GTM TrekQuestions
& Answers

Ask us a question! The Shasta Ventures team (as well as some other special guests) are here to answer any question about your company’s GTM experience.

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO RAISE A SERIES A IN SAN FRANCISCO RIGHT NOW?

Every day I talk with entrepreneurs raising a Series A. And as an entrepreneur, myself who has raised venture capital, I want to do my best in helping others understand how to be most successful in their raise, whether that’s with us at Shasta or with any other investor. This is a conversation I have daily, so I thought I would share in a broader [...]

Answered by: Jacob Mullins, Partner

Category: Partnership & Fundraising

HOW DO YOU HANDLE INBOUND INVESTOR INTEREST WHEN YOU’RE NOT RAISING?

A common question I get from founders is “How do I handle inbound investor interest when we’re not raising?” As a VC-backed founder, there’s a constant tension between building a company and building relationships with investors. While you can always tell a VC to get lost, it’s not always the best strategy for keeping your options open [...]

Answered by: Natalie Sandman, Senior Associate

Category: Partnership & Fundraising

What's the Art of Telling a Great Story?

Having watched it for years, I'd also say there's one other really important component to storytelling which is being highly iterative. So it's not just a bunch of people sitting in a room figuring it out and then it's all done. It's more like you write something, you play with it, you try it again, you modify it and then you see how people react. [...]

Answered by: Jason Pressman, Managing Director

Category: Marketing and Sales

What’s one of the most successful acquisitions you’ve seen?

We were fortunate to work with Glint through its startup journey. Glint possesses three commonalities seen in the wildly successful companies: the right founders, an unbeatable product and a huge market. Let me explain. From the beginning, when we watched the company’s formation in Shasta’s offices and co-led the company’s first outside in [...]

Answered by: Jason Pressman, MANAGING DIRECTOR

Category: Marketing and Sales

What makes a passionate team?

The core of an amazing company is a breakthrough product. At Shasta, we aim to help great entrepreneurs build iconic companies around epic products. But, ultimately, it takes an exceptional team – one with the instinct, drive, grit and the obsession – to build a life-changing product and bring it to market. We refer to them as Passionate Teams. [...]

Answered by: Doug Pepper, Managing Director

Category: Passionate Teams

What's an epic product?

An epic product is truly life changing – something that when the user experiences it for the first time, they start to feel a very positive emotional connection. Those products are the same way you think about an epic ski day, or an epic race day, or the way you think about an epic athletic day. They are the products that you really remember. The [...]

Answered by: Rob Coneybeer, Managing Director

Category: Product Development

Why Did You Stop Hiring Engineers After a MVP?

With our series A round of $3M, we had to get our MVP (minimum viable product) built on a shoestring. Once we had it, it was then all hands on deck to build out our product and have the ability to hire sales reps and take advantage of this great market position that my co-founder Jon had created for us. So we really had to slow down on product for [...]

Answered by: Phil Fernandez, Strategic Partner

Category: Passionate Teams

When do you start charging customers?

I personally wrote this stupid thing on our website that said, "At Marketo, your success doesn't have a price." It was there on the website for a number of years and I was so proud of that we didn't charge for services because we were so customer-centric and we're just going to help our customers be successful. Boy, that's a mistake. Then, sales [...]

Answered by: Phil Fernandez, Founding CEO, Marketo

Category: Passionate Teams

How do you pick investors & board members who will be with you for 10 years?

Let me give you the naive view that I had and luckily overcame. A lot of entrepreneurs get caught up in percent of company voting power stuff i.e., I'm going to pick a few investors but I want more voting power or I want to pit my two investing board members against one another. That's just insanity. Because what you're really doing is tackling som [...]

Answered by: Tien Tzuo, CEO, Zuora

Category: Partnership & Fundraising

What can we learn from Marketo’s Rocket Ship Growth to $5B?

With Adobe’s acquisition of Marketo, I have been reflecting on what an amazing and pioneering company Marketo has been since it was founded in 2006. There are very few tech companies that have defined a new category, executed a successful IPO, been acquired by a private equity firm for more than four times the company’s initial IPO market value [...]

Answered by: Doug Pepper, Managing Director

Category:

What was Zuora's first pitch to investors?

