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Conversation
Highlights

 

In this enlightening episode of Category Visionaries, Brett Stapper engages with Nick Croin, the visionary founder and CEO behind Workstream, an innovative analytics platform revolutionizing data knowledge management. With a journey marked by challenges, breakthroughs, and the unwavering pursuit of creating a new category in the tech ecosystem, Nick shares invaluable insights into the makings of a successful B2B venture that has already secured $7 million in funding. Here are the top lessons from our conversation with Nick:

Embrace Risk with Vision

Nick’s tenure at Tesla under Elon Musk’s leadership underscored the essence of embracing risk in entrepreneurship. His biggest takeaway is the importance of pushing boundaries and taking calculated risks to innovate and lead. This lesson is foundational for B2B founders aiming to break new ground in their sectors.

The Power of Experience

Drawing from his rich background in analytics and operations at Tesla and BetterCloud, Nick highlights the critical role of firsthand experiences in identifying market gaps and innovating solutions. His journey emphasizes the value of diverse professional experiences in shaping visionary company-building strategies.

Category Creation as a Mission

Workstream’s mission to pioneer the data knowledge management category showcases the ambitious path of creating a new market space. Nick discusses the challenges and strategies involved in category creation, offering a blueprint for founders looking to establish new norms in the tech landscape.

Customer-Centric Product Development

At the heart of Workstream’s philosophy is a deep commitment to understanding and addressing the pain points of data teams and operations. This customer-first approach in product development and iteration is pivotal for B2B founders aiming to build products that resonate with their target audiences.

The Significance of Early Team Building

Convincing early employees to join a startup is highlighted as a critical step in a company’s journey. Nick’s perspective on building a committed team underscores the importance of sharing a compelling vision and the potential impact of the venture.

Investing in Data Teams

Recognizing the essential role of data teams in modern businesses, Nick advises on the strategic timing for companies to invest in dedicated data analytics teams. This insight is crucial for organizational leaders contemplating how to scale their operations effectively.

Learning from Literature

Nick shares impactful books that have shaped his entrepreneurial mindset, including “Zero to One” by Peter Thiel and “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.” These recommendations offer B2B founders a glimpse into the thought processes of successful entrepreneurs and the importance of continuous learning.

Navigating Venture Capital Conversations

The discussion on engaging with VCs around the theme of category creation provides valuable lessons on how to effectively communicate a startup’s vision and potential for market disruption.

Product-Led Growth (PLG) Strategy

Workstream’s evolving PLG approach demonstrates the importance of adaptability in go-to-market strategies, emphasizing the value of making products easily accessible and valuable to end-users.

Actionable
Takeaways

What was it like to work at Tesla in 2008?

I joined Tesla right after undergrad, so it was early 2008 and, yeah, very interesting time. Financial crisis was setting in, and this was right when I joined, was right when Elon was putting his last reserve PayPal capital into Tesla to save it. And so it was a scary time where the result of Tesla was very much still in doubt. Yeah, we definitely knew. My first weeks I was analyst at Tesla and I ended up running analytics and finance for the Tesla Roadster Model S program. So I was very aware of what the financial state of the company was at the time. And literally my first job in the first week was to help calculate severance for the 30% of employees that were laid off in my first week on the job. And so it was a very evident time, and everyone knew that, look, we had to get the Roads into production, we had to make it profitable or the company was just not going to survive. And it was not an environment, it was kind of an environment similar to this environment. Obviously, not every environment is the same, but it was at the time. It was not easy at all to raise capital.

What's the origin story behind Workstream?

