Trovata: Navigating SaaS Enterprise Challenges to $10M ARR
Brett Turner is the founder and CEO of Trovata, a fintech SaaS company that automates and simplifies cash management for businesses.
In 2016, Brett, already a seasoned entrepreneur with three successful startup exits, launched a new endeavor: Trovata. But this wasn't just another startup for him; it was an idea brewing for 20 years.
Launching a SaaS product in the enterprise space can be very challenging.
So Brett spent over two years in the discovery phase talking to as many potential customers as he could. It was a long time, but he still felt it was worth it.
However, one major obstacle stood in Brett's way. To deliver a successful product, he needed to integrate with banks. However, back then, most didn't have APIs.
So he made a huge bet.
He was going to start building the product and investing in the business with the hope that banks would start providing APIs soon.
If they didn't, he was screwed.
The banks eventually introduced APIs, but Brett had to wait over 2 years. And during that time, the pressure was growing as he was burning through cash.
However, thanks to that bet paying off, Trovata has grown into a business that's currently doing around $10M ARR and has raised over $58 million.
In this episode, you'll learn:
- What Brett did during the discovery phase to deeply understand customer problems and why he spent over 2 years doing that.
- How Brett recommends approaching the enterprise space and the right way to build an MVP for enterprise customers.
- How Brett's calculated risk on bank APIs paid off, and what lessons can other founders learn from this?
- Brett's advice for founders who are looking to bring innovation to traditional corporate spaces.
I hope you enjoy it.
TranscriptClick to view transcript
This is a machine-generated transcript.[00:00:00] Omer: Welcome to another episode of the SaaS podcast. I'm your host, Omer Khan, and this is a show where I interview proven founders and industry experts who share their stories, strategies, and insights to help you build, launch, and grow your SaaS business. In this episode, I took to Brett Turner, the founder and CEO of Trovata.
A SaaS FinTech company that offers automated cash management and forecasting solutions for businesses. In 2016, Brett already a seasoned entrepreneur with three successful startup exits, launched a new endeavor Trovata. But this wasn't just another startup for him, it was an idea that had been brewing for 20 years.
Launching a SaaS product in the enterprise space can be very challenging, so Brett actually spent two years in the discovery phase talking to as many potential customers as he could. It was a long time, but he feels it was worth it. However, one major obstacle stood in Brett's way to deliver a successful product.
He needed to integrate with banks. However, back then most didn't have APIs, so he made a huge bet he was gonna start building the product and investing in the business with the hope that the banks would eventually start providing APIs. If they didn't, he was screwed. The banks did eventually introduce APIs, but Brett had to wait over two years and during that time, pressure was growing as he was burning through cash.
Thanks to that bet, though Trovata has grown into a business that's currently doing around 10 million in ARR and has raised over $58 million. In this episode, you'll learn what Brett did during the discovery phase to deeply understand customer problems and why he spent over two years doing that. We'll talk about how Brett recommends approaching the enterprise space and the right way to build an MVP for enterprise customers.
We also talk about how Brett's calculated risk on bank APIs paid off, and what lessons other founders can learn from this. And we talk about Brett's advice for founders who are looking to bring innovation to traditional corporate spaces. So I hope you enjoy it.
All right, Brett, welcome to the show.[00:02:17] Brett: Yeah, great to be on with you Omer. [00:02:19] Omer: Do you have a, a favorite quote, something that inspires or motivates you that you can share with us [00:02:23] Brett: I would say there's, there's no shortcuts in building a great company. That's maybe the one thing with all the gray hair there that, that, that I've learned. No matter how many times you do it, It's hard every time, and you gotta, there's only one way to sort of build it, right? So no shortcuts. [00:02:38] Omer: So tell us about Trovata. What does, what does the product do? Who's it for and what's the main problem you're helping to solve? [00:02:44] Brett: Yeah, so Trovata is, if you think of online banking or just managing your cash that's. Generally done by spreadsheets today, it's all of your cashflow or cash workflows are done in, in spreadsheets or models and all of that.
So we, we basically online banking is kind of born out of the nineties. The bank should be helping bring a product for managing cash. And, and we're filling that void cuz they're not tech companies. We are. So really, if you think of like in the consumer side, if it's like a mint for corporates, but then on steroids, lots of other data driven aspects of automating cash flows, bringing your cash visibility, forecasting, analytics, all of your underlying cash flows for your business.
We help companies and, and big companies manage that really, really well with a lot of automation.[00:03:33] Omer: So you, you founded Trovata in 2016. Where did the idea come from? [00:03:40] Brett: Yeah, I think a lot of it was, yeah, there was no like, Hey, I got this, you know, epiphany. It just, you know, lightning struck. It was really a, something all along.
It was, I'd say it's, it's kind of that 20 years in the making for me and, and I'd been in startup, so kind of tracking the early three, that Amazon and three more. And then it was like, okay, I've got, I've got one more left. And, and the thesis was just, was so big because what was happening was after on the heels of, of of second watch and that whole, you know, digital transformation in IT we always talked about in the later innings of the journey to the cloud is gonna be more in finance and, and banking and digital transformation. There, there was no shortage of opportunity to innovate and this whole seeing what was happening like with PLAD on the consumer side in, in, in the early FinTech more consumer and small business.
