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’.
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 of ‘unlearning’ 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