TCV

“As our current portfolio CEOs will attest, we’re already active investors that partner with founders over the lifecycle of the company – from as early as a Series A all the way through an IPO and beyond. We have a 27-year track record of scaling what we believe to be iconic franchise companies (the likes of Airbnb, Alarm.com, EA, Netflix, Peloton, Spotify, and Zillow) and in many cases, we remain involved for the long term, seeing companies through multiple economic cycles.”

– Gautam Gupta, General Partner, TCV

“For more than a quarter of a century, TCV has invested in over 350 companies, including category leaders like Airbnb, EA, ExactTarget, Netflix, Spotify, Facebook, Alarm.com, Splunk, and Zillow. The experience of helping the founders of these companies scale their businesses into dominant public companies has given us the pattern recognition to help emerging companies earlier in their development cycle lay the foundation on the path to becoming future franchise names in the tech world. Our goal with the Velocity fund is to identify and support the next generation of category leaders on this journey.”

– Tim McAdam, General Partner, TCV

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About TCV

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/.


Building the Rocket Ship as You Pilot It: How Trulioo Navigated a New CEO, Global Expansion, and COVID During a Period of Hypergrowth

When Steve Munford joined leading digital identity verification provider Trulioo as the new CEO as the company expanded its global footprint, he knew to be mindful of common pitfalls like making quick decisions and sweeping changes without appreciating the historical context. Instead, he took time to analyze the business from top to bottom and build relationships with Trulioo’s co-founders Stephen Ufford and Tanis Jorge. Rather than slowing down his work at Trulioo, it helped Steve accelerate his impact, knowing that he wasn’t duplicating previously unsuccessful efforts or making decisions that would clash with the mission-driven corporate culture. By developing that framework with the founders and the company at large, he was able to ensure that he was building the company for the long-term without breaking all of the things that already worked.

Trulioo provides businesses with instant digital identity verification that support compliance requirements, mitigate risk, and reduce friction in the onboarding process. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, demand increased significantly alongside Trulioo’s customers’ digital initiatives. Trulioo had always planned to expand its services globally, but this hypergrowth needed a clear roadmap to be executed diligently. The company planned to scale multiple functions, while also opening offices and growing headcount across the globe. To help prioritize product and go-to-market strategies, Trulioo leaned into two key features: customer feedback and a truly global workforce. Customer feedback helped Trulioo look around corners to see which identity verification features and regulatory hurdles were becoming top of mind for its customers. By establishing a global workforce, the company was confident in knowing that they truly understood their customers’ needs – who were themselves increasingly global – as well as the nuances of the markets they were entering into.

In this episode of Growth Journeys, we discuss how Trulioo navigated hyper growth accelerated by digitization during COVID-19, while building out thoughtful global operations and go-to-market strategies built for the long haul. Steve explains why he prioritizes building trust with founding executives and expanding global offices. He also walks us through Trulioo’s mission driven culture, and how the company is executing on its goal to enable everyone on the planet to participate in a global, increasingly digital economy.

Key Takeaways:

  • How Steve navigated stepping into the CEO role at a company that was previously founder-led.

For CEOs joining companies that were previously founder-led, it can be extremely tempting to implement changes quickly in order to create impact. But Steve advocates a different approach and suggests that new executives instead spend that time analyzing what’s been working at the company, and what impact the founders had on that success to date. “You have to start by [asking yourself] ‘What is going to be missing when that founder steps aside from the business?’”

He advocates for taking as much time as possible to watch, learn, and digest, and understand why certain moves have been made, and others haven’t. Doing so allows a new outside CEO to truly understand the culture and nuances of an organization before making sweeping changes. He also suggests building a partnership with the founders, when possible, to build trust and open communication. “The goal is not to slow things down, but further accelerate them. You have got to make sure that when you step in, you’re not doing any harm, but setting both you and the company up to go even faster.”

  • The benefits of building a diverse workforce when expanding a company into new markets across the globe.

One of the first tasks Steve tackled at Trulioo was going to market globally, during a pandemic that had made operations go virtual. Until then, Trulioo had been headquartered in Vancouver, and it could have been simpler to continue with the same team at first. But each market operates differently, and nuances can vary wildly from country to country, which is why Trulioo continued its plan to create a diverse, global workforce. “If you’re going to have a global company…you need to have offices, locations, and workforces all around the world. You need to have a leadership team that is truly multicultural, diverse, and is able to motivate and understand the nuances of the culture,” says Steve.

Indeed, Steve suggests that leadership teams actively prioritize being diverse and cross-cultural as they scale. However, while having a global presence is critical for market presence, go-to-to-market strategies, and talent development as a company grows, for a tech company based outside of the US, having a strong presence in the US is also important.

  • Using customer feedback to understand new markets, prioritize product iteration, and drive growth.

