We’re excited to announce the new “Secrets for Scaling” series on the Geckoboard blog, where we explore the stories behind fast-growing companies. For each, we sit down with founders and CEOs of companies who have experienced great growth, overcome product challenges, and taken their companies to the next level. We’ll dive into product problems, leadership challenges, growth opportunities, best practices for measuring success and more.
I was especially looking forward to my conversation with Matthieu Vaxelaire, CEO of Mention for a few reasons. For one, I used to work with Mat at Mention and can’t say enough positive things about my experience. Secondly, we often partner with Mention to use their API on projects such as our Presidential Election Dashboard - so it was neat to learn more about their story. And finally, because Mat has a unique growth story, coming on as Mention’s CEO a couple of months after it was co-founded by eFounders, where he was a Partner. Without further ado, here are Mat’s secrets for scaling!
Since you joined Mention, the team has grown from 10 to 40. Can you tell us a bit more about the growth and who your first hire was?
It’s been an exciting two years at Mention. We’ve grown our team to 40 people, including a 10-person team in New York. My first hire was a head of product to lead us in shifting our focus to a new market and evolving into a more powerful product.
What does your hiring strategy look like? What’s the number one thing you look for in a candidate?
The number one thing we look for is cultural fit. We look for motivated people who will be an owner. People who will take responsibility for their role and exercise autonomy to reach their key metrics. We’re open to creative ideas and celebrate new ideas for reaching their key metrics.
Mention recently shifted its focus to be more on enterprise companies. What was the reasoning behind that?
We hired a head of product two years ago because we knew we needed to move away from the freemium model towards self-service for the SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) market.
The shift was a result of realizing we were leaving money on the table. Our number of weekly signups were skyrocketing and monthly users were growing steadily. We crossed the 150,000 user mark and saw that bigger companies were signing up and buying premium plans. That’s when we knew we had an opportunity to evolve our product to be tailored to them.
I believe that you can’t serve two markets well so we needed to decide between the pro-sumers we were serving with the freemium product and SMBs (self-serve customer with Average Revenue Per Account or ARPA of $60). SMBs just made more business sense for the company.
But that was just the starting point. We’ve continued to evolve our model and approach in response to market changes and are now focusing on mid-market companies (companies with 250 to 5000 employees and an ARPA of $300, closed by inside sales).
We’re now focused on providing analytics to mid-market companies around their online presence. The funnel for this market looks entirely different and has needed new skills to execute on, as well as a different type of support from Account Managers.
What impact on the business’ growth have you seen since focusing on mid-market?
Every change we’ve made has had a hugely positive impact. Our MRR has more than quadrupled over the last two years, allowing us to grow our team by 4x.
What approach/framework/process did you use to decide to make this strategy shift?
Our first shift to a self-service for SMB model was guided by Buyer Personas. We put in a lot of work last year to develop a true picture of who are customer is. Since then, we’ve begun to adopt the Jobs to Be Done framework - which led to the shift in focus and further evolution of our product this year. We realized that we needed to understand what our users were hiring our product to do in order to build the best product for that purpose.
How have you communicated that re-focus to the team? What have been any lessons for you as you’ve managed that change of focus?
I called an all-hands meeting to share the change with the team. And although they were all onboard with the why, they were all initially pretty shocked with the new direction.
In hindsight, I would have shared more of the progress before hand and conducted one-on-ones before the team meeting to answer any questions so that everyone would feel more comfortable presenting any concerns.
As a company, what is your primary goal right now?
To validate our positioning into the mid-market.
How does Mention measure progress against that goal? What are the 2-3 most important metrics?
We validate this position and measure our success by asking:
- Can we generate and convert mid-market leads with outbound sales?
- Can we have a negative net-churn among our enterprise customers?
- Can we sell Mention to companies for at least $4,000/year?
Since Mention is a media monitoring product, what advice do you have for brands looking to better monitor their online presence?
It’s crazy how many companies are underestimating online data. They’re not paying attention to what people are saying about them and customers, as well as industry trends. They’re leaving all of this data on the table. That’s why we’re building Mention to be a business intelligence tool for online data.
Any advice for founders and CEOs experiencing rapid growth and looking to take their company to the next level - beyond early stage?
I have two pieces of advice for founders and CEOs early stage and beyond. The first is that I think people are listening to too much advice. The best way to learn is just to do it and to truly learn from your mistakes and wins along the way.
The second is to focus on one thing at a time. We’ve made the mistake of trying to do everything at once, especially in marketing with social media, content, etc. But we’ve found that it’s much more effective to focus on one thing at a time and do it 100% for a set amount of time. Then, if it works, move forward with it. If not, test something else at 100%.
Do you have a story to tell?
Do you have a growth story to share? We’d love to talk. Let us know in the comments below!