Unlocking Growth: Sofia Quintero's Insights on Product Innovation and Market Fit
CEO & Co-Founder
Today on the show, we have Sofia Quintero, the co-founder of Collie.
In this episode, Sofia shares her journey from founding EnjoyHQ to her role in shaping Collie, a tool that integrates all engineering rituals into one platform, fostering trust and efficiency through asynchronous communication. With a rich background that includes leading growth at GeckoBoard and navigating EnjoyHQ through acquisition by UserZoom, Sofia brings a wealth of knowledge on scaling startups, product innovation, and market fit.
We delve into the critical aspects of product development, from identifying genuine user pain points to creating tailored solutions that drive growth. Sofia emphasizes the significance of aligning product offerings with market demands and the dynamic process of adjusting to user feedback while staying true to the product’s core value proposition.
As usual, I'm excited to hear what you think of this episode and if you have any feedback, I would love to hear from you. You can email me directly on Andrew@churn.fm. Don't forget to follow us on Twitter.
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[00:00:00] Sofia Quintero: You don't want customer support to be constantly a compensation for the other things that are not working well in the business. You don't want that to be the case. So it is this anticipatory kind of game that you have to be on top of. And when you have fewer customer support incidents happening, it's a very good predictor that you're doing something right. People are not coming to you for problems, they're coming to you for suggestions or new requests. That is a good customer, you know, kind of successful product.
[00:00:37] Andrew Michael: This is Churn.fm, the podcast for subscription economy pros. Each week we hear how the world's fastest growing companies are tackling churn and using retention to fuel their growth.
[00:00:50] VO: How do you build a habit-forming product? We crossed over that magic threshold to negative churn. You need to invest in customer success. It always comes down to retention and engagement. Completely boosts that profitable and growing.
[00:01:04] Andrew Michael: Strategies, tactics and ideas brought together to help your business thrive in the subscription economy. I'm your host, Andrew Michael, and here's today's episode.
[00:01:15] Andrew Michael: Hey, Sofia, welcome to the show.
[00:01:19] Sofia Quintero: Hello. Nice to see you.
[00:01:20] Andrew Michael: Yeah, it's great to have you. For the listeners, Sofia is the co-founder of Collie. All your engineering rituals perfectly integrated into one tool for engineering teams who love async communication and run on trust. Prior to Collie, Sofia was the founder and CEO of EnjoyHQ, which was acquired by UserZoom in 2021, and she went on to serve as an entrepreneur in residence at UserZoom. Sofia was also previously the head of growth at GeckoBoard. So my first question for you today, Sophia, is what was it like operating at UserZoom as an entrepreneur in residence post acquisition?
[00:01:54] Sofia Quintero: It was pretty much like continuing the role of CEO, but this time with a focus on transferring all the different sides of the operations in the business. So it was all about communicating, like the vision, the learnings that we had over the last seven years into the sales team, customer support team, engineering team, and so on. So it was almost like, yeah, completely transferring that knowledge and then figuring out how to fit this product within the larger ecosystem within UserZoom and their overall vision for the business.
[00:02:30] Sofia Quintero: So that's what it actually meant. It was understanding, you know, now that you have this new product, new source of revenue and a new source of growth, like how you implement that in a way or integrate that in a way that it becomes seamless for all UserZoom customers and enjoy HSU customers as a whole. So that was part of my role, enabling people to do that without me.
[00:02:54] Andrew Michael: Without you. Yeah. We've had quite a few guests on the show where we've discussed some of the challenges going through those transitions and obviously some of the big benefits coming then and having that accelerated sales force being able to, I think we even tried briefly last month closing much bigger deals and you maybe wouldn't imagined possible. But I also saw as well, we chatted about this last time, it's about 18 months post acquisition and you almost immediately got started with something again, so there's obviously like that bugging you, to want to keep building and getting started with different businesses. And I'm keen to hear where that comes from. What made you get started in the beginning with EnjoyHQ?
[00:03:28] Sofia Quintero: So what made me get started with EnjoyHQ at the very beginning?
[00:03:31] Andrew Michael: Yeah.
[00:03:33] Sofia Quintero: I got it. I think like many other founders, EnjoyHQ was started with a particular pain. I experienced when I was working at Geckoboard. And as a head of growth, I wanted to have access to a ton of different data.Data coming from multiple tools, mostly qualitative. We had a lot of metrics and we were gathering a lot of metrics, but the side that we were not very good at at the time was qualitative information or data. And so I do remember clearly running very small experiments or sending a campaign, for example, to customers and having some feedback come back through intercom and senders and surveys and product managers were doing interviews and so on and all that information.
[00:04:17] Sofia Quintero: It was very much scattered and it was very difficult for me to even remember some of those things were in some tools and aggregating that information. So that's how I started and we evolved. After I realized that there was something there and I wanted to start my first company, formal company, I did many projects in the past and I did a lot of sort of like hustles and things, but never focused on having a formal kind of startup with funding and then doing the whole thing from scratch.
[00:04:43] Sofia Quintero: When I decided to do that and with my co-founder, like that was the starting point of coming from this idea of solving a data problem that I had to actually evolve something that will satisfy a need in a larger market beyond what I thought was important for me. So that's what triggered the journey.