While Trulioo had always planned to expand its identity verification services across the globe, the pandemic accelerated the demand for the company’s services. While there was no shortage of varying needs and priorities, Steve and his team used one criterion to really prioritize its hypergrowth strategy: customer feedback. Because Trulioo works with some of the largest companies across many verticals, their feedback was critical in helping Trulioo craft its product and go-to market roadmaps. “[Our customers] guide us to the countries that they want to move into next. They guide us on how they see the identity landscape changing, where fraud is coming from, or where the regulatory environment is going. Through that dialogue, we’re able to really help prioritize our roadmap, prioritize where we need to innovate, and prioritize areas that we should partner with,” says Steve.

  • How Trulioo’s mission of fostering global inclusion for everyone in the digital economy has helped guide the company’s culture, product, and growth journey.

Providing identity verification services and building a robust identity network is built on the company’s core mission to advance financial inclusion. Trulioo aims to enable everyone on the planet to participate in the global economy no matter where they are. That mission is engrained in how Trulioo creates services and products, even if someone isn’t a customer or employee of a company using Trulioo yet. By thinking about future users, Trulioo is able to think more long term and build products that enable even more people to access high value services online. Says Steve, “We are a mission driven company, and ultimately I think our customers appreciate that because when we go about helping them do their jobs, we’re coming at it from a place of purpose. I think that really comes through.”

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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/.


How Adding a Product-Focused Strategy to its Marketing Mix Has Unlocked Growth at Nerdy

Growth Hacks – Moving the Metric

When Adam Weber joined Nerdy, one of the leading education technology platforms, as its Chief Marketing Officer, he had just left Dollar Shave Club, whose go-to-market strategy was vastly different from Nerdy’s. Nerdy had seen high growth by utilizing a marketing strategy based on capturing customers via search intent, and Adam and his team built out Nerdy’s two-way communication with its customers with a product-forward strategy that offered users free trials of the company’s enrichment programming, such as its expert-led Star Courses. While demand marketing was still very much a part of Nerdy’s marketing playbook, the product-led strategy that Nerdy adopted helped showcase its breadth of enrichment programming and also helped build trust and credibility with users beyond what they may have typed into a search bar. 

Understanding Nerdy’s customer intent was also a key part of the marketing leading up to Nerdy’s IPO. Rather than simply focusing on financial data to present to potential investors, the Nerdy team sought to tell the narrative of Nerdy’s evolution and future growth to help illustrate the compelling data that Nerdy had in its financial statements. 

In this episode of Growth Hacks, Kunal and Katja speak with Adam about how he modified his playbook when moving from a consumer goods company to a technology platform, and evolved Nerdy’s marketing strategy in the process. They also hear from Adam about how Nerdy built enrichment-focused partnerships with parents and schools alike, while alleviating some of the concerns that came with distance learning during the pandemic. We also learn from Adam about how he’s navigating the impact that COVID-19 has had on marketing measurability. 

Key Takeaways:

  • The importance of marketing narrative to build investor trust when taking a company public.

Given the breadth of financial information that must be rolled out when taking a company public, it’s easy to get lost in focusing on data when putting together prospectuses and other documents for potential investors. While financials and growth data are important for investors, Adam quickly saw that telling a compelling narrative of Nerdy’s past and future growth was just as important to late-stage investors as it had been to those who had invested in Nerdy’s previous private rounds of funding. Because Nerdy had such a strong product and a compelling vision for the future, Adam emphasized  making sure that potential investors understood that narrative just as well as they did the company’s financial data. As Adam explains, “Even at this late-stage institutional phase, what makes the company unique, why we’re different, and how we can grow into the future is a fundamental aspect of [our jobs] as marketers.” 

  • Why Adam prioritized understanding customer decision-making when moving from Dollar Shave Club to Nerdy.

Prior to joining Nerdy, Adam was the chief marketing officer at Dollar Shave Club, where the go-to-market was largely focused on reducing friction around decision-making, and bringing customers to the point of purchase decision as quickly as possible. But at Nerdy, customer decision making was largely based on understanding a customer’s specific needs and optimizing the customized solution out of Nerdy’s suite of products. Rather than focusing on top-of-funnel conversion, Adam’s team spent more time on developing two-way communications with potential and existing customers. Doing so helped build trust between Nerdy and its client base, and ensured that the company was delivering maximum value when customers signed up. While it would have been less complicated to focus on quick commitments, Adam says that the time spent understanding customer decision-making was time well-spent. “You have to know the nuance and decision-making for the category you’re in, and make sure that your go-to-market reflects it.”

  • How Nerdy shifted from a demand-driven, search focused marketing strategy to a product-driven go-to-market strategy.

One of Nerdy’s primary drivers of customer acquisition had been around users searching for online learning services. It had prioritized its marketing experiences around understanding that intent and demand, and customizing web experiences around that. But in recent years, the company has focused on a product-driven go-to market, where potential customers can test out free Nerdy programming, such as its Star Courses, where students are able to take enrichment programming from celebrities and top experts across fields such as astronomy, animation, and history. By having prospective clients engage for free in live classes taught by well-known experts, Nerdy’s customers were able to experience the unique experience Nerdy’s platform can deliver, rather than simply learning about a small slice of Nerdy’s product library. Adam didn’t dispense with the search-driven, demand-led marketing efforts; he and his team just expanded the strategy to lead with Nerdy’s product experience. Doing so allowed Nerdy to build trust and expand the two-way communications with its prospective clients, and nurture relationships over time. 

