m3ter: From Early Sales Struggles to Finding Product Market Fit
John Griffin is the co-founder of m3ter, a subscription management platform that helps software companies enable usage-based pricing models.
In 2020, John was working at Amazon Web Services when he and his co-founder Griffin realized many software companies struggled to implement effective usage-based pricing.
Having dealt with these challenges in their previous startup, which was acquired by Amazon, they decided to start a new company aimed at helping subscription businesses seamlessly adopt usage-based pricing.
As second-time founders, John and Griffin quickly encountered familiar roadblocks trying to drive early sales. Despite their experience and a well-thought-out product, their initial attempts at connecting with potential customers fell flat.
As their cold outreach efforts continued to stall, the founders felt increasing pressure to sign those critical first customers to validate their product offering.
And to add to their struggles, they initially made the mistake of going too broad with the types of customers they sold to. This inevitably spread them too thin, making it difficult to focus on the right features and craft a clear message.
Just when things started to feel hopeless, they got a lucky break, an investor made an introduction to a significant first buyer. Landing this major customer finally gave John and Griffin the desperately needed sales momentum.
Today, m3ter generates multiple seven figures in annual revenue and has raised over $30 million in funding.
In this episode, you'll learn:
- How the founders overcame early traction struggles and unsuccessful outreach efforts to sign their initial pivotal customers.
- What the founders wish they had done differently about their initial go-to-market and the crucial mistake they made that all founders should avoid.
- How a lucky early introduction led to their first enterprise deal, providing the validation that finally sparked business momentum.
- Why the founders believe usage-based pricing is the future for SaaS companies, and how adopting it can help grow revenue.
- How the founders used content marketing as a primary growth driver and leveraged subject experts to establish brand trust and inbound leads.
- How John, as a technical founder, sometimes struggles to zoom out from the details and what he does to focus on the right priorities.
I hope you enjoy it!
TranscriptClick to view transcript
This is a machine-generated transcript.[00:00:00] Omer: John, welcome to the show. [00:00:02] John: Thank you, Omer. Nice to meet you. [00:00:04] Omer: Same here. Do you have a favorite quote, something that inspires or motivates you that you can share with us? [00:00:09] John: I'm sorry, I, I'm not a real quote guy, but I. If I was to talk about the things that motivate me to do this I think it's relatively straightforward that a lot of your listeners will be able to identify with. [00:00:22] At heart. I'm a technologist, so I'm, I'm passionate about innovation particularly where I can use technology to help a person or help a company do something much better than they can today. I love learning. Recently when I was at Amazon or AWS before starting m3ter I actually went back to university to study advanced statistics and machine learning because I really needed, felt the need to dive deep. [00:00:50] I. And understand properly how much of the machine learning models that are deployed today are built. And that became actually hyper-relevant for m3ter because a large part of our product leverages machine learning techniques to do things like forecasting and, and margin control, et cetera. But we'll get back into that in a second, I guess. [00:01:12] Sure. [00:01:12] Omer: Yeah. So tell us about m3ter. What does the. Product two, who is it for, and what's the main problem you're helping to solve? [00:01:20] John: To answer that, if you don't mind. Can I just give quick context? So the, the thing that's going on here is that how software is priced or monetized it's changing fast. And software companies, particularly enterprise or business to business are, are evolving how they charge their customers and how they convert the usage of their software into money. [00:01:38] What was once charged on licensed models then evolved into subscription models when that software all kind of moved onto the cloud. And what's happening today is, is that people are starting to charge based on how much of the software is actually used. Rather than just the amount of users that have access to it, and this change is happening so rapidly and the existing quote, cash suppliers, you know, all the way from the CRM system and the systems that do the quotation for customers through to delivery and through to the systems that essentially calculate invoices don't have the capability to deal with usage data. [00:02:19] Usage data presents a few areas of complexity. Not least pricing model complexity, but also usage data complexity, and the fact that usually companies will generate billions and billions of records of usage data. So something like, you know, Salesforce doesn't necessarily want you putting all of that usage data through it, so m3ter. [00:02:39] Is designed to solve that challenge. Okay. It's a pricing operations platform that powers every variation of usage-based pricing that, that a, a company could have, and also automates their billing operations. I. And we do this for technology companies that are embracing this change and adopting these new usage-based pricing models. [00:03:02] But very importantly to us is we're designed to enable the existing ecosystem. We have some competitors, which of course I will name, but you know, some of those are, many of the most are going after the existing ecosystem, whereas in m3ter, very strategically we're about enablement. And fitting in with them. [00:03:22] Omer: Okay. So I mean obviously SaaS companies are, are prime candidates for this type of platform. Are there other types of customers that are also, relevant or important to you right now? [00:03:36] John: Yeah. You see a lot of kind of subsegment, subsegments within software, kind of embracing this ahead of the curve, as it were. [00:03:45] Ones that are maybe not obvious, but all payments companies, you know transaction and monetary transaction. It's just a piece of usage data and often the pricing models are. Quite complex. They're, they can be tiered, they can be capped, they can be fixed elements. And so they're all embracing it. [00:04:01] There's a lot of companies that you know, could fit into universal communications or what we call modern telco, which are enabling. Telephony services over ip, you know, whether that's voice or very often messaging like, you know, the likes of