SaaStr Podcast #205: Guy Podjarny, Founder & CEO / Snyk Shares The Secret To Building A Truly Successful Freemium Product

Welcome to Episode 205! Guy Podjarny is the Founder & CEO @ Snyk, the developer-first solution that automates finding and fixing vulnerabilities in your dependencies. To date, Guy has raised over $32m in VC funding from Snyk from some of the great of venture including Accel, GV, our friends at Boldstart and Canaan Partners, just to name a few. As for Guy, prior to Snyk, he was the CTO of Akamai’s Web Performance Business following their acquisition of his startup, Blaze.io. Before founding Blaze, Guy built Web Application Security products, including the first Web App Firewall (AppShield), Dynamic Application Security Testing tool (AppScan) and Static Application Security Testing tool (AppScan Dev Edition). Fun fact on Guy, he is the holder of 18 patents related to security and performance.

In Today’s Episode We Discuss:

* How Guy made his way into the world of SaaS and came to found one of the hottest open source companies of our day in the form of Snyk.

* How does Guy navigate between the difficult balance of going wide on market and shallow on product or narrow in market and deep in product? What is the decision-making process? What does Guy advise founders on feature prioritization in the early days? Does Guy agree if you are not embarrassed by V1, you have shipped too late? How does support provide a feedback loop on what to build next?

* Why does Guy believe that, “successful freemium requires giving away your secret sauce”? How can one give away enough secret sauce in freemium without giving away too much people don’t buy? How does freemium fundamentally alter your relationship to revenue? Where does Guy see many going wrong when pursuing the freemium model?

* How does Guy think about the problem of agency with developers using the product but having to sell to CIOs? What 2 things can be done to make this sell easier? What does Guy believe is the right framework to think about pricing through? Why is transparency in enterprise pricing not always optimal?

* What does Guy believe is required to have strong and seamless communication across functions and locations? How has Guy seen this change over time and with increased locations? Where does Guy see many going wrong when trying to scale team across location?

Guy’s 60 Second SaaStr:

* How does Guy know when is the right time to hire your first sales person?

* How did Guy learn to let go and trust his team?

* What does Guy know now that he wishes he had known at the beginning?

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Jason Lemkin
Harry Stebbings
SaaStr
Guy Podjarny

Transcript

Harry Stebbings: This is the official SaaStr podcast with me, Harry Stebbings at H Stebbings 1996 with two Bs on Instagram. It would be great to see there and if you haven’t checked out our most downloaded episode of 2018 with Stripe CEO Claire Hughes Johnson, you can do so on last week’s episode, it really is a must. But to the show today and what I just love about doing this show is its ability to build friendships and just non transactional relationships with some really special people in our industry. That’s the case today as I’m thrilled to welcome a friend in the form of Guy Podjarny, founder and CEO at Snyk, the developer first solution that automates finding and fixing vulnerabilities in your dependencies. To date, Guy’s raised over $32,000,000 in VC funding with Snyk from some of the greatest in venture including Accel, GV, our dear friends at Boldstart and Canaan Partners just to name a few.

Also, Guy, prior to Snyk, he was the CTO of Akamai’s Web Performance business following their acquisition of his startup blaze.io. Before founding Blaze, Guy built web application security products including the first web app firewall, App Shield, dynamic application security testing tool App Scan, and static application security testing tool App Scan Dev Edition. Fun fact on Guy, he’s the holder of 18 patents related to security and performance and I do also want to say huge thank you to some dear friends of the show in the form of Eliot and Ed at Boldstart for the fantastic intro and questions for Guy today, I really do so appreciate that. But now, I’m very excited to hand over to a friend and phenomenal founder, Guy Podjarny, Founder and CEO at Snyk.

Guy, It’s absolutely fantastic to have you on the show. Very big hand for the wonderful Eliot at Boldstart for the intro. But thank you so much for joining me today, Guy.

Guy Podjarny: No, thanks a lot for having me. It’s great to be here.

Harry Stebbings: But not at all. I’m very excited, but I want to kick off with a little on you. Tell me, Guy, how did you make your way into what we both know to be the wonderful world of SaaS and really come to found one of the most exciting companies in open source today, being Snyk?

