In this episode of SaaS Origin Stories, Phil speaks with Derek Osgood, Founder and CEO ofIgnition, a collaborative hub to help launch teams dynamically plan, execute, and measure GTM processes. Derek is also a Fellow at On Deck, and was previously the Director of Product Marketing at Rippling and the Product Manager at Playstation.
They delve into the fundraising process that Ignition went through, when to commit to an idea you have, the thought that goes into choosing to co-found a company, and why you should try to get feedback from customers outside of your network. They also explore just how many times you have to scrap and remake your product until it is absolutely perfect.
Guest at a Glance:
Name: Arsen Stepanyan
About Derek: In this episode of SaaS Origin Stories, Phil speaks with Derek Osgood, Founder and CEO ofIgnition, a collaborative hub to help launch teams dynamically plan, execute, and measure GTM processes. He is also a Fellow at On Deck, and was previously the Director of Product Marketing at Rippling and the Product Manager at Playstation.
A previous colleague described him as “the kind of manager who inspires you to come to work in the morning, and his creativity and energy flows to the rest of the team. He provided the vision and prioritization needed to do my best work, and the space and knowledge to learn and grow, and most importantly, I always felt empowered and supported by him.”
Derek on LinkedIn
Ignition on LinkedIn
Topics we cover:
Taking Matters into Your Own Hands
Sometimes, after you’ve been using tools created by someone else and it still isn’t working, you may need to take matters into your own hands. Derek explains that, after having so many founders ask him what the best strategy when launching a product, and knowing that there was such bad or little information out there, he decided to prioritize the process and templates that he already made and built Ignition.
“I’ve launched hundreds of things. Every single time that I’ve had to build this process, I’ve had to hack it together with a bunch of tools that are not really built around the workflow that exists. It was never very efficient or effective, despite my best efforts to communicate.”
Discovering Surprise Investors!
Before even landing on the idea for Ignition, Derek quit his job to pursue starting a company, which meant he was able to go full time but lacked the money to fund his company. But investors will come when you least expect it; when Derek first created Ignition, they only had a few customers, but they were so impressed with the hub that they offered to invest in it. It was only then that they were able to start the real fundraising process, and the rest is history!
“We built a prototype and went and put it in front of a few customers who we had never met. A couple of them were excited enough to say ‘we’ll definitely buy this’ and also a couple of them offered to invest because they were so excited about the vision. That turned into us going out and kicking off an actual fundraising process.”
How to Know When to Commit to the Idea
You have to know when to commit to your business ideas. There’s absolutely no point in marrying one before you’re one hundred percent sure it’s the right choice. But how do you know when it’s the right choice? Well, it’s all about trial, error, and validation among those you put the product in front of. Oftentimes, you’ll know when you’ve struck gold, but it’s important to remember to stay level-headed and not get caught up in the excitement. Try to look at your business from an objective point of view.
“We weren’t fully like, ‘lets go make anything and whatever sticks, sticks’. We were a little married to the idea, but we said we weren’t fully committing to this thing until we’ve fully validated it. This isn’t just personal pain, this is also pain that other people are feeling.”
The Value of a Stranger’s Voice
In order to get the best feedback for your work, always try to test out the product with people outside of your network - this is far more important than you might think. When we show our work to the people we know, people who we’ve already developed relationships with, they are more inclined to tell us they like our work in hopes it’ll make us happy. Whilst this is a very nice thing to do, we need criticism and pointers from an objective point of view in order to grow and develop.
Strangers are honest with us. Derek himself says that, if he showed his work to people in his network, they’d likely be ‘too gentle’ and want to protect his feelings too much.
Continue building, continue improving, listening to customer feedback, adding features where needed, removing features where needed, and just keep improving and polishing the product. And as long as you keep your eye on the problem, and you really do deeply understand the problem and you're listening to customers and what they're telling you, you'll get there eventually. You just need to keep building. 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 do's 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 Alves. Today I have Derek, who's good from Ignition. Welcome to the show, Derek.
Yeah, yeah. Thanks for having me, Phil. Excited to jam on this stuff.
Yeah, I'm super excited. I was looking at your background before the show, and I'm sure you have a lot to share. It's going to be fun chatting with you.
So first question for you, it's what problem does Ignition solve?
Yeah, so we actually solve a few different problems, depending on the person that we're talking to. At the end of the day, it's really about how do you actually build a repeatable go-to-market process within a company and basically create more alignment between product and go-to-market teams.
