[00:00:00] Rosalyn Santa Elena: Welcome to the Revenue Engine Podcast. I'm your host, Rosalyn Santa Elena. And I am thrilled to bring you the most inspirational stories from revenue, generators, innovators, and disruptors revenue leaders in sales, in marketing. And of course in operations. Together, we will unpack everything that optimizes and powers the revenue engine. Are you ready? Let's get to it.
As more companies are shifting from sales-led to product-led, leveraging product usage, data to drive your business is more critical than ever before. But what are some of the considerations organizations should be thinking about to understand if PLG is right for them and what is the right data strategy for these product usage models?
In this episode of the revenue engine podcast, Aseem Chandra, the CEO and co-founder of a Immersa, shares what he is seeing in the market and how integrated data insights is more critical than ever before. We also talk about the role revenue operations plays to ensure accurate comprehensive data and how revenue team.
Can leverage data to drive the revenue engine. So super excited to be here today with a seam Chandra, the co-founder and CEO of Immarsa. For those of you who are not familiar with the Mersa and Immersa is on a mission to leverage product data, to accelerate revenue and drive growth for SAAS businesses everywhere.
So welcome Assem and thank you so much for joining us.
[00:01:44] Aseem Chandra: Well, thank you, Roslyn. I've been looking forward to this you're known as the queen of rev ops, so I couldn't wait to get on the show.
[00:01:52] Rosalyn Santa Elena: Thank you so much. So let's, let's talk about your backstory. I you've had such a long career in both marketing and in product leadership spending almost 12 years at Oracle and 10 years at Adobe.
So, can you share maybe more about your background and your career journey, you know, prior to Immersa
[00:02:11] Aseem Chandra: For sure. Yeah, so, you know, I grew up in India and studied engineering over there and after finishing up engineering, rather than just take another job, I was seeking an adventure and I had an opportunity to come to the U S through a student exchange program.
And it landed me at a manufacturing company in Columbus, Nebraska at a company that farm equipment. I came out here to a small town and spend a year and a half with this. And it was really interesting as an experience. I, I had a lot of flexibility of what I could work on as a, as an intern. And so I came up with a program to design, farm equipment on a company.
Versus having to do it on paper. And the process that would take weeks and weeks in the past would take like a few hours to get done. And so they actually had me take a seven or eight pound laptop and go from one farm in the Midwest to another. And I'd go to this farmer, open up my laptop and we would design their equipment on the fly.
And so you can think of, think of me as the e-commerce guy. You know, bring the e-commerce to your ranch before there was the internet. So that's how my journey started. And looking back, I kind of look at it and say, you know, if you could, if you could disrupt how farmers designed farm equipment with technology, then you can pretty much have invent any industry with tech.
So that's how the journey started. And then from then I went to grad school at UT Austin. I worked for a semi-conductor. Came out of came out of Silicon valley for a Christmas break and a friend of mine invited me to her workplace. And I was just blown away with the vide over there. And later on, recognized that what she was actually showing me at our workplace was the Netscape browser, which had not been public yet and had just come out soon after.
So I knew right away that I needed to be in Silicon valley and I applied to one company at Oracle and got in a. A fun fact. My offer letter was signed by Larry Ellison as every offer letter was back in those days. So I joined as a product manager moved around within Oracle for several years, and it was a huge learning experience for me.
Product management, marketing mergers and acquisitions for some of the largest transactions that have occurred at that time. With companies like PeopleSoft and CBO. And and you know, can you take away, he's never stop learning. I mean, there was so much to learn about tech and so much to take away from them.
And it just kept me interested in all the different things that were going on. So I stayed for 12 years and then a little known company out of Utah reached out to me, a pro recruiter, and I met the founder and CEO, Josh Kames who was. At the time groaning Omniture. Now we'll see you at Domo. And I think I heard what I might characterize as the first big data pitch at that time.
And it just blew me away and I could see the value of data and how that would change everything from a workload, an applications to data, to an application. So I was pretty excited about that. And the fact the company was in Utah, let me to cause me to pause on it on pain, but then I picked up my bags and I moved to Utah.