Guy Podjarny: My start up experience kind of goes back to some of the first application security company. A company called Sanctum that got acquired by Watchfire, they got acquired by IBM. My first dabble in SaaS was really what we call the MSPs that have managed service profiling map. It was basically our kind of managed offering for a security enterprise, which was sort about application security testing tool at the time. It was exploratory. We’re still selling primarily software, but it was clearly the better way to do it and it was more for the company became very clear that that is the means through which we want to sell. It’s an ongoing relationship with the customer and it just helps us make them more successful. But it was still nascent in Watchfire days. Then after IBM and when I left IBM and I founded a work performance company called Blaze, SaaS was very much a straight up there.

It was almost a CDN compliment that made websites faster, so running it as an operated service, right? Running something that we operate and the customer just consumes was very, very natural and the CDN space was there. For me, it almost becomes yours now to sort of think about a non SaaS offering as part of the offering. Blaze was acquired by Akamai. I was CTO at Akamai for a bunch of years. Once again, being very, very used to a recurring and operated sort of hosted software and then left about three and a half years ago, a little bit more now to found Snyk, which is, once again, SaaS service dealing with helping companies use open source code and stay secure.

Harry Stebbings: Well, I mean time flies when you’re having fun. I do have to ask, though … Given the previous successful founding of companies that kind of across the years, is there anything that you particularly took away from them in terms of learning and maybe changed your operating mindset for how you started and think about running Snyk today?

Guy Podjarny: Wow. There’s definitely a lot that I’ve learned. I don’t know that I can sort of succinctly tone it down. I will say that, some of the key learnings were, one is the focus on the user especially … It kind of aligns maybe with the size of mindset. But when you start a company, when they have an idea, it’s very easy to get enamored with the technology, with the product, with the idea, with how we’re going to disrupt the market. As you build the software, even if your key secret formula is technology or is something that is the fundamental change you have to, as you build a product, really, really focus on the users. Ask for starters questions like, so what’s the user pain points that this solves and just translates and translate to the opportunity into the problem that you’re trying to solve.

Then, and this is probably more important, you work with the customers in every step of the way. When we … In my last startup at Blaze, it was very kind of hard tech, kind of almost a compiler for web pages. First, I was just kind of a nerd in his cave, sitting around in a room and writing software. We built some good tech there, but then once we launched the data, the amount of learnings that we’ve had was spectacular around what people actually wanted to consume and it did also discover there’s a lot that we built that was kind of wasteful. It was great technology, but it didn’t solve a real problem. On the flip side, there were a lot of gaps that we left unattended. It wasn’t really the smartest way to ship it. With Snyk, we actually launched about a month after we incorporated or after we really started the company and we launched a beta. It was an open beta.

Then when you launch a product, you need to be … If you’re not embarrassed when you launch it, your ship is too late, we sort of put it out there and we worked with customers tightly, tightly with users. We have a freemium model, so not necessarily paying customers, just users out there. That evolved the product dramatically. It just changed what we thought was important going from whatever command I need to face to get some integration. It doesn’t even matter. Every field has its own spaces, but it helped us understand what users actually want to consume. Today, that is a very core philosophy of how we operate. I think this fanatic pursuit of user satisfaction of what is the problem that you’re solving for the user and building and shipping your software and the pacing and the eventual results surrounding around that is probably, I guess, my primary lesson.

Harry Stebbings: No, I love that last note kind of ship early and ship often. But I do want to stretch into discussion slightly today. You know me, otherwise my brain goes to everywhere in three distinct themes. First being the product itself, then moving more to the business model behind the products and the monetization side, and then finishing on the leadership elements that really bring this altogether. Does that work well for you, Guy?

Guy Podjarny: Sure. Yeah. Let’s go for it.

Harry Stebbings: You started on product strategy. I have a question that many founders have. It’s a question of whether to go deep in functionality or maybe you go wider in another aspect. For you, it might be a language. I know this is something that you faced throughout my chats with Ed and Eliot at Boldstart. I’d love to hear, how did you approach that decision making and what was the thought process for you when pondering this debate?

