Hello everyone, welcome to Innovation Leaders, the Ekkiden-powered Togetherbytech_, Innovation Leaders podcast, which aims to inspire you and give you tips on how you can make better use of technology to improve your personal, team, and organisational performance.
As usual, you will find all the notes of this podcast on our website togetherbytech.com. In the meantime, enjoy the podcast!
For those who don’t know Jeremy well, he can leave on a whim with his team for South Africa. Today, he lives in the US, but because of the Covid he couldn’t go back for sanitary reasons.
So you found a way to turn this in a positive direction and to travel. Are you going to be able to go back to the US soon?
Yes, I think the situation will improve. There are two reasons I can’t go back for now: the immigration point of view and the sanitary point of view as you said. I think that everything should be in order by the end of the year or at least from January 20th. So at the moment, I have a bit of a nomadic digital life, so I’ve had the chance to live in two or three countries since last March, respecting the barrier gestures of course.
We’re going to talk about Growth, your experience at Spendesk, advice you could give to those who are wondering about setting up such an organisation and then a few quick questions at the end.
Surprisingly, not everyone knows Growth, even if you eat Growth, and you sleep Growth, some people don’t know this term. How would you define it?
That’s a very good question. I still tend to hear, as a hyper-skeptical Frenchman, that when you can’t translate, you’re going to find a definition in French or translate a word. It’s true that nobody has tried to translate Growth Hacking today into French. There is always this little light that flashes.
I have several definitions in my head, some of which I borrow from other people. The first one, I really don’t define by a state of mind. It materializes in the type of people who do this job, in the projects we work on. I think we will go into a little more detail later, however, here is a definition that I borrow from Grégoire Gambatto. He often says that it is the implementation of non-conventional methods.
There are other definitions that are also about creating methods and automated systems that allow to increase the income and I use a little more of them on my side, but I think that Growth is all about the team. For me, it is based on a team in charge of Growth, and in our definition, Growth is the increase in the company’s income and therefore of Spendesk.
So, Growth Marketing is the same thing?
Growth Marketing started in the early 2000s after the Super Bowl crisis to the Tech crisis. It is materialized by the famous Super Bowl event of the 2000s, where we realized that the classic marketing methods used by PepsiCo and all the other big companies of the time did not work for Tech products. So we thought about a new way of distributing these tech products, especially software, such as the famous Dropbox, which marked this new era. We all lived through this era of Dropbox, it was a site that didn’t yet exist, but we could register and have USB keys in the cloud. Dropbox has created this new acquisition system, a quality that was later theorised by many, notably by Sean Ellis and others. It’s based on this strategy of having products that are different, we’re going to distribute them in a different way, and therefore marketing means today to distribute your product.
I believe that companies like Facebook have also rapidly democratized this approach.
You have two approaches globally, you’re going to have the Growth marketing approach, which is more like acquisition. That is to say, finding new customers, it’s often in companies that have sales teams, it’s in the way of distributing their products that goes through acquisition, prospecting, and marketing.
On the other hand, you have companies that are called Product-Led Growth in fact it’s the product that will generate growth, generate income. From Facebook to Figma, to different tools, in fact, the Growth teams are going to be much more like product teams that will work on flows, on user paths to make their products and the income of these companies grow. Today all companies, whether it’s Uber, Airbnb, Facebook, or Amazon, all have Growth teams working on this part of the acquisition.
When did you see it coming in France, when did Growth Marketing or Hacking arrive?
I was finishing my studies, and you interviewed him recently, it was Oussama Amar who organised a Meetup which was filmed and from memory, it is one of the first videos I saw, at least in French and in France, which talked about Growth hacking in 2015. It was The Family who democratised it and like many concepts at the time. In the beginning, the French version of Growth was payed acquisition, it had a lot of experts on Facebook Ads, it was also the great era of payed acquisition. Then it became a little more democratic and popularized in other areas but that’s what Growth was back in 2015-2016. At that time, I remember there was a Growth Hacking France group on Facebook where there were already 10,000 members. So, a lot of French people were bragging about being the capital of Growth.
Today, if there is one company that stands out from the crowd it is Spendesk with a very mature team. A word about Spendesk, to introduce the product and the company, it’s one of the great stories of French Tech, a solution for managing company expenses. Notably, of all the expenses but not that and you came to them four years ago. Can you tell us about this team, combine you and the profiles?