So we help people to structure a repeatable process and then create more visibility and transparency for all the cross-functional teams that need information throughout the launch process, whether you're launching new products or new features. We make all of that stuff easier by connecting contacts to that content because we have research tools baked into the process that help you collect competitive insight, customer research.
So basically, we help you manage the launch process all the way from end to end, from concept all the way through post-launch measurement. That's cool.
And what's your background and how did you come up with the idea to do the product to solve the go-to-market problem?
Yeah, for sure. So my background, I basically have run product and product marketing teams throughout Silicon Valley for most of my career. So early on, I was a PM at PlayStation launching big AAA games. And then ever since, I've been around venture-backed startups.
So I did a lot of early stage stuff running marketing teams, ended up running marketing across an incubator in BBVA, which is a big Spanish bank, and then stood up the product marketing team at Rippling and helped them scale up to a $7 billion valuation from Seed. And essentially, through that whole process, I've launched hundreds of things, whether they're products or features or campaigns or events.
And in that process, basically, every single time that I've had to build this process, I've had to hack it together with a bunch of tools that are not really built around the workflow that exists when you're launching stuff. And it just was never very efficient, was never very effective. And cross-functional teams never really knew what was going on, despite my best efforts to communicate across the team.
And there's so many founders that were asking me about, how do we build a good market strategy?
What's the right process to figure out to launch stuff?
And there's so much bad information out there about it that basically, I decided to prioritize the process that I had refined over the course of 15 years or so, and all the many, many templates and processes that I had collected from other marketing leaders. And so basically, it was solving personal pain.
I, as a product marketer, I was like, I don't have any tools that are built around the way that I actually do my work. And launching things is hard. It's an incredibly painful problem for every single company. And it's one of those things that when companies go through it, they think they're going to have a really smooth launch. And they go do it.
And then inevitably, the first one or two or three launches, they do flop and they don't end up driving the revenue impact that they want. And they realize how dysfunctional the process is internally. And so basically, it was all personal pain. And I was like, I know that this is a problem at every single company in every single vertical.
It impacts tech companies and CPG companies and entertainment companies, because I've worked in all of them. And so it seemed like a big opportunity to solve and something that I personally wanted to have better tools around as well. And even like, that's amazing because most founders, I would say, build a product for their own pain. And it's kind of like what you're doing.
But it's cool that you were working like pretty big companies, like maybe you helped them become big companies. And it's still that problem was there. Still they didn't have a solution for this problem that you were trying to solve. I would say it's arguably worse than big companies. Like I've done this at startups and I've done it at big companies.
The challenges only get exponentially harder when you talk about a bigger company because you have more teams involved. You have more stakeholders who need to get aligned around the problem. You have more data that you need to go sift through in order to collect research. And so it all just becomes harder the bigger you get.
And I feel like a lot of the bigger companies that I've worked in, they're still doing this stuff in spreadsheets and docs, which is just a dumpster fire. It's a really messy way of doing it. Startups at least, because they are able to build their stack from the start, they at least have some slightly better tools oftentimes that they're using around this stuff.
And they may be not, they don't have quite the scale of pain around launching things.
But yeah, I've run into this at two person companies. I've run into this at multiple thousand person companies.
How did you fund the build of the product?
Yeah. So we basically built our MVP. Our MVP was functionally really my process that I'd built in the past, which I had hacked together through a bunch of different types of tools. But in the actual incarnation of ignition, we basically built a prototype.
We hired a designer that my co-founder and I basically just out of pocket ended up paying for a designer for a few weeks to spin up some prototypes around what the product experience would look like. We went and put that in front of a couple of customers, potential customers that we had never met. A couple of them were excited enough to say, hey, we would definitely buy this.
They also then a couple of them offered to invest because they were so excited about the vision for what we were building. A lot of them were product marketers that had experienced all the same problems. They're like, hey, I've never had any tools built for me. And so a couple of them offered to invest. And then that turned into us going out and kicking off an actual fundraise process.
And so we raised a small pre-seed round in 2021, just a couple of months after we spun up the prototype. So that was basically how we funded the early development. And then we raised a little bit more money a little bit later. But essentially, it was just get some kind of customer commits, go off of a prototype, and then go raise the money that we needed in order to build the product itself.
And did you quit your job to do this full time when you started doing the prototype or you did the prototype, working your job, and then after you got the funding, how was the process?
