Episode 2: Ilya Volodarsky and Nicolas Vandenberghe

In our second episode, Gil has an enlightening discussion with two more successful CEOs who each were instrumental in creating massive software categories: Customer Data Platform (CDP) and Revenue Acceleration!

Panelists for this episode include:

  • Ilya Volodarsky – President of Segment and instrumental in creating the CDP category
  • Nicolas Vandenberghe – CEO of Chili Piper and orchestrator of the Revenue Acceleration Platform category

You’ll walk away from this episode learning…

  • How the original idea for Segment was in the education-tech space
  • Why Chili Piper thought their category name should be Buyer Enablement, and
  • How to infuse real humanity into your business while staying focused on growth.

BONUS!

You can also play “six degrees of separation from Guillaume Cabane” to see how he’s a common thread in all of these stories!

TRANSCRIPT

Gil Allouche:
All right. Well, he said it. It’s recorded. When we decided to do it recorded, I was like, “Ah, shit. This is much easier. I didn’t think about it.” Now, I can say whatever I want. Worst case, we can take it out.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Yeah, you can say, “Shit.” You’re the editor, so it’s riskier for us.

Gil Allouche:
Oh, it’s not risky for you either. Let’s start.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
By the way, I don’t know if you guys saw the video that we did with Elena when we’re and also Aram. Our marketing guys said, “Please record something, explain that you’re happy to have the investors.” We were starting positioning ourselves and all that stuff. For some reason, Elena recorded it and then she sent the entire thing. So next thing he showed all the mess that we were doing trying to record. It looked like it was planned but it wasn’t, It was just us saying, “Oh my god.” She actually tell me I look old and sad, is what she said.

Gil Allouche:
Oh my god. That’s hilarious. That is hilarious. You had this in the video?

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Yeah, yeah. Go check it out, you’ll see. Announce that you’re Aram you’ll see.

Gil Allouche:
This is great.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
And I’m like, “I look old and sad? What are you talking about?”

Gil Allouche:
That’s beautiful. I love it. These are the heated conversation.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Yeah.

Gil Allouche:
Before we start, it’s very important, do you all here have your alcoholic beverages with you?

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Yeah.

Ilya Volodarsky:
Let’s fetch it.

Gil Allouche:
All right. Let’s pour some. Nicolas, you seem to be very classy. You’re drinking. What kind of wine is it?

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
It’s Chateauneuf Du Pape. Chateauneuf is wine from the Rhone Valley which goes from Leon to Marsielle.

Gil Allouche:
Very cool.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
If you know what Leon.

Gil Allouche:
Yes, sir I do. Very nice. I remember Leon mostly because of monopoly, because it’s one of the four train stations. But Marsielle I know a bit more intimately.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Yeah. You’re right. Gare de Leon

Gil Allouche:
Gare de Leon. Ilya, what are you drinking?

Ilya Volodarsky:
This is Wild Tonic, Jun Kombucha.

Gil Allouche:
Nice.

Ilya Volodarsky:
The Jun Kombacha made with honey, organic raspberries and goji rose.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Wow.

Gil Allouche:
I love the diversity. I’m just drinking Bulliet here. So not very sophisticated. In a Metadata cup, so cheers. Happy Friday.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Cheers.

Ilya Volodarsky:
Cheers,

Gil Allouche:
Thank you very much for joining me for this one. Let see. Ilya, I know you a few months now because you’re an investor in Metadata and the founder of Segment and those two things are our dream that they happen the same reality. Do you want to maybe introduce yourself briefly?

Ilya Volodarsky:
Sure. Yeah. So I am one of the co-founders of Segment. Backend engineer, studied at MIT with my other co-founder Calvin and met my other co-founder, Peter, who was studying aeronautical engineering at the time. We were actually walking around MIT, the dorms, and I just remember there was these kids wearing capes and costumes and I was like, “Oh my god, I’m not going to be able to make any friends here.” Then I walk, open the door into one of the dorms that I’m looking at and there’s these two shrimpy kids from Seattle that know each other and that are talking. I’m like, “Oh, thank god. Some normals.” Started hanging out with them. We decided to triple together.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
They were not the normals. You were the abnormals, right? They were the abnormals.

Ilya Volodarsky:
Exactly, biostatistics. The three of us decided to live together and we did the computer science thing. Then junior year we learned about startups and got super into startups. Then basically we failed, [inaudible] failed for about two and a half years and then just barely with like $50,000 left in the bank came up with Segment, the idea. Then it took off. We’re a 600 person company now based in San Francisco. Things are going well.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
I’m super curious. What were the original idea you started with? What were you trying to do when you failed for two years?

Ilya Volodarsky:
Yeah, great question. The first one was an educational technology idea. We were at MIT so we didn’t have any industrial experience in any other industry. So education was the only thing we wanted to solve at the time. We knew in YC that one of the founders of YC was Robert Morris, was also our computer science professor. We went to him, he taught us operating systems. We said, “Professor Morris, what do you think we should build?” He’s like, “Do you know what I really want? Is a button under all the student’s desks that they could press if they’re confused or not. Because I’m lecturing computer science and I never know whether students actually understand.”

Ilya Volodarsky:
So we built this thing. It’s not a button but it’s on your laptop. You go to a website. You can ask questions and you can say, “I’m confused” or, “I’m not confused.” Then the professor gets this cardiogram of class understanding, and if it dips they can stop and answer questions.

Gil Allouche:
In realtime he’s getting that information?

Ilya Volodarsky:
Yeah, in realtime. We made a test of this for a 300, 500-person classes in Stanford and MIT. It was just a complete disaster.

Gil Allouche:
How so? Like people did not understand anything? They kept saying like, “Confused as fuck.”

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
I’m thinking, “This is really fun. We can press confused. Look at the space.”

Ilya Volodarsky:
“Let’s confuse the professor.”

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
“Let’s press confuse even more. Look, it’s getting white.”

Gil Allouche:
[inaudible] rush.

Ilya Volodarsky:
No, no. I think it was like a biology lecture and there’s like 300 students in the class. The teacher says, “Everyone, take out classmetric.com.” So all of a sudden, you just see a sea of people that were previously writing on the paper and pen, all of them take out their computers and they open up classmetric. They look at if for about two minutes. They get super uninterested because it’s just basically a I understand/I don’t understand button and a question prompt. Then it’s just a sea of Facebook. The entire 300 Facebook instances open in front of you, we’re just standing in the back of the class head in our hands. Like, “Fuck. We have to give investors back money.”

Gil Allouche:
What a social experiment. That’s very interesting.

Ilya Volodarsky:
Yeah.

Gil Allouche:
Wait, how did you pivot from that to Segment? Now you have to give us the-

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
The story.

Gil Allouche:
Bridge the gap.

