The Sales Hacker Podcast
The Sales Hacker Podcast

Episode · 8 months ago

202. Insights into Founding a Fully Remote SaaS Company


In this episode of the Sales Hacker Podcast, we have Tom Lavery, CEO & Founder at Jiminny, a conversation intelligence platform that helps companies create high performance culture. Join us for an insightful conversation about founding a company that feels both local and international, the right time to start selling, and advice for emerging SaaS founders.

What You’ll Learn

  1. The expanding market opportunity in SaaS
  2. Emphasizing local identity for an org
  3. Slack etiquette and best practices
  4. Looking at alternative ways to grow 

Show Agenda and Timestamps

  1. About Tom Lavery & Jiminny[1:50]
  2. The journey of building Jiminny [6:07]
  3. The right time to start selling [8:13]
  4. Leading a hybrid, international team [11:52]
  5. Advice for emerging founders [17:58]
  6. Paying it forward [21:03]
  7. Sam’s Corner [23:35]

One, two, one, everybody, it's Sam Jacob's welcome to the sal soccer podcast. Today we've got a great show for you. We've got a conversation with Tom Lavery, who is the cofounder and CEO of becoming to call Jiminy. It's in the conversation intelligence space. Tom was an sep at rewards gateway through your exit and it's been building Jiminy in the US in the UK for over five years. It's a great company. They've got a lot of traction and we talked about why capturing every conversation is important. We talked about the struggles of taking your product to market. It's a great conversation. Before we get there, we want to thank our sponsors. We've got three. The first is mine to tickle. Do only a few reps meet quota each quarter? Is the majority of your revenue driven by a few top performers? That doesn't have to be the case. You know, Revenue Leaders Trust Mind tickle to identify and drive winning sales rep behaviors so you can meet and beat quota requorter. Go to try dot mine ticklecom forward sales hacker to learn more. Again, that URL is try dot mine ticklecom forward sales hacker to learn more. We're also brought to you by pavilion. Pavilion is the key to getting more out of your career. I private membership connects you with a network of thousands of like minded peers and resources where you can tap into dozens of classes and training through Pavilion University. Enroll in sales school, Sales Development School, marketing school and many, many more for yourself or for your entire team. Learn more at joint PAVILIONCOM. We're finally brought to you by outreach. outreaches the first and only engagement and intelligence platform built by revenue innovators for revenue innovators. Outreach allows you to commit to accurate sales forecasting, replace manual processes with real time guidance and unlock action will customer intelligence that guys in your team to win. More often, traditional tools just don't work. It's in a hybrid sales world. Find out why outreaches the right solution at Click DOT outreached, out ioh forward, Thirty NPC analysis in my conversation with Tom lavery everybody at Sam Jacobs. Welcome to the salesaccer podcast today on the show we're excited to have Tom Lavery. Tom Is the founder and CEO of Jimminy, which is a conversation intelligence platform that helps companies create high performance culture. He spent over fifteen years in the high growth industry and SASS and prior to starting Jiminy, he was the svp at rewards gateway, which he exited and has since been through two additional private equity back buyouts. Tom, welcome to the show. Hi Sam, great to speak. It's been a well, it has been a while. So I just gave the the one liner on Jiminy, but I want to give you an opportunity to tell us a little bit more about the company. So what is Jiminy? Tell us who you are, tell us where you're based and give us a little bit of the data around, sort of like the growth trajectory of the business. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Say Dawning in from London today say we got hot tea quite uniquely halfwall team is in London, the grave side of it, and they have a halfwall teams in Sofia and Bulgaria. That's when my kid, founder is and a new our engineers. But yeah, like Jimmy was born out of May being inn step of sales and really seeing how I could help my team been better. But most most people in SASSOLTECH would be recording their cause or meetings in some form, shape or form, and that's what you mean. He does record, transcribe and analyze your meetings, but it's really what you do with that data which is key. So, you know, we talked, you talk there about creating a high performance culture and maximizing the potential of your team, like having better conversations and giving you visibility to just improve performance. Really, how do how does germiny compare to? There's obviously, like you know, the very big companies in the space that were familiar with, and conversation intelligence is a widely adopted category at this point. So how do you compare to sort of like the incumbents in the space, such as they are, even though the incumbents of themselves are only, you know, eight years old or whatever? Yeah, yeah, I think everyone has a unique spin right as a market matures, definitely, but yeah, we compete with the gongs and the courses of this world every day. So yeah, we did in terms of in terms of the platform and what we do. I think for us, like I said, it's it's it's like any level of data or reporting that Suspensi in is what you do with it that's really important.

