Entrepreneur Addiction #14 — Building a Company to Sell with Assistly CEO

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Many entrepreneurs dream of building a business to and getting a huge exit. Alex Bard, CEO of Assistly, has lived that dream. In September, he sold his company for $50 million, plus an additional $30 million in deferred payments over two years for a total of $80 million. We sit down with him and talk about how he he did it, and what advice he has for others with the same goal.

So grab your coffee, soda, protein shake, bowl of cereal, bagel, donuts, or what have you; put on your headphones, and come on in.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • The history of Assistly
  • Customer service as a philosophy
  • Customers are more social and mobile than ever before
  • Build a standalone business rather than building to sell
  • How and why SalesForce purchased Assistly
  • Odds of selling a company are against Entrepreneurs
  • The importance of the “pivot point”
  • Surround yourself with people smarter than you, and passionate about your business
  • The difference between being lucky and unlucky
  • What great teams will always do
  • Keep your eyes open and trust your gut
  • Why building relationships is a big part of building a business
  • The personal sacrifices of building a business
  • Why the pivot point is critical for a big exit
  • Euphoric highs and suicidal lows

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Fueling your business success, this is the entrepreneur addiction podcast, breaking the small business loan news you need if you obsess about your company. Heard exclusively on Lendio.com. And now here are our your hosts: Brock Blake, Dan Bischoff and Patrick Wiscombe.

Patrick: This podcast is sponsored by Lendio.com, the online source you need to find the right business financing to grow your company. So, check them out: Lendio.com, to get your business growing right now. It’s the entrepreneur addiction podcast episode number fourteen. My name is Patrick Wiscombe. Thank you as always for tuning us in and taking us along wherever and however you’re accessing the podcast. We have a terrific show planned for you this week. We have the former CEO of the Assistly. He’s the Vice President and General Manager of Assistly, inside of SalesFroce. Did I get that right, Alex?

Alex: There you go. (laughter)

Patrick: Alright. Then we also have the CEO of Lendio.com, Brock Blake. It’s good to have you here again.

Brock: Yeah. Great to be on the show. My title’s a little easier. You can call me the janitor too, if you want.

Patrick: (laughter) Well, when you’re the owner of the business, you are the janitor. Are you not?

Brock: That’s right.

Patrick: Hey, guys, let’s get right into this. Alex what is Assistly, in case the listeners to this podcast don’t know what Assistly is.

Alex: Yeah. Absolutely. Simply put, Assistly is an instant-on customer support application for SMB’s.

Patrick: And what exactly does it do?

Alex: So, Assistly helps small and medium businesses capture all the ways a customer communicates with them. Whether it be a phone call, an email, a chat, self-service community, Twitter, Facebook, we bring all of those interactions into one unified inbox, and then give the business tools to be able to efficiently respond to all their customers in a timely manner.

Patrick: Okay, so it’s automated?

Alex: Well, it’s automated in terms of bringing it in, but on the other end of it, you actually need people to go through the requests. They use a knowledge base that we help them power and then ultimately respond to their customers.

Patrick: Why did you even start the company?

Alex: There are actually four founders out of Assistly, and we’ve done four companies together since the mid nineties. Three out of the four companies that we’ve done have been customer service software companies. This is a space that we’re deeply familiar with and very passionate about. So we started Ascilia specifically in October of 2009. The founding principle behind it was that we believed that social media was going to have a profound impact on the importance of customer service. We thought it would force businesses to revisit both processes and tools that they use to engage with their customers, and that’s where Assistly comes in. Effectively, we help these companies capture all those interactions and be awesomely response to their customers.

Patrick: When you created the company, did you see that there was decline in customer service?

Alex: Well, I don’t think there was a decline in customer service. As a matter of fact, I think companies are starting to recognize that customer service is a core competency. It’s actually not a department. It’s a philosophy, and you look at companies like Zappos, for example. Their tag-lines used to be: The World’s Largest Shoe Store. If you’ve gotten a box by Zappos recently, you’ll notice the tag-line is now: Powered By Service, and that is the type of company they are. It’s almost irrelevant the product they sell. It’s the service that they provide around that product. I think that because of the world that we’re in, customers are more social than ever before, meaning they can infect many more people with their opinions through Twitter, Facebook, and Blogs. Because customers are now more mobile, our devices are always attached to us, and so we have much more real-time expectation of responses, and because we’re global. We’re working with companies not only locally but also globally. All of that is forcing, I believe, companies to revisit the importance of customer service inside of their organizations, and I believe more and more companies are embracing that as a competitive advantage. I actually think that customer service is growing. Good customer service is growing.

