Operators Ep 10 Transcript

Delian Asparouhov: [00:00:00] Today I am interviewing Joseph Abebe, former head of corporate FP&A at Slack. Joseph was the very first FP&A hire, starting when Slack had about 70 people and helped build the finance team from complete scratch. Prior to Slack, he worked at Glassdoor and YuMe. He is currently an advisor and early stage investor to a variety of start-ups. I hope you enjoy the show.

Joseph, thanks so much for coming on today, really appreciate you taking the time.

Joseph Abebe: [00:00:40] Thanks for having me, Delian.

Delian: [00:00:41] So to maybe, get started let's rewind, back to your, IB days. You were, at two different pretty well-known firms, Barclays and Thomas Weisel. What made switch from the, world of IB or traditional finance, from there into, more, vis-ops, FP&A and the stuff you've been doing on the startup side for the past couple years?

Joseph [00:00:57] Yeah. Thanks for asking that. My interest in finance actually dates back to my college days and I was always really fascinated by the financial markets as a whole. I was actually part of an investment club where we pitched different ideas and, so that's what led me to investment banking. And, investment banking's great, you get exposure to such high profiled clients. I worked on the Pandora IPO at the age of 22, and it's a really incredible experience.

But, where I think it falls short is how, it doesn't really expose you to how you build a business, right? you're on the outside looking in, and I remember playing with these models and looking at these growth rates and asking myself, what actually is driving them, right? What are the key levers? What's happening on the inside? And ultimately it was my curiosity, behind that led me to move to, start-up.

Delian: [00:01:43] Makes sense. So your first role, in the world of startups was YuMe. How did that sort of opportunity come up, and, were there things that let's say, came, more naturally, in terms of the world of vis-ops, or what was maybe more difficult, coming from an IB role and diving into the world of start-ups?

Joseph [00:01:56] Yeah, YuMe was interesting. It was at the intersection of a couple of interesting secular trends. One was smart phone adoption, second, video advertising. Th- Those two were gaining speed back in, 2012 and, I met with the team, and I was really good fit and, Allen Shim actually, who was currently the CFO at Slack was a big part of the reason why I joined.

And it connected advertisers with publishers. At the time, the movement from offline to online advertising was a big theme and it still is to this day. But, video advertising was gaining a lot of momentum, and that's what really intrigued me about the opportunity. And in terms of, my role there, I was, business operation hire, so really working with, the publisher side of the house, business development, sales etc. And, I think in terms of what actually translated over well, I would say, the financial modeling, the presentation building, and in addition, really being efficient.

In investment banking, you are pitching so many different businesses and trying to win, new transactions, but, you have to be efficient, otherwise you're going to be end up, spending, very long nights at the office, by definition. And I think those things translated over really well. I'd say what was a bit more challenging was adopting a builder’s mindset. I think in banking it's very transactional in nature. And that shift in thought process was a bit challenging and there was a bit of a learning curve there.

And secondly, it's more of a collaborative environment once you're inside of a company. In banking you control your own destiny, you can work really long hours and put together an amazing presentation, but once you're inside of a company you depend on others for the data you need to do your job. And that shift, required, some adaption.

Delian: [00:03:30] And were there things that made that shift or adaptation easier? di- did you have a manger that sort of coaching you through this, were there particular, I don't know, exercises that you went through, books that you read, pops- podcasts that you listened to? what sort of, helped over the course of that transition?

Joseph [00:03:44] Yeah. I would say, I had a really good manager, a bloke, who, who taught me, the ropes. And just, and being a good listener, I think talking to people, and being slow s- slow to speak and quick to listen so to speak. I think those, were great. Yeah, there were some good books. Good to Great was one, Allen had recommended that we re- read it as a team. And all of those things, together, re- really helped with that transition.

Delian: [00:04:06] Makes sense. And so from there you had a pretty, brief stint in Glassdoor and then went to Slack. How did you Slack opportunity come about? You joined as the, the first FP&A hire in the company with roughly, I believe, 70 people, in total. How did that opportunity, come up and why did you decide to join?

Joseph [00:04:21] Yeah. Left, YuMe and joined Glassdoor on the corporate finance team and things were going great. Company, had a great culture, great mission, and it was really awesome to be a part of. But on a Sunday, Allen, Shim, called me and, said, "Let's catch up." And we caught up and he had joined Slack about six or seven months before, as their first, VP of business operations hire. And he was telling me about the business and how it was growing a lot faster than he'd anticipated. And so as a result of that, the conversation quickly morphed into, from a catch up to a recruiting one really. And, he sold me on the opportunity.