I lived in park city. And had a really exciting time that company of course, exited to Adobe a couple of years later. And that's how I was at Adobe and stayed there for about 10 years.
[00:05:34] Rosalyn Santa Elena: Wow. Wow. So Nebraska and then Utah and all over the country, so different, different, different technologies. It's super interesting.
So you know, let's talk a little bit about Immersa, because I think, you know, oftentimes when founders, you know, they start a company, it stems from this personal, or maybe a professional experience or it's a challenge or a problem when you and your co-founder Amman decided to launch. And so what was there, like, was there this sort of aha moment or was there like a specific problem that you face that sort of led you to this idea?
[00:06:06] Aseem Chandra: You know, it's interesting I'm on, and I have both worked in different industries on data problems for the better part of the time. And we bounce ideas off of each other all the time. And it was only, you know, last year that we really started thinking about this particular idea that that you now see as a Mercer.
But you know, from my perspective, I've been in and around the sales organization for about 15 years at B2B SAAS companies and the Monday morning forecast review meeting is a ritual that everybody knows in that space. And if you're in an executive role that the quarterly business review is a ritual that everybody knows, and I've sat through dozens and dozens of these meetings week after week.
And you know, we reviewed these dashboards and metrics and the analyzed data to that to understand what's performing well, what's not performing well and you can get to the root cause, you know, fairly quickly to an iterative process, looking at these dashboards will be either. But my biggest frustration was when it comes to operationalize any of these learnings to take action, to do something different.
Then every tool, every process kind of defaulted to a manual effort between program managers on spreadsheets and emails. So that was one of our core insights is that there has got to be a better way for data intelligence to flow back to every user in their flow of work and to drive actionable. And then I'm on my co-founder had previously co-founded another company called plume design with, and that as a company continue to scale, one of his key observations was that he was getting hit by a lot of requests for data as the head of product and engineering.
And what we recognized is that data is incredibly valuable when you try to combine it from the products. To other aspects of the organization. The problem is that data doesn't want to, it's a hard problem. You know, we, we were armed with these insights and we talked to over a hundred different customer experience professionals.
While we were both, EIRs at Mayfield, who's our primary investor. And we saw an opportunity right away with SAAS companies. There's a goldmine of signals and product data, and it's typically only the product team that has access to those things. And so be asked the question. What if we were to unlock the value of this product data and make that available to teams that actually produce.
So sales and service teams and that's what led to Immersa as we know today.
[00:08:30] Rosalyn Santa Elena: That's amazing, that's great. Yeah, data definitely doesn't, I love the, you, what you just said about data doesn't want to flow to all the different areas. That's funny. So you mentioned Mayfield fund, and I know you spent several months there as what they call an EIR, right?
An entrepreneur in residence at Mayfield Fund, you know, before launching the company. So how did this help you with launching the company and, you know, is there any advice that you would have for entrepreneurs maybe considering this route?
[00:08:56] Aseem Chandra: Absolutely. I mean, it was a game changing experience for us as. I'm an, I'm a first time entrepreneur Amman has, of course this is his third time at it.
But we both spent some time as EIRs at Mayfield. And we were fortunate to be invited into the EIR program by the bean Jetta who's now on our board. And the, the opportunity from our perspective was, you know, we had some ideas that, okay, here's some issues that we see in this data domain, but how do we crystallize that and turn that into a, into a business school.
And the opera, the advantage of being an EIR is it, it gave us the runway that was needed and a platform that was needed to have the conversations with people in the industry. And to clarify our point of view through these, some of these conversations. So the second advantage was that, you know, there's about eight or 10 investors at Mayfield and each one of them covers a different domain and they would open up their point of view and their perspective on their particular industry with that.
And we had the opportunity to sit down and brainstorm with them. And so we learned a lot through that process from other domains and industries that were not familiar to us. And we would typically filter these opportunities through three questions. Of course, the question was, is it a big enough market where we can have an impact?
And then the second question was, is it a hard enough problem? What's hard about it. Why hasn't it been solved? And then the third question that we would ask ourselves was a deeply introspective, which is as a team, what's the unique perspective or point of view that we bring to solving this problem. And so we kind of went through those three filters and that's how landed upon what we're working on today.
