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THE KEY TO UNLOCKING GROWTH IN YOUR BUSINESS LIES IN ‘GO TO MARKET FIT’

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Tae Hea Nahm is the cofounding MD of Storm Ventures, which invests in tech and SaaS start-ups all over the world. He’s the author of the book series Survival to Thrival: Building the Enterprise Startup, which provides B2B entrepreneurs with all they need to know to grow and then thrive. His latest title in the series, Change or Be Changed is out in April. Here he tells us the secrets to growth and the lesser addressed topic of how to manage it.

 

What business problem for entrepreneurs do your books address?

The first book was all about unlocking growth – the thing that every start-up wants to address. We came up with a concept which we believe is the missing link to unlock enterprise growth. It’s called ‘Go-To-Market Fit’. Many start-ups will know about finding ‘Product-Market-Fit’ (PMF). But even when they find PMF, they still often find it hard to transcend from survival mode to thrival mode. The bridge between these two modes is finding your unique ‘Go-to-Market-Fit’.

 

Tae Hea Nahm

The first book also helps founders anticipate their start-up journey from founding to $1 billion company.

Book two is about what happens after you’ve unlocked growth. Why is change so hard on the team, including the CEO? Our book looks at how the whole company from the team up to the board needs to change their roles as the company grows.

 

So why exactly is growth so hard on the team once it’s underway?

Finding the growth formula is hard to start with. Then once you have the growth formula (i.e. GTM Fit), the company must change its strategy, execution, organization and even its people to scale and succeed.

 

Here’s why: As the company grows, roles change. Yet there is little institutional knowledge passed down to help start-up leaders understand how their jobs change, and therefore how they must change themselves to succeed. Some of what makes people successful in the early stage ironically must be unlearned for the next stage. This theme ofunlearning’ is what I focus on in my second book. Unlearning is an invigorating and transformational experience, yet painful and turbulent for the team, the CEO and the board. Common company culture becomes more important during this stage and the thing which holds the team together.

 

Can you give an example of how growth can be hard on the team?

A classic example would be when the CEO hires the first “Grade-A” role such as a VP of Sales. Adding this is critical to company growth, but it can make a CEO and others uncomfortable. The VP will push everyone in the company—the CEO, the product team, the marketing team—to the next level. They may point out that early customer-acquisition processes that were the pride of the company were actually a one-off, unrepeatable sale, and will demand that the company develop a repeatable sales model (a playbook). Everyone realises that the old ways of making decisions and doing business will have to change. But the good news is discomfort is normal. Embrace it.

 

What sort of companies do you invest in and why the interest outside of Silicon Valley?

We invest in early stage B2B companies all over the world. Many VCs stick to the Bay area but we want to invest outside Silicon Valley, because i) you don’t have to be in Silicon Valley to access the best technology (Cloud, open source etc are available everywhere), and ii) Silicon Valley has a fundamental cost and retention disadvantage. Most importantly, we have seen huge success for our investments outside Silicon Valley.

 

What are the trends you are seeing in the tech SaaS arena?

Rewriting SaaS architecture to leverage AI. Traditional SaaS (like CRM) was architected for automating workflow and built on transactional data models (like Oracle). Companies have been trying to bolt on AI to SaaS. We believe that the application should first be built for AI and then add SaaS. AI is architected to predict behavior and is built on behavioral data models (like Google and Facebook).

 

 

Considering you invest in tech services for enterprises, does your company use super slick apps on a day to day basis – if so, which are the must-haves?

As a small tech office, we find that we must communicate with everyone everywhere. So we use WhatsApp for Europe, and Kakao for Korea, FaceTime for apple users, Google Hangouts for some video, zoom for basic video conferencing. We are constantly adding new communications apps

For our base deal workflow, we use copper as our CRM and Google Drive for document sharing.

 

Tae Hea Nahm’s first book The Company Journey can be found at the following link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Survival-Thrival-Building-Enterprise-Startup/dp/1684014905

 

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Interviews

FINANCE DERIVATIVE INTERVIEW Q&A WITH ULF ZETTERBERG

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Ulf Zetterberg,Co-founded, Seal Software

 

  1. Can you tell us a bit more about Seal Software and your role at the company?

Seal Software created the contract analytics market. It was the first business to use an AI-powered platform with intelligence, automation, and visualization capabilities to enhance the management of contract data. Seal leverages elastic cloud scalability, multi-instance data security, and rapid virtual deployment to support contractual processes at all scales. Machine learning and natural language processing capabilities enable the software to find contracts across networks quickly, and to understand the risks and opportunities hidden within those contracts. The software is applicable in multiple use cases from compliance and NDAs, to M&A and procurement.

With regards to my role, I co-founded Seal Software in 2010, together with Kevin Gidney, who was the CTO. As CEO, I oversaw the rapid growth of the company from start-up to market leading provider for contract analytics. I then oversaw the acquisition by DocuSign for $188 million.

 

  1. What do you believe were the main factors behind the success of Seal Software as a business?

Ulf Zetterberg

Key to Seal’s success was its customer-first approach. Seal was a platform specifically designed for enterprises. As such, it was essential for us to collaborate closely with our enterprise customers to build out a solution that worked for them. This close collaboration allowed us to really understand how we could best automate our customers’ work and provide support across multiple use cases.

 

  1. What are the key challenges facing enterprise software companies looking to scale?

In order to scale and access new markets, enterprise software companies need to make sure their solution is easy to use and that it creates instant value for the customer. Gaining a deep understanding of the day-to-day challenges that customers face is crucial if you are going to provide real value.

