Stephany Lapierre - TealBook

TealBook: Building an Enterprise SaaS Against All Odds – with Stephany Lapierre [391]

TealBook: Building an Enterprise SaaS Against All Odds

Stephany Lapierre is the founder and CEO of TealBook, a supplier data platform that helps enterprise customers make better procurement decisions.

In 2014, Stephany launched TealBook, initially as a service where she sold $5,000 memberships to suppliers selling to enterprise customers.

However, she realized this model couldn't scale when a larger customer wanted data on hundreds of thousands of suppliers, rather than just a few hundred.

After years of bootstrapping TealBook from her living room while juggling the responsibilities of raising three children, Stephany faced a pivotal moment.

She realized she needed to transform TealBook into a software platform.

But fundraising was really tough for Stephany, mainly because investors were skeptical about her being a solo founder without a tech background.

One investor bluntly told her, “You'll never raise capital on your own. You've got three kids, a funny accent (she's French Canadian), and you've never built a tech company.”

Despite these challenges and harsh feedback, Stephany rose to the occasion.

She knew she needed a strong team to get investors on board, so she found a CTO who shared her vision for TealBook and together they got to work.

By 2017, she successfully raised the funds they needed to grow the company.

Today, TealBook is a 7-figure SaaS business, with over 100 enterprise customers. The company has raised $72M in funding and grown to a team of 60 people.

In this episode, you'll learn:

  • How Stephany's resilience and ability to adapt based on feedback helped her overcome challenges and scale TealBook.
  • How Stephany persevered through investor rejections and ultimately secured funding by building a strong team and demonstrating traction.
  • Why TealBook made the decision to rebuild its platform and how Stephany navigated the challenges that accompanied this move.
  • How Stephany leveraged thought leadership content on LinkedIn to establish credibility and gain exposure for TealBook in the early days.
  • How Stephany managed to balance her personal life and startup responsibilities while growing TealBook.

I hope you enjoy it!


Click to view transcript

This is a machine-generated transcript.

[00:00:00] Omer: Stephanie, welcome to the show.

[00:00:01] Stephany: Yeah. Thank you for having me.

[00:00:03] Omer: My pleasure. Do you have a favorite quote, something that inspires or motivates you that you can share with us?

[00:00:09] Stephany: Well, it's funny 'cause when I saw the question I was looking up it just happened that I was talking to a few VCs of early-stage companies and we talked about resiliency.

And so I know it's cliche, it is, you know, Steve Job, but I like this where he says, whenever the answer has been no for too many days in a row. I know I need to change something. I'm convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.

And I could not, I could not, you know, attest to this no more because it's, it's true. It's so much about resiliency.

[00:00:43] Omer: Yeah. Yeah. I love that too. And I, I think that's a really good one. With your story in particular. We'll talk about this, you know, as we go, but it applies not just to nose, you get from other people.

It is also when you are saying no, or the voice inside in your head is saying no.

[00:01:01] Stephany: Every Monday morning, still today, every Monday morning is like, what am I doing?

[00:01:06] Omer: So tell us about TealBook. What does the product do? Who's it for and what's the main problem you're helping to solve?

[00:01:12] Stephany: Yeah, so our platform focuses on using technology, including AI to collect. Data on every B2B company in the world. And so what we wanna know is any supplier, so any business that sells products and services to an enterprise we wanna know as much as possible about them.

And we wanna deliver to the enterprise quality information about who they do business with. That's relevant typically to the buy side of a digital enterprise. Simplifying it, it's sort of where the Zoom info, you know, to the buy side. All the attributes that we're looking for is to service the sort of the source to pay in the lifecycle of a supplier.

Today, most of our customers, actually every company in the world does really struggle with quality data. Because most of them, especially if they have in the thousands to tens of thousands, to hundreds of thousands of suppliers globally, there's one. Each supplier requires an enormous investment from sourcing them, to onboarding them, to paying them, to maintaining their records.

And a lot of information does change, and there's a lot of different needs across the organization. So often you have multiple functions collecting the same information, and that information is highly dependent on suppliers to maintain different portals. And so what happens is that you have a lot of disparate solutions with, you know, incomplete, stale data that don't really connect.

And you know, for companies who spend hundreds of millions to billions of dollars in their supply base, you know, to exchange products and services, but also maintain those relationship, we're talking about a significant investment and very little knowledge about who they do business with, and no real opportunity to tap into that investment.

We could be enormous levers for savings, for improving margin, for tapping into innovation, to hitting their ESG targets, et cetera. So that's the problem we're solving. It's a big problem. It's a systemic problem in every single organization in the world, and there's more and more disruption as we're all aware in supply chain.