  • Why Nerdy leaned into enrichment over education alone, and the payoff it had in building ongoing engagement with students and educational institutions.

As Adam built out the product-led go-to-market strategy, he and his team quickly learned that demand was growing for Nerdy’s enrichment courses, in addition to its suite of 1-on-1 tutoring, and small and large group classes. As school leaders focused their resources and energy on keeping schools open, extracurricular programs were frequently put on hold or canceled altogether.. This created a gap for Nerdy to fill by expanding its existing enrichment programming such as its Star Courses to blend fun and learning together while enriching students outside of their traditional classroom lessons. Nerdy also partnered directly with schools to help expand their breadth of enrichment courses outside of a standard curriculum by offering a wider selection of programming. 

“One of the advantages of online is the availability of selection. It’s really hard for your local YMCA or school to deliver a broad option base of summer camps or afterschool programs. When you’re online, and have a purposeful platform like we do, that becomes possible,” says Adam. 

  • Permanent changes that marketers will have to adapt to as a result of the pandemic. 

As one of the leading online learning platforms, Nerdy saw increased demand during the pandemic. Even so, Adam cautions that marketers will have to adapt their measurement capabilities to better understand their audiences even after the pandemic. Because there’s far less visibility into a user’s journey with the recent privacy law reforms, Adam and his team utilize triangulation to understand customer decision-making from a variety of angles to understand how every dollar spent impacts a company’s bottom line. While tracking a user online will still be critical, other metrics will provide crucial insight into understanding and calculating marketing spend. As Adam explains, “[It’s] also understanding brand health metrics, it’s understanding survey data, and in multiple ways, understanding what’s happening underneath the hood so that you can get better and optimize.” 

To learn more, tune into Growth Hacks: How Nerdy Built Trust with Investors, Parents, and Students While Navigating an Ever-Changing Education Landscape

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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


Erasing Friction to Improve Sales Enablement and Unlock Revenue Growth

Growth Hacks – Moving the Metric

One of the most important steps a sales organization can take to stay competitive in a rapidly changing sales landscape is to simplify its processes. Eliminating unwieldy training and paring down operational systems are both ways in which organizations can reduce friction for their sales force and drive revenue growth. However, modernizing sales enablement through simpler processes isn’t just about removing obstacles. Evolving organizations would also be wise to consider streamlining the metrics they use to quantify success, so that the entire organization can unite behind a shared vision, rather than improving on a large set of metrics that may not even be comparable.

This simplification strategy is one of the key lessons that Scott Santucci, president of the sales enablement consulting firm Growth Enablement, advises his clients to do. By reducing friction and creating shared organizational visions behind simplified processes, modern sales organizations are better positioned to create value for both themselves and their consumers at a faster pace.

In this episode of Growth Hacks, Katja and Kunal speak with Scott about how he came to be so bullish on strategies that involve stripping away much of the old sales enablement playbook. Not only does he explain his rationale; he also walks us through multiple examples and actionable tips that allow sales and marketing to achieve synthesis and create a better sales enablement playbook. Over the course of this episode, Scott breaks down the importance of metrics like the commercial ratio, how he coaches companies to recognize a singular route to value that becomes their playbook for driving sales, and specific case studies for how to implement these strategies successfully.

Key Takeaways:

  • How to use the sales and marketing efficiency ratio to improve commercial health across an entire organization. Sales teams often track dozens, if not hundreds, of various metrics to monitor KPIs and measure success. Yet that level of data can quickly become dense, especially when comparing them against each other in order to measure overall success. “One large client tracks over 5,000 different metrics for their sales organization. If you’re tracking that amount of data, you’re tracking nothing,” says Scott. Instead, he encourages clients to ask themselves, “What’s the one metric that we can work backwards from, that we want to move the needle from?”

Most often, the answer is the sales and marketing ratio, sometimes referred to as the commercial ratio; a calculation used to measure the efficiency of sales and marketing and deduce the overall health of a commercial system. Because the commercial ratio calculation is straightforward – revenue growth, divided by total sales and marketing spend – companies don’t have to compare dozens of various metrics to try to puzzle together their sales organization’s health. It also pulls in the entire organization into a singular goal. As Scott explains, “The metric says to me, ‘How do we as a company work better together? How do we team up and be on the same page to go find more efficient ways to attract customers?’”

  • The importance of having multiple perspectives in the room to improve sales enablement. One of Scott’s holistic strategies to improve processes around sales enablement is by bringing in people from all different backgrounds throughout the sales organization to create a shared vision, rather than having decisions made from the top-down. By putting pen to paper with input from a wider variety of stakeholders, organizations can be certain of two things: that their entire organization is aligned behind a singular vision, and that it’s a vision that is accessible to a larger customer base at the same time. Whether it’s aligning the organization behind the value of using a metric like the commercial ratio, or creating a new strategic vision, synthesis is a key component of Scott’s strategies to bettering sales enablement. “What’s important is making sure you meet all of the different folks that would be involved in teaming together. You [have] got to meet them where they are first, and then help them connect the dots second.”
  • Ways to identify the right route to value to clarify sales messaging and training. A key phrase that Scott uses with clients is the “route to value” – a new lens through which sales and marketing teams can craft better messaging. Rather than working backwards from what each individual customer might need, Scott encourages organizations to recognize that they’re in the value creation business, and view themselves as the people that can help create value for clients by taking them from the state they’re in today to a better future state.