Yeah. So I quit my job before ever even landing on this as the idea that I wanted to build. So I knew that I wanted to start a company. I had quit my job. And this was the idea that I originally had planned on starting.
But I spent some time in the middle there, kind of exploring a bunch of different spaces to make sure that this was really the problem that I wanted to commit to solving for the next few years of my life. So I was already full time. My co-founder at the time was still working for Facebook.
And so he spent the first probably six months or so of the company building, still employed full time. And basically then I was full time from the start. And so I didn't leave to start this idea, but I did leave and then start this idea. You left to start a business.
Yeah, exactly. The time of my life that I'm going to build something, I didn't know exactly what yet. Exactly. You made that transition. I would imagine that you were to a point in your personal life financially that you could afford to do that, to just leave and like, okay, I'm going to focus on my next venture here. Yeah.
I mean, I had a pretty good career. And so I wasn't by no means was I like super financially comfortable doing that. But I was able to at least take a little bit of time and explore. And I did a little bit of consulting on the side while I was doing that to help pay the bills.
So I didn't have zero revenue or zero income coming in because I was doing a little bit of consulting as well.
But yeah, it was basically like, I knew that this was something I wanted to do. I actually did move home with my parents for a period of time there in the middle to like lower my personal burn rate. So I was living at home, not spending on rent while we were in the very, very early nascent stages before we raised money. But yeah. That's a great story.
How long from the day you left your job to the day you commit to this idea, this is what I'm going to build now?
Or how long was the process?
So I think we basically, I left my job in middle of 2020. And I met my co-founder in December of 2020. So there's probably about six months between when I left and when we actually decided this is the thing that we actually want to spin up a project around. At the time we went and hired this designer and we basically spun up the prototype. And that we weren't fully committed to this idea yet.
We were basically just testing and validating it and seeing if there were people that we could get to say, hey, yeah, I'll buy that thing. And so I would say it was another two and a half months between then and when we actually formed a company around it, started the thing and said, we're a whole hog going at this thing.
So it was probably soup to nuts about eight to nine months from when I left my job to when I actually fully formed the company and committed to building this thing. And as a good product person, you were not married to the idea until you fully validated it. You're like, I don't know if you're going to build this. Let's test it. Let's put the type.
You have a product background, you're a product manager. You start a product at PlayStation.
So you're like, okay, is this a real problem that people are going to pay money for?
Yeah. We probably were somewhere in the middle. We weren't fully like, hey, we're going to just go validate anything. It's like whatever sticks, sticks. We were a little married to this idea, but we definitely said, hey, we're not fully committing to this thing until we have validated that this isn't just personal pain. It's also pain that other people are feeling.
So yeah, we definitely approached it from the perspective of like, look, we need to make sure that this is a real problem that people really do want to buy a solution to before we go out and build. Talk me through the process now of actually building the product. So you guys have a validated prototype.
So how was the building, how did that go?
Yeah. So building was, it took us longer than we expected. I think that's like every entrepreneur's experience when they're building SaaS is like, it takes you a lot longer than you think it's going to take. This was coming from two people who had built a lot of product in the past. And so I think we built our MVP. We originally kind of budgeted between like, 3 to 4 months to build that.
And I think it ended up taking us like something closer to like 7 or 8 months. So about twice as long as we forecasted. We shipped the first version of the product to a bunch of alpha customers. The first version of the product really sucked. And that's often the case with many people when you're building.
And so we discovered a lot of things that the designer that we had ended up building prototype with was much more of a UI designer than a UX designer. And so there were a lot of little micro UX issues that kind of killing the experience.
And so we ended up actually basically scrapping almost the whole first version of the product that we built and kind of re-architected the product quite a bit based off of early customer feedback with those alpha design partners.
And through that process, we were trying to kind of show people designs, get their feedback on those designs as we were kind of like building it out so that it wasn't just like flying by the seat of our pants and building what we thought was important. We were trying to actually collect real customer feedback through that process.
And then essentially like towards the end, we shipped a beta version in January of 2021, kind of a closed beta. And that version had significantly evolved already from like the first version of the product.
The first version of the product was functionally just a doc that had like the ability for you to modulily kind of send status updates to cross-functional teams that needed like just bits and pieces of the information in the launch plan. And so by that point, we had built a lot more integration into product roadmaps to help handoffs from product teams. And so the product evolved a ton.
