Improving the patient experience with AI/ML software: Our investment in Syllable

Digitization of healthcare provider business processes and workflows is one of our healthcare team’s key investment themes. Our focus on this theme is a derivative of several industry dynamics affecting hospitals and physician practices, including reimbursement headwinds that are pressuring already slim operating profit margins, workforce shortages and high employee turnover, and a reliance on manual, labor-intensive, and / or paper-based methods to facilitate key business processes, among others. Put simply, across front, middle, and back office applications, we believe healthcare providers will increasingly adopt automation software to drive operational and financial efficiencies, increase workforce productivity, improve employee retention, reduce burnout of clinical personnel, and, perhaps most importantly, improve the patient experience.

In baseball terms, we believe the healthcare industry is in the “early innings” with regard to software adoption. While provider organizations have spent the last 10-15 years adopting electronic medical records (EMRs), they continue to lag other verticals in terms of software adoption for managing and / or automating various business processes. As one example, healthcare providers have only recently begun implementing customer relationship management (CRM) software platforms, while most other industries have had CRM systems for decades. To this juncture, automation software (often termed “robotic process automation” or “RPA”) adoption in healthcare has largely focused on back office applications – revenue cycle, specifically. However, we believe automation of front-office workflows through technology – healthcare’s “digital front door” – will have the most profound impact on the patient experience, while also driving significant operational and financial value for providers.

It is against this backdrop that we are delighted to lead Syllable’s $40M Series C financing in partnership with our friends at Oak HC/FT, Section 32, and Verily Life Sciences. Our investment in Syllable is intended to help Syllable expand its artificial intelligence and machine-learning (AI/ML) enabled software platform into adjacent applications and use cases, penetrate new healthcare customer segments (e.g., payor, pharmacy, etc.), rapidly scale headcount across all functions, and forward invest in future growth initiatives.

There has been a lot of “buzz” recently regarding the healthcare industry’s “digital front door,” which we define as simply the technology-enabled mediums via which patients engage with the healthcare system. This is largely a function of the growing consumerization of healthcare and corresponding emphasis on improving the patient experience, and numerous technologies have emerged to help facilitate digital interactions between patients and providers. Having said that, our research – and data from Syllable’s customers – indicates that the dominant modality for patient engagement with providers remains a telephone call; in our view, this is a derivative of the uniqueness of an individual patient’s circumstances and needs, in addition to the complexity of the healthcare system and its historically limited or non-existant digital channels. As a result, we believe the technology platforms best-positioned to automate front office workflows must offer solutions that address both voice and digital mediums.

Enter Syllable and its CEO, Kobus Jooste. Kobus founded Syllable in 2017 with an initial vision to build a software platform capable of removing high-friction barriers between healthcare providers and their patients. Prior to founding Syllable, Kobus spent several years in engineering leadership roles at Google, the most relevant of which was his leadership of the engineering team that developed and launched Google Assistant. Given Kobus’ background in conversational AI and natural language understanding (NLU), we believe that he is well-positioned to build a platform capable of automating both voice and digital patient-provider interactions. More specifically, Syllable’s technology platform leverages AI and NLU to automate inbound patient interactions with providers via phone, web, chatbot, and SMS text. As 95%+ of all patient interactions with providers presently take place via phone call, healthcare providers invest heavily in call center operations – anecdotally, some of Syllable’s customers field 15M+ patient phone calls per year, and invest hundreds of millions of dollars in their own call center personnel and operations. At the same time, providers are also investing significantly in digital applications to facilitate more efficient patient engagement.

Despite this level of investment, the healthcare industry continues to lag others in terms of consumer (i.e., patient) experience. As one datapoint, healthcare’s average net promoter score (NPS) is approximately 27; an NPS of 50 to 70 is generally considered “good.” As another, healthcare providers have call abandonment rates close to approximately 30% (per data from Syllable’s customers) – one of many reasons underpinning a poor patient experience. For providers, a poor patient experience negatively impacts their revenue from multiple vantages; for example, calls abandoned may represent lost revenue opportunities, and a poor experience with a provider reduces the probability of a repeat visit. Properly and efficiently engaging patients is incredibly challenging, as any digital mechanism for managing interactions needs to be highly approachable for patients, must incorporate healthcare-specific contextualization in terms of the intent of the interaction, requires immense scalability (e.g., large systems have 15M+ inbound phone calls annually), and, to reiterate, must facilitate engagement across both digital and voice channels.

That’s precisely the problem that Syllable is out to solve. Syllable’s technology platform leverages conversational AI and NLU technology in tandem with the company’s purpose-built digital applications to automate inbound patient interactions with healthcare provider organizations. Across the company’s current customer base and use cases, Syllable’s platform is capable of automating the majority of inbound patient inquiries, and those inquiries it cannot drive to a conclusion without human intervention are routed to the customer’s call center personnel for further triage. Common use cases include routing calls to the correct endpoint, appointment scheduling, and referral and medication management, among several others. What’s more – Syllable’s ML technology trains its AI on those interactions it cannot automate such that the company’s automation percentage improves with incremental volume and customer utilization. Syllable’s data suggests that its platform drives hard ROI for customers across multiple dimensions, including a significant reduction in call abandonment rates (to zero with Syllable’s platform) and wait times, a 2x+ or greater increase in first call resolution rates, and higher appointment scheduling conversion rates, among others – all of which result in an improved experience for patients.

Syllable’s compelling value proposition, coupled with its reputation for relentless innovation and top-tier customer service, contributed to engendering customer delight, and the company boasts an NPS of 80+. Its customers include numerous healthcare provider organizations, including Parkview Healthcare, Shannon Healthcare, New York Presbyterian, Weill Cornell Ambulatory Care Network, Houston Methodist, and Mass General-Brigham, among others – a particularly impressive roster given the company only began marketing its platform in October 2021. In 2021, Syllable interacted with 39.7M Americans in text and voice about primary care, specialty referrals, vaccinations, and general practice information. Based on Syllable’s sales momentum, the company will more than double its revenue in 2022, particularly as Syllable scales product and technology resources and continues to add to its go-to-market organization. 

CEO Kobus has assembled an impressive team of advisors and experts to advise Syllable on the healthcare industry’s needs and complexities, in addition to AI and ML technology. With this in mind, we are excited to have TCV Venture Partner Anita Pramoda support Syllable as the company takes-on new challenges in the healthcare industry.

“Syllables compresses the delay between needing and accessing care,” says Anita. “With Syllable, healthcare providers can now bring reliability, repeatability, and ubiquity to access – foundational tenets of good health. I’m honored to partner with Kobus and the entire Syllable team as they scale their platform and offer better care for all patients.”

Growth metrics and accolades aside, what perhaps impresses us most about the Syllable team is its unwavering commitment to approaching the healthcare industry with humility and respect. For a brief anecdote on this front, please refer to this segment with Joe and Syllable’s CMO, Adam Silverman, on a recent episode of the company’s podcast.

“Syllable is at a crucial point in its growth trajectory. As one of the most transformative platforms for health systems, our vision is clear. We want to help as many patients navigate hospital and primary care, while lowering the cost of access to care and the burden on front office staff and clinical staff,” says Kobus.

Syllable was also recognized as a most promising startup in healthcare for 2022 by CB Insights, picked as a leader in the private market from a pool of 7,000 companies – chosen based on R&D activity, proprietary Mosaic scores, market potential, business relationships, investor profile, competitive landscape, team strength, and technology novelty.

We are off to the races in our partnership with the Syllable team – including newly-appointed COO Catherline Krna, who joins Syllable from the Chief Administrative Office of Ambulatory Care and Service Lines at Stanford Health Care. We are incredibly excited to help build what we believe is a category-defining, generational software company that engenders patient delight while driving operational and financial efficiencies for healthcare providers.

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


TCV invests in Evisort to deliver scalable, AI-powered contract management

Contracts are at the heart of business, enshrining a company’s rights and obligations across areas ranging from sales transactions and supplier relationships to employment agreements and beyond. Resulting from this centrality, rising contract volumes and legal complexity have made contract management unmanageable without leveraging technology.

Evisort delivers end-to-end contract intelligence software that turns contracts into data. Customers use a simple, intuitive interface to extract critical context from contracts, integrate that data into other enterprise systems, and automate a wide range of legal and operational workflows – themselves codified in contract data. Evisort’s platform is powered by award-winning AI that is purpose-built for contracts and trained on over 10 million documents, thereby driving a differentiated customer experience and rapid, tangible ROI.

