How Workplace from Facebook scaled to over 5 million users with near-zero customer churn.

Julien Codorniou




Workplace from Facebook
Julien Codorniou
Julien Codorniou

Episode Summary

Today on the show we have Julien Codorniou, VP of Workplace from Facebook.

In this episode we talked about Facebook’s obsession with user satisfaction, adoption and retention, how Workplace first started as an internal tool for facebook employees and why they decided to turn it into a business.

We also discussed Workplace’s superpower and how they differentiate from their competition, we also dove into their top-down and wall to wall growth and go-to market strategy, and finally discussed their biggest churn risk and how demand dictated the products’ direction.

Yoga by Emmanuel Carrère

Mentioned Resources



How and why Julien got into Facebook. 00:02:34
What a platform partnership team really focuses and works on. 00:04:37
What Julien learned from the gaming industry’s obsession with retention and monetization. 00:06:25
How Workplace started off by being an internal tool only for FB employees and why they decided to turn it into a business. 00:09:30
What is Workplace’s superpower and how do they differentiate themselves from competition 00:12:55
Workspace’s go to market strategy: Top-down and wall to wall. 00:15:41
Workspace’s biggest churn risk. 00:24:48
How demand dictated Workpace’s direction. 00:27:12
How Julian would reduce churn for a company in 90 days. 00:34:15
The one thing Julien knows about churn today that he wished he knew when he first started with his career. 00:37:03


Andrew Michael:hey, Julian. Welcome to the show, 

Julien Codorniou: [00:01:33] Andrew. Thanks for inviting me. 

Andrew Michael: [00:01:35] The pleasure for the listeners. Julian is the VP of workplace from Facebook. Uh, looking after the products, business, and partnerships, teams, workplaces, a SAS collaboration and communication tool for business Facebook's workplace has of a 5 million paid users on their platform.

Now. Um, Julian joined Facebook in 2011 to manage the gaming team in EMEA, and then led the global platform partnerships team, helping Facebook partners to build, grow and [00:02:00] monetize their mobile apps. Uh, Jr. Started his career in finance and before Facebook, he was a director of business development at Microsoft, uh, where he created and launched the bespoke program since 2012, Julianne has also served on the board of French media group Lamont.

He's also the coauthor of the book, success story published by Pearson in 2005. So my first question for you, Julianne is, uh, how did you end up at Facebook to begin with? Uh, you've been there for quite a while now over nine years. Like, what was the, in that you got into Facebook and why did you decide to join back then?

Julien Codorniou: [00:02:34] Yeah, actually, I just celebrated last week, my 10, uh, my 10 years anniversary. Congratulations. So the way I ended up at Facebook is that I was a big, a big fan of the, of the product, of course. Uh, back then I was living in the U S I was working at Microsoft in Redmond. Um, and my family was in France and French, as you can probably hear and guests, and I love the product because it helped me to be connected with my family, my [00:03:00] friends, I had the young.

A young child. I was posting daily pictures of my mom on Facebook and like our own stuff. So I love the product. I love the mission. And back then I was at Microsoft and I saw a few of the people that I really consider, you know, my mentors or people that I was, um, you know, working closely with people that I, I was really looking up to.

A few of them, like almost severely all left for Facebook. And I have to say, I did not understand the potential of Facebook as a platform for developers at the time, but they all left to join that team. And so basically I told them, look, if you're, if you're all going there and no most not, there, there must be something happening.

And we started talking at the same time. Facebook was also building a platform team in, in Europe and they were looking for, for, for, for some people for the team, but. I John, because some people, I highly respect that from Microsoft left for Facebook, I knew that, you know, many, many ex-Microsoft employees were being very successful at Facebook.

[00:04:00] People like McDonald, for example, who's not at Sequoia. And so, um, I still be a possibility because they, the one there, but I only realized the real opportunity of Facebook as a platform to distribute, uh, software and applications globally. Once I was there 10 years ago. 

Andrew Michael: [00:04:17] Very cool. Uh, so it's good to have good peers around that you can trust and follow.

So where they go after, um, the, the, the thing is, well, I'm interested as a, and maybe you can elaborate a little bit for us. Um, leading the global platform partnerships team, like what does that entail? What does a platform partnerships team really focus and work on? 

Julien Codorniou: [00:04:37] So back in the days and what talking about, uh, 2011, 2015, 2016, uh, Facebook was a platform for web and mobile developers on top of which you could, uh, build or grow or monetize your applications.