You’ll see we’re very transparent, I want to say that we’re just at the beginning of the Spendesk adventure. Yes, we have raised tens of millions of euros, yes, we are present in four countries around the world, yes, we have 250 employees, but this is only the beginning. My CEO has a vision for the next 15-30 years of the company and it’s only been four years. So, we are really at the very beginning of Spendesk.
To come to what we do, you have defined it very well, we make it possible to make payments at work in a very simple way. We have all experienced these scenes where it was difficult to get reimbursed by our company, we never know if a supplier invoice has been paid or not, we had the impossibility to access a credit card to launch an ad on Facebook. So Spendesk replaces all these problems with a simple Spendesk login. We are targeting companies with 30 to 500 employees, what we call SME or small and medium-sized companies, and we are going to sell to finance teams. On the other hand, there has to be a financial team in the company.
We focus on B2B in SMEs, with an average subscription between 300 and 600€ per month, so we remain an affordable product. This will contextualize our way of doing acquisitions at Spendesk.
The Growth team was created fairly quickly. I think it also creates a certain maturity for us.
I joined the company in 2016, there were 4 of us, we had 10 or 20 Beta-testers at that time. From the beginning, I wanted a team. In 2018, we found a compromise with my CEO, so I recruited two people: Vincent Plassard who was more on the acquisition part, relationship with the sales teams, therefore lead generation, and Aurelien Aubert who was on the engineering part, he was the first engineer who didn’t code for the Spendesk product but who really worked on the operation part, revenues, in the broad sense of the term.
At that time, there were 25 of us at Spendesk, including 3 in the Growth team. Today, we are 250 employees and there are 7 in the Growth team.
How are the teams organised? Are you all in Paris? Is there a remote game as well?
We were working remotely long before Covid. Even the HR department is now working remotely from Marseille. I think that 30% of the executives are remote. So working remotely is really in our DNA and it was accelerated as soon as we opened offices abroad because we had employees in Berlin and London, so we very quickly had to invest in Zoom.
In the Growth team, I was quite surprised because they could work from wherever they wanted, even if it was a bit different since the Covid. But, we have a developer who is based in Lyon, we only have one who is shared between Paris and Brussels, and afterward, there are a few of my team who partially work between Tanzania and Costa Rica and Paris. They will rather do periods in remote rather than live far from Paris.
In terms of budget, today we have a budget of just under a million euros, which includes the salaries charged and the tools used.
What is Growth’s place in the organistion today, when do you intervene? What internal processes do you impact? and who do you interact with?
We have a pattern at Spendesk, we’re one of the rainmakers. The company is divided into four and we participate in increasing Spendesk’s income, so it includes the sales department, the marketing department, the customer success department. In these departments there will be several business units, so we are positioning ourselves in that part of the company. The specialty of the rainmakers is based on data and automation. All the subjects that will be first of all about data, therefore external data, and then the second part is automation. To explain our positioning, we like to use the Amazon image metaphor. Amazon has revolutionized commerce, thanks to their Warehouse. It is in this Warehouse that all the magic of Amazon operates. At Spendesk, it’s a bit like that, our B2B today is based on our virtual Warehouse where the majority of things will happen. Our mission at Spendesk is to maintain and improve this Warehouse, which is the basis of the entire acquisition strategy, both sales, and marketing. We are at the base of this Warehouse, where we will be able to automate many actions to have an impact on our revenue.
We are autonomous on the data, my whole team knows how to code.
We have a team where 50% are engineers or data engineers, people who are capable of taking, collecting, and manipulating data.
The second part of the team are Growth Managers, they will be in charge of making sure that we use the data and that we generate income from it. We’re going to be interacting in a very important way with the sales teams. So I have someone on my team working full time on sales issues. He’s going to have one-on-one meetings with the BDR managers, so he’s going to make sure with them that we have a very strong feedback loop. He will also be live with the sales operations team. So he will make sure that our data is well used and we will make sure that we are integrated into an existing process. He will also be with the strategy team, whom we will help to respond to hypotheses in order to know what the next targets are.
