Evan Powell of Reprise: 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SaaS

Authority Magazine
Authority Magazine
Published in
8 min readMay 12, 2022

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Go to market with a solution that meets a clearly identified need, you’ll be cycling uphill if you need to prove the problem and the solution to buyers.

As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SaaS”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Evan Powell, Co-Founder of Reprise, a demo creation platform that helps companies sell their product with their product.

Evan studied International Finance at Tufts University and received his MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management. His passion for working with people is reflected in the inclusive culture he’s built at Reprise and in his personal life. When he’s not exploring Boston with his wife, he enjoys traveling and singing with his acapella group.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Thank you for reaching out. It’s a pleasure to chat with you. My interest in business was sparked while I was an undergrad at Tufts University. The TV show Glee asked my a cappella group to make an appearance, and I really enjoyed handling the contract negotiations with Fox Entertainment.

Sales seemed like it would offer similar challenges, so that’s the direction I headed after graduation. Ultimately, I ended up at InsightSquared, a fast-paced tech startup, where I learned what it takes to build a successful operation in a high-growth environment. It’s also where I met my future Reprise co-founders, Sam Clemens and Bryan Stevenson.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

When I was working on my MBA at MIT, I noticed Sam Clemens, co-founder at InsightSquared, was teaching a Launching Tech Ventures class and immediately enrolled.

It was here that Sam encouraged me to start my own company rather than work for someone else. I liked the idea but didn’t want to become an entrepreneur just to call myself an entrepreneur.

Sam and I had this conversation at least five times before I heard from another InsightSquared co-founder, Bryan Stevenson. His message was basically, “Hey, I was talking with Sam, I have an idea. Do you want to talk?”

When Bryan told me his idea for Reprise, a no-code demo creation platform, I immediately recognized the value the solution would bring. As a former salesperson, I know that demos are historically deal closers, but they require engineering resources and can be glitchy. Bryan’s idea solved these problems and made it possible for sales and marketing to lead with better product experiences.

I told Bryan I wanted to talk with everyone I knew in marketing and sales and see what they had to say about the concept first. If they were all as excited as I was about Reprise, maybe we could move forward in the next six months.

Three weeks later, I was back on the phone with Bryan saying, “let’s do this.”

Meeting after meeting, everyone’s response was, “I want that, please build it. Call me as soon as it’s ready.”

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

We had everything we needed in place by the first week of March 2020. The second week of March 2020, the whole world shut down. We had all stepped away from our respective careers to launch Reprise, and then the pandemic took over.

It was such an uncertain time. I remember going into the store with a mask and face shield on and buying as much food as I could fit into my little city grocery cart because we weren’t sure what was coming next.

While we never considered abandoning the idea of Reprise, there was a moment at the start of the pandemic where we asked ourselves, “Can we still pull this off?

Once the initial panic settled down, we realized a few things. One, everything was in place; funding, team members, and so on. So all we really had to do was focus on building this excellent platform.

Two, the rise of remote work had created an even greater demand for our demo creation platform, and sales and marketing teams were going to need Reprise more than ever.

So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

I hesitate to use the terms “grit and resilience” for a few reasons. Reprise has been very intentional about not building a company with a “hustle culture.” Creating a healthy work environment was as much a part of our initial mission as building an amazing platform was.

Also, even though there were some hard times and challenges, we’ve had about as good a run as anyone could have.

Our solution aligned with the market in such a spectacular way that it generated the kind of pull founders dream about. Reprise never had to seek out venture capital funding, and we had customers waiting to buy our platform before it was even released.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

When I was making our first business plan, I managed to mess up a formula in the spending category. And the net result was that it tripled the amount of money that each department was required to spend for us to scale.

This formula error generated a moment of indescribable panic, which wasn’t funny at the time, but we can laugh about it now.

Mistakes and missteps like these will happen in a startup environment when you’re moving quickly. Put checks and balances in place, so you catch them right away, learn how to do things better next time around, and move on.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Our internal content team recently interviewed the founders and leadership at Reprise, and they asked this same question of all of us. What is special about Reprise? And every single person they interviewed said, “the people.”

The first answer out of everyone’s mouths had nothing to do with our technology, the funding we raised, or the company’s trajectory. The people who work here make all of us want to show up and win every day, and I think that’s pretty special.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Find a space where no one cares about your startup. As a co-founder, especially a first-time co-founder, it’s tempting to feel like you should be thinking about your company all the time. But it’s not healthy for you.

I play Dungeon and Dragons with people I’ve met online every Wednesday night. Nobody there knows or cares what Reprise is or who I am, and it’s awesome. Every co-founder should find whatever that place is for them.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Rudina Seseri, Founder and Managing Partner of Glasswing Ventures, was incredibly supportive of my career from the first day that I met her. When I told Rudina about Reprise, her immediate response was, “that’s amazing, go do it,” even though it meant I wouldn’t be returning to work at Glasswing.

Rudina was also one of the first to support Reprise during our seed funding round, and her faith in what we were creating was so important to me.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app or software currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you’ve taken to build such a large community?

The last time I checked, 3 million distinct visitors had engaged with product experiences that customers like Pendo.io and Outreach made with Reprise. Which is awesome, and that number is growing at an insane rate. But the Reprise community is about more than just a number.

The way buyers want to purchase software has changed, and Reprise is helping the software community understand what that looks like and giving them the platform they need to adapt.

We do this three ways:

We talk with our community about what a Product-Led-Growth (PLG) motion looks like, and why product-led companies are growing faster and more efficiently than their sales-led counterparts.

When community members are ready to lead with product experiences, we empower their sales and marketing teams with the best demo creation platform on the market.

We get in the trenches with our customers, going above and beyond to ensure they have everything they need to get the most out of our platform.

What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users? Have you considered other monetization options? Why did you not use those?

Reprise is a no-code demo creation platform that every software company can use, regardless of its size. It was important to us to create a usage model that would work just as well for an organization with ten employees as it would for an enterprise-level company.

Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful app or a SaaS? Please share a story or an example for each.

Go to market with a solution that meets a clearly identified need, you’ll be cycling uphill if you need to prove the problem and the solution to buyers.

After filing incorporation paperwork, the first question you should ask yourself is, “What kind of company culture do I want to create?”

Set personal and professional boundaries and stick with them, even if when it’s uncomfortable to do so.

Be transparent in your dealings with employees and be intentional about your communications with them.

Get in the trenches with your customers to help them succeed, and they’ll become your biggest advocates.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I think big changes can come from small happenings. We don’t need to wait until we’ve made it big or become a person of influence to make an impact on the world we live in. The choices we make every day and how we treat those around us have a ripple effect.

If you are a founder or want to become one, ask yourself how your company can make a difference in your employees’ lives and the world at large. For us, that looked like a commitment to making a workspace that was inclusive, supportive, and respectful of our employees’ time.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can find me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/evanwapowell/, but will see more of me on Reprise channels like https://www.linkedin.com/company/getreprise and @getreprise.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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