In this episode of Growth Journeys, TCV General Partner Neil Tolaney speaks with João Pedro (JP) Resende, CEO of Hotmart about:
The challenges and opportunities of bootstrapping a business in Brazil without any outside capital
How Hotmart is empowering today’s creators to pursue and monetize their passions
The value that comes with building and nurturing an engaged creator community
… and lots more.
Back in 2011, when Hotmart was created, the content available on the internet was mostly free: there was no paywall on news portals, no paid communities, and no podcast subscriptions. But JP and his cofounder understood that, at some point, things would change – and they did. Today, with the media decentralization allowed by technology and social media, everybody can create their own niche channel, build an audience, and monetize it.
By the time Hotmart turned 10 years old in 2021, it had became one of the largest companies in the creator economy. They offer an all-in-one platform that includes a global payment system, members area, sales page builder, promoters and integration tools, plus reports and analytics. The company is a global player: it is based in Amsterdam and has employees in Brazil, Spain, Colombia, Mexico, the US, France, and the UK. They offer the whole ecosystem for content creators to turn their knowledge into digital products like online courses, ebooks, and podcasts. Hotmart has built and nurtured a community of creators, who live out their passions: more than 90% of them have never sold any digital product before joining Hotmart. Today, Hotmart has more than 35 million users, over 580 thousand registered products, and sales in more than 188 countries.
Tune in to hear the Hotmart story from CEO JP Resende.
Joining a founder-led fast-growth technology company as an outside CEO isn’t an easy task. While Steve Munford had prior experience in taking the helm at founder-led companies, he started his current role as CEO of global identity verification provider Trulioo just as countries were locking down at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Further complicating his new role was that when Steve joined, Trulioo was embarking on an effort to scale go-to-market and product distribution across multiple geographies.
Indeed, as companies around the world were shifting to digital customer acquisition and virtual operations, their demand for digital identity verification was burgeoning across many sectors. Trulioo helps businesses navigate the complex challenges of instant digital identity verification to support compliance requirements, mitigate risk and deliver positive onboarding experiences that minimize end-user friction.
In today’s episode of Growth Journeys, Amol speaks with Steve about how he has approached global operations at Trulioo at a time of exponential growth. He takes us through Trulioo’s strategy for understanding the nuances of the various new end-markets that it serves as it scales, and how Trulioo’s customer base is integral to how the company prioritizes go-to-market channels. Steve also provides us his best practices for building trust, communication and preserving a culture across a rapidly growing multinational organization. Steve shares how Trulioo is leveraging its core mission of empowering all seven billion people on the planet to participate in the global economy as a north star for its growth journey.
Here’s what you’ll learn:
How Steve navigated stepping into the CEO role at a company that was previously founder-led
The benefits of building a diverse workforce when expanding a company into new markets across the globe
Using customer feedback to understand new markets, prioritize product iteration, and drive growth
How Trulioo’s mission of fostering global inclusion for everyone in the digital economy has helped guide the company’s culture, product, and growth journey
To learn more, settle back and press play.
Please find the transcript below, which has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Amol Helekar:Welcome to Growth Journeys, a podcast series from TCV focused on lessons from the field, from entrepreneurs in the TCV ecosystem. I’m here with Steve Munford, CEO of Trulioo, a global leader in identity verification. Trulioo is on a mission to advance financial inclusion by building a robust digital identity network. Given the rise of digital services usage globally, Steve joins us to discuss the critical role that identity verification plays in underpinning trust and safety in the digital economy. Welcome to Growth Journeys, Steve.
Steve Munford: Thanks, Amol. Great to be here.
Amol Helekar:Steve, Trulioo is an identity verification services provider. For the less tech savvy out there, what does Trulioo do? Why is it important?
Steve Munford: So probably the easiest way to explain it is – think about when you signed up for an online banking account or an online trading platform. When you do that, the company you’re trying to join their platform has to establish trust or has to establish your identity. It could be for a trust and safety use case. Maybe you’re going to go and stay in someone’s house or put something on a marketplace or it could be for a compliance use case. So, think about KYC, Know Your Customer, for the financial industry or any other regulated industry.
