Making Community Building More Than a Catchphrase to Unlock Growth – Jonathan Mildenhall Shares Lessons from Airbnb and More for Companies of All Sizes

Growth Hacks – Moving the Metric

Brands like Airbnb and Peloton that have been able to build a loyal community around their products, may seem to have cultivated that community size through an alchemical mix of marketing spend, timing, and luck. But it doesn’t have to be so opaque — especially not for businesses that make community building an essential part of their blueprint to growth, even from the early days. 

In this episode of Growth Hacks, Kunal and Katja talk to Jonathan Mildenhall, former CMO of Airbnb and founder and Chairman of strategic branding firm, TwentyFirstCenturyBrand, about ways to articulate the narrative of a modern brand – with community building as a key element. Jonathan walks us through a four-pillar process for creating strategic blueprints to build brand narrative, and tips for B2B brands to elicit the sort of emotional resonance that B2C brands have found with customers. 

Key Takeaways:

  • The four pillars of a modern 21st century brand that’s built to scale. Community isn’t just something that comes once a brand has been built. In fact, having a vocal, loyal community is one of the four core pillars of building a modern-day company. In addition to community building, the other three pillars for twenty-first century brands are being purpose driven, making sure your technology is well-designed and human, and focusing on storytelling.
  • How to perform a deep analysis on your own company and create a strategic blueprint to activate on each pillar. One of the first things Jonathan and his team at TwentyFirstCenturyBrand do when building out a new brand is to sit down with the founders and leaders of the company to do what they call a deep extraction. The purpose is to get a better understanding of the brand’s potential size and aspirations. “I don’t just mean in total numbers and size of revenue, but in terms of its cultural impact. We like to say we’re revealing the soul and purpose of the company back to the founding team,” Jonathan says.
  • Specific strategies on building a community that can meaningfully drive growth and brand perception. When Jonathan was the CMO of Airbnb, they had to get creative about how to use their marketing spend, which was a fraction of their competitors’ budgets. Jonathan’s team decided to activate Airbnb’s community of hosts to tell stories, by providing them photographers to take photos of their rentals and turn that into marketing collateral. Those community stories helped drive Airbnb’s initial brand narrative and turned those same hosts into vocal advocates for Airbnb with cities and potential users. Per Jonathan, “if you get community right, you can reduce acquisition costs, content creation costs, and you can drive referrals, word of mouth, and the brand narrative in ways that are unprecedented for marketers.” 
  • Why strategic community building has to come from the C-suite. Community building is an ongoing process and a two-way conversation; not just when a brand needs the community to telegraph its approval. It’s why Jonathan believes that community engagement should come from company leadership, who can maintain that dialog with followers of the brand and the wider community: “The chief executive’s voice and presence needs to be heard.”
  • Lessons B2B marketers can take from B2C campaigns when it comes to eliciting an emotional connection. Whether you’re a B2B company or a B2C company, Jonathan urges marketing teams to think about more than selling a product, and instead focus on the human being receiving the message, and whether that message moves them emotionally. His advice for B2B marketers? “I would love it if B2B businesses made a greater effort to move audiences emotionally and treat them as human beings, as opposed to somebody on the other side of a business transaction,” says Jonathan.


To learn more, tune into Growth Hacks: Elevating Community Building to Drive Meaningful Growth

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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/.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chase Gilbert, CEO, Built

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

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

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

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


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/.


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

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

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

Here’s what you’ll learn:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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


Making the Grade with Nerdy

As we congratulate TCV portfolio company Nerdy on its first day trading as a public company (NYSE: NRDY), we wanted to take a look back at what has been a remarkable growth and innovation story in the online education market. 

We first met Nerdy founder and CEO Chuck Cohn in St Louis in 2014.  At the time, Nerdy (doing business then as its flagship brand Varsity Tutors) had 90 employees and no physical offices, operating effectively as a fully-remote company.  Sensing an opportunity to disrupt the legacy tutoring market, Chuck had incubated Nerdy as a college student at nearby Washington University in St Louis a few years prior. Over time, it morphed from Chuck’s “side hustle” into his full-time mission.  All the while, Chuck had not taken traditional institutional venture capital, choosing instead to bootstrap the business while driving high-revenue growth.