Guy Podjarny: Sure, so it’s a really good question. When we set out to build Snyk and I did, I focused on the aspiration. The mission was to get developers to embrace security and it’s a mission that we’ve had for a long time. The world of application security has wanted developers to embrace security into the development process for many years now and kind of failed to do so. When we set out to achieve this, we believe that in Snyk that we can break through. We wanted to really, really focus on the user that matters and ensure that we build the solution that they would want to use, right? Think about this developer as the most important user of the product and then put ourselves in their shoes and indeed work with them, as I mentioned before, to ensure that we build the product for them. The challenge is that developer is a very broad statement and a JavaScript Developer works very, very differently than a Java Developer versus a Go Developer.

They’re different communities, different ages, enterprises versus online. We made a conscious decision to focus on Node.js, sort of a flavor of JavaScript that felt like it had the right balance of adoption on one hand. It was widely used enough to be interesting, but also it was small enough to be still fairly consistent. We built a product that really was a really, really powerful product for that user persona. Also, we really invested in getting into that community. This niching exercise, right? Like focusing and finding our audience has helped us build a product that was just really, really good, I believe and kind of breakthrough to that developer view. It didn’t help revenue too much, so we built this product that … Node.js developers works, they loved it, they embraced it. We had a reputation and we went to an enterprise and they said, “Oh, this is awesome. Can you also do this for my Java app, my Go app?”

The end result was that this focus or this sort of attention on the specific persona helped us build a really, really good product and break through, but it delayed our revenue. We subsequently swung the pendulum a little bit and we focused on broadening the product, on adding Ruby, and Java, and Python, just more programming languages, just more stats from GitHub to Bitbucket to GET Lab, just more environments and scaling from skimming our systems to not just focus on that one environment but others and adapting our methodologies that we support to those environments. But we were already had an anchor and what good looks like and what successful adoption looks like as well as a loyal base. We had the base on which we could build sort of successful businesses, right?

Our first deals were deals that they bought because first and foremost they really cared about our support for Node.js and now we also supported those other environments. Over time, of course, that has changed and now we can lead with pretty much any of the languages on the platform. I think that approach has worked very, very well in helping us develop the right product. If we had gone broad, it would’ve been very easy to just revert again to the lowest common denominator. While today, we’re forced to have deep support in every one of those ecosystems and it’s what makes the product great.

Harry Stebbings: Can I ask, you said that about the good base and then kind of the expansion subsequently. What does good base really mean to you and what is the kind of metrics that really guide that thinking? Is it kind of a revenue number? Is it a user base number? Is it a request number? How do you think about the right time to increase the verticals focused on so to speak?

Guy Podjarny: I don’t know if every industry is the same on those elements. I think for starters, you have to say that the good bases are sufficiently large user base that really loves your product and that gives you feedback to continuously do it better. As a starting point, it needs to be a group of people that you can make loyal and that help you improve and that as you expand, they will be your anchor. You might still be mediocre in some other environments and you will be learning, but this core base would stay stable and would be more valuable. Now at some point–at the beginning it has to be about product feedback. It has to be around at the end of day with start up plan, so I run metrics that help you raise the next round or sort of have those relevant audiences.

At some point, those metrics have to include revenue. I believe that, when you offer an offering like ours that is freemium, revenue is like a second order metric, so your first metric is about usage. It’s about adoption. It’s about just getting people and the virality maybe elements of it, user acquisition around getting people onto the platform. Then on the freemium platform, you’ve evolved your product faster thanks to the fact that many people are using it, assuming you listen to them and you build it out. Then using that base, you start learning, how do you convert them to monetization? What it means is that money would come later, revenue would come later. When it comes, it will be multiplied, right? It would grow faster. Talk about when to expand, you have to somehow factor, first and foremost, feedback to the product and usage.