Ilya Volodarsky:
Yeah, to finish the story. We raised our seat around there and then we were really having trouble with analytics during the time, while we actually installing. We’re trying to understand how classmetric was performing. So we thought to ourselves, “Mixed analyst confusing, blue analytics is confusing. Why don’t we build our own analytics tool?” It’s the engineers with their heads in the clouds kind of ideation. Our current idea back then was like segmentation was super important. So if we could figure out computer science students versus biology students, they use different feature sets.

Ilya Volodarsky:
And mixed panel didn’t let you do that well. So we basically built a mixed panel on steroids that was all about segmentation. That’s where the name Segment IO comes from. It turns out, people didn’t want that and didn’t need that. We continued building variants and pivots for about two years/

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Did you understand why they don’t want that? Because intuitively it sounds a good idea. I mean, we mixed panel users and I always want to do that segment one way or the other.

Ilya Volodarsky:
Yeah. I think people are generally not very… they don’t understand analytics or how to use them in depth. A lot of startups were using mixed panel [inaudible 00:12:58]. We’re using Google Analytics and still now that I’ve seen thousands of companies, many of them just don’t have analytics set up. The big hurdle is just get yourself base level analytics and we were coming in and saying, “Oh, this base level analytics isn’t good enough. You need this supercharged segmentation engine underneath.” So it was too complex in the early stage startups that we’re selling to.

Ilya Volodarsky:
But, we had this open source library that was hanging around in the background, called Analytics JS that had a nice API to install analytics and then you could enable Google Analytics or Mixed Panel and like 13 other providers really quickly. We were about to run out of money, we realized our idea was terrible and-

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Why did you build that library?

Ilya Volodarsky:
We realized that people weren’t installing analytics tools because it was too difficult. So we’re like, “If we can lower the barrier to analytics entry, then it would be easier for people to adopt our crazy segmentation tool.” You know what I mean?

Gil Allouche:
Like the WordPress plug in your hand with like the snippet that automatically puts all the rest of the snippets in there. So basically, you break it. That’s it, you just installed segments one time, and then you don’t have to ever put any embed code.

Ilya Volodarsky:
Exactly that it was open source exactly that. And that, basically, was way more popular than any of the other shit we were doing and GitHub. So one of my co founders, Ian, he was like, let’s put it on Hacker News and see if you know, it’s an idea. Bro, like this horrible idea. Let’s not do this. He convinced us. We put it on there. And like all of the comments were from developers saying like, I wish I had this in my job, I wish I had this my job. We found our new startup.

Gil Allouche:
That’s amazing. I remember using that WordPress plugin that was built based that free in open source API and thinking, shit. These guys just saved me so many emails to you know, to put more embed codes. And of course, you get all the information in the back end.

Ilya Volodarsky:
Exactly. And so then, literally in two and a half weeks we built like the base of what Segment is today which was like the SaaS company. So you use the same API is open source library, but then you have a nice user interface to turn on and off the data flow and configure and filter it and stuff like that. And we put it up there. And it started growing at about 70 companies signing up week over week. So that became the business.

Gil Allouche:
That’s amazing. Congrats on that. That’s a great story. Wonderful. Nicholas, do you wanna tell us a little bit about yourself and about Chili Piper?

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Yes, of course. So, as you can tell from my gray hair, I’ve done a few things before. I’m not out of the dorm of MIT. I came. I grew up in Marseilles South of France. I just wanted to travel the world. So I moved to college in Paris. I went to Cal Polytechnique where I did math and computer science. Then I went to London to do consulting. And then I thought I want to go to Hong Kong. And the way it happened in that I apply for a bunch of jobs in Hong Kong and couldn’t get a job. Nobody sees you. Who the hell are you? So I thought you know what, I’m going to get an MBA. So an MBA will get me there.

Gil Allouche:
So it’s a great idea.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Yeah an MBA. So I applied they said, “No.” I applied again. They said “No,” again. Then finally if you are persistent, third time Stanford said, “Okay.” So I moved to Stanford thinking, it’s going to be awesome two years in California, and then I move on to Asia. And it was the mid 90s. And two things happen. The first one is three weeks into it, my classmate, Steve Jurvetson, who is now famous from, multiple investments, including anonymous cars company, invited Steve Jobs. And Steve Jobs came, sat on the floor and started complaining. At the time he was running a company called Next. And the joke was, he was going next to nowhere, right?

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Because he really wasn’t working and yet it was so inspiring the guys in the floor and he says, “So which is what they did at Apple and a next reinventing the.” This is so damn cool. This guy is just as an idea, he reinvent the world and then everybody has millions of people doing it. And that day, I thought, jeez, I’m not going anywhere. I’m just going to stay here and become like him, some version of him. So I stayed. I stayed in Silicon Valley and ironically, I did my first startup with the very guy who fired Steve Jobs. So my partner in my first startup was John Sculley.

Gil Allouche:
Yes.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
It just happened that way upon. We did our first company. We grew to 11 million with consumer software and then I thought I’m the only one in San Francisco right now not doing internet literally. I was the only one in San Francisco not doing internet. My neighbors were real estate, bankers they were all, they quit their job they were doing internet and-

Gil Allouche:
What year is this?

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
So by now in ’98. It was unbelievable. We go have dinner and say I just made $500,000. How do you make? Oh, Geo City sold to Yahoo. I was an early investor you know, and it wasn’t it was much bigger amounts. I go in friends say gets a job but some search company. Amazon buy them for $40 million, you make $3 million. So actually, my classmate was the founder of eBay and he hired the another classmate’s wife as an employee number six and next thing she’s worth $60 million. She was the assistant, office assistant.