And so you had. And then tell you like a system that went from candy crush. Yeah, Spotify, um, uh, to, uh, to Uber, for [00:05:00] example, who was using Facebook login or the Facebook investment forum or audience network to, to build or grow or monetize all three of them, uh, um, uh, the business on the, um, on the, on the platform.

And so it was about managing these companies, making sure they would make the best of the platform and making sure that we'll grow as fast as possible. So that's that, that was really when, when the Facebook platform, especially for gaming companies, was the place to be. And then we help these companies to, to modify their business and to embrace mobile as you, as you, as you can see, or as you've seen some of the, the biggest mobile games, uh, on iOS and Android back in the days all started on Facebook.

And so we were the team helping these companies to make that transition with the tools and the platform that Facebook had back in the days. 

Andrew Michael: [00:05:45] Very interesting. And then I wonder like back in these days, cause obviously like retention being like one of the most important metrics for Facebook, that's what the whole business relies on is making sure that they can keep Bibles there in terms of generating ad revenue.

[00:06:00] Uh, How much did this partnerships play have a role like focused on retention and how much did it have a role in terms of monetization for the business? So, uh, when you had your internal team working on different partnerships, recommend deals, like was the focus more in terms of like, how are we going to help these companies to generate revenue for the company?

Or were there some deals as well? There were more strategic in terms of like, if we have this partner, this is going to be really good for retention for the business.

Julien Codorniou: [00:06:25] I mean, there's always that principle at Facebook that when you have adoption and retention, we'll see retention, monetization follows. And so it was true for Facebook and it was also true for the partners we worked with, but I've learned a lot working with Demi companies, you know, the likes of Supercell or candy crush or play TKV Israel.

Um, these guys were obsessed with retention and monetization on many platforms. And so, you know, even running a SAS business today, I still remember how I still use some of the things I've learned from the gaming companies I used to work with, like in days, because [00:07:00] at the end of the day, you know, the, the, the distribution and the monetization of, of applications, SAS or gaming is quite similar.

And, um, and it's something that Facebook too very early on, as everybody knows. But to that ecosystem, um, you know, has inspired a lot of entrepreneurs and even some political coronaries, I would say. 

Andrew Michael: [00:07:19] Absolutely. Uh, I love as well, like the notion as well, that you focus on retention and monetization will follow like adoption, making sure people are enjoying the product and you'll be able to monetize.

Uh, it's 

Julien Codorniou: [00:07:30] obviously drew, maybe, maybe on that Andrew, I seek, it's also a mindset, especially for SAS companies. When, when we started with workplace, we wanted to build a product and a business, but mostly a product that people use and love to use. We never wanted to be a, take the money and run type of SAS company.

I've seen many companies like that. We really want that to make sure that's what would help our customers to win. And that, of course the valuers would buy and would love the product, but that the users would love [00:08:00] it as well. I have a quote from a customers that we have called Oxfam, uh, a big non-profit organization.

They actually don't pay for workplace. We give it for free to nonprofit organization. And I remember the CIO of Oxfam said when I rolled out workplace to everyone at Oxfam, it was the first time people, you know, share at the HR department. And that's, that's really what we wanted to do. And that came from the B2B lens, the B2C lancers of the B2B, uh, mindset that we had.

But we wanted to make sure that we weren't, we were not that type of SAS company, you know, take the money and run it, that we would be obsessed with user satisfaction and adoption and retention. 

Andrew Michael: [00:08:34] Yeah, I think it's really important. Like you say, to have that mindset internally and that understanding, because then it allows you to sort of understand where you're going to be focused.

And ultimately you become the biggest winner though, is if you, like you say, with your Oxfam case, if, uh, you actually enabling your customers to get shared with internally and making them the champions of their companies, uh that's when you're ready. Create a sticky product and people sit around and like where you are today at 5 [00:09:00] million paid users, I'm interested then as well, like, um, this notion as well of starting a SaaS business within an already existing organization and growing business like Facebook, predominantly B2C, uh, deciding to make a play into B to B in building a SAS product.

Maybe cause you must have been there during this time as well. What was that original discussion like, like when did this sort of start kicking off and say, Hey, maybe there's something we can do with our product. Maybe we can, uh, have a sauce play within B2B. Like what did the initial ideation start like?