[00:05:02] Andrew Michael: So really started with your own pain, but I think we talked about this last time as well, like I similarly as well felt the same pain when I was at HotJar at around the same time. And I think back then before it was EnjoyHQ, it was called Nom Nom. And I even discussed at the time with David, I was like, Hey, I think this is something like either we should look at for HotJar. Or like I want to do for myself. And then ended just deciding not to after seeing, no, no, it looked like you had really started to establish quite a good product back then. And finally made the mistake then two years later and tried to build a company in this space.
[00:05:33] Andrew Michael: But I'm keen as well today to talk a little bit about like that early stage figuring out sort of how did you know when you had something in those early days? What were some of the signals you're seeing and the way you tested and iterated your way to get there? Obviously, being in growth and your background there, being experimentation, I'm keen to hear. Was there any formal process or how did you get started with EnjoyHQ?
[00:05:55] Sofia Quintero: Yeah. It was a lot of trying things in general. When you start, you don't have a lot of customers, a lot of users. So it's normally the struggle of who do you believe? You have a few people using the product. And you had my initial focus was interviews. I was trying constantly to talk to people, but when you don't have a lot of them, it's very easy to listen to very few of them. They might be very passionate about the product. And that in some ways feels insightful, but then it can also derail your thinking into what you set out to solve.
[00:06:31] Sofia Quintero:So it's very confusing that the very beginning, and I'm experiencing that with Collie right now too, it's very difficult at the beginning to really discern what is the actual insight that you want to pay attention to and truly execute on. And I think at the beginning, at least for EnjoyHQ, we were very good at looking at the little data points that we had, all the data that we were getting through usage and try to compare that to our interviews and what people were saying and understanding that gap constantly. And so we will not spend a lot of time looking at just how people were using the product.
[00:07:09] Sofia Quintero: That was very insightful, but then immediately we will just go and try to have conversations about it and continue comparing what is this delta in the middle that we are not understanding, why they are doing these things and telling us something else, or what is the interpretation that people have of those actions. Because also people do things in the app and you can observe that with a ton of tools. And they might tell you that they do it for a reason, but there is an underlying motivation and you want to understand that underlying motivation to drive how you position the product, but also how you build the follow-up features or the expansion of those features.
[00:07:47] Sofia Quintero: So they truly engage people all the way from having that pain to solving and feeling really good about the product. So I think that the key, at least what I really found helpful was to never rely too much on interviews and never rely too much on the tools that we were using to measure and see the usage of our specific features. We're really stepping back with my team and asking all the time, like, what is this middle gap that we seem to not fully understand or that it doesn't feel that it's clear to us. And so that's how I'm going about it right now.
[00:08:19] Sofia Quintero: For example, we just have very few teams using Collie and giving us feedback in very particular features. But my conversations are very focused on the bigger problem space because we know the features and the features can be fixed. You can really improve UX all the time and you can rethink things. And maybe they have a utilitarian kind of purpose. You know, they have to do X, Y and Z for the user. But then the problem space is always bigger. So you have to understand the context of people, why they're doing those things, why they will continue using them and so on.
[00:08:51] Sofia Quintero: So it's mixing both as well. And it's a challenge. It's always, always difficult. And the more people you can get to the better. But when you don't have a lot of data points, you have to help yourself with Quant and Qual constantly. That's how I think about it.
[00:09:04] Andrew Michael: And looking into the Delta. Yeah, I think we, it's actually for the listeners, we had a conversation about a week ago. We're originally gonna record an episode for ChurnFM then. And because Sofia and myself, we both worked in this user research space. I had a company called Avrio, which I shut down very, very recently. A lot of learnings along the way. So we spent quite a bit of time, so you might get a lot of context as we're going through here.
[00:09:30] Andrew Michael: But I think for me as well, I think this was probably one of the biggest mistakes that I made with Avrio was listening too much to the feedback that was coming directly from those interviews you were having. And we moved away from the original problem space that we try to solve to solve the user's needs that we were hearing. So like, I think, and you hear this a lot, like you should obsess over the problem and not the solution.
[00:09:54] Andrew Michael: And I think like what you sort of highlighted here and your approach to this was really, okay, yes, listen to the users, but those are the most vocal ones on necessarily represent the best opportunity or the best Delta between where problem solution space can fit itself. And I think definitely if we had in the past, like, first like, okay, yes, this is what people are to the next interviews, but let's go back to the data. Let's go back to our intuition and our understanding of the market. We probably would have come up with a different product and not in the end being a direct competitor of somebody like EnjoyHQ, which was never meant to be from the start. So yeah, I love that point.
[00:10:28] Sofia Quintero: Yeah. The only place where I found you can take exactly what customers and mostly customers say to you, not necessarily like free users and early users, but the only time where you can literally copy and paste from a transcript of something that a customer said is when you're working on messaging. As I've been going on growth for a long time, that's the only part that I feel it applies where somebody tells you, you know, you ask somebody, can you describe like how will you tell somebody else about EnjoyHQ? Or can you tell me exactly what were the feelings that you were experiencing when you felt that this was super helpful and so on?
[00:11:05] Sofia Quintero: And whatever they say, I find that you can literally take that and put it on the marketing site and put it in your emails because that is how they naturally will do it. And then I will test that and go to, for example, Slack channels and communities, and then try to find other people describing even competitors in the same way. And then it's like, okay, cool. This is, this is how they will tell a friend and I will take that right away, but you cannot do that with product feedback and how you build features.