Gil Allouche:
Ah, those were the days.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
That’s right. So I figure I’m in the wrong business you know. Here I am building revenues in consumer software. So I quit and I did an internet company. And it worked out beautifully almost. So beautifully that I got an offer about a year into it for $65 million. And I had 3/4 of the company and the almost is that the deal didn’t gross. And then there was a dot Bombay, as you may have heard of everything collapse. And in the end, a struggle to sell to Microsoft. So then I did another company in biometrics that worked well. And then I started, should become a VC, because I thought that’s what entrepreneurs do when they grew up. Look, I heard that Ilya invested right. So that’s kind of what you think you do now. Let the other ones do the work. I just get my money to work for me.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
And that wasn’t for me. So that’s the background. And I did different things. And a few years back I helped a friend of mine run a sales team for a telecom company. It was a big telecom company. Actually a small with a lot of funding, and put all my sales reps on SalesForce. And they were complaining. “This is horrible.” There was a guy who say, “You know, I’ve my own way to do things. It’s working fine. I don’t need SalesForce. I said, “What is your one way to do things?” He said, “Come to my office.” And he had a big whiteboard actually and he would write his opportunities on the whiteboard and it was easy to update. You erase it. You write a new stage.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
So I thought, okay, this world’s going to change like, Salesforce was designed, in the late 90s. I was there when it was done, these four things are going to change. So I started with a thesis, that this whole thing is going to change. And that’s how we started. I’m going to skip an episode of that thing, because otherwise it would take too long. But bottom line is that some stage we thought okay, where do we start? And we found a company and said, “I have a problem. Our prospecting team takes too much time to book meetings with their account executives. They’re too Round Robin. They cheat. They give to their friends.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
And at the time, the company when we started Elena, was my wife, was my co-founder. And she had a super successful career as a product designer. So she designed the first iPad app that Steve Jobs demoed on stage when he announced the iPad as a news app. So I said, “Okay, let’s get started with that.” Elena said, “You’re out of your mind. I didn’t quit.” At the time she was at Pearson. “I didn’t quit my job managing 300 people and $100 budget to do a round robin application for salespeople. This is ridiculous.” She said, “We’re startups, right?” You have to start somewhere.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
She said, “Ilya, you have to exist first. That’s the first condition.” So we did it. It worked well. A lot of people needed that little problem. We signed customers and then we got serious about what is it we need to do to disrupt the sales tech business. And that’s when we came up with the inbound solution. So what happened is that we’re talking to companies. We’re doing the handoff, and we encountered a species called the inbound SDR. So actually, I’m glad Ilya is here because Segment is part of the story. So we said, “What is your job? You have inbound SDR.”

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
And they say, “Well, so some people come to websites. Marketing spends a lot of money to build a website. They submit the form that they interested in having a meeting. My job is to call them and schedule a meeting.” All right, that’s the job. And, “How are you doing?” “I’m doing great. I’m converting at 40%. And people tell me we’re doing awesome. We’re converting a 40%.” So I said, “You mean to tell me that 100 people asked for a meeting and 60 of them didn’t get it?”

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
But for some reason that seems acceptable, because they were comparing to outbound way where 98 people don’t get the meeting, right? You get a 2% conversion rates. So we thought we’re going to fix that problem. And that’s what we said, we’re going to change the way inbound is done. And we you can build an application that upon form submission in realtime qualifies route and book meetings. And ironically, the first person to bite was Guillaume when he was at Segment.

Gil Allouche:
Guillaume Cabane.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Guillaume Cabane, that’s right. And he observed some-

Ilya Volodarsky:
Guillaume started some big companies. We believe in them right?

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Right. Exactly. So he said, “I don’t need you because I can do my own the routing,” and then I become a link. I say, “Well, can you do that in realtime to the right rep and boom, the right calendar?” He said, “No.” I said, “All right, let’s try it.” And Guillaume said, “Okay.” Segment style, all data driven AB test. Summer 2017, half the traffic at Segment is going traditional way. Half the traffic is going through what we call concierge, the concierge for the website. And Guillaume left, but the result came And it was 71% increase in conversion rates. So that got us in business. And then we started rethinking about all the processes on the inbound, and how we can improve that. And that’s where we are now.

Gil Allouche:
That’s beautiful story. And you know, that’s funny, because I actually know part of that story from Guillaume, very small part of it, but it does-

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
So he tells it differently, right? I’m sure he say that he called me to do it because he thought of it. I don’t know.

Gil Allouche:
We all know the story.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Different parties and different views on what happened.

Gil Allouche:
Yeah, it is interesting to hear from the same side. Ilya.

Ilya Volodarsky:
It’s cool, because Guillaume, he’s just such an amazing like multiplicative force in marketing technology. Like I feel like I’ve heard many variants of this story. Like we even have another one at Segment. So Guillaume was working at Segment as the VP of Growth in 2016. And he was running the growth team. I was doing something else. And it was a hackathon. And so he was like busily working on some whiteboards. I sat down next to him. And I asked him. I’m like, “What are you working on?” He’s like, “Well, I’m struggling because I don’t have a database of … basically, there’s users doing stuff. But it turns out that you have to group them under accounts. And if you group them under accounts, the more like users in a specific account are doing something, the higher their intense score,. And the higher the intent score them like the differently that we want to do marketing towards them. And there’s no easy database that can do this kind of like user account grouping.”

Ilya Volodarsky:
And so from that, I was like, “Oh, I can help with that. Like I’m an engineer.” and so that hackathon we built like a very simple thing that takes the segment data, and takes users, combines them into accounts and then gives you an intense score. And literally a year and a half later, that became the personas product of Segment, which is now basically like a quarter of our revenue, which is insane.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Amazing.

Ilya Volodarsky:
So just like these ideas.

Gil Allouche:
How many products behind Guillaume Cabane’s collaboration? Gentlemen, before we continue anything else, I would like to ask you to pour more drink and, and have another cheer with me. And then we’re going to go into the category creation podcast because we do want to talk a little bit about category creation. You bought the create categories? You preempted. I created two drinks before this conversation started. Cheers,

Ilya Volodarsky:
Cheers.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Cheers.

Gil Allouche:
Okay. I would love to hear from maybe Ilya. Maybe you can start. I remember when I talked to you about it earlier this week for the podcast. You mentioned a little bit about the story of changing a product or updating a product while a new category is being created. So let’s not fast forward too fast. But my question to you, what was the moment when you decided Segment is going to be a different category? I’m going to work on shifting us, one of that moment. And how did that look like?

Ilya Volodarsky:
Yeah. So Segment, the entire existence had a very different sales cycle than anything else in Martech. There’s very clear categories of marketing technology, right? There’s you sort of product, you’re add a product analytics tool, a web analytics tool, AB testing tool, a marketing automation tool, and there’s like 12, or 13 of these standard categories that people get. And there’s always like new. Every two or three years there’s a new player in data warehousing and others. There’s Redshift, then there was BigQuery and now it’s Snowflake. So every two or three years, a new entrant comes in.

Ilya Volodarsky:
Then we would come into a company and we’d say, “Look, it turns out that you’re actually switching these tools every two or three years based off of a new entrant that comes in, or when you hire a new person.” If you actually look at three or four years of a company’s lifecycle, their stack, their analytic stack will just be like changing completely and drastically. It’s usually based off of new hires. It’s less so like the company is using mix panel. It’s more, the company hired a head of analytics that wants to use mix panel. Two or three years later, they’ll hire someone else that wants to use amplitude and they’ll want to switch.

Ilya Volodarsky:
We said that instead of using these tools in the specific categories because they switch so frequently, instead, you should have a lower infrastructure layer that would be able to hold your data and give you faster agility as new people would come in, right. So all of that turned out to be true. But basically developers, and architects understood it very early on, because they thought, oh, whoever wires your company, we’ve had this type of thing happening all the time, we want this layer, because they can kind of see the future, right. You still have to create a new budget area for this type of thing. People didn’t have that in 2013.