Julien Codorniou: [00:09:30] Yeah. I mean, originally your workplace was a product that was only supposed to be for Facebook employees because. It was not supposed to become a business. It was not supposed to be used by other other companies, but we ha we had been using that product for a few years and cheek. We started using a, a flavor of Facebook, but only for Facebook employees back in, you know, 20 2012 or 2013, but I still a few years when a few customers are Facebook.

So how we scaled the culture, how we managed to [00:10:00] reduce the distances while the company was scaling with people on different times zones, speaking, different languages and the speed at which we operate at when people saw that, they said, Hey, we have the same challenges. And just like you, we don't like emails.

We not like the intranet. We don't like newsletters. We don't like mailing lists. We're not happy with our child voice over IP and video solutions. Give us what you have. Um, because they, they saw it and they knew that we built something great for us. We also had a lot of companies telling us that they had employees, especially with what we would call frontline or essentially using WhatsApp or messenger on Facebook for work.

And they told us, give us something that looks like Facebook. That is as easy to use as Facebook that has no training needed, but that I can incorporate to my it department separated from Facebook is a different business model. Give us something like that, because if my tool is not as easy to use as Facebook or WhatsApp, people will go to Facebook or WhatsApp and it's completely outside of the department.

And so using the signals, [00:11:00] we decided to give that product to try and we give workplace to a few companies. Uh, I can speak on For example, I can see golfer they're known in France club med as well. Um, um, experience in the U S and when, when we saw that, the exact same thing that happened at Facebook also happened at these companies.

We knew we were onto something. We knew that workplace would work outside Facebook. And this is when we decided to turn it into a business and launch it in, um, in 2016. Uh, we said you name the first name we had was Facebook at work, but the best possible name. And we changed it for work based on Facebook.

And, you know, uh, as of today we now have a more than 5 million subscribers and we get to serve on connect. The biggest of the most respected or the fastest growing companies on the planet as has an it guy, one math, GSK, Spotify grab, uh, and many others. 

Andrew Michael: [00:11:52] Very cool. Um, uh, obviously like it's great as well that this came out of an internal, um, like tool [00:12:00] that you're using yourselves that you already found success in.

And I think this is typically as well, when you see some of the biggest success stories in terms of products that have been built is solving an internal need solving it really well. And then others looking as well into suit of following suit. Um, the, the thing you mentioned as well, though, I think is. It sounds like you have a lot of competition and not in this natural sense of like direct competition, but there's so many different ways of communication.

The teams, uh, collaborate today. And, uh, in, in a lot of ways, your competition is more than just like maybe a direct competitor offers the same sort of feature set I'm interested. How do you view these sort of, um, competition channels? If you want to call them when it comes to the product you're building and thinking through like, How are you going to ensure that you're building a product that's going to retain customers and you are having the right features without creating sort of Frankenstein product again, and going off the rails.

I think on the other end, 

Julien Codorniou: [00:12:55] I S I think we, we do have some competition when you look at a [00:13:00] particular part of the, of the market, which she's, uh, you know, internal communication, internal communication tools for knowledge workers. But when you look at the total market we are going after, which is the market of everyone who goes to work every day with a mobile phone in their pockets.

I don't see a lot of companies who can have that condition. I can see, I cannot speak of a lot of companies who can connect. People who never had an email, never had a desk, never had a PC before and we can do it and we can have the right, or we can have the ambition to do it because there's the training needed.

I can go to any customer today or tomorrow, any prospects and say 2.5 billion people know how to use workplace overnight. We'll train, you need it. And so having that familiarity of the product, if you know what use Facebook, or if you know what use WhatsApp, you already know how to use place. And knowing that when you will deploy people, we know how to use it.

We use it and we love it. This is our super power, and this is how we got to serve, you know, a category of employees, which is. Very large markets, more than 2 billion people, um, that we call frontline [00:14:00] employees in airlines, in retail, in, uh, hospitality as well, who have never been predicted before. So a lot of competition to connect, you know, white collar workers and knowledge workers, not a lot of competition to connect to the rest of the market and to connect the disconnected, I would say.

But just of course, when, when we talk, when we have the first meeting was Abellio. Whether they'll need someone from HR or the internal comms department or apartment people, people assume we, we do what Microsoft does or what Slack does or what zoom does. We do something completely different. We turn companies into communities, we'll give a voice to everyone and we integrate with all of these solutions, but I think being able to create these communities, it's something only us can do, especially at that scale.