We are thrilled to announce TCV’s Series C investment in Evisort. We believe that contracts have been both an under-managed source of risk and under-explored source of value for companies, and that Evisort’s AI-powered Contract Intelligence Platform solves increasingly important pain points for businesses of all sizes, ranging from the Fortune 500 to mid-sized companies alike.

Evisort was founded in 2016 by lawyers and technologists who saw the need for automation in contract management.  The platform started as an intelligent analytics engine that extracts clauses and metadata to index contracts and their contents, making them easily searchable and manageable without manual data entry. Evisort’s AI further contextualizes the contract, indicating what type of contract it is, identifying counter-parties, flagging auto-renewal dates, and more.

More recently, Evisort has been adding workflow capabilities – relevant for coordinating contracting processes and operational workflows across the business. Evisort’s end-to-end approach ensures that all contract data is located in one repository, minimizing security risks, reducing the number of required integrations, and allowing the system to apply learnings from previous contracts to new ones.

More than any other contract management software business we’ve evaluated, Evisort’s AI platform supports a wider range of teams, industries, and use cases. Sales teams use Evisort to drive sales and renewals by reducing contracting friction and speeding time to agreement and revenue recognition. Legal departments use Evisort to drive compliance, quickly find and report on critical information, and act as a single source of truth. Procurement and sourcing organizations rely on Evisort to accelerate purchases, negotiate stronger agreements, and manage supplier risks more effectively. In all cases, Evisort drives efficiency by reducing reliance on manual legal review – a major bottleneck in many contracting processes.

Transforming the future of contract management

Evisort’s Contract Intelligence Platform has three main capabilities:

AI-Powered Contract Analytics and Insights: Evisort extracts data from contracts, produces critical insights, and reports on those insights in an easy-to-use dashboard, so that users can focus on higher value tasks. This contract intelligence is then used to generate workflows across the organization. Evisort is focused on delivering the intelligence layer between core operating systems such as customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning platforms.

Intelligent Contract Lifecycle Management: Evisort provides contract request intake, contract drafting, approvals, version control, and repository (storage, search, reporting) features. Evisort’s platform creates a source of truth so teams can centralize knowledge, collaborate easily, and simplify contract administration.

Central Contract Repository and Integrations: Evisort’s no-code platform lets legal, sales, and procurement teams self-serve, taking the burden off of IT teams and providing immediate configurability. Evisort easily integrates into existing systems to minimize the need for data migration and accelerates deployment because employees can work from the systems they already use.

Why now: A big market waiting for the right end-to-end product

At TCV, we have invested extensively behind the digitization of the legal industry – having backed innovative legal technology industry leaders such as Clio, LegalZoom, and Avvo. As part of our work in this space, we have been closely following the evolution of the CLM market for nearly a decade. In that time, customers consistently indicated a desire to manage both new and existing contracts in the same place – in other words, a true end-to-end platform. Over the last several years, our conversations in the space increasingly indicated that Evisort’s founders Jerry, Jake, and Amine had built exactly that and Evisort’s platform was seeing accelerating adoption in a largely greenfield market.

Evisort customers – which include our portfolio companies such as Netflix – typically start with analytics use cases to understand existing contracts, and then add pre-signature workflow to more efficiently generate new contracts. From there, thanks in part to Evisort’s ease of use, usage often quickly expands to additional teams and stakeholders within their organization. For customers, the results are industry-leading time-to-value, implementation speeds, self-service analytics, and flexibility to apply contract-based insights to a wide range of business functions. For Evisort, a cohesive and forward-thinking strategy appears to have translated into an innovative and fast growing company in an exciting market.

Looking Forward

As we look to the future, we are incredibly excited about the tailwinds strengthening Evisort’s value proposition for its customers. Businesses of all sizes have more contracts and a greater need to manage them than ever before. The compliance and regulatory environment also continues to evolve, requiring businesses to maintain constant visibility into their contract corpus. And companies are increasingly leveraging the data embedded in contracts to drive business processes across sales, procurement, operations, and finance.

Given that robust backdrop, we are incredibly excited to work with Jerry, Jake, Amine and the rest of the Evisort team to maximize the opportunity for AI applications in contract management.

 


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

Growth Hacks – Moving the Metric

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

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

Key Takeaways: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Collective[i]: Leveraging Artificial Intelligence to Analyze Decision Making, Influence Go-To-Market Strategy, and Bring B2B Sales Organizations Into the 21st Century

While CRM platforms have been a cornerstone of the sales industry for decades, many parts of the B2B sales playbook can still reflect decision-making from decades past. Whether it’s faulty data capture, cumbersome manual data entry, or inefficient forecasting, the digital revolution has yet to fully transform B2B sales organizations away from their traditional, intuition-based operating practices. While following the tried-and-true sales strategies may yield modest success, leveraging AI-powered sales data allows sales organizations the opportunity to better understand their buyers, cut down on time spent attempting to predict the future, and close deals as a team that might have otherwise been left in the pipeline.

In this episode of Growth Hacks, Kunal and Katja are joined by Stephen Messer, the founder of Collective[i], a leader in AI-enabled digital sales and customer relationship management. Stephen walks the group through some of the biggest learnings he and his team have seen on Collective[i]’s data-powered platform, and how they can be used to relieve many of the pain points he continues to see B2B sales organizations struggle with. He breaks down how decision making has shifted in recent years, and what sales teams can do to better service these new spheres of influence and walks the team through some of the biggest myths he sees persisting in modern B2B sales today.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • Why companies are still wasting time on ineffective forecasting, and ways to do it better
  • How the sphere of influence in purchasing decisions has grown to involve larger networks
  • Ways that AI can help sales teams to better understand buying decisions and optimize go-to-market strategy
  • Why Stephen is bullish on sales organizations changing their operational playbooks as the industry further digitizes

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

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

Kunal: It is a real pleasure to introduce you to today’s guest. He’s many things, among them an entrepreneur, a founder, attorney, patent holder, professor at Columbia, angel investor, winner of a ton of awards, brother, son. Please welcome Stephen Messer, who’s the founder of Collective[i], which is a leader in AI-enabled digital sales. This company has seen thousands of opportunities run across its platform and today Stephen’s going to share insight that no one company could get on their own. We’re to go through those today. Welcome, Stephen.

Stephen: Thank you so much. It’s great to be here.

Katja: Great, Stephen. Where does this podcast find you today?

Stephen: Today I am in the beautiful Saint Kitts in the Caribbean.

Katja: Awesome. That’s quite the location. As we start the new year, we are really excited about bringing you a different flow for today’s episode. We’re actually partnering with Collective[i] to share the top 10 takeaways based on the enormous amount of data that they gather on their platform. So, Stephen, let’s start with number one, Salesforce activity. How much of it is actually recorded in Salesforce?

Stephen: This is a crazy statistic. When you look today, there’s probably less than 16% of the activities that a sales professional does is mapped into the CRM. Now, that by the way also ignores all the contexts that usually are supposed to be put in, but don’t get in as well. We have a product called Intelligent WriteBack and the goal of that product is actually to find what’s really going on and the reason that CRM is so dependent on getting an accurate and complete view of what the seller is doing every day to help them improve.

Kunal: Stephen, I know when we run those assessments, even in our own companies, that 16% almost has a plus or minus of one, so it is truly a solid stat on what the activity of the reps are. Just imagine if we were a contestant on Wheel of Fortune — how many phrases would we get right if we could only see 16% of the letters?

Stephen: Yeah, you’d have to probably hope for a two-letter word for you to be able to figure it out. If it is a normal phrase, you would probably be looking at this saying there’s no chance. I think that’s exactly what’s happening in sales orgs today that are looking at their data.

Katja: Wow, that’s astounding. Moving on to number two, Steve, which is a popular topic with TCV as well, forecasting. How many hours does the average company spend on forecasting and how accurate has it been? And I want to hear your Marvel story.

Stephen: Yeah, forecasting is an interesting one. When you look at the statistics, whether it be from analysts or even from the data that we’ve seen, most organizations have historically spent about 20% of their time doing forecasting. So forecast Fridays are actually forecast Fridays. They spend the entire day. It’s kind of amazing to think that we give up 20% of selling, which is one day out of every week, to focus on a non-revenue producing task of forecasting. I find it even more crazy because it’s trying to do something that no one’s really been able to do in the history of the world, which is accurately predict some future event. No human on the planet has ever predicted the future. They’re giving up 20% of their time to get to an accuracy rate that’s almost been historically impossible to do.

