Connected2Fiber CEO & Founder
Saint Louis University Masters, International Business
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How did you get to where you are today? What incidents and experiences shaped your career path? What inspired you to work on this startup idea?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Sep 14 2020
great. Thank you for the chance to tell my story. Um, I think it's a combination of determination and hard work that, uh, let me thio the path I'm on and where I am today, you know, all combined with the natural curiosity toe solve problems that create value. And I have the unique fortune of having experience from a number of different perspectives within telecommunications industry. And those perspectives really shine a light on some core problems that the industry had in how network connectivity is bought and sold. And, you know, after 20 years in the industry of watching the manual processes and challenges associated with that, I decided to solve the problem and start connected to fiber.

What is the elevator pitch of your startup? What problem does it solve? How were your customers solving their pain point before your startup?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Sep 14 2020
our platform. Saul's a number of different things in the go to market process for the connectivity industry, how to effectively along your sales and marketing resource is to the right opportunities at the right time. How to maximize your participation when an opportunity, um, is available in the market with your capabilities, whatever those capabilities are, how toe optimally price. So you win at a higher wind rate or greater margin to drive top line and bottom line growth. And then how to effectively buying connectivity when you're on the other side of the transaction to understand your optionality and what's the best decision based on the data that's presented and you know how people were solving that traditionally has been with manual processes, Excel, spreadsheets, static data downloads and purchases from third parties swivel chairing and bringing that back in in disparate data that may contain some demand information around prospects in the market. Some location data, some competitive intelligence but ultimately is from multiple different sources and multiple different formats, and usually went to an Excel spreadsheet to actually do the What should I do is the next step thought process

Can you walk us through your first few weeks when you started working on this project? How did things change over the next few months?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Sep 14 2020
So I started the company in, uh, in October 2015 at this point. And really? Yeah, I had a pretty good sense for what I wanted to accomplish and why, um, I sat down and built out the goals that I was trying to accomplish to get Thio, you know, a functioning product ready platform that the customers could buy into. What were the specific challenges I was looking to solve? First not trying to do everything all at once, but to get a single use case to the market that customers were willing to pay me money for. And, you know, as I dove in, I recognize that everything is harder than it seems. Everything takes longer than it looks like in an Excel spreadsheet and on paper. And you just have to learn to adapt and, uh, navigate through whatever the market, uh, you know, throws that you have customers give you feedback. Developers don't do something you are looking for. You need Thio, take it in, adapt and overcome whatever obstacle and have the perseverance that you are literally building an airplane and flying it at the same time. It's not gonna all be perfect. You gotta figure out how to get through it

What were the challenges in building the initial team and how did you overcome them? How did the team's composition, dynamics, time, and resource commitment evolve?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Sep 14 2020
the challenge is initially where you know, how do you balance Ah, startup from a cash flow standpoint when you know you have a grand, big vision, but you can't afford to build that grand vision without paying customers actually supporting the thought process. So So challenge number one was What do you pick from a product standpoint, actually, focus on in a never ending, you know, set of choices. Um, s O I went through a process of what we could actually accomplish and deliver best in class results that were completely manual today. And in doing so in a time frame that I could get to cash flow from that product if I got into a market in a reasonable period. You know, that process led us to building the building list management process first, which is the process of, you know, collecting your locations and communicating them to your wholesale customers. A process that typically was excel spreadsheets being emailed back and forth by multibillion dollar companies

How did your venture get its first professional funding? What were the challenges and how were they overcome? How'd your fundraising efforts change in subsequent rounds?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Sep 14 2020
um, it's great question. So my first round was their seed round. I funded the business for the first year on Ben got to a point where we had about 20 customers paying us on a recurring fees and positive feedback from from those customers. I started talking to some venture capitalists about a seed round, really not planning to do it for another year after where I waas just starting the relationships. And one investor in particular, you know, really understood what we were trying to accomplish, you know, spent a lot of time getting to know, you know, where we wanted to go, not just where we were at now and, uh, and ended up in accelerating our timeline and pulling it into a relatively quick process. It was about four months from start a conversation to, you know, funding and getting the initial seed round done. I think you know challenges along the way, or you really need to ask and find mentors. Toe have gone through the process, you know, getting advised on things like the cap table and evaluation theme. The investor agreements with the terms that are in the seed round will, you know, stay with you through life of incremental round. So you know, even though it's a relatively small number compared to what you may raise in the future, you know, making sure you're negotiating and thinking through the implications of the long term, not just capital you're taking in, but all the parameters around that Capitol to make sure it's a good decision. You know, picking investor is like picking a business partner or a partner in life. You gotta really be sure it's the right one. Capital is the ultimate commodity. You know everyone you know out there in a fun has capital. You know, picking the right investor, um, really matters that it's a line to understand what you're trying to accomplish and wants to accomplish the same thing. Otherwise, don't do it.

