In this episode of SaaS Origin Stories, Emily González-Cebrián Lombán, Co-founder and CEO of Froged, joins Phil Alves to share the story behind Froged and how it helps other SaaS platforms and subscription businesses improve their conversion rates, reduce
One of the most difficult challenges in building a SaaS product is understanding your user and putting yourself in their shoes. But when you are at the same time the user and the developer, the final result might become a hit.
Let's see what that looks like in real life. For that, we invited Emily González-Cebrián Lombán, Co-founder and CEO of Froged, to share her story behind building a SaaS product that helps other SaaS subscription businesses succeed.
In this episode, we discuss:
A Problem-Solver for Subscription-Based SaaS Businesses
Froged is a SaaS product that focuses on customer success and support. The platform solves two main problems. One is converting users from free trials to paying customers, and the second is reducing the churn rate.
The economy, in general, has been transformed into a subscription economy. So we are driving super fast towards this subscription economy where all businesses become platforms where they deliver subscriptions - Emily González-Cebrián Lombán
Launching, Testing, and Getting Feedback
When launching the MVP, Emily and her team wanted to test and receive honest feedback from the market on every functionality they were developing. One way to do that is to launch your product in AppSumo, which can also help you find the product market fit.
Whenever you create something like your baby and your own self. And you have to make sure that you don't attach yourself to that idea or to that project so that you're able to receive feedback - Emily González-Cebrián Lombán
Managing the Churn
Churn is one of the metrics that show how long your business can last. A subscription-based business grows by attracting new clients but also helping the clients you already have grow with you. A high churn rate indicates that you are losing money fast and not delivering what the market expects from you.
You don't need to fight against churn, but to work proactively not to have it - Emily González-Cebrián Lombán
People are the most valuable asset you have in your SaaS company. As your business develops, people realize things that allow them to have the lifestyle they want and be surrounded by the desired environment. Address these areas to maintain a positive culture and work environment people will love being a part of.
We always say that we are a human power technology - Emily González-Cebrián Lombán
For more interviews from the SaaS Origin Stories podcast, check us out on Apple, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player!
Emily González-Cebrián: We had this logo, let's say, or this idea very much in our mind which was that we didn't want to fall in love with our idea, we always wanted to hear and to listen what the market wanted out of us. We were making sure that whatever we were delivering was value.
Speaker 1: Welcome to SaaS Origin Stories. Tune in to hear authentic conversations with founders as they share stories from the earlier days of their SaaS startups. We'll cover painful challenges, early wins, and actionable takeaways. You'll hear firsthand the dos and don'ts of building and growing a SaaS, as well as inspirational stories to fuel you on your own SaaS journey. Here is your host, Phil Alvez.
Phil Alvez: Today, I have Emily González-Cebrián. Welcome to the show, Emily.
Emily: Thank you, Phil. It's a pleasure to be here today.
Phil: First could you tell me a little bit about your company, FROGED, and what problem do you guys solve?
Emily: FROGED, I love this question. We define FROGED as a pro-success platform. When we talk of pro success is very much a customer success and customer support related to product, so we are very much a meta SaaS. We work for other staff and for other platforms, and we help them to handle and to optimize their users' life cycle from the very beginning, from onboarding their new users and new client to what we call very end, but it's not the end, it's like just a continuation of the lifetime which includes that support, support with superpowers as we say.
Phil: Nice. The whole customer journey of SaaS users, what companies usually are using your product? At what stage SaaS businesses start to get in the product?
Emily: It's mainly other SaaS platforms as I said. We focus very much in the mid-market, so it's mid-market SaaS, but when we talk of mid-market, we don't talk of the size of my clients because we currently have real big clients, but of the size the clients of my clients' tickets have. That is what settles that we are in the mid-market. We focus very much on that mid-ticket size.
Phil: Makes sense. What is the mid-ticket size? Could you go deeper on that?
Emily: If we divide the market marketing to tiers, we talk of enterprise-level, that mid-market would be, I would say around 5,000 a year, 3,000 a year, over 3,000 a year to start we mean what we talk of mid-market.
Phil: That's awesome. I would love to dive deeper in the story of the company, but before we go there, I would love to learn a little bit more about you. What were you doing before you decide to start this business?