We were immediately impressed by Chuck’s vision for Nerdy and his views on disrupting the legacy tutoring market.  Historically, tutoring was a cottage industry – one that was very fragmented and in the billions of dollars in size in the United States.  The professional side of the market was physical center-based businesses (in the mall next to the grocery store) that generally had franchise models characterized by high prices and questionable outcomes and satisfaction.  And of course there were individual tutors (think former teachers or college students) that used Craigslist, parent’s group lists, bulletin boards, or local relationships in schools to find students. Chuck believed there was a way to empower individual tutors and match them with students that they were uniquely qualified to help. 

Chuck’s model sought to more deeply understand the skills of a tutor and the needs of a student and facilitate connections between expert tutors and parents and students across thousands of subject areas regardless of geography.  Chuck’s emphasis on quality and product innovation proved prescient as online learning steadily gained importance.  As online learning grew, Chuck decided that in order to scale his platform it made sense to bring on an institutional partner for the first time.  We were honored to have the opportunity to partner with Chuck, leading a funding round in November 2015. Chuck chose to partner with TCV given our combined expertise in consumer business models as well as our focus on education technology. 

Since our initial investment, Nerdy has grown significantly, assembling what we believe to be an  all-star management team.  The addition of Ian Clarkson and Heidi Robinson opened up a new product center of gravity in Seattle, and added the “been there, done that before” capabilities required to scale a business. We’ve had the opportunity to connect executives from the TCV network to assist in the mission, most notably Erik Blachford (TCV Venture Partner and former Expedia CEO) who joined as an early Board member, and Adam Weber who joined as CMO after leading marketing at Dollar Shave Club (another prior TCV portfolio company). 

As COVID swept the globe, Nerdy’s offerings took on a heightened importance, forcing parents to contend with serious issues like learning loss and isolation. Nerdy and other digital providers stepped in with personalized solutions.  The unwavering focus on building the best product has enabled Nerdy to become a comprehensive learning destination with over 3,000 subject areas for education and enrichment while maintaining very high levels of student satisfaction.  We think this is the winning strategy over the long term.

We congratulate the entire Nerdy organization on a momentous occasion and look forward to working with the team in continuing to transform how people learn! 

***

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/.


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

Growth Hacks – Moving the Metric

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

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

Key Takeaways:

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

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

***

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


An Audacious Goal: How Clio’s Mission of Transforming the Legal Experience For All Is Helping Lawyers Scale

Scaling a company can sometimes feel like a high-speed dash to the top, making it easy to prioritize activities that yield immediate growth. But it can also take time to educate the industries that a company is transforming with tech, and even more time to build trust with prospective customers. These were headwinds facing Clio, today’s leader in cloud-based legal software, when it introduced the first ever SaaS legal practice management software for attorneys.

When Clio launched in 2008, digital transformation was already driving an increasing number of industries towards cloud adoption. Yet in the legal industry, the question wasn’t which product to use. Instead, it was whether attorneys could be convinced that cloud-based applications were usable and secure enough to become part of their core operations. To foster acceptance around the concept of cloud-based legal software, the Clio team knew they had to plan for the long game by investing significant time into educating its market.

In this episode of Growth Journeys, Clio CEO and Founder Jack Newton joins TCV Principal and Clio board member Amol Helekar to discuss why Clio invested in educating an industry that is known for slow adoption as they climbed to the top and became the market leader for cloud-based legal technology.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • Why Clio invested in actively educating its market, rather than waiting for the market to come to them
  • How a strong partnership strategy can become an impenetrable moat
  • Choosing a mission statement that can foster growth
  • How to draw clients, employees, and investors into your mission
  • Jack’s tips on fundraising later rounds

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 TCV’s network. I’m Amol, a principal at TCV, and I’m here with Jack Newton, CEO and co-founder of Clio.

Jack has been instrumental in driving adoption for cloud-based technology in the legal industry. In 2008, he brought the first SaaS legal practice management application to market. Today, Clio is a market leader and the only end-to-end solution for law firms.