It's like my experience is more on where I've had success is more on the enterprise startup side. So knowing that side and when you track all that, everything that hits consumer generally, it works its way into the enterprise about five to seven years later. And it's like, for me, why I kept getting more and more excited about this is this like, I have to do this like this. I'm, you know, perfectly wired from the startup world in finance, seeing all these pieces. Like this is gonna be, so for me, it was a bit of the, maybe the, the kind of the last, last big rah for me. And but also the one that I was most excited about that I just got more and more excited leading in, but doing a lot of discovery and really spending a lot of time building out a thesis was probably a couple of years, even prior to starting the company.[00:05:17] Omer: So, so let's talk about that because you, you, you've spotted an opportunity, and this is something that you've probably been seeing over and over again in, in the various roles and the startups that, that you've been working wit. You're starting to build this vision of what this company and this, this new product could be.
How long did it take for you to build the product? Now you talked about discovery, taking a long time. What exactly was involved? Were you just going out and just trying to have as many conversations as possible? Was it just you, did you have anybody helping you at the time?[00:05:52] Brett: A a lot of this was, you know, when you're kind of further along, you know in your you know, where I was at in life, it's just, it's, it's harder to take, take these kinds of risks.
And so for me it was like, and then also you, you at, at this point, it's like, I've done enough, I've learned a lot from the mistakes or mistakes of others or all the mentoring at, at, it gets to a point like where you you're kind of priding yourself on, on, on not being wrong. I, I can't be wrong on this.
So therefore you know, I had a little more of the luxury of time to kind of think about it. And so with that, spent a lot of time just formulating, looking at the go-to market. A lot of these things I've learned like you, you gotta be right on these because if you're wrong, you're gonna have to, this is why companies will go through maybe a multiple pivots or different things.
I can't be deciding and, and, and going through this on the flight, not saying we're not gonna make mistakes, but I wanna, I wanna make really the risk about this around execution risk as much as I possibly can. And so I, I really wanted to think through this and so, yeah, that early on, you know, obviously in finance and CFO have, have raised a fair amount of money, little over a hundred million across those three startups.
So I had a lot of VCs that I'd pitched to over the years. So made a trip down to Sandhill Road and kind of hit, did a little bit of a mini you know, we didn't have a company yet, but I'm just sort of pitching the idea. And they were, there was lots of VCs. Sometimes they'll, some will, you know won't do this, but some will.
I mean, they, they generally want to help. And so had some folks that would wanna listen and kind of, you know, hear the pitch and, and I'm kind of doing the pitch as if we have something, but I, I really wanted to see and, and being obviously transparent about that, but they, they kind of wanna see, okay, what, what do you got cooked up?
I kind of see what you've done and you know, if you think this is interesting, maybe we'll think this is interesting. So getting feedback was huge. And so not just, and then not just feedback, even though Sure. I. I, I, I've been doing this for a long time, but there's other aspects, like on the treasury side, really large companies, I hadn't been a treasure yet.
And so even though I, I'd spent, you know, worked with treasury teams in the past, like at Amazon and started asking, you know, people that are friends that were treasures and like the longtime treasure of, of, of, of Amazon, Jason Bristow was kind of an early, you know, pseudo advisor and he introduced me to the treasurer of Square, Tim Murphy. And Tim and I had a little bit of overlap at Amazon, but didn't really know each other. But Jason was in instrumental and he's like, oh, you remember Tim? Right? And it's like kind of. And so he reconnected us. And again, I gave a two sentence elevator pitch to Tim and he's like, you know, I'm in because, you know, and then since, you know, because of the, the other solution, like the treasury solution they were using, And, you know, he is like, yeah, because you know, that company sucks.
I wanna help you cuz somebody needs to do it and somebody needs to innovate and somebody needs to do this differently because it's no, no, innovation has really come to the space in, in 20 years. So all those things were part of it, but it wasn't just, you know, I'm trying not to rely on, you know, on one hand you, you, you know that you can craft things in a certain way.
It's up to you to really, you know, craft that in a way that. And, and, and you have to be innovative about that, of what the, maybe the market needs. And you see that and that's important, but there's other aspect of where you're just testing that and getting feedback and, and really testing your thesis, you know, and that's hard cuz you're getting a lot of, you know, everybody's pin cushioning, you know, your ideas and all these kind of things.
But it's, it's crucial because it's really that refiner's fire that's really seeing that if withstands all that, then it's really worth and worthy pursuing.[00:09:30] Omer: Do you think. Going through that process and having those conversations, whether it was with, you know, VCs or treasurers or, or whatever, would've been much harder if you didn't have a track record of already having had three successful exits.
Like if somebody else was trying to do that today and they didn't have that background.[00:09:50] Brett: It's a good question. I, I think it definitely helped me for sure. I mean, there's a little bit of aspect of I could call people, I have a network, I could, you know, and, and they. They're gonna take my call, things like that.
But I've seen it also. I, I saw I had in the very early going, I had I had met this guy to kind of help do some, you know, cold calling and outreach and, and he, he, he was cleverly leveraging his connections at the, the, the college he graduated from. He's like, Hey, I'm I graduated from this college. I see you're, you're an alum. I, I'd really like to ask you about this cause I'm learning too. And, and it was all true. And to start conversations. And so they were opening the doors, they would take that call and, and there's some of those folks that wouldn't have taken my call that they took, they took his.
So I think I think nowadays in day and age, there's, there's so many folks who, who are interested in the innovation economy and there's so, and they get energized by it. And so I think there's yeah, it may have helped, but I think also I, if you work at it and, and you kind of leverage what you know, you'd be surprised.