Emily: [chuckles] In fact, I'm very connected to you in this point because before I started FROGED, I used to live in Brazil in Rio, to be exact. I lived there for almost seven years. I worked for a multinational company, originally from Spain, and then it was when I decided to go back to Spain that I had this idea of starting something. I didn't know that it was going to be FROGED at that time. I met Angel and JuanJo, who are my co-founders, and this is a very small seed of what FROGED became and is becoming today.
Phil: That's great. You were like, "I'm ready, I work for a big company for a while, I want to go my own and start a business." You didn't know what kind of business it would be. Let's talk a little bit more about how you find out the idea and how you figure out what to build.
Emily: First of all, Phil, I can see two questions within that one question. I always knew that I was going to start something. I wasn't sure about what was it going to be and what was the topic or we were going to work about. The reason why FROGED came to reality was because our CDO, which is one of the co-founders, as I said, Angel, he had this idea. He's full of stag, and this person who's been always checking around and then talking to founders and understanding very much where the problems and the pain points were.
He came to JuanJo and myself with this idea of creating something special or something, as a meta SaaS, as I said as SaaS for other SaaS, understanding very much these pain points that he had faced during his time in the market. This was how FROGED started. At the beginning, it was more transversal because we also covered marketing and sales, and then over time, we ended focusing very much in customer success and support, which is the place where we were delivering the most value. Where we saw these two problems, which is, as I said at the beginning, or overset which is conversion.
We help users convert from just free trials to paying customers, which is one of the goals we as SaaS and platform seek. The other one which is trying to reduce churn with, as you know, having worked for SaaS is one of the most important metrics, and one of the reasons why many SaaS and platforms do not last long. Those were the two initial pain points that we were there to solve. At the very end, we are trying to solve and help having that life cycle as we spoke at the beginning.
Phil: Makes sense. You chose the market meta SaaS, you want to work with other SaaS, it was because you guys were already involved in the SaaS community, how did you figure out, "This is where we want to work, we want to serve other SaaS business"?
Emily: Especially Angel was very involved. This is his third SaaS, so it was two SaaS before FROGED, and he's always been very involved in the community. We understood that there is a transformation, SaaS is very specific for the software industry, but something that we have all seen is that the economy, in general, has been transformed into the subscription economy. We are driving super fast towards this subscription economy where all businesses become platforms where they deliver subscriptions as a service in the subscription model. This is why we understood that this pain point were affecting all this upcoming new economy. This was like, "There is something which is happening here, there is a big wave coming here." We were just trying to get that wave, and here we are. [laughs]
Phil: That's so true, I feel like there's a subscription for everything right now. There's a subscription for your car wash, there's a subscription-- Even those more old style business, I would say, old school, they have a subscription. Once you have a subscription, there's the problem of churn because it's-
Phil: -like, "Okay, I set up this person. Now how I make sure I keep providing value?" That's the problem that you guys are trying to solve.
Emily: Completely. In fact, there are these two because it's where the money is coming in, whoever is just trying my service or my platform that I want to convert, and then of course making sure that they don't churn, so that you keep on delivering what they expect, this value they are expecting and that you make success, happy customers, happy clients. Very much that. [laughs]
Phil: Why do you think you are the right founder to build this product?
Emily: When Angel, JuanJo, and myself met in an incubator, we decided to move together because we were trying to find the right combination of skills, personalities, and of course, the background. What I believe that makes me the right founder is not only the experience I had but also my ability to see, I believe I have a strong vision and a strong ability to execute and to make things real. The combination of the three of us, I think is what is our winning strong value. It's very much that combination I would say. It's technical skills but also the ability to manifest and to make things real. The culture that the three of us are starting building, I think is one of the strong points also.
Phil: A lot of people struggle on finding their co-founder, to make sure you can work together, even where to go to find. It looks like you guys were in the incubator just all by yourself, and then you got there and then you met. How did it happen?
Emily: In fact, it happened in a different way. It happened in a different way to what you're saying but in the same way for the three of us. In fact, myself, I just had come back from Brazil, so I wasn't connected to the ecosystem here. They reached out to me, and they invited me to one of the hackathons they create on the weekends. This incubator, they call themselves Demium, and it's pre-idea, pre-team.
You don't need to have an idea, you don't need to have a team. You just go there and see if there is a match with other potential co-founders, and that's the very beginning of what could happen, which in fact happened to us. This is where we met. The idea was to find, they searched for business profiles, tech profiles, and marketing profiles. They just mix us, and we start working in short projects, I mean, it's a hackathon.