There's more and more regulations that are asking for more transparency on sustainability, on risk, on cybersecurity and things like that. And so that's what we're helping navigate for customers in a way that's automated and a lot more intelligent and a lot more focus on business outcome and less of the doing of the data.

[00:03:25] Omer: Great. That was a question I was gonna ask you to help educate us on this whole. You know, a business of procurement and suppliers. And because unless you know, if you're a, if you're a small startup, it's not really an issue. But when you're talking about the scale of some of these businesses that you serve, it's a completely different ballgame.

So, you know, thank you, thank you for answering the question that I didn't ask.

[00:03:48] Stephany: Yeah, it happens actually really fast. 'cause you know, we have early stage customers who have to, you know, have a big dependency on suppliers. So there's markets like biotech, for example, which a lot of their goods and services are outsourced and suddenly, you know, you're launching your first drug and you've got, you know, 2000 suppliers globally, and so there's already quite a bit of disparity, and then you lack transparency and scale and enablement.

And for a startup, I'd say we're probably better positioned. So if you're in a startup that has a marketplace or you're in the, in the, the space where you need data, maybe you have built you know, a niche solution or you're focused on a data problem that's maybe on ESG. 'cause there's a lot of those companies right now.

Or you're building workflow to enable supply chain procurement or any of those functions. That required quality data for your customers to maximize the value of your product. That's where we integrate our data into those systems so that we can accelerate, you know, commercial value and then ensure that there's a better, faster experience for those customers that are using their, you know, those products.

[00:04:49] Omer: Can you give us a sense of the size of the business where you, in terms of. Revenue, number of customers, size of team?

[00:04:55] Stephany: Yeah, so we're above a hundred customers. They're all large brand names. So the majority, it's Fortune 1000 companies. We're in the seven figures. We have raised about 72 million in capital, so we did a series B at the height of the market two years ago.

And the size of the, the team has changed quite a bit and so we've resized recently as we're releasing a brand new platform focus on our future, and it required quite a bit of change in the past year. And so from a size perspective, we're about 60 people right now.

[00:05:23] Omer: And the business was founded 2014.

Is that right?

[00:05:27] Stephany: Yeah. The first couple of years was bootstrap from my living room. I didn't raise capital until, until 2017. And so depending, you know how you count the first, the first few years of hustle was self-funded and you know, everything is hard. But those years I kind of forgotten as pure survival.

But those were hard years, and at the beginning I generated a million dollars in selling memberships to suppliers, which is a completely different business now, but I was selling a subscription for about $5,000, and I needed five suppliers to pay $5,000 a month to be able to pay for my engineers.

And so that was the early days of, you know, being able to self-fund. That, so 2017 is when the company became more real. We were able to get our first institutional round before that was self-funded. I did get an angel investor in about 2016, and so that gave me a little bit more time to then raise a proper round.

[00:06:21] Omer: Well, we love those early days here and those hustles and those struggles. And so when, like, where did the idea in for the initial business come from and, and what were you doing at the time?

[00:06:32] Stephany: So I started, this is not, this is my third company. My second company was focused on helping initially was large companies to find innovation.

And so if you're sitting in a business and you have, you know, a pretty competitive market. And you wanna differentiate your business it's hard to find real innovation. And so I came up with this concept, it was called Matchbook, and helping businesses find innovation through, typically it's third-party providers who have innovated with other customers or solve, solve similar problems.

Or are coming up with ideas that could really differentiate a business. And that really quickly morphed into sourcing because my customers start recognizing a process that they had implemented within procurement and they really liked their process. It was six weeks from requirements to outcome, which is, you know, speedlights when you're thinking procurement processes.

And so my customers had ask if we could. Help bridge the gap between what procurement was trying to achieve and what the business needed, which was a pretty big gap with a lot of processes in between. And so we started building strategic sourcing function for fairly established companies who had systems like SAP, or Reebok, et cetera.

And then, you know, sort of fortunate at the time, a lot of my contacts went and start raising capital to launch their first commercial assets. So at the beginning, we're now in 16 sectors, but at the beginning was really focused in healthcare. And so start helping biotech companies launch their first commercial asset and really building an outsourcing function that would be more transparent, that would be more scalable, and enabling employees to make faster, better decisions.

And that's where I saw. That every systems we would implement to, you know, automate payment, invoicing, contract sourcing, quality risk, required quality data into that system to be implemented and then to actually deliver on the promise value and achieving quality data was really hard. And then it depended on employees.

It depended on suppliers to come to portals. And I started really quickly, we're running into the same issues that my larger customers had. Where if you don't have quality data, how can you make better, faster decision? And I started seeing all these processes and all these. Roadblocks achieving outcomes, and it was really a data problem, not a software process or people to me just became, you know, if you had quality data that could power these systems and power workflow and decisions, you know, we could deliver ignificant outcome and maximize the investment made on this.