But then you have to think about, what are the metrics that would successfully get you to the next milestone? I was fortunate that Ed and Eliot at Boldstart and also with the support of Canaan, they were very supportive for us. They understood. Add volunteered even like at various points of time to say, “Don’t distract yourself right now with revenue, we both know that that’s not the focus. Make sure that you get that user base, that you get that adoption.” Whatever those metrics are, you need to ensure that you have them for the next round, that your investors are bought in, and that you don’t prematurely focus on revenue if that’s not the right one.

Harry Stebbings: Absolutely. I mean when you spoke about adoption and usage there … I do have one final question on the product itself. We touched on MVP earlier also. In terms of feature prioritization, how do you think about feature prioritization decisions today and that versus maybe technical debt and all the other intricacies that one has to think about when thinking about feature upgrade, feature prioritization, so to speak?

Guy Podjarny: It’s really tough. Feature prioritization is really tough, like in startups. At first, you’re trying to get one thing that catches, but then once you have that hit, then people ask you for everything and there are a million good ideas and choosing the right one is really, really hard. One thing that I would say is just users. Maybe I will say within features, there are three classes of features, right? There are features that get you into a POC or an evaluation, there’s features that gets you to win a POC or an evaluation, there’s features that help a customer be successful after they’ve purchased and different aspects of the product are more important. You want the customers to be successful, you can’t just delay that last category to the very end, but it depends on what your problem is at a given time to prioritize your capabilities.

At the very beginning, you need to get in, you need to be evaluated, to be inspected, whether it’s in a bake off or if it’s just online attention. You want to build the capabilities even if they’re very narrow or very shallow to get into an evaluation and have something compelling to offer. Then the second set of features is around delivering on that. You actually need to successfully … Once they’ve used the product, they want to continue using it, so you have to deliver on it. Oftentimes, there’s a core like secret sauce that has to be there that they need to get hooked onto in that environment and then they need enough in the surround sound to be able to get through the POC.

Then once they’ve purchased, they’re going to start rolling it out, they’re going to start using it on an ongoing basis. There’s going to be a whole set of other capabilities that you need to build. If you totally neglect those, then the customers are not going to stay customers for very long especially problematic also in the land and expand environment. Different phases of your life, especially in the early days in startups, you have to maybe evolve from focusing more on the former to focusing more on the latter. For us today, pretty much every feature we build has set of customers that have asked for it and we work with them and we build a very, very tightly right alongside with them and that helps us ensure that what we build is the right thing and that’s definitely how we prioritize features. We ensure there’s always a set of features that we contain the amounts that are more about the future. They’re more about the vision, they’re more experiments. Even though we work with customers, but we might be the ones volunteering the idea versus asks from the customer side.

Harry Stebbings: I’m too intrigued not to ask this one, Guy, but it’s the case you said that about working supremely closely with those users. In terms of a problem of agency, how do you think about and get around that when maybe the people that you’re selling to on the higher end price side, the CIOs of these big enterprises are not the primary users of the product and how do you think about that agency problem?

Guy Podjarny: Agency is a big deal. Security is … It’s especially evident for security because oftentimes what you’re doing is you’re reducing risks. No, security doesn’t have a natural feedback cycle. It doesn’t hurt until it hurts really bad, until you’ve been breached. Within that, working in an increasing urgency, an agency both to care about the problem as a whole and specifically to purchase your products or use it in the first place is indeed a challenge. A lot of it comes down… I feel like a broken record here, a little bit of coming back to the user. But a lot of it comes back to understanding what is the user’s need. So, in our world, when we talk about the use of open source libraries and components, the need or the problem that people feel is the fact that they keep needing to deal with these dependencies.

They keep needing to know what happened with them. Is there a problem? Monitor them, know if they need to change them. We come along and we try to make that super, super easy, right? We’ll just let you know that there’s a problem with this library, some vulnerability, some license problem here, we’ll hand over a fixed element. What we need to do is, we use more content and communication about the problem to help you try out the tool and we’ve invested in basically getting you bought in to just how easy it is to do it, right? When you talk about agency, there’s a delta between how much you want to do something and how hard it is to battle or to sort of balance to get somebody to actually take action. One way to do it is that you increase how much they care and the second way to do it is to just lower how hard it is to deal with it in six days and that we’ve really lowered how hard it is to deal with this problem. Everybody, developers want to build a secure code and they want to deal with their dependency as well, but it was just too hard, so we made it dead easy. You just get going and it’s very, very easy.