To do so, he urges organizations to map out what that journey looks like from beginning to where a business might want to get to, in a process called value mapping. By value mapping, companies can figure out not only what the route to value is, but who the decision makers are that need to be involved, and the sorts of decision making they may need to guide a customer through. “A route to value, to be simple about it, is just writing a movie. A future movie of where you want to take your customers. You’re casting your clients as the heroes; therefore you’re also casting your salespeople as the guides,” says Scott.

  • Tips for aligning organizational economic value with the needs of your customer base. While value mapping starts in-house, and involves some speculation, it’s still important to align a company’s economic value with the needs of its customers. One way that Scott and his team do so is by building a model of what their customer’s world might look like – the challenges they face that meet certain patterns, or the people most likely to be able to enact change. By doing that research ahead of time, companies can truly understand the problems that exist for potential consumers and devise the right messaging to reach change agents who can implement solutions.

Imperative to the process is starting early and using that knowledge to drive messaging and training. “What we’re looking at isn’t interviewing customers about the products they want,” says Scott. “That’s way too late in the game.”

  • Actionable strategies to eliminate friction in the sales process. As sales divisions grow, so do additional training, tools, and potential obstacles that can unintentionally end up hindering sales growth. Rather than adding to your sales team’s plate in order to up-level their skillset, Scott suggests an alternative approach. “What works is creating things that actually take stuff away,” he explains.

He advises clients to pick disparate parts of their sales enablement programs and consider all the obstacles that complicate that in favor of simpler processes; for example, simplifying the process of providing a price quote to a customer. “You would think that doing something like that is no big deal, but taking stuff away is not in most people’s muscle memory. To systematically reduce things that stand in the way of making progress is a great success.”

To learn more, tune into Growth Hacks: At Growth Enablement, Modernizing Sales Enablement Means Throwing Out the Old Playbook

***

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/.


Looking back on 2021: 14 public listings and a quarter century of backing some of the world’s greatest growth companies

2021 has been a milestone year for global markets and the broader tech ecosystem, with both private company funding rounds and public markets reaching record highs. We at TCV have celebrated our own milestone, marking our 26th anniversary investing in what we see as some of the most transformative public and private crossover technology companies around the globe.

We kicked off 2021 by announcing the closing of the $4 billion dollar TCV XI, our largest fund to-date, bringing our total AUM to ~$26 billion, as of end of November. We’ve also started our investing journey in TCV XI with a new cohort of remarkable growth companies, including Attentive, Aviatrix, Brex, Built Technologies, Celonis, Cognite, Devo, FarEyeHotmart, Kipu, Mollie, OneTrust, Trade Republic and Trulioo. So far this year we’ve already celebrated the public listings[1] of 14 portfolio companies (starting with the most recent listing): Nubank, HashiCorp, Grupa Pracuj, SiteMinder, Rent the Runway, GitLab, Toast, Nerdy, Sportradar, CCC Intelligent Solutions, Rover, LegalZoom, Payoneer, and Believe.

These public debuts followed an equally impactful 2020, with Airbnb’s blockbuster IPO, as well as TCV’s sale of its positions in AxiomSL, Cradlepoint, Genesys and Silver Peak.

Crossover is our middle name: TCV aims to support the world’s most compelling technology companies from the private markets through IPO and beyond

As we head towards the end of this momentous year, we’ve never felt more conviction in our decades-long investment strategy: to seek to patiently back existing and future category leaders with the financial and advisory resources they need to fulfill their visions.

We believe at TCV that the sky’s the limit to what significant technology companies can achieve. As investors and advisors, the greatest asset we can provide them is unwavering support at every stage of their growth, whether they’ve just achieved product-market fit, they’re preparing to go public, or they’re decades past their IPO, entering uncharted channels or markets. Unlike many investors who view IPOs as a time to exit, TCV, in select cases, often uses them as an opportunity to add exposure in portfolio companies as a show of confidence in continued growth and value creation initiatives. Company management teams understand what it means when TCV backs a company. Take Netflix, for example

TCV first invested in Netflix in 1999. Following the dot.com crash of 2000, investors grew weary of internet-based businesses, so TCV stepped in to lead the company’s recapitalization in 2001. When the company went public in 2002 at a market cap of approximately $300 million, TCV remained invested in the company. Then in 2005 when many public market investors grew concerned about Netflix’s competitive positioning, TCV doubled down, investing yet more capital into the business. Finally, in 2011 as public market investors once again grew concerned about Netflix’s strategy, this time about their decision to prioritize streaming over mail-order DVDs, TCV injected yet another $200 million into the company. Barry McCarthy, former Netflix CFO, has said that “If there wasn’t TCV, there wouldn’t be Netflix.”[2]

We believe the best advice comes from repeated front-row growth experience

TCV’s approach since day one has always been more than our willingness to invest and reinvest through thick and thin. It has been our firm belief that the strongest investment partners provide something far more valuable than assets alone.

