Awesome People - Ep 51

Bottoms up vs top down growth, go-to-market

Hi founders and fellow VC Friends!

We’re back from a birthday break! This episode is jam-packed with growth tips. Buckle up! You know the drill 🎉.

Each week we deliver one awesome person to your inbox. These are the people you need to know—the marketers, sales gurus, engineers, ops wizzes— who give your startup superpowers. The best part is, everyone is hireable on a part-time basis.

Please meet Sriram Krishnan, Your GTM and Growth Advisor 🚀

Sriram is one of the most helpful people I’ve met since starting Awesome People Ventures. He’s a well-respected investor and runs growth teams. He scaled Spotify from 5 to 60+ markets, HeadSpin from $0 to $15M ARR in 4 years, and increased Tinder’s international market share to account for > 50% of their revenue. Fun facts: he developed Spotify’s price points for > 100 markets in 4 weeks and he’s oddly obsessed with fantasy soccer 😂 .

He’s trusted by Calm, Spotify, Tinder, and hundreds of portfolio companies.

He’s often hired as a Growth Advisor and an interim Head of Growth for Seed to Series A startups. He’s focused on go-to-market and spinning up new inbound and outbound functions. 

Need growth help? Respond to this email and I’ll connect you with Sriram!

He kindly shared 3 go-to-market tips with us 📈

Bottoms up and product-led growth 101

A lot of founders are relying on a successful bottoms up go-to-market strategy. The goal is for an employee to adopt your product and share it across their company. Slack is famous for this approach. People love Slack and onboard their teams without a formal sales or IT procurement process.

Bottoms up growth is dependent on product-led growth (PLG). To succeed with PLG, people need to LOVE your product and share it.

There are two ways to expand within a company:  

  • Intra-persona expansion - people share with people like them, e.g. engineers share with engineers or designers share with designers

  • Inter-persona expansion - people share and use the product across functions, e.g. designers share with PMs and engineers 

Inter-persona expansion is incredibly valuable to build stickiness and isn’t talked about enough. Here’s a good case study: 

I invested in a user research startup backed by Accel and First Round. The product was built for user experience (UX) researchers. In order to improve the stickiness of the product and encourage growth we made 2 key changes: 

  1. We enabled other personas (PMs, growth teams, and marketers) to conduct micro-surveys on their own. This meant making the micro-survey process more flexible and bite-sized.

  2. We made the survey results easily shareable and digestible to fuel internal adoption. 

Figma is also known for intra-persona expansion. The core product is used by designers, but PMs and other stakeholders comment and collaborate. Now PMs advocate for Figma. 

Scale top down growth by hiring the right sales org

Before you make any sales hires, you need to close 2-4 accounts yourself. You want to test for product-market-fit and understand the sales process. Only hire salespeople once you know your product is ready to be sold and you have a reliable process to close leads. 

After you close 2-4 accounts it gets exciting! It’s time to bring on your first few hires to scale your business. But, who do you hire first? A Sales Development Rep (SDR) that focuses on outbound lead generation? Or a Sales Account Executive (AE) that focuses on closing and managing sales? It can feel subjective. Here are questions to ask yourself:

Which is more pressing: building your pipeline or closing leads? 

How you spend your time? Do you spend more time closing customers or asking for customer intros?

If you need to build your pipeline, it makes sense to hire SDRs first. They can build the pipeline, then you can close the sale. After you’ve closed the deal, AEs can take over. If you have a full pipeline with qualified leads, it makes sense to hire AEs first. 

The most important lessons are:

  1. make sure you complete a few sales yourself 

  2. build a repeatable sales motion through a combination of SDR + AE hires 

For your next round of funding, understand your GTM Efficiency 

Later stage investors (Series B+) want to invest in companies that are capital efficient. How much VC money do you need to make $1 in revenue? 

In a dream world: 

Amount fundraised = ARR + cash in the bank

For example, let’s imagine you raise $10M. You spend $2M on product development, reach $6M ARR revenue, and still have $2M still in the bank. 

$10M fundraised > $6M in ARR + $2M cash in the bank is a fairly capital efficient business. Capital efficient businesses don’t need much funding to produce healthy (> 60-70%) ARR returns per dollar invested.

Experiment with channel efficiency early. Track how every $ you spend impacts sales. Is it cheaper to acquire customers via inbound channels like content, community, and paid media or via outbound channels like sales, SDRs, inside sales, and partnerships? 

It’s likely that companies selling into a similar persona, have already figured out channel efficiency. Do your market research, skip the struggle, and quickly test proven channels.

Want an intro to Sriram? Lmk and I’ll connect you!

As always, let me know if you have any questions and if you want an intro to any of the folks in this email (including the PS section 🎉).

Stay awesome,

Julia Lipton

Founder of Awesome People and Awesome People Ventures

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Awesome people role call 😍

Do you know anyone who might be a fit for any of these roles? If so, please send me their LI, websites, or whatever the cool kids have these days 😀 and we’ll try to hook them up!

  • UI/UX designers - One of my portfolio companies, Nooks, is spreading like wildfire throughout Stanford and other universities. They’ve rebuilt the university and other gatherings online. It’s 3 amazing would-be-college-seniors who are all engineers. People love the product, but it desperately needs some design TLC. Do you know a UX/UI designer FT or PT who would be a great fit? If so, lmk.

  • Freelance copywriters - A lot of you seem to need copywriters and content folks atm 😅. Do you have any great copywriters that you’ve worked with in the past? If so, let me know. I have projects for them!

  • Part-time head of e-commerce - A good friend, and founder of LMNT, is hiring a part-time head of e-commerce. This person will manage their other vendors. Ideally, they’re familiar with e-comm, delight in conversion rates, and love user experience. The team is operationally excellent and people LOVE their brands.

Most Recent Awesome People 🙏

AJ - Product advisor and coach. AJ is currently a Director of Product at Facebook and coaches founders on the side. Previously, he sold his start-up to Dropbox and worked at Twitter where he grew Vine to 350M MAUS.

Saminda - CTO coach and advisor. Most recently he was the VP of Apps Engineering at Box and owned the entire user experience for 50M+ users spanning 100K enterprises. You can hire him to help you scale your engineering org.

Kenni - Diversity coach and people ops leader. You can hire her to build and implement DEI recruiting and culture strategies. You can also hire to work with your people leaders to improve their leadership and communication skills.

Want intros to anyone here? Lmk and I’ll connect you!

❤️ ❤️ ❤️