So we're very customer driven and it's how we help them really use that data to make a difference in their businesses. Is What is kind of what makes this unique. Very good well tells. You know, I mentioned in your in the Bio, that that before Jiminy, you know, you were an svp at rewards gateway. But how'd you get into sales? Tell us a little bit about your origin story. Tell us about your experience at your prior company, because I mentioned there are a couple of exits, and just walk us through a little bit about your background. Yeah, of course. Do you know? You know I when you get ask these questions you actually sit and reflect a little. You're allowed to. If you are it's not often you get you get time to do that and it actually I didn't realize this till a few years back, but my dad sold cars right he was like a GM and was and I spent my whole childhood in car show rooms. Is always moving about doing different jobs, but where is probably more subconsciously than consciously. I think, just being around that car sales environment from a very, very early age, like it's gonna sound really like we had a school training day or something. I'd be He'd be selling cars with his mates and I'd be like in the back of the car, like listening in like going round and things like that. So I think, you know, I've always been exposed to that kind of cells environment. And then, you know, I started in B to. See quickly got into B to be working at a tiny start up in night in hill. And Yeah, it's just sales is is just kind of always been something that I've been around and fell into. What did rewards gateway do me? I mentioned that company. You were there for a long time. Well, what was what did that company sell? What was the experience like taking it to exit? Give us a little bit of details. They're amazing journey. I think of it over like a ten year period in like three different almost like three different businesses and three different chapters. But you know, it's Hl Software Sam so when we started at the time, people who didn't call it's ass right, they're probably the investors at the time. We've been gets more of a HR company than a software company. Right. You probably remember what I was like, but no, it's like employ engagement. So it started off doing pats, then it moved into recognition and they're hugely successful today, helping thousands of companies around the world. Amazing. And how did you what was the origin for as a nontechnical person, how did you make the leap to become a founder? How did you feel about launching a software product? Has a been difficult? What's the journey building gem andy been like? Yeah, I act, she said say to people. Now's a bit five years in. I think I know what I'm doing, but the four years previously I was making up as I go along. Now, like so James, my coke found he's a very talented back and the engineer. I think that really helps. You've got to have someone technical with you. But like, he's had two jobs. We work together. It all get away and he built Jimmy with me. That's all he's ever done and now he's in his mid thirties. But you know, I think just you know the whole experience of building a product. I think you just got to take risk and throw yourself in. You know you never have all the answers. You never know. It's trial an Arrow along the way. He's got to believe in your idea and of course you made many mistakes, as everyone does, but you know it's turning out all right in the end. What are you what were some of your biggest mistakes? I know building a video conference the same time zoom blew up. That's a pretty big one. Is that a mistake, though? I mean, that's hard to call that mistake. It's seems like you were timing it with the market. Well, at least, at least you understood what was happening. Yeah, I think like really realizing everything was being it just the way we moved to an integrations model and that that definitely changed. Are Grot were doubling or each year sti but except getting real put up market fit. You know, that was definitely a mistake, but I think the thing is to realize it and then to make the change. Is a thing that's important, you know. But there's lads of great things we got from that. The core platform always stayed the same. There were some great features that are still using the product today and things like that. So there's some huge benefits. Is just so part of the journey in the story. What's your perspective on you know, when you're building a product, before you attempt to monetize, there's there can be. Well, first of all, there's sometimes it the company...