Patrick: You sold the company to SalesForce. Why did you do that?

Alex: Well, when we did it, we focused on creating a really great stand alone business. Our goal was to make a tremendous impact in scale. We wanted to help first thousands then hundreds of thousands and ultimately millions of businesses to help deliver a better level of customer service, and I believe that we were absolutely on that trajectory. And so, we had gone through a couple of rounds of financing. We first raised money in March of last year. That was our first round. We then raised money at the end of last year. When we raised money at the end of last years, SalesForce actually came in and said, “Hey. We’d love to participate in this round. We think what you’re doing is really interesting. It’s innovative, and we’d like to start to work together with you.” We took that investment because we saw a lot of value in that partnership, value in terms of growing our awareness and distribution, value in terms of doing an integration of some of SalesForce’s other products. Many of our customers who are small businesses use the service cloud product and have been asking us for an integration between service and support. You know, it’s kind of a natural connection. And so, the investment helped us build a deeper bond with the technical team to do that integration and deliver value to our customers. And so, once they became a partner in the company that enables us to spend more time together and to give them an update on how the business was growing. Obviously as an investor, they get that kind of access, and as we spent more time together, it became clear, I think to them, that what we were doing was a great way for them to double-down on their investment in small and medium businesses. And for us, they were an incredible partner to help us get to that scale, to have that major impact, which is one of the four founding principles behind this company. And so, we never effectively set ourselves up for an acquisition or planned to be acquired, certainly not at the early stage that we were acquired. It just happened to play out that way because of our execution and because of the partnership with SalesForce.

Patrick: So, you created a great product, and they saw the symmetry between what they do and what you do, and it just made sense to go?

Alex: Exactly. That’s exactly right, and my advice for anybody staring a company is build something that you’re hugely passionate about because most likely you’re going to fail. The odds are against most entrepreneurs. So if the probability is that you’re going to fail, make sure that you really enjoy the journey. That kind of the first word of advice. The second word of advice, or point of advice, is build something that can be a scalable, standalone business that doesn’t need to be acquired. That can be a growing concern. That’s really important because not only does that cement your opportunities to build a company, but it’s also very attractive to acquirers. They want to acquire companies, not features. And so, those were kind of the the two guiding principles that we had as we were building our business, and an acquisition just happened to be something that came along as we were focused on those two things.

Patrick: Let me ask you about, at the very beginning of the podcast, you mentioned that you started, did you say four companies?

Alex: I’ve been part of starting four companies. That’s right.

Patrick: Okay, tell us a little bit about your background in terms of starting the other three. Tell us about the other three. Did you succeed at those? Did you sell them off? Did they fail? Give us a little bit of background on that too.

Alex: A little bit of all of the above. (laughter) I’ll go through this pretty quickly. The first company that this founding team was part of was company called eShared Technologies. This was in 1996, and eShared started out as a community software company. We built chat and bulletin boards for websites that they could deploy to build communities. We had a company that was local to us. It was called 1-800 FLOWERS, and they were in e-commerce company at the time. And they came to us and said, “Hey. This chat is really interesting. We’d like to see if we can use it to help people through the buying process. So can we make it more of a support application rather than a public community?” And so we said, “That sounds like a good idea. Let’s do that.” And so that’s kind a point of listening and having your eyes open to opportunities that present themselves. And so, we did that, and then many more companies started to come to us for that specific application, which we then called MedAgent. And so the company really pivoted and became much more focused on customer support, web-based customer support through chat and email. That company great to about a hundred people in 1999 and was acquired by a public company. So that was the first company. The second company was the evolution, really, of that thinking. It was company called eAssist Global Solutions, founded in 1999, and this was on the west coast. So we moved out and joined with another early group of folks to found this company, and the vision behind eAssist was, chat and email are really interesting as far as web channels, but there were other ways in which customers communicate with you, phone or IVR or self-service. And so, this company sought to capture all of those, tie them into a back end CRM that gives you a 360 degree view of your customer. And we deliver that in a sas kind of, called ASP model. And that was, if you remember, that was they heyday of the internet. So we raised seventy million dollars. We scaled to three hundred people. We had offices everywhere that you could imagine. We got some really great internet brands on board, and then the .com bubble burst.