When you go on and try to open a new account, you’re going to submit a bunch of information on a form. You’re going to give that organization permission to do some sort of identity check on you. When you submit your information, likely, Trulioo is the layer in between that, that does the identity verification.
We’re that layer in between that establishes, is Amol a real person? Is he really a resident of a certain country? Does he have that specific address? Can I verify all attributes of Amol, so that that organization can begin that relationship? We’re an identity network that links together data and an individual’s attributes from over 195 countries that enables these digital platforms to onboard customers seamlessly without seeing them.
Amol Helekar:Thanks Steve. And what made you join Trulioo? You’ve seen the evolution of cybersecurity now to include identity verification, and it’s an area that is getting a lot of attention. What made you go on this journey?
Steve Munford: I spent my previous 20 years of my career in cybersecurity and the way I like to kind of frame that is I spent 20 years trying to stop bad things from happening on your computer. Identity, as we do, is all about enabling new users to join a platform and that’s a similar type of workflow where you’re trying to make a decision on an action.
But in this case, we’re enabling good things to happen, a new customer coming onto your platform, rather than focusing on stopping the bad things to happen. What really got me excited about Trulioo is this challenge. Doing identity verification in a single country’s hard, but the challenge of doing it on a global scale is incredibly hard.
Today, there’s a lot of piecemeal solutions, a lot of regional solutions, but what Trulioo had started to build, is this truly global platform that enables us to onboard customers globally now and that’s pretty exciting. This whole industry of identity verification is getting bigger and actually the problem’s even getting harder to solve.
Amol Helekar:I know it’s becoming an increasingly big issue for a lot of companies as they advance their global growth agendas and you’re playing a really important part of it. Steve, you’ve run large and small companies around the world, but what are some of the lessons you’ve learned in different geos, across cultures, customers, teams, and approaches?
Steve Munford: I’ve run a company in the UK, I’ve had significant presences in places like Germany or in Asia, and obviously in the U.S. and in Canada. Every country operates a bit differently. There’s cultural nuances between all those different places.
Today, I think almost every company is global and if you’re going to have a global company, you need to have a diverse workforce. You need to have offices, locations, workforces, all around the world. You have to have a leadership team that is truly multicultural, diverse, and is able to motivate and understand the nuances of the cultures.
The other thing that I would say is that, if you are a non U.S.-based company, you really have to figure out how you put two feet in the U.S. Being global, in many respects, is being American, and for a tech company as well. So two lessons is one, building that leadership team that is cross-cultural or diverse. Secondly is, when you’re not in the U.S., operating a company as if you are in the U.S., and making sure you have strong teams, offices, and presence there.
Amol Helekar:Got it. Well, it sounds like a really important challenge that a lot of companies are facing as their businesses go global as well. Another interesting thing Steve, is you’ve inherited founder led businesses now multiple times. How did you go about taking over those companies while maintaining and also shaping a culture to be able to take their business to the next level?
Steve Munford: Yeah, I really have had the pleasure of working with some phenomenal founders and helping take their businesses to new places and new phases of growth. And each case is different, but there are some commonalities.
When you come into a company that’s been founder led, the first thing you have to do is understand what that founder was great at, what their DNA is and what they have done to get the company to that stage. Because ultimately, you may be working alongside the founder for a bit, but ultimately, you’re taking over the leadership from that founder. So you first have to start by asking, what is going to be missing when that founder steps aside from the business?
Secondly, as a new person coming into the company, you may have a lot of ideas, what you need to do to grow and scale the company. But you can’t take for granted that you know everything that has been done in the company, or that there are things that aren’t being done for specific reasons. When you’re taking over for a founder, you really haven’t seen everything and you really need to learn about the nuances of the company, the culture, and why they’re doing certain things.
When I’ve come in, in most cases, I’ve had the luxury of watching, learning, digesting and then slowly evolving the business, the culture, building out the team in a thoughtful way that doesn’t break all the good stuff that’s happening, doesn’t break the wonderful culture that may have started, but adds to it, and then allows a company to go to the next stage.