...can be worth the more before you start trying to sell, because the potential sometimes as viewed as greater than the reality and sometimes the reality is a little dispiriting, at least from an investor perspective. When do you think, how do you feel about when the right time to begin selling, as how much you should sell? How how how a head in the product road map you should sell relative to where you actually are in the products development? Like, how do you think about monetization and what advice would you give to people that are that are prerevenue but want to put want to build a great, great revenue organization and sell and sell a product, but aren't sure when to start? Yeah, it's it's a really good question. I think it depends, like you know, vice is always be depends on your vertical and like the space that you're in. Like if if you're building like hardware or something, then it's obviously harder to do by bit, let's just say Sass, for example, which is the space that always been in, and I think the quicker you sell it, the more you are really understand if it's going a stick. And doesn't matter how many times you test or whatever you do, when you give it to users, uses break things and the reality of how it works out there. It's just completely different to the only environment if you know, you in the team building it. So for me, we sold the Alpha like I think it was like sixty five dollars ahead and I thought it was Beata, or Beta, as you would say, Sam. At the time I thought I thought it was. I kidded myself, that delusional founder, like yeah, it's Beeter, but looking back it was blood the Alpha. Like yes, it didn't really. So when you say and when you're using those desert you you mean like Beta, as in right before it's ready to fully go to market, as opposed to Alpha. Whigs like this is this is an unformed thing that I really need a lot of user feedback on before I'm ready to take the next step. Yeah, exactly, and yeah, I think just I think sometimes I speak to a lot of founders all the time. They come and ask for advice or people I know a different stages and you know, they always especially if you're more of a product led founder, and sales. Maybe that you know it's different, but they kind of always looking old. We're just going to give it another freedmanth and perfect it a little bit more. And your products never perfect and it's never finished. So you just got to get it out there, I feel generally as a roll of fun. The quick get out there, the more quick you're going to know the answers. And then, like, I think it loose, like our first five six customers, even though they had that crappy Alpha, they're still customers today. We believe it or not. It's pretty amazing. When you were rewards gateway, that was in New York, right. I moved there. Yeah, because that's when we first met, right, so I was in. I moved. We vus set up a US office. We had an Australian office before then. So I used to look after sells internationally and then we set up an office in New York and then we had a Boston based P investor. So it's a kind of part of that that stage. But yeah, we had we had an office in New York. Do you do you feel like you are you indifferent? Are you? Do you think it's been an advantage or disadvantage or hasn't had no impact? The fact that you started Jiminy from London. The company hasn't had a direct or maybe you do now, but you know, for as long as I've known about Jim and it's been really a UK company. Does that make a difference or does it not make a difference? Tough question, because I always the end of my time in the US we had a few customers in our hands and like we've had jiminy ink always, like because I I was actually still in Boston when we actually first like incorporate the company. But it's a forty percent of our revenue comes from the US still now. But like actually, yeah, of course, like having boots on the ground and making the brand bigger is all part of our plan. But yeah, of course it would have had an impact. But then we've done some really good things in Europe and that's given us some great USP so you know, I think America is always the biggest market. At some point you're going to want to concrete, right, that's just a o the all. So, how and Jiminy is five years old. Is that right? Yeah, yeah, now, just just five years old year. Besides, you know, one of the lessons that you shared it, as you know, like get it into customers hands, charge for it right away, get feedback. But you've got...