You have 15 days of onboarding where you test your mates and you test yourself to see if you could eventually be a match to start a business. This was our case. In fact, I have to tell you something that I've been observing, and this is something very visible, sometimes, whenever you're thinking on starting something, you're thinking people who are close to you, who may be your relatives, who may be your friends, but at some point, those could or not be the right partners for a project, or for a company like ours. You know that a company means a lot of things, [chuckles] so it's many things that you have to put on the table. In our case, it was very much like that.
Phil: That's a great story, for sure, because when you're looking for founders, they have to be different than you are, they have to have different skills, and your friends are likely very similar to you.
Phil: That's very interesting. Here in Utah, there's a lot of those hackathons, and I love going to them. Now, I'm a little bit too busy but I remember back in the day, I would go and they're usually three days, we don't even sleep, and you're working on something. I always went just to have fun. I never had the expectation of I'm going to find a co-founder. I think that's an amazing site for people because those hackathons are everywhere.
You can just go and you can meet people. I feel like this is a golden nugget for people that listen to the show that want to find a founder, go to hackathons. Maybe you have to build some skills before you go there because you're going to work in the three days and trying to put something together or however long the process is. Do you have those skills like they told you, how it was, the process?
Emily: No, no. In our case, it was very much like, we didn't know what we were going to face, or we were going to be doing those days. We were just looking around. Of course, you can prepare for that. Preparing yourself for whatever you have in life is always a good recommendation, but at the same time, I believe more in the attitude. Whenever you see a person in action, whenever you have to solve a problem, whatever the problem is, is when you're going to see how they react, and how eventually that partnership could happen or not.
In our case, I remember some of the tests that we went through were fun, a lot of fun. For example, they just gave us some money, like €10, and then you have three hours. You have to go to the streets and make sure that you multiply that for the maximum. You have to get back with the maximum amount of money possible. It's like you have to be creative, but you have three people with you, or two more people and you and then you have to make sure that you create something, you create a business out of just €10. That's great because you see people, and you see how you interact, you see who is that.
It gives you a lot of clues. At least in my case, it was very inspiring and very good at the time of selecting who I want to go with and to check if, of course, they were people because I've seen many cases. Sometimes you need to mix a lot, just one hackathon could not be enough, I don't know. In our case, we were lucky that we met in that one hackathon.
Phil: That's definitely a fun exercise.
Emily: As you say, I think it's good to expose yourself to different environments to those that you are used to because sometimes you meet people who are different to you, and who are the people that you need in your project or in your future company, so that's great.
Phil: For sure. Let's keep going with this story. Now, you have a team, you guys all met in the hackathon, how did you guys build the first version of your product? Did you raise any money? Walk me through the process of building the first version, and maybe even the challenges that you guys faced trying to have a product to market.
Emily: In our case, we started building this first MVP. We wanted to build a platform, the idea of creating an MVP for a platform was already hard in terms of it took a bit longer than maybe any other kind of MVP. At the same time, we had the advantage of being in that incubator, which allow us to have or to be in communication with many other projects. Remember that we wanted to be a meta SaaS so having other SaaS or other platforms, let's say other projects around, was already a plus or was already an advantage. We made sure that we wanted to receive at all times the feedback from the market.
We had this logo, let's say, [chuckles] or this idea, very much in our mind, which was that we didn't want to fall in love with our idea. We always wanted to hear and to listen what the market wanted out of us. We were making sure that whatever we were delivering was value. For that, you have to be very objective, you have to separate yourself. Sometimes, it's like, whenever you create something, it's like your baby, it's like your own self. You have to make sure that you don't attach yourself to that idea or to that project so that you are able to receive any feedback.
Getting that feedback is something we did from the very beginning. We were testing every single thing we were developing was being tested from the beginning. Something that helped us a lot was that once we had that MVP ready, will launched in AppSumo. The idea was to expose ourselves a lot to people who were very far away from us, and who were going to be giving us feedback, very open feedback. You know how AppSumo and Sumo-lings are, that they will tell you openly everywhere whatever they think about you and about your product. It also helped us.
For us, it was like a product market fit test for us so that we could really get not only this information about the market but it was testing it. That was very much our experience. For us, it was great. It was harder. It was hard because there's a lot of work you have to do, but yes, I think it helped. It helped. It has always been like that, always testing and checking, and then little by little, whenever we started having clients also for any new functionality or any new--
Phil: Let me stop you here before you talk about the clients. I'd like to go back because I love what you say about, "We fell in love with the problem, not with the solution." Could you share maybe a solution that you guys put in the world and that wasn't the right solution, you got the feedback, and it was hard to hear, but you went back and you recreate that solution? I would love to dive deeper. We hear that all the time but it's one thing to know what to do, it's another thing to actually go and do it. Walk me through maybe an example.