When it comes to the purchase itself, you have to come back and think it’s different because we have a different user as you’ve alluded. We have a different user versus the buyer and then we have to now help those developers translate to the technical value that we provide around finding issues, about fixing vulnerabilities around, not distracting development, translate that into impacts dollar values. Sometimes even understand a company’s initiatives and tied into that company’s initiatives. At that point, your user is hopefully your champion already. You’re helping them sell internally. In our case, you’d be hard pressed to find a chief security officer where the development team comes along and says, “We want to embed this security product,” and they won’t open the checkbook, but it helps them do that translation.

Harry Stebbings: Absolutely. I mean, in terms of doing that translation itself there and moving naturally onto the business model because we chatted before about freemium and you said that successful freemium requires giving away your secret sauce. Can I ask what did you really mean by this? The big one for me, Guy is, how does one give away enough secret source to attract people but also not give away too much secret that has no sauce left?

Guy Podjarny: I think I kind of firmly stand behind this element that successful freemium needs to have the secret sauce in the free tier. It comes down to the delta between freemium and trial. If you are offering a product that you can taste and assess your product for free, but you can’t actually properly use it, then what you’re doing is you’re doing a trial. You’re allowing somebody to try out your product, they’re going to hit the wall, and they’re going to stop using the product or they’re going to purchase it, but you don’t have this ongoing relationship with them. While a freemium offering means that you’ve defined a certain use case, a profile of a user, a profile of a use case, and for that use case, you want the user to sort of start using your product and never want to stop. You want them to just get going, use the product, and get to a point where they can’t think of what will happen. At the very least, if they removed your products, clearly they would need to get another product to substitute it. It’s now a part of their core.

To successfully do that, you are constantly selling and endearing yourself onto the user. You have to give them your secret sauce. This is your opportunity to make a great impression and to have them be enamored with the product. Where you want to sell, like the reason or the delta between that and the premium, it’s not in the secret sauce. It’s in the surround sound. It’s in the fact that if you’re in a large company, you need all of these enterprise components, in our case, but the automated vulnerability detection, the automated remediation and the sort of the full breadth of the security vulnerability database, that’s only the free tier. But if you want to connect it with an on premise source code management platform like a GitHub Enterprise or the like, then you’re in an enterprise, you have this enterprise need and you classify yourself into the premium tiers, right?

Or if you want group management or more executive level reports or if you want single sign on integration, all of those components that implies … That’s the surround sound. It’s very important. It makes it successful in the enterprise, but those are the things that move you into the enterprise tier. Then the other thing that we do in that context is just volume. You can use the product very successfully. If you’re a profile of a company that is small enough, you’re never going to pay us, and that’s okay. Enjoy the product and you become a champion of us, you champion that. You might move to another company or you might grow your company. You’ll get to the point where your volume justifies using us. Your opportunity to interfere in a freemium product–the reason you’re doing freemium is because you want people to use the product and never want to stop, and that requires putting the most compelling capabilities of your products inside that free tier. If you hide it, you’re just making a bad impression.

Harry Stebbings: No, I love that boldness. I actually love the distinction between freemium there, and I haven’t had it quite so succinctly described, Guy, so congrats on that. I do want to discuss that one element that founders often ask me about which is pricing, always a big quandary. We had Krish from Chargebee on the show recently, and he said that transparency in pricing isn’t always actually optimal. Would you agree with this and how do you think about and approach pricing today?