Amol Helekar:Yeah, and I bet it’s an especially important thing to do when you have a company growing as fast as Trulioo. Really taking over a company that has the growth trajectory when you inherit it and also continuing to drive that as it builds more and more scale, which is a fascinating thing to do.
Steve Munford: In many respects you’re a partner to the founder and before you step into the company, if you’re able to spend a lot of time getting to know each other, understanding each other’s nuances, establishing how you’re going to interact and trust and how you, when you come into the business, you’re not going to slow it down, but you’re going to accelerate it. There’s a lot of work in building that partnership, a lot of work in developing that framework for open communication.
But you’re right, especially when the company’s doing well and the goal is not to slow it down, but to further accelerate it, you’ve really got to make sure that when you step in, you’re not doing any harm, but you’re kind of setting both you and the company up to go even faster.
Amol Helekar:I think in Trulioo’s case, it was an especially interesting situation in that, you took over Trulioo right after COVID hit last March. There was so much uncertainty and you probably had to rewrite a lot of traditional playbooks in taking over the company. How did you go about doing that and what kept you going?
Steve Munford: I had the luxury of meeting the founder of Trulioo a couple of years before I joined. I got to know him over time and understand him as an individual. We had lots of good discussions about what he believed the opportunity was for Trulioo, why he felt it was time to bring in an outside leader, and work through a lot of the planning ahead of it.
But you’re right, my first day in the office was just as COVID hit. It actually wasn’t in the office, it was in my basement. I jumped in assuming, like many people, that COVID was going to last a couple of weeks, maybe a couple of months on the outset.
It was kind of a little bumpy at the beginning, but there were some benefits to it. The first one was, I set the goal for myself of meeting 50 people in the first 25 days at the company. When the company was operating over zoom, that was actually pretty easy to do. You would set up Zoom meetings and you were meeting people in Vancouver or in other locations around the world. It was really easy to connect with a lot of people, very, very quickly. That’s point one.
Two is, one of the things that we needed to do as a company is really expand globally. The company was very largely headquartered in Vancouver, and we needed to build a go-to-market and technical capacity, add leaders to the organization, add capacity to the organization, and put two feet in Europe. When you start to open up other offices, I found that because everyone is used to working in a single office, working together in person, the people in those new offices feel like they’re not included in all conversations, or all decision making.
When the world went all remote, opening up new offices or onboarding people in different geographies actually got a lot easier. We learned to work with each other across time zones. For a business, it was interesting because, we talked earlier about why is identity important? Well, if everything goes online, you have to have a layer of identity services to enable that to happen.
The world went online really quickly and so we saw an incredible demand in our business. We were actually running, once COVID hit, in helping to enable our customers to do new workflows online. A lot of new interest in our products and services came onboard. So, yeah, it was an interesting year.
Amol Helekar:You can say that again. And you know, one of the things we’ve talked about, Steve, is how Trulioo is a mission-driven company and really being able to drive financial inclusion all over the world.Could you talk a little bit about how Trulioo helps foster financial inclusion at a global scale?
Steve Munford: Our mission is financial inclusion. We believe ultimately if we are successful, all 7 billion people around the world will be able to participate in the global economy. That’s pretty empowering for people that are in developing countries or far remote locations, because they may have an identity that’s not available digitally.
If we can enable those folks to get online, twofold. One is, they can participate in the global economy, but two is, people offering services and products can reach them and onboard them as customers or employees or whatever they may want to do. We are a mission-driven company and ultimately I think our customers appreciate that because when we go out about helping them do their jobs, we’re coming at it from a place of purpose. And I think that really comes through.
Amol Helekar: It’s a very powerful mission, and one that we feel like we’re still in the very early innings of seeing that play out globally. It’s an exciting spot for the company to be in today.
Steve Munford: Yeah, I think overall the identity industry is in the early innings. Today much of the solutions out there, they only work in a single geography, siloed as they may just do one part of the digital onboarding process. A standalone document verification product, or a standalone fraud solution, or a standalone biometrics checking solution.