When we look at that, we think to ourselves, okay, this is a real problem. And in fact, this is where my Marvel story comes in. I’m a comic book geek. I love them all. And in Marvel, there’s always a lot of themes around moving to the future and back and forth. But if you look at even the most recent Marvel movies, The Avengers, what you’ll see is that Doctor Strange saves humanity at the end of the movie by being able to go and live millions of lives to see which is the only way that they’ll be able to defeat the evil villain.

In this case, it’s pretty amazing. He gets it right. But two movies earlier before this evil villain even showed up, Doctor Strange is in a movie and could not predict that this person was coming to avoid it. In other words, even the superhero with the power to see the future has a 50-50 hit rate at best. What that tells us is that storyline worked because no one believes that anyone can predict the future. We think forecasting is going to go through a big revolution in AI and we’re excited to see people get 20% of their day back and more accurate up-to-date daily predictions.

Kunal: I love the Marvel story, Stephen. I think Marvel has like 7,000 characters and like two can predict the future, which just tells you how difficult it is to do. I know from a TCV perspective, we view forecasts. It’s like Kevlar for the board. When you have predictability, it makes spending the budget that’s allocated way easier. I think the forecast plays a critical role at all levels, but if you’re an operator in the company, you can find your budget being restricted if you start not to be predictable.

Stephen: And I think that’s really it. I think what boards want is the confidence in understanding what’s changing in the world. No one expects a sales professional at the start of the pandemic to predict exactly what’s going on. In fact, if you look at most of our competitors in forecasting, we were the only ones who hired up instead of laid off people because our AI was telling us that it was actually going to be a good thing, an accelerator for our business. I think companies like Zoom and some other players had a huge lift from the pandemic, so laying off people would’ve been putting the wrong brakes on and using people’s opinions probably wouldn’t have been the best way. But what they want to understand is how is the daily change affecting their likely future so they can decide, do I open up budget or do I close it down? They also want to make sure that they’re on track, that it’s reliable, that everything is predictable, and I think that’s really what forecasting with an AI product is all about.

Katja: That’s great. Sticking with superheroes, I always like the Lasso of Truth of Wonder Woman as well, which I think is something I would like to have.

Stephen: I think salespeople would like to have that with their customers as well.

Katja: I think so. Moving on to number three, one of my favorite topics, is the number of leads in people’s emails that never make it to marketing.

Stephen: It’s not just emails. It could be in their phone calls; it could be in their video conferences. I think the challenge around CRM has been the cost that it takes to enter information and the mundane nature of it. I did use to work with the UN and I used to joke around and say the only thing the Geneva Conventions didn’t cover was making intelligent people do manual data entry into databases. It’s cruel, it’s hard, and that’s why a lot of salespeople tend not to put that information into the CRM, even though it’s some of the most critical data that they need. When we think about that today, what you end up with is maybe one or two contacts entering into the CRM when in reality, seven to eight buyers are involved in the transaction and that sales team, and the marketing teams have no idea about those other people.

Kunal: Yeah, what we’ve seen, and I think what we’ve heard in the past is roughly 70% of the people we work with on an opportunity just never make it into Salesforce. and I think you’re validating that with the data you’re seeing as well.

Stephen: Yeah, we’ve seen it in your portfolio, right? It’s amazing how many names get uncovered that are involved and it changes the way you think about how the buyer is going through their buying process. That can give real advantage if you know who’s there. Take for example account-based marketing, a very popular new form of doing personalized marketing communications. Well, if you never know who’s there and you don’t know the personas, you’re not going to be able to get that marketing tailwind from your organization simply because you can’t get that information into the CRM and put it in a way where it’s trustworthy.

Katja: That’s right, and that leads to our next topic. How do you then build a solid pipeline? Right? Because what we are seeing is that the majority of pipelines have really bad data; we see that these deals are in the pipeline that are over a year old. They have closed dates that have changed more than three times, but actually no activity in the last seven days and no change in stage in the last 30 days. What happens is usually half the pipeline falls out when we look at the health this way. What’s your fascinating pipeline stats, Stephen?

Stephen: I’m going to first highlight things that every sales leader who’s been around for the last decade knows. We used to talk about 2X pipeline coverage, then it became 3X and 4X and 5X pipeline coverage. It wasn’t that win rates were going down; it was that salespeople started warehousing more and more deals. When you don’t have visibility into the actual activities and contacts that the sales organization is interacting with, it’s easy to lose sight of which deals have just gone away that the seller doesn’t want to close. That can be as simple as loss aversion, or they want to hold onto it in the hope it comes back where they can get it again.

When you look at these pipelines, it’s actually causing real problems. Your CDR team doesn’t even know who to feed new deals to. It creates all these issues. The bigger issue is all the while they’re being warehoused, these opportunities are sitting there idle. There are no marketing messages going there, there’s no keeping up with the buyer who may no longer even be at the org. This is a real problem. What we see today is that sales professionals hold on to close lost deals for about three times longer than a closed deal.

Kunal: That’s a fascinating stat, and Katja and I have seen this over and over. We actually have a white paper on pipe dream versus pipeline that covers some of this as well.

Stephen: Yeah, it’s a great read and I recommend it for anyone who’s listening to this podcast.

Katja: Thank you. It’s definitely eye-opening what we’ve observed working with companies. Along those lines, we also see that almost 100% of companies assign leads based on territories. And they almost make no reference to connections, which feels like 1950s selling. What do you think, Steve?

Stephen: Look, I think sales is going through a huge revolution and a lot of the ways that all of us came up through sales leadership must be re-examined. When you think about territory management, that was designed for the traveling salesperson who carried a roll of dimes in their pocket, would carry their bag from location to location. So, it made sense that territories be fixated around where it was fastest for them to meet the most customers.

Well, that hasn’t existed since the ’50s. The world has changed. I would argue cell phones alone changed it but look what’s happened during the pandemic. People can work from anywhere. It’s easy enough to do business from anywhere thanks to modern day technology, but the biggest thing that we see today is that as people have access to social networks, they are leveraging their relationships to learn what other products other people are using, what works and what doesn’t work. The idea that companies aren’t countering that trend by leveraging relationships that exist in their org, just lying there as data not being used, we think is just sad because there’s a lot of opportunity for people to leverage their friends, their family, their past colleagues, their prior customers. All of this exists and it’s just sitting there to be taken advantage of.

Kunal: Outstanding. Most closed lost opportunities, they’re lost because of no decision, no actual competition involved, and this is code for we just never got buy-in. Maybe you can speak to the number of people you’re seeing involved in a deal as well as how you guys map out circle of influence here to measure, are these opportunities going to close, not close, et cetera?

Stephen: You can probably tell from my statements I really believe that the social world has moved from the consumer into the B2B. And we’ve known that when it comes to jobs around things like LinkedIn, but you’re now seeing it spread into the sales world. We have a product called Connectors that allows you to discover connections, both at your org, but amongst your friends and your family and prior colleagues, et cetera, because we think that’s the most important thing. Why? Well, today if you were to look at the number of buyers involved in a transaction, you’d see across our network that they’ve gone up every single year. Now we’re not alone. All the analysts have been talking about this for a while, but what that means is a lot of the ways that we’ve historically sold, what we’re looking at now is that buyers are making decisions where they’re doing the research on the web first, they’re getting a lot of people involved. It’s a consensus-based purchase and they have their own model and methods of buying.

On the selling side, we’re seeing the same thing. There’s not just one seller anymore. We used to hold the salesperson accountable, but today we have to hold people like legal and finance, your joint venture partners or resellers accountable. What that means is you now have a lot more people involved. Well, the benefit of that is that they all have access to connections as well where they can leverage, and in fact, if the organization can start to learn that circle of influence, they can actually work in conjunction with that buying group to influence everybody involved. It’s a pretty powerful world when all these social connections are working together.

Kunal: I totally agree, Stephen, and one interesting thing that we see that you guys have patterned out is you would take the win rates and you would be able to pattern out kind of these next best set of actions based on what’s kind of moved the needle in the buying journey. Maybe you could talk a little bit about how you guys do that and what the impact has been.

Stephen: The funny part is AI has been popular in the consumer world over the last 20 years, really accelerating in the last 10 years as neural networks have spread through, and a lot of the things that we love so much about those B2C apps is how personalized and how effective they are. The way they do that is by leveraging large networks of data, right? Facebook, TikTok, et cetera. Well, those same exact technologies are being applied now into the B2B world, and in particular B2B sales. We use all these technologies and a large data set to help us find out how does each buying group make their buying decisions? If I can observe that same buying group across multiple sellers, it allows us to really start making good predictions about when they do this, what it means or what they’re going to do next. Then we can look across an even larger network to start to understand what people do that lead to certain win or losses.

