Efficiency is key, says Calendly Tope CEO Awotona and OpenView’s Blake Bartlett
Product-driven growth is everything rage in the valley these days, and two big thinkers discussed how to fit it into a startup at TechCrunch Early Stage 2021. Tope Awotona is the CEO and founder of Calendly, which started out for much of its existence before raising $ 350 million at a $ 3 billion valuation of OpenView and Iconiq. And on the other side of that table and that interview was Blake Bartlett, an OpenView partner who has led corporate agreements based on the principles of efficient growth.
In this interview, the two talk about bootstrap and product-driven growth, international expansion, when to bootstrap and fundraising, and how VCs approach a profitable business (carefully and with a big stick). Oh, and how to spend $ 350 million.
Quotes have been edited and condensed for quality.
Bootstrapping is directly linked to product-driven growth
Product-driven growth is all about efficiency – devoting all of a startup’s capital and time to perfecting its product to attract new users and help more avid customers champion the product with others or can -be the managers approving their expenses. This relates directly to the bootstrap, because by avoiding venture capital investments, a startup needs to be much more tied to customers in the first place.
Without any marketing, Calendly started to take off. The first users were therefore in higher education, and very quickly we switched to the commercial sector. And it was all due to the virality of the product. Seeing this, we just started to invest more in going viral. So the combination of self-service, which is incredibly profitable because you don’t need all these salespeople, and also virality, instead of spending a lot of money on advertising, you can really rely on virality. the product and relying on the network of users to really propagate and enable distribution, these are precisely the two things that have really enabled us to be successful. (Timestamp: 7:49)
We then discussed how the extreme focus on users can drive efficiency through product-driven growth.
It’s the product and the distribution model, and they have to be closely aligned. Tope talked about it, but I think first and foremost, even outside of metrics, it’s just how the business is built? And on the product front, the product is built, the work to be done, so to speak, is geared towards the actual user of the product, not their boss. Historically, SaaS was designed for the boss because the boss owns the budget for that department. So if you make a sales tool, build for the VP of sales, and hopefully AEs will, you know, accept it. But now with product driven growth you are actually building for that user. … Finally, you can build the things the boss is interested in, like the admin panel, KPIs and all that sort of thing. (Timestamp: 29:35)