As an investor and advisor to early-stage startups, Jack is a nationally recognized speaker and author of the bestselling book: The Client Centered Law Firm. I’m really excited to chat with Jack about how to get a business off the ground in times of uncertainty, how to foster a strong community and how to galvanize the team around a joint mission. Thanks for joining me, Jack, and welcome to Growth Journeys.

Jack Newton: Thanks for having me, Amol, happy to be here.

Amol Helekar: Jack let’s rewind back to 2008. When you founded Clio, you were the first to market cloud-based legal practice management software at a time when businesses were really hunkering down. On top of this, you had a baby on the way, and were working with your co-founder, who is hundreds of miles away in Vancouver.

Talk about a challenge! Many would have shied away, and yet you saw an opportunity there. How did you do it and what kept you going?

Jack Newton: Yeah. Great question, Amol. And what we saw back in 2008 was obviously a really tough macro environment from a financial crisis perspective. Fundraising was extremely difficult, people were really hunkering down and battening down the hatches for the impact of the great recession.

But we also saw at this point in time, a unique opportunity to bring the cloud to legal. When Rian and I came up with the idea for Clio back in 2007, what we saw with the advent of the cloud was a really clear signal that this was a technology and an approach to delivering software that was going to transform virtually every industry in the world.

Amol Helekar: Yeah. And it’s been quite the journey ever since. You know, it’s one thing to identify a market opportunity, but it’s entirely different to convince skeptical customers that there’s a real need for your product. How did you win customers over?

Jack Newton: Yeah, I would say in the early days of launching Clio, we had some customers just rush to the product and give us feedback along the lines of: “I’ve been waiting for somebody to develop a solution like this for me. Thank you. I’m all in.” And they were our most enthusiastic early adopters and that was obviously a very low friction process.

But for a large majority of the early customers we started onboarding there was obvious advantages to the cloud from an affordability perspective, from a total cost of ownership perspective, from an ease-of-use perspective, all of those things were obvious advantages to the cloud. But what was less clear back in 2008, 2009, was whether it was ethically acceptable for lawyers to put their practice in the cloud and to put really sensitive client data in the cloud. They have a very high bar with regard to privacy and security that they need to meet when they adopt and deploy IT infrastructure into their practice.

What we realized pretty early on in that growth journey was we’re going to need to get ahead of that conversation. We’re actually going to need to lead that conversation and educate the space around the security and ethics of cloud computing as it relates to legal professionals. And that was a big lift. We put a lot of energy into thought leadership, into speaking on this across the country, putting on seminars and writing white papers and even advocating at the bar association level for ethics rulings relating to cloud computing. And in the end, we ended up being successful in educating the market on cloud computing and really helping drive cloud adoption in legal, which is traditionally a pretty slow adopter of new technology.

Amol Helekar: Yeah. And I know it takes a lot of effort to build that type of trust amongst your customer base. And you know, something that a lot of people talk about is building a community. How do you go about doing that? What are the steps and how do you maintain momentum?

Jack Newton: Yeah, it’s a great question. And I think when you’re really trying to transform an industry and how it operates, what we realized pretty early on in Clio’s growth journey is that the product isn’t enough. Just having great technology is part of the solution, but it’s not enough to actually drive that true transformation in how an industry operates.

What we realized was we needed to spark a revolution in legal and a revolution in how lawyers thought about delivering legal services to their clients and how they embraced technology as a really foundational and integral part of the value they’re delivering to their clients.

And we’ve spent a decade building this movement around digital transformation in legal, and also around this concept of a client-centered law firm that is thinking about the way they deliver legal services in a completely different way.

This is something we also realize is bigger than any one company can do. We’ve built a huge integration network with over 200 integration partners that have built on top of the Clio platform. We’ve locked arms with bar associations from around the world to help bring the message around digital transformation and client-centered lawyering to lawyers as well.

Amol Helekar: A decade is a long time to build that type of community, but you guys have put a lot into it. Along the way, how did you know you were on the right track?

