When you start a new company, one of the last things you worry about is scale. You’re thinking about the Minimal Viable Product (MVP), product/market fit, getting that first customer, adding features, getting the second customer, when you need an accounting person, etc. These are what the first year(s) of your startup life as CEO are concerned with.
Lots of questions, not many answers
- Should my next hire be in sales, marketing or product?
- When should I bring on a full-time CFO?
- When should I think about going international?
- How big does the sales team need to be to achieve my goals?
- What should the split be between Sales and Marketing?
- What is a good CAC/LTV ratio for my business?
- Should I invest in a product line extension?
- How did I end up with 12 people reporting to me? Is that good or bad?
- What’s the name of that new person we just hired—why don’t I know the name of everyone in my company now?
- Wait a sec, how did we just hire person X without me knowing? Is that good or bad?
- How should we define our culture and make sure that team member number 50, 100, 200, 300, 500.
All of these types of questions are what I call “scaling decisions”. They are tricky because they really sneak up on you fast and even if you have built a business at scale before, every business is different enough that there literally is no roadmap.
Five Scaling resources (and if you found this helpful….)
Ben Horowitz has built several large businesses in the Bay Area and is now a venture capitalist with Marc Andreessen at Andreessen Horowitz (called A16Z in a nod to I18N, a reference the geekier readers should ‘get’). Ben’s book is the first I’ve read that really resonated with me on these topics and is the No. 1 book I recommend to Tweener CEOs. It doesn’t (and admittedly can’t) give you a roadmap, but the experiences Horowitz shares from coaching startups can give you a framework for a lot of scaling topics, including culture, compensation, recruiting, etc. If you still aren’t sold, here’s a short video that Ben put out that gives you a taste of his style.
- Ryan Walsh – CRO of ChannelAdvisor. Ryan has grown our sales team from 5 to ~200 and has been at ChannelAdvisor from its first $1 to $100 million in revenue. Ryan is going to cover the topic of how you scale sales.
- Joe Colopy – co-founder and CEO of Bronto Software. Joe grew Bronto from $0 to $40 million and recently sold Bronto to NetSuite for $200 million. Joe is going to cover how you scale product.
- Brendan Morrissey – CEO and co-founder at Netsertive. Brendan is co-founder and CEO at Netsertive. Netsertive has raised >$60 million in venture capital and has over 300 team members. Brendan is going to cover how you scale marketing.
After we hear from Ryan, Joe and Brendan on these topics, they are going to stay around for an ‘open mic’ workshop/Q+A session where we’ll try to answer all of your scaling questions including:
- What should my first sales hire look like?
- How do compensate sales reps?
- How can I have world-class marketing as a startup?
- How can I differentiate my product in a crowded space?
- Should I invest in sales, marketing or product?
- How does my company change from 10->50->100->200->500 team members?
- How do I recruit and retain this many people?
- How important are the ‘intangibles’ around culture, goals, communication, etc?
- When do I go global?
- Should I bootstrap or raise capital?
- How do I raise venture capital, what’s that like?
- When do you think about M+A vs. IPO?
- What’s the role of culture as you scale?
- Should I hire that big company person or promote from within or ?
Hopefully you can tell this is a topic I’m really passionate about and feel we don’t talk enough about in the Triangle. I’m looking forward to seeing what kinds of scaling issues Triangle companies are facing and seeing if we can collectively help you bust through them so you can be the next Red Hat, SAS, ChannelAdvisor, Bronto or Netsertive.