Emily: For example, as I was saying at the beginning, we were more, broad, and we touch also sales and marketing, so it was not just customer success and support. It was through this feedback being received essentially from this launch in AppSumo that we figured out, and we so clearly, that the space where we were delivering more value, and where we were solving the pain was really there in customer success and support, but it was just the beginning.
It's whenever you are putting some seats on the ground and then you start seeing that over there, you see some green ones, and then you have to make sure that you go that way. It was very much like that. It help us like, "Okay, let's focus here, and let's put all our efforts here." There is always this Pareto law that is 80-20, making sure that you find out which is the 20% of what you are offering that is given for-- It's not exactly that proportion but is very much that way which is giving 80% of the value. Making sure that you find out which is it, and that you focus again there. It's a constant focus exercise.
You make sure that you discover, you find out where is that 20% and you focus, refocus there. This doesn't end. We are still there. I'm sure that you've gone also through the same process, so it's making sure that it's filtering, you have this filter, and you filter, "Okay, I got the 20%. Again, I have to do this." So that you really build something that is providing the value, you're providing the value that you were supposed to.
Phil: For sure. That makes a lot of sense. Thanks for going deeper in that. I like how you say you start a little bit more horizontal and then you figure out this is the vertical you are going to go down to. It's just, let's help with the consumer experience. Now, I'm very aware of a lot of companies that start on AppSumo, and it's great, but because you're early on, churn is something that's usually super high, and now, you're building a product to help people overcome churn.
Emily: Reduce. [laughs]
Phil: To reduce churn, and you launch your product on a place where there's a lot of churn, so tell me about how we go, did you guys got a lot of churn? What did you learn to improve your own product to later be able to help your customers?
Emily: In our case, I have to say that from the very beginning, our trend was really low. Something that has been helping us all the way, and I believe this is going to continue helping us all the way to the future, is the fact that FROGED is at the same time a lab for what we are offering to our clients. We use FROGED with FROGED. Our customer success, our support is provided also through FROGED.
It helps us because we are at the same time is like we are collecting this feedback, we are providing something that we are experiencing with ourselves, so it's very good at the time of making sure that you nail it down so whenever you offer the functionality or the service to others, you are also experiencing it in yourself. That is also something that helps all the way.
It is true that, of course, we are proud of our churn levels, which are super low, but we are especially more proud to see how we help our clients to reduce those churn levels too. I would say that more than reducing the churn levels or the churn, we help them to identify the patterns, to do dynamic segmentation, which allows them to work with users before they could be potential churn, which is even better because you don't need to fight against churn, but to work proactively not to have it. That's very much where we focus. We do it with ourselves first. That's the best part.
Phil: That's amazing because I think one of the hardest challenge in building a SaaS is understanding your user and putting yourself in their shoes. You are at the same time the user, and the person helping your users. You eat your own dog food, like they like to say.
Emily: No, and that's great. For example, myself, when I'm talking as user, as a customer, this is something that I've always observe and analyze very much, whenever a company is providing a service, at least for me, the less I expect is that they are providing what they do, or they represent what they are providing. If you are providing customer success, let's say, what I expect from you is you had an outstanding customer success. Or if you are a support platform, the less I expect is that your support is at least it is great. That is something that becomes also, it's not a metric, but it's a level, and a standard level that we of course provide and that we constantly examine and analyze in ourselves.
Phil: I'm the same way. When I'm buying a product, a service, for example, for coding mail or something, if I get a coded mail from a SaaS product, I might look at it, if I got a coded mail from a marketing firm, I'm like, "What's your problem? If you're a pay-per-click company, can you get leads doing your own thing?" [lauhs]
Emily: Exactly. No, no, exactly. It's like sometimes we forget because we are in a world where there is so many things of everything that sometimes we don't see, but there should be a strategy everywhere, and you have to see that a strategy and you have to see that clearance. If you are, as you say, no, if you're providing something, and for others, unless you have to do that in your own team, with your own project, in your own company, that level should be outstanding or at least very good.
Phil: Why do you think managing churn is so important for a SaaS business?