The reality is the world needs a platform. They need a platform that is global and a platform that allows you to do that end-to-end identity journey and be flexible depending on the industry, depending on the regulatory environment and depending on the specific goals of the business. That doesn’t exist today. I think we probably have the closest it comes to having a global platform today, but there’s a lot more we need to do. That’s the journey we’re on.
Amol Helekar:It’s a fascinating journey. Over the past couple of years, you’ve been on a really powerful growth journey with a lot of acceleration through the pandemic. From the series D funding round earlier this year, to your 10th year anniversary that you also celebrated this fall.How did you use your past experience to steer Trulioo through this period of hypergrowth?
Steve Munford: One of the keys to our success has been listening to our customers. We really have had the pleasure of working with some of the biggest brands across the verticals that we serve. These customers are incredibly sophisticated. They themselves have growth ambitions and plans that are incredibly ambitious. For us, having built that trusted relationship with these platforms, they guide us to where we need to go.
They guide us to the countries that they want to move into next. They guide us to how they see the identity landscape changing, or maybe where fraud is coming from, or where the regulatory environment is going. Through that dialogue, we’re able to really help prioritize our roadmap, prioritize where we need to innovate ourselves, prioritize areas that we should partner with.
That’s one piece. Second thing, I think how you survive during this time of hyper-growth and doing it during a time where we’re often not together is really establishing the culture of the company, establishing that communication.
Once COVID hit, we went to bi-weekly company meetings. We really stepped up how we were communicating with people. It required a lot of work, but in any business, if you’re going through hypergrowth, communication is key. Doing that when you’re largely doing it over Zoom or remotely, is even more key.
Amol Helekar:Thanks Steve. So, you’ve been the CEO of multiple companies, serving a lot of different types of customers in different segments of the software industry. What’s your most important lesson as a CEO?
Steve Munford: Maybe I’ll give you two. One is, the longer you’re at it, the more you realize it’s all about the team. Bringing on board the right team with the right culture and the right capabilities is incredibly important. Not just thinking about the team you need today, but the team you’re going to need in one, two, or three years. Ensuring that you’re bringing on the leaders that are able to scale and culturally you’re able to work with, and you believe are the leaders of the future of the company. Because changing out leaders, or not having enough bench strength can be a huge, huge inhibitor to growth.
The second point is, ultimately it’s all about great products and establishing product market fit. One of the things that I learned early on is, there’s a lot of false positives out there. You can win one large deal, or you can catch some kind of mistake by your competitor, and you’d be able to capitalize on some unique market opportunity. That doesn’t always mean you got product market fit. So, build great products, ensure you’ve got product market fit and build the right team, and that’s going to allow you to scale.
Amol Helekar:As you’ve put together the team at Trulioo, what are some of the key cultural traits that you’re emphasizing, both with your new executive hires and with the Trulioo team more broadly, as you continue to build the business as a really innovative product company and a company that’s capable of driving this market into the future?
Steve Munford: Certainly, you look for folks that have demonstrated the capacity and the desire to work at scale and work at speed. I think there is a pattern matching that goes on when you look at who you’re adding to the team. Have they done this type of thing before? And did they really like doing it? Because that in itself sets the standard for what “good” looks like and they set the pace and the ambition of the company. I think that’s one important part.
Culturally, there’s really three key values that we’ll talk about as a leadership team that I think are critical. Open communication. Second is operating with velocity. And thirdly is taking ownership for what you do.
As a CEO I have to communicate good or bad, everything in a very open, transparent way. The leadership team needs to do the same. If we can do that, then I think we start establishing trust and we avoid making bad decisions. Secondly, velocity, as a young company or a company that’s trying to be disruptive, is one of our key differentiators or reason that we should win, but if speed is without direction, you run around in circles.
With the executives, you want to make sure that they are very complete in their thinking. They can analyze problems. They can understand when to make a quick decision where they need to be more thoughtful, but ultimately, they can balance off that speed and direction and do both. I think that’s really critical because ultimately it is the leadership folks that set their priorities and set the direction.
