Elevating Community Building to Drive Meaningful Growth

Community building is the type of phrase that gets thrown around growth marketing so often it can seem like a box to check, rather than a strategic part of a comprehensive growth strategy. Still, there is a growing stable of modern brands that have created unique, vocal, loyal communities, and leveraged the power of those communities for incredible growth and success. Companies like Airbnb, Glossier, Peloton, and Twitter have all fostered community, and done so in different ways, without sacrificing on the primary goal of scaling a business. 

In the latest episode of Growth Hacks, Katja and Kunal speak with Jonathan Mildenhall, the founder and Chairman of the strategic branding firm, TwentyFirstCenturyBrand, and former CMO of Airbnb. Jonathan recounts his experience with building modern brands that resonate with the communities they serve and explains how to build a strategic blueprint that allows companies to unlock growth in the areas they want to activate. He also gives us his playbook for building communities that can meaningfully drive growth, and why he believes community building has to come from the very top to be truly effective. 

Here’s what you’ll learn: 

  • The four pillars of a modern 21st century brand that’s built to scale
  • How to perform a deep analysis on your own company and create a strategic blueprint to activate on each pillar
  • Specific strategies on building a community that can meaningfully drive growth and brand perception
  • Why strategic community building has to come from the C-suite
  • Lessons B2B marketers can take from B2C campaigns when it comes to eliciting an emotional connection

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

***

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chase Gilbert, CEO, Built

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

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

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

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


How Clio’s Bold Mission Supported Its Growth Journey: Helping Customers Scale and Changing the Legal Industry in the Process

Executing on a company’s mission can slip from being an imperative to becoming an afterthought when driving the kind of rapid growth needed to become a market leader. And at Clio, the market leading cloud-based legal software provider, the company’s mission was audacious; transform the legal experience for all. By imbuing that mission into every company decision, Clio continues to power the flywheel that took them from being the first cloud-based legal SaaS product on the market, to the market leader it is today.

In this episode of Growth Journeys, Clio’s CEO Jack Newton chats with TCV Principal and Clio Board Member Amol Helekar to discuss how Clio educated their customers on the value of cloud-native software to transform how the legal industry used software – building trust as well as an impenetrable moat around their business in the process. Jack walks us through how Clio created a community of customers and employees that are committed to the company’s mission.

Key takeaways include:

  • Why Clio invested in educating its market early, rather than waiting for product-market fit. Even though many industries were rapidly adopting the cloud in 2008 when Clio launched, CEO Jack Newton knew that the legal industry would be slower to adopt if a fundamental question wasn’t first answered: could attorneys be assured that it was ethical and safe to conduct business and store information in the cloud? Clio invested heavily in thought leadership, white papers, and advocated with various state bar associations to advance the conversation around attorneys moving their practices into the cloud. “In the end, we were successful in educating the market on cloud computing and really helped drive cloud adoption in legal, which is traditionally a pretty slow adopter of new technology,” says Newton.
  • How a strong partnership strategy can become an impenetrable moat. Since Clio had to win over thousands of attorneys all using various systems of record, the company leaned into integrating with as many applications as possible. It did the same for the core applications used by bar associations, knowing the process would foster trust within the larger legal community. Newton acknowledges that building out a 200+ integration library isn’t a quick or easy task. “Partnerships are another example of [something] that takes years to forge. But once you have those relationships built, you’re really building a defensible moat around your business.”
  • Choosing a mission statement that can foster growth. Clio’s focus isn’t just to build the best legal SaaS product. Reflecting on the fact that 77% of people with legal issues historically haven’t seen their issue resolved by an attorney, the Clio team set their mission even higher: to transform the legal experience for all, by making it easier and more affordable for all to access legal services. Rather than let the mission dwindle on a website FAQ page, the company asks itself daily how much every business decision allows them to accelerate their ability to achieve their mission. “The energy needs to go into finding how you can build a bit of a flywheel, where the progress you’re seeing on your mission…is actually helping drive your overall flywheel of growth,” says Newton.
  • How to draw clients, employees, and investors into your mission. Because of its larger mission that transcends a single company, the Clio team is continually facilitating seminars, studies, and its annual legal tech conference in order to continue conversations around ways to make legal services more accessible and affordable. The company began hosting its annual Clio Cloud Conference in 2012 which Newton says began humbly, with just a few hundred attendees. It has since expanded to more than 2,000 in-person and more than 4,000 virtual attendees. “The Clio Cloud Conference is not just for customers, it’s a chance for the entire legal community to come together and talk about the most pressing issues facing the industry. It’s a chance to reflect, learn, and set the course for what the next ten years of innovation in legal will look like,” says Newton. “And what’s amazing for Clio is we’ve become an intrinsic part of that discussion.”
  • Maintaining investor excitement even in late funding rounds. Clio has seen tremendous growth and raised multiple rounds, including a $250 million Series D round in 2019, followed by a $110M Series E round earlier this year. Newton says that as critical as it was to show that Clio was executing well, it was also important to have a long-term vision that inspires investors. For Clio, that vision was the opportunity to change an industry that had seen very little shift in how it conducted business for decades. Newton also suggests that entrepreneurs ask themselves how they’re helping their customers address their total addressable market. “Are you driving the kind of transformation in your industry that will actually expand the TAM of your customers? As a first step, can you expand the TAM of what your customers are able to address?” says Newton.