TCV can provide the kind of expertise that comes from having partnered with more than 350 growth companies on a global scale. Our rich network of hands-on advisors, principals and partners is distinctively qualified to provide the actionable, expert advice that comes from front-row, first-hand experience scaling some of what we believe to be some of the most successful businesses in the world. That’s why global fintech superstar Revolut chose to partner with TCV.

“We’re on a mission to build a global financial platform – a single app where our customers can manage all of their daily finances. TCV has a long history of backing founders who are changing their industries on a global scale, so we are excited to partner with them as we prepare for the next stage of our journey,” said Nik Storonsky, Founder & CEO

TCV’s success has been the result of our thesis-driven, thematic approach and ability to identify existing and future category leaders. B2B and B2C technology have always been areas of strength, and we’ll continue to invest in those sectors within the U.S., Europe and across the globe. Looking ahead, we’re also excited to back leaders in several areas that have recently matured to a point where we believe there are now exceptional companies ready to benefit from growth equity investments. Some of the themes we find particularly compelling include:

  • The Rise of Digital-Native Financial Services: Today’s consumers expect to be able to conduct all of their personal and professional financial activities online, from transferring assets, to paying for goods and services, to managing, tracking and auditing payments and expenses. They want streamlined, transparently priced, simple-to-use, convenient and secure platforms that integrate with all of their key financial partners, so that moving money becomes as easy as sending a text message. The more consumers become comfortable with and trust these platforms, the more they’ll look for additional ways to engage with them, such as via investments and wealth management. We believe there are clear tailwinds in the adoption of not only digitally native banking platforms and wallets, but also in the core infrastructure enabling them, such as rapid and secure vertical payment capabilities which can be integrated into customer workflows.
  • The Adoption of Digitally-Delivered Education: The digital media consumption habits of K-12 school-age kids, Gen Z’s and Millennials are driving similar behavioral trends in education as we’re seeing in fintech. Increasingly, today’s students expect lessons and related content to be available on-demand in immersive, interactive and gamified environments. COVID-19 accelerated this trend dramatically, leading to the wide-scale adoption of digital direct-to-consumer learning tools. Now that students and educators have seen what’s possible, we believe there’s no turning back.
  • The Rapid Shift to the Cloud: Global enterprises are engaged in what we believe is a once-in-a-generation shift from on-premise infrastructure to the public cloud, often adopting two or more cloud providers. There’s tremendous demand for and therefore opportunity to invest in platform companies that integrate security, networking, data infrastructure, IT operations management and developer tooling into multifunction cloud-based architectures. The shift towards cloud-based infrastructure we believe will also give rise to exciting new B2B cloud-based technologies that increase developer productivity, improve risk and compliance management, and capture, organize and leverage data for improved, more widespread data-driven decision making. 
  • Vertical-Specific “Full Potential” SaaS: We believe that vertical SaaS vendors that own a front and/or back office system of record are seeing increases in customer uptake, competitive moats, and therefore economic opportunity. These systems of record serve as control points, from which vendors can enter product and service adjacencies through data, workflow, and account ownership advantages. By leveraging a control point to extend through a value chain within a vertical, SaaS vendors can delight end customers and turn their products into platforms. Over time, their platforms behave like networks among end users, their customers, and their suppliers, enabling these vendors to capture the “full potential” of their vertical.
  • The Acceleration of Digital Fitness Applications: Fitness has been digitizing for a long time, but COVID turbo-charged the trend. Adoption and engagement of digital fitness applications have never been higher and will only continue to rise. Peloton founder and CEO John Foley once declared in our Growth Journeys podcast that, “Fitness as a category has been broken forever.” TCV seeks to back companies that are fixing the category with meaningfully improved business models and carefully executed go-to-market strategies. We firmly believe that applications that bring digital fitness both to the home and outdoors in structured ways will define the future of the industry.
  • The Digitization of Health Care: The $4 trillion U.S. health care industry has long been broken. Despite the US spending nearly 2x more per capita than the average OECD country, our health outcomes are worse due to a combination of care delivery that is reactive and episodic, imbalanced supply and demand, and misaligned incentives. We believe that the healthcare industry is ripe for technology disruption and that COVID-19 has significantly accelerated adoption of digital health technologies across all stakeholders in this ecosystem. Digital health technologies have already driven higher patient engagement, leading to better patient outcomes while reducing costs. TCV is eager to back companies that leverage technology to fix our broken healthcare system and put patients back in control of their own healthcare journeys.
  • The Unlocking of Ecommerce’s Full Potential: Despite the rapid growth of ecommerce over the past two decades, it still only accounts for just more than 13 percent of total retail sales, with tremendous opportunity remaining for growth. While some types of purchases occur on a one-off basis, there are many exciting new and soon-to-be built online businesses that we believe will offer consumers high-utility products and services that they desire. Many of these online offerings will be compelling to consumers on an ongoing, subscription basis.
  • The Enablement of the Prosumer Economy: The pandemic has inspired record-numbers of innovators to leave conventional employment opportunities in pursuit of their passions, often as a replacement to their previous day jobs. However, we believe today’s prosumers are not sufficiently well-served by available distribution platforms, which do a good job of getting them views but not revenue. We’re excited to invest in new platforms that enable prosumers to own their audiences and gain control over their financial destinies and creative freedom. We believe the prosumer economy still lacks a middle class, and TCV is eager to support companies that help prosumers build, run, manage and grow their digital businesses.