On this pretty big and growing supplier base. It took me nine years realistically, like I try to fight the idea. For nine years, I had a very successful consulting business, 40% margin. You know, I reinvested in the business and grew it naturally and organically. I never raised a dime for that company.

But this idea kept, you know, Lur lurking. And I, I try to kill it in every possible way, but every time I work with a new company, no matter the maturity level that they were at, they were struggling with data. And then it became clear to me at some point, especially as cloud technology became more, you know, sort of massively adopted by our customers.

They, I kept hearing very similar to the, the sales and marketing side. You know, if you're gonna get cloud-based software, we'll solve your data problem. And I didn't see Salesforce and solve our data problem and made it easier to enter information and a cloud technology. It didn't mean that the data was gonna be good because it depended on humans and humans are not typically really good at updating data.

And then so I saw, I started seeing the parallels, you know, between what had happened in the sales and marketing side to what was really far behind on the buy side. And so seeing the adoption of cloud start seeing, you know, also the, the the start, the start of big data and machine learning was also very eye-opening that we can maybe do this a bit differently and sort of you know, take a step to the, the Cold Start problem, which is, you know, how do you build a data set without having critical mass? And so anyway, lots of, lots of inspiration in the beginning with nine years of trying to kill the idea to finally decide to do something about it and turn my life upside down.

[00:10:40] Omer: Okay. So, so after nine years of resistance, you finally cave in and say, I'm gonna go and pursue this idea. How, how did you get. Started, like did you, did you kind of go out and do the kind of the lean startup thing and kind of validate this idea? Or did you feel like the nine years of seeing this over and over again was the validation you needed and.

[00:11:04] Stephany: Yeah, it was definitely the validation I needed. What I did not know is how to do it right, because it's a very complex puzzle. What I, you know, the problem that I saw is how do you uncouple this problem and why it's happening and how do you build it? And so the first version of TealBook, it was really.

So deciding to create more of an interface for suppliers to come into a profile and populate their information. The thesis was that if they came to one profile, we could distribute data across multiple customers. And so that's what I sold the $5,000 membership for. The reality is we didn't have enough customers to satisfy the demand.

And then when I started landing. Bigger customers, they asked for more data, and then we didn't have the critical mass to offer more data. So sort of the, the marketplace challenge. Anyway, so, but when I decided, I, I literally came back from working with a customer in San Francisco. It was a big company.

They sat across from Salesforce, LinkedIn, Facebook SAP was across the street and they were facing this data problem. And my consulting business took 16 weeks just to get baseline. And sure it was great for my consulting business, but I thought if this company that sits in San Francisco across all these other tech companies facing this problem, and I saw this to be like we're talking about a hundred million to billion dollar problem for one company, this was a massive opportunity.

And so my husband took money from his own business and gave me a $50,000 check to get me started. Ask a couple of things. One, don't ever put our personal finances. You know, in jeopardy. So make it work. And if you, you run out of money, you're not putting the house, you know, on a lien. And I would really like to stay married 'cause, you know, I think, you know, probably being a bit wiser than I am being six, six years older.

Sort of saw, you know, the possibility of me being really consumed by this business. And so ask, you know, it'd be great to stay married through this journey. And so I always keep this in [00:13:00] the back of my mind when he is asking me on a date for Valentine's Day and I have to leave my team for a team dinner to meet him.

You know, those are some of my priorities.

[00:13:08] Omer: Cool. Okay, great. So you've got, you've got the check and. Like this subscription that you were selling, this membership, how long, how long did you keep running with that and, and at what point did you, you pivot to kind of what TealBook? Sort of evolved into it has become now.

[00:13:28] Stephany: Yeah. So I mean it's kind of a fun story, but well at the time, I don't know if I was, I was thinking it was this much fun, but, so I was selling these memberships and, and, and suppliers could put their credit card through the platform and I was giving these teal coins and so they would get 10 teal coins worth a hundred dollars.

And so when they got an opportunity that was fed through the platform, 'cause it was more sourcing at the time, they could apply these teal coins anyway. But one day I, I landed this big company. It was a $60 billion market cap clients with a big and every way chief procurement officer. And he says, I love, I like your LinkedIn.

I. Thing, but you know let me know when you're ready for primetime. And I was like, what do you mean? What does it mean being ready for primetime? I says, well, I need, you know, I need 500,000 suppliers, not like hundreds or a thousand suppliers. And so you know, I, I didn't know how to get 500,000 suppliers because we had to sell this membership to each supplier.

So over a weekend, we flipped the model upside down. We made it free for suppliers that would get. Basically invited by this client and then I needed to find data on 500,000 suppliers. And so I contacted, you know, so many different data source. One kind of a funny story in Full Circle. I went to ZoomInfo in the early days and met a guy there that is now our president that I hired four months ago to, to, to run the day-to-Day operations.

