Startup Lessons Learned: Hiring

I spent 3 years at Get Satisfaction, going from around 10 employees to 70’ish at the peak. Leaving was not an easy choice but after 3 years I needed to do something different, not better just different; I detailed my reasons and next move here. After much contemplation I decided to write a blog post in an effort to document my lessons learned about what worked and did not, in an effort to hold myself accountable for personal and professional development. I wrote it and posted it, then immediately took it down because I realized this was far too long for a single post. so instead I rewrote it as a series of posts, the first of which goes up today.

As you might imagine, I learned about more than just a business in my time at Get Satisfaction, and with the benefit of hindsight I was able to reflect on the subtle but critical lessons learned through mistakes and successes over my time there. This is not an easy series for me to write because while the thoughts are crystal clear I don’t wish to reflect poorly on my former colleagues, therefore take what I write with the intention it is written, that of self-reflection for the purpose of learning and self-improvement.

1) Hiring decisions will make or break you, sometimes all at once: The axiom that great companies are built with A team players could not be more true. There are 2 dimensions to this that are worth highlighting, hiring the best people and then structuring them to succeed, which will be addressed in a later post.

It’s not my intention to backstab people after the fact but the fact remains that we hired some people who were simply not up to the task that was in front of us. A worse failing than hiring the wrong people up front was keeping them in place after it became evident that they were not succeeding and taking the rest of the company down with them.

This dynamic is interesting to explore and reflects the challenges of hiring good people in Silicon Valley but more critically reflects the sense of ownership that the executive management team has over top level hires, and the subsequent desire to not have bad hires exposed for what they are, a failing of process and judgment. It happens, everyone is human and in the final equation it is better to just acknowledge a bad hire and move on rather than stick with someone who will impair the business the longer they stay in place.

A bad executive hire is like a cancer and the treatment for a cancer is to get rid of it, not get rid of it and replace it with something else, just get rid of it. I wrote a post about fear shapes personal behavior that was directly in response to my frustrations in dealing with a colleague who was failing in his role.

What makes a good executive hire? If I had to pick one thing in particular I would say good judgment is what is missing in every executive hire gone bad. People skills, execution capability, cross team collaboration, and many more skills essential for the modern executive can all be learned and adapted to different teams, but good judgment is as much a function of DNA as it is education and discipline. Good judgment trumps all because it brings with it focus, confidence, and optimal outcomes relative to execution effort.

Staff hires are no less critical and again the tendency to stick with people who are not A or even B team quality just to have a body in place reflects the challenge of hiring people in the Valley. However the fact remains that if you have a D team member and your aspiration is to bring them up to a C level, what exactly is your strategy? A and B quality people don’t just contribute disproportionately to the success of the company, they inspire other people of similar quality to join as a result of them being there while D quality people drive away the highest quality people you will attract.

In the spirit of full transparency and disclosure, hiring is something I do not consider a particularly strong point in my favor. My personality tends to attract to people who have similar “strange attractors” in their own character and for better or worse I tend to evaluate people on my gut level reaction to them. This has made me more attuned to my own judgment and forced me to be very strategic and deliberate about hires, at any level. Time will tell if I am getting better at it but without a doubt I am more conscious of the consequences of bad hires and looking beyond resume and personality when considering prospective hires.

I have 7 additional posts to publish over the coming weeks, detailing everything from fundraising to product/competitive strategy to managing your board of directors. Stay tuned.

More on this topic (What's this?)
Ivy Portfolio September Update
Market Outlook
Ivy Portfolio August Update
Read more on Hong KONG&CHINA Gas, Hang Lung GRP at Wikinvest

Jive Comes Around, Focus on Customers

Social communities are instrumental to both social media and customer support strategy

Jive’s announcement this past week to focus more on Social Customer Service is further validation that customer communities are instrumental to both social media (marketing) and customer support strategy. Employee collaboration software offers an array of benefits for companies but increasingly what they are finding is that if they want to deliver not just on behind the firewall ROI but change their business in a way that can deliver sustainable competitive advantage, then they need to put the customer front and center.