Most entrepreneurs pitch VCs, but I think Tien's background was interrogation. The company at the time was located in Redwood Shores and I met Tien at a hotel. We went in and sat down and before I could even get the words out of my mouth, "I'm Jason," he said, "So why should I work with you?" And it proceeded to get a lot more aggressive from there [...]

Answered by: Jason Pressman, Managing Director

Category: Partnership & Fundraising

How should entrepreneurs work with their Boards?

I've been really lucky to pick investors and have a really good Board and working relationship. I'll give you a contrasting example. An early stage entrepreneur reached out because he was struggling. We got together for coffee and he was griping about a Board member who didn’t really understand, who was making recommendations without knowing the [...]

Answered by: Tien Tzuo, CEO, Zuora

Category: Partnership & Fundraising

How do you show the business value of professional services?

The customer is not going to renew on an ongoing basis unless they're successful. Probably every SAS company has faced down a customer success in adoption - it's a renewal challenge which is why we believe the subscription business model is going to take hold because once you go through that it does make you a much stronger company and it makes tha [...]

Answered by: Tien Tzuo, CEO, Zuora

Category: Marketing and Sales

How did you get the idea of a billing & invoicing company system for subscriptions & make it into something big?

There are two big factors to software. You have to understand the buying behavior. If the buying behavior is an individual who wants to try new things, then you can offer a freemium model. Open source is a great way to get developers. Salesforce is a more complicated departmental sale but it is a department sale so the free trial model made a lot m [...]

Answered by: Tien Tzuo, CEO Zuora

Category: Marketing and Sales

What’s your view of the freemium model?

I think the Valley is particularly enamored with the freemium, free trial, low friction business model. There was a healthy Board debate at Zuora many years ago where we talked about is there some easy button or quicker insertion point for billing? Ultimately it relates to departmental buying and if it's multi-departmental, you need to look at the [...]

Answered by: Jason Pressman, Managing Director

Category: Marketing and Sales

How will remote work impact my team's dynamics?

As remote work continues to become more common, we’ll see a number of changes: Your “team” will look more like a tribe. It could include strangers, a cohort that meets periodically, or the actual people employed by your company. Regardless of who these people are, your “team” will be your accountability partners, un-blockers, and s [...]

Answered by: Natalie Sandman, Senior Associate

Category: Passionate Teams

What’s the art of telling a great story?

I remember a moment when I was an 8-year old Cub Scout camping and sitting with people around a campfire, telling ghost stories. I couldn't come up with a story. I wasn't born a storyteller. But in my early 20s, I did sales for a couple of years and I found myself just presenting two-three times a week. It's a lot of practice. If I could live anoth [...]

Answered by: Tien Tzuo, CEO, Zuora

Category: Marketing and Sales

How did you handle customer adoption and renewal challenges?

With software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies, you are forced to focus on your customer. The customer is not going to renew on an ongoing basis unless they're successful. Probably every SaaS company has faced down a customer success adoption renewal challenge. It's a rite of passage which is why we believe the subscription business model is going to [...]

Answered by: Tien Tzuo, CEO, Zuora

Category: Marketing and Sales

Is there ever a perfect team for your company?

There's no such thing as a perfect team. Growing businesses are changing all the time. The complexities, the things you need to emphasize keep evolving. Do you need to emphasize supporting your customers? Or acquiring your customers? Do you need to emphasize building a second or third product which is very different than building a first product? S [...]

Answered by: Phil Fernandez, Co-Founder, Marketo

Category: Passionate Teams

How did you become the first CMO of Salesforce?

I like to tell people that I don’t know anything about Marketing. When I was at Salesforce, I was in my office one day and Marc Benioff called me and said: “I’d like you to be our first CMO.” I said, “Why would you want that? I’m a product guy and I’ve done a little bit of sales. I don't know anything about Marketing.” In his classi [...]

Answered by: Tien Tzuo, CEO, Zuora

Category: Marketing and Sales

Who owns Revenue-Sales or Marketing?

PHIL: World-class rev ops, sales ops is such an such an important function in the modern business world. At Marketo we had a marketing ops in marketing and sales ops and in sales and renewal ops under the Chief Customer Officer. They all had their plans, their models and were doing their things. Nobody was coordinating. Nobody had a big picture [...]

Answered by: Phil Fernandez, Founding CEO, Marketo

Category: Passionate Teams

When do you know you’ve got a vertical market to pursue?