As well as making sure your product is accessible and solves a problem for your customer, you need a clear mission. Having a clear value proposition and ROI will allow you to scale your organization rapidly and effectively, in multiple regions and countries simultaneously.

 

  1. What benefits can enterprises gain from scaling internationally? 

As enterprises scale, they gain access to greater pools of resources and knowledge. Sharing experiences and learnings, both internally and externally, across a scaling enterprise allows you to build and share best practices. Similarly, as an enterprise grows, it will gain access to a larger talent pool, meaning it can hire the best people to help build on its success and drive the business forward.

Although there will be differences across an organization that has reached international scale, the world is smaller today than it was ten years ago, so customers in different countries have more and more things in common. As a result, enterprises can draw on these similarities to deliver a solution that solves a universal problem faced by customers around the world.

 

  1. What insights have you gained from being involved in several software and analytics businesses simultaneously, whether that be as an investor, advisor, or board member? 

I currently have over 25 years of experience in enterprise software and services. At present, I am fortunate to hold multiple roles across several software and data analytics businesses. I am President and Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) of Time is Ltd., a productivity analytics company which seeks to create a new market for analyzing how organizations operate and collaborate. I am also investor and advisor to several other software companies, and I have recently taken on the role of board member at Sinequa, a leader in enterprise search.

My key takeaway from the varied experience I have had throughout my career is that the organization, management, leveraging, and protection of data is the lifeblood of most companies. It is the effectiveness of data management that determines a company’s level of success.

 

  1. What experience are you going to bring to your new role as board member at Sinequa and how will that shape your role? 

Sinequa is at an important stage in its growth as it seeks to accelerate its international expansion. The company achieved a strong performance last year, despite the circumstances of the pandemic. It increased its total customer billings by 30 percent and signed new logos across the globe, from global pharmaceutical and healthcare manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), to the second largest energy and power company in the world, Électricité de France (EDF).

I have been impressed by the company’s resilience, and there are hopes that there will be continued growth this year, so I will be looking to help build on its success in my new role. As a board member, I will be drawing on my experience of scaling enterprises to provide guidance and expertise on how to drive global growth, and a key part of this will involve building effective go to market strategies for new growth regions for the business.

 

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EVOLUTION OF THE LIFE INSURANCE INDUSTRY

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by Samantha Chow, LAH Markets Lead at EIS

1.  What problems does the life insurance industry face when it comes to data?  

The most significant problem that life insurers face is how they use data and how it is spread amongst multiple legacy systems.  Sometimes the data is split over at least 25 different legacy systems all through the business.

This data is also typically defined differently between disparate systems. For example, in one system of record, the policy number may be the key identifier for a policy, and in another system, it could be the national insurance number. This makes it extremely difficult to pull data together to get a clear picture of an individual’s policy life cycle or journey.   

Without understanding what the entire journey looks like, tools like AI and ML are only superficial. These tools can only work in situations when it has unhindered access to all the information, during the underwriting and onboarding process, for example.   

With modern core technology, life insurers are able to integrate legacy systems through open API architecture and provide an all-around view of the customer. 

2.       Why is data quality an extensive challenge for the life insurance industry?  

The data is often fragmented and stored in separate blocks for each piece of software being used. For example, claims need access to a data centre in order to access underwriting data for the claims review process. With this data often being disparate over various areas, most of it is recorded manually. 

We are now starting to see the automation of applications and a movement from paper to electronic, but this isn’t happening enough to improve the not in good order challenges (NIGO) that life and annuity providers experience.   

The amount of manual data entry that still occurs creates immediate challenges and challenges that arise later down the line. The mistakes made in the application process will haunt the insurer down the road when it comes to the likes of billing, payments and claims.   

However, life insurers can use solutions such as LexisNexis Risk Solutions or Equifax to help with the onboarding process. These are great solutions and can check for any potential inaccuracies in the customer’s address, telephone number and finances. With that being said, insurance carriers’ archaic legacy systems will still leave space for manual errors, with some even leading to fines. 

3.       How has technology impacted life insurers?   

With 59% of insurers upping digital transformation spend this year, it is clear that they understand how important technology and automation are. However, insurers tend to have outdated legacy and modern legacy solutions, which slow down the insurer’s response to product development and changes.

Insurers will need the technology platform that follows the coretech model to enable an ecosystem to meet customers anywhere, any way they wish, with the products that are fitting for their personal needs, and predict and act quickly in the face of unforeseen circumstances. The emergence of insurtechs, spurred by the development and capabilities of new technology, has enabled insurance firms to future-proof their businesses and provided them with the opportunity to create new value propositions based on the modern customer’s needs.  

Achieving large-scale cost reduction is a significant aim for life insurers and automating manual tasks and simplifying processes will help them reach that point faster. This way, life insurers can achieve substantial advantages and reduce errors caused by human intervention.

4.       Does an ecosystem help life insurers to build their business for the future? If so, how?

Becoming part of a partner ecosystem can help life insurers offer a portfolio of different products and services. This includes capabilities from adjacent industries, technology giants, and the emerging insurtech community. Ecosystems allow insurers to create their own unique fingerprint in the industry while being more flexible to change and evolving as their customers do.

A strong ecosystem provides insurers the opportunity to be proactive, rather than reactive. It gives them to tools that provide the insurer the opportunity to personalise their business to the individual customer and product level and build relationships with their customers. If insurers want to become more innovative, they must continue to produce new products and services for their customers. Transitioning from the “one-and-done” sale to a more interactive, always-on relationship will create expanded revenue opportunities through long-term relationships and brand loyalty.

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