Jack Newton: I think one of the really early signals is that you’re seeing the snowball effect build from year to year. And I think one of the really important messages for our listeners today is that this doesn’t happen overnight. When you’re making the kinds of investments that we have been at Clio on thought leadership, on building this community, on building customers that will shout from the rooftops about your product, but also help enroll additional customers in the movement that you’re helping drive.

Partnerships are another example that take years to forge. But once you have those relationships built, you’re building a really defensible moat around your business.

Whether it’s through social channels, or other forms of engagement, you’re seeing evidence that the number of people that are enrolled in the movement and the community you’re trying to create is growing over time. And importantly, you’ve got a high net promoter score and they’re pulling more of their colleagues into the fold.

Amol Helekar: Yeah, that’s fascinating. I know one of the aspects of the community is the Clio Cloud conference, which is now the largest legal tech gathering in North America. What is the event all about and what made you invest the time and money to build it to where it is today?

Jack Newton: Yeah, it’s another great example of one of these investments that takes time to build. It’s the largest legal technology conference in North America. And it’s something we’ve put a huge amount of energy in over the last nine years to make successful.

And if we rewind all the way to the very first year we did the Clio Cloud Conference, it was very humble. It was just over 200 attendees and a very modest venue in Chicago, Illinois. We had 4,000 attendees at our virtual edition of the Clio Cloud Conference last year. We had over 2,500 attendees at the in-person Clio Cloud Conference in San Diego the year before that. And it’s an event that is just so energizing for both our attendees and our employees that attend this conference and just get so energized and excited by the opportunity to connect with both our customers and the prospects that attend this conference.

The way we frame this conference with attendees is really this conference is not about Clio. This conference is about innovation and thinking about what the next 10 years of innovation in legal will look like. It’s really a gathering of the best and brightest minds in legal coming together and what’s amazing for Clio is we’ve become an intrinsic part of that discussion. The conference is continuing to build year over year, and I can’t wait to get back to an in-person conference next year for our 10th year anniversary.

Amol Helekar: Yeah. Having attended the Clio Cloud Conference for the past few years now, I can attest to how inspiring it is for customers, employees, and investors too. Everything we’ve talked about is about community building, but it’s also part of your mission to transform the legal experience for all. What does that mission mean to you?

Jack Newton: The mission is really an important part of everything we do at Clio and it’s really become a north star for our company, our employees and our customers attached to our mission. That mission, which is to transform the legal experience for all, is number one, big and audacious.

At the heart of this is a massive access to justice gap. And one of the statistics that I was blown away by the first time I heard it, is that 77% of consumers that had a legal issue, did not see that legal issue resolved by a lawyer. And I describe this as the latent legal market. This is a vast market that is not currently being served by how legal services are delivered today. What I see as the opportunity is to better connect the millions of consumers that have legal issues with lawyers that can help them solve those legal issues.

Jack Newton: But to do that, we both need to create more efficiency and ease around accessing legal services in the first place. Most consumers are scared off by how lawyers price their services. They’re scared off by the idea of paying 400 plus dollars an hour to arrive at a solution to their legal problem. We believe what Clio, in particular, and what technology in general will enable law firms to do is to deliver their services in a much more efficient way. In a way that is more affordable and accessible by the average consumer, that automates big parts of what is done manually today.

And importantly is delivered over the internet. What we’ve seen over the course of Clio’s 10-plus years of growth is a very steady march away from on-premise law systems and bricks and mortar law firms toward a new cloud-based era where lawyers are delivering their legal services online and they’re delivering them in a client-centered way.

Ultimately, we believe being a cloud based and client centered law firm is what is going to unlock our ability to achieve this audacious mission to transform the legal experience for all.

It’s something that inspires not just “Clions,” which is our nickname for our employees, but also inspires our customers and inspires our broader integration partners. Because everyone understands that this mission is so deeply important and something that is going to be good for the public.

But it’s also, if we execute on this well, going to help make lawyers more successful. It’s going to help make lawyers feel like they’re truly bridging that access to justice gap that frustrates so many lawyers today.

