What do you get when you gather together nearly 90 of the best enterprise-tech minds in New York—and open the bar at 4 pm?
Technology entrepreneurs found out in early May, when Battery partnered with New York City tech community and venture fund Work-Bench for a high-level CEO summit at Work-Bench’s Fifth Avenue offices. The half-day summit offered strategic and tactical insights about “top down” and “bottoms-up” sales models; building company culture; and preparing for an IPO or M&A event.
“Pure heaven,” was how tech CEO Mehdi Daoudi, who runs Web performance-monitoring startup Catchpoint, described the event.
Indeed, while much of Silicon Valley remains fascinated with the consumer startup du jour—Uber for X, food delivery and social media—the event proved that enterprise startups are alive, growing and very numerous in New York, which is home to many huge enterprise-IT buyers like big banks and media companies.
Selling to these buyers is not always easy. That was clear from the numerous questions lobbed at panelists Olivier Pomel and Clark Valberg, who discussed how to sell technology in a more “bottoms up” manner, without a traditional enterprise sales force. Both Pomel’s company, Datadog, and Valberg’s, InVisionApp, initially grew through more low-key, “land-and-expand” models. But both said figuring out how to structure sales and account-management teams, and move up-market into enterprise selling, can be tricky.
Valberg also discussed the scrappy marketing that can accompany bottoms-up selling, urging attendees to think of it as “cookies, kittens and crack”—everything ranging from nice-to-have items to potentially powerful and even addictive campaigns.
Later, Sprinklr CEO Ragy Thomas and SiSense CEO Amir Orad talked more specifically about how to scale companies to $100 million in revenue, partly by deploying an enterprise sales force. But Thomas also recommended focusing maniacally on making sure existing customers are happy too. Sprinklr has a program called “CDAP”, short for “Customer Delight Assurance Program,” that targets unhappy customers for extra attention. There is no excuse for salespeople and others linked to these customers to miss a CDAP meeting, he said—“except your own funeral.”
The crowd also had lots of questions for Dev Ittycheria, the CEO of open-source database company MongoDB, about how to prepare a fast-growing company for an eventual exit. Ittycheria, who previously led BladeLogic through a public offering, recommended that companies start acting like a public company—in terms of operations and finances—at least a year or two before actually filing for an IPO. He also dispelled some of the negativity around going public, noting that an IPO can also boost a company’s brand and increase its credibility among customers.
Finally, attendees got some useful tips for building cohesive company cultures from David Politis, CEO of software company BetterCloud, and Daniel Chait, CEO of Greenhouse. Politis said his company actually maintains a sort of “how to work with me” user manual for employees; everyone at the company fills out a questionnaire about how each person likes to work with colleagues, which co-worker qualities they like and dislike, the ways in which they best communicate, etc. These documents are kept on a shared computer drive. Then, on an on-going basis, current and new employees can refer to the crowd-sourced manual to glean insights about how to best work with others in the company. (Politis wrote a widely read LinkedIn post about this process earlier this year.)
Chait and Politis also discussed how company culture must change as companies grow, and agreed that company values need to be taken seriously and actually used to assess employee performance.
Work-Bench Co-Founder and Managing Director Jonathan Lehr and Battery General Partner Neeraj Agrawal, an investor in Sprinklr who also backed Ittycheria at BladeLogic, served as co-hosts for the event.