Looking ahead: We believe the next quarter century holds even more promise than the last

The past quarter century of investing has been a remarkable adventure in which we’ve been fortunate to invest in more than 350 companies, including category leaders like Airbnb, EA, ExactTarget, Netflix, Spotify, Facebook, Splunk, and Zillow. We believe that track record positions us well to enter this next quarter century from a position of strength, focus and conviction as we set out to find and back the next generation of category leaders. Whatever it takes, as long as it takes, we are here to help them turn their visions into reality.

This article is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”) or any of the securities of any company discussed. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results. There can be no assurance that any TCV fund or investment will achieve its objectives or avoid substantial losses. The views and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCV. TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the speakers and disclaims any responsibility therefor. Logos are included for illustrative purposes only. Inclusion of such logos does not imply endorsement by, or, in some instances, any current affiliation with, such companies. The TCV portfolio companies identified 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 article, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


[1] Public listings include IPOs, direct listings, and SPAC transactions.

[2] This endorsement was given by an executive advisor of TCV that has served as an executive and/or director at several TCV portfolio companies, including his current role as CFO and director at Spotify. No compensation was provided for such endorsement although under certain circumstances executive advisers are permitted to invest in TCV funds. This endorsement is not representative of all endorsements of TCV. Please see TCV’s Form ADV for additional important information related to executive advisors.


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).


At Growth Enablement, Modernizing Sales Enablement Means Throwing Out the Old Playbook

In an increasingly competitive sales landscape, throwing out the playbook may seem like a bold strategy. But that’s exactly what Scott Santucci, president of the sales enablement consulting firm Growth Enablement, has been advising his clients to do. Commercial systems designed even as late as 2019 are likely full of complex trainings, outdated information, and other sorts of friction that can slow down the actual sales process. Instead, businesses should focus on systematically reducing the obstacles that stand in the way of sales progress to accelerate enablement.

In today’s episode of Growth Hacks, Katja and Kunal speak with Scott about how he’s viewing the evolution and current state of enablement, and how he’s adapting the traditional customer-centric approach to unlock value at a faster pace for both businesses and their customers. In addition to actionable tips on accelerating the sales enablement process, Scott walks us through combining perspectives from sales, marketing, and product to create a route to value. He also shares his strategies for simplifying metrics to measure commercial health. Lastly, he breaks down the importance of including diverse stakeholders from across the organization in the process of creating a new sales enablement playbook, and his top tips for salespeople just starting out.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • How to use the sales and marketing efficiency ratio to improve commercial health across an entire organization
  • The importance of having multiple perspectives in the room to improve sales enablement
  • Ways to identify the right route to value to clarify sales messaging and training
  • Tips for aligning organizational economic value with the needs of your customer base
  • Actionable strategies to eliminate friction in the sales process

To hear more on this, settle in and press play. 

Please find the transcript below, which has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Kunal Mehta: It’s my pleasure to introduce Scott Santucci to Growth Hacks. Scott is going to be presenting a bunch of Growth Hacks today. I met Scott when he was a research director at Forrester, where he founded the enablement practice, led research around executive buying, and built frameworks to give people a common language to talk about sales enablement, and sales productivity. After Forrester, he moved into more commercial roles, helping companies transform not only their sales process, but simplify their go-to-market. How awesome it is to have Scott Santucci in our metaverse. Welcome to Growth Hacks.

Scott Santucci: Thank you so much for having me, Kunal, and I just want to plug Growth Hacks. Having been in the research business for so long, the way that you are tackling these issues and being reflective and asking questions about what’s really happening, not what should be happening, it’s just really fantastic. Thank you for having me as a participant on your show, and I’m definitely a listener.

Katja Gagen: That’s awesome. Glad to hear that. Where does this podcast find you today, Scott?

Scott Santucci: I’m in Leesburg, Virginia, suburb of Washington, DC.

Katja Gagen: Scott, you’ve done a lot of research around sales enablement, and our listeners are excited to hear about this. Tell us in a few words, what is sales enablement, how has it evolved and why does it still pique your interest today?

Scott Santucci: To be simple about it, Katja, what is sales enablement? If you ask 10 people, you’ll get 15 different answers. So let me give you sort of two schools of thought. One would be sales enablement is about doing something for salespeople to help drive more revenue or more sales. That could be in the form of training. It could be in the form of leads. It could be a form of content, those kinds of activities.

Another school of thought is that sales enablement is about creating the overall system, including customers. Figuring out sales and marketing and product and making sure that environment is thriving better.