Emily: I think we discuss earlier a bit because at the end, it's one of the metrics that is talking about how long are you going to be able to last? At the end you're a subscription business, don't forget that, so you grow because you have new clients coming in, but you grow also because you make those clients, which are already with you, grow at the same time. You have to those two level. Churn means that, it's like having a bag. This is the hole where you're losing your clients. Sometimes, and I've seen some SaaS, which haven't been focused at the time they need it too in turn, and at the end, it's like bleeding. They are bleeding and they are losing their business.
Even though they focus in acquiring more and more, they're losing at the same time. That is a reason why you're not going to be lasting. At the same time, it's like your market is talking and is telling you what is-- They are not happy. You're not providing what they expect. It's like you can read it from different angles. The basic one is that, you're losing money, that's very obvious. There is also a second reading, which is that you're not delivering what the market expects out of you, and so it may lead you to rethink on the product strategy or there could be many reasons. This is why churn is really important for SaaS, and I would say for subscription businesses in general.
Phil: I think especially in the early days when you're looking for the product market fit, if your churn is super high, it means that you don't have product market fit. Maybe you have product marketing fit because you're able to sell that, but you can't keep that. I believe the metric's so important because that's, "I'm really adding value." With having a subscription for everything because we touch about that, I think it's hard too because people are signing up for things and canceling things, and you have to really make sure people are getting the value.
I do believe it's probably the most important metric that you should be looking at, or one of the most important metrics they should be looking at as a SaaS business. Let's go back and talk about customers because you start talking about getting more customers and I cut you off. You got AppSumo, and then how do you got more customers after AppSumo? How you guys kept growing your product after that?
Emily: We have this double approach. I would say that there is [unintelligible 00:30:28] recipe, which is exclusive for every business. Yours and mine could be very different, but it's always a combination of approaches. You have this outbound or outreach approach, and then the inbound. In our case, we've been working in both channels. The very first customers, I would say that they came very much from this outreach and is more outbound approach.
This happened at the same time as we were building this inbound machine in our case. Is this combination which is allowing us to grow? Those first customers I would say is more like that. Some of them, they of course get to know you, so it's referrals too of maybe a company that talks to other company. As you say sometimes in the SaaS world, even though it's growing a lot, we may know each other because we always move in the same areas or in the same-- [chuckles] Very much that way.
Phil: That's awesome. Outbound was the first channel that was very successful for you. I think that makes a lot of sense. I love outbound as an early channel for marketing because like we talk about, you're trying to figure out who is your ideal customer, who wants your product, and maybe what message is going to work for your product. Once you figure that out, you can transfer that into your--
Emily: You can replicate it.
Phil: You can duplicate your inbound efforts. Inbound takes longer, and if you're testing and you don't know who your customer is, who you're talking to, it's harder.
Emily: You can be spending money, more than spending money is just burning money. I think that inbound needs that you have first the information about, as you say, who is your ideal customer profile, which is the message you should be addressing to them. Once you have it, once you've tested it, okay, just go and spend your money there and so you can bring those inbound needs. Until there I think the best, that outrage is important.
Phil: I love that strategy. I have saw many SaaS products do that, and especially if, I don't know how much money you guys raise, but it's a little bit cheaper to do it that way because again, you're being more specific. Now, you have more customers, I'm sure have to start hiring. There's the three co-founders wouldn't be able to keep the company growing. Talk to me about the first hires and maybe even to what size are you guys today.
Emily: I would say, I remember I was in SaaStr Barcelona this summer, just a few months ago. It was funny because one of the sessions that I especially loved was talking about those hires and those different moments in a startup. At the very beginning, you need exceptional people. I remember that word. It's like you need exceptional people who you just give a knife and they can handle whatever. Just give them whatever and they are able to deliver what you need. You need very good people. In order to grow, you will need very good people who may allow you to establish processes, will help you creating this structure but don't forget that at the very beginning, is exceptional people.
If you cross the moment, it may lead to a confession, and eventually, you will not be able to develop the project at the speed you need. It's very important that that point. Our first hires, the need was very exciting, at the beginning when we decided to start hiring and searching, we were doing everything in our own, of course, as we all do. We were looking for that attitude, for that spirit because I would say that there is an spirit of whoever wants to be part of an early stage startup. At some points, we failed or we were not very good at the time of selecting, so we had went through some mistakes.