[00:11:02] Sofia Quintero: So if you work on both kind of acquisition as a founder, if you're working on getting customers and you're working on building a product for them, that's what I think we fall into this trap because you can use the data accurately for certain things and not for others. And that is so confusing and fascinating. Yeah.
[00:11:02] Andrew Michael: No, it is fascinating. And definitely, I think that is one of the biggest copy hacks anybody can do when it comes to marketing is just copying, pasting transcripts from interviews with customers. We did that. And I think that was one of the good things we did at Avrio. Some of our landing pages were converting around 25%. So like one in four visitors. And that was literally the process was like speak to customers, copy and paste the transcript and create landing pages from the copy. Cause nothing converts better than your customer's own words at the end of the day.
[00:12:22] Andrew Michael: But yeah, it is that sort of other side where it came where we literally did exactly the same thing. But then for features where we copied and paste transcript, everything the customers were telling us. It was extremely consistent. It was extremely one-sided in terms of one direction. They wanted us to take the product. But unfortunately that product moved us into an area and space that we didn't originally plan to and was very far away, I would say from the original value proposition that we were trying to solve for in the problem.
[00:12:47] Andrew Michael: And the thing in retrospect, I would have definitely rather stuck my guns and like held to the problem because that problem still exists today. It hasn't really been solved effectively in companies. And, but the solution, and we were just chasing the market, I think, rather than the problem to start.
[00:13:02] Sofia Quintero: So it's a magnificent learning though.
[00:13:05] Andrew Michael: It is. Yeah. But it is a magnificent, expensive learning as well, I guess in time and money. Nice. So you mentioned this is what you're doing today as well now with Collie, similar approach. How are you iterating your way towards that feeling? And how do you know when you're onto something? When did you know as well, I didn't EnjoyHQ that it was time now to double down. And when do you think you'll know now with Collie?
[00:13:28] Sofia Quintero: I don't think you get to know fully at any point. I think you just get a little bit more confident about what you're doing over time as you continue talking to people. So now I feel more confident that I failed four months ago. And the reason why, I think we crossed 60. Yeah, in the last three weeks, we have done 60 interviews with engineer managers. And I want to do way more and continue doing that. But now I go to the point where you start listening to the same pattern, right? The same things, people expressing the same ways, referring to the specific moments. And so you start seeing those patterns and that's how I'm going about it. And it's like, okay, well, we keep hearing this thing and we try to debug this ourselves.
[00:14:14] Sofia Quintero: I have two other co-founders, so we just talk about it. Like we're hearing this, what does that actually mean? They see in the market who else is doing these. Are people doing this at all? Like why would they like to do this? So that's the type of conversations that we have after we listen and hear things. But then from that, now, every time I do interviews, for example, if I feel like I validated some areas or I feel like I have some sort of more confident about a specific problem that they're trying to solve, then I move into more. I wouldn't say acquisition side of things. I will say more of like, what is the next process?
[00:14:47] Sofia Quintero: So for example. Okay, now you have this pain. How do you go about buying new tools? What was the last tool that you bought in your company for your, for your team? And what's easy to implement and tell me about it. So I want to move a little step forward now that I know that I can build certain things and then once I build those things, I will have different conversations about those things that I build. But in the meantime, as I'm implementing the insights that I go for the previous interviews, now I'm seeking insights into, okay, what are the next step? If this person wanted to buy this product, what are the friction points that I'm going to face?
[00:15:22] Sofia Quintero: Because there might be things that I can build within the product that will help me alleviate those friction points in the transition from user to paid customer. And then that could be product or it could be messaging and so on. So I think you can squeeze a lot of from interviews that you do. If you do them constantly, you don't have to repeat the same interview, but you can validate something to the point where you feel strong about the pattern, confident, double down on those insights, continuing interviews, but the next one's being more into a different part of the problem space so you can get a rounded kind of view.
[00:15:55] Sofia Quintero: This is my experience we enjoy as my first company is that almost it's a Rubik's cube, right? Like a SaaS company is all these colors and all these squares that you have to align in a way that they all click and make sense. And I think retention, for example, it is one of those that click, but it clicks because you are moving a ton of different parts. You're moving like the product, the morning, the messaging, the market, the funneling sales. Like you're moving so many little things, even the cancellation process. You're moving all of those pieces and suddenly it clicks. And then you start seeing that reflected into a very lovely retention curve.
[00:16:35] Sofia Quintero: And I do remember a lot of the, once we pass this stage of like really understanding what we were building and having more customers. And we started looking at the data. What gave us confidence is that we will start seeing, okay, we have this 60% kind of retention on usage, you know, people coming all the time, people using a consistent set of features. And when we saw that, I think it was at least three quarters that we saw that happening and not changing. That's when you are like fully committed to, okay, if I spend all my time finding customers, it's going to be okay. Because when they stay, when they come back and they pay, they just stay here with us.
[00:17:15] Sofia Quintero: And so that's the moment where you can really double down acquisition. But it's very easy for me to say that looking back, because I do remember when I was trying to get to that point, I was just doing all of it at the same time. You want to get customers everything they want, and you want to do everything at the same time, and that can confuse you a lot too.