Twilio, et cetera. And these companies are all on usage-based models and, and often their usage-based models are so complex that they resemble old classic telco billing systems in terms of their requirements. [00:04:29] And that's interesting because m3ter. Set out to be able to handle the complexity of those very different use cases. So in some cases, in particularly when it comes to B2B SaaS, you can have relatively simple usage-based pricing models. In fact, an awful lot of them are adopting what is called hybrid pricing, where it'll typically look like a subscription, but there'll be one. [00:04:52] Single usage metric that is used to determine when you should move up a level in the plans. And that's called a hybrid model. And it's very, very common in normal B2B SaaS. So m3ter anyway was designed so that we could well cater for all of these. So every variation of usage base, so for the more simple hybrid models, but all the way down to telco billing requirements. [00:05:16] And we handled that all very well. [00:05:18] Omer: Great. giVe us a sense of the size of the business today. Where are you in terms of revenue? Number of customers, size of team. [00:05:30] John: So we're a global company. We're headquartered in the UK. The best way of kind of alluding to our sizes, you know, we completed our series A earlier this year we raised 14 million dollars. [00:05:43] With that, bringing the total fundraising to a little over 30, we have. Lots of great customers many of which now are, there's public or case studies in the public domain and accessible. [00:05:56] Omer: And I think in terms of revenue, it'd be fair to say that, you know, you're a multiple seven-figure business. [00:06:00] Right. Okay, great. So let's start by where the idea came from and the seed of the idea was actually born. When you and your. Co-founder Griffin launched another startup many years ago. [00:06:20] John: Yes. The genesis of m3ter is really, yes. It's going back quite a way. So Griffin and I co-founded a business called Games Sparks, which was a backend as a service platform for games developers. [00:06:35] Essentially, it offered things like player management and leaderboards and achievement systems for. Games. And so developers are typically building their games using technology like Unity or whatever, but there was no such thing as a kind of backend platform that would allow them to build all of these core backend features that were required. [00:06:54] So that's what Game Sparks did. Now, why it's relevant to this is, is that why ourselves deployed usage-based pricing. And we therefore struggled with nearly every aspect of it. It was hard to actually bill. It certainly wasn't easy to automate the billing and you know, you end up creating errors on your bills, which is not good for customer, customer trust. [00:07:17] And so, you know, automation is key to reducing that error account. So it's kind of one of the things that m3ter tackles. So we, you know, you couldn't forecast that business, so you couldn't really determine which customers were going to end up, you know, growing next year and how much revenue you were gonna make from them next year. [00:07:33] And so that business was bought by AWS. And when inside AWS it was like the penny dropped. We could see that AWS had all of this sorted. They, they, they're in a, a total usage-based business. They have, you know, what, three, 400 different products and services, all of which are sold on, on usage-based models, and they have like this kind of equivalent of a revenue operating system internally there. [00:08:02] Which, first of all, allows 'em to automate the billing and deliver error-free billing at scale across millions and millions of different SKUs. And so it was just watching that operation and learning from it and the pennies dropped and we, Griffin and I understood, you know what, a lot of software is gonna need this capability and there's no chance the world has it 'cause AWS have spent, you know, billions of dollars on it. [00:08:24] And so that was the genesis of the idea. We, along with several others inside of AWS. Came out of AWS then and said, look, let's build an AWS Enterprise Enterprise grade solution to this problem and take it to the wider B2B software space at much more affordable, affordable rates than what they can build it for themselves. [00:08:47] Omer: Okay, great. So we'll talk about how you guys got started with, with me too. Before we do that, I, I just wanna. Go back to what you talked about earlier and you know, the, the trend towards usage-based pricing. I think you're absolutely right that, you know, companies like Amazon or AWS, it's, it's been part of their DNA for years to you know, provide usage-based stuff. [00:09:21] Like I, I'm playing devil's advocate a little bit. I want to try and understand like if someone's listening to this and saying. Well, maybe they're not saying, but they're thinking, you know, I've, I've got a SaaS product and you know, I can charge a customer, I dunno, let's say a hundred dollars a month, every month, whether they use my product or not. [00:09:43] If I switch to a usage-based pricing model is the, the value or, you know, the lifetime value of that customer is suddenly gonna tank. Because I'm charging them based on very little usage and, you know, is that a, is that a downside for, for, for my business? And how is that gonna affect revenue? So is number one, is that an objection? [00:10:08] You've, you've, you've. Come across and, and two, what's, what's the answer to that? [00:10:14] John: I mean, for sure, you know, we're not zealots usage based pricing may not be for absolutely everybody. And if you're the type of software business that has a very, very loyal customer base that is used to paying you an amount of money. [00:10:33] Whether or not they're using your service or not, and don't mind. I mean, likely the fees are cheap, so the subscription fee must be cheap. So that's falling below somebody's radar. But you know, within those businesses, there's so many things that are going on behind the scenes, and this is of course what we learned in our previous company. [00:10:50] So firstly, usually what's happening is, is half of your customers are subsidizing the other half. That's not very, that's not very fair. A competitor is bound to come in and offer a competitive offering to you on a pure usage model just to be disruptive. So at least prepare yourself for it. But look, if, if you're not confident that usage in your platform is going to continue to grow organically with your customers and you're essentially protected by the fact that they pay this monthly subscription fee, then I would say in those cases. [00:11:25] It's not for you now, I think generally across software