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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 Sarah Lehman, CEO of Zartico, a destination operating system that has raised $24.5 million in funding.

  • The problem Zartico aims to solve: helping the stewards of beloved places, which account for 10% of global GDP and employ one in eight people worldwide, to make better decisions using high-frequency, big data sets related to visitor movement, spend, and occupancy.
  • The passion and commitment of leaders in destination marketing and management organizations, who work tirelessly to ensure a thriving visitor economy and a high quality of life for residents.
  • The challenges of selling to government entities and the importance of finding investors who understand the govtech space and the potential for digital transformation within the industry.
  • The impact of COVID-19 on Zartico’s early days, forcing the team to get creative with customer acquisition by renting an RV and bringing the trade show directly to potential clients.
  • The focus on building culture and community in a remote-first startup, with initiatives like costume parties, a weekly all-hands call, and an annual “base camp” gathering.
  • The decision to slow down growth in order to right-size processes, improve the implementation experience, and build a strong foundation for long-term success.
  • The lessons learned from fundraising, including the importance of aligning with investors who share the company’s vision, timeline, and values.
  • Sarah’s advice to her younger self to trust her intuition more, even in the face of uncertainty or lack of industry-specific experience.
  • The long-term vision of expanding Zartico’s platform to serve multiple verticals within a destination, from airports to small businesses to sporting events, in order to provide a holistic view of the destination’s performance and resident quality of life.

Actionable
Takeaways

Embrace Your Personal Story and Values:

Sarah's journey as a mother, wife, and outdoor enthusiast informs her leadership style and her commitment to building a company that makes a positive impact on the world. By leaning into your own story and values, you can create a more authentic and compelling narrative for your brand.

Get Creative with Customer Acquisition:

When faced with the challenges of selling during a pandemic, Sarah's team rented an RV and brought the trade show directly to potential customers. This willingness to think outside the box and meet customers where they are can be a powerful differentiator in a crowded market.

Prioritize Culture and Community in a Remote-First World:

With initiatives like costume parties, a weekly all-hands call, and an annual "base camp" gathering, Sarah has built a strong sense of culture and community at Zartico despite the challenges of remote work. By investing in these connections, founders can foster a more engaged and loyal team.

Know When to Slow Down to Speed Up:

While it can be tempting to chase growth at all costs, Sarah made the difficult decision to slow down in order to improve processes, reduce implementation times, and build a stronger foundation for long-term success. Sometimes, taking a step back can ultimately help you move forward faster.

Trust Your Intuition, Even in Unfamiliar Territory:

As a first-time tech founder, Sarah initially deferred to others' opinions on matters like tech stack and customer communication. Looking back, she wishes she had trusted her intuition more, even in the face of uncertainty. Founders should remember that their unique perspective and judgment are valuable assets, even in new industries or roles.

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