Then lastly, taking ownership. We’ve all seen this before, is that the great executives like good or bad, they own their mistakes. They’ll actually share ownership of their success often. But they lead by example, and they take ownership for what they do, and they demand that level of accountability within their teams.
Amol Helekar:We can see that in spades in the type of products and the experience you’ve been able to drive within Trulioo and for your customers and that’s been so critical to Trulioo’s success over the past few years. Steve, thank you. This has been an educational and really inspiring discussion. It was great to have you on Growth Journeys and I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts with the audience out there. And thanks to all of you for listening.
Steve Munford: Thanks Amol, been a pleasure.
When Beth Grous joined TripAdvisor as Chief People Officer, the popular travel platform was growing rapidly, with 40+ locations around the world. Beth quickly moved to develop Human Resources (HR) as a strategic partner for business functions, so that the team’s initiatives would more directly support company objectives. In this first part of a two-part conversation, Beth talks with TCV GP Nari Ansari about how she re-oriented her team for business partnership. She also explains how her team manages the employee journey within TripAdvisor as strategically as the company manages its customer journeys, so that recruiting and retaining talent is both systematic and flexible for an increasingly diverse workforce.
Nari Ansari: First off Beth, I really appreciate you
taking the time to chat with us. It was great seeing you at TCV’s East Coast CHRO
event in New York with portfolio company people and talent leaders. We had some
great conversations and wanted to share a few topics with a broader audience.
Beth Grous: Absolutely. Great to speak again.
Nari Ansari: Let’s dive right in, starting with
TripAdvisor. What does the company do?
Beth Grous: I think most people who have traveled, or
know someone that’s traveled, are familiar with TripAdvisor. We are the world’s
largest travel platform. We help about 490 million travelers every month plan,
book, and get excited about having the best trip of their life. We’re a global
website, and we also have a mobile app that helps travelers browse more than
three-quarters of a billion reviews and opinions on over eight million
restaurants, accommodations, experiences, airlines, cruises, and so on.
Nari Ansari: When did you join? What motivated you to
Beth Grous: I joined TripAdvisor in September of 2015.
I’ve been a review writing member on the TripAdvisor platform since 2006 so I
was a long-time consumer of the brand and loved it. When I got the call about
the job, I thought that it would be a unique opportunity for me to take the HR
skills, experience and capabilities that I had, and intersect them with a
consumer brand that I have a lot of passion for.
Around the same time frame there was an increasing recognition
at TripAdvisor that with 2,500 employees, and the company growing globally, we
really needed to elevate the people function to work in partnership with the
CEO to execute more strategically against our business and talent priorities. And
so that was very exciting for me as well, thinking about the potential impact I
Nari Ansari: Absolutely. You’re titled Chief People
Officer, so what areas fall under your responsibility?
Beth Grous: That’s a great question, because my job
description is perhaps a little different than most heads of HR.
Chief People Officer, I have all the traditional HR domains:
rewards (compensation and benefits) and HR systems
acquisition (our recruiting engine)
and organizational development
diversity, and inclusion
In addition to those more typical functions, I have a few
other areas of responsibility, including our global real estate portfolio and office
experience for our 40+ offices worldwide, and our social impact function, which
is a combination of both our TripAdvisor Charitable Foundation and our employee
volunteerism and giving activities.
Nari Ansari: Since you became Chief People Officer,
how have you established the HR team as a business partner to the rest of the
organization? What steps did you take, what lessons did you learn as you
industrialized the function, and what advice would you have for other HR
leaders of growing tech companies out there?
Beth Grous: When I joined, I looked around and I
said, “There are some places where we have real strengths, and some places
where we need to fill in some blanks.” Probably the biggest shift we made
was to build out an HR business partner (HRBP) function – we wanted to shift a
portion of our team from being more focused on tactical day-to-day priorities
to taking a pro-active focus towards business objectives and working with their
counterparts throughout the organization. That shift in focus meant that some
people stepped up to develop their skills and to work differently. Other team
members transitioned out of the organization and, also importantly, we had a
few members join from the business side.
It was a significant shift to staff and organize this HR business
Nari Ansari: That’s an impressive shift. Tell us a
bit more about the role and skill set of HR business partners.