where we are confident in our products and our ability to generate organic growth usage-based models have been shown to increase the net dollar retention by as much as 10 to 30% across companies that are equivalent companies charging pure subscriptions. [00:11:44] And so I think that's a big deal. And so particularly as. Also another growing trend in, in, in software that your listeners be well used to is the tendency to head towards self-service and product-led growth usage-based pricing is a very, very good companion model for those situations because the barrier to to try is very, very low. [00:12:04] You know, I can get on and try and. And usually in usage-based models, it could be like some kind of free tiers and things like that too. So you can try everything for free, but just as soon as you start using, you're not having to commit immediately to that 500 a month, that thousand a month, that 10,000 a month, whatever it is, you're able to just pay as you go and, and, and grow organically. [00:12:24] And, and that fits very well, as I said, with that kind of product-led growth. You know, I've made the point that usage-based pricing models are a great companion for companies that are deploying PLG strategies, and product-led growth. But it turns out that many of our customers are in fact, you know, enterprise sales-led. [00:12:42] And I think a platform like m3ter brings some real advantages to companies that deploy these models. Typically, one expects in enterprise sales models for customers to be on quite a lot of varying different, pricing. So although you have standard pricing by design, what happens is when the sales teams engage your enterprise customers, they end up doing quite a lot of custom deals and deviations, and that creates a lot of complexity for m3ters customers, because the finance team, in order to essentially build these customers. [00:13:15] Has to gather all of the various different deal information for each customer and merge it with the usage data for each of those customers. And, and that's something that m3ter automates really well for them. And, and usually the fact that they're agreeing different deals, often there are different structures and things like that. [00:13:31] And so the requirement there is really to be able to deal with a lot of different variations of usage-based pricing. And so when you go down this. Journey to try and implement a solution for it. You find that there's a lot more complexity under the hood than you, you're maybe perhaps first considering. [00:13:47] And so some of the incumbent providers that like, you know, take for example Stripe. Stripe would claim to be able to do m3tered billing, but when you look at the sophistication of what they're actually able to do, they won't be able to deal with anything like the kind of sophistication that I've just been laying out for you here. [00:14:04] And that is really you know, one of the reasons why. Our strategy is specifically m3ter's Strategy is specifically around partnering with these companies and enabling companies like Chargebee and Salesforce and NetSuite to cater for these complex pricing models and dealing with all the usage data that drives them. [00:14:20] Omer: Yep. Makes sense. Okay, so, so you and and Griffin, you know, had firsthand experience of usage-based pricing with games Sparks you landed in. In AWS world where they, they do that all the time and, and do that very well. And then eventually the two of you decided you're gonna take the leap and, and start m3ter. [00:14:44] Did you feel by that point you had validated that idea or opportunity enough just from your experience and what you'd, you know, you saw happening around you? To be confident that you could start going and building a product. Or did you still, you know, decide what we're gonna go out and talk to potential customers, validate this idea further or whatever. [00:15:12] So what was, what was the approach that you took? [00:15:14] John: Well so first of all, we did have a high degree of confidence. And that was fueled primarily because within AWS we were working with a large amount of companies that were building on top of it. And so you got I guess to spend time with. A lot of different types of software companies that were, were doing that and you got to effectively learn from them how they were thinking about pricing. [00:15:40] So we could see that this trend was, was definitely coming. There were other things driving it. For example you know, with the rise of. Software, talking to software as opposed to having a user on a keyboard, you know? Or even with just the rise of automation, where the job of the software is to reduce the amount of people. [00:15:59] You know, there were some really key tailwinds that were just very obvious that this was becoming a big thing. So our challenge in many ways was to build, nail the product, like build the right product and. It is here that we had to go back and do exactly as you suggested. You know, we didn't assume that we were gonna know it all, and we certainly didn't just want to guess. [00:16:23] And we took some very different positions in, in our approach to this than some others that have entered this space. We saw it as a data problem and that really enabling, providing our customers with pricing operations capability and automating their billing was really just the first step in, in the problems that they were going to experience. [00:16:46] Next up, and you could see this 'cause a w also solve for this is. Leveraging the usage data that gets generated to enable your sales teams to be a lot more effective or to enable your finance teams to do more accurate forecasting. So the data itself is the asset. And so m3ter's Vision was really around, okay, let's make a product that. [00:17:12] Allows our customers to manage their pricing, hence being a pricing operation platform that automates billing. And so takes all of the I guess, hardships out of the, the monthly billing process. So the weekly billing process or whatever it may be, but really m3ters direction is about. Turning the usage data into a strategic asset, which ultimately will help you better manage your margins. [00:17:37] Okay? So margin management and secondly, will help you respond to signals in the usage area of your customers, such that you should be able to respond to better buying signals and increase your, your lifetime value, customer lifetime values. [00:17:51] Omer: When I talk to. Founders and we, we go back and talk about, you know, the initial launching the product. [00:18:02] If there's any mistake that somebody will tell me they made was we waited too long to launch the product. But when you and I were talking, you said the opposite. You said, I think we launched too