On the marketing team, we have a lot of overlap. An overlap that I like to describe, we launched CFO Connect. For those who have never heard of CFO Connect, it is the largest private club of CFOs in the world. Today we have 5000 members, it’s free but it’s very selective to join. Today we share the honors, the marketing team is in charge of animating the community, creating content, creating added value, and we’re in charge of making this community grow. For example, we have someone working exclusively on acquiring CFOs for this private club, so it’s a big interaction with the marketing team. After that, he will have customer success teams, so today at Spendesk, customer success is the one who will manage our customers. Thanks to our data, we can give them notifications, signals, alerts, which allows them to either know that the customer is going to stop using one of our solutions or to warn them that this customer should pay more. These are the interactions we will have on a daily basis. Afterward, we can collaborate with the acquisition talent team, the Data team, and the operations team.
What metrics are you looking at to see if your team is going in the right direction?
The objective is to increase revenue. We’re going to track revenue, but we’re going to track what we call input metrics, so I know what I’m impacting on. We will first know what data we have, the quantity, quality, and degree of the information we have. This will be upstream, it’s the number of references I have in my warehouse. Behind that, I’m going to monitor my Growth Managers, both the number of opportunities they create and the number of meetings and customer meetings that we’ll be able to get through the various channels we’ve set up.
I know you have the Growth.Team page that I invite everyone to go and have a look at, what are the basic tools you use, your technical fundamentals?
There are a lot of tools. I think we’ve tested an infinite number of them. There is a very technical part. We have a fairly robust stack, so to store the data we use Snowflake. Then we have the Fivetran solution, which is a connector. We’re also going to use Getdbt, which allows us to make intermediate tables and to manipulate this data. After the majority, and honestly, I’m lucky enough to have competent people, like Aurelien the Growth Engineer who takes care of all that part. We really have a very complex data stack because we manage millions of data in real-time. We have a fairly robust and customised stack for this part.
If we look at the tools that allow us to manipulate this data, we have of course CRM, so SalesForce on the sales side and Hubspot on the marketing side. Afterward, there will be tools that allow us to do things, for example, we use Auto-pilot, a marketing automation tool that allows us to create conditions around e-mails. Behind this, we will use Salesloft, a sales automation tool that will put tasks to our sales teams. For example, a company has just recruited a new financial director and in the job description of this person, there was a new accounting process in place, so sales will call this person and talk about it.
We also have Segment, which is a tracking/analysis tool, which in fact allows us to follow someone who doesn’t know Spendesk and whom we don’t know, who visits our website until he becomes a customer or stops buying our solution. We will have access to all the history thanks to Segment.
What is your feedback after 4 years of Growth at Spendesk, you have a certain maturity, a certain experience, at the beginning you were super-creative, doing super simple, super clever things with a lot of audacity? Do you manage to keep the same spirit with maturity? does it change things to be bigger? in terms of efficiency or impact for example? Are there things you can afford to do that you wouldn’t have done earlier?
Today, the key to making it a was Growth, whether it’s a company, whether it’s a lot of things, is recruitment. It’s a bit of a boat, and everyone says so, but today the only way to make sure that we keep the same culture is to make sure that we recruit people who share the same values and the same state of mind.
Today at Spendesk we have an intensive recruitment process. It’s really something I’m going to dig into for several hours to make sure that the people I recruit have this state of mind. This state of mind is qualified by one thing, it’s going to be people who would rather work on new subjects than work on something that works and push it further. In startup jargon we often say that we are 0 to one, so taking something that doesn’t work and making it work. Once it works and we have to maintain or develop it, it is not something we are interested in. There is good and bad in these profiles, that is one of our DNA today.
The second, there are also profiles that are much more T-Shaped. These are profiles that are trained, so the new generation of 21 years old 22 years old today are able to code in a developed way, online advertisements, SEO. The fact that we have these different skills, it will make us have much broader and different ideas and have a 360° vision.
How has recruitment, profiles, salaries, salaries, mindset evolved over the years? Is the mindset the same among people working in growth today?
I prefer the future to the past, so I don’t think rap was better before and I don’t think Growth was better before me. I am very happy and proud to see this democratisation, for several reasons. First of all, there are profiles that would have ended up maybe you go into consulting, into marketing, but then these profiles think that maybe there’s something new for them. So today it’s the diversity of profiles, we’re going to have a little less self-taught profiles who did crazy things at 14, but much more generalist profiles and that will make teams much more complementary. The difference is that before, we were all a bit like clones. Today I’m very proud to see profiles with completely different horizons, completely different studies, completely different states of mind and that’s what makes the strength.
