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Conversation
Highlights

 

Welcome to another episode of Category Visionaries, the show that explores the future of tech with innovative B2B founders. In today’s episode, we’re speaking with Josh Merrill, CEO of Confirm, a data-driven performance management platform that has raised over $11 million in funding.

  • Josh’s experience as the second employee at Carta (formerly eShares) and the key decisions that led to the company’s success, including focusing on selling directly to CEOs and issuing electronic stock certificates to drive product-led growth.
  • The impact of Peter Thiel’s book “Zero to One” on Josh’s thinking, particularly the idea that the world is distributed in power laws rather than normal distributions, and the implications for happiness and success.
  • The problem of measuring employee performance using outdated methods like the traditional performance review, which fails to reflect the collaborative, network-based nature of modern work.
  • Confirm’s use of organizational network analysis (ONA) to turn the performance review on its head, focusing on questions like “who do you go to for help and advice?” rather than self-assessment of accomplishments.
  • The challenges of introducing a new methodology like ONA to HR practitioners who may be resistant to change and accustomed to doing things a certain way.
  • The decision to improve an existing category (performance management) rather than attempting to create a new one, recognizing the difficulties of educating the market and securing budget for a novel solution.
  • The evolution of Confirm’s messaging to become more confrontational and challenging, using “truth bombs” to cut through the noise and grab attention.
  • The importance of relationships in both fundraising and early customer acquisition, and the power of storytelling in crafting a compelling pitch deck that flows naturally from problem to solution to vision.
  • The long-term vision of creating a “credit bureau of employee performance” that makes performance data portable and allows individuals to demonstrate their impact and value to prospective employers.

Actionable
Takeaways

Focus on Relationships for Fundraising and Early Customers:

Josh attributes much of Confirm's success in raising capital and securing initial customers to the strength of his personal relationships. By investing time in getting to know potential investors and leveraging his network for introductions, he was able to build a strong foundation of support for the company.

Embrace the Messiness of Early Feedback:

Rather than waiting for the perfect product or messaging, Josh advises founders to get their solution in front of potential buyers as early as possible. The faster you can establish a feedback loop, the more quickly you can iterate and improve based on real-world input.

Challenge the Status Quo with "Truth Bombs":

To stand out in a noisy market, Confirm has adopted a more confrontational and challenging tone in its messaging, using "truth bombs" to grab attention and spark conversations. By being willing to take a strong stance and back it up with data, founders can differentiate themselves and make a lasting impression.

Improve an Existing Category Before Attempting to Create a New One:

While the allure of category creation is strong, Josh cautions against the difficulties of educating the market and securing budget for a completely novel solution. By positioning Confirm as an improvement to the existing performance management category, he was able to tap into established demand and accelerate adoption.

Paint a Picture of the Future with Your Vision:

When crafting your pitch deck, focus on telling a compelling story that starts with the problem, leads to your solution, and culminates in a vision of a better world enabled by your product. By articulating how your company will create value and drive meaningful change, you can inspire investors, customers, and employees to join you on your journey.

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