[00:17:34] Sofia Quintero: So for example, for this company. Even though I have the same sort of impulse and instinct to go and try many things, I know that I need to align this Rubik's Cube in some way that it is solid. So to do that, I need to take my time to really discover each of the stages and each of the facets, if you like, of that process. I'm supposed to try to move them all together at the same time. And so now I'm more conscious of that. You still have to work with all the variables and you need to still to get it right but you can go in a more systematic way as opposed to try to confuse yourself with so many growth activities.
[00:18:12] Sofia Quintero: I think it's easier at the beginning to focus on, can we get somebody in and see why they use it and why will they keep using it? I think those two were, those questions, those are the most important to solve at the beginning. That's what I'm focusing on.
[00:18:28] Andrew Michael: And nothing else matters. Yeah. I love the energy of the Rubik's cube. I could just picture it as you were moving your hands as well for the listeners on the podcast, I could just see all the pieces coming together and click how it all just comes together magically at the end. And yeah, I think definitely going through startups like second, third, fourth time, every time, like at least I've noticed from my experience, like you start to understand what's more and more important each time and what's not important.
[00:18:54] Andrew Michael: And like in my first startup, I remember just, I felt like everything was important, everything needed to get done and I was literally like sleeping under the desk and waking up. And then just because like, I felt this enormous amount of pressure and millions of things that needed to be done and handled. And the more you go through it, the more you understand, like there's only ever like one or two things that really matter at any given stage at any given time within the company and executing and doing those one or two things really, really well at that stage is what sets you up for success in the next time.
[00:19:20] Sofia Quintero: You can waste a lot of time. You can waste a ton of time doing so, so many things that feel. Exactly. Very important and urgent. And then when you look back, it's like, oh, that was so unnecessary. It's just so unnecessary. It's difficult to distinguish. It's really, really difficult. Over time you get the sensibility, you get the experience of like, okay, no, this is not going to be a good use of my time.
[00:19:44] Andrew Michael: I think the one thing that changed my thinking on the concept of like urgent and important and what somebody once said to me is like, if everything's urgent and important, like then nothing is. And how will your team ever understand like what's really important when thing, when something really is important and being able to distinguish that for yourself, like is extremely important. So that can be for the other, the rest of the team to understand. Made me change the way I sort of phrase things, I guess, in the future after hearing that.
[00:20:13] Andrew Michael: The thing I was interested as well, you mentioned, and I think this again is like a step where I speak to a lot of founders as well, and it feels like it's another big area where they skip the step is that they start out and they feel, okay, I have this problem. Let me go out and interview people. Do I hear the similar things? Okay. I start to see patterns. Great. And then they jumped to the start building phase. And I think one thing you mentioned as well now was like, now it's time to go to the market and see are other people doing something in this space? What does the opportunity look like?
[00:20:43] Andrew Michael: And I think this is a very important step because I think especially in the space that you were in previously to EnjoyHQ is that every single product manager probably came to the same point in their journey where they felt that this was a problem for them and this was a pain point. And then everyone said, okay, now I'm going to go build a company and I'm going to solve my pain points.
[00:21:00] Andrew Michael: And then I think this is also why you end up having so many people in this space building products is because they feel, ah, it's my problem. I know I understand it well, I'm going to build a product. And then they skipped a step of looking at the market. So I'm keen to hear what is your process looks like there? How do you go about evaluating the markets? How do you understand like, is this opportunity worth going after?
[00:21:19] Sofia Quintero: Yeah. So for Enjoy and for Collie, they're very, very different in terms of how I thought about it. For Enjoy at the time, when I look at the market, there were no many competitors. At the time was a very different landscape. When I launched at the time in Nom Nom, as I said before, it was almost like the product in sale was almost like a little search engine for customer feedback. It didn't have workflows or even analytics. It was just like this search box that you will connect a bunch of data sources, and then they will go there and search.
[00:21:54] Sofia Quintero: And so in the market, there was no anything like that for product managers at the time. At the time, my main kind of market persona, I thought it was product managers, and then I confirmed they were not. But initially, that was the people that I was talking to and listening to, and also that felt that the product was useful for them in the state that it was. So as a little search engine was great for a specific product managers at the time.
[00:22:23] Sofia Quintero: So I look at that process there, and then I realized that in the market, there was a moment in time where we could actually, a wide space where we could actually innovate. Because I saw these huge companies that were selling like text analytics to customer experience, kind of customers and clients. I saw that there were some little companies that trying to do also text analytics, but on a smaller scale. And there were for road mapping tools for product managers that has some sort of way of pulling feedback but nothing to structure and so on.
[00:22:59] Sofia Quintero: So I was looking and it was very scattered. I couldn't see really like, okay, what are the real competitors here? And when I started talking to people, most people were using a spreadsheet for this. So it was an interesting white space. I really love it because I felt like, oh, we can do something really cool here. And it felt like there's a ton of opportunity because it was that way. A few years later, it completely changed the landscape. And so now we have different competitors and we have different people trying different types of workflows and products that didn't have a research component were adding a research kind of a set of research features and so on.