At the same time, we learned. I've always said that if we just go through some mistakes, but we learn, the lesson is worth it because you to already know what you don't have to do or what may allow you to do things better. That's one of the things. You were asking me about the size today. We are 16 today. I remember having a conversation at lunch with one of the co-founders one of one SaaS, David Heinemeier from Basecamp, you know him.
I remember that he was telling me how important it is to keep small teams, but very high-performance team. You need to have outstanding people with you and try not to grow too much. That made me think a lot, and understanding which was the model that I wanted to have in FROGED for us. It's very much that what we seek for. In order to be as scalable and to be able to scale the business to where towards we want to get, we need to create that very, very strong foundation which would allow us to replicate also the culture to replicate what we want to have as a culture. That's where we are. 16 today.
Phil: I love the strategy of staying small and being the very exceptional team that you're talking about. How do you find these people, and most important, how do you keep these people? You touch on culture, and I think that's part of keeping these people.
Emily: I would say that's one of the most important things. Of course, money is important, but today, as we evolve, people realize that there are so many other things which allows them to have the style or the lifestyle they want and to be surrounded by the environment they are seeking for. I believe that those are the areas where we could be very good at as we grow. Of course, the money and the salaries also grow. Being in startup means that you have to be very good and very efficient at capital consumption.
You always have to be creative at the time of deciding or doing things. I think that for FROGED, and if you talk to anyone in the team, they will tell you, which I think is one of the reasons why everyone belongs and feel and have that feeling of belonging, which is very much the culture, very much what we believe about people. We always say that we are human power technology.
That shows that even though we are in the software world, and software seems like something very much inhuman or not very much human, but it is through that software is through that, that we want to show that human part of all of us. To be more exact, when we talk of customer success or support, that also the strongest liaison or the strongest link that an user or a consumer can have with a company. It is where the human link happens. For us, it's really important, and we are very proud of that part. Human power technology, that's very much also FROGED.
Phil: What does the name mean? It has anything to deal with human power technology?
Emily: The story about FROGED, in fact, we pronounce FROGED because it's Ed the FROGED is the name of the frog is Ed. We wanted to have a name that created that personality, and that also allowed people, users, companies, to link or to fill that link with our company. This is why we choose Froged, and also the idea of the leap, a frog always leap. We help other companies to step forward, to give that leap and also relate to sustainability. We have a very clear conscious of helping and giving back to the earth what we receive from it. We also collaborate and by the way, so far in Brazil we are exploring also other areas. We help planting trees, one tree per client per month per subscription. It's like also that connection. Everything is pivoting around frog and this is why the Froged.
Phil: That makes sense. That's impressive. Let me go back on the size of the team. I'm a big believer myself. I love the base camp guys and they built such a big company, which is my team, but they're a bootstrap company. There's a lot of pressure from investors on headcount. You have to keep growing. How you deal with that? Did you guys raise money and how your company's mom?
Emily: In fact, we did, I'm also this big believer, and I'm impressed when I see those examples of companies who are bootstrapped and who have been building an amazing project with no funding. In our case, yes, we've been funded. It is true that we haven't gone through large funding. We did sit round and then a small bridge round. It is true what you say about the pressure from investors in terms of keep on growing, growing everything, growing the number of people in the team number. Apart from that I have to say that with the pandemic, with the slowdown I think that every investor has reconsidered many things.
Now it's going back to analyze very much, not only the unit economics but the efficiency because at the very end, what you have as an investor, I suppose that one of the most important things that you have to check whenever you're investing in someone or in a team, or in a project is the ability they have to create with the money they have. Capital efficiency would be at least from my angle one of the metrics or the most important things I would observe. In this sense, I would say that teams or smaller teams such as base camp could be, or I could say some other examples become references because that means that very big businesses come out from a small but very powerful teams. I am a big believer of that.
Phil: Me too. One if the books that I love that talk about [unintelligible 00:43:30] is Mal Giants. Another founder the balsamic founder forgot his name now, but he talks about like figuring out your company natural size. That's like, you can't force things to be, but maybe like you say, the pandemic, the economy downturn. Now people are starting to think there's not only one way of doing stuff, and it's good to hear that your investors they are letting you be more capital effective and run your business in a different way.
Maybe it's a better way and also you get the foundation to be built. Eventually, if you guys need to scale, you scale with a strong foundation of leaders that have been working close to you.
Emily: Exactly. Very much.
Phil: When did you had a product that people love?