We are very fortunate to be working with Nevine at Mayfield he's you know, his years of operating and investing experience. Companies like you know, it's funded and taken public companies like Lyft and Donald and Hashi Corp. Yeah. Has this uncanny ability to bring insight along with us, but at the same time, ask these questions that accelerate our understanding of the.
And raise a conviction around the idea. So if you're considering the EIR route you know, first of all, these EIR programs are very different depending on which venture fund or which accelerator that you're talking to. But the first thing you ought to be clear is who is your sponsor? That you would be working with and you want that you ideally want that to be an individual, not a broader team, so that there's accountability on both directions.
Second is, you know, make sure you asked a lot of questions early to clarify expectations. So for instance, you know, are you going to be working? How much of your time would be spent on your own ideas versus essentially providing expertise to the fund on the ideas that they're evaluating as an investor.
And so in our case about 80 to 90% of our time was spent on working on our own idea. And that was important to us because we were clear that we were going to go launch a company, come coming out of this experience. And then the third piece of advice I would have is you know, set up the, an investment framework.
You obviously cannot land the right numbers ahead of time. I, before you jumped in, so that once you do land upon an ID, There should be clarity on to what degree is the venture fund going to invest and under what conditions and if they don't invest, then how do you take that IP elsewhere to shop it around?
So we had set up the right framework around that as well ahead of time. And I think you know, at the end of the day, it boils down to the relationship that you have with the venture partner and the, and the trust that you can build there that leads to great outcomes on both sides. I'm happy to talk to people who are interested in this offline as well.
In fact, there's a blog post on our website that you want them to take a look but happy to help any founders who are considering this route.
[00:12:36] Rosalyn Santa Elena: That's great. Thank you so much. I think that's really great advice and it's a really very structured way, right? To think about how, you know, whether or not this idea, I guess, that you have and sort of how to build the foundation around. But definitely we'll have to check out that blog. And you said it's on your website.
[00:12:51] Aseem Chandra: Right on Immerca.co look under blog. That's the second blog that we posted.
[00:12:55] Rosalyn Santa Elena: Perfect. Perfect. So we let's talk a little bit about data, right? So we all know how critical it is, right. Have the right data at the right time to the right people, but with so many organizations, right.
Moving to consumption. Or usage based models, you know, having that deep insight into your product usage data is increasingly and just incredibly important. What have you seen, I guess, in terms of SAAS companies moving more into this kind of product usage model and what do you see as some of the key challenges that are, you know, really challenges around trying to bubble up those right insights.
[00:13:30] Aseem Chandra: Yeah. You know, it's interesting, SAAS was a pretty fundamental shift from the traditional on-premise model and completely changed the way that we build and distribute software. But if you think about it, it didn't really change the way you are selling software. It's the same old way. You know, you have account reps going from account to account hosting.
They noticed that expensive restaurants and golf, golf games to sell software and no customer really bought software. They were always sold to. And the idea of a product led growth that originated a few years ago from the open source community where the investment was primarily in the product experience and was seen as a means to drive adoption and distribution.
And then the second idea from the gaming industry that you could actually you know give away product, give away the game. And have users just sign up and then eventually you'll figure out a way to monetize that user base. These were the ideas that kind of led to product led growth as, as a new way of setting software, not just how you build and distribute software.
And so we saw a whole of SAAS companies that just, you know adopted this approach of what the early ones was Dropbox. Right. We would just sign up to Dropbox, start using. It had a bit of a viral component built in because if I use Dropbox and I want to share a file with you, then, then you have to sign up to Dropbox when I sent you the link.
And then other companies pick that same model up. So you had a sauna and then Twilio and now slack and Calendly that are driving massive adoption for this product line approach. And of course the pandemic accelerated this whole move, right? So sales teams would no longer actually be on the road and sell in the traditional.
And, you know, think about like some of the product that we have consumed as a enterprises over the past couple of years. You know, imagine if you had to buy zoom, the traditional. A sales rep calls you, and then you review a very extensive contract and then you negotiate a deal for a six figure deal and takes weeks and months to do that.