[00:23:32] Sofia Quintero: So the market started changing quite rapidly, but at the very beginning, it feels more like a wide space. So that was a different approach. I looked at it and I felt, okay, this is a great opportunity to do something different here. There's not many people building in this space. That was my first view, although that changed rapidly after years. With Collie, I came to it from a very different perspective. I knew that for my second company, I wanted to be in a market that had a lot of competitors. Because my plan is to bootstrap and not raise money, I wanted to make sure that I could work in a place where people were actually looking for these products and they had a workflow for that.
[00:24:12] Sofia Quintero: They were trying to solve it themselves. They could recognize the solution. When I look at the market, which is very crowded, like in this particular area where I'm building, I'm looking at what are the type of assumptions that these competitors are making? And what is their evolution? I look at how a competitor started and how they end up right now. So in the last, they've been running for five years, how did they start and how they end up? What were the things that potentially they learn along the journey that I can skip that learning and just go straight to it.
[00:24:42] Sofia Quintero: What are the common set of features across all the competitors that are like table stakes that you need to identify? Okay, this is definitely the stuff that I need to have for sure. And then I can add a layer of deeper understanding and do something interesting and go a bit of a fresh thinking around this. And so that's how I look at it now. It's almost like a checklist. Are people looking for these? Are people actually trying to solve the problem? Are the competitors in particular evolving rapidly to a different type of area? Or they are staying in the same and doubling down? What are the common features that I need to definitely happen? Which ones don't?
[00:25:20] Sofia Quintero: So it really depends on what you're building. I think even more is dependent on whether or not you're raising money. Because if you are raising money, because you want to innovate and you want to do something like really, really new and different. You need the capital to support the learning process, which is gonna take a long time. And you really need to go for these very wide, big spaces where you're going to be changing behavior and creating new categories and so on. That is a very different way.
[00:25:47] Sofia Quintero: You look at the market in a very different way than you see it when you are a bootstrapper and you want to make sure that you have a lot of stuff validated beforehand and you want to add value, but go in a way that you can sustainably support growth in the learning curve. So it's a completely different point of view. So I think in my mind, you made those decisions and you look at the market differently based on how you fund the company. And obviously who you are as an entrepreneur, you're gonna go to a market that you feel you're gonna feel excited about, otherwise it's gonna suck.
[00:26:18] Andrew Michael: Yeah, absolutely. And I love the point as well about sort of the style of business, if it's gonna be bootstrapped or VC backed, like it really makes a difference to the type of product or company you can build itself. For me, I also like post-Avrio, like when we're thinking about what to do next, sort of iterated on a few different ideas. And one of them was, okay, like we built all this cool technology now, like you can transcribe audio, you can create highlights. So I was like, okay, this might be particularly interesting for podcasters.
[00:26:46] Andrew Michael: And we considered as well at some point, okay, we can build an app that you can create highlights and you can easily share them. And, but then for me, the other thing that I wanted to make sure was like, I already felt this being a pressure with Avrio that the market size wasn't to the scale that I wanted to be in operating in to be able to build a business. I felt that there was a ceiling and that was important. For podcasts, I went, okay, there's maybe 5 million podcasts of which a million are active of which only 250,000 posted last month.
[00:27:13] Andrew Michael: You can see how the market size keeps shrinking and then the amount of those people that may be willing to spend on software, it just kept on getting smaller and smaller. And then I was like, okay, this doesn't make a logical sense to invest. It's a great maybe indie business. And you can probably build a good lifestyle business.
[00:27:28] Andrew Michael: But for me, I felt like if I want to build a lifestyle business, like that's probably not the business that I'm going to be wanting to build or have the most fun doing as well. So I think it's also that like alignment between, for me, it felt like, okay, if I'm going to build something, I want something that there's no cap on the upside. Or if there's a cap, like it needs to be something I'm truly passionate about that I'm going to love doing and like be extremely motivated for.
[00:27:51] Sofia Quintero: Yeah. The size of the market is so, so crucial. And I didn't understand that until like way later in the journey. And also you don't get to really experience, you can even have the time, you know, the total addressable market number. And it's only when you are really working in the marketing and trying to compete and doing all that stuff that you start realizing what that actually means from an acquisition perspective.
[00:28:14] Sofia Quintero: And I understood it like way later, like a few years into the business, like, oh wow, this is a market that I truly gonna have to go enterprise because the volume is not there. PLG kind of motions like product growth motions are not always the right one for specific products, especially in these type of markets that require some sort of hand holding for larger teams. You can get away with that with SMB for a while, but then after, if you want to go for bigger contracts, you totally have to have some sort of layer of service attached to it, and that's there.
[00:28:47] Sofia Quintero: But you know what I have fun with? When I have business ideas, or even for Collie, I love going on LinkedIn and they say I have a hypothesis, like, you know, a product that does X, Y and Z for these type of people. And then just to start filtering, like how many accountants they are with, you know, within these types of companies, they are interested in this other thing. And it's just fun to see, okay, these are the most tangible people in the market because they have a profile there.
[00:29:14] Sofia Quintero: And so definitely we cannot know how many are that doesn't have a profile on the team, but it's a fun experiment to think about the businesses and go and try to quantify in a very detailed way that potential persona and say, once you have a number and check the competitors, like, okay, how do you feel about that? And make it really real for you. So literally I spend a lot of time looking for software engineers, engineer managers, tech leads and so on for Collie. And that's how you start thinking, okay, well, yeah, we can do something here.