...fifty people now, or over fifty people. They're spread, you know, all over Europe, at least in Bulgarian London, if not other places. What else have you learned about building and leading and running a team, you know, like what, what leadership lessons to you have for the folks that are listening? Yeah, I think it's a different world. Now we're coming out of COVID I was talking about this the other day. Now we're definitely the UK. Everyone's like almost back to normal, right, you know, like no masks and just like right, you know, if you can be in the officer in the office right. So People's People's reality is changing. But I think, I think because you've got this hybrid approach which most people have to have now. I knew this because we've been remote since day one, because James Being in Bulgaria. You just have to work ten times harder everything, especially internal communications, like you have to over communicate, like, you know, like in sac you can use like video and voice notes now and things like that, like just making sure that you're spending that time making sure that everyone's engaged. You doing chickens. People understand stuff when you when you are a remote or a hybrid sort of business, you just got to work so much harder that sort of stuff compared to when you just used to be in the office and ten around. So I think like we homed that. You know, we started doing that of all gateway in pieces and then we did it from day one in the Jiminy, so we kind of just used to it's the norm. But yeah, that definitely be a bit of advice. Its go work really hard at that internal communications to make sure it's a real team. Can't make and and how do you when you say we're really hard? You know, one of the debates that people are having, are at least we're having at my company, is what's the right thing for slack, what's the right thing for email, like what's the medium for different kinds of messages? Have you have you defined a point of view on like how you know when is it appropriate for an all hand zoom versus a slack message and the general channel versus an email to everybody, like do you have a point of a one the most effective way to communicate with folks. Yeah, it's they give me wrong. We're very democratic. It's anything like that. We just have health rooms at Jim and e like we we talked about in boarding there on our Internet side, but we just have no internal email. Like from day one I was like right, if we using slack, we don't send internal email unless the customers on it right. So, like we just have a hard fast all that. You don't send email internally and then all hands is always on video each week and we have slack etiquette, which is like fifteen roles that you know, everyone can understand how we can use smack and best practice. So we'll give us your fifteen roles. I want to hear. Pay Them to you ever, look or give give a give us a couple of the rules, which is like, if you can add some sort of channel, make sure that you d n them and tell them why you're adding them to a channel first. It may sound really simple, but like is that an engineer to a channel? And like what's this say? You know they're detailed. They like to understand things first. You know all sorts of different things like that. Like you know that training thing where you someone's the MD and's got like nine read it's got a red dot. There's like you think there's like nine messages it, because people slack like they wants that. So, you know, actually taking your time and putting in lots of emojies and actually sending one message instead of nine where you keep going hey and and like that. So little things like that just distract people. Less can make a difference, you know. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. When you you know we're recording this. It's I guess it's late February now, and the global economic markets have corrected significantly, you know. I think it's down ten to fifteen percent from where they were in November December. Does that how you? How do you, I guess, what's your perspective on the current start up ecosystem? Do you have a point of view on how you think about maximizing or Managing Jim and he's valuation? Does any of this matter to you as you're running your business, like how do you think about the relationship of the outside, external economic forces to the things that are making you drive decisions every day? Yeah, cary such it. There's so much to unpack them right, but I think you SAS like... tech is it is cannot grate in a bit of a bubble and it's still on this massive growth trajectory right, sort of ten years in its gotten over ten years. If you look all the data, it's going to have a huge ten years of growth, right. So everyway you know. So that there's that in itself. But then if you look at like on the NAS tag, whilst year like sounding like zoom, Info is getting like forty times right, you know, as a valuation or whatever, that's that's just not sustainable or whatever. So I think it's great for them and every at the time, but it's just I think it always had to level out a little bit. So it really depends. If you're looking at private equity, Growth Equity Venture, I think valuations have been punching but they're probably leveling out more now, from what I can see a little bit. But as an impact your willingness to burn capital, I guess your had it and you run geminy for for break even a profitability, or do you if the markets contract and maybe you think, you know what, maybe we need to burn a little bit less money, maybe need we need to hire more slowly, because I'm not sure how available the capital markets will be if I need them. Yeah, we've. We've always been quite we boots damped to start then we've been either capital efficient. We use that. So we haven't probably run what you call the traditional playbook. So we've been a high growth business, if you look at the stats like you're on year, but probably done it in a sustainable kind of profitable way. So yeah, of course, every time we spend money, we borrow more money and spend its deployed as quickly as we can, but making sure that we give ourselves enough with a room, because you always gonna have stuff come up or things go wrong where you don't hit where you expect to be. So I think try, I think. I don't think the outside market has had too much of an impact on raising capital, only that only the thing is obviously making it easier and there's been more funds available at slightly higher evaluation. You know, in the last year I think it's pretty been easier than it ever has been to get hands on capital because it is so much to deploy you and dud well, some you know, one of the things that you talked about a lot is is imploring people to to take risks if you're there's a lot of young account executives and young founders and people that want to maybe they want to be Tom Lavery one day. What advice do you give to people when you're counseling them and mentoring them that are at the earliest stages of their career so that they can maximize the likelihood that they achieve success? Yeah, I don't know, I really I realize it's a lot of the time. I think it is about two thousand and thirteen, twousand fourteen, specially when you sell in different countries and you start to understand different cultures and you you always working on your own self awareness, right, but I think just being, the more you are yourself and the more human you are, especially in business, it gets you much further. But yeah, yeah, I think sometimes you do have to think outside the box. Like we all know how like the recruitment market is at the moment and salaries and how hard it is to find people. Like it's so easy just to go I will take that job, even though of any being in nine months, because it's paying me an extra ten k. But is it actually the best thing for my career? You know, I'm I going to get the best education I'm I going to be working with the best people. Where am I get? So sometimes it's not always about, you know, the money of a package. It can be. It's more important about the other things around it. But I think in the current market is probably get hard for young a ease to see through the noise of that. You know, could I could see how that would be challenging being a twenty year older and you know, when your second orf a job as in AE and so the the point is like stick with it, be human play for the long term. Is that what you would say? Yeah, I think, you know, the value you get from the type of company you are working in and the type of people you end up working around or get exposed to is probably more important than any package. So that would be my my advice. Make sure you pick the right company and the right people rather than just go for the money. That feels it feels fair. Were almost at the end of our time together time and one of the things you've also said, as you think that people with you, said running the same playbook are can often lead you into trouble. UNPACK that a little bit for us based...