And then entire process of how you consume SAAS software has completely changed instead. You know, we just, as an individual, we just go sign up on zoom. And then, then I invite you to participate in the conversation. Then you have to sign up the zoom and before, you know, it, everybody in the company is using the product and then you still have to have a negotiation, but it's after the fact.
And so that's how PLG fundamentally changed. The way software is consumed and the power shifted from executives, making the buying decisions to really end users, making those decisions at a very granular. And so it changes them again, the way that you use data to design software, you have to think in terms of how to optimize the user's journey all the way from when they first experience your brand and then move into your online presence.
And then from there into the product and then how do they actually have that first product experience? With a free tile and then work them into a paid customer. And so the entire process is all about using data to remove friction and automating every possible process so that it becomes a very smooth experience.
And I actually think that both you know, the customer and the vendor benefits through this approach.
[00:16:39] Rosalyn Santa Elena: Yup. Yup. Definitely. I love that zoom example because it does make a lot of sense. And as buyers, I think we are much more informed. We're much more, you know, kind of self, self service is kind of what we're all looking for.
So to that frictionless process, yeah. Companies moving into this direction, like what do you see companies, you know, really doing right. Or doing wrong, I guess when it comes to connecting the dots around that product usage data.
[00:17:06] Aseem Chandra: Yeah. Great question. And, you know, if you work at a SAAS company, then chances are your product team or your engineering team is, has instrumented your product in some way to get an understanding of how that product is.
And there are great you know publicly available applications like amplitude or Mixpanel or Pendo that can instrument that data for product usage. Other times we see engineering teams that pull the data directly into a cloud data warehouse. So usually it's spreadsheets or snowflake or Google big query.
And these are, this is a great first step. If you're not already doing. You should be doing that. That's a great base to start to, just to start to understand how your customers are actually using your product. And it leads to conversations about whips. What is the next feature to build? How do you drive expansion of the growth of your roadmap and so on, but imagine if you were to unlock this data and make that available to your sales and service teams.
And under utilization signal against or under utilization against plan is an early account held signal for your customer success team. Right? So if you're not using enough product and you said you were going to use it, you know, sales customer success team needs to step in there over usage against plan is an upsell signal or a cross sell signal.
So you've consumed as much as you could. And now it's time for you to move to something different or it's time, time to buy. And so that's a great signal for your sales team. You know, if you know, we've all as marketers historically measured, how consumers are customers are coming to our website or a mobile app, and what are they doing there from an engagement standpoint and the use that to drive personalization for our campaigns, but why not?
Product usage data? I mean, product usage data contains a very important signal on what your customers actually value in your product. How do you use that to drive more personalized campaign? And then, you know, another, I point out that we don't typically think about, but if you think about your finance team actually uses that data already to figure out how to accurately build a customer or not.
And they should be particularly for consumption based pricing models, but how do you also then assure, ensure that you're not just billing accurately, but if they're not consuming what they thought they were. That your account execs get involved and help the customer to start to improve the usage of their product.
So that will lead to better retention down downstream. So all of these are use cases that depend on the unlock on product usage data, but you also have to figure it out how to map it to a CRM application like Salesforce or outreach or HubSpot, or support information from Zendesk or, you know, buck tickets from JIRA.
Subscription billing from reg regularly or Zuora. And these are hard problems. You have to apply some intelligence on how to map these across these different applications. And then how did derive something that's actionable that you can then deliver to your sales team or your service team or your finance team or your marketing team so that they can engage at the account level or at the contact level and move things forward in their relationship with.
So these are the kinds of problems that attract us. This is why we found it in Immersa and we love talking about it.
[00:20:19] Rosalyn Santa Elena: Yeah, definitely. I think having that integrated accurate view of data is really, really challenging. Right. Having it always on always accurate. And especially as an operations leader for myself.
Being able to have that accurate connected, you know, comprehensive data is just so important to drive all of the different aspects of revenue as your, as you've mentioned. Are there any tips I guess, or tricks that you might have, so it's sort of help rev revenue teams or rev ops leaders build and sort of ensure that they have accurate integrated data.