It’s a big audacious mission. It’s exciting. It’s so multifaceted in terms of how we’re realizing it. But it is something that inspires our team on a daily basis.

Amol Helekar: Absolutely. And you know, some companies simply put a mission statement on their website, but Clio is really embracing yours. So how did you put that mission into practice across your business?

Jack Newton: I think when you arrive at a mission that is truly resonant with your team and you see the impact and inspiration it can drive in your team, you need to make it a part of your daily discourse. And that’s exactly what we’ve done at Clio.

We’re making decisions around how much this helps accelerate our ability to achieve our mission.

I believe that there’s also a huge role in the importance of the mission as it relates to recruiting. There’s an increasingly large percentage of the talent that’s out there today that is not just looking for pay and benefits as the important factors they’re looking at in the company they choose to work for.

We’re able to recruit the best talent on the planet in large part, thanks to a mission that is powerful and resonant. I really can’t understate how important that is to the overall success of a company, especially when you’re thinking in the long-term and thinking about building a multi-decade company.

Amol Helekar: I can tell you’re really passionate about it and how important it is to Clio’s success. You know, some people feel there’s a tradeoff between tackling the mission or driving growth. You’ve seen both tremendous growth and progress against achieving your mission. What’s your secret to achieving that?

Jack Newton: So, yeah, Amol completely agree. I think we’ve been really successful in pursuing both a mission that resonates and driving extraordinary growth and, and rather than being at odds with each other, I think in a lot of ways we’ve actually seen these be in service of one another. What we really talk about is, is our growth is what enables us to have broader impact and to achieve our mission.

The energy needs to go into finding how you can actually build, a bit of a flywheel where the progress you’re seeing on your mission and the team, and customers, and the broader movement that is helping attach to your mission is actually helping drive your overall flywheel of growth.

Amol Helekar: It’s something that Clio has put a lot of effort into and has been able to execute against. You know, over the years you’ve grown tremendously and successfully raised your series D and E rounds. Any advice you’d give to entrepreneurs who are fundraising?

Jack Newton: Yeah, absolutely Amol. One thing is you need to be executing really well and have a long-term vision that you’re talking about with investors and hopefully inspiring them in a way that they want to be part of that story and part of that mission and want to be partners with you in realizing that mission.

If you look at how lawyers practice today in the year 2021. In a lot of ways, it’s not that different from how they were practicing in the year, 1981. And when you’re looking at that scale of transformation, that scale of opportunity, it can be just such a gigantic opportunity that is hard for investors not to get excited about the opportunity.

The second piece, I think that is really exciting about the Clio opportunity in particular, but in general, something entrepreneurs can think about when they’re fundraising is, are you driving the kind of transformation in your industry that will actually expand the TAM of your customers? As a first step, can you expand the TAM of what your customers are able to address?

And with Clio, if we’re successful in our mission, we’re going to allow our customers to address that latent legal market which will vastly expand the TAM of the legal industry. Which in turn will expand our TAM as well. So that’s been one part of our story that I think is, is really powerful and exciting.

But Amol maybe you’re best positioned to comment on, on what attracted you to Clio in particular and what attracts you to companies in general. What advice do you have for other mission-driven founders and entrepreneurs?

Amol Helekar: I think to your point, investors are really recognizing how important it is for companies to have a strong vision and a culture that supports their growth agenda. So being mission-driven is not only great for the broader community. It also leads to stronger company culture, a deeper focus on the product and the customer experience and brand.

And ultimately this is in service of the company’s growth over time and can differentiate it in the market as it has for Clio. My advice to other entrepreneurs is to lean into their company’s mission statement and really incorporate that statement into the company’s products and growth strategies and to consider it central to their culture, rather than at odds with the growth agenda.

Jack Newton: I love that.

Amol Helekar: Jack, thank you. This has been an incredibly educational and inspiring discussion. It was great to have you on Growth Journeys today. And thanks to all of you out there for listening.

Jack Newton: Thanks for having me, Amol. It was a great conversation.

***

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aviatrix’s key product offerings include:

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Mullaney, CEO of Aviatrix

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

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

***

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/.