...on your experience. Yeah, I mean I might just think that incest generally, that people think there's one way to go. They go, you know, all right, God, do some angel then I do see than I do an ABC and it's just kind of grow for at all cross on top line revenue. But there's there's many different ways that people have built successful businesses and they find product market for different times and I think there's a lot of money that goes probably out before people have product market fit and that, you know, the stats still the same amount of companies that that fail. I just think if you're if you're starting a business of growing a team, you've got to maybe sometimes think differently until you until you're into that space where you can really accelerate, can really grow. So it's kind of that little bit before an a round. I think we're a lot of people can get kind of lost and maybe there's, you know, lots of different ways that I thought about how you could help businesses in the future. That that's a very difficult stage of getting traction and getting something, but this to look at alternative ways to gray sometimes that makes sense. Tom We're almost at the end of our time together. One of the things we like to do at the end is pay it forward a little bit. Are there? Who are? Who are the people that have had the biggest impact in you or the books or ideas you know? has there been a specific kind of book or podcast or insight or person in your that's had the biggest impact on your growth that you think we should know about? Yeah, I mean, obviously my my old CEO has a huge impact. I wouldn't be I wouldn't have ever started. Jimminy, you know when you when I was a sales lady. You go back so of like ten years ago and you said I'd be running my own company. I think you're not, you know. But like he ran a marketing design agency to ten years started all gateway. Just watching him operate for five years in his pocket. You know who's what's his name? I was going Eliot, say Glenn Elliot. You know, there's a lot of consulting in privateuity. Can look him up. who works attending Clen's a great guy and you can learn not eased a book called the rebels book to employ engagement and it's all about and that's a great book as well in terms of you building a culture in a team. Yes, a check out. Awesome, Tom and folks want to reach out to you. What's the best way to get in touch? Maybe they've enjoyed hearing from you, or or maybe they want to purchase Gim Andy. What's the best way to reach out to you? Cool, yeah, just connected me on linkedin'll be great. Or you can find me on twitter at Tom lavery seven, or either way on social mast ones. Again. Are you active on twitter? Not as active as you, Sam. I love fighting. I do love your tweets. I might be small time time, but I'm not. I'm not as an original thinker, but I less amount myself. Could team or something like that. Probably don't all, Jimmy, I probably don't tweet that much, but I definitely check out of your tweets. Oh well, thank you very much. What the what soccer team do you support? Day is embarrassing. TOTTENHAHOTSPA. It's a very painful experience. Anyone who keep getting really proople. I keep getting notifications about the spurs like there. Are they keeping Harrycane or they getting rid of them? What's to do? Hey, nice, Sam. Well, you know better than me. I'm I'm I'm here in New York City and I but yeah, he's doating all right at the moment, but yeah, I have to love everything. We're talking at you. He'll have to leave one day, so I'm sure it'll happen sure enough. All right, Tom, great chatting with you. If folks want to reach out to Tom you can on Linkedin, as he mentioned. Otherwise we'll talk to you on Friday for Friday fundamentals. All right, years sound great. Speeks. You take your cheer spine, everybody. Sam Jacob, SAM's corner, really enjoyed that conversation with Tom. Tom Lavery a humble a humble man, and yet somebody that's had trementous success. The he was an early employee rewards gateway. They exited that company heat he mentioned to me offline. They've now had two subsequent exits, meaning the company trading handser private equity since he exited. So I guess it's like three total exits with one company, which is just pretty... And now it's been building Jimney for a long time. We've known each other for a good number of years and and and he's choosing to do it, you know, in a space that's become, I guess, in some ways crowded, but I think it just speaks to the expanding market opportunity in Sass that you know that there's not just I think there's sometimes the idea that there's only one winner, and