And especially with that diversity of, uh, of use cases and users. 

Andrew Michael: [00:14:49] That's super interesting. I love as well, like the fact of no onboarding needed. Cause I think typically like in SAS products, it's one of the biggest areas of failure when it comes to retention is not being [00:15:00] able to effectively onboard your customer user to establish the value.

Um, but you have a, like a great point there. Pretty much, 2 billion of the 2 billion people using Facebook. They know how to use it. It's familiar, they just open their phone and they can get going. Um, and also I see the points as well in terms of like having a unique focus on, uh, your persona. That's maybe a neglected part of the market still when it comes to communication tools, but having something that really caters and enables.

Uh, to sort of front line, um, and not like really relying on things, maybe like email or other channels that, uh, typically large organizations and more sort of the, uh, white collar, I guess, type workers would be familiar with. So, 

Julien Codorniou: [00:15:41] yeah, and I see Ikea has left a lot of people behind for far too long because it was either too complicated.

Or too extensive. I mean, there's a reason why, you know, 90% of the people who work at Walmart's do not have an email because it's expensive. Same CV. If I look at people who work in factories or people who [00:16:00] work in stores, we came up with a solution that is democratic, that is easy to use, and that is familiar.

And of course that has the price you'd be required, but I seek, you know, what I like to call the next frontier of it is to be able to go after these audiences and that cake. That category of workers was, was being left behind and to be able to create an organization where everyone for the first time is equally connected, informed, empower the event, augmented by technology.

And so for me, that's the future of work, especially in the post COVID world. And I think this is what we tried to bring produce to the market. And it's a value proposition and a vision that really resonates with the C-suite these days. 

Andrew Michael: [00:16:39] Yeah, it's very cool. And it makes a lot of sense as well. Like, um, more so, more and more now companies are really adopting like cultures of like full transparency, uh, trying to enable like everybody within the company to have a fair voice and to be able to see in which is amazing, uh, that we're heading this direction.

But like you said, there's probably not many great tools yet that facilitate. [00:17:00] This sort of transparency at scale, I think was the, I think in my mind, that's what, uh, something like, uh, workplaces provides us to be able to sort of enable the transparency it's transparency at scale, and sort of give like a voice and a platform for everyone within an organization to sort of.

Be keeping up to speed with what's happening, but at the same time, be able to collaborate and work together across regions. I was also interested. You mentioned sort of like, uh, people across different countries and having translation services. And then it just sort of clicked as well. Like the power of, uh, like Facebook translation and how amazing that is and how cool it would be like working in a large organization like that, where you typically might not have an opportunity to interact with somebody.

Maybe in the Brazilian office who speaks, uh, um, Portuguese and Spanish, uh, and, uh, This gives you a real opportunity to be able to communicate and get ideas and collaborate with people from across, uh, different countries and regions. 

Julien Codorniou: [00:17:56] Yeah, exactly. It's the mix of, uh, all the combo of [00:18:00] translation of texts and live translation of video.

Plus AC. So, you know, the, the problem that people have with chat apps is that you feel you have to be always on and that if you go away for two hours or two days, you, you miss something. So I would, I seek Facebook offers that can really reduce the distance between people to work in different time zones and people don't speak the same language is that combo of translation.

Plus Stacy and groups does that very well. The newsfeed does that very well. You don't need to be on workplace 2024 seven to, to be successful as a new, you have to be involved. We'll take care of. Of the newsfeed of what you see and when you see that, and the, of course, you know, being a native, French speaker, being able to speak in French or to write in French, even when I have to communicate with my team in Brazil, as you said, or in Japan or with my customers in a way, um, you know, being liable to translate it is something that is almost magical, but I think it's an expectation.

And when, when that happens, people realize. How great they are. Um, their colleagues are and how great the [00:19:00] company is. And you get to connect with people. You should have been connected before, but it did not make it easy. And very often people say I love workplace. And as much as I love the product we build, what they mean by that is that they love feeling part of a community.

They love the people. They work with, the people they work for. They love to be finally able to connect with everyone and to feel part of something and to understand what's important and to have a voice. And that's, I see the magic of, uh, of workplace. 

Andrew Michael: [00:19:25] Yeah, I'm seeing more and more. I was looking through this conversation.

Um, so I'm interested then as well, like Facebook obviously has a really, really strong practice when it comes to retention. Like, um, they worked on some really great growth initiatives in the early days, figuring out specific metrics and trying to understand like how they can improve it, going into work place.