The origin story of Workstream is born of my experiences as both analyst and then an operator. And so I was analyst at Tesla. I felt a lot of acute pain points around how I worked with the kind of operations and manufacturing teams that I supported. So again, I supported the Tesla Roadster manufacturing and the Model S manufacturing operations team. So these are like the teams that were building our cars, building the factories, taking them to market, and that was their analytical support. So there's lots of back and forth, lots of analytical artifacts that were being shared, et cetera, as I was collaborating with them and really just trying to help enable them and support them in doing their job and bringing analytics breaker to bear. And then later on, I kind of became the operator person because I was just so inspired by watching those teams bring cars or cars to market. I just got really obsessed by the idea of creating products, the act of creation. And so then I became an operator at a SaaS company, an infrastructure company called BetterCloud. And I was no longer the analytical support, I was on the other side, but I worked really closely with that team. And I've always been very data driven. And so I felt a lot of these pain points around analytics and kind of business people like their workflow and the ways they collaborated work together. And I got to a point where I was like, I can't believe nobody has made this experience better. And this whole experience is really fragmented in a lot of different ways and someone needs to build something much more elegant that kind of brings all of the different aspects of collaborating on and leveraging analytics operationally together. And so that was what obsessed me enough to say, hey, this is something that nobody has pursued. Like, let me go ahead and pursue it. I believe that I have a unique take on this. To answer the second part of your question, workstream I O, what are we? What we're calling a data knowledge management platform. And ultimately what it helps do is allows teams to bring together disparate analytics assets across any system, be a one off spreadsheet, a dashboard that might live in your business intelligence solution, data that lives in an operational system like Salesforce. So there's all of these disparate places that teams consume data. And so we're giving them a single access plane for that. So we allow them to do that. And then a lot of our use cases are around enabling the organization on how to use these things and how to incorporate them day to day as a sales manager, as an operational leader. And so that's the somewhat quick elevator pitch to work stream IO and what we do, but what's truly unique about it is it's all directly integrated with the analytics tools that teams already use.

What is Workstreams Job to Be Done?

I think the way I think about jobs, there's like jobs to be done. There's kind of two vectors of it for us. So first off is there's these different analytics tools that people use and we don't believe we're building analytics tool, we believe we're building a workflow tool around the job to be done that is analytics. So when I think about our job to be done, it's workflow around analytics. But that's separate from like, hey, you've got maybe five categories of analytics tools, each of which is good at a specific job to be done, right? So like a business intelligence solution, the job to be done there is like dashboarding as an example, right, or the product analytics solution, like amplitude. The job to be done is helping product and engineering teams know how people use their product or salesforce reporting. My job to be done is like, hey, there's a quick and easy way for a sales team to understand sales pipeline or Churn or whatever it is. So anyways, you have all of these analytics tools with their specific jobs to be done. For us, what we do is we integrate with those tools and we help with the workflow, right? So that's everything from like, well, how do I discover all of the assets that have been created around customer churn, right, or whatever topic that user is looking for? Or okay, now I have found this thing and I'm a sales manager. How do I leverage this report? How do I understand it? Right? So there's like an enablement job to be done and then finally there's a, well now maybe I have other questions about it, and now we can have integrated workflows that are all kind of built part of that same experience. And so for us, the job to be done is the workflow of facilitating it's kind of like the operationalizing, the analytic decision, so to speak, and doing that kind of from end to end for kind of each one of those jobs we've done. And for us, because of course we can't do everything, a lot of the early jobs we've done that we're focused on are kind of these enablement discovery enablement use cases for go to market teams, leveraging their analytics assets

What kind of early traction is Workstream seeing?

we opened up into a public beta earlier this year, and since we've opened up, we've had hundreds of companies come in and adopt the freemium version of our product. So that's been a huge sea change in kind of the trajectory of our company and our business. So anyone who's listening, who's interested, please go ahead and check out our free product at Workstream IO. And then you're looking at dozens of clients who are on the other side of large deployments and have formalized relationships with us.

Is Workstream using a PLG approach?

The honest answer is it's evolving and we're figuring it out. But look, we believe in the power of PLG. And if you think of workflow products, they're really ones that are kind of built for that, right? There are single player use cases for any type of workflow product. In our case, it's like, hey, now, here's a single place for me to go find all my analytics. Right? But these types of tools, and ours specifically, becomes more and more powerful the more and more folks in your organization use it. So we want to make it really easy for anyone to find our product, install it, start to get value out of it really quickly without a lot of effort. And then once organizations see adoption and more folks are using it, then it becomes a more of a natural conversation for something to enter into more of a formal relationship with us. So anyways, that's the big plan and we're starting to see success there. But I think what's really interesting about PLG products in general, especially the ones that are creating new categories, is that there's no one size fits all approach to PLG, right? And every company has had it in somewhat a different way. And if you think of iconic product like companies from Atlassian to Slack to Dropbox, the way some of that PLG worked is actually very different. And so we're kind of finding within the vision what are the places in which we might need to be applying more traditional sales or enablement tactics as we engineer that fully refined experience. And it's as much an art as it is a science, makes a lot of sense.