There's a lot of folks who, who, and there's a lot of VCs too that, that even will lean in. They're, they're trying to there's a lot of, lot of introductions, people that you know, that you can kind of get leveraged to kinda get your foot in the door. I, I think part of that is just classic sort of American you know, dream entrepreneurial.
You gotta, you gotta work at it, right? Everybody's gotta gotta, you know put in the work, put in the time to, to open those doors and. And it's, it might be a little easier, but it's, it's not easy.[00:11:18] Omer: Yeah. I, I think ultimately, you know, whether, whether you have a, a background or track record or credibility to sort of lean on, it's really about, whoever you reach out to, is it relevant what you're talking to them about and is it a problem or an opportunity that they care about? And if you can nail those two, then I think it becomes easier for them to pay attention. Whereas, you know, a lot of the times where if you're just talking to the wrong ICP telling them about a problem that.
And or a great opportunity. They don't really give a crap cuz it's not something that's relevant to them. So.[00:11:52] Brett: No, it's a great point. And I think that's why you have to, you have to keep digging. I learned from a mentor of mine, which helped cuz sometimes I would, I would be a little bit too dismissive if there was a meeting or a, a possible a call to have.
And it's like, ah, I want, this is gonna be a waste of time. And he is like, no, let's do it. So you turn over every rock you can, it's harder but you don't wanna miss anything. And I think we're, you know, especially it's, it's so easy and you're also tired and you're fatigued, got a million things to do, but you just kinda have to force yourself to turn over more of those rocks, especially in the early stages.
And you'd be surprised. There was times and I, when I learned this, that I would admit, like after the call, I'm like, yeah, I had no idea that was an amazing call. And I, and I would've just wrote it off and not even had the call, but, because in some ways I was kind of forced to do it at the end, it's kind of, you know, cuz you realize, yeah, give it a shot and then all of a sudden I never would've experienced that if, if I would've written that off sooner.
So mentor of mine said, yeah, you're, you're gonna, you're gonna kiss a lot of frogs on this journey.[00:12:56] Omer: I think that's great advice. You know, like, we'll do the lightning round later, and I always ask founders about, you know, what's the skill or attribute of a successful founder and, you know, resilience and, and grit, and, and it's something I hear over and over again.
What I don't hear as much, but I think is just as important. And what you just described is curiosity, like being curious enough to explore things that maybe you would be otherwise quick to dismiss. And if you, if you do that, yeah, maybe it can be a waste of time, maybe it can take up a lot of your time, but it can also open up some really interesting things that maybe you hadn't thought about before.[00:13:36] Brett: Absolutely. I think part of it is, I think a lot of folks will, and we've all experienced this. You're sitting maybe in a meeting and somebody's explaining something and everybody's nodding their heads like, we got it. And then, you know, who's the one who has stops and said, do we got it? Do we really got it?
Because. I mean, yeah, I think I'm 80%, I understand it, but like how does that actually walk me through exactly like a kindergartner, so to speak, like connect the dots. And I think sometimes there's a little bit of that brass tack of just literally taking those steps to, to actually do that. I have to do this.
Then this and then this. And if you can't do that, then it's like you can talk about one of those and like, oh, yeah, yeah, yada, yada, yada, yada. No, no, no. There's no, there's none of that here. Like you have to know. You have to know that when you're gonna put your foot down, it's going to be on solid ground.
You can't be, you know, talking about something that doesn't exist and that's you. You have to be really maniacal in that. It's about details. You have to ask those questions. Don't gloss over some of those. If you don't, they'll come back to buy you. Let's talk about the product. I, I want to just walk me through like how you went about building that now.[00:14:46] Omer: You know, we often talk about, hey, you know, building, you know, an mvp. And in, in many situations, that's not that difficult to do. I think with, with a product like Trovata, it seems to me that it doesn't really work unless you have some banks on the other end of that integrated with your product. So did you, did you build an MVP and if so, how? Or did you just kind of go all in and say, we just need to build this thing and we need to get some integrations done before this thing is even of something that people consider? [00:15:18] Brett: It's a little bit of both. I mean, I think in this day and age two, you can't like, and this, I think it's extra hard to build something in the enterprise because there's a certain rigor, resiliency or robustness.
There's a feature set. There's all these things that are just harder to do. It just takes longer. Takes more capital, which all of a sudden becomes an access restriction. Cuz you know, seed investors might only want to, you know, max, you're gonna get maybe is three to 5 million. It's rare to see like a really big seed round unless there's some connection maybe to the, the VC firm or things like that.
But so you, you kind of have to, you kind of have to stage your way into it. I, I would use the term license to hunt all the time. In the early going it's like, Hey, you know, it'd be nice if we had luxury of just home running it. But one that's not necessarily good either, because if you just, you're building a field of dreams and then hope that everybody's gonna show up and buy in that way and it takes you 18 months and you're wrong, you're screwed, right?
So, cuz you can't undo all that. So it's all about capital efficiency, proving your way and then forcing yourself to, to kind of own and stick to that same rigor as well. Like you gotta have these proof points and these milestones and your investors need to see that too. So I think that's a big part of the MVP, why it's, it's so, so good.
But in the enterprise world, you've gotta have a little bit, you know, more to that than the consumer space where you almost like, you build, you know, a very simple app can get you a long ways. And the enterprise, it's gotta be more of a, a little more of a product and, and so that, that becomes harder.