Patrick: Then it ended.

Alex: Then a lot of revenue when sideways, and we had to pivot the business and ultimately sold that company in 2004 to a competitor. So that was not a great outcome, right? That was kind of the up and down roller coaster ride of that era. We then did a company called Gooey, which was a widget, Analytics, and distribution company that we kept relatively small. It was funded by Mark Cuban of Dallas Mavericks Broadcast.com. Hdnetfame. And that company was acquired by AOL in 2008. We spent some time in AOL helping them build out their social media business, and then as I mentioned in October of 2009, we started Assistly.

Patrick: Basically you’re talking about what has become mainstream internet?

Alex: It’s been an incredible ride, and I think for me the most rewarding part of the ride, and I know this sounds a bit corny, has been the journey. But the thing about the journey that’s been so incredible is that I’ve done it with my friends. These are my friends, my other co-founders that were my friends in Jr. high school and high school and college, and it just turned out to be really complimentary skill sets and I couldn’t imagine having done it with anyone else. Along the way, we’ve obviously had a ton of help. We’ve worked with extraordinary people. Again, kind of a tid bit of advice: Always surround yourself with people smarter than you and people who are you hugely passionate. It’s those people who will ultimately figure out how to build a successful business, and so that part of it has been just absolutely incredible for me.

Dan: A few times you’ve mentioned the pivot point in a couple of your businesses, and tell us a little bit why the pivot point… I think of successful companies reach that pivot point. How do you recognize that pivot point? And also how do you make that decision to turn your business around?

Alex: It’s actually a really difficult thing to do. So at our first company our pivot point was really from community solutions to customer support software. And that was because we had listened to a customer and deeply understood their requirements and validated that those requirements would interesting to a pretty large market segment. And so, once you see that opportunity, we pursued it aggressively. There’s actually, you know, I’m going to digress for a minute here. There was a study done out of the UK that talked about the difference between luck and unlucky people. They ran a group of self-identified unlucky people, about a thousand or so, through a set of tests. And they ran a group of a thousand self-identified lucky people through those same tests. One of those tests was they gave those groups a newspaper, and they said, “You have thirty seconds to count the number of pictures that are in this newspaper, and if you get it right, we’ll give you some monetary reward, a hundred dollars, a thousand dollars, mostly relevant.” And something like 98% of the self-professed lucky people got it right, maybe even higher than that. And something like 30% of the unlucky people got it right. And the interesting thing was that on page two of the newspaper, in big block letters, not a picture, but big block letters, it said, “There are 184 pictures in this newspaper. You can stop counting.”

Patrick: (laughter)

Alex: And what happened is that the unlucky people were so focused on counting pictures, they were just counting pictures, counting pictures, that they didn’t see the rest of the world in front of them. They didn’t see the opportunity that presented themselves to them, and the lucky people went through it, and they just identified that opportunity. They saw it. It wasn’t that they counted the pictures, and they were much better mathematicians, and so the net effect of this study was that the difference between being lucky and being unlucky was really about identifying and perceiving opportunities that come up in front of you and taking action on those opportunities. And that to me is pivot point. And so that’s what happened at our first company. We did a pivot at our third company Gooey. We actually started at a better webmail client, and as part of the webmail client we had these widgets. Our company kept telling us, “Hey. The webmail’s interesting but these widgets are really great.” And so it’s a difficult thing to do. It’s an emotional thing because you’ve invested in what you thought was the original vision of the company. Great teams will always assess their surrounding business environment and make, kind of, an unemotional decision on what’s the opportunity for the company. We did that at Gooey. Fortunately, at Assistly we didn’t have to do that. You know, we did have a pivot point around our business model. Although our product vision as stayed consistent throughout, we launched a completely new and radical business model, which I think dramatically accelerated our success earlier this year. And again, the root of that was listening to our customers, seeing a looking at the competitive landscape, and looking at a way to create business models that were an advantage that actually drove more value to our customers. So I think that the net net of it is, keep your eyes open, analyze, test with customers, takes some risks, and the rest is gut based on whether that’s the direction you should go or not.