[00:29:46] Andrew Michael: Yeah, I think LinkedIn has some good tools for that as well, where you can sort of see the size and scale. But I think the point you made as well is like, even then you don't always know. And I think that's an interesting case I always come to, I think, is like Optimize Lee, themselves. And I think the space as well that EnjoyHQ operates in is very similar in the sense that I think what Optimize Lee realized like maybe in the beginning, the hypothesis, and I'm making this up now, might have been that, okay, we building experimentation platform and every team that has a product manager and product designer is going to want to use this platform to run experiments, to be able to iterate and optimize their sites or their products.
[00:30:21] Andrew Michael: But what they came to a learning and their journey was that there was only a small number of companies that are actually sophisticated enough to be able to run experiments. And also then the data side of it, like had enough data to actually effectively run experiments. So you might have started in the beginning with the market size and said, Hey, like there's millions of product managers and product designers around the world. But very few companies are actually at that size and scale where they can run these things effectively.
[00:30:45] Andrew Michael: I think that is maybe something that you learn along the way through the more you experiment and the more you understand your market and audience. So, it is a tough one. You get started, you think, okay, it's blue ocean, there's just millions of these people that we can go after, but you also have to take into consideration their skill sets and their stage of growth and where they're at and can the product actually meet that as well.
[00:31:05] Sofia Quintero: Yeah. It's a classic joke about the 1% right? Can I get 1% of this market if I can only go 1%? And it's like, yeah, well, it's not that easy.
[00:31:17] Andrew Michael: It's not. So I liked as well, like in the beginning you mentioned, you're using interviews like all throughout the stages and like one of them obviously is on website copy and how you sell the product. You mentioned the other thing then around sort of how they go about purchasing and buying the product itself to understand if there's anything you can alleviate within the product. Obviously, and as well where the delta is between what you can build in the space. How else are you using user interviews themselves now through this journey with Collie?
[00:31:45] Sofia Quintero: Yeah. I'm actually asking a lot about pricing and pricing is tricky because it's the same like having a product that nobody has seen and then making assumptions about how they're going to use it. It's a bit tricky. So I don't necessarily pay too much attention, but I get curious and I try to hear things and I'm always with the vision that I might be surprised at the end. So I start asking like, yeah, literally like, you know, how much will you pay for this in comparison to other tools? And how do you feel about this pricing and so on?
[00:32:17] Sofia Quintero: And that doesn't tell you whether or not they're going to pay. And that also doesn't tell you if they're actually going to pay that amount. But I like to see how people articulate that and how they think about it. Sometimes you get some nice kind of hints of potential insight that you will have to verify anyway when you're actually about to ask them to pay. So my plan for this, which I did as well with Enjoy, is you have your users and they get, that's a point, you get to the point that you have to charge them, right? They've been using the product and so on.
[00:32:50] Sofia Quintero: So I remember using this, I forgot the name, from Price Intelligently, they had this tool. Was it Price in Div? Div something? It was a survey, basically, and then you ask a bunch of questions to people, and then you get some sort of intersection into, well, this might be a potential price and then you can charge them. You ask them things like, when this product will be so cheap that you will not do it or that you feel this bad quality away when this product will be too expensive, you know, that you will definitely not for all that stuff.
[00:33:21] Sofia Quintero: And so that's one way of knowing interviews can tell you a little bit about that behavior and then you just have to launch it. And then you have to launch the pricing base, of course, on what makes sense for the business too. So normally what makes sense for the customer, like in theory, should make for the business too, sometimes it doesn't, and you have to make adjustments. But generally speaking, interviews are helpful for trying to get context around some of the things that you're gonna do later, try to get context on the things that you're using right now, and then sometimes for fun, because you will get insights that like, oh man, they told us that so many times and we totally like didn't understand that until this point or we didn't like take action on that.
[00:34:00] Sofia Quintero: So there is so many things, but yeah, at this point in the process when we are very close to open a public beta have way more people in the app is more about the outcomes that they want to get out of it. And then the buying process, those are the two things I'm focusing on.
[00:34:18] Andrew Michael: Very nice. Yeah, with the price intelligently, they use the Van Westendorp pricing study, which is understanding what the willingness to pay is and the likelihood to buy. Yeah, and it is a very pretty standard pricing survey that's used in the market. But I also used that in the beginning with Avrio, try to understand, okay, and it's actually best done with a panel and not with your existing user base anyway, because you don't have the bias of people.
[00:34:39] Andrew Michael: We've used the product, we've had a certain pricing anchored to them already. And it's not necessarily an issue if people don't really know the product because that also then understands, you get an idea of like, have you positioned the product well enough for people to understand the value because that's essentially what new customers are going to do anyway. They're going to come to your site, they're going to see it, they're going to evaluate it and then they're going to either decide to buy or leave.
[00:35:02] Andrew Michael: So I love that one is like a good way to sort of understand the demand and have you maybe got something? It's like the closest thing maybe you can get to somebody actually paying you at the end of the day, which is the gold standard.
[00:35:16] Sofia Quintero: And there is some friction as well. Like you learn it later because not only you just don't have a pricing that you just launch. You do that and then you do it again and again and again and again, because you need to understand how to charge more for your product as you are improving it. And you are, you know, making progress and you see the customers are being successful, then you start trying to capture that value. And in the process of capturing the value, you might launch different prices as an experiment.