[00:20:53] Aseem Chandra: Yeah, definitely. So look, I mean, if you just look historically over the past 10 to 12 years, the number of B2B SAAS applications has exploded. There are over 15,000 SAAS applications today and even an early stage startup a company like ours has about 30 to 35 different SAAS applications that we depend on everyday and more mature enterprise company.
On average, over 280 different SAAS apps that are deployed. So clearly data's become much more distributed than what it used to be in the past. And the first problem is of course, you know, investing in technology that helps you get access to that data, to cleanse that data, to dedupe it, and then combine those datasets.
And then the next set of issues that we see is how do you then derive some meaning out of it. Now, most of the BI tools that we see are great. Forecasting planning, long range sort of QPRs and that sort of thing. But you know, if, if it, my QBR, if I, if I have a thousand customers and I miss or misread the data for 10 of them, it doesn't really make a huge difference because I'm directly still accurate.
But if I'm a sales rep, having a conversation about those. I better have the right data in front of me. Otherwise, I'm going to upset that account in some way or the others. So so there's a different set of problems that you have to work through in order to make that data actionable at the individual level.
And that's kind of what our focus is. We see now rev ops teams starting to pay a lot more attention to this problem. I also see some rev ops teams work far more closely with their data engineers or their data teams, and they have. And in some cases, a couple of, some of the forward leading companies that we've talked to have actually hired data analysts as part of their rev ops team.
So that's new. That's very interesting had not seen that before. So I think there's a lot of, there's a lot of opportunity here and there's a lot of movement that's occurring as the space evolves.
[00:22:45] Rosalyn Santa Elena: Yeah. Yep. Definitely. So you talked a little bit about how companies are kind of shifting right from the sales led to more product led strategy and business models and ways of selling from your perspective, you know, what are some of the things. Companies should be considering if they're thinking about, you know, maybe shifting to more of a product to lead strategy versus sales led.
[00:23:09] Aseem Chandra: Yeah. It's a great question. Well, first of all, why should you be thinking about a product level approach? Well, because a, the the unit economics are fundamentally different for PLG company it typically starts off where the early growth is it as fast as you would expect with a SAAS business, but.
PLG companies tend to grow much faster and for much longer after they hit a certain inflection point, roughly about 10 million in ARR typically. And you know, if you look at how value is created in PLG companies versus the public SAAS index, it's about two X, four PLG versus public SAAS companies.
So there is definitely greater value creation that occurs over a longer period of time. So that's kind of the fourth reason to think about jumping into. Now, if you're in an existing SAAS company, what are your choices? How did you make that transition to a PLG model? Now that's different because you have a huge investment in your existing sales processes, your pricing models, your marketing approach, et cetera.
And one of the first questions to ask is, you know, if you're introducing a new product, why should it not be PLG? And how would you approach that? And then the other question that I ask is what are some of the characteristics of what, of the markets that you serve today that would allow you to transition over time and may not be a complete transition.
There's lots of flavors of ELG, but at least to start the, remove the friction from the buying process, from the discovery process, from the adoption of the. So you can start to approach more of a PLG like customer experience. I think that becomes really critical for you as an existing SAAS.
[00:24:46] Rosalyn Santa Elena: Got it. Got it. I love that. I think that's great advice and a great way to a good perspective on how to look at your business. So, you know, as I think about the revenue engine, right in this podcast, I always, I always hope that others are going to be able to learn how to accelerate revenue growth, right. And really power that revenue engine.
So a C maybe from your perspective, like what are the top, you know, a couple of things, maybe two or three things that you think, you know, CEOs should really be thinking about today that will absolutely have the biggest impact on revenue. It may be some of the things that you've already covered, but what are some of those things?
[00:25:24] Aseem Chandra: Yeah, so I would it's a great question and I would frame that in the context of SAAS companies, CEOs, because that's kind of the universe in which we currently operate. And, and so I, you know, when I talked to SAAS companies and we talked to, you know, a dozen a week there are two types of CEOs that we come across, the data privilege and the data. And what SAAS companies are not lacking for data. It's how they use the data. Right. And how do they actually generate actionable insight? I call them Juul, you know, it's like, it's a, it's a measure of work. Right. So if you can generate a JeWella work out of your data that drives revenue, a dollar of revenue you're on the right track.