Now. How have the, sort of the skills been transferred from the B2C environment to the B2B? What did the team look like in the early days? W how were you [00:20:00] focusing on churn and retention and how do you still today, like, is there anything unique or interesting that you've brought over from B2C to B to B. 

Julien Codorniou: [00:20:08] I think what we've been able to to inherit is of course, that obsession for, for the users and make sure that we are building software and selling software that people will use and love to use and the metrics to prove it.

Of course, we inherited thanks to the data science team at Facebook, the dashboards to understand what's happening to catch signals early on and all of that. But, um, But I, I, I seek, you know, is a B2B business. Facebook is a B2C business. So in a B2B business, as you all know very well, the buyer is extremely important.

If you don't have access to the buyers, if the buyers are at means of your work are not happy, you lose the user. So that's, that's a new muscle we have to build. So your enterprise, most enterprise mindset we had to build and to understand that the buyers had very different expectations. Um, then the [00:21:00] users.

And so to be able to play these two games at the same time was something, you know, we took, it, took us some time to understand it and to do it right. Um, and I seek, we, when, when I look at the, you know, the churn we see on workplace, which is very, very minimal, um, or you can look online. All of the companies I talked about three, four, five years ago are still using workplace and still drawing on workplace.

Um, we, we, it took us some time to understand exactly how to find the balance between the users of the product and the buyers of the product. And who you are to optimize for and how you would track, you know, potential signals as opportunities or as potential challenges as well. 

Andrew Michael: [00:21:36] Yeah, I think this is a super interesting topic.

Something we haven't really dived into in the show. So I want to go a little bit deeper on this and just, uh, try to understand like how you came to this realization. Maybe first of all, just obviously coming from the B2B two mindset, maybe first of all, like when did you realize, um, this was something that you needed to give more attention to, you needed to really try and understand the difference between the buyer persona and the user [00:22:00] persona.

Julien Codorniou: [00:22:00] I think it happened in the early days when we realized that we would not build workplace. So we will not grow a place. Like I would say Madame SAS companies are being, you know, most of the SAS companies we see in the news these days, the groceries product led. Uh, you just need to find one user or a team, and then you extend from that.

And then eventually you get to serve more people. They start to pay. And then the entire company, eventually we pay. Um, zoom does that very well. Slack is very known for that as well. Workplace was very different, very early. We realize that, um, you know, big companies, um, big size yours were engaging with us to connect everyone in the organization.

Like I remember having a discussion with the CIO of formats in 2014. And he said, I want, I want to give that product to 2 billion, 2 million employees. So that's, that's the discussion we had. And this is where we realized that as opposed to Facebook. Well, the growth is very viral. It's very user based [00:23:00] and you expand from that.

The growth of workplace and the go to market strategy would be very different. We would engage with buyers in the C-suite will evangelize the division of a connected company of a, of an organization where everyone has a voice and then we would deploy top-down and wall to wall. Literally your workplaces and work, you should give it to 10% of your organization it's for everyone or it's for no one.

So it means the sales cycles can be a bit longer than what you usually see in the industry. But also explain, uh, explain this the, uh, the, the adoption and more importantly, the retention we have, because once you have a voice, you know, you can take feedback from your employees. You cannot tell your employees you've been connected in the past.

You were informed in the past, you knew who you were working for, working with. We're going to take it back and we're going to ditch workplace. It just doesn't happen. So the sense of the sense of history, but we, I think we realize that when we understood that the way we will build workplace would be probably closer to what service now does or Workday does then, you know, I would [00:24:00] say Zen desk or a, or a notion.

And we, what could we say that it was just a different game we had to play alone. 

Andrew Michael: [00:24:07] Yeah. That's, it's very interesting as well. Like realizing the top-down sort of model really like workplaces, not really going to work itself, if you don't have the wall to wall coverage and having everybody give visibility.

So you figured this out, then you realize, okay, there's a difference between, um, user personas, buyer personas and the likelihood of retention. But do you feel as well though? Like once you are men able to sell into a company and to make that deal, like how luckily was churn for, for you? I think like where would you say would your biggest risk for churn and at which stage?

Julien Codorniou: [00:24:48] I would say once we are fully deployed top-down and wall-to-wall once we're integrated with. The typical player will integrate with Microsoft on the identity side, Google as well, Okta [00:25:00] or office three 65 on the productivity side. And just wait once that is done, uh, you know, I can close my eyes and come back in four years, literally.