Guy Podjarny: Transparency in pricing is compelling in some cases and think a little bit less so in the top tier enterprise. Once again it comes back a little bit for the audience you’re in. Some element of transparency in pricing to just the anchor a customer, I think classifies their perception of you. For instance, if you don’t have a pricing page at all and you just have a contact desk, then if I just pick a little bit on developer tooling–but I think this is true, in general–people will perceive you to be a more expensive product and they would put a higher bar around using you. You have to talk to somebody. Also, like many of us, we like our own introvert surroundings and we might not want you to talk to a person. If you hide your pricing entirely and then people don’t get that barometer or just where to place you in their mental model, then if somebody compares a bunch of products and some of them have this type of transparent pricing and some don’t, the ones that have it would just slightly naturally be more appealing for somebody because they give you more information with less effort. On the flip side, if you put it very low pricing and you intend to have high pricing on sort of the high tiers, and people anchor on them, suddenly you become your own enemy in the sense that you put some low tier that you think there was a big jump to the next one, but people are going to try to see if they can size themselves into that smaller price point and they will judge your products not on that, again, sort of secret sauce in general value and they always want to use it–but rather they will ask themselves, “Can I just make do with this slightly much lower or much cheaper tier, and yet doing so, they’re actually not setting themselves up for success because that doesn’t fit necessarily the profile of the company or the usage that they have.

It’s a very fine act and I don’t have like a great answer for it, but what I like, both as a consumer and a company and what I advise companies to do is to have some elements of transparent pricing but just be very wary of the anchor. One way to do it is just to have a unit price. You have an element out there that says, “This is how much it costs.” In our case, we advertise our standard and our pro pricing and that allows us to have some element of like your price per developer, what’s the ballpark starting point that you have, and then we make sure that our enterprise tiers that do not have public pricing are proportional, right? We can stand behind the delta in value between somebody buying one of the lower tiers and somebody buying the enterprise offering.

Harry Stebbings: No, absolutely. I love that focus sound on the angry and why it’s so important. I do want to move into final element. Before we move into the quick fire, Guy, which is kind of the leadership of the ship, so to speak, and you’ve scaled teams across offices now as CEO with immense success. Can I ask, how do you approach maybe the framework for good communication across offices in such rapid times of growth for you?

Guy Podjarny: Sure. I’m very passionate about communication. I think at the end of the day a company is just a group of people rowing hopefully in the same direction. Then if you’re in a good market, then you have good people and good things will come if you communicate well. Specifically for Snyk, I think now we have the right approach, we’re in the right market, we have amazing people and I feel like our two paths to destruction, our two ways to sort of mess up a good thing are either to miscommunicate or to hire the wrong people. I put a lot of emphasis on both of those. Hiring the right people is a whole topic of conversation. But if we talk about communication, especially distributed, I see two natural paths of communication that happens to us humans. You naturally communicate with people in your group, in your org, in your team, and you naturally communicate with people in your office.

Snyk started off as a London and Tel Aviv split company and then fairly quickly we started adding people in the US, and now we have an office in Boston and a good representation in Ottawa. What we try to do is, we try to sort of create or I try to do a crisscross kind of network of communication between the org structure and the location of people. For instance, for us, our VP marketing and our product organization both report to the same person because our product is our marketing and because it’s very, very important for me for those two entities to remain tightly, tightly in touch. We ensure our free users, our online users are also very, very happy. Yet, the capabilities are marketed well, so they’re in the same org.

But the VP of marketing sits in the same office with our VP sales and that helps them naturally communicate because clearly it’s very important for marketing and sales to be connected. Similarly, at the engineering side, we split the engineering teams to sort of five, six person products teams that have a product manager, a team lead, and about five or so people that are in the team, we split them between London and Tel Aviv because those teams still communicate because they’re within the team, but between the teams they communicate naturally because they’re in the same office.

Crisscrossing all of those lines helps build a better foundation, a stronger foundation that just is a pain. It’s an effort so that the teams need to pay to communicate and I think we’re in pretty good shape now and with Zoom, with Slack, with all the tools that we use, but it builds a strong foundation to communicate well. Now I’ve grown very fond of the word scaffolding, which I’ve not used at all till the last year or so. But it’s a fair analogy because it helps you. It’s a foundation that helps you build higher. This builds that type of scaffolding for good communication, so it can grow.