[00:35:40] Sofia Quintero: But then when you have the conversation with the customer as to why they might not be paying that, why is the thing too expensive, what are the barriers, and then you start understanding more of the nuances of the structure of the pricing. There is not so much about the amount itself, it's maybe how you are charging that amount per user and how that will scale, or per unit of value, how will that scale? Or like contracts, how contracts happen, all surveys, like there's a ton of variables there that then shape what the pricing is at a later stage beyond the number.
[00:36:12] Sofia Quintero: When we are launching a product though, like now, in a few months, it will be more for me about, okay, what is the initial number that we can get to and then we can codify, like, what are the barriers of entry based on that number. So, it's like, it's all reverse engineering at the end of the day.
[00:36:29] Andrew Michael: Exactly. But it's very cool to hear that you're starting at this stage with it. Cause I think probably in our going on a Lumia, 95% of startups will probably like get started and say, okay, other, like what sounds like a good number or let's go look at like five competitors and see what their price and maybe go a little bit cheaper and compete on price, which is probably the worst place to get started. It's more like you're speaking to your users, your understanding, getting a sense of where they feel would be the ideal price and then setting it from there.
[00:36:56] Andrew Michael: So it's grounded in a bit of research to start and not just sort of like what sounds like a 49 because it's less than 50 and that's what we've been told converts better.
[00:37:04] Sofia Quintero: That's so tempting though. And that's very tempting anyway.
[00:37:07] Andrew Michael: It is. Yeah. Nice. Well, I think Sofia, we could probably chat for like the next three hours on these different topics. I'm keen to see like one last question on this, like to round it up for people starting to think about like how to get to the initial like MVP and then product market fit. What would be one last thing that you would suggest that everybody needs to be thinking about when they're getting started building their businesses and can't live without?
[00:37:34] Sofia Quintero: I think you have to have a checklist. You have to have a checklist of what makes a good business for you. And then obviously within that checklist, there will be things that are golden rules, if you like. So I think, okay, well, am I gonna decide to raise money or I'm gonna be bootstrapped? That's the first question that you need to answer. If you're gonna bootstrap, then you have your checklist and it should be all about, that is this market big enough? Can I build something there? Do I have the technical kind of capabilities to do it? Am I passionate about this?
[00:38:06] Sofia Quintero: And if not passionate, am I curious enough to spend a lot of time doing this? Do I have the financial position to support myself or my co-founders during this process or do I have to have a part-time gig and so on. There's a lot of logistics and operations, not only about what business are you going to build, but you within that business. And so I think that's the part that I didn't probably understand enough from my first company. Like the every decision that you make about what business are you going to build will impact your life directly.
[00:38:36] Sofia Quintero: So you want to be sure that everything is aligned, that you know how organize your life in order to make that business successful. And then the business itself ticked the boxes of what makes a good bootstrap business work. And like, for example, are people searching for this type of things already? Are the competitors like large and perhaps like be outdated and so on? Is there a real opportunity? So there's a checklist that you can make for yourself and the same applies if you're raising money.
[00:39:09] Sofia Quintero: Like, is this going to be a billion dollar company? Do I want to be a person that runs a billion dollar company? So have a checklist first before you even try anything and then get a bunch of ideas that you feel that they might be good. And then just start checking if they are taking any of those boxes and how many boxes. It has to be a very cold and objective process because it's so easy to fall in love with not only the idea, but the idea of being a founder is very easy to fall in love with the excitement that brings to you creating something new and it's so much easier and better if you just step back and look at it in a very objective way.
[00:39:49] Sofia Quintero: Like these are ideas and they sound cool. This is my checklist to make sure that I don't build things that I don't want to work on or they're not gonna work. And based on something like that, it'd be more of a rational process than emotional. But once you are committed to one particular one, then you can just put all your emotions and really, really focus on on taking off the ground because it's going to take a little effort. So no one to use rationale and no one to use emotion and use the both with caution.
[00:40:19] Andrew Michael: I love that. I think definitely that's probably something I want to include, probably write up something around this for a checklist. I'll check in with you and a few other founders as well to see if we can put together a nice little checklist for people to think about other bootstraps or VC backed and it definitely would be, it would have helped me in the early stages of my first company. A great objective way to be able to evaluate. And I love that. And that's sort of how you mentioned of like leave the emotion out. But then when you decide which is the right direction, like that's when you bring it in and you double down and you do something really cool in this space.
[00:40:50] Andrew Michael: Last question. What's one thing that you know today about churn and retention that you wish in you when you got started with your career?
[00:40:56] Sofia Quintero: That retention is a 360 process. Like it is, it is not a strategy that you put in place.
It is the blood of the product and the business. It is the foundation in which you grow. And so I used to, when I used to be the head of growth at Geckoboard, and that was like so many years ago, eight years, nine years ago, I remember I didn't have a lot of experience and I knew retention was important. So I would look at retention more from a growth perspective and like, how can we get customers and they stay? And so I will think about like an email nurturing campaigns. And I will think about very basic things that will sometimes help, but there were no very deeply ingrained in the product, for example.