But yeah, we, we did the, the early journey and, and part of what did have a bit of a wrinkle was that, If this is all gonna be automation we're gonna, or, or if we're gonna build this whole new experience to manage cash. And, and it's, it's gonna be about automating workflows, like doing real work for accounting teams, finance teams, treasury teams.
If you're gonna do that, it's gotta be data-driven. And then if you're gonna get it's data-driven, well, where are you gonna get the data? So, well, in this case we're gonna start with the banks. We're not going to the ERP system and, and there's a big reason for that. My background is more on that, but I also learned at, after post-Amazon at this company, worldwide packets.
And, and that's as a finance person to map more of the cash journey, which the treasury folks kinda live in that all day long. But more from a cash flow, from a CFO perspective where cash as an operating tool. And so that was sort of the, the, the, the backdrop. So if it's gonna be based on kind of, you know, bank transactions, bank data, cash first, we're obviously gonna need that data from the banks.
How are we gonna do that? Well, you have, you know, at the time, screen scraping and the plaids, the aggregators on the small business side, and, and even them today, aren't necessarily meant to aggregate transactions, the power solution like ours. So it's like, how are we gonna get the data in, in the, in the world of treasury that's 25 to 45 years old, it's all predicated on files.
Files that either come from the bank or come from swift, which is a bank consortium international consortium of that, and they're these very rigid standard formats to get a small amount of information. But it's, it's, it's, it's precise and, and based on a defined standardized format. Every single time.
So you can build some repeatability on it, but it's limited and it's, it's takes forever to connect initially. So the implementation side is just horrendous. There's companies that will have lots and lots of banks and they'll spend two, three years and still haven't connected all their banks. It's, it's like, wow, how does that, but, but that's, that's that world.
So for us, the, the, the thing for me was that I was kind of taking the. The bet that became a, a little bit of a blessing as well as, as a, as a curse in some ways. Maybe that's too harsh of a term, but the, the, the aspect of we can turn it into a positive. We're gonna, we're gonna build this experience and, and that's what we're prototyping and I'm, as an entrepreneur, I'm gonna, I'm gonna take the risk.
That the banks are gonna open up on the corporate side and they're gonna roll out APIs. And everything that I was seeing is sort of the theater that was the FinTech on the consumer small business side, where the banks were just hated screen scraping and they're kind of backdooring to get the data. And it's like, okay, the banks are, are gonna have to do this because the demand is, is there, customers need it.
And so they kind of get a chance to do it, do it over, and do it securely and on their own terms. And so the, the, for me it was like the banks have to build APIs. That was a big part of the core thesis. And if they don't, I'm screwed. Right. So, so it was sort of building and that was the full, you know, two, two and a half years early on of really building this and then working with the banks. And then they did, that's when they, they released the, the first corporate banks in the world. JP Morgan, Wells Fargo and Bank of America released APIs for balances initially and then later transactions shortly after. And we were the first company to connect.
And again, two years is still a long time. Before, so, and that actually, that was hard because it actually was a lot longer than I had hoped and expected. And it was kind of getting to where it's like, this is getting, getting out there in terms of even risk for me because I'm, I'm, I'm all in on it and I'm starting to, starting to hit the wall bit too.
So. I think part of that is once the, the banks opened up, we were the first connect and then the banks were like thinking it was gonna be their customers that were connecting and customers don't want to connect cuz these are really hard APIs. So we became a bridging aspect. The banks realizing, hey, we kind of need Trovata.
They saw what we were building and what the data was gonna be for. That kind of became, and early on that was what I was hoping would sort of turn into our flywheel because we not only needed the data from the banks, but if the banks could just see what we're using their data for, and we're solving all these pain points from a user perspective through the platform for their customers, like we're doing a lot of what they should be doing, but they're not, they're not tech companies, then the banks will get behind it.
And indeed they did. And that's where, you know, once they saw, they're like, Hey, we got a, and the other thing is that we brought their customers to them. We weren't asking for any handouts. We were showing up and, and they were kind of used to that. They're like, okay, you know what, what do I gotta do? You want me to connect you with some of our customers?
Like, no, no, no. Square's a big customer of yours. And they're the, the treasurer, Tim, he's. You know, he's asking us on, you know, us on their behalf to connect to the api and they're like, oh, really? And, and then be, we were bringing in real credible customers to the bank, which was honestly helping the bank validate their whole API thesis, which at that time was very being challenged within the big banks.
So that helped them. It helped us and then it become a bit of our flywheel because once they could see that these cus these companies, why were they doing this? Because they really want this experience at that time, an MVP, but where this was going. And so that's when the banks are like, well, we have a lot of other customers that are gonna want the same thing.
And kind of back to your early question is like, you know, again, cash is so prevalent with every company, regardless of, you know, industry. And that's, that's just where it became, the bank was seeing that, and then the bank started investing in Trovata. You know, JP Morgan after, after some of these kinds of, these cool world firsts that we were doing.
And, you know, then JP Morgan became our very first institutional investor that, that, that also was you know, kind of part of the early journey and early, early learnings as well.[00:22:47] Omer: That was a, a lucky break. That just took a few years for you to [00:22:51] Brett: Yeah, I, had a one another mentor early on. He was really successful entrepreneur had a, had a, you know, company that built up, took public and you know, he is like entrepreneur of the year and he's based in Toronto and Canada or something. He just had a real track record and he said in, when he took this company public, one of the kind of junior investment bankers on the team when they were kind of going through their roadshow, looked at him and says, man, you guys, you guys just came outta nowhere.