How did you set the scope for your minimal viable product? How did you get to product-market fit? How did your product evolve over time?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Sep 14 2020
eso We scoped out that initial use case around building list management and, you know, did a survey process with people within the industry. How do you do it now? What are some of the key criteria that a cloud based solution that automated the process should and could have things like the formatting engine That translates the data from, you know, one provider to another provider without anyone having to touch the data schema. All those things, you know, we're done through conversations and, you know, the knowledge that I already had bringing, you know, 20 years in the industry to the table and working with the developers to make sure that we had that minimum set of functional products that deliver the value we're looking for.

Who were your early users? What marketing channels, approaches, and marketing tools did you use to contact users? What worked and what didn't?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Sep 14 2020
eso Our users are, um, customers within the connectivity industry. So I think telephone companies, cable companies, broadband companies that's our customer base and in particular, on the sales and marketing side. Um, you know, our initial uh, outreach to customers was really word of mouth leveraging the networks that we already add within the industry. Um, doing demonstrations to show you know what they could do with our product versus the current way of doing business and excel, spreadsheets and email and why people you know should go there not just to save time and automated steps, but more importantly, thio increase the revenue that they have access to by delivering it more frequently, having it in the right format, having, um, or complete and accurate structure associating with location and, uh and engaging. We also use social media given the low cost and start up mode, using social media Thio, communicate, tell our story, associate ourselves in any possible way with with use cases that were connected to what we're trying to dio

What changes would you attempt in customer targeting, acquisition process, and marketing tools in the later growth phase? Why?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Sep 14 2020
we went into, uh, to an evolution from the word of mouth and social media on Lee to engaging in industry conferences where we could sit down and educate the market. Onda crossed all of it. It's, you know, in education based thought process. First, we went into a process of hiring business development reps who engaged through email co calls Webinars to try to get to that point of discovery and have an initial conversation with the goal of getting through a demo. And once you get a demo and you could talk through the pain that they have with the use cases we saw for, you know, qualify the customer and get into an actual engagement in sales process.

How'd you hire, incentivize, and track the progress of your sales and marketing team including agencies and part-time workers to scale user base?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Sep 14 2020
So we implemented a CRM and a marketing automation tool. We selected help spot amongst the many choices up in the market to track our pipeline from a sales perspective in our marketing activities and the the metrics that that mattered. You know, from our perspective, it wasn't about open rates. It was about getting thio the first meeting and getting that initial engagement. So, you know, we look for marketing activities that drove to those first meetings. We look for sales processes that we're able to convert first meetings, you know, through the discovery phase into a demo and then ultimately conversions all the way to becoming the customer. Um, top line metrics, especially at a young age, is what you should be top of mind. But all probably leading indicators are the better metric to thio. Triangulate your activity around versus lagging indicators like, uh, you know what you did for the month. You can't change that. You need to look at things that they're going to be influenced. Herbal that drive the outcome and demos were definitely one of those key pieces of information that if we had a successful, you know, engagement that led to a demo. We knew we were on a path thio to a higher level chance of a success

Who were your competitors when you started and how did the competition evolve? How did you create a competitive advantage and a unique selling proposition?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Sep 14 2020
our competitors when we started were Excel and do yourself processes and Journal E, which were really competitors because people associate ID that with free Well, it doesn't cost me anything to solve this problem. So we had to help them understand that it was actually costing them hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars based on not participating fully, not doing the right engagement, not communicating Thio all the potential opportunities they could, um as we built out more of the platform into the full, you know, go to market Stack we have today we pulled in competition from really three segments off the traditional outsourcers that will build custom applications for companies. Uh, the CRM, which is, you know, essentially trying to compete with everything and anything these days trying to pull in more workflow and more use cases inside that CRM. And then the traditional OS SBSF software companies that you know have a strength and provisioning or inventory or billing systems. You know, that wanted to do mawr than what they're doing today. Ultimately, we competed across all that, and our differentiation and point of focus is on how we architect the entire, you know, experience around location and bring both software and data to the table. Thio ensure our customers success