Uh, what takes time is to explain that vision for connected company, to explain that it's top down, what, what is. It's everyone on. No one. What about the size of the company is we have many companies of 50 people or 60 people, 200 people using a loving workplace, but it has to be, it has to be every one, but once that is done again, when you have the adduction, we have the retention.

We have. John is that something we, uh, we worry about and we also happen to have a fantastic, uh, customer success team and then solutions architect team and, and the support team, as well as we, we try to treat our customers no matter how big they are, like we would treat our family, but I would say once that is done, and again, it can take time.

It takes more time that I would say your typical modern SAS company. Um, most of the job is done. But it's also the very nature of the product, right? Once you have it, it's really hard to live without it it's really hard to work with that. People get [00:26:00] used to having a voice. People get used to be able to share feedback and to hear from the people that work there work for.

Uh, and, and on top of that, once you start adding birds, Integrations once workplace becomes a place where you get paid or the place you do. Shift management, inventory management is very, very sticky and that's, that's because of what we do and of what and how the product is built and how it integrates with, um, with our customers.

I stuck. 

Andrew Michael: [00:26:26] Yep. Uh, going back then to sort of the decision and the focus being top down and, and needing to have that wall to wall coverage, like. How did you decide this? Because you mentioned a company like notion, uh, or Slack. And, uh, I think similarly, like both of these companies, um, you could argue as well that perhaps, maybe it needs to be wall-to-wall for everybody to be communicating in a single channel and to everybody to using for them to work effectively.

But they managed to go sort of the bottoms up route to allowing like one person or a teams. Why do you, [00:27:00] why did you feel that workplace was going to be different and needed to be this top down approach? Like what was it maybe in the data you're seeing or in like, from a qualitative perspective? Like, what was it that led you to down this direction?

Julien Codorniou: [00:27:12] And again, it happened by accident. When we started, we thought workplace would be for tech companies like Facebook or like Spotify and other customer. They leave a rule as well as a customer off of workplace. We thought what place would be for a company like us to operate like a swore. Everyone has great PC, a great phone, and everyone is a knowledge worker.

Um, but you know, very quickly when we saw where the demon was coming from, which where. No, keep it sharp. You're putting it with the division to connect everyone because they knew that the product would work for everyone in the organization or that it was actually the only product that could be that inclusive to the point where you can even serve and connect people who never had anything before.

This is when we changed. We changed the mindset, I would say, uh, it was a surprise. It was a good surprise to see the [00:28:00] appetite coming from that. Uh, and you know, from buyers will you to go work tool, but we, we had to change. So the plan, which is, which is, which is okay. 

Andrew Michael: [00:28:09] Very interesting. And I love hearing that sort of thing as though when you start out with the plan and then just let them on dictate the direction, uh, that you take.

Uh, that must have been also interesting as well, like insights from your perspectives are going out thinking, okay, we, we built this for us and we think it's useful for other people like us, and then seeing sort of demand, uh, increase, uh, from others and other aspects. How did. That looked like internally as well.

Like what was the triggers in point in time when you said, okay, maybe we need to maybe rethink our direction. Maybe we need to think the way we positioning ourselves. And because I think the strategy as well, then really changes a lot of the features that you build a change, the roadmap entirely, it changes like the sales team, the dynamic, like the whole business, pretty much changes.

And you, you set out on a course to start with, so yeah. What did that [00:29:00] decision look like internally? Like how did it come about? And like how long did it take you to actually make the decision to say, okay, this is the director. 

Julien Codorniou: [00:29:09] I would say it took us a year, a year and a half. Um, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook was very supportive of workplace because of the mission.

No Facebook creates communities. I seek workplace creates meaningful work communities. And if I look at the way, people that, um, you know, save the children, for example, one of our customer is on Spotify or, or, um, uh, Suzie Nika use workplace is really about communities and that's what Facebook. Is good at famous for, and this is what we wanted to do.

So there was always a lot of support from, uh, from, you know, the people who traded and build Facebook, but we had to prove that it could work. We had to prove that that internal product could become a business. And you will not believe, you know, how many times we tried to, to get other companies to use workplace.