The cool part about AI is you can run the time forward, which is, okay, here is the stack pattern of what we’ve had today. What’s the optimal thing you can do next? We can suggest that and just like all apps, take Waze for example, I don’t always have to take the optimal route if I don’t like the route, but the route they’re suggesting is probably going to be the fastest. If I take it, it’ll look at the activity. If something new happens, it’ll reroute it again. So, you’re always looking for, what’s the optimal way to work with this customer? In other words, how do I personalize my sale to the way this buying group likes to buy?

Kunal:

What I love about it is the fact that on a win, you can tell me the needle-moving actions that happen in aggregate even all the way to the industry level. I think it’s super precise, and on the flip side, I can take my losses and map out what is not moving the needle. So, again, it has the impact of making my go-to market strategy, just giving it more precision.

Stephen: You know what else is cool for sales organizations and sellers? It’s so personalized that it’s giving them their unique advantages served up to them on a plate. When they win that transaction because they had a great connection over at the org, that’s something that only they could have taken advantage of. It’s a really powerful way to get every bit of strength out of your organization.

Katja: Well, Stephen, we’ve covered a lot of myths. What’s one that surprised you in 2021?

Stephen: It’s a good question. the thing that most surprises me is this idea that we can still predict the future. The reason I say that is we’re sitting here locked at home at the point where all of us thought we were going back to the office. I just saw today that Apple has postponed indefinitely when they’re going to go back to office. This idea that rather than reacting to news quickly and having the optimal way of doing things, we’re still trying to predict the future. I feel like COVID has been the great lesson in the fact that as great as we think we are at making decisions, we’re not always great at predicting the future, but what we are amazing at is how we can react successfully to it.

The American economy and globally the economy is going strong because we all moved onto the web, and we all were able to make really fast changes in the way we historically operated. I think the thing that we’ve learned more than anything else and the biggest myth is that change can be hard. I’ve watched organizations that never had video conferencing switch overnight and operate globally on video conferencing within a span of weeks. I think we can change quickly.

Kunal: I agree, Steve. And when you have something come in so significant that forces you to change, you’re able to break through barriers way faster than you thought was humanly possible. I guess, as we kind of wrap up here, what’s one enduring myth you wish would just go away based on the data you’ve seen over the last 10 years?

Stephen: It’s a good question. If I were to pick one myth, I think the biggest myth is that the sales organizations are going to continue to just operate in the same way they’ve done over the last 30, 40 years. I think a lot of people are tweaking around the edges. I see this as a transition from being a very qualitative, very opinion-based world to a very quant heavy world. We saw 20 years ago the marketing world move from brand marketing to digital marketing, and while it might have seemed scary at the time, today they’re one of the most powerful parts of any organization where arguably years ago, they were considered to be tarot card readers. Today they’re core producers. I think sales will go through a huge transition as it digitizes, and that will change everything about how we operate for the better.

Katja: That’s awesome. Thank you so much, Steve. It was so nice to have you on the show. And some of the takeaways that I’ve picked up are throwing out the old playbooks and leverage AI as well as relationships and connections to get better at many things, including forecasting, lead generation, building a pipeline, and more. With the universe of buyers and their access to information increasing, we also see sales teams growing with more people involved in the process. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on how to increase win rates and pitfalls to avoid. And most importantly, how buyers and sellers can work together. Thanks so much for being with us today, Steve.

Stephen:

Thank you for having me on the show. It’s been fantastic.

Katja:

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.

***

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/.


Humu and TCV Partner on $60 Million in Series C Funding Round, Fueling Growth of Science-Based, AI-Powered Technology to Build High-Performing Teams and Managers

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., Jan. 25, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Humu, the HR technology company combining behavioral science and technology to help employees build better habits at work, today announced $60 million in Series C funding. The round was led by TCV, one of the world’s leading growth equity firms, with additional investors from Humu’s previous funding rounds including Index Ventures, IVP, and SVB Capital, and new investors Global Founders Capital and Blue Ivy Ventures. The investment will fuel new product innovations focused on supporting managers and their teams. TCV venture partner Jessica Neal, former Chief Talent Officer at Netflix, will join Humu’s Board of Directors as part of the partnership.

The investment follows 10x growth in users over the past two years. Humu, whose platform coaches managers and employees into developing work habits that are scientifically proven to drive performance, has emerged as the leading force in HR technology as companies evolve their people-management strategies in the new age of work. By nudging teams with short, science-backed recommendations, Humu provides personalized guidance that is unique to each employee and also aligned with company goals. With Humu, customers see improvements in retention, manager effectiveness, team performance, and inclusion.

“Humu, through technology and science, can help shift behavior in an organization,” said TCV Venture Partner Jessica Neal and board member at Humu. “Its ability to provide individualized support to employees and managers that can scale across an entire organization and drive outcomes that HR leaders care about is truly unique. Employees who are actively engaged with Humu have shown to be significantly less likely to leave their jobs, effectively lowering retention risks for companies. Feedback from customers is that Humu has become invaluable to their HR efforts. This is not generally the sentiment with HR technology.”

“As a firm that focuses on long-term value creation, TCV believes that Humu with its deep background in people analytics, has the potential to make a positive, and large, impact on the way we all work,” continued David Eichler, Partner at TCV.

With this latest round of funding, Humu will take steps towards executing its bold vision of making it easy for every organization to build a unique, high-performing culture, based on proven best practices. This vision, which includes manager-focused product developments and an expansion of Humu’s footprint within enterprise customers, will be fueled by hiring for roles within product development, commercial, and science teams.

“When we began this journey in 2017, we knew our experience in pioneering the field of people analytics would help us build the best technology for supporting managers and employees, and we’re proud of the impact we’ve made,” noted Humu CEO Laszlo Bock. “This latest investment, led by TCV, signals our partners’ confidence in our ability to deliver on that promise long into the future, and we’re excited for what we’ll bring to the market, especially for managers, in the months to come.”

As companies continue to navigate uncertainty and transform how (and where) work happens, employees will need more personalized, targeted support than ever. Managers in particular play an increasingly important role in connecting employees with the vision of the C-suite. According to data from Humu, teams are 80% more likely to make improvements when they see their manager taking action. And during the pandemic, employees with a manager who offered them personalized support and development opportunities were 7.9x more likely to stay at their jobs. But this added responsibility has left managers struggling to balance team workloads, boost performance, and combat burnout. Against this backdrop, Humu is enabling managers and employees to engage more quickly, honestly, and constructively, so that they can make work better for themselves and their teams.

By increasing its ability to support managers, Humu will further help companies improve team performance. Specifically, its platform pinpoints the most important habits managers and employees should develop to hit company goals, and then nudges teams into practicing those exact behaviors in their day-to-day work. By combining behavioral science best practices with technology, it empowers leaders to support their people in a way that’s modern and measurable.

Humu works with companies like Expedia Group, Kickstarter, and sweetgreen to deliver timely, personalized, and relevant coaching so that managers and employees can do their best work every day. For more information or to view open positions, visit humu.com.

About Humu 
Humu is an action management platform that makes it easy for employees to improve, every single week. Science shows that the fastest path to improvement is via personalized coaching in the flow of work. That’s exactly what Humu does. Humu nudges managers and their teams to build the specific habits that will lead to their organization’s success. Unlike most tools, Humu combines Nobel-prize winning science and technology to pinpoint which behaviors and people skills leaders, managers, and employees need to be effective. Humu helps customers drive outcomes like improving managers, increasing agility, building more inclusive cultures and boosting team performance.

For more information about how Humu can help your employees, please visit humu.com/web-demo

About TCV 
Founded in 1995, TCV was established with a clear vision: to capture opportunities in the technology market through a specialized and consistent focus on investing in high-growth companies. Since inception, the firm has built a track record of successfully backing private and public businesses that have developed into dominant industry players across internet, software, FinTech, and enterprise IT. TCV has invested over $16 billion to date, including $3 billion in fintech. TCV has helped guide CEOs through more than 145 IPOs and strategic acquisitions. TCV has invested in cutting edge technology companies including Airbnb, Brex, HireVue, Klarna, LinkedIn, Mambu, Miro, Mollie, Netflix, Payoneer, Peloton, Revolut, Trade Republic, Spotify, Wealthsimple, and more. TCV has successfully executed over 350 investments of varying structures, including mid-stage, late stage and public company investments, and has offices in Menlo Park, New York, and London. For more information about TCV, including a complete list of TCV investments, visit tcv.com.