You know, so that's, that's, that's the first insight for, for, for CEOs. The second is, you know, whether we, you choose to go with a full PLG approach because you're starting a fresh today and you know, you should ask the question, well, why not? Or you're an existing company and you sell a software the traditional way, but you have to have I mean, if you look back the last 18 months or two years has fundamentally changed the way people buy software and pretty much everything else.
And so we have to ask ourselves the question, what is the way of the future know we've talked about digital transformation of a year. The last 18 months has completely accelerated that from 10 years, we, you know, see that kind of change at 18 months. And so customer expectations have changed and we need to learn what those expectations have now become and transparency in pricing in the product experience, zero friction purchasing process, minimal implementation.
Those are all now standard expectations in the market. So how do you shift your own business to adapt to those expectation? And then the last thing I would say is you know, I fundamentally believe that the business is a people business and your employees are your greatest asset. And you know, this has completely, the pandemic has completely shifted expectations that employees have of their employer.
And as the CEO of the business, you need to recognize that you know, we're a company that was born in the pandemic and we started out as a hybrid model. So we have a great workplace that if you want to come in. You're welcome to, and you can interact with your colleagues, but if you want to step away and do your work which requires so for collaborative work, come in for individual work, stay home and don't spend the time on the commute.
So you have to be flexible with employees to accommodate their needs. And it's a fundamental shift in the way that employees now wanting to work with you. So I think, I think as a CEO, you have to recognize that. So that'd be my three pieces of it. Know, figuring out how to use data to drive work across your organization.
That might kind of work second think about how customer expectations have changed. And third really engaged with employees to learn what they're going through and have some empathy for those shifts, a shift in expectations
[00:28:14] Rosalyn Santa Elena: I love that, I love that that's really great advice. Yeah, I definitely think there's just been a heightened awareness of just employee engagement and people working, you know, where it makes sense.
So, and I love your comment about not sitting in the commute because living in the bay area, that's something I definitely don't miss is spending, you know, two, two and a half hours on the road. So, so as we wrap up, you know, I'd love to really know two things about you. So I was asked this to all the guests.
So one, what is the one thing about you that others might be surprised to know? And to what is sort of that one thing that you want everyone to know about you? Yeah.
[00:28:50] Aseem Chandra: So what others might be surprised to learn is, you know, we're going into the holiday season, right? So we have Halloween and then Thanksgiving and Christmas, and then I'm originally from India.
So we have the Dwali and other festivals coming up here in front of me. And this is not a response you might expect from an adult, but I've been known to dress up as Elvis Presley.
They are somewhere 40 people's phones, thankfully, not on the internet yet, but you know, how can you. Turn down the opportunity to bring up that inner child and have a little bit of fun. And of course, you know, I can send all the chocolate so that works for me.
[00:29:37] Rosalyn Santa Elena: I love that. What about one thing that you absolutely want everyone to know about?
[00:29:43] Aseem Chandra: It could be the same thing. Maybe that is the same thing.
Well, I think that's, that's I think it's a good question. I look, I see myself as an immigrant you know, that came here seeking an adventure and not only did I find it adventure, but I also experienced something unique that this country brings, which is, you know, the values that this company was a country was founded on freedom, democracy, and opportunity.
In a way that no other country can offer. So I realize now that we cannot take these values for granted, that we have to engage in a democracy that Fiserv what we cherish and I hope that others will too. And that's what I want everybody to know about me as where I come from and the fact that I don't take any of this for granted.
[00:30:24] Rosalyn Santa Elena: Love that. That's amazing. Thank you for sharing. Yeah. So thank you so much for joining me. It's been such a pleasure to have a conversation with you. I've just, even before we started recording, I think we had a great conversation as well, and obviously we've met and have had some time to speak to offline. So really appreciate you joining the podcast, sharing your insights. I think there's some amazing advice here for folks who are listening. So just incredibly grateful for your time.
[00:30:53] Aseem Chandra: Thank you. Rosalyn was a pleasure to be on your show.