soon. Yeah. Te tell us more about that. [00:18:19] John: Oh, yes. And actually I'm surprised that the majority say we waited too long, long to launch. [00:18:25] So it obviously means that there is a great halfway house. We, we definitely launch too soon. And you know, the impact of that is, is that you're just getting spread too thin. Your, your product teams. Are being asked to deliver features at a rate. And, and maybe they're not clustered as well as you might like, so they're different features for different customers and they're getting pulled slightly. [00:18:49] And so, you know, as you're growing in the beginning. You don't have those capacities in place and it just puts some due pressure on them. And similarly speaking with the customer facing teams that you have or the people that you have in the, in those roles you know, they get spread very thin because customers are naturally demanding, particularly with a new product and particularly one that is critical to the revenue operations of the company. [00:19:12] You know, it creates, it creates a burden. I think looking back on it and, and why I think we would you know, maybe launch less aggressively where we're doing it all over again is, I think you can throttle these things pretty naturally. Actually. I think that's the learning is, is that you can narrow your focus. [00:19:30] So say we're only doing customers that look like A, B, and C very specifically and such that their feature requirements are very clustered and that will create less strain on your, on your product development team and, you know, just prioritize them in that way. In many ways, pick your customers just as much as they're picking you. [00:19:50] Okay for Fit. Now, if you are very religious about that, I think that will vastly ease the launch process. And if you've got a good cluster, then you can launch with that cluster nice and early. And so that might address the concerns of some of the other founders that you're talking about. The lesson that Griffin, I think, you know, learned is just don't rush it. [00:20:13] Pick a handful of design partners. Agree a plan. With them, stick to that plan. But anyway, look, thankfully that's all behind us now. That's, that's in the rear view mirror as they say. It's now about a scaling challenge. [00:20:26] Omer: Yeah, totally. Yeah. I mean, we still wanna learn from your experience of, of going through that and I think on the face of it. [00:20:34] Having more customers than you can handle sounds like a, a good problem to have as opposed to not having any customers. But can you give us a, an inside look into what type of issues that caused, like, for example. You know, we chatted about this idea of like how you handle features when you are, you know, you're getting, you've got these customers, but they're from all over the place with all kinds of requirements. [00:21:07] John: Yeah. We, we had complexity there because I. We were winning customers that there, there was high demand for our product when we announced it and launched. Additionally, we had helped from a very, very strong suite of investors who were making introductions for us. So there was high demand. The demand wasn't necessarily clustered as well as you might like, and so you might be trying to solve the problems for a modern telco company, as we kind of talked about before, are alongside trying to fix the problems of a FinTech company. Are, are, you know, an API ID verification company. And while they're all talking about usage-based pricing models and whether those be tiered, volume banded, and then, you know, they're layering on prepayments and drawdowns. [00:21:57] Those all sound the same at a very high level, but underneath. At all. They are end up having quite different prescriptive requirements around their pricing models and, and similarly on their usage data management, you know, they can have quite different requirements. Interestingly in payments. [00:22:13] Often transactions need to be rated sequentially, for example, and that's not something that everything can do. So the result of non-used design partners is that you do get spread thin in terms of the features that you have to build. So I think I'd just be, look, doing it again. I'd just be a lot more focused around that. [00:22:34] Just, just narrow your focus. Say we do this for. All companies that do the most specific thing you can imagine. Yeah, totally. [00:22:42] Omer: You, you mentioned VCs giving you intros, which, which helped you find customers. Was that a, was that like a growth channel for you guys in the early days? [00:22:53] John: Yeah, the most important one, I'd say in kind of day one to, you know, day 300 or whatever it is, of course in Amazon it's always day one, right? [00:23:02] But in, in m3ter we, we day 300, yes, it was a, an incredibly important channel and it is probably the justifying reason to go down the kind of professional VC money route. I think it was our most important channel in the beginning because, you know, we've established others since and, and maybe we'll talk about them, you know, the content marketing channel or whatever. [00:23:24] But in the beginning, you really don't have any of that apparatus in place. You're working on setting it up. And so the only really influx you have is from the press releases you put out there to announce your great new service. And that generated interest from some wonderful, huge companies. But really it's the steady supply line comes from the investor community. [00:23:47] And you know, we, we kind of weaponize that to a certain extent. We, we mine the data on their, the investment company's port portfolios of investments and we marry that to what is our ideal customer profile. And recall, if I was doing it all again, we might have gone more narrow on our ideal customer profile. [00:24:08] But in this particular case, you're just narrowing it down to people that you know are going to need usage based pricing. And so then you're able to make the request to them and they'll happily make a friendly introduction. And this is such a pain point for so many people. That you've just got open doors and open conversations, and it was a really easy way to get to the first 10, 20, 30 customers. [00:24:27] Omer: So, if, if I understood this correctly, you were having conversations with investors, kind the, you know, the, the fundraising type meetings, but you were being intentional about the types of investors you were talking to. Or being thoughtful about what types of companies that they were already had in their portfolio that would be a good fit for you. [00:24:50] And then coming in there, asking for ma making an ask, I think is also easier when you can be very specific rather than, you know, do you know anybody who