Emily: As I said, Phil from the beginning we were always very much in touch with the market. We always were seeking for this feedback from this information. Somehow, we always had this sensation of being on track. Whenever we were listening that we just trying to find out where was our real path. Of course, launching up some more gave us a lot of info and feedback. From there it's been very much that feedback or those testimonials, or of course, whenever they start referring you just because they love you, that's already something that talks very positively about you, very much those moments. If you want me to tell you about that launch in AppSumo was a big step point for us I would say that.
Phil: That makes sense. You see people signing up, you see like solving a real problem and that was like, we know we have something. Then you kept building. What has been one of your proudest moments as a SaaS founder?
Emily: I would say that in a long story, ours is not yet that long, but you could have different proud moments. To highlight one since we are fully remote, our first annual gathering was one special moment where I felt especially proud of seeing everyone in the team and seeing what we were creating there. The three of us as founders of course we were proud from the beginning, but when you look at the team and you see how they feel the project as theirs too, that also makes us and especially me, makes me so proud, and seeing whenever they start sharing your vision and even building an app.
That is also something that really makes me proud and gives me the energy to keep on moving and keep on running because there is something so special coming in front of us. I would say that one, but there are so many others. That one was a special.
Phil: For sure. That's why I say you don't have to find the biggest one. I know exactly where you're coming from when you see your team start to get the vision, your team wearing the company t-shirt and understanding where you're going. I've been there and it's definitely an amazing moment for us as founders. You start in 2019?
Phil: Let's say you can go back in time, you are traveling to 2019 and you're going to meet yourself. What advice you'd give yourself about this business in your journey?
Emily: There are a few advices I would give myself. There is one that in fact, I try to apply to myself every day, but it's like at the very end, you are the one who's going to be taking decisions. It's very good to gather and to seek advice, especially from others that have gone the path you are going through. At some points, they will help us with their experience to shorten bad experiences or to shorten the periods of time you need to get to a point. Being able to gather that advice, but be strong at the time of taking sessions because it's you who at the very end has to decide. That would be one advice. Gather and don't hesitate to ask.
When people ask me, I'm super happy to give them at least sharing with them my experience. I've seen many generous people sharing their own experiences with me, and that has helped me during these years a lot. I would suggest, and I would advise people to search for that advice from the earliest moment because that will help you. Then I remember this wording we all have heard about it. The product is very important, the market is very important and the team is essential. Being able to create and search and go for the right team, and to be able to maintain them and to make them grow with you. Giving them wins to fly, but reasons to stay with you. That won't be very much.
Phil: Those are great advises. I love what you said about being the decision maker. I have a framework of how we make decisions in my company, now it's about 100 people. I like to tell people there's always the influencers and the decision-maker, and I'm like who is the decision-maker in the room? Listen to every single influencer but if you are the decision maker, make the call.
Phil: If you're wrong, or if you're right it doesn't matter, we just going to keep moving. There's no point in slowing down. I believe especially early days, that's very important. I sometimes people get shocked because I say, "Hey, this is not a democracy." I will listen to everybody, some were caught as a shock, and people are like “What?”
Emily: Oh, no, but you're completely right, and knowing that, taking the responsibility of going for any decision. You seek for advice. You just listen as you said to influencers, but at the end decisions have to be made. One more thing this is the last one. I think creativity is essential. You can be very creative in everything, anything you have to do, you can use creativity for that. Creatively will allow you to find new paths, and to get to new solutions that have been unexplored before. You can apply it to any department, to anything in the company.
I always say that in our case for example, being from Spain means that at some point we see ourselves as David against Goliath because we are competing with companies which are raising a lot of money but what do we have? We have creativity. The more creative we are the best paths or the best ways you can find to get to the result to your end goal. Don't forget to be creative at every step.
Phil: There's a thing I like to say that now I hear it, but I repeat all the time. It's talent always beats unlimited resources. It doesn't matter you say you are in Spain, maybe other companies have more resources, but if you bring the creativity, if you bring the talent, you can still win. It's having the mentality that you can win. You said it was last one, but I have one last question that I wanted-- you're still back then talking to yourself 2019. As founders we all have fears. What would you tell yourself about the fears you had and what were those fears like?
Emily: You could have different fears. Some fears could be about how you are going to be in the different situations you're going to have to face over time. Fears about the market. I would say that one of the most important values or quantities that we have to develop as founders is the resilience. Being resilient means that it's not only falling down and being able to start again for whatever it happens, but falling down and whenever you start back you were there with even more energy and more resources that you had before.