To frame it a little differently, I think you try to find as you build a startup is what is the learning that's different than what people conventionally teach you. For example, in business school and in big companies, the way a decision is made is you think about how do we make this better. Then, someone does the analysis and you put together a pr [...]

Answered by: Tien Tzou, CEO, Zuora

Category: Product Development

When do you hire a senior HR executive?

If I started another company, the second thing I would do is hire a Chief People Officer. The title Chief People Officer doesn't exist anywhere, but I kept writing CPO and everybody thought it was Chief Product Officer so I wrote it out that way. This is an incredibly important role in the modern startup. I outsourced HR for a number of years. We g [...]

Answered by: Phil Fernandez, Founding CEO, Marketo

Category: Passionate Teams

Is identifying your TAM a one-time effort?

Always be seeking more TAM (Total Addressable Market) It sounds obvious but, sometimes your success will depend on it. At Marketo, we sold a product to B2B, SMBs (small and mid size businesses) and the Salesforce.com ecosystem. It was a beautiful thing. It was a big TAM. We made a bet on it in the early days. Salesforce just kept growing like a wee [...]

Answered by: Phil Fernandez, Co-Founder, Marketo

Category: Marketing and Sales

Any false positives with customers as you scale?

As a company, you start with a value proposition that resonates with a lot of companies.  Next thing you know, you wake up and whether it's 30 customers 300 customers or 3000 customers, you have a diverse set of customers. At that point, usually only about half of those customers are really the customers that you should have at scale. As an ent [...]

Answered by: Tien Tzuo, CEO, Zuora

Category: Marketing and Sales

How do you keep your product current?

I'm a tech guy, I'm a product guy at heart I have never seen anything like this. The pace at which technology is moving and the competitive advantage that that new tech is providing over old tech has never been this way in the last 35 years. And I have been through the days of PCs. started as a mainframe assembly language programmer, so I've seen [...]

Answered by: Phil Fernandez, Co-Founder, Marketo

Category: Product Development

How did you sell customers on a mission critical SaaS start up?

In hindsight, we did pick off a big challenge. This is a very complicated product to build compared to the previous experience of building a CRM application. There was a lot of complexities back then because the whole concept of SaaS was new. There were no open source tools to actually figure out how to build scalable systems. But the product itsel [...]

Answered by: Tien Tzou, CEO, Zuora

Category: Product Development

At what stage do you prove your idea? Product? Business model?

How do you put measurement points along the journey? We do 1s and 3s. $1M, $3M, $10M. For your first million in revenues, focus on improving the idea. First $3M focus on proving the product. At $30M, prove the business model. At $100M prove the vision of the company and set milestones along the way. Don’t ignore the business model but you don’t [...]

Answered by: Tien Tzuo, CEO, Zuora

Category: Product Development

How did you get customers to let you plug it into the heart of their business?

In hindsight, we did pick off a big challenge. This is a very complicated product to build compared to the previous experience of building a CRM application. There was a lot of complexities back then because the whole concept of SaaS was new. There were no open source tools to actually figure out how to build scalable systems. But the product itsel [...]

Answered by: Tien Tzuo, CEO, Zuora

Category: Marketing and Sales

Why did you back Zuora, get on the board, and go along for the ride?

Prior to being an investor - I've been at Shasta since we started the firm 14 years ago - I spent five years at WalMart.com which was Wal-Mart's e-commerce company, a separate entity here in Silicon Valley with venture backing. We grew that business from the ground up, from zero to a very large company and then we sold that back to Wal-Mart. They i [...]

Answered by: Jason Pressman, Managing Director

Category: Partnership & Fundraising

What software was in the market when Zuora started?

If you go back to 2000-2001, we looked in the marketplace to see if we could buy a commercial billing system. And there really wasn't anything. The closest thing was the billing systems they sell telecom companies. These things cost 10 -30 million dollars. We were doing a million dollars at the time so it didn't make any sense. So like any other go [...]

Answered by: Tien Tzuo, CEO, Zuora

Category: Product Development

How did you come up with the idea for Zuora?

It's been a 10-year journey. Most people think of us as a billing system but we're a complete commerce and financial solutions solution. We do pricing, quoting, billing, revenue recognition - the whole thing - but the genesis of the idea was at Salesforce. At Salesforce in the early days, we were trying to figure out how do we use this new business [...]

Answered by: Tien Tzuo, CEO, Zuora

Category: Product Development