Media Contact 
Sydney Perkins 
Mission North for Humu 
humu@missionnorth.com

Katja Gagen
TCV
kgagen@tcv.com

SOURCE Humu


BenchSci Raises $63 Million Series C to Solve Pharma’s Biggest R&D Challenges with AI-Powered Software Platform

Toronto, Canada, Jan. 24, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — BenchSci, a global leader in machine learning applications for novel medicine development, today announced a $63 million Series C (US $50 Million) funding round led by Inovia Capital and TCV, with participation from existing investors. 

Bringing total investment to $123 million (US $97 million), the funding allows BenchSci to expedite the expansion of its transformative AI-powered software platform that accelerates research in 16 top-20 pharmaceutical companies and over 4,500 leading research centers worldwide. 

Leveraging over 100 proprietary machine learning models, BenchSci’s platform empowers 49,000 scientists globally to optimize their experiment designs and hence research productivity. Building on the success of applications that help scientists select reagents and model systems, BenchSci is evolving its technology to provide a comprehensive platform with capabilities that help leading pharmaceutical companies solve their biggest R&D challenges.

“This funding demonstrates trust in our ability to build and deliver a next-generation AI solution that helps global pharmaceutical companies develop novel medicines faster, ” says Liran Belenzon, CEO, BenchSci. “We’re using breakthrough machine learning technology to shape the future of how life science companies conduct research, from identifying targets, to planning experiments, to determining clinical trial risks.  The confidence demonstrated by global pharmaceutical companies who are early adopters of our new solutions was enough to convince Inovia Capital to fund another round and prompt TCV to back our meteoric hypergrowth.”

In previous funding rounds, BenchSci raised $60 million (US $47 million) from tier one investors including F-Prime, Gradient Ventures (Google’s AI fund), and Inovia Capital. In 2021, BenchSci doubled its team and industry user base and is poised to double again in 2022.

“We strongly believe that the preclinical R&D market remains largely untapped and that BenchSci can become a category-defining leader to bring life-saving drugs to market faster,” says Dennis Kavelman, Partner at Inovia. “Doubling down on a company that we believe in is part of our commitment to being a long-term partner to build global sustainable tech companies.”

BenchSci’s proprietary machine learning models—trained to understand experiments like a Ph.D. scientist—extract critical insights from published scientific data sources and pharmaceutical organizations’ internal databases. The models understand the biomedical significance of extracted data and establish relationships between biological entities. This technology is the foundation of all of BenchSci’s applications, which surface the appropriate information and insights to assist scientists at top global pharmaceutical companies in various stages of R&D. 

“The preclinical research market is in dire need of software to drive efficiencies in the discovery through development process,” says Matt Brennan, General Partner at TCV.  “BenchSci is well-positioned to be the category-defining technology platform for the industry, and we look forward to working with Liran and his team to transform this industry.”

Founded in 2015, BenchSci has rapidly grown its customer base since launching commercially in 2017.  As a Deloitte Tech Fast 50 company, it is one of the fastest-growing companies in the country.

For more BenchSci updates, visit our news page

About TCV 

Founded in 1995, TCV was established with a clear vision: to capture opportunities in the technology market through a specialized and consistent focus on investing in high-growth companies. Since inception, the firm has built a track record of successfully backing public and private businesses that have developed into dominant industry players across internet, software, FinTech, and enterprise IT. TCV has invested over $16 billion to date and has helped guide CEOs through more than 145 IPOs and strategic acquisitions. TCV has invested in cutting edge technology companies including Airbnb, Believe, Brex, Dream Sports, FarEye, Mollie, Nubank, Razorpay, RELEX Solutions, Revolut, RMS, Sportradar, Spotify, Trade Republic, The Pracuj Group, and Zepz. TCV has successfully executed over 350 investments of varying structures, including mid-stage, late stage, and public company investments, and has offices in Menlo Park, New York, and London. For more information about TCV, including a complete list of TCV investments, visit https://www.tcv.com/.

About BenchSci

BenchSci’s vision is to bring novel medicine to patients 50% faster by 2025. We’re achieving it by empowering scientists with the world’s most advanced biomedical artificial intelligence. Backed by top-tier investors including Inovia Capital, TCV, F-Prime, Gradient Ventures (Google’s AI fund), and Golden Ventures, our platform accelerates science at 16 top-20 pharmaceutical companies and over 4,500 leading research centers worldwide. We’re a remote-first Deloitte Tech Fast 50 and CIX Top 10 Growth company, certified Great Place to Work®, and top-ranked company on Glassdoor. Learn more at www.benchsci.com.

Media Contacts:

Marie Cook, BenchSci
mcook@benchsci.com

Katja Gagen, TCV
kgagen@tcv.com


TCV Welcomes Edie Ashton as Chief Information Officer

Over the past 26 years, we have grown our portfolio companies and our own team to a point where TCV is operating across three offices in the U.S. and Europe. Due to the scale and global reach of our organization, we are excited to expand TCV’s executive talent to take us to the next level.

As such, we are thrilled to announce that Edie Ashton is joining the firm as Chief Information Officer (CIO). Edie was previously at The Carlyle Group, where she spent nine years, most recently serving as segment CIO for Global Private Equity. Adding Edie to our leadership team is a critical piece of our growth trajectory and demonstrates our ongoing commitment to deploy modern technology in support of our data-centric culture.

Edie comes to TCV with deep experience in both financial services and data strategy. As CIO, she will help advance growth by focusing on talent excellence, agility, and innovation in areas such as applied AI and distributed infrastructure—bringing a deeper alignment of IT and TCV’s core business as we pursue seamless global collaboration and acceleration of our investment platform.

Edie started her career at the Capital Group and Jefferies & Company, before enjoying a decade-long run in the telecom industry, implementing data warehouses and analytics platforms at global brands such as Nextel, Sprint, and RCN. At Carlyle, Edie proved herself a versatile business-oriented technologist who introduced the first data governance program and established a diversity and inclusion plan for the IT division.

“Edie is joining TCV at the right time,” says Nathan Sanders, General Partner and Chief Operating Officer at TCV. “We are experiencing significant growth and expansion of our team globally and have seen the benefits of leveraging sophisticated IT technology across our portfolio and TCV. Edie is a proven IT leader and tech visionary, focused on results that advance the whole organization. We are thrilled to welcome her to the TCV family.”


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/.


From Entrepreneur to Investor and Back Again: Modsy’s Founder Journey to Virtual Design Pioneer

Shanna Tellerman is a two-time Founder and CEO. Her current company, Modsy, is a virtual home interior design service that provides 3D photorealistic renderings of the home space, where all items within the design are 100% shoppable and users can purchase all in one place. In this Growth Journeys podcast, Shanna traces her evolution from math-loving fine arts major to entrepreneur by way of 3D technology and venture investing at Google. Tina Hoang-To, Executive Vice President at TCV, also has both CEO and venture experience, so this lively conversation is filled with lessons of:

  • Founding and leading businesses and raising capital
  • Building and scaling high-performing teams
  • Integrating technology and design
  • Succeeding as a working parent
  • Forging a successful partnership with investors

For all this and more, settle back and click play.

***

Tina Hoang-To: Welcome everyone to Growth Journeys, a podcast series from TCV focused on lessons from entrepreneurs and founders in the TCV ecosystem. I’m Tina Hoang-To, Executive Vice President at TCV, and I’m here with Shanna Tellerman, Founder and CEO of Modsy, a leading virtual home interior design service. Shanna and I met five years ago, when I was CEO of Wedding Spot and she was a partner at Google Ventures. Then we traded sides. I re-joined TCV as an investor last year and reconnected with Shanna. Fast forward a few weeks later…TCV led the Series C in Modsy and I joined the board. Shanna, looking forward to having you today to share your story. Welcome to Growth Journeys.

Shanna Tellerman: Thank you. Excited to be here.

Tina Hoang-To: Shanna, let’s start from the beginning. You have a pretty unique journey from having a fine arts major at Carnegie Mellon to venture capitalist to CEO of Modsy. What changed for you in those early years to put you on an entrepreneurial path?