Ilya Volodarsky:
So all of our customers were like YC startups. Eventually it was a slightly larger company, a larger company, and eventually we’re selling to Fox and Nike and these much larger companies. Over time, a category started being created which turned out to be customer data platform. What’s weird about customer data platform is that started basically picking up the actual subcategories that it should really power, but not be read. Some analysts thought that the customer data platform should have an analytics piece to it. Some of them thought it should have an email piece to it. And we’re like, “No, it shouldn’t have analytics and email built into it, because there’s an entire category read that is specifically targeted toward that.”

Ilya Volodarsky:
Around 2016, we said we’re going to be customer data infrastructure. We’re going to be customer data platform, because customer data platform is going in the direction of becoming a suite. We think suites are bad in Martech. We’d rather have just an infrastructure layer with a bunch of best in class tools on top of it. It turned out that CDP actually was fairly malleable in that the people buying CDP and analysts that were thinking about CDP weren’t sure what CDP was, right? We actually had the largest user base of what CDP would become, as the company that started this.

Gil Allouche:
So you’re creating a category.

Ilya Volodarsky:
Yeah, basically.

Gil Allouche:
And then the characteristics for that category did not include you. It included some characteristics, some attributes you don’t even want.

Ilya Volodarsky:
Yeah exactly.

Gil Allouche:
So what’d you do?

Ilya Volodarsky:
We call ourselves customer data infrastructure. What was funny about that was that the market didn’t listen to us. They would call us and our salespeople would try to explain to them we’re customer data infrastructure, and here’s why it’s different. They’re like, “Yeah, but you do all this stuff that a customer data platform does and what we need, so we’re just going to keep considering you.”

Ilya Volodarsky:
Two years ago, we were like why are we fighting this? Why are we creating a headwind for ourselves? We can have a tailwind instead. We decided to just be customer data platform adopted and the shaped the industry through our customer use cases. That’s where we’re at now, and it’s definitely much simpler, let’s say. It’s definitely what I would recommend to listeners.

Gil Allouche:
[crosstalk] customers.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
It’s an amazing story. Yeah, because you would think that the customer data platform, the key part is the warehouse, or data lake, and analytics. But you’ve been able to make this little piece of it, and you’re the center of it. My Marketing Team a month ago came to me and say, “We need a customer data platform.” And we always write decision memos. Whenever there’s decisions to be made, we write to this memo. So I wrote the memo and Segment was all over it. It’s synonymous with the customer data platform. There was this little thing somewhere in the end. Maybe we should use Redshift or Snowflake like an unimportant piece. The important pieces that there was segments. You’ve really managed to get all the mind share around your product for this new category.

Ilya Volodarsky:
Yeah, super appreciate that. I think a big piece of it is like helping and educating customers about what the category means. And what are the tools that you have to add on top of a customer data platform and having recommendations and stuff like that. The advisory role is something that our sales and support people have to really take on.

Gil Allouche:
You brought up something very interesting, Nicholas, which is that your team basically had a synonym of CDP and Segment at the same time. Whenever they mentioned CDP, they really meant Segment. What was that moment that, maybe for you, Nicolas, what was that moment that you felt like you achieved? Because you also created a category. Chili Piper and it’s very familiar. Chili Piper is in… You can go into historical functionality which is scheduling, and then all the way to the qualifying, removing the forms during the whole, in the customer journey getting halfway into the customer journey all the way to the AE, starting an opportunity.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Yeah so, me the opposite of Ilya, actually. Is like the category was already there. I just had to come and own it. It was a bit delusional frankly, the moment when we finish this AB test to Segment and Guillaume. Guillaume left, but AB test was still there. I thought this is amazing. This is a new category. That immediately, okay, we’ve invented a new category, because nobody can continue doing inbound the old way. We’re the new way, converse. So yes, it was 61% but everywhere else is plus 100%. So I just thought everybody’s going to sign a budget and have a new way to do things. In our space, connected space, there’s sales engagement and where sales, loft and outreach are leading that category.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
And I saw how they did it. They came in with a new quality form factor, which is a different way to meet the goal in a new form factor. There’s more effective. What both forget that before says outreach, it became successful, there was two companies called Tar Tap and YesWare. At the time were superheroes. People loved them, especially Tar Tap, right.

Gil Allouche:
Tar Tap become Marketo, right, eventually?

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Tar Tap almost went under and got picked up by Marketo. Yes, they got crushed by [inaudible 00:34:02]. Both of them got the least of customers from Tar Tap and went after them and decimated Tar Tap. The reason why that they the better solution for the same use case, right? Use case is prospecting. Tar tap had at a nice template with who’s open my email. [Inaudible] Frederick says that’s cute. But let’s have a cadence to do that. And open my email is a little part of it. We can multi touch and…

Gil Allouche:
Yeah, we had Manuel here talking about that in the last podcast. Exactly. He was mentioning how they were focusing on the workflows, exactly what you just said. The way you perceive the differentiation is exactly the way he was pushing for it.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
I observe it and frankly, it was a narrative and this [inaudible] and narrative of these two companies, because they came up with a lot of face behind their new approach and educated the market and then took over. When our inbound stuff happened, and for me, [inaudible] was the proper way to do outbound, to do prospecting and not anything else.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
So I thought, okay, we have the same thing for inbound. So we’re going to… I don’t know if we should… we’ve played around with what to call it. Now it’s more like inbound revenue acceleration because engagement isn’t still the good job that engagement is associated with cadences. So here I am thinking, okay, great. I remember going back to Elena, when I got that email from Segment saying, “Okay, this is it. We are going to be famous.” Maybe not famous, but we have it. This is a new category. We’re helping people double their pipeline. Whatever we’re going to call it.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
That didn’t happen. People didn’t pick up on it. I’m not sure whether we did a poor job or whether the market wasn’t ready. We had to convince people one after the other that the way to do things were the right thing. They may have to redeploy the SDR and so on. And in a weird way, now it’s 2020, now everybody thinks to take it for granted, Right? Now the category has become. People say oh yeah, we’ll use Chili Pipe. Chile Piper has become synonymous with this new way to do inbound. Right? So it’s how you process your inbound is synonymous with Chili Piper.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
We don’t have the same fortune that is a real name that category. We hope that somebody is going to do it. Right now we call it inbound revenue acceleration. We hope that this will stick. But there’s no question that this new way of assigning budget to the problem and getting Chili Piper is happening, right. So we’ve grown substantially. We have a lot of inbound people come to us and they are ready for that. It has been a bit more laborious, I would say.

Gil Allouche:
Nicolas, as you mentioned that you hope that the name is going to be what? What did you say inbound?

