“We Don’t Sell Fillers Here”

Ron Shah
Ron Shah
Jun 25 · 8 min read

This is a very real moment for us here at Bizly. I am using this opportunity to align on what is most important to our future as a company and team, and how we will serve the world. [And yes, this letter was inspired by Stewart Butterfield’s letter to the Slack team in 2014]

We sell the problem we are solving, not the product

If you work in business, you know that you need to get together with people IRL to build authentic relationships. We all know this intrinsically. Closing deals, understanding the people we work with, building memories, creating meaning. You can’t do that with email and a CRM.

Yet, orchestrating these in-real-life gatherings has always been too expensive and painful to manage. There is a stream of interrelated parts— agenda, guest list, invites, venues, food, transport— this is just the beginning. How about the follow-up: to what extent did we accomplish the mission? What needs to happen next?

It has always taken an army of people, context switching between multiple apps, or trudging through legacy software, to make it happen. Because it is so painful and expensive to create meaningful “offline experiences”, businesses don’t do it enough. Instead, managers resort to another wasteful meeting. Another TPS report. Another frustrating text conversation. Another missed opportunity to inspire, motivate and connect. More screens in between us.

What we sell here at Bizly is a change in behavior — helping teams get together IRL almost as easily as organizing a group text. Making this happen is not a small improvement, but rather, a systemic change to the way we work. We’re selling an ability to build more authentic relationships. We’re selling an improved customer journey. We’re selling a resource that makes employees more productive and successful. We’re selling one of the best ways to feel more human and balanced in our work lives.

We’re unlikely to be able to sell a “small meetings technology” very well; there are not enough people who know what that means or can appreciate why it is important. We’re unlikely to find success as “a filler of a gap” in event spend: that undervalues our importance to organizations. We’re unlikely to sell Bizly as a “procurement tool” as the value of the product goes far beyond control and rules.

However, if we are selling “significant cost reduction around events” or “ clear attribution metrics for events” or “an improved customer conversion funnel” or “75% less wasted time organizing business gatherings”, or “higher performing employees with better retention” or other valuable outcomes of adopting Bizly that impacts the entire organization, we will find many more buyers.

We’re selling the gateway to authentic relationships. Global workforces may be working remotely, but with Bizly, they can feel less remote. Bizly helps to build closer teams, more engaged customers and cultivates more connection.

Building Something That Actually Solves the Problem

We know that we’ve been building something that people have been wanting for a long time. Almost every company that sees the new Bizly product has a visceral, emotional reaction, and wants to explore further. The world’s largest companies and leading brands have jumped on trying it. With signed companies alone, we have the opportunity to serve over 2 million employees which include some of the brightest minds in the world. By serving these 2 million employees, we’ll have the data and experience to serve the next 200 million. The opportunity is truly limitless.

However, no one who has seen our product has ever imagined this solution before. Many of the teams we have spoken with tell us they stitch together multiple apps and manual processes to get the job done. Other teams utilize complex event management software and then are forced to staff this software with additional people just to get it to work. With global business events crossing $1.25 Trillion in spend last year, this isn’t an infant industry. May have tried to solve this problem before Bizly. There have been countless attempts at event management software, registration, mobile apps, venue booking apps, invitation apps, project management tools and the list goes on.

What makes us different? The principle underlying everything we do is “context”. We believe that no two events are created equal. The best events are built around the specific business objective, adjusted to relevant data, localized to the geography and physical space, customized to the attendees and their unique needs, equipped with the right amenities and setup, reflecting the brand and culture of the company, and injected with the unique creativity of the organizers. Combining all of these hundreds or thousands of factors to deliver an experience that actually gets the job done — that is very hard. Making it easy and fun to use — that is groundbreaking.

Events are at the start of our business, but the sky is the limit. Contextualization is the future of work. Through context, we can serve the right options to the right person at the right time. This transcends events and applies to everything we need at work every day — the things we need to buy, the places we need to go, and the resources we need for our tasks. Searching was a great start to the tech revolution. “Getting served” is what is next.