It’s not enough to give your employees a better way to work… leading companies in every sector are discovering that they also need to deliver on a better way to collaborate with their customers!

If you will excuse me for taking a minute to pitch Get Satisfaction, this is exactly what we are entirely focused on, a better way for companies and customers to engage each other online.

People often ask me “why don’t you guys offer a help desk system?”. The answer is that while we offer a product that a business buys, the primary user is a customer and we don’t believe that pushing more stuff into a ticket based system, with the heavy workflow and attendent costs, is what will deliver a better company-to-customer experience.

I’m tempted to say that our mission is to make the help desk system less important to you, as a business, but in reality we hope to make it more important by focusing it on the issues that defy self-service help and customer-to-customer interaction.

With Get Satisfaction your customers get something better, and it’s not focused exclusively on complaints and problems. Instead of customer service around issue management we offer customer service through relationship management and what that means is that problems get resolved – certainly, this is a primary need – but questions get answered, positive feedback means doing more of what works, and questions get answered, by you, your advocates and other customers.

Get Satisfaction has as it’s core DNA that concept that a customer is at the center or a customer community. We offer a better, faster, and cheaper model than traditional enterprise software solutions, and perhaps most strikingly, we have delivered a platform that meets the needs of the very largest of companies, while also remaining approachable and productive for the smallest of startups.

I am glad to see Jive recognize that the Social Customer is an integral part of any social business. This won’t be easy for them or anyone else to deliver on, enterprise software doesn’t easily translate into strong customer experiences because it is a solution designed around a business process and employee experience first… but acknowledging that the Social Customer is the foundation is a good first start.


Freemium Mechanics

I read an interesting blog post by Ruben Gamez titled Why Free Plans Don’t Work. If you are interested in freemium business models or any of the variations on the theme, this is well worth reading however I take issue with a couple of points.

First and foremost, Gamez uses a statistics breakdown (in %) to highlight the disparity between free and paid plans. Whenever someone does this they invariably open the door to the question about what their customer numbers because a percentage breakdown without knowing what the denominator is will lack the proper context. Knowing that 1% out of 100 customers are paid versus 1% out of 100,000 is a fundamentally different discussion to have… and there is no discussion about the cost to serve free product customers.

Gamez points out a number of well known freemium companies and the transitions that they have made between free products and free trials. This is an interesting discussion and the body of work that can be studied is relatively small and fluid given the immaturity of freemium as a business model. However, a couple of things are increasingly apparent for people who are running these businesses.

You can have a freemium business that depends on a free trial process instead of a free trial and a free product option at signup, there is no debate about this, and you can have an exclusively paid product that depends on a free trial process for acquisition and onboarding. This is a smart decision in my opinion and at Get Satisfaction we are constantly tinkering with and evaluating the options relative to placement and purchase path for the free product. The idea here is to route every website visitor who becomes a prospect into a funnel that exposes them to the full product before downgrading them to a free product.

In 2010 we relaunched our website with a new “plan picker” page, which over the course of the year went through 2 significant updates that are very relavent to this analysis. Initially we had Free placed as a promo box on the sidebar, separate from the monthly subscription plans but highly visible nonetheless… this is the control group as best I can provide one because with each subsequent change to the plan picker page we changed more than just Free product placement.

In April of this year we elevated placement of the Free product to equal standing with the monthly subscription plans. Almost immediately the number of new communities created through the free product jumped substantially (and for the record, I am not going to disclose actual customer numbers so I’ll do my best to avoid putting up percentages, following my own advice above). At the same time the number of new trials created for our monthly subscription products remained flat and in some months declined materially, however the number of free-to-paid conversions for customers who were net new (not a previously paying customer who canceled) went up.

The net result was still a decline in new customer conversions and our churn rate (turnover of all paying customers in a single billing period) stayed constant or declined slightly so I would have to say that elevating Free to first world status did not improve the business.

In August we changed the plan page again and pretty much hid the Free product option. The resulting decline in Free product signups was dramatic but offset by the trial signups and associated trial conversion rate, however churn went up as well so the net effect was offset by customer cancelations in the first 90 of total life.