What were the major exciting and memorable moments? Were there also any moments that almost got you to quit? How did you get past them?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Sep 14 2020
um, exciting and memorable moments. The first order, the first time customer logged in, hitting $10,000 a month and re occurring revenue. Um, closing our first round of financing closing the Siri's, they hitting a million dollars in re occurring revenue, hitting $5 million in recurring revenue. Um, you know all those air the roller coaster of startup that you know you get. Thio be super excited about hiring the first team member hiring the 10th team member hiring the 40th team member. I mean, all those things you know, bring a lot of pride than satisfaction. You know, Thio the table getting the first contract renewal. Not just the new contract, all part of the process of learning and growing, introducing incremental products and having people not just use them but pay you to use them. It's easy to build software. It's much, much harder to build software that people will keep paying more. For Andi, it's important distinction I didn't have. I haven't had an experience yet where I wanted to quit. This is what I wanted to do for a long time. This is my dream and passion to go and solve this problem. in the $1.3 trillion conductivity market and, uh, make a difference in the industry. So I'm still in the early innings and having fun and look forward to doing more.

What responsibilities and decisions did you handle at work? What were the challenges? What strategies were effective in dealing with these challenges?

Based on experience at: Chief Revenue Officer, Global Capacity
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Sep 14 2020
low capacity. I was chief revenue officer. I was responsible for all sales marketing, uh, customer operation side of the business to create revenue on. But, uh, you know, as a mid sized business, uh, you know, north of $200 million in revenue, you know, the challenges were acquiring new customers to sustain a meaningful growth rate. Managing existing customers, uh, with a mix of network technologies and retaining and compete in a very competitive industry on did uniquely positioned our brand Thio Thio earn more mind share and value in the process for solving something that was meaningful on the connectivity industry.

How did the school prepare you for your career? Think about faculty, resources, alumni, exposure & networking. What were the best parts in each of your college programs?

Based on experience at: Masters, International Business, Saint Louis University
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Sep 14 2020
master's program at ST Louis was very, uh, oriented around international business and had a very strong cohort mentality. Toe work with other industry, um, executives and team members that had experience from global multinationals. Uh, you know, Fortune 500 companies Thio innovative, you know, financial services, businesses and start ups. And that unique perspectives that that the team actually brought to the table into the classroom themselves was just a valuable, if not more valuable and interesting than the coursework itself. So it took a lot out of out of that experience. Thea undergrad experience. I focused on international business there and on finance and using that experience Thio help, you know, think about how business is actually make money and deliver value to the customer. I think, you know, using the coop program at Northeastern that was known for getting put into the real world work experience, not just the classroom, uh, really helps at the tone of, you know, creating a successful career

What three life lessons have you learned over your career? Please discuss the stories behind these lessons, if possible. Stories could be yours or observed.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Sep 14 2020
a couple of life lessons are, you know, perseverance matters. Most people. If you're in a sales career, don't make that next call. If you're in a startup, don't actually do it. Just think about the ideas are in a big business. You know, Don't go the extra mile to deliver in the associate and get customers to to a state of value creation and eso if you have the perseverance to get through the steps, you're setting yourselves apart from the norm. I think you know Number two is, You know, look at the challenge from a customer's lens if you can step back and understand how to deconstruct how they get to value. Uh, there's usually a point for you to create value for yourself and your company. Um, And I think you know, the third lesson is that, uh, you know, having a balance of data driven decision making with the the empathy and, uh, the reality that software does not build itself. Data does not create itself. Software platforms do not sell the self. People actually matter in the equation. And if you can, you know, use the data in running a business with fostering a collaborative, open environment where people want to be. Um, you usually consider this all throughout challenge in front of you.

What starting job (after internship) would you recommend to students who hope to grow professionally like you? What other parting advice, dos, and don'ts would you give?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Sep 14 2020
I think the most important job that I've had in my career is one of product manager. The product manager role is a unique role in the world, whether you're at a software company, a services business or a manufacturer where you have to define Andi, understand how the product actually works from its details. How it makes money, how it creates value for the customers, how you can effectively sell it and distribute it and communicate it around. You have to manage that in a entire life cycle process where it start to finish, and there's iterations through out there that, you know, inevitably, curveballs get thrown in that role of product manager. Once you've done that, you can really do anything. You can go into any path that you want and have the confidence that you can bring value