Brock: Hey, Alex. This is Brock. First of all, from a CEO to a CEO, congratulations on the journey. It’s awesome to see what you guys have built, and I’m sure over the last couple years as you’ve kind of built this organization and partnered with SalesForce that’s pretty exciting. I’d love to hear the story of how you first met the team over in SalesForce. Were you guys presenting to them? Was it at a conference? Or how did it… you know, I think you’ve got offices out in the Bay Area. Walk me through your first interactions with SalesForce.

Alex: You know, it’s an interesting question. This was actually a pretty big decision for the company, and I’ll explain what I mean by this and what this decision was. When we started this company, we knew we wanted to build a long term sustainable business. And we knew that our early customers, if we were to be successful, would be other early web-based businesses, companies that didn’t have legacy solutions in place that were looking for something new, that were more progressive in their thinking as it related to customer support. Well, the fact of the matter is, that the density of these businesses is in San Francisco, and at the time I was living in San Diego. My family and I were living in San Diego, and we decided that in order to put this business in the best position for success, we would have to found and start this company in San Francisco. And so I actually still live in San Diego with my family, but I’m in San Francisco every week Monday through Thursday night, and then I come home to San Diego to spend time with my family. That decision, to build the company in San Francisco, I think is one of the most impactful decisions that we made early on because what we did is, we put ourselves in the place where you have much greater access to the people who are going to fund your business. You have much greater access to other entrepreneurs who are going to inspire you and maybe teach you something. You have much greater access to what would later become the core of our customer base. And you have much greater access to business development opportunity through these partners that you’re going to meet and build relationships with. A big part of starting any company is establishing really great relationships with people who can help you on your journey. And so, because we were here, and we started to build momentum and traction around the companies we were acquiring… The way we were acquiring these companies were basically by word of mouth because we spent a lot of time here and because we really focused on delivering tons of value, they spread the message for us. And it’s a pretty small community believe it or not, you know, here in San Francisco. So as the word spread, word spread to SalesForce that we were doing something that was really interesting, and they reached out to us and said, “Hey. You know, we’d love to learn a little bit more about how you guys think about the industry. What you’re doing that’s unique and innovative. You know, how you view us as a potential partner.” And so those conversations kicked off where their product teams actually. And we spent quite a bit of time with their product team, learning from them and sharing with them kind of our view of the world. And it just evolved from building that relationship with the product team to having them invest in the company to ultimately, you know, the acquisition.

Brock: So now that the acquisition has happened, do you guys have, you know, have you moved offices? Are you in the same office? How incorporated are you? Is it just, you know, a hold your own subsidiary or are you totally integrated? You know, obviously you’re just off on the cusp of this. As I understand, I believe it happened in September. Is that right? A couple months ago?

Alex: That’s right.

Brock: And so, kind of walk me through from then and now.

Alex: So, we’re still in our same office, although the next company I might start is a company that can develop bunk desks, where you can stack people on top of one another because we are completely running out of space.

Patrick: (laughter)

Alex: So we’re going to figure that out, how to maximize space. That would be a good thing.

Dan: Bunk cubes?

Patrick: Yeah, bunk cubes. (laughter) I like that.

Alex: So we’re in the same space. We’ve integrated from an infrastructure perspective, meaning legal, HR and Finance. The things that they do at a real great scale that aren’t at a competitive advantage for our business, and so we’ve kind of migrated that over. The rest, we are effectively running as a standalone company. They love our culture, our DNA, the fact that we’re so highly integrated? and they don’t want to take that away from us, right? They want us to continuing building the company as we’ve built it to date, without creating kind of a disruptive environment. And so they’ve been amazing in supporting us in that way. Now the other good news is that they’re also providing air cover for us in terms of marketing, or awareness, and distribution. You know, I feel like I have the best of both worlds. I have the infrastructure and support of a huge global company. I have the marketing brand and sales support of a huge global company. I don’t have to worry about running out of money, which is one of the key considerations of a CEO when running a business. But I still get to run the company as creatively and as constructively and integrate as we’ve done in the past. I mean, they’ve truly been an exceptional partner to us.

Brock: That’s great to hear. Hey, I’m anxious to hear a little more on, you know, you talked about living in San Diego and commuting up to the Bay Area on a weekly basis and that your family is still in San Diego. Maybe to jump in on the personal side a little bit, walk me through how that has been for, you know, I’m sure that’s taken a little bit of a toll on you and family to be able to be on the road so much.