Churn is a really important consideration in freemium models and not just because of the financial impact. The raw churn number is obviously important because that represents the size of the hole you need to fill each month before you can start adding customers, however when churn happens is often overlooked.

You should be doing a cohort analysis each month on cancelations to determine what the survival curve is for each customer segment, which graphically represents how quickly cancelations are happening in the customer lifecycle as represented by the 25th, 50th, and 75th percentile groups.

This first example is basically a bad curve because it shows that over a proscribed period of time a large percentage of your customers fall off. It’s basically telling you that you are attracting the wrong kind of customers and you are going to invest disproportionately in replacing lost customers.






This next curve is a pretty good one, the drop is initially steep but then levels out and after 12 months you still have over half of the customers you acquired in any single cohort. What this curve is telling you is that you are losing customers who are not a good fit for you very quickly and then cancelations stabilize.






In the context of freemium this information is very valuable because it is a consequence of how prominently you are positioning free vs paid product options. If you are hiding free in order to stimulate take-up rates on paid, then you have to expect that cancelations rates will go up as a result of people converting to paid that otherwise would not if presented with a prominent free option.

This leads to the next topic I want to discuss, which is the methodology you embrace for the trial process. In the interest of being honest and transparent, the way we do it at Get Satisfaction is not the optimal way to do trials because we provision trials as a time based variant of a specific product instead of having a single trial where everything is turned on and then have the prospect select the product they want to convert into at the end of the trial process.

The second problem we created for ourselves is that we require the web visitor to create an account and give us their credit card information in order to create a trial account. This is an obstacle for trial creation first and foremost but also orients the trial experience to people who are pre-disposed to buying you before they even enter the trial process… so in effect you are giving them a free period of service for something they would pay for.

We are going to make changes to the trial process to address the two issues I raise, however I can’t do much about the account creation requirement simply because my product requires a named user to be the administrator of it… no user registration would mean I would have no account to attach the administrator rights to. My recommendation to you is that you create a free trial process that downgrades to a free product at the end of the trial period if someone doesn’t enter their credit card details and select a plan, instead of offering a trial experience in addition to a free product.

Annual billing options are a game changer in the freemium model, arguably the single most effective strategy for reducing your churn rate. Typically the way that annual billing is presented is 12 months of service for the price of 10, a 16% discount.

You can also use a buy-it-now option to bypass the trial process, offering something like a discount or promotional offering in order to pull forward demand that exists in the trial pipeline, and in the process isolating true prospects who are won or lost in the trial. I’d like to do this at Get Satisfaction as part of our structural changes to the trial process.

Having a freemium business model is dependent on a number of strategies but one that often gets overlooked is how well you identify potential demand and feature marketing inside the free product for free to paid conversion and inside the various monthly subscription products for paid-to-higher-paid conversion.

Ultimately the freemium model is a strategy that increases the catchment of leads as a result of using your product as the primary marketing vehicle through which you deliver a funnel to. Take care to structure your website so that every aspect of the content you are creating is designed to deliver a site visitor into a product experience or isolate them for followup through a traditional enterprise sales process.

It’s also worth pointing out that if you have a product that you are primarily selling to businesses, and the product itself has a multistep onboarding process, then you really have to have a higher touch sales process where you are nurturing the free and trial accounts at a higher level than if you were, for example, Evernote.

For me the mechanics of a freemium business are some of the most interesting to be involved with in a modern software as a service company. The implications of billing and provisioning system dynamics, how you structure your website content, surface funnel analytics, build upselling cues into your application, and manage high volume sales nurturing processes are incredibly complex but increasingly normal for the B2C and even B2B markets.

Get Satisfaction Wins CRM Idol!

I will apologize in advance for the length of this post… there is a lot to write about the journey.

Back in April I read on Paul Greenberg’s ZDNet column that he was organizing a competition called CRM Idol for companies in the social CRM market space. He had pulled together an impressive roster of judges who evaluate and score 40 companies in the U.S. and 20 companies from outside the U.S.

