5 Takeaways for Salesforce ISV Partners from Twilio

Looking back on SaaStr Annual 2017

Jason Lemkin of SaaStr sat down with Jeff Lawson, CEO of Twilio, at SaaStr Annual 2017, and let Jeff tell us the story of Twilio’s path to IPO. I’ve summarized some of Jeff’s most memorable quotes and edited for readability, leaving the substance unchanged. Check out the top five insights and how they apply to Salesforce ISV partners.

Culture is King

“Create the culture you need, as you need it. For Twilio, developers were the initial target persona, so we started with a great engineering culture. Then, when we needed sales to grow, we created a great sales culture. If you have an organization full of engineers, that first salesperson feels out of place and vice-versa. Craft a space for those initial culture break hires and maintain balance.”

Any Salesforce ISV partner is a SaaS company, just like Twilio. Regardless of size, deliberately crafting culture is critical for your employees. Your internal culture never stays inside. Your employees touch your customers and the culture they show shines out like a lightbulb shining out windows. Design it with the knowledge that your customers will see and potentially share in it. Celebrate that fact!

Ramping Sales

“At Twilio, we charge for usage. Everyone starts as a customer at a penny. How do we separate the organic growth from the driven inorganic growth by a sales team? We defined the sale process, and right away we were challenged with no Closed/Won event. When does sales win? At a revenue target? At customer expansion? You must define that target, and you can’t improve what you don’t measure. Measure all KPI’s that you will expect sales to drive towards. Products don’t sell themselves to $300 MM ARR.”

The AppExchange can be an excellent vehicle for initial self-service, organic growth. That works for a while with a single point solution but market-leading enterprise software will eventually require high-touch sales relationships, especially with product complexity or catalog growth. Carefully plan your sales team and the KPIs you will measure them by, and drive inorganic growth according to your expansion targets.

One is Never Enough

We started in 2008 with Voice; 18 months later rolled out the first SMS product. Now the business is majority SMS. The key for us was to follow our customers’ needs. I never want to be a single product company. You become very single-threaded and fragile with one product. Every time you ship, you make a bet that the customer needs what you build and you cannot know until you ship. For me, we needed to get multiple bets out there. Nurture them but don’t be afraid to take a losing effort off the table. Not every hole you drill strikes oil. Having a portfolio of short, medium and long- term bets in your portfolio of products keeps the growth machine turning.

Not every ISV SaaS company can attack scale and growth like Twilio. There’s a lesson to be learned, however, that even a small SaaS company can make serious inroads to growth with product expansion, tempered by focus. Find those growth market opportunities in coincident products and expand your portfolio. Check out this blog post for more thoughts on product management for the AppExchange.

Great Teams Win Over Great Ideas

Every product at Twilio starts with a five-person developer team — never any more. That team both solves and manages one problem, including ops and support. Once problems get bigger than one team’s capacity, they are broken down and many five-developer teams build and operate a problem component. Again, each product is a bet. Having teams that can reliably execute at top quality and speed is how Twilio wins.

I can’t stress this point enough. At CodeScience, it all starts with the people. We hire and cultivate fantastic developers and product owners. They’re the secret to our success. You can do the same with your internal engineering teams. If you don’t have an internal dev team yet, we’ll happily help until you’re ready. The majority of our employees are Force.com developers or technical architects, which means we can spin up variable sized teams quickly and efficiently to match project needs.

Agility Alongside Resiliency

There is a false dichotomy between these two efforts. For Jeff, it’s not “move fast and break things,” it’s a conscious decision to be accurate. Either slow down shipping or understand root cause when a failure occurs. Twilio deploys to production 18,000 times per year or ~100 per day. At that speed, organizational support is required. Twilio uses a mechanism called the Operations Maturity Model to enable those small teams with expertise in: development best practices, testing, architecture, and security. They train these methods and then test that training for improvement feedback loops. Paired with platform services as a safety net, Twilio is able to maintain five 9’s of reliability in the midst of massive regular production deployments.

These numbers, combined with the reliability success are, frankly, staggering. This scale of deployment sets a high bar. The takeaway? Creating strong organizational practices to ensure delivery quality is a MUST. Combine that with rapid development to increase feature release speed and you have the ability to meet customer needs as quickly as they are voiced. Developer operations (what we call DevOps) on the Salesforce platform is a different beast. To solve that challenge, CodeScience developed BuildScience, an accelerator that automatically creates a continuous integration and developer operations landscape — saving months in implementation time and exponentially increasing the number of product releases for SaaS companies. BuildScience helped SpringCM achieve 3x average deal size, 6x product releases, and a 125% increase in close rate.

Final Thoughts

We had a blast at SaaStr Annual 2017! Look for some more session tips, tailored for Salesforce ISV Partners, coming next week. At CodeScience, one of our key differentiators is helping SaaS businesses navigate the labyrinth that is the Salesforce ecosystem. We’ve spent years building relationships and understanding the intricacies of the platform. Want to get to market faster? Or, want to take your simple integration to a full managed package that scales? We’ve brought 90+ products to market on the AppExchange. We can help you.

Ready to learn more? Get a free consultation today on how to get to market on the AppExchange one month faster for no additional cost. Let’s talk.


Originally published at codescience.com.