And he's like, yeah, just a, just a 12 year overnight success story. And, and I think that's it. Is that so much of the aspect that you just kind of have to quietly build and take all these risks and, and there's these moments, you know, day to day you're looking in the mirror, it's like, Man, why am I doing this?
You know? But I gotta do it. And you press on, you know, it, it, it makes it all worth it when you have some of these breakthroughs.[00:23:43] Omer: I should have asked you this earlier, but give us a, a sense of the size of the business. Where are you in terms of revenue, customers size of team, because I think that will help people listening to this understand, you know, what you've been able to accomplish in the last six or seven years? [00:24:01] Brett: Yeah, when, when I started and, and some of this was, I chose to sort of bootstrap this raise, you know, some money, but I'm just a handful of, of angel investors who in my net network or invested maybe in a previous startup who wanted to be a part of this and you know, also big believers in what was, what was happening.
It took about two and a half years. There was a it was all but was me and, and a group of contractors and engineers. There was an engineering firm involved that was kind of helping, but I, I met who became employee number one, who just a super talented. You know, technology like CTO, CPO type, great at design, great at innovation as a consultant, kind of helped to, to help me kind of, you know, get things going and kind of manage the, the engineers early on.
He then kind of had to, to untether for a bit. So I'm kind of working through all this. But all along, the hope was that he was gonna come back. You know, we get the funding and, did, and, and he was, he's been absolutely amazing and an incredible partner to me through this whole journey. So kind of this first two and a half years, just to kind of get, in some ways it's hard because that's a long time, but in the enterprise world, it takes a long time to kind of build up something more credible, but just to, in some ways to kind of get to the kind of get to this key inflection point, right? And then from there, you know, JP Morgan invested. We started to really rebuild and expand massively at that point as a platform versus what we had, had, we launched that six months in the market later. So we've now been in market for about four years.
We've grown to, we have about a hundred employees today. We're, you know, a little over 200 customers. We're crossing over roughly. We generally don't share revenue, but like, just in terms of overall our ARR metric crossing over around $10 million in ARR and that's a course of, you know, over the course of, of four years.
So yeah, it's, it's, it's never easy. It definitely takes time and but, but it's, it's, it's awesome and rewarding as you start to experience the scale as it starts to grow. And, and I think the thing in the enterprise world, It, it is, it's hard. You, you generally have to kind of grind it out through the kind of day-to-day slog to get things going.
And then you get these inflection points that it don't, it is not quite as a quick hit when it starts to kick in, like where you get this instant fee market feedback from the like a consumer or maybe small business. So we generally got a lot of, you know, plenty of validation early on, early on. But I, I still feel like even though we've grown a lot and we're growing kind of two and a half x year over year since we started, which is fast, but still for, you know, I still feel like we haven't even, like, we're just scratching the surface on where this is going because of how ubiquitous it could be.[00:26:44] Omer: And then I think you've, you've also raised close to 58 million by now, is that right? [00:26:50] Brett: Right. Just shy. 60. Yep. [00:26:51] Omer: Great. So let, let's talk about customers. Like where were you getting these 200 or so customers from you? I know earlier you told me that some of these were coming through referrals from the banks. Was that the, the main source of customer acquisition, or what else have you, have you done to acquire customers? [00:27:11] Brett: Yeah, I, I think part of, and too, I would just say kind of again, thinking through the go to market. You know, we're selling to finance folks. It's controllers, it's CFOs, it's, it's the treasurer and treasurers treasury teams, finance teams. And so these are hard people to sell to. You know, I, I've been one of them.
I know that I'm a hard sell, right? So, Finance folks, treasury folks, they're professional risk managers. So of course they're gonna be harder to, to sell to. So I think that going in, like how do we do that? We've gotta have. We gotta think through more than ever. The go-to market is gonna be critical. And, and that's why it was also a lot of that testing thesis of talking to a lot of different folks in advance to get that right.
And a big part of this was the kind of, you know, why the, the banks made so much sense because we not only kind of we're a bridging mechanism for the APIs and their customers, but it also, we had this experience and the, and the cus and the banks could. It was something they didn't have and they could refer customers to us and, and then hence the investment to kind of help lock that in and, and help propel that.
So, so we did have some of that. But I would just say the other thing is, is banks, you know, as we all know, aren't the, the fastest, that's, that's a financial institution, just the name alone, they're not, you know, not going anywhere, moving anywhere fast. And so you have to be patient with that. So if you're dependent fully on the banks, as you're a go-to market, you're in trouble cuz it's you could kind of just bleed out.[00:28:36] Omer: Which is, which is why I was surprised that you were willing to wait for them to build the APIs. That didn't seem like a quick thing that was ever gonna happen. So, so I, I think on the go to market side though, is that once we got there and once we it helped, but at the same time, you, you had, we have to sell direct. [00:28:53] Brett: So we were both doing it and, and kind of what I describe is like, and folks will hear me say this within the company a lot, but it's finding you've gotta set up a, you know, a number of ways to win. And you, you gotta, you know, you wanna have more of these controllables and more of the risk is execution risk.