The criteria for inclusion was pretty straightforward, you had to secure a demo slot when the call for companies was announced, only companies under $10m in annual revenue qualified and customer references had to be provided. Check, check and check… Get Satisfaction met all the initial criteria.

Profile information had to be provided so that the CRMIdol website could be fitted out, and the judges called on customer references to verify their authenticity, and I assumed to gather additional information.

Keep in mind that we had just come out of a fundraising cycle so I had a pretty tight pitch deck put together and had a nice demo featuring our customer communities. I estimated that we would easily qualify for inclusion and could make it through the initial round, which narrowed the field to 13 companies (I love the number 13, a lot of really good stuff at Get Satisfaction has featured this number, including the Friday the 13th that we closed on our A round).

I did the pitch with Brent Leary, Denis Pombriant, and Jesus Hoyos and it played out just like a VC meeting. Our lead presales guy did the demo and we answered questions. All in all I thought we did well.

When the semi-finalists were announced I was pleased to see that my calculations were correct and we had qualified as well as made it to the semi-final round. In reviewing the list of semi-finalists it was clear that we had some work cut out for us in order to proceed… Paul and company had assembled a really impressive roster of semi-finalists.

Next up was a one-on-one interview with Brent Leary. I appreciated this because Brent focuses on SMB market segments and is someone I had read for a while but not had the chance to meet. The interview with Brent was the highlight of the competitive process for me, we covered a wide range of topics that ran the gamut of market perspective to the culture of the company we were building.

Then the finalists were announced and I was super excited to see that we had made it. At this point I was declaring victory because when I started the process I had a modest goal, make it to the semi-final round and just hope we could stretch into the finalists. Now we were 4 and the competition was daunting, including Assistly, Crowdfactory and Stone Cobra. Start sweating and wait for the final round instructions…

With a mere 3 weeks to deliver we were tasked with submitting a video that would be voted on in popular vote fashion, the results of which would be ½ of a final score with the other ½ coming from the cumulative judges vote. Did I say 3 WEEKS?

Fortunately, creative content has always been a strong suit for our team so we set about writing a script that would highlight the “buttoned up but untucked” nature of our brand, entertaining for the popular vote while dealing with the serious side of why you or anyone else should care about what we were doing.

Then Assistly got acquired by Salesforce and I was really happy that Paul had declared that the finalists could not spend more than $10k on the video. However I still had a problem, with Salesforce’s formidable market presence the Assistly team could deliver a really strong popular vote which meant I would have to over-deliver on the judges ballot in order to come out on top. This was not going to be easy, Assistly has a good product and a brand that is a lot like ours… however we did have a weapon in our arsenal that none of the other companies could match, we have a robot.

The thing to remember about online video is that most of the viewers will click away in the first 45 seconds and if the video is more than 3 minutes in length they typically won’t even stick around that long. Our charter was no more than 10 minutes in length but there was no way I was going to subject anyone to that much video so we went with a sub 3 minute video and decided to feature our loveable mascot JarGon in the first segment.

We had another decision to make about the video and that was how we would feature customer examples and if we would do it in their own words. I felt it was important to have our CEO, Wendy Lea, and one of our founders, Thor Muller, featured in the video to emphasize our ownership of the content rather than deferring to customers. It was a risky move because conventional wisdom is that telling your story through your customers is generally a winning strategy.

Our video producer shot the video on a Friday and spent the next week editing it to a draft cut, which then went through 2 more iterations before submitting it on the due date with time to spare.

When the finalists videos came out I instantly second guessed my decision to not use customers… several of the videos had some compelling customer interview segments that I could not help but be envious of. Well it was too late to hand wring over it, you dance with whom you brought and that is all there is to it.

Our promotional campaign was pretty simple, every couple of days we would push out in social channels a “hey please watch our video and vote for us” message and I worked my influencer channel, which was tricky because many of them are also CRM Idol judges and I did not want to appear unseemly so in the end influencers ended up not being very influential for us because we exercised a high degree of self-restraint. I was happy with our video and felt that it strongly portrayed what we believe in as a company. Nuff said.