needs our product? Versus, Hey, you know, we, we know. So, you know, X, Y, Z companies, you work with them. We think they're ideal, you know, customers for us, we could help them with whatever. [00:25:14] I, I think it becomes a very specific and easier ask to make. Is that fair? [00:25:20] John: Oh, I think you're a hundred percent right there on the money. Yeah, VCs, you know, the investor community. And by the way, this channel remains open because, you know, naturally a company, we've done our series A earlier this year, and naturally looking forward, we'll do a series B, someday a series C, et cetera. [00:25:36] And so typically what happens is you maintain relationships with investors out into the future, and they are happy to make these introductions to you because it helps them evaluate you also. Okay. And that's, that's kind of their motivation. Now, they probably will tire if you ask them for 15 or so, but if you go to them in a very targeted way and say, we know these three companies in your portfolio, or, I mean, we typically ask for between three and five and maybe they give us three back or four back or something. [00:26:08] But you, we go very targeted. We know exactly where the company is, who you know what they need, et cetera. And then you often write the introduction on, on behalf of the vc. So it's really, you know, it's, it's not a big ask from them. They're happy to do it because they want to evaluate you at the same time. [00:26:23] And it's been in, it was in the earlier days our most effective channel. It's, it's, you know, thankfully been, been overtaken by a couple of others now. [00:26:32] Omer: Yeah. So let's talk about that. So content marketing is a channel that seems to be working. Very well for you. A lot of SaaS companies will struggle with content marketing churning out a lot of content and not necessarily seeing meaningful results from there. [00:26:54] What did you do differently or what were you doing that help you turn this into. Not only a viable growth channel, but one that's working really well. [00:27:05] John: Yeah, so m3ter has been pretty religious about being good. At content marketing from the outset. And that was purely a learning from our last company about how necessary it was to develop muscle in this area. [00:27:24] So we kind of knew coming into this that you just going to invest strongly in this area because. It can be your most effective channel. If you do it right now, it's definitely not an easy thing to do, and in our first time around. We were relatively amateur at it compared to where I would say we are now. [00:27:47] We produce a very high grade of, of content, and I think that's what you're really looking to do. You're looking, you've got to produce good quality content. You're trying to provide a truly valuable resource for people generally, whether they become your customers or not. They may even go to your competitor. [00:28:06] But it's about utility. It's about building brand trust for the long, long long haul. And it's about educating in the wider market about knowledge of the problem space. And it's definitely not easy and it takes a lot of time, but we've done a really, really good job of it. And when you do, it's like the gift that keeps on giving. [00:28:28] Okay? So we now generate more inbound leads from this channel on a weekly basis than any of our other channels. Reliably and it just grows and it grows at a great rate too. [00:28:40] Omer: So what is it, what type of con content have you been creating? Maybe give us an example or two. I think everybody knows that they should be creating high quality content. [00:28:52] It's just, you know, the devil is in the detail of actually what you end up executing and delivering. [00:28:58] John: The devil is in the detail. Like I I I, I don't think people will achieve their goals if they're leveraging too much of the generative AI to crack out a, a set of articles. We specifically look to incorporate subject matter experts. [00:29:16] Into most of the pieces that we write. And those subject matter experts will come from industry. They will come from the venture capital community, they will come from finance. And the, did I say customers, you know, they'll come from our customers. And so within our customers, for example, there is a lot of pricing expertise and the subject that we write about most because this is what m3ter helps people with, is pricing operations is. [00:29:40] Is that is is being very good at pricing operations. And so, you know, we've got a piece that's coming up shortly, which is about some of the pain points associated with pricing for FinTech companies specifically. So for that we will incorporate a pricing expert that has a lot of, you know, previous experience working for pricing consultancies, we will incorporate a customer or two. [00:30:04] We will incorporate a a person that we work with a lot that is from the investment community and is now a well-known writer on, on this kind of subject area. And so we put all of this together and you kind of, uh, you're looking to kind of create, maybe, you know, something that's deep enough. To give the audience some benefit, just like your podcast does. [00:30:25] You know what I mean? It's not lightweight airy fairy stuff. It's, it's essentially people are looking to learn from it. And so if you go in with that mindset, I, I think, you know, that's a, that's a better one to have. [00:30:36] Omer: Yeah. Yeah. I love that. So when you were with these subject matter experts. wRiting the articles or was this more about your team was kind of orchestrating this thing and, and putting together the idea and the content, but they were leaning on these experts and customers to, to provide. [00:30:58] Input into the piece of content? [00:31:01] John: Yeah, we do a bit of both. And in the earlier days, you're probably leveraging existing authorship and then, you know, as you progress and you mature, you take more ownership. And so we typically orchestrate most of it ourselves. Yes. [00:31:16] Omer: What was the typical arrangement like when you, you have a subject matter expert identified, what do you do? [00:31:21] You reach out to them, you invite them to. Write some content? Is it kind of something you commission and pay for their time, or is it just a, it's kind of more like a guest post and an opportunity to get in front of your customers and audience? Like what, what did a typical kind of arrangement look like? [00:31:39] John: I. We, we have, you know I guess commissioned, but it's not the default. As soon as you start building momentum and if the people you're inviting are interested in what you're doing like I said, if some of them are customers, they're gonna be naturally interested in what you're