So from a go-to market perspective, you have to de-risk that. How much of that is in your control? How much is not? If I'm just fully. You know, overhanging on the banks to, that's, that's not a good strategy. So you've gotta sell direct. And then we kind of had this, it was almost like augmenting that with bank referrals.
And they started slow, they started coming in. And honestly, it's still, it's still been it, where it's not, it's not like floodgates, but it's been super helpful of course. But it's something there that's kind of starting to get, you know, a bigger and bigger piece of how we kind of source business. But it's still, you know, going direct and selling direct is still today our, our primary sourcing.
And I think that's gonna continue to, that pendulum will continue to swing a little bit. We'll do more with banks as we go. But again, four years in market, you know, you, you have to sell direct and you have to control that a bit. And, and, and that's, but one of the things that was, I would say one of the nice things, kind of part of our early outreach script and this is with not because, you know, we're partnering on the API side, it was more, you know, JP Morgan had become an investor.
What we said in our early script, we're right outta the gate, we're a, a JP Morgan backed solution. And just being able to say, say that it, it was almost a little bit like this you know, a little bit of credibility or what all kind of coin is, or term like transference of trust. You know, what are those, what are those ways to get, if there's, there's a bit of credibility or trust in the market.
Kind of getting that association. And so that's gonna, it's not gonna win you the deal, but it's at least it's gonna give you a chance or a foot in the door to help talk about the value prop and give you a shot. And, and that was really helpful. And, and that was something that, you know, we'd gone through and kind of got approved, you know, with, with the JP Morgan team as part of that that has turned into kind of referral partnerships and whatnot, you find some of those ways to kind of mix and match that effectiveness, whether you're direct or channels or leveraging kind of everything in between to try to, to, to try to win business. But that, that definitely was the key part of the early going.[00:31:11] Omer: So you, you know, kind of more of the conventional advice for, for early stage SaaS companies is often to go and find the early adopters, the people who are more likely to be open to using your, your crappy product.
Because they, you know, they're excited about it. They believe that it can become something. And with you it's very different. I mean, you're talking about people with established businesses, they're risk averse. Having the banks give you referrals or being able to say, we're a JP Morgan back company definitely gives credibility and gets your foot in the door, but can you, can you give us a couple of examples of what else were you doing to overcome this risk aversion. Like if somebody else is in, maybe in a different vertical somewhere, is dealing with customers today who are risk averse, like what are some things that they could maybe learn from your experience?[00:31:59] Brett: Well, I think with early adopters there is a bit of that, the, the relationship and, you know, getting the customer to be a part of the journey. They're, they're not just in the early days and you're talking to tech companies cuz tech companies are more forward-thinking folks within companies about treasury or finance who would wanna be a part of the journey because they could not, they were not just buying what we had at the time, but they were also buying into where we were going.
And you, you have to like, you lay out the breadcrumbs and they could see it and, and it's like there was so much demand. 20 years of an absence of innovation. Like yes. Finally, and this is credible. Oh, you got JP Morgan backing. Oh, yeah. Oh, I see what you're doing. Yeah. This is exactly what, what we need. Or it's, it's got some issues or some, some gaps or things that they would want.
And there was no shortage of critiquing your product in the early going, like, I, I, I wish it had this next, and that, that still happens, but, but especially in the early going, you. You, you have to, you walk through really the vision of where this is going and they're kind of buying in, you know, into to, to you and the team and, you know, all phases.
I think that's that's a big part of it. But the other difficulty I think, for us too, is on the enterprise side, you can't just build it and kind of throw it over the wall and get them to, Hey, it's beta. Go ahead and have at it. They're not gonna use it. And so you, it has to meet a certain rigor. And that's why we, you know, we went, became sock compliant really early on way earlier than normally you'd have to.
But when we have the, a little bit of the pressure that we've gotta live up to, like we can't, we can't make JP Morgan look bad, right? That's, that's never gonna happen If we do that, we're out and bankers themselves, who are may maybe making referral or bringing in us to a company that they value that's in their Rolodex, who they're serving.
And that relationship capital is gold to them. Like we can't screw that up. So the thing is the, the pressure was there, we had to make sure that we do it right at a certain level of kind of enterprise-grade rigor. But the flip side, if we do meet those things, and if we do that well then like having the bank rep be a part of the sale, we, I would invite them in from the early going say, you know, not only the introduction, but I want you, as much as you're willing to be, is be on the demo call, be a part of the sales process, because I felt like the, if we did a good job and the experience was, was good and we were, you know, banking on ourselves no pun intended, that, that, that was gonna happen, then they would basically be like a mini testimonial because they sort of got to ride shotgun in the vehicle and they got to see it all.
And then what are they gonna do? It's like, Hey, they, these guys are professional, these guys, you know, they, they're backing up what they're saying, the customer, and I saw the customer's eyes light up. They, they really like this product. So that became a mini testimonial of going to maybe getting a second customer and or a third customer.
And so I think at the end of the day, like every one of those things is just an opportunity that you gotta nail, you gotta take advantage of, and it's not there's so many of those moments that can help you if you truly lean in and see 'em as such.[00:35:11] Omer: Awesome. Okay. We should wrap up and get onto the, the lightning round.
Before we do that, I just wanna ask you one final question about your experience with Trovata. Every startup you worked on before, you were a co-founder, you decided to do this as a solo founder. How has that experience been different?[00:35:32] Brett: It kind of cuts both ways a little bit on one hand. Cuz I've been doing, you know, Trovata is my seventh startup. I've been doing this for a while. So you yeah, yeah. You learn what not to do. You kind of maybe anticipate a little bit more what's coming around the bend. You know, you wanna make sure is you have a sense that it, it may be a, you know, a semi right. And you might be ready for, you got a brace for a head on collision.