[00:41:45] Sofia Quintero: I will just think about that as a separate thing that I could optimize by messaging people or by, or by trying to have some sort of communication with them, it was only over the years when I could deeply understand that it is an effort that you have to make with entire business and especially with the product team. It is something that comes from the product. You have to understand what the product needs to be doing the heavy lifting for you. It needs to be an experience that delights people and solves a problem enough that they have a motivation to continue going to it. Then you have to translate that into love for the brand and love for what you do and alignment with their values and how the customer is going to grow.
[00:42:29] Sofia Quintero: And then you have to bring that back into new ideas to grow the market. So it starts fundamentally from the product and you extend that to the rest of the areas of the business. That holistic approach, I didn't understand that until later. And especially, you know, now that I build one company end to end, I can see the importance and how holistic that process is. And I want to make sure that I get it right.
[00:42:54] Andrew Michael: Next time. Yeah, I think that's one of the things that always boggles my mind when I speak to companies and they sort of like, customer success is responsible for retention. And this typically is like one of those metrics that always gets landed on customer success. But ultimately, like if you're running a subscription business and people are canceling their subscriptions, like you don't have a business in the day. So it really is like, it's a company effort and it runs deep through many different parts of the organization. And at its core, normally, as you say, it's a product problem or product like often has the best way to solve for it. So I think in SaaS businesses, retention for me is like the only metric that really matters. And I think that was the premise of the show.
[00:43:34] Sofia Quintero: Yeah. And customer success, they get, it's more a reaction. It's not as proactive as that reaction, right? When a customer goes to you with a problem or they're going to cancel and so on. Yeah. You can be proactive and talk to them before they have to renew the contract. Yeah. You can be proactive, be the best customer support ever for somebody to have a bad situation, a bad experience, you can do that, but it's normally too late.
[00:43:58] Sofia Quintero: What you want to do is prevent all of those things. You want to, the experience that they're having with your product to anticipate their needs, the marketing, anything that you do to acquire people, to build a brand that is loved by your users, all of that has to be in a mode of anticipation. Can we anticipate and delight people way before they experience anything negative? Can we avoid those things? So being in that kind of offense kind of environment where you're really trying to anticipate those needs. That's where you win.
[00:44:30] Sofia Quintero: Because being reactive helps you for a while. So for example, just very briefly, when you are a small company and your product is not great and you're trying to get some traction, one of the things that most founders say is that, oh, well, our customer support was great and that helped us a lot. And it did help me a ton as well when I was with Enjoy because we didn't have a great product in the beginning. We were just trying to figure out what we were building. But we were very reactive and helpful and that kept people working with us. That helps.
[00:44:58] Sofia Quintero: But as you grow, you cannot necessarily do that all the time. And you don't want to do that. You want that the customer support that happens is because it's really, really a situation that shouldn't have happened like a bug. Or they really want to do something in the product you didn't design it for. So it's an opportunity for learning. But you don't want customer support to be constantly a compensation for the other things that are not working well in the business, that you don't want that to be the case. So it is this anticipatory kind of game that you have to be on top of.
[00:45:28] Sofia Quintero: And when you have fewer customer support incidents happening, it's a very good predictor that you're doing something right. People are not coming to you for problems, they're coming to you for suggestions or new requests. That is a good customer's, you know, kind of successful product to have.
[00:45:44] Andrew Michael: Yeah, absolutely. I think definitely on the show, we speak to a lot of customer success leaders and he teams that are operating at the top level are all really focused on that proactive rather than reactive states and understand that, okay, we shouldn't be operating a reactive state and the faster you can get to that proactive way of determining and understanding before things happen, focusing on things like activation and engagement strategies, rather than being that reactive sources is never a good place to be for a startup.
[00:46:13] Sofia Quintero: Also, Sofia, it's been an absolute pleasure hosting you on the show today. Is there any final thoughts you want to leave the listeners with before we wrap up today? Anything they should be aware of to keep up to speed with your work?
[00:46:24] Sofia Quintero: No. Well, if you are an engineer leader listening to this podcast, you're a CTO in a company, I would love to talk to you or at least sign up for colieapp.com. And that's where we are gathering our beta users. So we would love to talk to you and give it a try to what we build. And that will be awesome.
[00:46:43] Andrew Michael: Awesome. Well, for the listeners, everything we discussed today will be in the show notes, so you can find that there if you're listening on mobile. And yeah, Sofia, thanks so much again for joining. I really, really love the conversation. I wish you best of luck now with Collie.
[00:46:56] Sofia Quintero: Thank you so much. It was fun. Thank you.
[00:46:58] Andrew Michael: Cheers.
[00:47:07] Andrew Michael: And that's a wrap for the show today with me Andrew Michael. I really hope you enjoyed it and you were able to pull out something valuable for your business. To keep up to date with churn.fm and be notified about new episodes, blog posts and more, subscribe to our mailing list by visiting churn.fm. Also don't forget to subscribe to our show on iTunes, Google Play or wherever you listen to your podcasts. If you have any feedback, good or bad, I would love to hear from you. And you can provide your blunt, direct feedback by sending it to Andrew@churn.fm. Lastly, but most importantly, if you enjoyed this episode, please share it and leave a review as it really helps get the word out and grow the community. Thanks again for listening. See you again next week.
A new episode every week
We’ll send you one episode every Wednesday from a subscription economy pro with insights to help you grow.
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.