Alex: Yeah. Well, you know, there are certainly good days and bad days, right. So let me talk about the part that works. So first of all, I’m blessed to have an incredibly supportive wife, whose father was an entrepreneur. So this is not an unfamiliar environment to her.

Brock: Yeah.

Alex: So it kind of starts with your family having to support the decision, right, because you make that as a unit.

Brock: Yep.

Alex: So that’s where it started. Now the day to day of it is, that I’m San Francisco Monday through Thursday night, most weeks, right. And that enables me to focus on business twenty-four-seven effectively without any distraction. Right, because I still run the company as an entrepreneur. I still put twenty hours a day into this because I’m hugely passionate about it, which is one of the fundamental founding pillars that I talked about that are really important for anyone starting a company. So when I’m in San Francisco, I can work non stop, and I love that part of it. When I go home to San Diego, obviously I work from home, but then on the weekend, I have compete separation unless the building is on fire. I’m completely focused on my family. Twenty-four hours a day I’m completely present and completely tuned in. That is so, so important to be able to do something like this because if I were distracted or in another place when I was home on the weekend, I think this arrangement would start to erode pretty quickly. So that’s kind of the good news, right? Focus on work when I’m in San Francisco. Intimately focus on family when I’m in San Deigo. Now there’s certainly also tough days. I’ve got two little girls. They’re starting to get older. They know daddy’s going to San Francisco. You know, on Sunday night when I put my oldest to bed, she say, “Daddy, I miss you.” And you know, that obviously is a difficult thing, and at some point we will resolve this. One way or another this isn’t something I’m going to be doing for five or ten years from now, but it works. You have to have an incredibly supportive family, and you have to be hugely passionate about what you’re doing to make it work.

Brock: Yeah, and I don’t want to come across as that is a negative thing. A lot the listeners of this podcast are entrepreneurs. They’re entrepreneurial minded, and it’s interesting to be able to see what kind of sacrifices or commitments that other people make to be able to build a business. And I think obviously it had to have been a decision that you made with your family is, “Hey, the best thing for this business is for us to, you know, move it to San Francisco.” So it’s just interesting to kind of hear the inside story on that process that you went through and kind of the experience you’re going through.

Alex: This isn’t something that I’m advising everyone do. It really depends on your own personal goals and passion.

Brock: Yeah.

Patrick: When you sold your company to SalesFroce… when did you do that again?

Alex: It was in September.

Patrick: Tell us what SalesForce does and how you’ve integrated with the company.

Alex: SalesForce is a global CRM company that is really focused on the social enterprise. They deliver tools and platforms to companies that help build their business, whether it’s chatter, which is a way for employees inside an organization can communicate more effectively with one another. (I apologize. That’s a motorcycle in the background.) Or it’s their original product that they started with, which is salescloud, which is a sales tool to effectively managing your funnel and salespeople and prospects. Whether it’s servicecloud, which is their high-end customer support application, Heroku and their platform business, where developers can go and build applications on top of this bullet proof infrastructure that they’ve built Radian 6, which helps companies with the social atmosphere and what people are saying about them and action that. So they are, I would say, a full suite of business applications.

Patrick: I thought Radian 6 was a tremendous technology.

Alex: It absolutely is. As a matter of fact, we’re starting to have those conversations. You know, the acquisition is still fairly recent, and first and foremost we need to continue focusing on executing our business, but being part of SalesForce, it’s this incredible thing where not only do they have incredibly smart people doing amazing things inside of the company, but they’ve augmented that by bringing in incredible other businesses and entrepreneurs like Radian 6, like Heroku, and like many other businesses. And our opportunity now is because we’re part of this portfolio of companies, is to learn from them, and then do deeper integration to deliver more value to our customers and to help them deliver more value to their customers. It’s just been absolutely outstanding.

Patrick: Explain what Radian 6 does for a company.

Alex: Radian 6 helps you monitor all of the conversations that are going on about your businesses, your brand, your company across the entire web.

Patrick: And that’s in real time, correct?

Alex: Blogs etc… and it brings it all into this amazing dashboard that helps you understand the sentiment. How are people viewing your business. As you have events, how are those events affecting the sentiment of your business. And then it gives you the opportunity to dive in more deeply and engage with those customers, with those influencers, with the people that are talking about your brand publicly. It’s an incredible, incredible platform.