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Revenue acceleration, inbound revenue exhilaration.

Gil Allouche:
Inbound revenue acceleration, So you’re hoping for this to happen. What kind of process are you going through to try to define it, try to influence it if at all?

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
We ar. We are trying to define it. We’re publishing all sorts of articles. We’re reaching out to analysts. We’re publishing case studies. We’re putting out in effect, we putting out a lot of content on it.

Gil Allouche:
How do you measure it?

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
So we measure with the usual thing. We look at the engagement of this content. We look at our ranking on search. So people are looking for inbound and do they find us? I guess you could argue that that little what do you call that card on the Google search?

Gil Allouche:
The alerts or the trends?

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
No, not trends. Even on Google search they have this little card at the top that is the answer. So that’s one day if somebody gets to a point and say inbound revenue acceleration they get the cheap is definition of it. That would be the day where we’ve made it, but we’re not there yet.

Gil Allouche:
Sometimes Wikipedia and people pay some consultant to do a Wikipedia page, but I see what you’re saying.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
That’s what we’re doing. We’re putting a lot of content and we’re starting to talk to analysts but that’s a long process.

Gil Allouche:
Ilya, what was your moment when you’re… Go ahead.

Ilya Volodarsky:
Oh, I was just going to say we’re happy customers of Chili Piper. And I honestly can’t. I can’t believe that once upon a time, we didn’t have that capability. So yeah, right now when people sign up, we do some lead scoring and if they’re a high enough lead that we calendar them immediately and that drastically has increased the amount of meetings we’re having. It’s like, how can that not exist?

Gil Allouche:
[crosstalk] We’re also a happy customer.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Segment imitated our customer because look, we are all reciprocal customers, right? We use metadata.

Gil Allouche:
It’s not completely coincidental that the three of us are having this call. You’re happy to join on this podcast. But yes, we are customers of each other. I mean, I was a Chili Piper customer though years ago, before any of that happened. So you can consider that to be a very authentic.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Which company were you with?

Gil Allouche:
No, I mean, I was. We are already for five years that Metadata exists, we’re Chili Piper customer for years. I think when Logan, when my first SDR came through, he told me I’m buying Chili Piper, okay, because it’s going to significantly simplify my job scheduling any demos. I said, “Great, sounds good. The pricing seemed very fair.” And I saw the difference in conversion. It was very easy. That’s why even now a month ago and we’re running a new campaign, Jason just ran a campaign with Chili Piper, conversational ads, where there is no person in the middle. It’s bots doing the chat. Prospecting. Sends the gift, and then they move into a Chili Piper league. It’s really nice.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Really cool.

Gil Allouche:
I’m a big fan of it.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Thank you.

Gil Allouche:
Yeah. Ilya, tell us about the moments where you were, I don’t know home or in the office, and you saw some piece of news or an email, you said, “Shit, I think we are in the category. I think we’re like leading these fucking category right now.” Which is a special moment just to put it out. That’s kind of the dream of probably most of our listener. On behalf of the entrepreneurs out there to be at that position.

Ilya Volodarsky:
Yeah, so I don’t know if we had a singular moment. We created customer data infrastructure before the word customer data platform was said. I think customer data platform came out in various forums that I saw. There’s the CDP Institute. That came out way before there was a category in like Gartner and Forrester in the standard analysts. So I think it trickled, you know? It’s like, oh, someone’s calling this something like us, customer data platform when we were calling ourselves customer data infrastructure.

Ilya Volodarsky:
So it’s like some player in the category starts saying some word, and then someone else starts saying another word. Then people pick their favorite word. Once enough people say it in the media, and in specialty publications in the industry, then eventually the favorite word-

Gil Allouche:
Were you tracking it? Were you tracking on Google Alerts? I remember when, shit I forgot who it was, I don’t remember which entrepreneur it was. They had a particular… I think it was Nick Mattid that was mentioning that customer success became such a… The trend went up so much for that and SDR is probably the same. Maybe for Nicolas, maybe for many from Outreach.

Gil Allouche:
Do you have something that you track? You met your KPI or your goal, or maybe exceeded it?

Ilya Volodarsky:
So I think we actually got that capability fairly recently, where there’s actually firms that will go out. They’ll ask companies, “Have you heard of customer data platform? If so, what is it? If you’re looking for one, what are the vendors that you’ve considered?” And then they’ll basically mark… They’ll make a sheet and a bar graph. They’ll mark people say, “Oh, yeah. Segment. I don’t know any other ones.” Or they’ll say, “Segment and I heard SalesForce and Adobe are doing something as well, right?”

Ilya Volodarsky:
Then they can arrange them in terms of strength. I think I saw that for the first time two years ago. It just completely blew my mind, because I had no idea that type of thing existed. But yeah, we do that every year now. And we have a brand team that’s one of their KPIs is basically increasing brand awareness, because it’s apparently measurable in that way. So it’s super cool.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
What were the other companies in your space that were using similar terms on what to do?

Ilya Volodarsky:
There’s a lot of them. So we had a few direct competitors in particle, then there’s the tag managers, like Tealium and Ensighten. They were completely tag managers, but then they pivoted tp basically call themselves a customer data platform. Then there’s also like tools that email marketing tools that wanted a larger piece of the pie. They, without really changing to products, started calling themselves customer data platform.

Gil Allouche:
Who are you referring to?

Ilya Volodarsky:
Huh?

Gil Allouche:
Which companies are you referring to?

Ilya Volodarsky:
I’d rather not say, but basically, it just like becomes like this mass, master basic clusterfuck where like everyone is now a customer data platform.

Gil Allouche:
Yes, we see that. It’s happening a few categories, let me tell you. But I can identify. That’s interesting.

Ilya Volodarsky:
So what about you do you, Gil? What about your category?

Gil Allouche:
Oh, my God.

Ilya Volodarsky:
Are we allowed to ask you questions?

Gil Allouche:
You’re allowed to ask anything you want.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
I was telling you earlier. When your marketing team recommended, we buy Metadata. They put you in the same category of account-based marketing. But to me, your capabilities are so different from what the other guys do, that look, I’m all for buying Metadata because it makes sense to me. As for the other ones, I’m a lot less sure. So how did you get bundle? Are you happy with that bundle category? Or do you want to create a new one?

Gil Allouche:
Full disclaimer, I didn’t pay you to ask this question so perfectly. To build to this segue where I can explain exactly the difference.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
If you want to pay me, I’m okay also.

Gil Allouche:
It’s just that bottle of wine. If you didn’t get it for free, then we did something wrong. This is it. This is how it happened. I started Metadata because I was a frustrated marketer. I was a software engineer that clearly saw that this can be solved, the whole, let’s build a predictable inbound using a very particular list of target account that we’re using. That particular use case was clear, and it worked. When I started Metadata, I wanted to just automate it. I understand it works, but I didn’t want to do the work to constantly make it produce results. That’s why I started metadata.