To learn more, tune into Growth Journeys: An Audacious Goal: How Clio’s Mission of Transforming the Legal Experience For All Is Helping Lawyers Scale

***

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/.


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

***

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.

***

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/.


Treating Employees Like End Consumers: How Zillow Scaled Successfully While Reinventing the Traditional Growth Playbook

As home buying juggernaut and TCV portfolio company Zillow grew, it placed employee engagement and company culture at the forefront of its operations — even as it scaled and acquired large companies with their own cultures and moda operandi. While improving hiring and retention is a key part of any leader’s growth strategy, Zillow took it a step further by treating employee engagement as a central component to future growth.

In the latest episode of Growth Hacks, Katja and Kunal are joined by TCV Venture Partner Amy Bohutinsky, who worked at Zillow as CMO and later became COO, before joining the company’s board. Amy discusses why Zillow focused on employee engagement and treating employees like other companies do end customers as a driver for growth. She also walks us through her unique perspective on navigating operational challenges such as successful corporate mergers, and the metric she thinks more C-suite leaders should be paying attention to. In addition to Zillow, Amy serves on the boards of Modsy and Duolingo, and tells listeners about the issues that are top of mind in the boardroom.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • Why Zillow focused on product over marketing to drive early growth
  • Strategies for successfully merging companies post-acquisition
  • How shared values in a shared language build connective tissue between disparate teams
  • The most important metrics all C-suite leaders should be paying attention to
  • What corporate boards are most concerned with today

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

Katja Gagen: I’m thrilled to have Amy Bohutinsky with me today. Former CMO and COO of Zillow, a venture partner at TCV, and board member of Zillow, Duolingo, Modsy and many others. Amy your career has been highly unusual. You went from journalist to CMO, to COO reporting to boards, and now being on multiple boards yourself. We’re so excited to have you today. Welcome to Growth Hacks.

Amy Bohutinsky: Well, thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Kunal Mehta: Well, thanks, Amy. Thanks for joining us. Where does this podcast find you today?

Amy Bohutinsky: It finds me in Seattle, hiding in my bedroom, which is the quietest place in the house right now, hoping my dog doesn’t bark in the middle of this.

Kunal Mehta: Awesome. And maybe you can tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started in tech.

Amy Bohutinsky: Sure. I started my career as a broadcast journalist. And within a couple of years the first big tech boom was happening in San Francisco. I transitioned over to doing PR for tech companies and within a number of years, that broadened to a couple of different tech companies. From PR into marketing, I was on the ground floor at Zillow when it first started and over the next 14 years, went from PR to CMO to COO. Today I’m on the board of Zillow and a couple of other awesome companies.

Katja Gagen: And at Zillow, which is also a TCV company, you started with zero marketing budget. Tell us how you made things work.

Amy Bohutinsky: When we started Zillow, we started with let’s see if we can build a household name off of organic traffic. You know, here it was in 2005, we had all been in tech to see this first round of internet companies kind of boom and bust, many of them blowing a lot of money on expensive brand marketing before they had a fully proven out revenue model.

It was a point in time where we didn’t want that to happen. We wanted our venture capital dollars to stretch, but we also saw an opportunity to build a company in a really different way, which was to focus deeply on product. Product as the absolute best marketing we could have. So yeah, for many years there wasn’t a marketing budget. It was focused on product, and when I was CMO, we probably didn’t start spending significantly on the brand until about seven or eight years in and after we’d become a public company.

Kunal Mehta: I think the scrappiness and the growth hack of no budget is amazing. You know, a lot of our companies want to use PR and brand to generate demand, but they struggle with it. How did you guys make that successful?

Amy Bohutinsky: We were constantly asking ourselves not just is this what we think people want but is this something that we think people will talk about. Real estate is such a stress driven transaction. How do we make this fun and provocative and visual and exciting, and actually draw out some of the fun of looking into homes and dreaming about homes?