What category is Workstream creating?

We're calling it data knowledge management and it's kind of what I've been describing our solution set does. Right? But data knowledge management as a category helps teams consolidate their analytics assets and workflows and ensure that all of it's happening directly in context with each other. And why it matters? I would just say in general, look, teams make huge investments in both their analytics technologies and people as well as all of their operational teams. And we're helping them get a lot more out of those massive investments. You can spend all the money you want in the world on building out the best data stack possible, but if you can't then enable your go to market team on how to use that and leverage it in day to day decision making, like you're not going to be successful as a business. So we really believe that analytics, it's the nerve center of every organization. And if it's not, it should be. And where it has not been, it's more often not these interpersonal workflow challenges that are the reason, but no one's really focused on those problems before. And so that's why we're just so passionate about what we do. And this new category that we're pioneering.

What tactics are you using to create your new category?

This is honestly what we're spending a lot of time right now as a team talking about what are the big ten pole things that we need to be doing in 2023 to do that, to define the category. And look, I mean, a couple of tactics I'll mention that we're investing in right now, it's not really a podcast series, but it's a video series. And I'm doing discussions. They're kind of like this type of discussion, right? But the format is me, a technologist or like a leader in the analytics space. So like someone who's a thought leader, smarter about analytics solution than I am. And then like a customer. And we kind of explore the problem area, right? And so within data knowledge management, there's like three big sub problem areas. The first is kind of the idea of data asset sprawl and fragmentation in data consumption. That's the first kind of big problem area. The second problem area is kind of tribal knowledge around your data and that it kind of lives in all of these one off places and it's very ephemeral. And then the third is that workflows between teams, specifically we need data teams and the business teams are just broken, right? And a number of question there becomes why three problems? And the answer is the solutions to those problems all work together and reinforce each other, right? And so that all that rolls up into the data knowledge management. Anyways, to go back to directly to your question, we're spending a lot of time talking and trying to get social proof from folks about each one of those different problem areas. And so don't trust us. Trust these much smarter people than us who feel these problems day in, day out. And so we're starting with that and we're trying to pack that up in media formats that are compelling and innovative and new and then we can leverage that content in a lot of different ways into ultimate guides for each one of those different problem areas, like subtopics about the solution set. We're getting started on some of that stuff. But if you think about what our content roadmap looks like for the next six months of next year, it's all about from high level ten pole content in multiple different formats to more long tail content about solutions and even features like just putting it all out there and making it super transparent. So I would say that's the first thing. And like anything, we're going to do this and we'll test it and we'll see what works and we're going to iterate from there. Right? But I think the first step is it's getting bold and again, it's getting loud and it's not just trusting your own voice, but it's putting the other voices out there for folks to listen to and trust. Beyond that, I'm not going to argue I have some crystal ball on the channels to amplify that. Right? I mean, I think those are all of the classic marketing channels that a BDB company would invest in. But we're starting with kind of defining and evangelizing the category and then we believe we can leverage that in a number of different ways to generate awareness and or quite frankly, like tactical customer pipeline. Nice.

What's the three year vision for Workstream?

I think we look back three years from now. I would love to be back on your show talking about how we've created the category and how this is now an amazingly recognized, indispensable solution for pretty much every business out there that has a data team, which really should be most businesses at this point. And so. We have accomplished our goal, which is made everyone aware. And then of course, we built a great business around it. Ultimately. What are great businesses? They're businesses that have a product or service that customers absolutely love and they could not live without. Right. And so for us starts with the customer. All day long, every day there are guiding light for our product and how it evolves. And we have evangelists and folks who love our product today. We want a lot more of them. We want tens of thousands of these folks and we want tens of thousands of companies that are working with us.

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