Beth Grous: The members of our HRBP team are expected
to have a deep understanding of the business—financials, strategy, and how each
business function aligns and interacts to execute against those objectives. I
encourage the HRBP team to frame their day-to-day work by asking the question:
“How am I working with people at all levels of the organization to help drive
the business forward?” Much of this learning happens on the job—and our
business leaders are very supportive of sharing their expertise. It has been an
important shift for us, because with this knowledge and understanding, they can
then support the business most effectively: defining the right organizational
structure to support strategy, ensuring that we are hiring and developing a
diverse and talented group of employees across the organization, and aligning
rewards, as some examples.
I am fortunate that I work for a CEO and with an executive
team who greatly values the input of our people and human capital team on
matters not just related to HR domain areas, but also matters related to the
overall business. This has been exciting and fulfilling for me and my team.
Nari Ansari: That’s great. I think what’s top of mind
for many company leaders and talent leaders is retaining exceptional talent.
You talked a bit at our recent TCV CHRO event that TripAdvisor very
methodically thinks through, manages, and monitors the customer journey and
that you and your team symmetrically are methodically thinking through,
managing, and monitoring the employee journey as well. Can you talk a little
bit more about what that looks like for your 3,600 plus TripAdvisor team members
today spread across 40+ offices?
Beth Grous: I’m going to make an obvious statement
here. If you retain and engage more of your workforce, you have less of a need
to recruit people…
Beth Grous: We
recognize that those two things sit in a very healthy and logical balance. We
also recognize that turnover in and of itself is painful. You lose
institutional knowledge. It’s disruptive to teams. It slows throughput. It
slows innovation. We’re only as good as the people that we have working in the
right teams and right configurations to execute against our business objective.
We think a lot about how to make TripAdvisor a great place to work, to
encourage not only retention, but also to drive engagement and satisfaction. Just
like our sales team thinks about the “customer first”, we think about how we
can put our employees first. That also means that we are taking their views
into account, so it’s not just about delivering “HR services” to our employees
but having a dialogue with them. This aligns with our brand, which is all about
transparency and providing honest and constructive feedback. For example, we know
that what makes a company a great place to work likely means different things
to different people. To someone early in their career, that might mean, “I
get to have a lot of different experiences and I’m promoted pretty
rapidly.” To someone in a different phase of life or with different
interests or needs, that might be that an individual wants a lot of flexibility
in terms of the hours when they work or the places where they work. We
encourage flexibility, and we also have office spaces with many different
places where people can get away from their desks if that helps them work more
effectively. We think about our workforce just like TripAdvisor (and many
consumer-facing companies) think about their customers, recognizing that one
size doesn’t fit all. That does not mean that we can necessarily be all things
to all people—but we try hard to listen, learn, and discern what’s most
important to our workforce, and meet our employees’ needs, as long as it makes
sense for the business.
I believe that there are some things that transcend all
employees, regardless of role, experience or tenure. Employees want to come to
work at a place where they understand the business objectives, they understand
the strategy, and they know their role, how their role ladders up to executing
against that strategy. So as a company, we spend a ton of time being
transparent about those elements – we do that through company town halls,
through company meetings and through various forms of communication.
Communication is so important, and I don’t think we can ever do enough of it
internally! We’ve found it critical for our employees to understand the
business context and importantly, how they fit into that context, so that they
can be most successful—and therefore we can be most successful as a company.
Nari Ansari: That makes a lot of sense. I
do think that having a much more rigorous multi-faceted view of your employee
base is becoming critical for companies of all sizes and in all
industries. And I also think open communication across the organization
is important, particularly when it feels like change is the only constant these
Another trend – and transition – we are seeing is that HR is
becoming more tech and data driven to deliver on human capital and business
goals. We’ll talk more about this in a follow-up Q&A and address other
topics that are top of mind for today’s HR professionals and tech companies,
including HR’s role in successfully executing acquisitions. Thanks so much for
sharing your thoughts with us, and I look forward to our next conversation.
Beth Grous: My pleasure!
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