Gil Allouche:
And you’re right, that what we did as a company, because we were startup, we needed to exist. You said it, Ilya said it. “You’re just surviving in the first few years.” So we looked at companies like Terminus and Demand Base and Engage You. And they spent so much money on this thing called e-commerce marketing. They told everyone is the most important thing to do. So we said, “Great, it is very important to do. Let’s jump on that particular education bandwagon. It’s all already happening.” And we said, “We’re going to execute it the best. We’re going to do e-commerce marketing in the most successful way because we’re going to use this process of experimentation, very accurate targeting, to understand how to create that predictable outcome.”

Gil Allouche:
That’s how we got in. That’s how anyone even knows about us because marketers know that this tool, which belongs to this ABM category seems like, can generate actual pipeline. Now, that’s just a bandwagon. We needed to get… That was our open source tag manager for Ilya. That was something the worst marketers wanted. It works well. We can build a business on it. Now we tell the biggest story of well look, ABM is just one use case. Exactly how you define it, Nicholas. That’s exactly how we see it. It’s just one use case. If you use experimentation, and accurate targeting works best. But you can also do sales acceleration, demand generation, brand awareness, similar campaigns, similar programs, but use the same methodology.

Gil Allouche:
So we’re trying to now lean into that and invent it, but we’re trying to do it in a very delicate manner. I should thank, Mark Oregon, who is my coach for that. We don’t want to define or write down who we are in our words, because what the fuck do we know? We’re in a small room, executives talking to another or we’re talking to analysts. It’s very limited. It’s like coming up with a great program in a closed room. The likelihood of the best idea to come out of it is very small, in my opinion. Much better to democratize it.

Gil Allouche:
So what we did is we started running a lot of cab, and analyst conversations and win/loss analysis, to really understand what customers perceive us to be. That’s how we’re trying to build it.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
So someday, you may no longer be ABM then, sounds like.

Gil Allouche:
Yes. Someday we may not longer be, especially if companies [crosstalk 00:47:39].

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
You wish for the day to be soon.

Gil Allouche:
You know, I’m letting this day happen. It’s when you are asking question like that. You look, I bought Metadata, I thought it made sense. They really understand the rest of the players that you are comparing yourself with. To me this is it. These are moments of proof or validation, that we don’t really belong there. We need to redefine it, and you’re helping us do it.

Ilya Volodarsky:
I think one of the things you said is so important, which is letting customers and the ecosystem talk for you instead of sitting in a small room trying to find out what it should be called. I think that’s almost like a variant of the mistake that we made early on. I do think it’s important to talk about the benefit of if there was a budget carve-out for something, why that would be a wise decision for a company to make. Why they should make some space to buy that specific piece of software. I think your general marketing can do that. You don’t need to. It’s best if you just yell what your customers are yelling, instead of yelling some crazy thing you made up yourself.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Ilya, you said your brand team is actually actively monitoring the level of awareness around CDP. What do they do to foster that awareness?

Ilya Volodarsky:
Ah, well, we have analyst relations, a team that does that. We work with Forrester and Gartner and entities like that. We have relationships with analysts. We talk about what our public case studies are doing. Then we organize conferences where we basically elevate the case studies where we’re just talking about, which is super important. Then we also hire a brand awareness consultancy that basically runs these surveys. I don’t actually know what the name of it is, but there’s… Coca Cola and Pepsi, they do this stuff for years, right? Because they try to understand in different geographies, how people think about them.

Gil Allouche:
Hey, Nicholas, tell me about a moment in your pursuit of category dominance that was one of your biggest hashtag fails.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Sales.

Gil Allouche:
Hashtag fail, a moment where you did not succeed in a tactic or, or something that was just not successful in the category creation. Something that you definitely remember.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
It’s funny you asked this question, because I have a beautiful one. So when we started, as I said, immediately I thought this product is going to be a category. It’s just a new way to do something very important, better. We thought of it. What is different with Chili Piper? I said, “Well it’s a much better buyer experience, right?” The buyer comes. So think before Chili Piper, the buyer comes. Submit a form. They thank you. Somebody’s going to call you. I wonder who’s going to call me and when, right? You have no idea. It may or may not happen.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
So now the buyer submit a form in realtime is served a calendar and now even phone. We can even connect by phone and get satis fication in realtime. So we say it’s all about buyer experience. So we went to companies and we marketed around buyer experience. We call ourself a buyer enablement company. We say the category we’re enabling is buyer enablement. We went buyer enablement, buyer enablement and nobody gave a shit. Nobody gave a shit. It was unbelievable. We’d go to companies and say, we’re going to get a better buyer experience. They say, “Yeah, do I get more money from that? Do I get more leads for that?” Nobody gave a shit about buyer enablement. Oh, you guys have buyer enablement. What the hell is that? And you know it took a long time for us to give up buyer enablement because it seems so right intellectually, and yet it’s so wrong marketing-wise.

Gil Allouche:
That’s painful. How long did it take you?

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
A couple of years. For a couple years we stuck with buyer enablement. You have to care about your buyer. You want to give them a good experience, but the truth is nobody cares about the good experience their buyers. I’ll tell you the truth. Now that I think of it. If you tell me Nicolas, you can give your buyer a good experience and get X or give them a shitty experience and get 2X in revenues, I’ll go 2X right? They’ll forgive me for that shitty experience if I give them two times the revenues. So anyway, that’s what happened. We hired a CMO and he said, “How about we drop that buyer enablement shit?”

Gil Allouche:
Nice.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
He sound to me like a wise man.

Gil Allouche:
That is a great story. What about yours, Ilya? Tell us about your hashtag fail moment.

Ilya Volodarsky:
I think we once called it an analytics abstraction layer, which was just the worst name ever.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Abstraction.

Ilya Volodarsky:
Analytics abstraction layer, when we’re selling to developers and they love abstractions. This is like maybe ten days into the entire project. That’s pretty bad.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
That’s an awesome one.

Gil Allouche:
Was there any like any anything? Since you’re a bigger company, you got to give us a much juicier story. Was there no time where you basically lik your heart went up? You did not sleep at night. Shit, I think we fucked up with this one.

Ilya Volodarsky:
Are you talking about only categories?

Gil Allouche:
I mean, mostly categories. But if you want to go outside of it, feel free to.

Ilya Volodarsky:
I think it’s the customer data infrastructure story. I think like we basically… Imagine you have 30 sales reps that are trying to convince people that we’re not a CDP/ That we’re a CDI and they’re like, what’s the difference? So we’re like, it’s a technical thing. That’s a pretty big and probably pretty costly fail so.

Gil Allouche:
Fair enough.