But I actually, it wasn't an easy decision to be totally honest with you. Things were going well like I said at Glassdoor and, I actually ended up borrowing, a tip from Jeff Bezos. He has this thing called The Regret Minimization Framework, a- and really the premise is you project yourself out to age 80 and you look back on your life and you want to minimize the amount of regrets that you have. And using that vantage point, it made the decision a lot easier. I knew if I had said no to this decision I would've regretted it much more than had I said, yes to sticking around at Glassdoor.

Delian: [00:05:27] what did it look like in your first, let's say, 90 days or so, and then how does, the, how does the forecast and, planning process work at a company like Slack where, you obviously have a lot of enterprise customers, but I feel like it's close to the Dropbox model of, lots of consumer adoption and growing into the enterprise? yeah, would love to hear about that.

Joseph [00:05:42] Yeah. To give you some context, the company had, anywhere from 60 to 70 employees, globally. The San Francisco office, the office itself is about 10,000 square feet had about 30 employees. And the first day on the job, yeah, y- you walk in, I remember Allen pull me into a corner and saying, "Hey," "grab your computer." there's a pile of boxes in the corner and, I actually go through the pile and, there was no PC and if, if you know about finance, we're basically rendered useless without a PC [laughs]. And my first OKR, was really ordering my laptop [laughs]. A- and to make matter even worse, [inaudible 00:07:18] walks by at the end of the day and tells me that we have a board meeting in a week and I need to put together a plan for hiring 300 people. So this was, back in January 2015, first day on the job.

a- and, really the role of finance, I was walking in to, basically a blank slate, right? there was no software when it comes to budgeting, no accounting system, no processes, really, I was starting from a blank Excel sheet. And building from the ground up. And I think, forecasting, that's an interesting question, because, the company had just launched the product, say, within the past year, and so there's very limited operating history. And really, we were just laying the foundation, for the organization, trying to keep up with the, exponential growth rate at the time.

I would say things changed, in Q1 of 2016. There was a massive pull back in the markets, for software companies specifically. LinkedIn and Tableau, were two companies that, missed investor expectations pretty badly and everybody was talking about [inaudible 00:08:24] meltdown. And I actually remember one of the Wall Street notes, calling, the title of their article is Winter is Coming, right? And people started panicking and we really had to, educate, management and the organization on our growth from changing from a growth at all cost’s mindset to one of efficient growth. And things like, A/R for employee, burn rate, sales and marketing efficiency became, more, much more top of mind, as opposed to just focusing on a, on top line growth.

Delian: [00:07:36] And what do you feel like worked the best in terms of convincing senior leadership the importance of some of these, levers? Was it, going through projections of the company and potential different end states? Was it comparing it to public market, comps? was it talking through other sort of privately held start-ups and how they were doing and how they were missing fundraisers versus not? how do you put together that argument? What were the most important, let's say, aspects of it?

Joseph [00:07:57] Yeah. You touched on a couple of things we did. I think one was definitely looking at public market comps, describing research reports, obviously having that investment banking background really helped with that exercise. Secondly, really just extending out, the trajectory, right? If you look at our current trend lines and if, if we don't change, we're going to run out of money. This business is going to zero really. And you have to really take these complex topics and distill it for them, so that they can really grasp them and feel like owners and change their mindset when it comes to running the day to day operation of the business.

Delian: [00:08:26] It sounds like relatively blank slate, you had, Allen who had, brought you in, but, seems like there was a pretty limited finance team, and you helped, grow, interview and build out that team. How did you prioritize the various roles, or how did you think about building out the team? Was it complimenting your skillset, was it starting to try to delegate this mu- as quickly as possible? Like, how did you, what were some of the first initial roles and how did you decide on what to build out first?

Joseph [00:08:48] Yeah. Basically, really took a close look at the business needs. We were, and one of the things that was happening is head counts started to grow at a really rapid rate. We were adding about five people a month when I joined. And then that, I think, peaked at about 50 or 60 a month. And that sort of scale, was really difficult to work through. And to keep up with that growth, I hired a business partner. One individual dedicated to the R&D work, so research and development. A- Another individual dedicated to s- sales and marketing.

so if you think about, engineering for example, that department quickly split up into, mobile, there was application, back end, infrastructure, DevOps. And all these different, sub-departments, and the leaders that would accompany those departments, and the volume requests would grow at a pretty rapid rate. So maybe like offsite, soft- new software, T&E' and so on and so forth. And from that perspective, we really need more horse power to keep up, with the head count growth.