And we like one of our superpowers as a company is luckily that we are able to build a lot of product really fast. And so we've drastically evolved the product over even the last year, added a ton more functionality and like really grown from just what was originally like a pretty narrow point solution into a full blown platform. So it was a process.
We ended up hiring, like a lot of the early build was done through an external agency that we hired. And then we ended up hiring our own internal devs over the couple of months that we were building that initial MVP.
But yeah, it was a process. There's so much to unpack here.
First, I would like to unpack your strategy around alpha customers and beta customers.
Like did you charge them?
Where did you find those people?
And how did you get the feedback from them?
Because I feel like there was a lot of learning there.
I mean, so finding them, like it was cold, cold pinging people on LinkedIn and asking my network. I explicitly did not want like alpha or beta customers who were like within my network because I wanted to see if I could sell this thing to strangers and like if strangers had the problem.
So I tried to avoid like going friends and because I knew that friends would just be like too gentle and to kind of like they'd protect my feelings too much around what we built. So we went to strangers and just kind of pinged them on LinkedIn and was like, hey, we're thinking about building a thing around this space.
Curious to be able to jump on a call and like just tell us about your pain points and like give us a little bit of insight. Maybe if it ends up interesting, like we'd love to have you as a design partner. We did not charge for any of the early design partners. And we basically were free all the way through 2020 and a large portion of 2021 actually.
And I think that like we somewhat regret that. Like I think we would have preferred to have charged upfront. We weren't really familiar with like what the process looked like to kind of charge upfront before building. And so we just kind of like opted to build something and like look more at usage and say, hey, like if this thing's sticky and being used, then we'll start monetizing it later.
We did like try and gut check with people, like kind of what would you generally be willing to pay for something like this and try and get a sense for what they were already spending. But we weren't charging those early folks. With the alpha, we tried to keep it very narrow.
And so we only focused on the people that we had like done early discovery calls with and like heard about their pain points and then shipped like the product that we told them that we build. We were like, okay, hey, like you told us all these pain points. We've shown you a couple of designs on this. You've given some feedback. We just built the thing.
Like, do you want to go use this?
And we basically like got some feedback. We're like, yes, absolutely. We're ready to do it. We got some where it's like, oh no, like that's not quite what, it's not quite solving the problem yet. It needs like XYZ things. And so that was when we started to read the beta.
And I think the beta was basically like, once we felt like the product was delivering value to those early design partners and we were ready for a larger group of people to start giving feedback on like, is this a pain point that like more than five to 10 people really have like, is it ready for kind of a little bit more prime time?
Then we started just, we shipped that beta through a product launch. Like that was basically how we got a lot of our early data users. And then we started just doing some very lightweight cold email as well.
So on the beta product now, are you charging yet or still free the beta version?
So the, we are charging now.
I mean, so we're, we're actually out of beta. So we just announced we came out of beta. And just the timeline. Yeah. Just like the timeline. So you did the alpha free got users. They help you like really improve the product. You're tracking usage. Yeah.
Is this actually solving the problem?
People are using my product. Yep. So you go to a beta, you go on product hunt. Now people are coming, you have more users because you're not so limited as an alpha. Yep. So you're already charging then at that point. Yeah. So the beta, we, the beta, we had pricing live, but we were not like aggressively trying to monetize people yet.
So we, we had a couple of people that upgraded, like right away in the beta, but for the most part, like we were not actively trying to convert people into paid users at that point. So we were still focused more on usage and stickiness and is it delivering enough value that people are like coming into the product every day.
So it was, it was kind of like a little bit of a hybrid at that point.
And then, you know, it really isn't until just recently when we started like actively trying to monetize everybody. Looks like you and co-founder having a product background, you guys follow a very product led approach from the beginning and then you're bringing users in, but they're coming in on the free trial.
Like there's a free plan and then you're seeing if they're going to upgrade, but you're like going product led out of the way from the beginning. That's kind of like how you guys did it.
Like we, I mean, we're big believers in product led growth. We were both product people. So we basically were emphasizing, you know, like let's build something that's valuable before we start really trying to sell it. We actually did kind of like ping pong back and forth a little bit.
So like in the alpha, we weren't really charging, you know, we were forcing people to kind of go through a demo in order to use it just because the onboarding was not ready. And by the beta period, we did have like a free trial.
And then like more recently we migrated to a full blown freemium model because the product just now has enough surface area that we can actually upsell from a freemium plan to, you know, a paid plan.