Acouple of key decisions we made. One was, we decided in the early days, instead of just putting a whole bunch of data about individual homes on a page about that home to empower people, what if we boil it down to one number? And we give it a snappy name and call it the Zestimate. We visually put that on top of every rooftop in America so that you can come on our site, and you can fly over rooftops and get an idea. And pop into any single home and say, what’s that home worth? This was pretty revolutionary back in 2005, when before that, nothing had been online at all about homes and real estate.

Katja Gagen: That’s awesome. And as you evolved as a company, what were some of your biggest learnings?

Amy Bohutinsky: We did a lot of things well. One thing we did not do well in the early days is we didn’t pay enough attention to SEO and the big impact that could have on our business in a category where people are constantly searching in the category of real estate.

It was probably not until about four years in that we started getting serious about it. Others in our category had been serious about it for a couple of years and we had a lot of years of catching up to do. I see companies make that mistake all the time.

Katja Gagen: After you became CMO that you then transition to COO, which is a little unusual. So what were some of the skills that you carried over from your CMO role and what surprised you?

Amy Bohutinsky: A big part of that role was internally looking at our employees and understanding how we hire the absolute best people we can, but also how do we retain those people. How do we create company where people really want to work and feel like they can do the best work of their career and that they belong. And a big part of that is skills that are really relevant to marketing.

Number one, it’s understanding your end consumer, your employees and really listening to what they have to say as you make decisions throughout the company, and as you scale and grow the company and build teams. So, I actually found that a lot of my skills within marketing were pretty transferable into the COO role, which for me was all about helping to scale our employee base, helping to retain what was so special about our culture from the early years. And as we made various acquisitions, focusing on a lot of the people sides of those acquisitions as well.

Katja Gagen: That’s a good segue, Amy, because Zillow has been very active in the M&A space, acquiring more than a dozen companies in less than a decade. And that included Trulia, which was a 2.5 billion acquisition. Tell us about how you made this unusual marriage between the two companies work.

Amy Bohutinsky: One of the things we found in many of the acquisitions we made is that culture and core values really matter in the post-acquisition stage and those really should be a part of the due diligence. With Trulia in particular, right around the time I became COO, we had just acquired Trulia and our employee base at the time went from I think, 1,200 to 2,400 overnight. Two companies that had been rivals for many years.

Something that was really important frankly, was just listening to what was important to Trulia employees. And then moving forward, how do we combine what’s great about the two companies? One example was each company had a different set of driving core values. We came out with a new set for the combined company the next year that combined both sets. That gave a nod to what was great about both, but also showed that we were bringing two companies together and two different cultures together and creating something new.

The small things really matter too. And I’ll give you an example of this. When Zillow acquired Trulia, Trulia had had a tradition in the 10 years it had been around that whenever a new employee joins Trulia, they get a Trulia backpack. That was something that was actually very culturally important to the company. People walked around the streets of San Francisco with their Trulia backpacks. Everybody loved these backpacks.

Within the HR department, a decision was made at Zillow of, okay, well, we have this other package of stuff we give people, let’s just make that universal across the company. And that really upset people, the kind of taking away of the backpack. It may seem from a numbers basis or efficiency basis to be a very small thing, but from a cultural basis, it was meaningful. It was something that after a couple months of it, we brought it back and we said, you know what? All our different brands can have different ways that they welcome people. Let’s let the local teams make this decision and let’s not have this be something that comes from corporate. Because sometimes something small like that can do much more harm than good. It can be bruising to people who are already feeling some uncertainty around all of the newness with being a part of a new company.

Kunal Mehta: I think that’s so important to bring that up. And as you moved into your COO role, you had this obligation almost to drive more connective tissue with sales, marketing, products. Three groups that often work in silos. Maybe you can talk a little bit about your playbook.

Amy Bohutinsky: Well, one thing that we always believed in very strongly were shared values across all departments. While different departments may operate under different leaders and different constructs, they all share a common set of core values, which are ultimately how work gets done. The other thing were our product personas or the people we build for. This is another thing that, a lot of companies talk about personas or demographics, but at Zillow, we actually had a set of personas. They had names, they had photos, they had a whole life construct. And if you walked into any meeting at Zillow, and if you walk into any meeting at Zillow today, you will hear people talking about Beth and about Allen and about Susan.

These are individual personas that everyone across every department at the company understands deeply as to who are the people that we build for? Who are the people that we communicate with? Who are the people that we sell to? Who are the people that we market to? And how do we see them as actual individuals? When you have those shared values in that shared language, and frankly that shared north star, it makes it a lot easier for collaboration and decisions across different areas of the company.

Kunal Mehta: Fantastic. If I shift your lens over to being on boards, what do the executive team ask you about the most?