maybe it depends what you define by winner. If you if you've raised money company you know is nominally worth a billion dollars on paper and you needed to be worth three billion dollars or five billion dollars so that the investors at the one billion dollar valuation make money, then yeah, maybe there is only one winner, because appears to me that Gong and maybe outreach. It's sort of depends on the product roadmap. You know, those are the winners in that space, but there's lots of other opportunity. You know, sales loft is a multibillion dollar company, as is outreach. From evaluation perspective, both of those companies are over a hundred million and rr you know, ors exited for six hundred million Gong as worth many, many billions. There's lots of opportunities to create interesting differentiation, if for an interesting variations on product or interesting emphasis on on geographic identity, because Jiminy's is a UK company with engineers that are in Bulgaria. You know which I'm sure they're feeling something because as we're recording this, of course, the Russians have invaded Ukraine. As you know, Putin gets old and seeks to Bowie is own insecurity through murder and destruction of property of others and other soccer countries. But that's neither here nor there. The point that I'm making is that there's all kinds of ways to build big companies and the biggest mistake I see, I don't know if it's the biggest, but one, one mistake, one thing, one thing that I do. I continuously underestimate the size of the markets. You know, sometimes we think if we're tired of something, that means the world is tired of something. But I'm a I'm a particularly impatient, easily bored person. Maybe when I'm tired of something, that has nothing at all to do with whether the trend is over or whether there's still growth in a specific opportunity. And I've seen that time and time again that companies stick around, they continue to work on their product, they continue to talk to their customers and Ull family they see success. So it's a great lesson. Tom's building a great company in Geminy and we're excited to watch them grow. They have been growing, he's been sticking at it, they've been capital efficient. They haven't raised a ton of money. I'm sure that Tom owns a large percentage of that company to this day, unlike a lot of people that haven't taken that exact same room. So it was a great conversation. Before we go, we want to thank our sponsors. Remember that Pavilion for teams is the corporate membership you can enroll. It's not just for leaders, it's for SDRs, it's for account executives, it's for marketing managers and it's for leaders. Right, you can enroll your entire team and a pavilion for teams corporate membership give them access to all of our schools, all of our universities, marketing school, Sales School, sales development school and so much more. How these are live schools where you we put people into cohorts. Those cohorts are the way that adults learn. We call it an immersive learning framework. If not enough to just take a class, you need those folks to take the class and then assemble in a small group where they can talk about it in the same way that if you join a book club and you read a book. That's one way to think about the book, but isn't it more effective when you talk about that book with your peers, with your friends, and bring up interesting insights and you really turn it over in your mind? That's the way to apply knowledge, right. We don't want it just people to watch a video. I could watch a video of Hillary Clinton telling me anything she wants. That doesn't mean that I am absorbed the information. I need a group of people that I can talk about the insights, but so I can apply it. So that's pavilion. Sorry for the rant. Also, of course, make sure that you're checking out outreach. Tripling the Productivi of sales teams and empowering them to drive predictable and measurable Recor and Growth. Go to outreach. That I owe the one more. If you haven't enjoined the sales hacker community yet, we really think you should. How many people are in there? Probably Thirtyzero at this point. Jump in and start a discussion with more than thirtyzero sales professionals. Sales hackercom. If you haven't given us a review, I would really appreciate it. Can you give us a five star review on the podcasting platform of your choice. If you want... reach out to me, you can Sam at joining pavilioncom. But really think about it, think about what's the right way to develop your team and with that, I'll talk to you next time.

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