And then secondly, systems. There came a point where we were adding so many departments and adding new accounts, in our general ledger and, and moving into new geographies. But you can't build a financial model when you have all these moving pieces. You really need to invest in a software, in a budgeting tool really to help, keep up with that growth.

Delian: [00:09:59] It feels like in some ways most tech companies feel like they have a semi-infinite budget of R&D. I always heard if you have a good engineer, hire them. How did you think about partnering with them or putting vetters are the organization or, it feels like one of the, key things as, finance in a, company that is so R&D heavy, is, figuring out how to appropriately partner and still try to put some vetters on an organization that, probably thinks that it basically has an unlimited budget? Were there things that were difficult with, partnering with that type of team or, what did you find, was most effective in terms of, keeping things, under control while still, allowing the company to do as much R&D as needed?

Joseph [00:10:31] Yeah, that's a really good question. I think resource allocations always a difficult topic, when it comes to, the finance world. I'd say, we really had to adopt a discipline mindset when it comes to allocating these dollars. With R&D specifically, it's a little more challenging, because, with sales at least there's a quota and, it's a little more transparent in terms of how you measure performance. I think with engineering, new product, we actually took a project, based approach to budgeting. And we tried to bifurcate the maintenance related costs, t- versus a new initiative. When you think about maintenance, I'm talking 'bout paying [inaudible 00:13:11].

and using that lens, we were able to say, "Okay, look, we're spending x on, maintaining existing infrastructure and y on new initiatives," and then we were able to attach, specific metrics associated with those new initiatives. For example, you know if you're launching a new product, one would be the incremental revenue lift or would you be able to improve conversion rates, with that new initiative that's launched? Or, is it an engagement, driven metric that you're trying to move the needle on. Maybe it's an existing tweak of an e- feature that already exists.

And being very specific about what the initiative is and what the metric is that you're trying to drive was super important when dealing with, the R&D organization.

Delian: [00:11:45] Were there, types of backgrounds whether it was people from more in accounting, IB, may have been consulting, a mix, some amount of start-up experience, zero amount of start-up experience, what did you end up finding were, like, either the behavioral, personality traits, professional experiences, that translated, well into Slack, and how did you guys think about, sort, filtering, filtering that?

Joseph [00:12:04] Yeah. Talents a great topic. Yeah, o- obviously having some exposure to finance or accounting, can help. But really what I tried to screen were the soft skills. One, skill, for me that was an absolute non-starter was h- how well does the candidate deal with ambiguity? And, in a high growth environment there is so much context switching that happens. One day we're putting out a fire in this area, the next day you're dealing with this challenge. And if you can't handle that context switching, it's going to very difficult for you to perform at a high level.

and, another trait that I look f- out for was curiosity. Do you ask questions? do you challenge the status quo? I think that's another really important one. And then, one that it thinks is under, a bit underrated is trust. As you grow, you have to be able to delegate, different tasks to people on your team, and if you can't trust, I'm, if there's not trust on both sides really, it's going to be very challenging to build a high performing team, and that's moving in unity [inaudible 00:15:24].

in terms of screening for these qualities, it's not easy [laughs]. One thing I did that worked really well was, taking the candidate out for coffee, at the end of the process. So they would do their onsite, they, give them a little bit of, a little project. And once they passed, those phases of the process, I'd take them out to coffee and really just get to know them as a person, really set the expectations properly for what they were getting themselves into, and making sure that there was a mutual fit on both sides.

Delian: [00:13:20] That's actually a super interesting point. I feel like one of the things that's pretty under discussed in, SF's/start-ups more generally are the fact that a lot of these roles, especially early on tend to be super ambiguous. Were there, types of questions or work projects or, things, that were in somebody's, prior career history that would, that you would use to figure out whether or not somebody was likely to succeed in this type of, super ambiguous role or environment?

Joseph [00:13:44] Yeah. I, like I said, I, we put them, we give them a project and have them put together a model, and we would see, I'd bring them on site and then, and, I actually wasn't so caught up in the model itself, I was more curious about their thought process and what their assumptions were, and were they able to defend those assumptions. And, I would throw curve balls here and there to see how well they were able to quick- quickly thing on their feet. But, it- it's one of those skillsets that's very difficult to screen for and, you really have to get to know the candidate and really paint the picture for that candidate about what they're getting themselves into.