I think all that's helpful, but it also gives you in some ways for me, a little bit of, of, of wanting to kind of taking on a little more risk and, and, and wanting, you know, being a little bit more of a, a dreamer or really kind of, here's what we can build and have, you know, being a little bit more of an optimist.
I have, you have to be, you know, a little more optimist, but you also have to be kind of stuck in reality, right? So I think it, the, the more of that that you have the, maybe the more you feel like you can do it. But in the startup world, it's an everyday contact sport, and if you're, if you're not approaching it with a level of humility every single day, like humble pie is waiting for you right around the corner.
Right. And so I think that's the aspect. So in some ways, maybe doing this, I, I, I thought that I could, you know, like anybody, I'm thinking, oh yeah, I could do this better, faster, more efficient, and I could get there a lot sooner. And it's like, yeah, but, or, but now I'm having those moments, it's like 18 months in and I'm having conversations with my wife and she's going, Really what, what have you gotten yourself into now?
Right? So, you know, is this really supposed to take that long? And, and, and now I'm, you know, really investing in, taking way more risks than I ever even imagined. So, like, how does that happen? And I've been, I know better. I know how this works. So that's the thing about it, it, you're always, but that's also what makes it so exciting and exhilarating.
It's a little bit like an extreme sport, right? So, but I, so I think in some ways it was, I. It did, it helped me be able to make an impact and really, you know, from the product to the whole go to market and really bottoms-up kind of architect, really the people quotient is just so crucial to get right.
So, you know, being on every single interview is almost like handpicking, you know, every single person to make sure that we have this incredibly, you know, diverse but high functional team that's willing to work together, like all that stuff. Such a key part of it. So yeah, there's, there's, there's, there's pros and cons.
And I think some of this wasn't necessarily intended. I just like, oh yeah. Two, two and a half years before we could find it. Yeah, that's I wasn't necessarily signing up for that, but you, you kind of think you can beat the curve, but you know, like, like I say, it's definitely a journey every step of the way, every single time.[00:38:14] Omer: It doesn't get easier. Right? [00:38:16] Brett: It's like, it can be easier, but it's not easy. [00:38:21] Omer: All right. Let move on to the lightning round. So I've got seven quick-fire questions for you. Just try to answer 'em as quickly as you can. Are you ready? [00:38:26] Brett: Sure. [00:38:27] Omer: What's one of the best pieces of business advice you've received? [00:38:30] Brett: Yeah, I think one was just how valuable a financial operating plan was. You know, that and then also just. The aspect of, of, of seeing how, how important the team is. But I think the financial operating plan as, as a tool and, and I'm a finance person, had that background going in, but it's almost like I, I maybe took that for granted a little bit and I kind of seeing things.
But the, the, as an operating tool, it forces you to think through every aspect of the business. Cuz you have to plan, you have to think through it. Nobody likes to do it. You know, even, you know, myself and, and knowing how to put these together, it's not like it's, it's, it's a great deal of fun, but it, what it does do is it forces you to kind of visualize to think ahead in, in, in time box various things.
Okay, here's your revenue. It's on a spreadsheet, and you're thinking you're gonna get this and this. Oh, well, yeah, but what about collecting cash? Cuz you, you, you think you're gonna sell this, this product here, you're not gonna click cash, cash for another, another three months. So how does that kick in? Can you really hire these people now?
Or does that, does it really mean you can stretch out your, the, you know, not raise capital until that point if you're, cuz you're, if I model out your cash, it's like, you know, maybe two-thirds of what you think you think, think you have, right? So, big parts of what Trovata is really helping, helping solve.
But I think that is kind of a, that became really an invaluable tool. Of how to process because it forced you to go through a really rigorous, ch checklist in a lot of ways from go to market, how you're gonna make money, just very fundamental things if you, if you don't have really good answers for that, you know, it really challenges whether you should be starting that business.[00:40:08] Omer: What's what book would you recommend to our audience and why? [00:40:11] Brett: I don't, I know, I, I never I wish I, I read more than I, what I do. I, I read so much, so much news. But I, I would say one book that, that stands out that was really good. And I'm a little ODD book, ADD with books sometimes, but, but Good to Great, I think that was one that, it was really good. That's just like cover of cover. That was just really helpful as a, like a tool. I think the other thing that I liked maybe from that I've loved is like Michael Lewis's books, you know, from my, you know, Liars Poker to Moneyball to Flash Boys, you know, because they have this entrepreneur like they're thinking about things that nobody's ever thought about, and they're so, it's got this entrepreneurial, but written in like this storybook fashion that's just fascinating.
That's, that's something that I always liked from just to kind of a little bit more inspirational. That's been fun.[00:40:58] Omer: Well, what's one attribute or characteristic in your mind of a successful founder? [00:41:02] Brett: Yeah, I think that you, you know, you have to be maniacal and details matter. You rather, whether you like it or not you, you gotta be, I.
You gotta care about the details and you, I, I think the other thing is, is people, I think the, the, I call it, you know, the, the people quotient, it's, is so critical because you're, you're basically reinventing the company multiple times on its path. You know, upward if you're gonna be successful, you're, you're, you're likely gonna reinvent your company several times to get to those different success points.