[00:30:00] And how many of these deployments failed because we did not understand the buttons of faces. So we did not understand the importance of the integration with Microsoft. All we did not have back in the days, any credibility, or we do not have the, the. The security slash privacy certifications that you would expect from us as an adult, you know, SOC two, SOC three, ISO privacy shield, you name it.

We didn't have all of that. And so we had to build our credibility one security certification at the time and one customer at a time. But what really opened everybody's eyes is when we had the few companies. Uh, of all sizes, I can think of one in France called my little Paris, which was one of the first companies to go up place and more significantly the government of Singapore, uh, with a 250,000 people, um, Royal bank of Scotland as well, almost at the same time, which was late 2015.

All of these organizations told us. We tried workplace. We use it, we love it. We're okay to pay for it. And so you w you know, [00:31:00] when you build this as business, when, you know, you can have one or two or three of these, then you know, you can have a thousand. With what we needed was that validation from the market, from the buyers that we use it, we love it.

We want to pay for it and we will replace something that we had for that, because then, you know, you have a chance and then, you know, it's all about being more scalable, more reputable just to cause more time, because we were starting from scratch to understand how to get these first brands and how to build that credibility coming from a very different background.

But I guess it's very similar to what. You know, AWS or just, we did back in the days at Amazon or Google. 

Andrew Michael: [00:31:37] No, it's, it's interesting as well. You mentioned things like security and needing to sort of earn your credibility. Uh, like in my mind, I would have thought like some company from Facebook, these sorts of things I immediately solved, but I think these are like early stage startups.

And as you're trying to get yourself established, like these are one of. The biggest hurdles to begin with, like getting yourselves into the doors of bigger companies, more established is really, [00:32:00] uh, making sure you have all your security practices locked down, making sure that you have, uh, your certifications and, uh, just found it weird that like Facebook, themselves didn't have this ready from there.

Julien Codorniou: [00:32:10] Yeah. And you know, you also need to find customers that are willing to bet on you on your team, on your product and to co-create with you. Uh, I remember, you know, it took two years for workplace to close us as an account, as a customer. And during the first meeting and the day they launched, they truly helped us to become an enterprise rate.

They told us, we seek you have, you have a great product. The people who use it love it. But if you want to. When the dealer, if you want to serve everyone at us has an account. This is what you need integration with Microsoft integration, with zoom, WebEx as well, back in the days you need that, that security certification.

So by, by getting that feedback from customers, which are really two, two bets on the, on, on, on us, we, I seek, we we've been able to take a few, a few shortcuts. But it, you know, it's, it's hard to find these companies that are innovative, [00:33:00] that are willing to co-create with them, with the software company. And I'm, I'm, I'm extremely grateful for that.

And, you know, I talked about , but, you know, save the children was the same, uh, GSK as well. Uh, what about helped us a lot Starbucks as well? Give us a lot of insights on how to serve people who work in the store, who live in the stores, who never had any sort of SAS or any sort of cloud identity before. So we've been able to use that and to turn it into a roadmap.

Andrew Michael: [00:33:26] Absolutely. Yeah, that's super important and valuable that I've actually, I'm launching my own company now myself. And, uh, I've been actually reaching out to old colleagues, uh, at Hotjar, uh, asking them to like for security reviews, to like analyze and give me feedback and see what's missing, uh, speaking to like legal and saying, okay, like from a legal perspective, what you need, but actually having customers that give you that trust.

Like push you in the right direction to make sure you have it. I think is definitely an awesome position to be in. Um, so cool. I see we're running up on time. Julia, it's been great chatting. I want to save some time for a couple of [00:34:00] questions. Ask every guest that joins the show. Uh, let's imagine a hypothetical scenario.

Now you join a new company. You arrive tryna. Attention's not doing great. The CEO comes to you and says, we need to turn things around. We have 90 days, you're in charge. What do you do? 

Julien Codorniou: [00:34:15] Uh, I would go and talk to as many customers as possible. I seen the customer's always right. They never lie. The problem that many SAS companies have.

And I've seen that many times is that there's too much distance between the people building the product. The people are selling the product and the people using the product. So if you want to understand what what's going wrong in the metrics or the numbers, do you need to talk to customers and, and try to aggregate.

And understand, you know, assess as possible and as best as possible. How do they feel about it? What's working, what's not working with the competition is doing better, but I think the best SAS companies, the companies that I really admire, they have that the customer obsession and there's equally low distance between sometimes the CEO herself or himself and the people using and buying the product.

And when you have that , [00:35:00] but many companies forget that as they grow as the scale.