So we've, you know, evolved a little bit in the, in the, what that PLG motion looks like, but we've been PLG from the start. And so I want a little thing that you talk about that I think is super interesting to discuss. You actually work with an agents. I own an agent myself that builds those products, but I know that 95% of the products that try to build it from agents will fail.
The experience is agents are not prepared to do the new product because there's a lot of like learning, redoing, and there's a lot of things that happens. And so most people have a very bad experience when they try to hire an agent to build their SaaS product.
How was your experience and what you would say for other founders that kind of like are considering the option?
Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, generally like there's pros and cons, right?
So I mean, we came, we, we worked with an agency that came very highly recommended from, you know, another founder that my, my co-founder was friends with.
And yeah, I think they were effective at building quickly.
I think, you know, the nice thing about our problem space is like, we had a lot of domain expertise.
So, you know, we had pretty clear vision for the thing that we needed to build. And so we were able to be pretty tightly specced in what needed to get built.
We definitely went through a lot of growing pains early on in just like shifting the culture from, you know, build to perfection first and to more of like, you know, lean startup style, like, Hey, we're going to iterate on this thing a lot and we're going to be changing things constantly, which was, which was a cultural shift for the agency that we're working with who, you know, like oftentimes, you know, I think when you're talking about agencies, they're very used to working with larger corporates where, you know, the time, like it's a very clearly specced product that needs to get built and, you know, like they almost don't care about iterating on it over time.
And so, you know, you just kind of build the first version and like the goal is to make sure that it's ultra stable out of the gate. I think our goal was like not be ultra stable out of the gate. It was build, you know, and test things quickly, get, you know, minimum viable versions of things live, see what was resonating and sticking with people.
And so, you know, we definitely experienced, you know, some, some kind of like thrash on that and like it's, we're still working with the agency as well. So like they still continue to kind of like augment our team.
And I think we've, you know, gradually kind of improved process there, but yeah, it was, I mean, you know, I'm not going to say it was like a perfectly like not bumpy road, but you know, I think it worked okay for at least getting an MVP out the gate. And you know, the alternative would have been us just, you know, hiring people internally, which would have taken longer.
We wouldn't have actually gotten anything built for a while.
And so, you know, that, that didn't really seem like a viable option.
I think that's like, you're going to have problems either way, right?
Because if you try to get your own team in place, then you know that you're going to have to go to the forming, performing, normally until you get to the team to actually be able to produce anything. So it's going to take months to get there, but also working with an agent, because most agents have that culture.
And I think what really worked for you guys was you were a product person and you could really help you steer that culture to be a more product. This is how we build products. That's how we launch products. It's different than building something for a big enterprise. And that's kind of like the space that my agents specialize. That's the space that we like.
So our culture is more to work with founders like yourself.
So moving on, what's kind of like the first O-Ship moment that comes to mind from the early days of building your SaaS?
I mean, I think like, it's a good question.
I mean, so on a positive note, the first O-Ship moment was honestly when we were like talking to our first investor, Mike Polner at Uber. And so he was running the Uber Eats product marketing team. We had no idea if anybody wanted this thing. And basically the very first call that we had with him, we were kind of like bouncing the prototypes off of him and we're just looking for feedback.
We weren't actually actively looking for even him to commit as a customer.
We're just like, hey, can you tell us what you think about this?
And he was so jazzed about it, but he asked to invest. And we were like, oh, wow, okay, like this is actually a real thing. Like people actually really want this. So I think that was the first positive one. I think the first negative one was when we shipped the first version of the alpha and we were like, oh shit, like this thing doesn't actually work very well.
There's so many things that we didn't account for in the user experience. And it's like very confusing and overwhelming. And there's just a lot of little things that we learned on the product front where we're like, oh, this isn't going to work in this current incarnation. We need to make some significant changes here in order to be able to have it be a really viable product.
At that moment when you're like, hey, people are not using this. This is not a good product.
How do you and your co-founder talk to yourself and work through that moment so you stay motivated and you stay making the changes that you need to make to get that successful product?
Yeah, I mean, I think we just treated it very much as a triaging exercise of like, hey, what's working, what's not working?
Where are the gaps and things that we need to build in order to get it to feature parity with other tools that are in the space in order to get it to a viable point where it's really solving the problem. And so we never really lost motivation at that stage. We knew that the first versions of most products don't really work all that well. They're not quite solving the problem perfectly.
So we knew that that's just part of the process. And I think we both just talked through it from that perspective.
And we're like, okay, so what did we learn?