And so the right person in the right role at the right time, those three dynamics together, that kind of go in, in harmony. Those are absolutely critical to get right. They can wreak havoc on your business if you get it wrong, and if you neglect it, you think, Hey, we've got the team good to go. We're locked up for the next, you know, no.
Every, every, you know, you're constantly having to reinvent that. And, and the reality is, you, you want to create a, a culture that's, you know, both people are excited, but also you want it really transparent. Because that's, that can be hard because there's gonna be times people are in certain roles and, and I would say this early on with, with people that would, would, would know.
It's like, you're gonna get an opportunity to take on this piece of the business, but it's really up to you to kind of grow. Because if the business is growing, you know, three times faster than that person's ability to grow and keep up with it then, and we're all under that, including me, we all have to kind of.
Dynamically change and grow with it. And, and so I don't know, maybe that's two or three things, but that's.[00:42:34] Omer: What's your favorite personal productivity tool or habit? [00:42:37] Brett: I guess because I'm can get a bit obsessive, I, I'm a little bit more of a list maker. I'll kind of just, I'm constantly, you know, and I think for me, because I'm more visual which may seem a little different because I have a finance background, but I just kind of see and think more in pictures, and so I just, I have to write it down when I'm writing stuff down, I, I remember or remember things really, really well. So oftentimes I'll doodle i'll with whether I'm trying to figure something out. I'll just, I'll be writing a lot. So I've got kind of my, my own little journal book that I go through probably, you know, every couple of months I'm going through a new one and, and, and just you know, it, it probably would make no sense to anybody that got it and picked it up, but it, it helps me really stay on track and, and and, and kind of get things done and kind of focus on the stuff that matters. [00:43:26] Omer: What's a new or crazy business idea you'd love to pursue if you had the extra time? [00:43:31] Brett: Usually, there's always a few in my head, but I think at this point and, and especially you know, Trovata now is, is, you know, you know now six, six plus years now what? Seven since we started Trovata is my final. So I say that also because I, I think at this point my, my wife's not gonna let me do another startup, so I don't think I have a luxury of thinking too many.
Cuz if I start to do it, she'll remind me. It's like, okay, this, this is it. You're, you're done. Family is so important to me. So I think that's a big part of that. You know, the grounding, but also the, you know, the the, the, the promises that, that, that I have to keep to make sure that I, I don't let that spill over too much.
Probably not a good answer, but that's kind of nothing other, other comes to mind of, in terms of just solving world hunger or cold fusion.[00:44:15] Omer: It's an honest answer. So what's an interesting or fun fact about you that most people don't know? [00:44:20] Brett: I, well, one thing is, I, I just, I'm a big family guy, so I, and I, and oftentimes for maybe a little bit of the, The fun thing to do with family is like, we'll, we'll get into board games.
Like I was telling someone the other day, like, we're, oh yeah, we have big battles now. My 12 year old, and we're, and she's really competitive. I think she now is starting to, I'm realizing, you know what, I'm gonna have a run for my money because I. She's smart and really competitive, and we will be playing like a Catan and she's like, if it's two times in a row, she's, and she's beating, beating.
It's like, all right, what's going on here? So, but we'll have some great ba whether it's Battleship or Catan or whatever Board games is, is a lot of fun. We'll do that as a family quite a bit, quite a bit.[00:45:01] Omer: Finally, what's one of your most important passions outside of your work? You may have just answered that. [00:45:05] Brett: Yeah. Family. Of course. I, I, I'm a big, I I grew up playing a lot of sports. Probably a lot of the, the, the aspect of like how to win as a team, that's just so critical in the startup world. Let's, so even though that like this is don't, even though I talk about like this, you know, started Trovata kinda the solo fun, solo fun or journey is no way.
It's like surrounding yourself with great people. It's gotta be a team game. So but yeah, definitely my family is a part of the, the key part of the personal team, but I'm a, yeah, I'm a big part of, you know, sports guy, so I, I love, you know, basketball, football, you know, that's, you know, I, I, I love that as well.[00:45:43] Omer: Great. Well, Brett, thank you so much for joining me and sharing the story of Trovata. If people want to find out more, they can go to Trovata.io. And if folks wanna get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to do that? [00:45:57] Brett: Yeah, on LinkedIn I think is best. We also have, like Trovata AI, we have a big AI story now.
It's Trovata AI is released in the product. Something that is, is the first, we believe the first true generative finance and treasury tool. That's, that's, that's now live. It's live. You know, a lot of our big customers are starting to use it now, so it's gonna be fun to see how that takes a hold.
And then we talk about a little bit of that. We have our own podcast, which we should, we maybe get you on there, but it's Fintech Corner. And so we talk about a number of these things including AI as well.[00:46:27] Omer: Awesome. Yeah, we'll, we'll include a link to the podcast and your LinkedIn profile on the show notes, so it, it feels, it feels like we just scratched the surface talking about all the stuff we could have but I appreciate you making the time. Thanks for, for sharing the story and some of the lessons you've learned along the way, and I wish you and the team the best of success. [00:46:46] Brett: Thank you so much. Really appreciate it. Thanks for having me on. [00:46:49] Omer: Awesome. Take care. Cheers.
- “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't” by Jim Collins
- “Liar’s Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street” by Michael Lewis
- “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” by Michael Lewis
- “Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt” by Michael Lewis