When we think about how much enterprise data has been aggregated over the last decade — fast forward, it feels, to us, that contextualization is the purpose behind it all. The next 10 years will be about using this data to serve humans better. Making life easier, customized solutions to the specific needs of the situation, with the knowledge of the past and a keen sense of the future.

What do we want for our customers?

We want our customers to feel invincible.

Today, if you’re a salesperson and no one is responding to your emails or picking up your phone calls, and you can’t swing by their office — where does that leave you? If you’re a field marketer and you are stretched thin on your goal — how do you find 8–10 hours to do that one extra thing? If you’re a small company and you’re competing for talent with someone who can pay substantially more — how do you stand out? Or you’re a manager and morale is down and everyone is exhausted. These are the draining situations we face at work every day.

Bizly unlocks a new way to tackle some of the most persistent problems we face. We all know that a small event can make a big difference. But who has the time to organize it? Who measures it? How does management approve the budget? How do we rope in the people we need? Also, how do we improve our everyday gatherings, whether it is a catered lunch for our all-hands meeting or a client visit in the conference room?

We want our customers to be relaxed in knowing that we’ve sorted this all out for them. The budgets, approvals, and workflows are all aligned. The resources and collaboration processes are in place. And best of all, the entire workflow is just easy and natural. Our customers must know that we’ll never stop working to keep things aligned — no matter how much effort it takes for us to make it happen.

Now how do we get there?

By working really smart. And hard.

For the past three years, we’ve essentially “bootstrapped” ourselves through VC seed-rounds to weather all the pitfalls and mistakes, battle through hardships and pain of constant change, to land on a product that actually solves the entire problem — a problem that no one has ever solved before. We’ve made significant sacrifices to get to this point. And the early signs have been incredibly gratifying- we’ve already served over a dozen of the world’s leading companies across hundreds of employees who have never used technology to organize events before.

Now that we’ve landed on the product and concept that will take us to the future, it will boil down to flawless, exceptional, near-perfect execution. This will be the “big test” of our resilience. Creating greatness that can serve millions of professionals, with as little resources as possible — using lean principals to guide our way — this will set the stage for an unstoppable growth path. It will allow us to serve humanity, whether the financial markets correct and resources get really scarce, or not.

To do all of this, we’ll need to focus our sights on hiring the best talent in the world. Exceptional managers and contributors, with multi-dimensional experience, guided by the values of diversity, inclusion, and collaboration, who are each empowered to make hard decisions because they have always considered all the little details along the way. We are looking for the harshest critics and most fervent protectors, who are not afraid to look deep under the hood for improvements, and in doing so, help push us to greatness — all while having true empathy for each of the stakeholders, and a mindset of coaching and support for their fellow team members. Working at Bizly has to feel like a treasure and so we must focus on hiring people that make us feel lucky.

Why do all this?

Why not just solve a small industry problem really well? The short answer is that organizational transformation requires real commitment from both sides.

We didn’t come here and make all these sacrifices to solve niche problems. All working professionals need offline experiences, and they need Bizly to make it happen. There is no replacement for Bizly today. Given this, it is our responsibility to serve as many people as we can.

But to really get there, we are going to have to be really good. Our product execution will have to be flawless, as well as our commitment to privacy and security, our constant iteration based on data and feedback, our teamwork and collaboration, our KPIs and OKRs, our investor relations, our sales and account management — all of these elements will have to be synchronized around greatness. This synchronization is everyone’s job — it’s not just a manager’s job. Reflecting our own unique voices and creativity into the process — that is everyone’s job. Discussing the critical flaws to improve, giving credit to team members, elevating to positive action even when there is harsh criticism- that is everyone’s job. We are here to continue hammering out the world’s greatest product for offline experiences. All of our respective crafts are reflected in this product and this organization that we’ve built together.

We have to make sure we focus on excellence so that Bizly is the best possible reflection of ourselves in this world. That is the best “why” there is. So let’s go fucking do it! I couldn’t be more excited.

Thank you Stewart for the inspiration to write this; I borrowed your format because I liked it so much.

We got this, team!

Ron Shah

Written by

Ron Shah

CEO of Bizly, Lifelong Conquerer of Obstacles

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