Andrew Michael: [00:35:04] Yeah, I think that's one of the practices I'm definitely trying to bring with me now. So I think honcho was super obsessed with the customer from that side. Uh, we previously had like a customer advisory board. I think I first read about it.

And first round capital, uh, had a blog post about it. We'll add this in the show notes, but yeah. The idea of like having an advisory board of customers that were like, what I'm trying to do now, as well as pulling a Slack group together, 20 customers, that's a domain experts in their specific field, but then really like as close as possible to the product, to the team.

So if marketing as new thing, they need insight to information on like there's customers directly there. They can have a chat with them within our Slack. Uh, I think having this. Extremely close touch, not just with one individual team like success, but making sure that everybody in the org has access to and can be speaking to customers on a regular basis is, is by far the best position you can put yourselves in.

Julien Codorniou: [00:35:58] I have a, I have a story on that, that I [00:36:00] have one of my customers, a company called Smartsheet success company in Seattle. They went public a few or three years ago. It's also a tough place. I've heard that the number one book finder in the company was the seal. And from the marker math mother, um, is so close to the product and to the users that at least back in the days, when I heard that story two or three years ago, he was the number one book finder.

And, you know, you might seek it to destruction for this year. The company I seek, it's a competitive advantage for him, for his, he is for his customers and for his shoulders. Yes. I don't know how we can scale that, but I have a ton of respect for that. 

Andrew Michael: [00:36:38] Sorry. Yeah, absolutely. Like, I think you need to be always, always, always speaking at something so easy to say, but in practice as well, it's so easy to forget as well.

Uh, so having the discipline to keep pushing and keep going at it, like that is super impressive. Last question then. Uh, what's one thing you know today about Chen and retention that you wish you knew [00:37:00] when you got started with your career. 

Julien Codorniou: [00:37:03] I would say the, the importance of pricing and packaging. I think the way we, we launched workplace, uh, the pricing and packaging was wasn't right.

I think we did not make it easy for our customers to understand, uh, how it worked or even that retreat at renewal time. Uh, it was, it was always a complicated discussion. I think we try to bake into the pricing and packaging, the confidence that we had into the product. Um, to show our customers that if workplace did not work for some reason, it was our fault, not their fault, our fault.

And I think this is something of our customers appreciate, and it took us some time to understand how to get to price in terms of the pricing and packaging. You can have a massive impact as you know, on, uh, on, on retention and customers section. 

Andrew Michael: [00:37:50] Absolutely. I think definitely when it comes to pricing and packaging, this is one area that's often overlooked in the beginning.

And it's like, when you get started, it's like, okay, like what are we going to [00:38:00] charge? Look around a few other companies, what are they doing that slap a price on? And this is it. But when you truly understand the mechanics behind pricing and packaging and the influence that it can have on. The retention and monetization of roles of business.

It is worth spending the time to do the research, to do the work, to really understand like how to price and package your product correctly, because it not only saves you from losing customers, but it also helps with growing customers and ensuring they stick around and expand with you as well. So it's the biggest lever I think, to get to net negative retention, as well as having a really solid pricing and packaging strategy.

Uh, I think it's also, like you mentioned, the, one of the things that people often as well get scared of is. To experiment with pricing and packaging and to change it. And I think in my opinion, I think pricing and packaging is just as much a part of your product is the features that go into it as well.


Julien Codorniou: [00:38:48] yeah, and I found the customers of course, always willing to, uh, to help, uh, even sometimes, uh, it means the prices could go higher. I see testing that with customers and making feedback of the, of the discussion through, [00:39:00] uh, some, some self advisory board can, uh, can make, uh, can make a difference. 

Andrew Michael: [00:39:04] Awesome.

Well, Janine has been a pleasure hosting you today. Thank you so much for joining and I wish you best of luck now going into 2020. 

Julien Codorniou: [00:39:13] Yeah, my pleasure. Thanks a lot, Andrew, for the invitation and for the chat. 

Andrew Michael: [00:39:16] Cheers. 


Julien Codorniou
Julien Codorniou

The show

My name is Andrew Michael and I started CHURN.FM, as I was tired of hearing stories about some magical silver bullet that solved churn for company X.

In this podcast, you will hear from founders and subscription economy pros working in product, marketing, customer success, support, and operations roles across different stages of company growth, who are taking a systematic approach to increase retention and engagement within their organizations.


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