doing. I think, you know, you just gather momentum and you don't end up having to commission as much things. [00:32:04] You can find experts that are willing to contribute because they rate you and they rate what you're saying about a particular subject. They believe in your point of view, most probably are, are at least find it interesting enough to offer a counter one. [00:32:18] Omer: You know, we, we talked about content marketing being one of the channels that help you to get to the first million in. [00:32:26] But it sounds like it's, even today, it's the dominant channel. [00:32:31] John: Yeah. You, you, that, that one never goes like you. You know, you, you. When you understand how good it can be and when you understand the rewards that it can deliver reliably. And like I said, I don't wanna overuse it, the gift that keeps on giving when you understand that you just keep doubling down and you just keep allocating more and more resource and spend to it as you grow. [00:32:57] Because it is, you know, it's like a rolling snowball. It just keeps gathering momentum. And remember the mission, one of the parts of the mission is to establish brand trust alongside generating leads because somebody read something of interest. And so, you know, for that you gotta keep investing in that area. [00:33:17] It's, it's, it's, it's very important to keep investing there. [00:33:21] Omer: So let's talk about another growth channel that you started fairly early on, which is partnerships. And, and that's something that you, you felt was, you know, a strategic area that you wanted to, to invest some time and money in, and you got involved fairly early on. [00:33:39] Can you tell us what, what, what type of partnerships are we talking about here? [00:33:42] John: Yes. We're talking about partnerships with other software platforms that make up the existing quote, cash stack. And so, you know, it could be Salesforce, it could be Chargebee. So we're talking about those types of, of relationships. [00:33:56] The reason that this worked for us, so first of all, it's unusual for companies to do this so early. iT's usually, you know, partner channel is, is normally something companies do later in their, in their evolution. But the reason it worked for us, I think, is because very strategically m3ter's intent was not to displace the incumbent supplier ecosystem in this area. [00:34:19] It was to enable it to solve the problem. The, that usage models usage pricing models were, are going to be prevalent if not already. And the fact that they can't currently deal with them. So our product strategy is such that we enable them and fit in with them. So integrations is like a, a ridiculously important part of our overall product, how we integrate with. [00:34:40] With Salesforce, how we integrate with Chargebee is, is very important to us. And when you have that strategy, it, it becomes, you know, quite a. I guess a natural follow on to say, well, hey, maybe there's a Go-to market opportunity, a joint go-to market opportunity here where what you're No, no doubt seeing, like if I'm talking to, say for example, a subscription software vendor, I. [00:35:06] We're aware because we can see the prevalence of usage-based pricing in the industry, and we know that their particular software, we would know the limitations around what it can do. It's a very natural conversation to say, well, look, you're not able to deal with X, Y, and Z type customer because you can't do this, whereas we've already got an integration with you, so why don't we actually co-sell this and go to market together. [00:35:28] And solve this problem for the customers because we're not offering the full breadth of the end-to-end service that you're providing. We're just kind of going deep in this particular area around pricing operations m3tering and rating. And, and so we found that that was very, very well received by the existing subscription software ecosystem. [00:35:51] aNd, and so it's become a, a very significant. Part of our Go-to-market strategy and we'll only get more important as time goes on. [00:36:00] Omer: Are there, are there a small handful of partners that you've built integrations with or is this something that you are continuing to grow with? You know, as many partners as you can? [00:36:11] John: So, so, because the supplier ecosystem is, there's a lot of different suppliers there. We have a lot of integrations. You know, if you kind of on the invoicing side of things, you know, there's a, a ton of different finance systems and so we have to integrate. Gracefully with each of them, but we don't necessarily have a partnership with each o with each of them. [00:36:33] We, we choose our partners carefully because, you know, go to market takes sophistication takes it takes focus from both companies. You have to invest the time. It takes investment from both companies. And so in order for it to work really, really well, I think you've gotta develop a muscle that takes quite a while to actually build, you know. [00:36:54] Reticent to use the term partner first, but next to everybody else we're, we're, we're, we're competing with, I would say we are you know, it's really about enablement and partner and partners for us. We are very selective about the partners that we invest the time in going to market with. [00:37:13] Omer: And, and then how do these things typically kick off? [00:37:15] Is this, you know, when, when you identify a potential partner that you, you think is worth building an integration? Do, do you start conversations right away with, you know, the, the key people that you can get talking to there or is it more about, look, they already have an API available, let's just build something as kind of step one and then once that's up and running. [00:37:42] Then, you know, having a conversation with people should be the next kind of natural thing to do, to look for, for opportunities for co co-marketing or whatever. Is, is there a kind of a model or an approach you take? [00:37:54] John: Yes, I, I think there is a natural flow to it. As I was saying before, it, it's customer demand initially, that determines the various different integrations that we need to set up because our customers, you know, will suddenly present that they've got a finance system that you didn't previously have an integration for. [00:38:13] So you build the integration for one. You end up getting more customers that that have that particular system. And yes, you've got another integration. But taking it to the other level about when you're going to, you know jointly go to market with, with a partner. That's kind of another question entirely. [00:38:31] Often you can have high level conversations with nearly all of these companies and in, in my