When it comes to recruitment, I only recruit within my network. Of the 30 people I had to recruit in the Growth teams at Spendesk, I had spotted them, I had seen them, they had contacted me. But I knew I wanted them in my team. That’s my first piece of advice. When it comes to recruitment, people are too short-termist, they tell themselves that they need a manager, they go and look, contact 50 people on LinkedIn and they see. No. It’s not the right method. You always have to be on the lookout, you always have to create a network, follow up when the little ones do crazy things. My team, I built it that way so I’m lucky to have a little bit of notoriety in the Growth and tech scene, so I have a lot of people asking me for advice on career choice, what training to do … But as a result, I have opportunities, but most of my recruitments are people I’ve come across and I said to myself I want it. To be transparent, I would have to ask some of my team, I chased them away for six months, for eight months there are only unusual stories.
What’s your best recruitment story?
I wanted a guy who was at Phantombuster, and he was a developer. The guy didn’t answer at all whether it was on his WhatsApp or on his LinkedIn or by e-mail, he didn’t answer me at all. So I sent a plane ticket to his old CMO and told him if he eats with me this week, I’ll give you a plane ticket to Lisbon. So I ate with him and now I’m going to flip my brain. He joined us 2 months later. I had to buy out his alternation but it was done!
The second one which was quite interesting, I had met in Maxence who was at Ledger at the time. He was making the keys to the cryptocurrency and he was making a lot of money for a marketing team of two. He had this B2C, e-commerce side that I wanted to add to my team. I met Maxence 3-4 months afterward and told me that he had received an offer from Meero, so he wanted my opinion on whether or not to accept it. I get a bit upset because I wanted him to call me if he was looking for a job. Except that he already had an offer from Meero. So I suggested that he keep going with Meero and see if I could make him a better offer. He signed his offer with Meero to start a few months later and in the end, he never set foot at Meero.
When you know who you want in your team you’re ready for anything.
I’m interested in your opinion, for those who are wondering about setting up a Growth approach for their company? Do you think Growth can be brought to totally different industries?
I know that GrowthTribe.io who organise training courses on the subject of Growth is their target audience. Today, they are setting up Growth teams in big companies like TomTom.
To answer your question you have to look at three things.
First of all, you have to look at the company’s business model. Secondly, you have to look at the marketing mix. It’s already today how you go to your customers, concretely it’s in your network and it’s word-of-mouth on your network. It’s going to be much more difficult today as well. There are people who find you naturally and who come to see you. I am also looking at the marketing mix, so the way customers arrive. The third is the size of the market, today to make Growth if you have 10 potential customers in France, there is no interest. It’s also interesting to have Growth and tell yourself what the potential is. Growth doesn’t mean a trillion-dollar company, but you have to have this vision in order to create something scalable. Those are the three criteria. I don’t think the industry is necessarily linked, I think it’s based on these different criteria.
The fourth one I will add is the state of mind. That was the definition at the beginning, but the company, or at least the founders of this company, the managers, the people who carry this company, must have a desire.
The large groups are not the worst off, because they are already relatively fragmented.
The real problem I see is more about the ETI or the SME today. People have perhaps been doing the same work for 3-4 years, there is something that works, the company is profitable, and then to change things into something that works with people who have been here for a little while is where it’s really difficult.
It is rather on these TWAs and SMEs that we have a real potential today to grow and invest a little more in their acquisition or it is complicated.
If I’m the boss of an SME a little bigger than Ekkiden, I’m wondering, where do I start?
I decided to start from the bottom up. So how do I win customers today? That’s the first question in order to improve something that works. If today, for example, you have 20% of the people who contact you via your website, if today you have a sales representative who brings back customers, you have a few ads that work…I will start from the observation that today, do I have a way to create Growth? Is there a way to create profit? There is often a profile that is a little frustrated, that wants to do more, you have to give freedom to this profile. The second will be through recruitment. Today, finding a profile with such expertise will be very difficult. So, the key to the first step is to ask myself whether I have someone like that internally or whether I need to go looking externally.
Logistically speaking these are people you need to attach to what kind of management? and where do you start in terms of the task? You have to speed up what works with tools that will allow you to go even further?
Tools, methods… A tool always supports a method. The tool is always secondary. Today, out of the last 100 clients that we acquired over the last two years, this is what they have become, how do you think we can accelerate or multiply them in a certain amount of time. So, the person is going to focus on one of the ways to acquire customers and give him time to conclude that today he wants more people to call us on the switchboard. Your objective is that more people call the switchboard because we know that if they call us with a request for information, we can convert them into customers.