I went to Dun and Bradstreet, that which I ended up buying d and b data. And, you know, use my own money. I think it was $120,000 to get the DNB data in our platform so we could deliver on this client. And so we, we flipped the model upside down. And then shortly after I met our first CTO who had worked at Ariba for 10 years.

So he had the context of the business and then went back to school to do a second master's in big data and machine learning, and had worked at Google and Shenga. And so we had, you know, all the pieces that we needed. And when we hadn't yet ingested the d and b data and when he looked at it, it's like, the data's not good enough for us to be able to use.

And so we ended up getting out of that contract and the decision was that we should build our own data. We, we have the opportunity to build data that is, you know, better quality, get more of it, more dynamic, and better integrate into our customer's processes. And so that was a big decision for us to, you know, decide to basically build on GCP.

And we've completely rebuilt the platform in 2017.

[00:15:51] Omer: So wait, so you, you, you talk to this potential customer who tells you, tell me when you're ready for prime time. You kind of basically flip things upside down over the weekend to try and get ready for prime time. And then how long did it take after that to the point where you just said.

This, this DNB data doesn't work. We need to be creating our own data. And like, I'm just trying to think of the timeline. Was that…

[00:16:16] Stephany: yeah, so I mean, he told me he was not ready for primetime on say, a Thursday or Friday. I managed to sign DNB over the weekend and Monday morning I flew to Boston. I met him in person and I had 1.8 million records and I told him, what's, you know, what's that for?

Prime time? He's like, oh, you're rockstar. Love it. And so, you know, the reality in between, it was months before we even discovered that we couldn't get the data. And so luckily those customers were moving really slowly. So by the time we kind of re revamp the platform at the time to enable this data to come in.

Then we needed capital. I had six customers, including this big one. And so I, I started fundraising and that's where, you know, I, I, I really stepped away from the business for a few months and met, you know, hundreds of investors trying to sell. You know, we had six clients, including the $60 billion market cap company.

I. And so I, you know, and that's, that's when I met an investor that said, you need, you need a team. You can't, like, so like Lone Ranger, you can't do this on your own. And that's when I met the CTO that had the big data machine learning background and he is the one, you know, so it's probably took about seven, eight, maybe even nine months before we were able to close around a funding and then finally get him on board and then build a team that would build.

The second generation basically, which we now is our legacy platform. But the concept of it was blew my mind because at the time, you know, AI is pretty. Mainstream right now compared to what it was, but I didn't know you could just, you know, built on, on we, we built on GCP start leveraging some of their machine learning models, hired some data scientists and start tackling this problem ourself, which was pretty, like, it was magic like.

Incredible. Lots of work, right? Lots. Like now it's, you know, the technology's advanced so much, but back then it was pretty, pretty amazing that we could do this. Now no one understood it, right? So the problem we had now is like, explain this to a customer. We, you know, we go on the web and we collect information and we put in the cloud and we match it with your vendor master.

That was really hard to explain to investors as well, because you're not, you're SaaS, but you're really the values and the data and then the data moat. It's not traditional SaaS. And so, you know, finding who we are and what's our north star and how do we build a moat around, you know, our technology was not as simple for us to understand or to be able to explain, you know, to investors.

And the big click, I think, for investors is when one of our investors. Or Seed plus round that's Tim Shi at Refinery Ventures said, you know, can you find an analogy to your business that people could understand? And that's really when the ZoomInfo analogy came into play. I had an executive at the time, but sort of look at the markets, like, I think that's the closest thing.

It's not perfect, but it's pretty close. If you think of, you know, ZoomInfo being, being focused on enriching customer data. And then be able to integrate that customer data into Salesforce so that sales and marketing can deliver better, faster outcome. It was a very synergistic analogy that investors understood.

Luckily for us, ZoomInfo went public shortly after, and so, you know, when it went to second round, you know, and ZoomInfo did very well in the public market. So that sort of, you know, got people pretty excited.

[00:19:29] Omer: So let's talk about the fundraising. Like you, this is your third company at the time that you're building, you have spent many years in, in this space.

You understand? Procurement, you have spent several years bootstrapping and you know, getting the foundation of this business. You've signed some deals and some customers and you know, so everything looks great. You've done a lot of the hard work. You know, in terms of like getting that initial traction, it seems like fundraising should have been fairly easy.

Was it?

[00:20:12] Stephany: No, it wasn't. Maybe something for founders. You, you know, you always think like, well, once I get that check or once I get that customer, once I get that employee, the world will be amazing. There's always, it always comes with, you know, another baggage. No fundraising was not easy. I mean, it, it got easier as we, you know, build momentum and got more customers.