Shanna Tellerman: I definitely did not have any original intention of going into venture capital or even technology. I was a big fan of both art and math and science, and I was always looking for the place where these two things intersected. And I tried a bunch of ways that felt kind of superficial to me until during my time at Carnegie Mellon, I took this class called Building Virtual Worlds, which was very early days virtual reality. Crazy headsets. Low resolution. And that class was, for me, the changing point in my life. I figured out that you can combine all of these things into 3D and graphics and consumer experiences and pave the way to new ideas working on this interdisciplinary team. And for me, it was like, “Check, check, check.” It hit every box. I had so much fun. And it veered me from going through this path of selling art in New York to “I am on a path to starting companies, founding businesses, and working in technology.”

Tina Hoang-To: So your first company was Sim Ops. Tell me the story behind that.

Shanna Tellerman: I was in Carnegie Mellon in graduate school and I was working on a technology that I just couldn’t imagine leaving behind and taking a job. And that technology was game technology that was being used to train emergency responders. And we were working with emergency responders all over the country and actually all over the globe. I had a professor who recommended, “Why don’t you start a business around this?” And I thought, “Sure. Why not? How hard is that?” And there I was, three months later, and he gave us a $10,000 loan and I had set up my very first business. And we were taking the technology out of the university and essentially using it to train emergency responders.

Tina Hoang-To: And what were some of the toughest challenges you faced as a young, first-time CEO with Sim Ops?

Shanna Tellerman: I think I faced almost every challenge that you can face as a first-time founder. I joke but it’s kind of serious that I made every mistake you can make from the way you structure the company to the way you divide up your equity. And the good news was that you can make a lot of mistakes as long as you recover very quickly and learn from them. And so I made all kinds of mistakes. The biggest challenge that I faced as a young entrepreneur I think was having no credibility. I had never worked. I had no experience. I had gone to graduate school. And I both had no credibility plus no experience to say, “This is how things should be done.” And so for me, I think – rightly so – investors who were looking at my business said, “It’s interesting technology, but are you the right person to lead this company?” And I came into work every day being like, “Am I right person to lead this company? I don’t know.” And over the years building out that confidence for myself but also for investors was probably the hardest part of the journey.

Tina Hoang-To: So selling your company is a big decision. How did you know M&A was the right path for Sim Ops and yourself at that moment in time when you did sell the company?

Shanna Tellerman: Yeah. I mean, the moment of an exit is the moment of many, many, moments prior, right? And for me, the path of Sim Ops was a path of lots of learnings. I started out of graduate school. I didn’t plan to become an entrepreneur. And then we hit fundraising issues, technology and product fit challenges, me moving to the West Coast, and then the downturn. A massive recession hit, and we had to raise our Series A during that. And I probably pitched 60 to 70 investors and somehow did raise a Series A during this downturn when nobody else was getting funded. So there we were a year later and Autodesk had been a partner that we had been talking to for a long time, and they wanted to buy the company, and I was thinking about, “Do I go out and raise a Series B or do I take this path?” And for me, at that moment I was like, “I’m ready for the next chapter. And that was a very, very tough road. And this is a really great company to keep doing what we’re doing and to have it impact an even broader set of people.” So for me, that was the right moment but it was a tough choice.

Tina Hoang-To: You built Sim Ops and then you’re CEO of Modsy. In between, I’m sure you’ve built a lot of confidence in operations. Tell us a little bit about what you’ve learned along the way.

Shanna Tellerman: That’s a great question. I actually believe first that you learn the most by mistakes. So when you make a mistake and then you recover and you’re able to course-correct from that mistake, to me it’s the center of confidence, because now you’re not fearful when you’re making choices because you know that you’re going to make bad choices. But as long as you can quickly react and maneuver from those choices, you’re going to be okay. For me, that’s been one big piece at the center. The second most important part for me of building confidence has been learning to be really myself. I think that when you start a company especially if you’re really young and you don’t know what you’re doing you like to put on this pretense that, “I’m a manager. I’m a founder. I am somebody who can run a business.” And most people don’t feel that level of confidence. And ironically being completely transparent and vulnerable and sharing the things you do know and don’t know build a tremendous amount of trust with your employees and with your investors and with your partners. And you’re able to build on that confidence of “These are the things I actually do know. I know how to do them.” And then these ones I don’t and I’m okay with that. And people are going to give me feedback and I’m going to learn and I’m going to evolve. And then I get to be just myself.

Tina Hoang-To: What was your experience like once Sim Ops was acquired by Autodesk? How was that integration process? And I’m sure that’s a big transition to go from a really small team to such a large organization.

Shanna Tellerman: The experience for me going from acquisition to working at Autodesk was definitely a night-and-day difference. We were, at that point, a 12-person company and I went into Autodesk which was thousands of people, multiple offices, global company. I had never worked for a company and I had never had a manager before in my life. And so it was a transition at every single level of your work experience. There was nothing that was the same anymore. The experience for me though was amazing because, one, my first manager ever was actually an amazing manager, somebody I still turn to today for advice. And the company was just really full of incredibly intelligent, really humble people who were super-passionate about the same kinds of things I was passionate about — like 3D and graphics and this world of transformation into the cloud. And so the baseline of those things that were aligned between me and them made it this incredible adventure —  many acquisitions don’t go that way. But for me, I felt like I just got to absorb and I got to learn and I got to work with great people. It was incredible.

So, Tina, I know you also went through the experience of an exit. I’m so curious. It was probably a totally different experience for you. What was it like? What were your lessons learned?

Tina Hoang-To: I think very similar to you. I think at every point in time as a founder when you’re thinking about fundraising, you’re also thinking about the strategic options, right? It’s a tough decision. When you build your company it’s sort of your baby. So letting that go I think was really hard for me. And very similar to you I thought “Hey, I’ve built this, this far. There’s a new chapter that might be better partnered with someone else.” And I think that was the right choice, and I still believe it’s the right choice.

Shanna Tellerman: So, Tina, I know that we also have the same common path that was a little unusual, a little untraditional. You went from selling cars in college to becoming a CEO and then back to being an investor. Tell me a little bit about how that path unfolded.

Tina Hoang-To: Well, it’s a lot of lessons along the way. But since you mentioned my car selling days, one of the biggest things that I’ve learned throughout my career is that being good at sales is something that got me very far. And I think that’s important to everybody in their career. When I was CEO, I felt like every day I was playing a sales role. When recruiting talent, you’re selling your culture and your mission. And then when fundraising you’re selling the market opportunity and your growth trajectory. And now as an investor, I’m still not done pitching. I’m pitching myself as a board member. I’m pitching TCV’s brand, our domain expertise, and our track record. To bring it back to something that I think all the listeners can relate to, think about every annual review that you’ve had. You’re essentially pitching your impact to the team and your work product. So my biggest advice here is if you don’t feel like you’re good at selling, read some books. Go out there and do some online classes, because I think that’s definitely going to come in handy as you progress throughout your career.

So let’s talk about Modsy. What is Modsy for those listeners who are not familiar with the product?

Shanna Tellerman: So Modsy is an online interior design service where you get paired with a designer virtually, and then we use specialized visualization technology to basically reconstruct your room into a 3D model and design it so you can see how everything will look in your space and shop from real products, from real retailers. Everything integrated: You can check out and buy from Modsy.

Tina Hoang-To: How did you come up with the idea?

Shanna Tellerman: The story starts with myself. I am the Modsy customer. My husband and I moved into a home in San Francisco and we went through that process of, “It’s time to buy some furniture. It’s time to upgrade from our IKEA and hand-me-downs.” And we got stuck almost immediately. We were looking at an awkward space. And we had a sofa, but we couldn’t decide on the rug without deciding on the art. And we couldn’t decide on the layout of the space. And without being able to see what it would really look like and have design help to visualize and to come up with a plan we did nothing for a year-plus and our space was sad. And we came home to this kind of empty sad space. And for me, that led to this moment where I was looking at a catalog and I looked at it and I was like, “I wish I was having this experience looking at this beautiful image where everything is designed and looks great, and they’re all products I can really buy. I just wish it was in my own house.” And for me, that light bulb went off because I had this background in 3D and graphics and spent time at Autodesk. I knew what was coming and I knew that we could combine the ability to visualize your unique space, fully designed, with real furniture you could really buy, in a way that felt beautiful — like a catalog — but it was in your house. And we could combine that with the ability to have a designer at a very affordable rate, working with you to make the decisions. And that if I provided that to the average consumer who today has no access to design services without thousands and thousands of dollars, that we could open up a huge market opportunity.