The reason I’m so interested in that bucket, and what makes me so compelled is that the world that we live in today is so interconnected that we have to have different strategies on how we optimize sales and marketing. To me, they’re directly related of looking at the ecosystem or the buying networks that we’re connected with our customers with.

Those are the things that I concentrate on and that’s where my research has always been. It’s that sales and marketing exist in order to drive growth, and we drive growth by making sure we’re always understanding what our customers are looking for, what kinds of problems they have, and also what stands in the way from them getting the value from our products and services.

Kunal Mehta: Scott, you have been an analyst, a practitioner, a consultant. You have talked to thousands of people. You are at the center of enablement. I’d really love to get your meta view on the state of enablement today.

Scott Santucci: I think the state of enablement today is the state of a lot of businesses. This is a adopt or die kind of situation. And I hate to be so bold but let me give you a headline of what I mean by that.

If you are following the practices of before either 2008 or before 2019, you are probably arming or gumming up your commercial system. You are probably producing lots of activities that are overly complex, like a training class or a marketing piece, rather than recognizing how much information salespeople have to synthesize and make it digestible for lots of people inside their customer network.

If you have always been a person who believes you work backwards from customers first, that’s never going to change. What’s different is how interconnected selling activities are today. How fast things move, how many people are involved and how those situations make the old strategies not suitable for 2021 and beyond.

Katja Gagen: That’s interesting Scott. Since you’ve been in the enablement business for some time, what’s an example of things working and where can companies miss the mark?

Scott Santucci: What works is creating things that actually take stuff away. Here’s a perfect example of a really great enablement program. Going in and identifying all of the obstacles that stand in the way, say, to produce a price quote and just systematically eliminating them and replacing it with something simpler. You would think that doing something like that is no big deal, but taking stuff away is not in most people’s muscle memory, so to systematically reduce things that stand in the way of making progress is great success.

Another example of something that’s great success is getting people in the room that have different backgrounds, to collaborate on a shared vision. It might be a picture, a map, a diagram of what the future could look like for customers. Having multiple perspectives involved and the discipline to get it on one sheet of paper means that picture is going to probably be more accessible to more people in those customers.

Those are two examples of things that work. I put them in the bucket of synthesis. Things that don’t work are more detailed training, plotting the Salesforce out, doing another heavy training activity to teach them more and more sales technique.

Kunal Mehta: Got it. Scott, I want to start with something we are both really passionate about, which is the sales and marketing efficiency ratio, or something you refer to as the commercial ratio and how you are using it to measure the health of sales and marketing. Scott, maybe before we get rolling into it, you could just explain what it is.

Scott Santucci: The commercial ratio is a measure of the overall health of a commercial system. That includes the revenue coming from customers, includes the spending that’s done for sales, and the spending that’s done for marketing.

The calculation is pretty straight forward; we got that from you guys. It’s the revenue growth divided by total sales and marketing spend. That gives you a ratio. Which gives you a relative health of how efficient the sales and marketing investments are.

Now that’s the calculation. What is it measuring? It assumes that the money spent for sales and marketing, its purpose is to drive revenue growth. There are situations where you would spend sales and marketing money to retain customers, but that’s what its focal point is.

Kunal Mehta: What was your aha moment when you first learned about it?

Scott Santucci: Having been a consultant for so long, one of the things that has always been challenging is how much data companies track about sales and marketing. One large client, they track over 5,000 different metrics for their sales organization. If you are tracking that amount of data, you are tracking nothing. What I’m a big believer in is, what’s the one metric that we can work backwards from that we want to move the needle from?

When we arrived at that commercial ratio from talking to other people inside your company, to have that one metric. The metric says to me, how do we, as a company work better together? How do we team up and be on the same page to go find more efficient ways to attract customers?

Where it became an aha moment to me is how do we stop the internal bickering to circle the wagons, go outside, and compete in the market and not compete inside our company.

Katja Gagen: That’s really interesting Scott. How do you use that ratio to bring people together or align them around a common goal?

Scott Santucci: That has been interesting. I think step number one is, let’s help everybody get on the same page behind it. Some people will reject it because it is not a ratio that they are familiar with, or it sounds like something that’s coming from finance.

I think step number one is let’s understand what the meaning of it is and step number two is to recognize that there is a sequence of events to get there and that we can get there together. By having a plan of stopping to do things that don’t work and finding ways to invest in things that do work. Having that narrative helps a lot.

I think what’s important though, is making sure you meet all of the different folks that would be involved in teaming together. You’ve got to meet them where they are first and then help them connect the dots, second.

Kunal Mehta: Scott, maybe you could just give us a practical example of how you’ve rolled this out at one of your customers now.

Scott Santucci: Let’s take a business with about $500 million in revenue in the security space, a SaaS company in the security space. Using the commercial ratio, as a way to say, if we want to improve the overall health of sales or profitability, let’s look at how we’re doing today. And using that ratio to say, what would it be if we went from .55 to .60, to .75 to 1.0, and why don’t we ask those questions of what would it look like?

Let’s simulate what that would look like in terms of our financial performance, what it would look like in terms of our organizations and help people envision what that would look like. In doing that process, what’s interesting is people move off the thing that they have to do right now in that moment, and they can start envisioning making incremental change.