This is a fairly broad problem, but the challenge will be to get more people to call. So, this person is going to do more SEO, more advertising, improve referencing on partner sites… There are a lot of actions that are going to follow, but the objective is to give them a challenge to accomplish and that is to increase the number of incoming calls.
Do you see any misconceptions about Growth?
I think that’s all there is. Already many people think it’s free or that it costs less than the rest. But there is no magic.
The second thing I don’t really like is the magic. There’s nothing magic, there’s an objective, strategies, methods, and we get people in. Nothing can be explained to a person who doesn’t understand.
The third idea I have is that it is based on just one person.
The last idea I have is that it works every time. It doesn’t work every time when you hire a Growth Manager.
In the US? When you went back there after your time in SF, did you see a Growth evolution?
I did a semester of studies in San Francisco, so I went there any way where I was young and carefree. But it’s been two years since I’ve been going there on a recurring basis and I’ve been living there recently, so what I see on Growth has become much more dated. For example, in Donald Trump’s election campaign, for me the strategy they used to get elected is Growth.
The place of data is much more important, whether it’s in tracking users, understanding user behavior, and setting up scenarios…
Secondly, I find that Growth is specialising. For example, at the beginning of Facebook, there was only one team that did the Growth. But today it will be much more spread out in the company. There is a Growth Mindset everywhere now.
However, I find that the Growth Hacking hype has fallen back a bit. I think that Growth is becoming more vertical. That is to say that today there are teams from demand generation, which is something that hasn’t yet happened in France. The demand generation side of demand generation in France is still called GrowthHacking but in fact today there are people in charge of bringing in more leads. This is something that will happen in Europe.
There are subcategories of Growth that are now becoming their own categories and will soon be arriving in Europe.
Great, a few quick questions:
What is the most beautiful country you have visited, the destination that made the most impression on you?
Jordan for its change of scenery, its culture shock, its benevolence, and its exceptional landscapes.
What are you most proud of these last 4 years?
My recruits who have now become rockstars, who have gone from being interns, from a not necessarily academic background, and who today receive huge bonuses, who are flourishing and have a life they deserve.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I’ll have my own company. I also see myself living in 2-3 countries a year and there will necessarily be an African country in this equation and Bangalore in India.
What advice would you give to someone who would like to join your teams, a bit like you when you wanted to join eFounders, you created your profile, today if someone wanted to create a profile to join your teams what would you recommend as a career path before joining you (ideal career path)?
The big thing missing today is that people don’t know what to do with their lives. This is unfortunate, but the real question is where do I want to go and what do I want to do?
I wanted to travel, fly, live abroad, and live the American dream in the tech sector. When I was 15, I told people I would be Head of Growth in San Francisco in a tech company. I had this ambition without knowing what it really meant.
You have to ask yourself where you want to go. Living abroad? Working in education? You have to get out there and see what it’s like. Go and find out what you want.
Which 3-4 companies do you think have a mature growth organization in France and Europe?
In France, I like Front, which is another Efounders company, very present in the US.
Payfit, which is a little more discreet with a lot of engineers on the data.
Smunch, a German company working on the float, where the head of growth is CEO.
O’Jaran old a generation Maltese or Chilean company, which does analytics and user tracking. It is an exceptional company and has a real growth product.
If there is a techno or a product which according to you is going to be a must-have in the next 10 years, which one would it be?
I used to be a big fan of WordPress and I think that today CMS is changing. We use Content Fuel and Strappy is very impressive too. I think that the way of building websites has changed a lot, we have become much more dev friendly.
Also, I’m quite a fan of the data stack, an affordable stack that will become more and more accessible.
Is there a Head of Growth on the scene who, in your opinion, stands out, and whom you could have as a mentor?
Francois Bondiguel, a Frenchman, who is one of Growth’s most senior executives, who has lived through an IPO and manages the growth team at Canva today. He helped me a lot and gave me a lot of answers.
One of the books you would advise any good growth engineers to read?
For people who don’t really understand acquisition:
–Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler: an explanation of the Sales team at SalesForce
–Behind the Cloud by Carlye Adler: the founder’s story of Salesforce
What app do you have on your phone that you recommend everyone to have (apart from insta and Linkedin and Spendesk!)?
Workflowy: a to-do list, it is the simplest app. I do everything on it.
If I were to invite someone on this podcast who you think has a tech background that is out of the ordinary, who would you recommend?