So the moment I had that idea I couldn’t drop it. I went into work every day, and I was thinking about it, and prototyping it. And then fast forward a few months later, and I had left Google Ventures, where I was investing, and I was like, “I am starting Modsy.” And here we are, five years later.

Tina Hoang-To: I can attest to the value proposition since I was a customer of Modsy. You know this story, but you saved Nick and I’s life when we moved into our new place in San Francisco, and we went through the same thing. We tried out two interior designers. They came in, took a look at the space, gave us an estimate of three to four months before we can actually start buying furniture. And given I’m a very quick person to do everything, that just didn’t work for me. Like, what are going to do for four months without furniture in this wide-open space? So because of Modsy, we were actually able to buy all our furniture in three weeks and be able to settle into our new home.

Shanna Tellerman: It looks fantastic.

Tina Hoang-To: Thanks, Shanna. What is the technology behind Modsy and how’s it changed since you launched the company in 2015?

Shanna Tellerman: Technology is definitely at the center of Modsy. It’s at the center of the vision because the vision is about visualization and visualization technology powers that. So, there’s two parts to this. One is the photo-realistic 3D renderings. From day one, we knew we could enable that. But to enable that in a scalable and affordable way that would allow us to provide the service at a very low cost, we had to build our own proprietary tools and technology and we had to plug into a couple of systems that were all cloud-based so the whole thing could scale. And so that just took a lot of time. That one we had a pretty clear vision.

The second part of our technology is taking photos of somebody’s room and then reconstructing an accurate to-scale 3D model — ideally with as little measurements, or no measurements, as possible — and then coming out with that 3D model to be usable in the design process to be able to put the furniture in. And so it had to be accurate. It had to have floors and walls and windows. And then it had to be something that could render out photo-realistically. And nothing in the world existed to do that.

There was reconstruction technology as a concept and there are big cameras that do depth sensing that can measure and that can use laser scanners — but that doesn’t exist in the normal consumer’s pocket. So we were like, we need to take the normal phone in normal consumer’s pockets and we need to apply the things that are only possible in these really sophisticated cameras. And we had some guesses about how to do it, but nobody had ever done it. So fast forward to today. Several years of R&D and various approaches and a sort iterative approach to solving this problem one piece of the pipeline along the way, we now have patented technology. We have taken an approach that is unique to everybody in the world that is trying to solve this. We’re probably the furthest ahead. We’re about to release something even cooler in this space in the next couple of months. But it has been one of those things where you know what you’re trying to do at the end, but your R&D path uncovers new ways and new approaches continuously and along the way you have to adapt that plan.

Tina Hoang-To: I remember as I was using Modsy for the first time, the biggest value proposition for me is actually seeing things fit in my space. And that was very hard for us. I mean, I can walk around with a ruler and measure everything but being able to look at three different types of layouts for a sofa and how it’s arranged in the space and click a button to live-swap in each and every one of the sofas was just a tremendous value add for us. So thanks for building that.

Shanna Tellerman: Awesome.

Tina Hoang-To: So Modsy has been growing, raising the Series C, and nearly doubling its headcount in 2019. How have you navigated through the challenges of scaling a team so quickly?

Shanna Tellerman: It’s interesting. Not only are we scaling the team, we’ve also been transitioning the locations and roles of our team. So a lot has changed all in one year. I am not going to say this is easy. Any time you grow and you add a lot more people, your culture does change. But what I’m constantly telling our team is that the culture is what the people make it and that as we add new people, they both adopt pieces of our culture, and they bring new culture in. I’ve seen our culture, the core elements of our culture, where we lead with our heart and we believe in making magic for our customers and we believe in hard work — those have stayed. Those have always stayed true. But we’ve added all these new elements of our culture, like you can work anywhere, you can work remotely, you can work from home. We have a lot of customer-facing people who have a different view of the world and there’s a different set of things that they’re interested in when we give Monday morning updates, for example. So you need to adapt pieces of your business and pieces of your culture. You also need to hear the feedback from all the people who’ve joined. And simultaneously you constantly rethink the tools and the structures especially when things like the location of the people changes along the way.

Tina Hoang-To: Fundraising is often a big part of being CEO. I know that. If anybody tells you that fundraising is fun, they’re probably lying. What were you looking for when you were raising the Series C? And what was most important to you?

Shanna Tellerman: This one is easy. I was looking for Tina. In all seriousness, I really, really look for investors that are partners – true partners – and to be a true partner you have to be able to put yourselves in the shoes of each other once in a while. And I feel like my experience being on the investing side was helpful in that I can understand what an investor’s trying to get out of the relationship. I understand the dynamics of a partnership, I understand the growth rate, I understand the things that are exciting to an investor. Simultaneously as an entrepreneur it’s really, really helpful when your investor understands how hard it is to run a business, to build a business and that every day you’re in there and you’re slaving away and you’re making these hard decisions and hard choices and that there’s real work in that. And again, when you get those snapshots of a company once every couple of months it’s easy to not remember that there’s a lot of hard work that goes into it. And for me when I’ve ultimately talked to investors and had the opportunity to bring great people onto the board, it’s the people who just get it. They get that there’s a lot behind the scenes and that that’s always part of the conversation. And as we chatted, it was so clear that that was how you thought about the world and that’s always made it easy. It’s made the relationship easy.

Tina Hoang-To: I think on the flip side, one of the greatest things that you’ve given me is the opportunity to work with the team. Every time we’re launching new products, Sam, CTO, is sending me the test pilot launches, it gives me the opportunity to bring myself back to the days when I was an operator and launching new products. And that’s been really exciting to be a part of that journey with you.

Shanna Tellerman: Yeah. Actually, we feel that you have had a unique ability to put yourself in the shoes of our team and ask the questions or give the feedback in a way that feels like you are part of the team, not sort of passing by giving us side comments or sort of surface-level comments. It’s real feedback that we can really apply.

Tina Hoang-To: Shanna, you’re a CEO and founder but you’re also a mother. How has motherhood changed how you work and how you are as a leader?

Shanna Tellerman: So motherhood, for anybody who’s listening – as a mother or father, is hard work. There’s no question. It definitely started to divide my time. But I will say, it has been life-changing, game-changing. Not just for me personally, but for our business. The thing everybody says is true — which is, you get way more efficient with your time and you start canceling all those silly meetings and those lunches or dinners that didn’t really matter But for me, the best part of it was really I always have carried around the stress of my company. It doesn’t matter whether I’m going to dinner or a movie or on vacation, it’s a weight in life and I’m always thinking about it and nothing I could do would break me out of it. My first company, my second company, I could be in the most beautiful place in the world and I was still thinking about my new business. We were hiking in New Zealand and I’m thinking about my business. And I’m like, “This isn’t healthy,” but I can’t break out. But then I had a baby. And when I go home and see Skye it’s pure joy and the thoughts of our business melt away. And even if it’s only for a few minutes, there’s these few moments where I’m like, “This is actually more important than that.” And I never had that before, and it’s been transformative.

Tina Hoang-To: So I’ve been really fortunate to have great mentors in my career and I think this is a very important part of development as you progress. Who are some of the people in your life that have provided mentorship to you?

Shanna Tellerman: It’s such an important question. Definitely, I have had a series of mentors along the way from managers to advisors and people in my life, my husband. But for me actually even more fundamental to that was something I realized when I was an entrepreneur, but then realized more profoundly when I was an investor, was that there really wasn’t this same kind of network for women. And so I became really passionate about connecting women together who were founders, investors, and operators because that’s the ecosystem and just allowing us to build bridges and connections and relationships with no business purpose to start out — knowing that it would lead to great business results in the end. And so it started then when I was an investor and we started doing this annual trip to Park City and skiing, and it’s been just amazing to see this network grow and support each other. And all these women are people I know I can just get on the phone and I can ask a quick question. When I started my company they were my first calls — being like, “Will you invest in my seed round?” That is the network that ends up becoming such a powerful resource for me.

Tina Hoang-To: So we’re down to the last question which I think will be helpful for most listeners who are in your shoes. As a CEO and a former VC, what is one piece of advice for someone pitching to a VC firm that you wouldn’t have known if you hadn’t had that experience as a venture capitalist?