Ilya Volodarsky:
That’s what I think of it as.

Gil Allouche:
You must have gotten some fire from that so fair enough. That’s cool. How do you know that you should be pursuing this to begin with? Category creation is one of those concepts that are being a little bit overused or becoming a cliche. Every company is a category creator. Every category creator is a category dominator. It could be the case, right? How do you know that the company you’re currently building as much as you love it, and it’s doing something amazing, should or should not be a category creator or a new category and just join an existing play?

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
I think the concept of a category is an amplifier. If you look at Segment, it’s an amplifier of their brand. It’s an amplifier of their marketing. So if my marketing team had written a decision memo, we should do Segment, that come across this bias, right? Why did they like this particular vendor? If they write a memo, which they did, we need a customer data platform. What they mean is we should buy Segment, it comes across as a much bigger project and much more viable. So it amplify their brand. I think that’s, the reason I want to name a category is because you’re going to be much more aspirational. You can’t aspire to buy Segment. That’s not aspirational. Being a customer data platform, right, has platform, has customer data. That’s aspirational.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
So that’s why, in my view, naming the category matters. As I was pointing out, I do believe that you can actually be creating a category that isn’t named yet. I would venture to say that’s where we are right now with Chili Piper. It’s not clear that words name, but it’s already there. People know they need to do something with their inbound and so they come to us. Once we get that amplification, if we get to the level of a Segment is where analysts refer to it as outreach. Where it’s actually the category is not only in existence, because there are not dollars assigned to Chili Piper for this problem, but also named and recognized as such. Then it becomes aspirational and it boosts your marketing dollars.

Gil Allouche:
So for capitalistic reasons of increasing revenue and brand awareness for sure. Category creation, super important. What about customer confusion? Do you ever get into the situation, either Ilya or Nicolas, where customers are comparing you to a company you do not want to be compared with? Not because you don’t want to compete with them, just because you don’t really feel like it’s apples to apples. It’s completely different.

Ilya Volodarsky:
I think it’s unwise to create a category for the sake of creating a category. I think if there’s already a person, a buyer at another company in a specific role that has worked at another company that has bought this piece of software before that accomplishes 70% of the same type of customer problem, then you should just be in that category and try to be the winner of the category by differentiating on whatever customers care about. If you are building something, like when I think of chili Piper, I don’t know of any other alternative other than Chili Piper for that specific thing. I think my alternative, if Chili Piper didn’t exist would be to build that myself, right? Or to have an engineering team at Segment build that themselves.

Ilya Volodarsky:
So when Chili Piper comes around, that is a new category because it’s a new budget item. Maybe in the future I can imagine a completely different SDR inbound flow that is even larger than what Chili Piper is today and Chili Piper owning that, right? That’s the full inbound experience lead company.

Ilya Volodarsky:
For Segment, it’s a similar thing. When we would come to businesses, they’re like, are you an analytics tool? We’re like, no. We have no graphs. Are you a data warehouse? No, you can’t query us. So, what are you? Well, we’re a customer data platform. We help you get customer data and transport it into the higher levels and enable other categories. Because of that we didn’t know where to fit you, that’s a good time for a company to create that. Like Snowflake, then go and say we’re like a data ponds. They’re a data warehouse. They compete with Redshift and BigQuery. They have better technology. People that are buying data warehouses just know. They look at all their options, and they pick the best thing.

Ilya Volodarsky:
So I think it’s a miss to basically like, spend a bunch of effort creating another category when one already exists, and you can just differentiate with it.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Yeah, I completely agree with that. I call that market making versus market switching. If people already have a budget, and you just want to switch that budget from Redshift to Snowflake, it’s actually easier. So you should do that.

Ilya Volodarsky:
Exactly.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
If you need to be market making, then that’s what you do.

Gil Allouche:
It is prices, long term investment for the category creation. I think Manny mentioned four to six years or maybe Mark mentioned three to four years to get some ROI for it.

Ilya Volodarsky:
Exactly.

Gil Allouche:
Very interesting. Hey, let’s switch for a second. You were asking category creation or general? Let’s go general for a second. Nicholas, tell us something about you that you do not share usually. Let’s assume it’s just between the four of us, the three of us, sorry. But, of course, it’s not between three of us. But imagine something that is not usually your Sastre or your I don’t know, TechCrunch event you share on the couch, but something that a little bit more intimate is interesting about you.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Okay, something I don’t share, usually. But if you pay attention to what we do you notice. I have these big beliefs that we all are brother and sisters all over the world. So we’re all citizens of the world. I pay my payroll tax in Brooklyn. I pay some money for employment. I always think, why are we paying employment for New York State? I care as much for somebody in Lebanon or in [inaudible] who’s employed. Why does it only got to the local thing?

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
I’ve got this vision that it don’t make sense. If we’re going to contribute to employment, it should be worldwide, right? So at Chili Piper, we went on a microlevel to that belief where we hire people everywhere in the world. We are 60 people right now. We’re catching up with Segment. We’re not there yet, 60 to 600. We are 60 people in 55 cities in 20 countries.

Gil Allouche:
Nice.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
We’re all part of the same team. We all belong and when we get together. Last year we got together in [inaudible] and got all these people together. It was just unbelievable. Bulgarian, the software developer making friend who is an account executive from Denver,

Gil Allouche:
That’s beautiful.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
So it’s actually a hidden agenda Chili Piper to teach the world.

Gil Allouche:
World Peace.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Yes.

Gil Allouche:
You’re a hippy.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
We want brotherhood. Yeah, I’m a hippy. I don’t have my peace and love t-shirt, but I’ll show it next time.

Gil Allouche:
Beautiful. [inaudible] What about you, Ilya? Tell us something about you that no one else knows. I don’t think you’re a hippy. Maybe more of a hipster based on the compulsion.

Ilya Volodarsky:
Well, I have a very eccentric musical taste. I can tell you about that. I used to code a lot. And I like music that pumps me up and continue coding late into the night. There’s this artist called Andrew WK, who is my favorite of all time. If you know him, you’re instantly gonna think I’m crazy. He has a very inspirational message. There’s this really amazing conspiracy about him, where people think that… He’s been around for 20 years, but people think that he’s actually just a role being played by various people. Meaning if you go to one of his concerts and go to another, it might not actually be the same person playing.

Ilya Volodarsky:
What I think is basically that he, at the beginning of his career, wanted to create a role like that, and convince people that he is not himself, but there’s only actually one person. He created the conspiracy ahead of time. Just as like a mind experiment to mess with people. There’s basically like investigative reports on this guy. He’s not super popular, but if you read about it, if you have 10 hours to read about it, you’ll really enjoy yourself.