Harry Stebbings: I’m so intrigued. You said that about loving and spending so much time on hiring. I couldn’t agree with you more in terms of it being its own episode, but I have one question which I love to ask. What kind of question in an interview, really determining a candidate strength? What do you love to ask that you find reveals the most about that candidate? One guest said on the show the other day, how did you prepare for this interview. That tells him the most that he could want to know. Is there a question which you find the most revealing?

Guy Podjarny: That’s a good question. Today, I have a great team and my team does the majority of the sort of professional interviews and a lot of my fit comes or … My job in these interviews, except for the sort of executive interviews, is more to ensure that this person is a culture fit and has the right kind of temperament, which I guess is similar to work in succeeding Snyk. I guess maybe I’ll throw two out there. One thing that I ask because I ask which project are you most proud of?

What thing that you worked on in recent years are you most proud of? Because I think that both gives them an opportunity to talk about a technical or professional accomplishment, but also goes to show what they choose to say that they’re proud of. Maybe the slightly more entertaining question that I really, really like is I ask people, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Ultimately, it’s like an entertaining question kind of gets people a little bit off guard and they think about it. But the other is when you gets at home, it’s a family. People don’t tend to leave Snyk and that’s a good thing. I don’t want to fix that. I think it’s a good thing that people stay, but the reason that happens is because we try to make sure that we also give them room for growth, so room for sort of achieving where they want to go.

By asking that question, what I want to understand is what matters to you in life in a year’s time when you’re in Snyk? What do you hope to look back at the year and say, “Here’s where I am,” or, “Here’s what I’ve accomplished.” But it also comes up with, what do you want to be when you grow up?

Harry Stebbings: I love those two questions. I am too interested. You mentioned the Boston, the Tel Aviv, and the London now, and even Ottawa, sorry. How do you find the different hiring capabilities in those very different markets? Is there a big divergence between them?

Guy Podjarny: Yeah. They’re very, very different. Also, some elements remain the same. Good people can bring good people and references from your team are far stronger than the weak signal of an interview. That’s true across all of those locations. The specific disposition and what people look for are very, very different. Like in London, I still need to explain to quite a few users, what the options are and I still need to talk about what the risk level they might be taking by coming to work for a startup and it depends. There’s a variety. Some people are very bought in and they’re all about the options, for instance, versus the equity. But I’d say there’s a little bit more bias, maybe in favor of the regular employment, if you will, so the salary and the likes and just like less understanding about these startup. In Israel, it’s kind of startup nation, it’s all about the equity and there’s no needs to sort of explain what options are or why a startup is interesting to you because you just go on if it won’t happen here.

But even if something happened, you can find another job in a heartbeat. That’s kind of one key distinction. The other distinction I might point out is the way that you find good people. In Israel for instance, there’s a lot of … The army serves as a bit of this, a natural filter and a lot of the people that we hire come from specific places where we served in the army that has a very specific type of talent. In London, there might be more like … For me, the beginning of the speaker’s circle, there’s more events and sort of public speaking and the likes in London and they pulled a bunch of people from there. Boston today, we hire still very much on the network level, but I think there’s a really good college system there and especially for sort of sales and field roles that we have over there. Hiring out of the education system is very different.

You have to adapt the sourcing more than anything. You need to adapt to the specific location and the acknowledgement of what matters to people in that ecosystem as you discuss compensation, and terms, and alleviating fears that changes for ecosystem, the core interview process, deciding what’s a good candidate, who is the right fit. All of those things remain the same.

Harry Stebbings: I mean so much to discuss on the hiring and the scaling of the team. But I think that’s a round two. I do want to move into my favorite element though, Guy, of any interview, being the 60 Second SaaStr. Are you ready? I say a short statement, you give me your immediate thoughts.

Guy Podjarny: Sure. Let’s do it.

Harry Stebbings: The one from our friend Edson, how did you learn to let go and trust your team so you could really scale the business?

Guy Podjarny: Super, super hard and I think I’m still learning that element. But to me, a lot of it is about trust. When I start with somebody new, I start by communicating a ton with them. Every day we have a meeting and as we find the right communication patterns and we build the right trust, I trust them to be doing the right thing and they trust that they will communicate with me at the right points of time. Communication sometimes is plans, sometimes it’s about knowing to sort of send me a quick slack DM when it’s relevant and it corresponds to trust them more. I trust that you will be doing things well the less I need you to communicate.