So series A and B were actually both preemptive term sheets, so completely different story. But in the early days yeah, it was definitely challenging. So I'd say the, the first one was not a, a real representation of reality and we didn't talk about this, but my first, first angel check. I got when I was watching my, one of my daughters play a soccer and, and you know, I had a mom next to me who asked me, she goes, what do you do?

You're always, you know, running around in your high heels and with your babies. And so I told her what I was doing and I said, well, I'm gonna be traveling even more 'cause I'm starting to fundraise. And she goes, well, what's your business? And we start chatting and she goes, I'd love to put money in.

And so she ended up giving me a million dollars. That doesn't happen in reality. But what I would have to say is that what she saw me is hustle consistently. And this is was someone who had wealth, who needed to invest. And it was either she was gonna go on Angel, you know, websites and look for deals, or she could invest in someone that she had seen working hard at, at building a business.

And so once she understood the business, she got pretty excited about. What I was doing. And so I think, you know, just make sure that you leverage your network. That was really important for my Angel rounds initially as well. But you know, when I, I, I look for institutional capital. I had delusion because of the first round that it was gonna be easy and it really wasn't.

And it took me to speak to hundreds of investors, for one, to be really honest. And I owe him, if he ever listens, he knows, but I owe him. He didn't invest, but he was, you know, is, is honesty, which at the time took me aback. But he's the one who said, you know, you loan ranger, you'll never be able to raise capital on your own.

Like, you can't build this business on your own. Like, you know, you got three kids, you get a funny accent. I'm French Canadian. You've never built a tech company. You have no pedigree. You get no tech background. Like who are you? You know, I kind entertained by my passion for solving this massive problem.

And so, but at the time I said, well, I need capital to hire the team. He's like, you're not gonna be able to raise capital without the team. And I remember leaving this meeting, first of all, so defeated. Like he highlighted all my problems, like all my gaps, I should say, my problems, all my gaps. And I thought, how can I hire people?

Like what he was asking, he is like, you need to build a team. I was like, how can I build a team if I have no money to build a team? And I had like three months of runway, maybe even less. And so, but it did change my mindset on how I had to think about myself and my, it was not my gender or my accent or my lack of tech experience.

It was my risk profile, me on my own, like what happens if my kids got sick or you know, I, or whatever my, my risk profile was too big for someone to write, you know, a multimillion-dollar check. And so that's when I started looking for, you know, at the time I did, I wasn't sure if it was co-founder or executives, but I had built already two, three years.

And so I was more focused on finding executives where I could give. You know, significant options, but as employees and bring in the company and I was, you know, the stars aligned. There's a lot of magic dust that follows you when you build a company. And so that was one moment where someone said, Hey, I, I, I know of someone that may be interested.

He just exited from a company. Maybe he'll come with money in a team and I think he's got experience in your space. And that's when I met Jeff, our first CTO. And he did come with the CEO of the company that exited, which I then turned into our COO. And they both put money in. And then we went back to the investors that had already shown interest, say, Hey, we now have a team.

They put money in the round. You know, they have a lot of experience building this type of company in a lot of context in our space. And so that got us the first institutional round. So again, it was not, not all these other things, it was just how do I look at myself in the mirror from the lens of an investor and how can I you know, reduce my risk profile to increase my chance of raising capital 'cause the business needed that.

[00:24:27] Omer: A great story. It's like, you know, having a conversation like that is almost like, thanks for the pep talk. I'm like totally depressed now. Right.

[00:24:36] Stephany: But I remember this guy that, you know, was in his, maybe his late twenties or early thirties.

He is like, you know, Steph, you just have to be cocky when you're talking to investors. You know, like you're looking at it with his baseball hat and this young, you know, cocky look. And I was like, well, I am, you know, I'm older than you. I'm a woman, a mom of three kids. Like how? But then what I need to do is reflect on what does that mean for me?

It's not the cockiness, it was the confidence. And it shifted from which I hear a lot from early founders, well, I need money to grow my business. Well, investors don't care about that. They care about making money. Like if they take a bet on you and why would they invest on you versus invest in another company?

They, they need to believe, they need to have the confidence. And most importantly, they don't wanna regret, they don't wanna regret down the line saying like, I, I had the opportunity to invest in that company and I didn't. And so how do you turn that confidence to to so that they feel like they're gonna miss out?

And that's when I did the switch to, in fundraising. I changed my narrative. I. And it became really powerful. And you know, recently ish I was at a dinner and an investor's like, oh, this, you know, introduced me. She goes, she raises like a man. Like, I was like, I dunno if it's a compliment or an insult, but what she meant is I had the confidence.

Right to be able to raise capital. And that confidence came because one, I believe in my business, but I changed my narrative. And so it became, you know, why would I want you as an investor, like what strategic value or, you know, why giving you the opportunity when I have, you know, other people that wanna put a check in.