Then from there could be doing things differently, and where should we start? Let’s look at your business like a portfolio of different revenue streams, and let’s segment it out differently and look at these different buckets in their own isolation.

What we’re looking to do is optimize or create the most value out of each of these revenue streams, and we want to take out as much friction as possible so that we make it much easier to do work and make sure that people agree with that. Then the next part is, let’s pick one of those things and work on something to tackle.

Katja Gagen: Right. And in the end, it’s all about value creation, right?

Scott Santucci: That’s right. Yes, exactly.

Katja Gagen: In that vein, you talk about the route to value, and how you combine what sales and marketing do to deliver that value. Give me an example.

Scott Santucci: That’s a great question. Let’s pick that same example that we were working backwards from, one of the things that we highlighted. So now that we have these different portfolios of revenue streams, and we have a good understanding about where their friction is. The idea of a route to value is a different way to think about a sales messaging and sales training.

A basic metaphor is to say, let’s recognize that we’re in the value creation business, to your point. What we want to do is help our clients along a journey from where they are today, the bad state, to where they want to get to, an envisioned future state that our company can take them.

We need to figure out what that journey looks like. We call that a value map, that’s where they want to get to. Now what the route to value is, is to say, let’s figure out what the change agent and the executive sponsor need to do to buy into that picture, and then help guide them through the decisions, the predictable decisions that they’re going to need to make through that journey.

It’s like plotting out a movie, in that there are predictable scenes that you can work backwards from. Then once you have that, you can determine, do we want our salespeople to be security subject matter experts? Or do we want them to be decision-making brokers, decision-making champions?

If you make them decision-making champions, things become a lot easier. You give them less materials; you can define very specific scenes. For marketing it’s capturing stories that match to each one of those scenes that you already have and organize that information to help salespeople.

A route to value is writing a future movie of where you want to take your customers. You are casting your clients as the heroes. Therefore, you are also casting your salespeople as the guides and then marketing is there to equip the salespeople with the tools that they need to help the clients, to navigate all of those different variables that they’re going to run into inside their organizations.

Katja Gagen: I like that. Scott, I’m getting my popcorn ready here for the movie roll out. After you’ve brought everyone in the company into this value creation, how do you make sure the economic value is aligned with what the customer wants?

Scott Santucci: The process of building a value map is very challenging. There’s a technique that we like to call model map match. The model part is, let’s model our customer’s world, what we’re looking at, isn’t interviewing customers about what products they want. That’s way too late in the game.

What we want to do is figure out what challenges do individual companies have that meet certain patterns. Let’s find out what’s the profile of the human that’s most likely to drive that forward. We call that person a change agent.

What do they look like? What’s their profile? You know that that person isn’t going to be successful unless they have an executive sponsor. If we understand what problems exist and we understand who these types of people are then the next thing that we can figure out is how do we build the information that they need to figure out why they need to change in the first place? And why now?

If you don’t have those things figured out, we put the burden on salespeople to figure it out and that’s really hard to do. When you have that information then Katja, it becomes pretty simple to figure out whether your value proposition matches those predictable conditions.

And then you have a scorecard and then you keep the validation from it by how well it’s testing in the field and how well it’s resonating. But you can always tweak it by bringing customers in to talk and react to it so there’s always ways to keep it fresh.

I think the challenge is just having the discipline to build it outside-in from the get-go.

Katja Gagen: I love that, Scott. Thank you. As always, we will finish our podcast with some rapid-fire questions. First one, what’s your go-to book?

Scott Santucci: I wish I had one go-to book. There are three books that I’ve read, and I keep reading over and over and over again. One is The Chaos Imperative, which is about embracing disruption and turning it into innovation. Another one is Antifragile, which is about turning disorder into a strategy. The third one is Switch, which is about how change actually happens and how you have to plot it out. You know how you can manufacture it and create an environment for change, rather than putting on the backs of individual people.

Kunal Mehta: Hey, Scott, what’s your biggest pet peeve?

Scott Santucci: My biggest pet peeve is for people who say salespeople should do X, Y, and Z, and they haven’t done it themselves.

Katja Gagen: What’s one piece of advice you would give someone starting out in sales.

Scott Santucci: Be curious. It’s not about you. It’s about the customer. Find out everything there is to know. What they think, find ways to be relatable with them. That’s the easiest path to being successful.

Katja Gagen: What was one thing you learned about yourself during the pandemic?

Scott Santucci: What I learned about myself during the pandemic is that going back to your roots of what you know and finding ways to challenge certain questions. So, doubling down on being more curious, what I did is kind of threw out my old playbook, I just threw it out and I decided I need to build one from scratch. I’m so grateful I did because a lot of the things in my old playbook just won’t work today, and I don’t think it’s coming back to where it was before.

Katja Gagen: Well, thanks for being with us today, Scott.

Scott Santucci: Thank you.

Katja Gagen: Thanks for listening to Growth Hacks. You can follow us on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen. To learn more about us and TCV’s CEO and founder podcast, go to TCV.com or email us at growthhacks@tcv.com.

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