Harry Stebbings: How do you know when’s the right time to hire your first sales person?

Guy Podjarny: The first salesperson you need to hire early, I think. I think one of the things that I didn’t appreciate at first is that, sale itself is a product. How do you position your product to be purchased? How do you translate to the value it provides to dollars? All of those are products in their own rights. Just like your core products, you need iteration on them. The first version is going to be crummy. Know it’s not. It’s a V1 and you’re probably not going to be super good at it. Hiring your first salesperson is as soon as you have something that you’re not entirely, entirely embarrassed to try and sell because just having somebody dedicated to build that up is going to evolve your product. VP sales is a different topic. Your VP sales, your leader of sales, some are enterprise oriented, some are inside sales oriented, so you should wait until you know a decent guess at your primary mode of selling before you bring a big leader.

Harry Stebbings: A very easy one here. Tell me a moment in your life that served as an inflection point and maybe changed the way you think?

Guy Podjarny: I think the move to Ottawa. When I was working for an Israeli company called Sanctum, it got acquired by Watchfire and I moved to Ottawa, Canada in the process. It’s not quite a moment, but that move has been a big life changer for me beyond sort of the obvious life implications. It opened up a whole world of perspective and I think we underestimate how much of a bubble do we live in when we talk about specific language or specific surrounding and country. We have all these biases around us that we get desensitized to. Moving from Tel Aviv to Ottawa, which are like two very, very different places has really opened my mind to cultural differences and to nuances even within the Western world, even within sort of even same languages that are very, very distinct and I think made me much more sensitive to people and to the nuances of communication. I keep talking about communications and users here, but I think that was a great learning year for me.

Harry Stebbings: What do you believe that most around you disbelieve, Guy?

Guy Podjarny: I’d like to say that you don’t need to look for a quick return to do something good. I truly believe in good Karma. I try whenever I have a conversation with someone, even if it’s an interest conversation, they’re trying to sell me something or some investment conversation that I’m actually not interested in and the likes, I always look for ways that I can help them, help the person that I talk around and they get a lot of satisfaction out of that. But I also believe that over time that pays great, great dividends. The only caveat I would say is that I think I’ve surrounded myself with people that do believe that approach. I think it’s criticism on that over the years like why are you helping here? There’s cases where you have some short term loss because of it, but it is sort of a firm belief of mine and almost like a life guiding value that I try to adhere to.

Harry Stebbings: Then final one, and I love that on karma. I’m so with you on that one. But final one, what do you know now, Guy, that you wish you’d known at the beginning of your time with Snyk?

Guy Podjarny: That it’s all about people. I feel at the beginning of Snyk, I thought much more. I learned my lesson about the user and I learned my lesson about shipping early and interacting with them. I brought really, really good people along, but I didn’t appreciate it but there are people to role fit and we had some time lost and some iterations at the beginning of Snyk, to sort of learn that lesson a little bit about not just the caliber and the talent of an individual but rather the fit of that person to the job and specific context that they have in front of them and setting them up for success. We’ve fortunately managed to overcome those and everybody sort of continues to be happy, but there was definitely a lot of effort and some heartburn caused by that.

Harry Stebbings: Well, Guy, I knew this would be a very, very special episode ever since we first met. But thank you so much for joining me today and this has been so much fun.

Guy Podjarny: It was a blast. Thanks for having me here.

Harry Stebbings: Again, a huge thanks to Guy for giving up his time and state to be on the show. You can find out more from Guy on twitter at Guy Pod. Likewise, I want to say a big thank you to both Ed and Eliot at Boldstart for the fantastic questions today and for the introduction to Guy, I really do so appreciate that. We’d also love to see you behind the scenes here at SaaStr. You can do so on Instagram at H Stebbings 1996 with two Bs. It’d be great to see you there.

As always, I cannot emphasize enough how much I appreciate your support. They really does mean so much to me. I can’t wait to bring you a phenomenal episode next week.

 

Published on December 21, 2018

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