And so suddenly it's sort of, and then, you know, what I've done, I think, wow, that I could have done better in the early days is I created one the investment thesis. Like, why? This problem, what's happening in the market that's, that we can attach ourself to. Something that's growing really fast for us was sort of the bi market that was growing really quickly.

The adoption of cloud the growing source to pace, software market why us, you know, all the years of experience as you pointed out. Then the deep understanding of the space and then the analogy, it's not the headline, but to say we're the zoom info to the buy side. That's became the investment thesis that made it easier for investors to understand and sort of get excited about and how bigger TAM was.

And then the other thing that I did is put milestones that were achievable that I knew we could achieve, but they were impressive enough and I put, you know, four or five milestones we want to achieve, say next quarter, this quarter. And then I would let investors know what we set out to do. And then every time we reached that milestone, I would send a note, Hey, we got, you know, we got covered by an analyst.

We closed this partnership, we closed this, these two customers I told you we're gonna close. So every time it's kind of a boom, you know? And then, and then I get excited. And so then you create a little bit of excitement around your company and, and all they care about. Well, you have what it takes. Because it's so hard.

Well, you have what it takes to stick through it, right? And deliver on what you say you're gonna deliver. And that's the most important thing for investors. So I, I gotta

[00:27:39] Omer: ask, where, where does that, where do you find that next level of confidence? Like, you go in and you, you kind of heard this lesson and you start to think about, okay, what does this mean to me?

What do I need to do differently? How do I reduce this risk profile? All that stuff. But you know, we are who we are and, and to suddenly to change like that and to kind of bring in this kind of newfound confidence is, it's like, how did you do that?

[00:28:10] Stephany: Well, if you're gonna be a founder of a successful company, one, you have to be incredibly self-aware.

I. Of who you are, you've gotta be able to listen, right? Feedback is super important in every aspect of your business, and you can be so firm on your belief that you, you're not willing to listen to feedback and then you you have to reflect on the feedback based on your situation. And in these two cases, I had to apply it to my situation.

And you gotta find it. Like if you company needs money, like it's that or death, you know? So better find the confidence. Nobody's gonna invest in a company where the founder is not, you know, a hundred percent confident and doesn't have the conviction. Now what I've said to early investors, I said, don't put your life saving in my company, right?

Because we have 1% chance of making this a success. But. What I'll tell you is if we win, we win really big and I will do whatever it takes to make this company a success. And so, and as soon as I had an angel investor kept texting me and calling me like, how's it going? And he had put a hundred thousand dollars in the company and I was like, Hey, I'm gonna give you your check back.

Like, what do you mean? I was like, I can't, like I can't be answering your text and your, if you're nervous about your a hundred thousand dollars, which I totally understand is a lot of money. But if that a hundred thousand dollars, you're not willing to lose it. I'd rather give it back to you. I don't wanna have that sense of responsibility.

Now, obviously the accountability of my investors have grown and you know, and it was really important to do right on my early investors. And so I did secondary and gave a lot of my early investor chance at least cash some out, even double or triple their investment. And my, my purpose with that is that if I were ever to knock on their door again.

That, you know, I had, I had made them successful no matter the outcome. And so I did that for them. And then, you know, and then I have, you know, very happy investors who still have an upside in the company and they're still, you know, supportive and cheering on. But anyway, you have to find it. There's, there's just no, your company needs money.

You need money, and so go get it.

[00:30:08] Omer: Yeah, it's, it's, it's funny what, what we can find in those situations where. You realize it's like, you know, if you don't do something, you know the company's gonna die or whatever. Right?

[00:30:22] Stephany: And, and you have to be optimistic. Like I, I had someone recently, she goes, I have a hard time.

She worked for me. She goes, I have a really hard time balancing your optimism. Which was like a total fair comment, but I was like, holy shit. If I was not this optimistic, there'd be no company, right? You have to be through the good and the bad. You have to. You know, you have to have conviction and there's always a way.

You just have to, you have to find the way. And sometimes it's a hard set on reality, on where you're at and the changes that you need to make. And some of those changes are really, really hard, especially when it comes to people. Like people be, it becomes emotional. Change is hard. And so, but you know, you have to be.

Adaptable as well to those changes. And again, sometimes it's stepping away from the business and see what does the business really need. If I was an investor in that business, what would I tell my founder CEO that they would need to do to get things back on track or what, where they should be focusing their effort or how they should be bouncing themself.

You know, sometimes I sort of take that lens because I think it's important to step outside of my own head and, you know. Give myself advice. Yeah.

[00:31:26] Omer: Yeah. Let's talk about some of those early customers, and I know that you're doing a lot of thought leadership as, as a way to, to, you know, connect with these customers, but you know, we've just talked about.

