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Buliding a Venture Scale Analytics Platform Company: Birst CEO, Brad Peters (Part 7)

Posted on Tuesday, Apr 1st 2014

Sramana Mitra: In that strategy, were you actually partnering with Salesforce and going to market through the AppExchange?

Brad Peters: We were. Salesforce is a fairly hands-off partner. I wouldn’t say that it was a huge help. That has generally been my experience talking to other people. You find Salesforce customers on your own and tell the story to them directly. AppExchange was a nice technical integration point. It wasn’t that great a marketing tool.

Sramana Mitra: I’ve heard big feedback on that. Some people have been very successful generating leads out of AppExchange and some have not. It sounds like in your case, it has not.

Brad Peters: Not so much.

Sramana Mitra: What are other specific highlights of your business building process that are worth capturing?

Brad Peters: One of the most important things for us is analytics has been an area that has been, technically, a difficult area. The customer has a consumption model where they’re finishing the product for themselves. It’s not a finished good. It’s something where you’re building a market by solving individual application problems one by one for different customers. As part of that process, you’re making it successful for each of these customers. What’s important is making those customers happy and successful. Our business model is a subscription model. We get paid when our customers are successful and that’s never been done in our market before. In pretty much all the BI vendors that have been out there, they sell you the license and then they move one. Then, it’s up to you to be successful with it.

It has led to a fairly disillusioned marketplace and a marketplace where there’s a lot of breakage. Our strategy has been very much around the integrity of making our customers successful. The building of an organization where we fundamentally care about our customers being successful is hard – and not just lip service. Sometimes, your customers make it really hard. They don’t know what they’re doing. They think it should be one thing. They’re actually wrong because they don’t have the experience. Despite all of that, having the organizational infrastructure to compensate for what they have and still get them to where they need to be anyway has been as much as core part of the business as anything else. When you’re competing against the big guys, there has to be something special about you beyond the technologies. Our secret weapon has been our approach to how we take customers seriously and how we measure their success and ensure their delivery.

Sramana Mitra: What is the implication of that observation? Does that mean that you have to run a pretty active professional services organization?

Brad Peters: We do and we have a partner organization as well.

Sramana Mitra: I assume your customer base is an enterprise-focused customer base?

Brad Peters: Yes. We have 80 certified partners. We also have our own services organization. It’s a fairly diverse crew that’s out there.

Sramana Mitra: I take it then that you’ve scaled the company using the traditional enterprise software venture capital. You’ve raised how many rounds of financing now?

Brad Peters: Four.

Sramana Mitra: Are you approaching a threshold where an IPO is relatively soon? Where are you growth wise?

Brad Peters: That’s where we’re working towards. We’re working towards building IPO and being a large independent successful company.

Sramana Mitra: Any forecast on time frame?

Brad Peters: We’re definitely looking past this year.

Sramana Mitra: Anything else you want to add?

Brad Peters: Data and analytics are very strategic in companies today. There are silos across the organizations. IT would view it as an ancillary function. What we’re seeing now is organizations thinking about how to make data and the use of data a strategic role of the company. We’ve been getting behind our customers in the creation of a new role – the Chief Data Officer (CDO). As part of our market development, we need people who use data and think about it strategically. Obviously, we have a toolset to do that. We’re helping organizations really think about that role and what the characteristics of the people in that role should be. It’s new. There are relatively few CDOs out there but it’s something that we’re seeing growing.

This is like CRM in the early days where it didn’t really exist as an organized function. But once people started to think about the customer as a unit as opposed to individual interactions, it became very transformative. I think as people start to think of data that way, data is going to be very transformative as opposed to application by application or silo by silo, which is how they’ve traditionally done it.

Sramana Mitra: Great. It was nice talking to you.

This segment is part 7 in the series : Buliding a Venture Scale Analytics Platform Company: Birst CEO, Brad Peters
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