Gil Allouche:
Very interesting. A conspiracy theory about a musician. It’s like a combination between this guy from Bitcoin that no one knows about. This guy has multiple personalities. That’s cool, very interesting. First of all, let’s cheers to that.

Ilya Volodarsky:
Cheers.

Gil Allouche:
That was interesting stories. Thank you.

Ilya Volodarsky:
Thank you, guys.

Gil Allouche:
Nicolas, I love your story about diversity from all around the world. I personally agree with it. We are all brothers and sisters, completely unrelated.

Gil Allouche:
We have seven minutes left for the podcast. And we have, I don’t know how many people are going to download it. Most of them are going to be CEOs, founders and CMOS, who are trying to create a category. Last episode we had really interesting insights like Manny from Outreach saying that they increased the price by 3X to differentiate the category. I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Well, we 3X our price and on every sales call the people will say, what the fuck? What do I have to pay 3X what the industry price is for a sales maintenance tool? He says, ah, let me tell you because we do workflows.”

Gil Allouche:
That was a very interesting insight to me. I know that, for example, for HubSpot, they had a certification program for inbound that was insane. It was so successful that and their tool to rank your site, those two things just created hundreds of thousands of inbound for them. That created a synonym between inbound In HubSpot.

Gil Allouche:
Nicolas and Ilya, tell me and tell us, the one secret, really a secret not like a fake secret that I can Google and find in any VC or entrepreneur blog. A true secret that got you to where you are, that got you a big progress in category creation, in mass adoption, in creating a synonym between you and inbound, between you and CDP. Tell us a secret.

Ilya Volodarsky:
Well, for us, it’s been probably open source. So since the very beginning, we would spend the day coding Segment. Then we would take some of the work that we created, and we would put it on GitHub as open source. We, at one point, there’s like these GitHub rankings. I remember, like 2015, 2016, it was like three or four companies in the entire world that had more open source than Segment. We were like number four or five. My co-founders, Calvin and Ian, they deeply believe that basically open source is kind of a core tenant to Segment. We would be able to access a new and improved level of talent that wasn’t engineering talent, that wouldn’t be available to companies of our size.

Ilya Volodarsky:
It was a lot of effort. We did it. And then three or four years later, I would be going interviewing engineers. They would be like, I’ve known of Segment all the time. I don’t even know what you guys do, but I’ve always known I wanted to work for you. It’s like, wow, really? What? You want to work at an analytics company, right? And they’re like, yeah, we do. We’ve been following everything you guys are doing.

Ilya Volodarsky:
I think open source is just like this huge lever that allowed us to access a better level of engineer which allowed us to build better infrastructure, deliver a better product to the customer. So that’s kind of been one of our big secrets.

Gil Allouche:
You captured the hearts and minds of this really good unicorn talent. How many times does this happen to you, when you realize that this was really a big factor?

Ilya Volodarsky:
It’s maybe like 50, or 60% of engineers now. They come into our interview rooms. “We’ve known about Segment for a long time.” Now it’s easier because the company is larger, but three or four years ago, some of the best SREs from Google and stuff like normally, companies and Martech would not be able to access these people and we were able to. It was really cool.

Gil Allouche:
That is very cool. That’s a good insight. Thank you for that. Nicholas, what about you?

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
I’m going to give two; a secret and an anti-secret. The secret is something we did on purpose. When we launched we mostly bootstrapped. We didn’t have resources. It was mostly me doing the sales and Elena doing customer success. We immediately went for companies that were the influencers of the companies. So there’s a reason why I went after Guillaume Cabane. It’s because he’s very good. He’s on publicity. I think we all see that. I thought this guy is everywhere, if I get him. He was our first customer for inbound solution. If I can get him to do it, he’s going to tell everybody and we’re going to be everywhere. That’s exactly what happened.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
He switched company. He went to other companies. He told everybody and we purposefully went after these companies where there’s somebody who’s really well respected was going to tell the world. That was all amplifying way to do business. That’s played tremendously well.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Recently, for example, I was very keen on getting set up and Outreach on Chili Piper very early on, right. And we did. Eventually Outreach left, but [inaudible] is still a customer. For the very reason, these people were influential. We want them on our platform. So that’s the way we did very well.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
My anti-secret is not a failure, but something that that is working really well, but it was not by design. As I mentioned earlier, we have a view of the world as together. That’s where people from every country, and went to decide we showed all these photos of people falling [inaudible 01:08:23]. People who were also genius. They were too smart. I need to take your visa. At the start of what happened, I had on my to do list in my life, the idea of doing the closing of the Pacha club in Ibiza. And I told Elena, I want to do the closing of the Pacha. And she said, “Well, we can’t do that. We’re very busy.”

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
And the world company where we work I said, “But how would I take everybody with me?” And she said, “Okay, let’s take everybody with us.” And so we took everybody with us because I wanted to do the closing of the Pacha. And every once in a while I was so smart to do a company trip in Ibiza.

Gil Allouche:
That is bad ass.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Yeah, that’s it. We should do a company trip. You see that a lot. You do something that you think is good for you and most people will share with you and agree with you.

Gil Allouche:
Actually, they may be very proud to say they close the Pacha Club in Ibiza. Some people think about closing the trade day or IPO. You crushed it there with the Pacha and 60 other people. Did you have 60 people do that with you?

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
No, at the time it was 32 people?

Gil Allouche:
That’s amazing. A company offsite in Ibiza. I think that takes the cake.

Ilya Volodarsky:
Incredible.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Yeah, with the VIP table, we don’t pay any all over. You know, it was just good. It was one of the things that I think people should experience in life.

Gil Allouche:
I think that’s beautiful, especially a diverse, all these different countries. That’s awesome. Gentlemen, is there anything else you would like to say before we finish this podcast today?

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
What happen the day people name your new category, Gil? Do you get us another bottle?

Gil Allouche:
You know, I’m going to call you. I’m going to call. I’m going to do a WhatsApp Video. I hope you accept it. And yes, I’ll do a cheers.

Ilya Volodarsky:
You call and say look, Forrester named us the leader in that God knows what category. Metadata is crushing it in this category.

Gil Allouche:
Man, I would like that. I will try to identify the same KPIs you guys told me to start looking for. So I’ll turn on my Google Alerts starting today.

Ilya Volodarsky:
Perfect.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Good.

Gil Allouche:
Gentlemen, thank you very much for your time today. I really enjoyed talking to you today.

Nicolas Vandenberghe:
Same here.

Gil Allouche:
We learned a lot.

Ilya Volodarsky:
Thanks for having me.

Gil Allouche:
Have a wonderful weekend.

Ilya Volodarsky:
You too.

Gil Allouche:
Until next time. Bye-bye.

Ilya Volodarsky:
Bye.

Join us on October 22nd for DEMAND — Get Closer to Revenue.
This is default text for notification bar