On Monday the winners were announced and I will be really honest and tell you I was shocked to see we had won. I did not enter us into this event with the preconceived notion that we would be here today basking in the honor of having won it all. The other companies were that good and I am glad that I don’t have to compete against most of them.

In the EMEA category a company I was not familiar with, BPMOnline was crowned the winner and that underscores why this competition was important and we are grateful to Paul for organizing it. The social fill-in-the-blank market is incredibly noisy and just getting attention is a challenge, much less mindshare.

CRM Idol put a spotlight on companies that we otherwise would not read much about, not because they don’t deserve ink but because they, like us, are small companies that have limited means to do the traditional activities that bring attention to products and solutions. Traditional analyst firms have an annual revenue threshold for inclusion in formal research, like Gartner’s Magic Quadrant. What this means is that sub-$10m annual revenue companies won’t get included in the analyst research that is important for gaining mindshare in the market, and what Paul did was provide theatre that companies like us could take advantage of.

Paul used his considerable influence in the market and a long list of relationships to bring together people who could evaluate these companies on their merits. The competitive process was rigorous and we are better off for having gone through it.

It’s been a good couple of weeks, we won CRM Idol and just last week one of our original customers, Intuit’s Mint group, won a prestigious Groundswell Award from Forrester Research for their work on social support.

The End of the Beginning

Today Get Satisfaction announced that we have successfully closed a new round of financing, led by Bruce Cleveland at InterWest Partners. It’s a validating moment for all the hard work that the team has undertaken, particularly in the last year and a half.

Despite the fundraising process being a major MBO for me over the last 3 months, I find myself surprisingly “not in the moment” in terms of celebration. I think this is a result of realizing that closing the financing is not an end point but a starting point, and when you are at the stage we are in the expectations on us are focused exclusively on execution and competitive position. There simply isn’t a lot of time to celebrate what we did yesterday.

In other words, we’re past the point where figuring things out is a primary focus… and to the credit of our entire team this is why we had such a smooth fundraising process that closed in a reasonably short period of time. We have developed the business to a point where we know what we are selling, how our customers derive ROI, and we have a strong perspective on the market today and tomorrow along with where we fit.

We are no longer a startup… this most recent round of financing affirmed that we have crossed over to growth stage. This is a great accomplishment and represents an enormous collective effort by every single person in this company, and the company is a lot bigger, approximately 40 people up from 12 at this time last year.

From here on out we need to continue executing as well as we have been, establish an externally accepted competitive profile in a defined market, land-and-expand in our major customer accounts while we also continue driving customer growth on our zero-touch web channel, develop more distribution channels, deliver on a significant product roadmap for this year and next, and lastly, continue building a world class team.

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
Sir Winston ChurchillSpeech in November 1942


More on this topic (What's this?)
Market Outlook
Inteliquent Lands a Big One
Read more on Hong KONG&CHINA Gas at Wikinvest

Voice of the Customer is Dead

Voice of the customer (VoC) programs have been popular from the moment that businesses first started having customers and in recent years the formality of these programs has increased and books have been written and many conference agendas populated with experts on the subject.

VoC is dead and social is the reason.

Paul Greenberg recently noted at the Enterprise 2.0 event that business technology is not undergoing a technology revolution, the revolution is one based in communication and as a result business is being forced to adapt and innovate.

Companies of all sizes are directly connecting with individual consumers and are now able to scale these interactions. The result of this is that methods built around sampling and proxy are no longer necessary or productive. Why would you collect data that you have to interpret, extrapolate, filter, and subject to latency when employees can directly tap into customer communities for direct and immediate engagement?

To be clear, voice of the customer is not an obsolete concept… Voice of the Customer programs are obsolete and will increasingly be co-opted and replaced by customer communities.

This is one of the more interesting consequences of the mass market adoption of social networks, they serve to break down the barriers that exist between customers and employees. Whether or not the firewall exists doesn’t matter, the fact remains that employees are becoming accustomed to interacting directly with customers regardless of whether they are in the customer service org or something entirely different.