experience, even before m3ter partnership conversations. And everybody start with, are you gonna bring me any leads? You know, and it's, it's, it's both sides equally hungry to, to get both leads. But in this particular instance, it was very different for us because what you had was a rich supplier ecosystem, a competitive supplier ecosystem in the subscription billing space. [00:38:57] You know the big biggest ones there are chargebee, you know, maybe Zuora, you know, Stripe, play their paddle are there, and, and so what you. Find is that that's a competitive space and their customers are asking them to be able to deal with the complexity of usage-based pricing, and they are not able to. [00:39:19] So they either and they're not, you know, they may try and build it. You know, different companies that have different strategies in that area. So for us it was ever so slightly different. We found those conversations just more, more fulfilling straight away. And we hired in this area. So, like I said, I think doing partners is actually, it's, it's muscle you need to develop 'cause it takes persistence, it takes skills that, that, you know, are not everybody has. [00:39:46] And so we hired very specifically in this, in this area, you know, highly competent individual and individuals that had done this many times before to accelerate our momentum with a, you know, hand handpicked few. [00:40:01] Omer: Let's, talk about outbound. yoU know, if, if I was looking from the outside or before we, we started our conversation, I would've probably said, yeah. [00:40:12] For this type of business, outbound and the types of customers and the types of deals you're potentially doing, seems like a pretty natural growth channel, but that's one that hasn't. Worked, you know, great for you so far. Can, can you talk a little bit about like, what are some of the things that you've tried? [00:40:31] John: Yeah, look, I put my hand up and I, and I know this is a vital thing to, to get right. I mean, we're lucky that our other channels are performing so well, but yes, this outbound outreach, you know. What I'm talking about here is the team of BDRs, business development representatives that are kind of sitting there cold emailing or cold calling prospects on your behalf. [00:40:53] And we have this, and we've been doing it for a long time. And the results are mixed. It's a confusing space. It's, it's made more complicated by GDPR which is more acutely felt over here in Europe than it is in the States. Although, you know, there are similar protections over there. But I mean, GDR is treated very, very seriously as a European company, and you cannot go around spamming companies in bulk emails and get away with it. [00:41:19] You know, that's just a fact of life. You can't call them though. It's just, you know, cold calling is probably more effective in North America than it is in, in Europe too. You know, to make clear, by the way, the majority of our customers and our focus is really North America. It's just that we're headquartered here. [00:41:37] But it's also hard because people are fatigued, aren't they? I mean, how, what ratio of emails in your inbox are, are spam, you know, it's. It's a very, very high ratio for most people today. So there's a lot of fatigue. So look, I, I just think we've had to go on a journey to learn how to become good at it and to get to grips with it. [00:41:55] And it's, you know, there are new approaches and playbooks which are more effective and they're far less about spray and prey. And far more about, you know, targeting, knowing exactly which accounts you want to win. And then coordinated timely outreach to, on multiple channels you know, social mail calling perhaps et cetera. [00:42:22] But it's just, it's, it's about targeting and it's about coordinated campaigns of, of, of average and just ever so slightly carefully using the term campaign. 'cause it is more often associated with the, you know, spray and prey, but it doesn't have to be. And so account-based marketing techniques are really replacing the old models of, of this kind of casting a wide net, uh, which is all a numbers game. [00:42:46] Omer: Yeah. Yeah. I, I totally agree with you. I, I think in many ways, uh, you know, some of these outreach tools have made it so easy to send cold emails. At scale that it almost feels like email boxes have become so saturated that people, people are fatigued or people are tuning out. It's, it's harder to get people's attention, and I'm sure there are companies out there still doing well with, with cold email. [00:43:21] But you're not the first founder at a SaaS company who's, who's. Said, look, we need a different playbook. You know, the sort of the old way of doing cold outreaches in there. And, and I do agree with you, I think whether it's, you know, account-based marketing as we, we know it today or, or maybe potentially how it evolves in the next few years, but getting a, a lot more sophisticated with and intentional about who you're reaching out to, how you're doing it. [00:43:50] And, and kind of focusing more on relationships than just kind of these transactional emails is, is probably the path forward. I think that's gonna start to get people paying more attention. [00:44:03] John: Yeah. And I, I, I certainly think that the email can no longer be the first. Point of contact that you have with somebody. [00:44:13] It'll only work or have any utility if it is the nth point of contact that you've had with somebody. And those other point of contacts might be you've met them at an event, are they have read a piece of the content that you've been investing in for the last several years? You know, so it goes hand in hand with your, with your content marketing strategy. [00:44:35] Omer: Great point. Yeah, totally agree with that. Okay, we're gonna have to wrap up soon. We'll get onto the lightning round. But one, one question for you. You know, you're a second time founder here. You had a successful exit with games, parks. You've been building this business for a few years now. What's kind of, at, at a personal level, what's one of the hardest things still that you, you, you, you deal with on a day-to-Day basis. [00:45:01] John: I mean, I have to put my hand up and say, I, I struggle with time management. I'd say it's one of the more common mistakes that founders make in your, your listeners would be able to identify with this. I'm sure it's not necessarily the amount of time you're spending, it's where you're spending your time. [00:45:15] I, I. I'm still technical. I'm, I'm sure people in my company would be debating about what level that is or not, but as a person who is still technical I like to get stuck into the details of particular problems and, you know, would still have some