I would say that trust and then that resilience would be a secret sauce to be successful because even though you don't have the resources, may those be physical or material resources or knowledge or whatever it is, you could go for them. You have to trust that you're going to be able to face whatever comes. I would say that. Trust in your capacity. I remember talking with uncle and it was a conversation. I think we had this conversation last week and he was telling me “Look Emily, if I see the uncle that I was in 2019 and the uncle I am 2022, it's nothing to do.” I've been developing myself at such speed, but uncle says that but [unintelligible 00:54:48] says the same thing.
I do say the same thing, so we are both at such a speed and I see that everyone in the team is evolving at such a speed that at some point your fear is that, am I going to be able to face so many changes and so many challenges that are coming up every day? What I would say is trust and keep on going. The power of focus is huge, and this is also something that some companies the more you focus, the more you're able to deliver and the more you're able to succeed.
Phil: For sure. That's such a fun exercise to go back and think how much we develop in the last three years, and how it would be to meet ourselves and how cool it would be if we had met ourselves a couple years ago. It has been amazing to learn about your story and about how you developed the company. Could you tell me now kind like where is the business today, and where is it headed?
Emily: The business today is growing a lot. We are heading to be the reference for product success, and the midmarket as I said, this is global reference. As I was telling you today, we are growing up at a fast speed and making sure that we create that new space there. We are becoming this new category which is very much related to something that already exists but from an angle which is completely different. We want very much to become that reference, and I believe strongly believe that we're going to be there.
Phil: That's exciting. I believe you guys are going to be there too. I have two final questions for you. The first one is, what made a big difference in your career?
Emily: There are so many books and I'm this eclectic reader because I read from different things. Even though it's not very much related to businesses, it helps me approaching things from a different angle. For example, I would say I loved a book The Hard Thing About Hard Things from Ben Horowitz. That's a very good one, that gave me a very good vision and what he talks about leadership is great. Then for example, this is from Spain. Iolanda Batallé, she’s a writer from Barcelona, and she's very much into leadership too.
The name of the book, I'm going to say it in Spanish and then I'm going to try to translate it into English, it’s Atrévete a hacer las cosas a tu manera which means it's like allow yourself to do things in your own way. This relates very much also to female leadership understood from a different perspective, which I agree very much and I feel very much related too. Reading her was like reading myself. Also, this is a book I particularly recommend to those who are seeking for a different leadership and trying to understand, and especially if they are females as I am, trying to understand where you don't need to replicate what others do, you just need to find yourself and your own way of doing things.
I think these two books are very special, and then there is one from Ramli John that he especially, it was published just a few months ago about product-led onboarding. I'm sure you heard of it. That one is also very, very good one and it's very much linked to us, so that one. Those three books I would say.
Phil: I definitely want to read that Spanish book that you mentioned. I’ll look for it. I hope my Spanish is good enough so I can understand. [laughs]
Emily: I will send it to you. I will send the link to you, but that's really good, and it's really, it was a present, it was given to me by one of the Froged teammates and when I was reading it, it was like, it's very much, I feel very much reflected in those words. It was like, "It's confirming what I'm doing and knowing that there is that way, possible way of doing things," which I feel proud of too.
Phil: That's exciting. Thanks for sharing. I love this session of the show because I always learned I had new books for my list of things that I should read. I'd definitely read the POG book because that's what we do all day long, but I'm going to pick up that book and if something I don't understand, I can always use a translator. [laughs] My final question, it's how you spend your time when you're not working.
Emily: I'm this kind of person who has a very rich life. For example, I practice yoga, meditation, I love hiking, and being in the nature, and spending time with friends. I'm very selective also at the time of surrounding myself. I have a very intense inner life, I would say. I’m this kind of person who sticks also my level of consciousness and I bring this to life and to my day-to-day work. I could define myself as a conscious leader too, and I love that part. When I'm not working, I could be in the mountains hiking, or meditating, or maybe a retreat, which I love also participate in.
Phil: Thanks for sharing. I love to ask this question because I think people that are starting their business, they should know that it's not all about work. You have to recharge yourself too. I love to learn how other founders do. Emily, it's been amazing to have you in the show. I love chatting with you and thank you very much for the time today.
Emily: Thank you very much, Phil. It was a pleasure.
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