Companies are themselves recognizing that their competitive strategy requires being attuned to customer needs and engagement, a point that Josh Bernoff recently made quite well in an outstanding research piece called Competitive Strategy in the Age of the Customer.

Bernoff’s key points are that competitive advantage no longer continue to derive from backoffice technology focused on productivity and efficiency but from customer facing technology that delivers customer insights which can then be acted upon from a market and product perspective.

Companies that obsess about customers end up investing in technology differently than other companies because they build their business around the one piece of intellectual property that cannot be replicated or commoditized, customer insight. As a result, Forrester is recommending that companies budget according to the following priorities:

1) invest in real-time insight to build products that customers will embrace.

2) Spend more on customer experience and customer service to build relationships.

3) Fund sales channels that deliver intelligence about customers, not just the push.

4) Shift marketing from one-way ads into useful content and interactive marketing.

More on this topic (What's this?)
Results of my Newsletter Picks last night
MagicJack Under Fire
Read more on VocalTec Communications at Wikinvest

Community Manager Appreciation Day

The call to action among leading companies in recent years has been that customer service is the new marketing. This is true but it has always been true, companies as diverse as Southwest Airlines, Avis, Lexus and Johnson & Johnson have been at the forefront of the trend to use great customer service as a competitive differentiator and a way to attract that best employees that the market has to offer.

If an appreciation of customer service is not a new thing, then what is? Clearly it is the ability to technology to efficiently connect companies with consumers and with social networks the number of channels that companies have to maintain in order to connect with customers has been blown up to a daunting number.

The role of Community Manager has quickly evolved from a new age social ambassador, a supporting player, to being conductor of the orchestra. Today more than ever before companies are relying on individual customer engagement to cement brand loyalty and leverage word of mouth marketing, The Community Manager has the daunting but essential responsibility of keeping the various resources of the organization in sync and playing to the same sheet music, ensuring that customer needs are met, concerns are addressed, and their product and service ideas and suggestions are brought into the process in order to shorten product lifecycles and better map to needs. If customer service is the new marketing then the Community Manager is the new CMO.

I support Jeremiah Owyang’s quest to make the 4th Monday of every January a time to honor the dedication and hard work of community managers. Today is Community Manager Appreciation Day and at Get Satisfaction there is no group of professionals more important to our success so we put together a survey of community manager insights for you to enjoy, and hopefully learn from as well.

Get Satisfaction Pricing and Plan Changes

I’m reluctant to write too much about my day-to-day doings at Get Satisfaction just because I don’t want people to think I’m using my blog to pimp the company but it’s challenging because not a day goes by that I don’t experience something that adds to my body of knowledge about selling and delivering technology online.

Today was just such a day, the culmination of a dedicated and extensive effort to change the product plans and pricing that we offer under the non-enterprise side of the business, dubbed the Standard Plans. You may recall that back in August I wrote a post about the freemium goto market strategy and pricing challenges; today we took concrete steps to resolve some of the challenges we were facing as we optimized the business for continued growth.

So what did we do? First and foremost, we collapsed a product, our Facebook application, that was selling as an add-on down into several of our plan offerings, and when combined with similar moves a few months ago on the Enterprise side what this means is that we are no longer selling Get Satisfaction for Facebook as an add-on to any plan, it is now a bundled component in 3 of the Standard Plans and on Enterprise accounts.

We also redesigned the page that we were marketing the various plans on, changing the layout from a horizontal layout to a 2×2 grid. This may seem like a trivial change however the things that should be kept in mind is that you never have the luxury of sitting back and coasting when it comes to your marketing site. Small and large changes really make a difference and this new layout takes into account feedback on the previous layout, which was working quite well, and builds on our prior success.

Whatever the design choices you settle on, the objectives are the same. First and foremost you need to clearly represent the product options you are making available to efficiently direct site visitors to an option that meets their needs while eliminating every possible obstacle between someone hitting the page and clicking buy.

Different people like to see the product options represented in different formats so we offer a confiigurator page that allows people to select different features to arrive at the right plan option for them, and we offer a separate page where each plan is exhaustively detailed according to the features it contains. The configurator and comparison pages still need continued work, I know.