What are the hypotheses that we had in this first version of the product that we shipped?
And which of them are still true?
Which of them have been disproven?
And what do we need to do in order to...
What's the next set of hypotheses that we have around what's going to uplevel this to a point where people actually want to use it?
And so it was just a very straightforward process where we're just like, okay, here's what we learned. Here's where there's low-hanging fruit that we can improve. Here's where there's some higher intact things that are going to take a little bit longer to improve. And let's just go through a prioritization exercise there. I think a big advantage that you guys had was, again, the huge product background.
Because you guys have done that before. You just saw this as like, this is how products are built. We play some bets. We won some, we lost some. We're going to place more bets. But many founders that doesn't come from a product background, when that happened, it's like a huge, oh shit moment. Even bigger, for you it was an oh shit moment.
But for them it was like, oh my gosh, this is going to fail.
What's going to happen?
You're like, oh yeah, I guess we were more wrong than we thought you were. We're going to place more bets. That background really helped you.
Yeah, definitely. It was nice that I hadn't been through the zero to one phase with a company before. My co-founder had.
And so he was able to, anytime that I got nervous about that, and I did get a lot more, probably a lot more anxiety than he did in those early days about, oh, is this going to work?
People aren't using it yet. This thing still feels like there's a lot more work to do. He pretty easily talked me off the ledge because he'd been through those experiences. And he's like, his last company, it took a long time for them to even land their first customer.
And it was just like, continue building, continue improving, listening to customer feedback, adding features where needed, removing features where needed, and just keep improving and polishing the product. As long as you keep your eye on the problem and you really do deeply understand the problem and you're listening to customers and what they're telling you, you'll get there eventually. You just need to keep building. Yeah.
And make sure you don't run out of money.
Yeah, that's the other important part.
Yeah, just don't run out of money.
Yeah, but I think, again, there's a huge insight here because you had that person in your team that understood zero to one and they have been there before. And many founders, they don't have that person. And it's great that was your co-founder, but it could be an advisor, it could be an investor, but someone that can help you like, okay, this is how it goes.
That's why people so many times go to incubators like YC, because they just have been zero to one so many times.
Could you share a very smart decision that you made in the early days of your company?
And by early days, it could be anytime even after the beta, but what is a very smart decision that you made?
When I think about actual decisions that we made, I think one of the smartest ones was that we took a very open approach to the way that we build. We compete across a lot of different areas of product. Because we are this big platform that consists of a lot of stuff and we touch a lot of organizations.
And so we have always taken the approach from a design principles perspective that we want to integrate with every other tool out there and not worry about building a walled garden where it's really hard for people to get information in or out of the platform. Because we need to be flexible enough across the different cross-functional teams that are using our product. And that even extends to our pricing.
We basically have always had free viewer access for the platform because there's just so many teams that we need to touch and be effective in integrating with their workflow that it allows us to have a pretty compelling story when we're talking to people relative to some of these other tools where every person's a paid seat or they require all the information to live in their platform or they just don't integrate well with other tools.
It makes a much easier adoption motion for the customers that we've got. So I think building in an open fashion has been really beneficial to us.
And how about a mistake that you made?
The decision that you made that you learned, oh man, that was wrong.
Where do I start?
Going back to the, I wish that we had asked our design partners to pay upfront and like basically put some skin in the game. I think we didn't get quite as much feedback as we would have liked even from those early alpha customers, partly because we weren't charging them. There was no risk or reason for them to deeply engage until the product was ready.
And so they were able to be a little bit less aggressive in giving feedback. And so it slowed down our pace of learning in the early days. So I think that's probably the biggest one that I would call out that jumps to mind, that we've made so many along the way.
In the early days, what kind of like was some of your biggest fear?
I mean, the biggest fear that I've had, you know, early days and even now is just that, you know, this is such a big problem.
Like, you know, the go-to-market process touches every single team cross-functionally. So it's a lot of surface area in both the product and, you know, those like teams that are involved in buying decisions and like can, you know, isn't even a solvable problem.
Like, you know, we feel like we've got a pretty good solution here and like, you know, our customers tell us that we do. But many companies, like there is so much dysfunction process-wise internally around this that oftentimes like it is a tool problem. And I fundamentally believe that like with the right tooling, you can solve those process problems much more effectively. But it's perceived oftentimes as a people problem.
