Clockwise Co-Founder And CEO Matt Martin Spills The Secrets To Product-Led Growth

Bain Capital Ventures
Apr 13 · 4 min read

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With almost zero dollars spent on marketing or sales, hundreds of thousands of software engineers, research scientists, operations professionals, and other knowledge workers use Clockwise to automatically optimize their individual and team schedules, maximizing their Focus Time and productivity. Matt shares what it takes to spur massive viral adoption of a software product. His keen insights about product-led growth are valuable to any entrepreneur building a software company today.

Clockwise is growing like crazy, and you’ve achieved that without sales and marketing. How have you done it?

It’s true that we’ve made basically no investment in sales and marketing; all of our growth is viral and from word of mouth. For example, at our largest customer, we have thousands of users all without targeting them with ads or outreach. Once a few people start using Clockwise, it spreads rapidly inside the organization. The same employee-to-employee growth has happened at all of our other customers, such as Netflix, Spotify, Pinterest, iFood, and Etsy.

At BCV, we’ve invested in several bottoms-up software companies such as DocuSign, SendGrid, and Redis Labs. Clockwise is also succeeding wildly with this model. Why did you take that approach?

The way our product gets into the hands of users is something we think very closely about at Clockwise. Many companies have succeeded with bottoms-up growth, from Dropbox and Atlassian, to Slack, Airtable, Notion, and Zoom. But we didn’t choose this model because it’s cool. We chose it because it’s the only one that makes sense for our product. In some instances, we’re moving meetings around on your calendar on your behalf.

Once you decided on a product-led growth strategy, what structures did you put in place to ensure it worked?

In the funnel-based sales model, someone lands on a marketing page, they sign up for more info, the sales team qualifies them and then tries to bring the prospect to the product.

But the real power comes when you have a loop, a self-reinforcing flywheel where one person tries the product and loves it, and then you incentivize them to invite a bunch of other people, and the cycle continues.

We use lots of product loops at Clockwise, whether that’s the emails we send on behalf of an organizer to all attendees, our highly-incentivized invite program, or a Slack integration that sends out a visible Clockwise UI to everyone on a channel. We use multiple reinforcers to drive the product loop, and while not every touchpoint will have a viral coefficient greater than one, together they support a land and expand approach.

What lessons have you learned about how work has changed during the pandemic?

There are so many, but one that has stuck with me is how difficult it is to coordinate and collaborate in a virtual environment. You can no longer just look over your shoulder to see if your colleague is in the office, if they are talking to someone else, or if they are doing focused work. Without those visual signals, it is a challenge to figure out when and how to work on something together. When everyone first started working from home, managers scheduled way more meetings, just to have something on the calendar where everyone could connect, but that was disruptive and unproductive.

Remote teams are relying on Clockwise to get visibility into who is free, who is swamped, who is focusing on something. If managers take one learning out of this pandemic, I hope it’s deeper intelligence about how their employees work best, so they can support them to be thoughtful and productive instead of stressed-out and reactive.

Clockwise is one of the fastest-growing productivity apps on the planet. Launching its smart calendar assistant in June 2019, the company saw its active user count grow by 500% in the last year. BCV led the company’s $18 million Series B financing in June 2020. Read our take here.

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