Patrick: I’ve always maintained that customers own your brand. You don’t own the brand because what happens in the real world is peoples’ perceptions of the brand, and the mere fact that you can’t see those conversations taking place in real time, regardless of the social media platform, is huge because then you can do a little bit of damage control, assuming that something is breaking that is negative.

Alex: And it’s not just about damage control, right? It’s about amplification. If things are going well, you want to amplify those voices. It’s about learning. You want to understand when you’ve done something. What the amazing thing about the world that we’re in is that the feedback loop has collapsed to a near zero, or near real-time. Right? You do something, you can have instantaneous feedback on the effect of the thing that you’ve just done. You can learn from that, integrate, and become smarter. And I think our tools at Assistly, I think the tools at Radian 6, I think the other tools at SalesForce help you do that much more efficiently. The net effect of what we’re all trying to do is help you build a better business and deliver a better product or service to your customers and increase overall customer satisfaction and experience.

Patrick: You’ve always been involved with customer service, or at least that’s my impression?

Alex: Three out of the four companies. We did have that one anomaly with Gooey that was a fund experience in and of itself. It actually taught us quite a bit about the consumer world because this was a consumer widget, analytic, and distribution company that fueled a lot of our thinking inside of Assistly. So every experience is an opportunity to learn and make your next step more effective. And when I think of companies that embrace customer service as a philosophy, that really place the customer at the center of their universe, you know, the companies that come to mind, Nordstrom. We’ve all heard the stories of the old woman returning attire, and other experiences that they create for their customers. Zappos. You know, they do random acts of kindness to surprise and delight their customers. Amazon. Virgin in the airline business. Apple in terms of the experiences that they create inside of their stores. I mean, these are some of the brands that to me immediately come to top of mind. By the way, I’m sure with as many of these that I’ve named, there’s a list much longer that immediately come to top of mind for companies that don’t embrace this concept of customer service as a philosophy.

Patrick: Customer service is so important because therein you can impact a person and they’ll remember it. Wouldn’t you agree?

Alex: Absolutely.

Patrick: Alright. Now, I know that you probably won’t be at Assistly forever. You mentioned that, “Maybe I won’t be doing this in five to ten years.” I’m going to turn the tables on you and interview you for a second. What is your next company?

Alex: (laughter) Well, first, let me make a clarifying statement. When I said I won’t be doing this in five to ten years, I actually didn’t mean Assistly. I meant the commute. There’s a time-line I think on which I can do this commute. There’s just this stage that your kids get that you want to spend more time with them. You want to have dinner at home every night. You want to know what they did at school that day. My kids aren’t at that age yet, so when I made that comment that I won’t be doing this in five to ten years, I didn’t at all mean Assistly or I wouldn’t be part of SalesForce. I meant, the commute. In terms of what company I’m going to be doing next, I have to tell you. I don’t even have a millisecond to think about, literally anything else except for what we’re doing right now. I mean, becoming part of SalesForce has accelerated everything, right. I can’t even begin to theorize about what I would do next. I mean, this is my next.

Patrick: Tells us in thirty seconds, tells us what it was like to be purchased by SalesForce and to get that check and say, “Honey, I think we made some money today.”

Alex: (laughter) Well, I’m not going to lie. Getting the check is a really, personally rewarding thing, but actually… you know, look. It’s a very instant, “Wow! Look at what just happened.” And it’s rewarding for the work and effort that you’ve put in. You know, people look at Assistly and say, “Wow, this is an eighteen month success.” To me it’s a fifteen year overnight success because it’s the culmination of everything that we’ve done. So it’s been a lot of time and a lot of effort and a lot of sacrifice, so to receive value for that, I think is hugely rewarding, number one. Number two, you know, the thing about it that’s so exciting for me is getting the check is just the beginning. Right. Now I’ve got to deliver to the high expectations that we’ve set and actually exceed them. Right now it’s fulfilling the second part of my dream, and not necessarily in that order. The second part being, we want to build something that’s going to have mass impact, mass affect. With SalesForce we have that opportunity with greater degree of certainty, and in an accelerated time frame. So it’s like, you get the check, you do a celebratory weekend, and then you get back to work. You go, “Okay, now I need to do all of these other things to fulfill the promise.” Right? So that actually is hugely exciting and rewarding to me as much as the outcome. Fortunately, I’ve been part of some other outcomes in the past as well, and every time it’s kind of been about, “The outcome is great. Let’s do a bit of a celebration. You know, forget the effort it took to get you there, but now let’s focus on continuing the degree, so to speak.” Right?