utility in fixing things as such. And so I personally struggle from being deep in the weeds versus coming back up and having a. [00:45:41] You know, a healthier perspective about the business as a whole and how we're gonna scale certain things, et cetera, et cetera. So that's something I personally have to work on. I have to, you know, I've always had this and I'll have to work on it for time in theorial, so I, I just think for other founders, I, I'm sure it's very, very common across your listener base. [00:45:57] I, I just think it's about being hyper aware. The way I get around it is I, I really try and stay tuned to my colleagues in, in, in m3ter. And listen to them because they'll normally give you the signals that, you know, they need something else from you than what you might be spending your, you know, your next 15 hours on. [00:46:15] But it does bring me to a point, and I know you said we're getting to the end. If, if I've won learning about having now done this for a second time, and you know, one of the greatest motivations to me in this whole thing is getting to work with the kind of smaller. Highly motivated bunch of people. [00:46:31] And so if you've gone to the trouble of kind of putting that band of, of brothers and sisters together to be that, that cohort, you, you've gotta listen to them. And startups and success in them will all be about that. And so I think Griff and I would be huge advocates of making comms part of the core fabric, part of the culture of your company, making sure that everybody in the company feels, I. [00:46:57] Empowered to contribute, to disagree, to contribute to a solution to a problem. And if you do that, what you'll find is that the answer is to not all a hundred percent. I'll go, I'll go the whole way. To a hundred percent of the challenges that you're gonna face are actually probably all sitting there within your team. [00:47:17] And so, you know, you should just use the hive mind, wherever possible to solve some of the bigger challenges that you're gonna come across. [00:47:26] Omer: I mean, I guess the challenges of leadership, right? Just it's it's easy to say those things, but, it's, it's hard to put them into practice. And as you said, it all starts with, with having that self-awareness. [00:47:40] Right? [00:47:41] John: So self-awareness now. Self-awareness. Yeah. That's everything. [00:47:46] Omer: All right, let's get on to the lightning rounds. I've got seven quick fire questions for you. What's one of the best pieces of business advice you've received? [00:47:55] John: Not to go ahead with the startup idea I had immediately before m3ter which was about optimizing supply chains for the restaurant business. [00:48:04] Omer: Interesting. What book would you recommend to our audience and why? [00:48:08] John: Inspired by Marty Cagan. Why I, I think it's the Bible on how to establish a product function. My co-founder is a real guru in this area, and one of the things I've learned the most from him is about servant leadership and Marty Kagan's real advocate of that. [00:48:24] And so I, I, I just, so, so, Griffin, Marty Kagan are my two kind of go-to guys on, on, on that. I think it's one of the most important skills you can have as a founder. [00:48:33] Omer: What's one attribute or characteristic in your mind of a successful founder? [00:48:38] John: So connected with that. I think it's understanding your weaknesses. [00:48:40] Everybody has them perhaps I more than most. And the way you get around them is with your co-founders and, and your hires, isn't it? You just, you, you just basically hire people to fill, fill the gaps of where you're weak. [00:48:51] Omer: What's your favorite personal productivity tool or habit? [00:48:55] John: Oh tool boring, but it's top of mind because I've just ditched Evernote after about 10 years minimum, and moved to Notion, which I think is the best notes app around. [00:49:06] And I do everything in that my whole life as in notion now. Not that I want any hackers or anything too. [00:49:14] Omer: Love it. What's a new or crazy business idea you'd love to pursue if you had the time? [00:49:18] John: Well, I think optimization of supply chains for fast food. I know. No, no, no, I'm just kidding. But like, I, I will like to do another company after this. [00:49:26] I think you know, I'm pretty wedded to the idea of. God, this is gonna so sound so contrived, but I really am, I think about a lot leveraging AI tooling just for a better purpose. And the better purpose would be, you know, just turn it towards equalizing. The are, are, are, are, are reducing the gap between the haves and the have not. [00:49:46] You know, so helping the third world with, with AI technology, you know, something like that. At least it's a good mission, our very, very, very high level, early stage vision. [00:49:54] Omer: But yeah, totally. What's an interesting or fun fact about you that most people don't know? [00:49:59] John: Probably not that interesting. [00:50:00] But I do love coding more than I nearly love every other aspect of my of my job. And I mean, the problem with that is that the guys in m3ter who are very good at it don't allow me to do it as much as I would like. [00:50:15] Omer: Yeah, I'm, I'm, I'm the same. I, I love to code, but, you know, when I was at Microsoft, it was like they wouldn't let me near anywhere, anywhere near the code. [00:50:24] It was like, go home and do it. And finally, what's one of your most important passions outside of your work? [00:50:30] John: Oh, gotta say family. I'm a family man at heart. Pretty passionate about animal welfare too. These are things that really care about, but at the end of the day, I, I am, I love tech and so I, outside of work. [00:50:42] I'm probably just messing around with more technology now we can apply it to, to other problems and sadly, I'm just yeah, addicted to that. [00:50:52] Omer: Nothing wrong with that. All right, so, so John, thank you so much for joining me. It's been a pleasure chatting and, and unraveling the story of, of m3ter. If people want to check out m3ter, they can go to it's m3ter.com, but the first E is a three, so it's m3ter.com and if folks wanna get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to do that? [00:51:16] John: They could connect me in LinkedIn is probably one of the easiest. I also have an email address, john[at]m3ter[dot]com. I would welcome any mails questions, whatever, and I will definitely respond. [00:51:28] Omer: Great. Awesome. [00:51:29] John, thank you so much. It's been a pleasure. I wish you and the team the best of success. [00:51:33] John: Thank you very much, Omer for your time. [00:51:35] Omer: Pleasure. Cheers.
- “Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love” by Marty Cagan