And so, you know, I think the thing that scared me then and like continues to scare me forever, you know, like it's never going to go away is the idea that like, you know, it's possible the buying motion on this is going to be so cross-functional that and so like there's so much that you kind of have to rip and replace process-wise that it's just a hard tool for companies to buy, you know, on a regular basis.
And so, you know, that just slows down growth, right?
But I think, you know, we've kind of like cracked that nut recently. So I'm not like nearly as worried about it as I was, you know, in the very early days. But it's going to be a forever fear, you know, for us, I think.
It's like a behavior-changing software that you're selling, right?
You need to change the behavior of how things work. And that's definitely a big risk. Like will people change and what can I do to influence their behavior beyond my tool, like you say, because it's definitely a risk and a risk that many founders have to deal with.
So what are some of the strategies that work for you?
Yeah. So a lot of it is, you know, like onboarding education.
You know, when we're bringing people on board, you know, like we'll... We have a whole onboarding guide that we've written out, you know, and basically like helps kind of frame like, look, don't try...
You know, don't try and boil the ocean all at once.
You know, like start with just your product marketing team, and then gradually start rolling these other teams into the platform. So you know, we try and kind of push people into a crawl, walk, run approach.
I think, you know, also just modularizing the product itself and like modularizing the way that we price it, where, you know, you can buy the go-to-market product independently of buying the product management product, and you can buy that independently of buying the research product.
So you know, it allows people a lot more kind of a la carte ability to select like which problems they want to solve out of the gate, which, you know, makes it less daunting, you know, buying experience where they have, you know, it's not like, hey, you have to like totally overhaul the whole way your company is operating.
It's like you can overhaul bits and pieces of it and then gradually start, you know, improving the others over time. It's a great strategy and a company that I see as a strategy super well with HubSpot. Yeah. You start with like a $50 thing, and now this sudden you're spending $1,000 a month with them.
Because they keep like, how about this?
How about this?
Yeah. It's an amazing strategy that I believe people that, again, I worry about the adoption problems should follow.
How is the company doing today?
Anything that you can share about size, users, revenue, whatever is public information, and how the future looks like?
We don't share too much of that.
You know, I can tell you we've got about like 1,400 companies on the platform now.
You know, we've team size is about 15 folks. So you know, we've grown, you know, from like one, you know, two person shop a couple years ago to, you know, now a pretty solid team and good customer base.
You know, we've got large enterprises like Square and SmartRent using us. And then we've got, you know, very small, a lot of like even smaller startups as well. So you know, range of company sizes and verticals as well. So you know, folks in film and folks in SaaS, folks in film, folks in CBG, kind of all over the place. So that's great.
And that's 15 people on the top of the agents or 15 people with the people from the agency. It includes them. Like we count them as kind of part of our full time team at the moment. That's awesome.
And how does the future look like?
Yeah. So the next like year or so we're basically focusing on continuing to flesh out our integration ecosystem. We're building out, you know, some, a lot of really cool AI stuff. So we're starting to layer in more automation in the platform.
So you know, we're basically taking GBT-3 and we're going to be doing things like auto summarization of competitive insights of customer insights, helping to cascade that into automated generation of go to market plans and strategies. So a lot of really cool AI stuff coming down the pipe.
You know, continuing to flesh out the product management side of the house as well and basically build more kind of road mapping tools for the product teams that are collaborating in the platform.
But, you know, this year is all just grow, grow, grow and, you know, like start really cranking on revenue.
So, you know, we're spending most of this year just, you know, focused mostly on customers. That's great. And so I have one final question for you again. Thank you for sharing this story. I feel like there's so much to learn here. But there's one question I like to ask every founder.
What is a book that you recommend for other founders like yourself?
Yeah, I mean, there's a whole bunch of them. One that is a personal favorite is actually two. I'll give you a couple. And these are both positioning books because I'm a former product marketer and it's like what I find incredibly important, especially for early stage startups. One is obviously awesome by April Dunford. And then the other one is made to stick.
And between those two, you know, I think most founders walk away with a pretty killer ability to structure their narrative, which is critical to getting customers, critical to getting investment. It's critical to getting press like anything you want. So yeah. I read made to stick. It's a great book. I love it. I'm going to read the other one you recommended. I'll pick that one up.
And if people want to find you, learn more about your company, what's the best way to do?
Yeah. So our website is haveignition.com.
And, you know, if you want to reach out directly, my email is derrick at haveignition.com and love to hear from folks directly. Awesome.
Again, thank you very much for your time today.
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