Amy Bohutinsky: In recent years, there has definitely been more of an emphasis in the boards I’m on, on the people side of the business. It used to be in many boards that boards talked about financials and business and strategy and the business side, but never really got into the people. And a really important shift that I’ve seen happening in the last, 7, 8, 9 years that I’ve been on boards, is much more conversation about employees, employee mental health, about equity and belonging within the company and looking deeply at diversity stats.

These are conversations that used to be relegated to an HR department that are now, across leadership teams, and I’m happy to say, across boardrooms too. Because this is an incredibly important emphasis that frankly should have been there all along, but I’m happy to see, on all the boards I’m on certainly, we spend quite a bit of time on that. But I’m hearing from other board members it’s happening in a lot of places as well.

Katja Gagen: And that’s so important, Amy. I’m glad you are also a catalyst for these conversations. I do hope we’ll see more of them across the board. We always finish with a quick fire. So we’re gonna shoot a few at you.

Kunal Mehta: Hey, what’s your go-to book? The one that provides you the most value.

Amy Bohutinsky: I read a book a couple of years ago. It was called The Second Mountain by David Brooks. At its core, it was talking about the human journey of, so much of what you want in life is ego-driven and we all drive up this first mountain. A lot of it has to do with career, things we want in our career that are frankly driven by our ego. Not necessarily driven by our curiosity or what we’d like to learn or what fulfills us the most. And the crux of the book is about getting to this second mountain.

So everyone kind of climbed the ego-driven first, but how do you get to the second mountain where you’re work and your home life and how you spend your time ultimately becomes more fulfilling and less about the ego and more about what you offer to the world outside of you. I found this book super compelling and it’s something that just on a very frequent basis, I think back on in decisions I make and in people I come into contact with, and I find application in the business world all the time.

Katja Gagen: I love that. I read the book as well. And what really struck me, Amy is what you’re saying is you go from that ego-driven mountain to a life that is in service of others. And that probably ties into the current conversations you have in board meetings that are also aimed at how can you make a team feel healthy and happy?

Amy Bohutinsky: That’s right. And it ties into, the broad practice of marketing, which is so much about understanding the customer or the consumer at the other end, having empathy for that person and then doing your work in service of that north star and that customer. And I found out there’s a lot of parallels in that as well.

Katja Gagen: Right. What are some fun facts about Zillow?

Amy Bohutinsky: Well, one fun fact is that there is meaning behind the name. It may sound like a nonsensical word. But early days when we were trying to figure out what we would call this. We were looking at two categories of words that were evocative of what we were trying to build. And Zillow comes from the word zillions, as in zillions of data points, and pillow, where you lay your head to rest at night.

It was this combination of data to empower you to make smarter decisions about this important emotional place — where you have your family and your life, and you lay your head to rest at night. And how do we combine the two? So zillions of pillows.

Kunal Mehta: Fantastic. When you were a CMO, what was the most critical metric you followed?

Amy Bohutinsky: Well, I’m going to say this in retrospect, with some wisdom, many years past being CMO. What I think the most important metric CMOs and leaders should follow is employee engagement. The absolute best work you can do comes from hiring and retaining the absolute best people you can. And that data point of employee engagement at your organization, being able to look at that both broadly across the organization, but by team and understand which teams of people and which individuals are happy and likely to stay and satisfied.

When they’re not understanding why, that is, I think, the most important metric you can follow any day. And if you get that right. Then it’s a whole lot easier to meet all of the business-related metrics that you need.

Katja Gagen: And speaking of hiring and employee engagement, what’s your favorite question that you ask during an interview?

Amy Bohutinsky: As an interviewer, I like to get people to tell stories. And I like to ask open-ended “tell me about the situation” type questions, where they have to walk me through a story. It helps me to understand their curiosity, their different decision points and why they made the decisions they did. What I want to hear from people is, do they approach problems in their career with, the question of what can I learn in this? Not what can I achieve in this? Sort of going back to The Second Mountain, the book we talked about, is trying to understand, do they make decisions when it’s about them or do they make decisions when it’s about broadening their scope of learning, being curious about others.

Do they see that as a core foundation of leading them to sort of their ultimate goals. Another question kind of like that, that I like to ask, is just tell me the story of your career. And then as they go through it, I’ll ask some questions and there’s a lot you can learn just from how people approach that story, what lens they approach it with and how they summarize the different decision points and the decisions they made.

Katja Gagen: Well, thank you so much, Amy. It was wonderful to have you on the podcast today. Thanks for being on Growth Hacks.

Amy Bohutinsky: Thank you for having me this was fun.

***

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.

***

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/.