We still have the problem of too many plan options and next year I would like to resolve that but we first have to upsell a good chunk of our customers on the lowest price point, which is a very achievable. Our opportunity on Facebook is substantial and a clear path for upselling free communities and our lowest price point. We should have 2-3 price points on the Standard Plan business and an Enterprise option for the direct sales side of the business.

I also pushed through price increases on 2 plans. This was an easy decision based on what I knew the takeup rate on each plan was and the value we were delivering at each price point. The challenging part of increasing prices is deciding how to handle existing customers because while I don’t think a $10 increase adds up to much on an annualized basis, my customers clearly might think that so I should not presume too much. I decided to grandfather the current customers into the existing price for all of 2011 and I admit that this is a rather arbitrary amount of time but one that is generous and, I hope, will satisfy my customers.

We are also taking aggressive steps to market into the population of free communities that we are fortunate to have in our network. This has been a goal from day one but it turns out that it’s actually quite complicated to pull off and I think the best way to approach the problem is to not try to push promotions through to the entire population of free communities but rather chunk it up into subsets that can then be isolated and a customized promotion created specifically for their needs.

One conflict that I have yet to determine an appropriate resolution for is the tension between my desire to move our price points up while also retaining the free part of the business. I would also like to enable some paid plan features in the free product offering, thereby creating a defensive barrier for competitors and continuing ongoing efforts to increase customer satisfaction (it’s never too high). I will be working on this next but given the depth of our product development pipeline I am not concerned about plateauing in my efforts here.

Andy Wibbels put up a good blog post on these changes today, complete with an Oprah punch line.

Joining Get Satisfaction

“The years teach much which the days never knew.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have been thinking about this quote a lot lately, maybe it’s because I have become more introspective about myself and the lessons that the years have brought but I think the real reason is that I am at a point in life where I am very comfortable being me, which means accepting the things I like and dislike along with acknowledging what I am good at and those things which I am not.

I started out my career as a geek, very good with edge technology,which at the time was desktop computers and a few years later the Internet. I moved through marketing and sales role, and then venture capital to general management but all along the way I missed the hands on aspect of product and connection of products to people.

Despite the seduction of media and consumer applications I also realize that my strengths are in enterprise technology, which is only really defined as selling something to a business customer. I understand these markets and how to optimize for them and with my acquired knowledge, which is constantly evolving, in non-traditional business models I have found that I can bring a unique perspective to enterprise focused technology companies.

Over the summer I started working with Get Satisfaction as a result of a conversation that I had with my good friend Wendy Lea, who is the CEO of the company. Wendy asked me to help define and refine market and competitive landscape, optimize pricing, and work with her to raise a round of fresh capital. As I started to get more involved in the day-to-day management at Get Satisfaction, and with the impending completion of the financing event, I was confronted with a choice to make about returning to the workplace in a full time capacity. This turned out to be an easy decision to make considering how strongly I felt about the team I had been working with, made even easier when Wendy offered me the VP Product Marketing role, which I gladly accepted because it brought me back to my roots and the connection between products and people that I had been missing.

It’s also a pleasure to announce that Get Satisfaction has closed a $6 million in Series A funding led by Azure Capital Partners with O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures and First Round Capital participating. Cameron Lester, General Partner, from Azure joins Wendy Lea, CEO, Thor Muller, CTO and Co-founder and Bryce Roberts, Managing Director from OATV on Get Satisfaction’s board of directors. This is an amazing investor team that has seen Get Satisfaction through a phenomenal period of organic growth, the opportunity is now to take that and accelerate the pace and amplify the impact.

Over 40,000 communities are hosted on Get Satisfaction and we are adding new clients at a fast pace across CPG, consumer electronics, social gaming, education and government markets. With applications for service and support, social commerce, and social CRM, the ability for Get Satisfaction to span multiple application categories (think social onramps to CRM and ECM) puts the company right in the middle of some very exciting market trends.

Lastly, you really have to check out the results of an extensive rebranding effort that affects the website, communities, and widgets!