Shanna Tellerman: I get asked this question a lot. What did I take from being a VC and how do I apply it to being an entrepreneur? And especially in fundraising and pitching, what’s the secret sauce? For me, it’s actually my understanding that it is a partnership and that the partnership collectively makes a decision. So you might have a big champion who has brought you in and they’re super excited, and there might be a bunch of people at the table really excited. But there might also be some people who are not that excited about your business and that that is actually a pretty normal part of a partnership discussion after a pitch. And for me, that’s allowed me to take it way less personally — the pitch. It sounds funny but as an entrepreneur you feel like this is my baby, this is my company, people are giving me feedback they didn’t like me, they don’t like my business. But in reality, there’s this collection of people looking at your business with their collective history and experiences, and it is more common than not that some of the people sitting around that table have some concerns and have some reservations and bring it up. And then that discussion ensues, and it may be swayed one way or the other. And you are a minor part of that equation. At the end of the day, they’re making a collective partnership decision. And for me, that just took a lot of the emotion out of the fundraise.

Tina Hoang-To: That’s a great point. When I was going through a fundraising as well you get a lot of “no’s.” I think some people have biases towards certain industries or certain products, etc. But one of the greatest pieces of advice I was given was, it doesn’t matter how many “no’s” you get. You really only need one “yes.”

Shanna Tellerman: So true.

Tina Hoang-To: And I think that turned everything around for me, that it is okay to get turned down. Because if you look at the data and the stats, the chances are you’re probably not going to get a “yes” in your first try, so that’s really helpful advice.

Shanna Tellerman: Very true.

Tina Hoang-To: Shanna, these are really valuable lessons you’ve shared. Thank you so much for joining us on Growth Journeys, and thanks to all out there for listening.

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


At the Cutting Edge of the Governance Risk and Compliance (GRC) Sector – Leveraging Compliance Data to Drive Business Value

By Nari Ansari and Gal Peleg

Compliance seems to divide enterprises into three categories: those that primarily publicize it as proof of “good governance,” those that actually push the boundaries far enough to bring consequences, and everyone else with their heads down, trying to address whatever regulatory standards govern their industry and the seemingly ever-changing nature of those standards.

Now a fourth group is emerging, charting their own course. These enterprises are turning compliance to their advantage by mining compliance data for digital gold: insights that increase efficiency and competitive advantage. Like the governance crowd, they have automated many compliance functions with emerging software solutions. They are looking at the resulting data with fresh eyes and using it to improve their businesses.

More Regulation…

Most people think of compliance in terms of rules and regulations imposed by lawmakers and other governing bodies, for good reason: there is a proliferation not just of new regulations but of whole new regulatory frameworks such as Dodd-Frank and GDPR. Even long-time frameworks such as SOX, HIPAA, and FCPA continue to evolve. Yet at the same time, many enterprises are setting rules of their own to address an increasingly complex environment that includes global supply chains, cybercrime, trade wars, Brexit, and other evolving risks.

In the end, it doesn’t matter where the rules come from: compliance, and the documentation that comes along with it, is essential for managing risks and maintaining brand reputation. The roster of damaged brands from just the past few years illustrates what can happen when risk and compliance management break down.

Until recently, enterprises managed compliance risks with home-grown, often siloed and disparate initiatives that focused on people and processes. The components included manual record-keeping, time-consuming audits, constant training, ever-lengthier supplier questionnaires, C-level compliance positions, and board-level reporting. The reams of information gathered and presented were considered useful mainly for answering a simple question: Are we compliant or not?

Then a new question arose: Can we at least automate and digitize risk and compliance data, like we have done with so many other processes? The answer to that question is clear: We can, thanks to a growing community of companies providing governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) technology solutions that automate the process of collecting, aggregating, analyzing, and presenting relevant data while reducing their costs to the organization.

…Meets Smarter Compliance

We believe that just as homegrown compliance structures created the opportunity for digitization, a critical mass of companies are now positioned for a new opportunity that may eclipse the earlier one. Data that was once viewed merely as fuel for the compliance machine can now be considered a strategic output in its own right, with value to the business beyond compliance.

Whether it’s a bank mining Know Your Customer data to pitch targeted travel insurance to its customers or a CPG manufacturer analyzing complaint data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to improve its manufacturing methods, we see an opportunity for companies to extract incremental, “offensive” business insight from large risk, compliance, and regulatory data sets.

Why Now?

This opportunity represents a convergence of what may seem unrelated factors. But let’s remember that in a globalized, highly competitive economy there are few trends that arise in isolation.

The first trend we note is a dramatic change in the people sitting in the chief compliance officer (CCO) chair. Russell Reynolds Associates analyzed the career backgrounds of 72 CCOs in banking, insurance and asset management and reported that “gone are the days of principally legal and compliance executives nabbing the top job in the compliance function.” So who’s getting the job instead? According to the report, it’s “broader-focused appointees from consulting, risk and audit. This new breed of appointees would be well-positioned to contextualize compliance (and the associated cultural change) in the wider picture of the organization.” In other words, compliance executive leadership is not just for lawyers and specialists – it’s for multidisciplinary executives who are as fluent with brand value and enterprise risk as they are with the P&L and operations.

The second trend we note is increased use of AI/ML. The transportation sector is a leading example, in part because it is heavily regulated. Shipping companies, notably UPS, now place dozens of monitors on their vehicles for compliance with internal and regulatory rules – and then apply AI to the monitor data to optimize delivery routes and driver behaviors in ways that squeeze out fuel costs and improve customer satisfaction. Fleet operators are further served by solutions from the likes of Keep Truckin, Samsara, and Geotab, which help improve driver safety and increase the precision of preventive maintenance.

The third trend is the evolving consumer privacy landscape. Ironically, more robust data protection and security regulations such as GDPR can actually serve to enhance business value by increasing the trust between companies and their customers. In its January 2018 report, “How GDPR is an Opportunity to Create Business Value”, Gartner notes that “handled effectively, there is great potential to obtain consent to increase data access, use, and sharing rights — aligned with goals of a wider organizational data and analytics strategy. This can help drive competitive advantage, while also helping to achieve compliance in other countries and regions.”

Examples of Leveraging Risk & Compliance Data to Drive Business Value

These are examples of companies that are helping advance the use of risk and compliance data for improving everything from customer experiences to supply chain performance to more effective emergency response:

  • Avetta’s customers use Avetta to certify compliance quality of its suppliers (green flag, yellow flag, red flag) and then mine the data to identify which suppliers are best trained and best equipped for certain on-site jobs.
  • Higher education institutions have long collected data to achieve and maintain external accreditation. Watermark Insights helps universities and colleges not only collect, digitize, and report on that data to demonstrate effectiveness, but also to use it to inform curricular changes and improve student outcomes. 
  • AxiomSL’s financial services clients utilize its data integrity and control platform and its risk calculation and reporting solutions to satisfy regulatory requirements across the globe systematically.  With trusted data, banks are now also able to identify opportunities to fine-tune capital/credit risk and deliver compelling business insights across the enterprise.
  • Global Trade Management solutions from the likes of Descartes and Amber Road (now a part of E2OPEN) have long been used to satisfy mandatory export compliance obligations (e.g. restricted party screenings) and to remain abreast of regional duty programs and tariffs. But by marrying these regulatory datasets with companies’ more “traditional” supply chain data (such as bill of materials and transportation fees), clients are now able to more accurately forecast true landed costs (the total price of the shipment including customs, duties, taxes, tariffs, etc.), all the while minimizing risks and delays.
  • Rave Mobile Safety enables schools to automate collection of and access to critical facility information (e.g., floor plans, alarm information), which they need to remain compliant with fire department ordinances – and it also provide 911 dispatchers and first responders better real-time capabilities when emergencies arise.
  • Information governance and eDiscovery vendor Nuix is well known for its deep technical capabilities in high speed processing and analytics around vast data sets, typically in the context of litigation and investigations.  But enterprise clients are also able to leverage the platform to create “data lakes”, making data more accessible for re-use in future investigations, litigations and data management programs, helping reduce costs.
  • Biopharma companies rely on software from ETQ for much more than compliance with FDA requirements; they also leverage the data to mitigate and prevent high-risk events, scale operations more effectively, and streamline their go-to-market activities.

There are many other examples of organizations across industries utilizing technology from GRC vendors to not only achieve their risk and compliance objectives, but also advance their strategic objectives.  The trend is still very much in its early days, but it provides an exciting avenue for continued growth in the sector.  As an experienced technology focused growth equity firm, TCV is committed to investing in the category innovators in the GRC space and has invested in such companies as Avalara, AxiomSL, Avetta, LegalZoom, Rave Mobile Safety, RiskMetrics Group, and Watermark Insights. 

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