Patrick: What a great story. You know, this is why we do this podcast to talk about entrepreneurs who have succeeded. Obviously this is a huge success, and by the way, congratulations on the buyout. (applause) A little round of applause here.

Alex: Thank you.

Patrick: And congratulations. We really enjoy talking to CEO’s, but I think it’s, as high as those highs are in being purchased, I think it’s just as insightful to see what they’ve done wrong and how they’ve corrected it. I thought you brought up an incredible point about pivot points and how you can be big enough but you need to be flexible enough to pivot when opportunities present themselves. I don’t know if you realized how many times you said the word ‘pivot point’. That’s a real talent to be able to turn a company on a dime like that.

Alex: You know, there is an article that was written by Fred Wilson. He’s a very well known VC. He writes a blog called A VC. Everyone should read it, especially if you’re in the Internet business. This blog post, this is probably a few years old now, maybe a bit more recent, he wrote that 7 out of 10 of his most recent, at that time, exits, successful exits, of his portfolio companies, exited doing something different than when he originally invested.

Patrick: Oh really.

Alex: The net of that was, he really was investing in a team, who had an early vision, but he knew that the team going through the experience would be able to figure it out. Right, you don’t know everything when you start a company, and it’s the best team that can figure it out along the way. They can integrative. They can be smart. They can be focused. They can be reactive when they need to, to figure out what is the right opportunity for the company, and that really stayed with me. Now, the thing about pivot points, and that’s hugely important. The thing about pivot points is that you don’t want to use it as an excuse if you start to run into a wall. There’s this thing where you have to really, deeply consider is it the right thing to do, and not use it as an excuse to give up on something that might not be working out as you’d initially hoped. If you pivot too much, you turn into a fan. Right? You’re just spinning, spinning, spinning, and you don’t ever break through glass and deliver on a vision or fulfill your dreams. It’s a very serious thing to take into consideration. It should not be taken lightly, but you should be very aware and very ready to embrace that change if it’s the right thing to do.

Patrick: Congratulations.

Dan: Great advice.

Patrick: Yeah, great advice. Let’s go ahead and wrap it up there, shall we? Any closing thoughts you want to throw in here?

Alex: Just that entrepreneurship is the most incredible ride. They’ll be tons of euphoric highs and lots of suicidal lows. Surround yourself with people that will help you get through those. Embrace advice. Stay as temperate as you can. You know, stay within a band, a range of emotions, and live the dream.

Patrick: Alright. Alex Bard the vice president general manager of Assistly, inside of SalesForce. I kind of had to write that down, so I could get that right.

Alex: I actually have a very long card. It’s about four inches long just to fit that title.

Patrick: (laughter) Lots of big important words. Alex Bard, thank you so much for being part of the podcast today.

Alex: Thank you guys.

Patrick: Brock Blake had to take off. He sent me a text through the middle of it saying, “Thanks for being part of the podcast, Alex.”

Alex: You bet.

Patrick: Dan Bischoff the director of communications at Lendio. You can pick up the podcast at //www.lendio.com/blog. We release it every single Monday, and then you can also pick it up on my website, which is PatrickWiscombe.com. So Alex Bard, Brock Black, Dan Bischoff at Lendio, my name is Patrick Wiscombe, thanks for listening to the Entrepreneur Addiction Podcast. We’ll talk to you next week. See ya.

Voice: Making business loans simple, this has been the entrepreneur addiction podcast, helping you secure the capital you need, with your host Brock Blake, Dan Bischoff, and Patrick Wiscombe. Heard exclusively at Lendio.com.

About the Author

  • Dan Bischoff

Comments

  1. Hi, Dan –

    I’d like to ask Alex Bard a question. Does Bard provide a way for soon-to-be-entrepreneurs to ask him a question?

    Thanks in advance.

  2. Hi, Mr. Bard –

    Congratulations on your success!

    In my case I’ve got a proven concept in place. But, I don’t have the team to make the company go gangbusters. What resources are available to assist in the acquisition of either a founding team, or additional team members?

    Does the acquisition of a founding team, or team members, always require immediate compensation? Or can the compensation be tied to the success of the company? And, does the lack of immediate compensation hinder successful team building?

    If you were starting from scratch and could not rely on your existing contacts, what resources would you use to build Assistly again?

    Thanks in advance.

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