Everything that was going on. You're, you're trying to build this company as a solo founder. You don't have a tech background. You're trying to raise money. You've got your three girls who were pretty young at the time, and then I. Someone said to you, Hey, you should start writing on LinkedIn because you have a lot of time to do this, right?

Can you tell us about that? What happened?

[00:32:03] Stephany: Yeah. No, that's exactly it. A friend of mine in PR said, you know, you should start writing a blog, and it doesn't matter the, the frequencies. What matters is the consistency. And so if you choose once a month, write once a month consistently. If you choose once a week.

Do that once a week. So I picked once a week and as a, you know, English is my second language. It's better now than it was back then, but it was still pretty daunting to write in a second language and once a week. But what it did is it forced me to pay attention to things I want to write about read more content I could repurpose.

And I became, back then I was traveling a lot more. And I remember on Tarmac I would write, you know, it could be I met someone and it, you know, the opportunity to put your phone down and have a conversation with your neighbor, like stuff, right? But it, it forced me to write and that create more of a presence.

And it started building more of a sense of community, I think within. The function, which is procurement. I also spent hours and hours and hours connecting with people on LinkedIn back in the days when, you know, it was not as crowded. So that gave me a bit of an edge, and I would send notes to chief procurement officers saying, Hey, I'm, you know, I'm, I'm thinking about building this company, or I, I'm in the early stage of building this company.

Solve this problem. Is it something that you're seeing in your business? Would you mind spending half an hour? Of your time to connect just to better understand, you know, what challenges you're facing, making sure that, and so, and the worst that people are going to do is not get back to you or say no, which rarely actually happen.

Like people are pretty open to sharing their insight. And, and especially in procurement, you're, you're in a function that doesn't get a lot of recognition and time, and so someone's asking for your opinion and. Your views on the world. And so I was really fortunate. People were very generous with their time.

I think it would be harder now just because it's so crowded and there's a lot of, you know, optionality in tech and a lot of startups. But back then there's only, you know, five startups I think, that were focused in the procurement space. And so that was pretty novel and exciting. But that all contributed to thought leadership and building a followship.

And then taking any speaking opportunities that it's a podcast, that it's a, you know, an opportunity to present on stage. And I bartered, I bartered so much in the early days to get an opportunity to speak on stages. You know, now, now I can't. Do you raise capital now? They want money from you. But in the early days, like being scrappy and finding topics, that conferences were really keen and AI was very new, data was very new.

Being a tech founder was very new in their space. And so it, it gave me a bit of a. You know, an edge to be able to position myself to do speaking engagement and got more comfortable. I was not comfortable doing podcasts or, you know, being on camera and, you know, go live. I was like, that was, that was hard for me, especially being my second language.

But I got better and the more I did it, the more comfortable I became being on stage. And so, yeah, I mean, I've done now countless speaking engagement and I, I find a lot of energy in them now, but. [00:35:00] It, you know, we're talking about eight, nine years of building that thought leadership.

[00:35:04] Omer: I, I wanna, you, you mentioned the, the, the tech platform.

Earlier. Earlier and how you a couple of years ago, you set out on this reset and to kind of rebuild the, the platform. What, what happened there? What were some of the problems that the business was starting to experience that. Led you to do this in terms of, I mean, it, it, it sounds like a pretty dramatic kind of thing to do.

[00:35:33] Stephany: Well, the, the, so that one was actually fairly easy. We just switched, we just rebuild the database, rebuild the application, and our customers just switched onto the new one. Lately and, and what we did, you know, you're scrappy in the early days. You make sacrifices. We used older tech, we built with, we had a lot of co-op students in the early version of TealBook.

I think we had like six engineers and nine co-op students. Nothing was documented, but what we're trying to get is an [00:36:00] MVP, like what we, and we didn't know the use case we're gonna go after. So once we got to learn the use cases, what data our customers need, the expectation on quality of our data. And so, you know, we built a lot of stuff in the early days that became irrelevant.

So we had collected quite a bit of technical debt. A lot of it was was application software based because our customers only understood software at the time. And the big problem for us is then the second generation, we grew 350% in 2021. And a lot of that was because of Covid and when we started getting a lot of vendor masters from customers that were closing really fast.

And then we were getting customers to wanna refresh their data for reporting purposes faster, and then we're trying to refresh. Large data set that we had ingested the whole thing, you know, was unscalable and then it became almost a company killer because we, we, like, we had no real processes around it.

And so, so it's like the, the, the company outgrew the tech and then we had to take a hard look at the technology and. Now take all the learnings, take the, the advancement in technology. We now had capital to hire, you know, different type of talent and so we decided to re-platform a couple of years ago. So the first re-platform was easier than the second one.

The second one, you know, there's a lot of complexity in what we built and you know, it's it definitely something that in hindsight I think we could have upgraded without having to do a full rebuild. I think that would've been an easier, faster path. Super happy now that we are sort of, we've delivered a new platform and it's performing, and now we're building on it.

But the, the, you know, the challenges and the stress on the company and the change management required to bring this new platform to market was, you know, I completely underestimate. So from an early stage perspective, I don't know if there's a other way around it. When you're scrappy and you've got, you know.

Not a ton of capital to build the tech, especially if it's a complex tech. I think it's easier now 'cause there's so many things you can just grab and implement versus us, we built ML models, we don't, we don't really do that anymore. So it's easier to build better tech faster than it was back in the days.

For sure. And you know, I think if someone suggests you to completely replatform, if there's any other alternative, any ways to, you know, upgrade it over time or parts of it, I strongly suggest that you do that. It, it would avoid a lot of pains. And since then when I've told another founder, we've replatform, it usually follows with it, oof, how did that go?

And it's usually, yeah, I wish someone had told me to not do that. Anyway, so yeah, there's, there's, there's reasons. Obviously you do it. For us, it was scale. We needed to operate more efficiently. We need to scale, scale. We need to ingest a lot more data faster, more automated. We need to give our customers more confidence and transparency in the quality of our data.

I. We had more flexibility in how our data was gonna be distributed. So there's a lot of reasons we did it, but you know, I think it's yeah.

[00:39:01] Omer: Yeah, it's a, yeah. All right. We, we should wrap up, so I'm gonna get into the, the lightning round. I've got seven quick fire questions for you, just for you to try and answer 'em as quickly as you can.

What's one of the best pieces of business advice you've received?

[00:39:17] Stephany: I dunno if that's a good advice, but I took it a don't build a plan. The plan will come with the business.

[00:39:22] Omer: What book would you recommend to our audience and why?

[00:39:25] Stephany: The four agreements. It's a little tiny little book. It puts things in perspective.

I try to read it once a year if I can to just re recenter myself on things that are really important and matters.

[00:39:35] Omer: Love that book. I think I've got on my bookshelf there somewhere just like five feet away. What's one attribute or characteristic in your mind of a successful founder? Resilience. What's your favorite personal productivity tool or


[00:39:49] Stephany: I love ChatGPT. I use it for my travels. I use it for writing content. I, I'm a big fan.

[00:39:57] Omer: What's a new or crazy business idea you'd love to pursue if you had the time?

[00:40:01] Stephany: Oh, I would probably do a TealBook for saving parents having to register their kids to the thousands of activities and camps, and so I.

But that's my biggest pet peeve. When you have three kids with different interests, the amount of time you have to redo the same things in different forms, and none of it connects. Oh, AI in there would be fantastic.

[00:40:24] Omer: It, it's funny you say that. My, my daughter and my wife were arguing yesterday because she was saying, you need to register me for softball.

And my wife was saying, I can never log into that thing. And like, you know, it, it's like, yeah, it's, it happens like every. Every few weeks.

[00:40:41] Stephany: It was like three camps times, three kids times, like nine different forms, I'm telling you, like that problem someone needs to solve. I'm, I will not solve this problem, but if someone wants to solve it, I'll buy that product.

[00:40:55] Omer: Well, what's an interesting or fun fact about you that most people don't know?

[00:40:58] Stephany: I'm a photographer. I don't know if  that's fun. Fact, I love photography. I see the world in pictures. I take a lot of pictures. I have, I don't know, maybe a million pictures on my phone. Most of my kids.

[00:41:09] Omer: And finally, what's one of your most important passions outside of your work?

[00:41:11] Stephany: My family and I'm a big skier and so my whole family, yeah, we ski a lot. I've grown up skiing. I was a ski instructor in Whistler back a million years ago. And it's definitely a priority for our kids. Love it.

[00:41:26] Omer: Stephanie, thank you so much for joining me. It's been a pleasure. Just kind of, I know it's always hard to kind of unpack a 10-year journey and, and kind of, you know, have all the answers.

So I appreciate you kind of taking us through that. If people wanna find out about TealBook, they can go to If folks wanna get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to do that? Yeah,

[00:41:48] Stephany: I mean, you can always email me. It's Stephany with a y I'm on LinkedIn. I'm very active as you heard today, so just be careful if you follow me, make sure you care about supply chain data, digital transformation, and procurement.

But you can find me on LinkedIn. I'm always happy to respond if you wanna exchange ideas. Yeah, that's probably the best way to, to get in touch. Awesome.

[00:42:09] Omer: Thank you. It's been a pleasure and I wish you and the team the best of success. Yeah.

[00:42:13] Stephany: Thank you so much for having me.

[00:42:14] Omer: My pleasure. Cheers.

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The Show Notes