Delian: [00:14:19] Once you hire the first, FP&A candidate, or start to build up this team, what do you think is, the appropriate milestone? is it a certain level of revenue, is its certain level of, head count? is it, at some particular, stage of, fundraising? Like, when do you think is like the right time to build out the team? do you feel like Slack did it way too late, was it too early, right on time, and how do you advice, others, to think about when to start to build out that team?

Joseph [00:14:42] Yeah. That's a really good question. I don't think there's a perfect answer for this, but I would say sooner than you think you need one. So if you think you need to hire someone to manage finance at the series B for example, hire them at the A round. If you think you need to hire one at the A round and, maybe budgets are a little tight, then bring on an advisor. And, it's a really interesting topic. I actually was, for the, for your listeners, there's a blog post about this by, Matt Turck, he, FirstMark capital called The Non Obvious Hire. I thought it was really interesting.

and, if you think about finance, the wrap on finance is that it's a cost center, and it's really so much more than that. Think about it, if I had to distill it into two, two buckets, there's the tactical, so dealing with, paying, customer invoice or paying ex- paying invoices, managing the accounting function, employee equity [inaudible 00:18:20] evaluations and so on and so forth. And then there's the strategic, bringing your financial model together, the operating plan, helping establish that operating cadence and rhythm for the business, dealing with investors.

and ultimately what it's really about is unlocking, you're unlocking value by providers to the CEO. When you think about Slack, Allen joined as the first VP of business, the company had 15 employees. By doing so, he was able to, unlock so much value for Stewart. Stewart was able to focus on, building the best product possible, hiring the best talent, and really executing on the company’s vision. And then when I joined, I was able to help extend that leverage even further by really doubling down on finance as a function.

And to really answer your question, sooner than you think you need one.

Delian: [00:16:10] I'm curious, how did the, let's say, you planning process shift over your time at Slack? it sounds like early on, it was basically like a blank slate and there obviously, can't possibly be much of a financial plan if there's not even, really, a model yet. How'd that plan versus let's say, in 2016 versus, let's say in 2018, what was that planning process like, how far out did you plan, how did that change, across various maybe, different functions? and then, how did you maybe, deal with, if there was not expected, either massive growth or a project that, did maybe worse than expected, better than expected, like, how did those plans also, adjust if they got longer term?

Joseph [00:16:41] Yeah. In the early days I would say the planning process consisted of, as a budget first, budget first process, right? we f- we prioritized putting the expenses together, initially. But over time that had to shift, and how it shifted was we really had to push management to align on strategic objectives, right? what are the specific goals and objectives of the company, over the next three to five years? And once you nail those objectives, then we would proceed and then figure out how to resource, the investment plan to achieve those, objectives.

a good example of this was, moving up market and with the launch of Enterprise Grid. If you think about the ripple effects a decision like that has on the business, so product needs to build the right feature set, marketing needs to run new campaigns and, and update their collateral, and engineers need to, make sure that the product meets security, requirements and s- and meets scalability needs, and so on and so forth.

that was a big move for the company, and, once we identified specific conditions like that, then we would go to the VP's and say, "Hey, look, what do you need to hit this objective, and what's it going to take? what do the dollars look like? How many people do you need? Where do we need to hire them?" And I think that's a good example of, how the process shifted over time.

And then I think you a- asked about, the ho- the time horizon, right? yeah. I think every great planning process need to begin with the question, what will the company look like three to five years from now? ho- how much revenue will we have? what do profit margins look like, number of customers, the number of employees? Where are they going sit, how many offices? And then once you've established that vision, then you start working backwards from there, and that will help establish what the goals should be over the next 12 months. So it's not the other way around.

an- and the reason why we need to look at multi-year horizon is because most investments will take, one to two years at a minimum to pay off. When you think about hiring an enterprise sales rep, account executive joins the company, it's going take them six months to ramp. And once they're fully ramped, these sales cycles are really long. It's going take an initial nine months, maybe up to a year even to close some of these large, six figure or seven figure transactions. And you're not going see the returns within a one year timeframe, so you always have to be looking out over a, at a minimum, three year time frame in my opinion.

Delian: [00:18:56] But could you walk through maybe a couple of, the sort of, let's say, high level orgs and what's easy about interfacing with them versus, what's more difficult about interfacing with them? And let's say maybe, marketing ops, engineering and, sales and like that. Just walk through, almost, what is, if you're the sort of FP&A, lead for that particular department, if you're interfacing with them, what parts of, interfacing with the department are easy, sales is easy because it's, very quantifiable, but what's maybe more difficult with sales?

Joseph [00:19:22] Yeah. I'd say, no department's easy [laughs], I'd say every department has it's unique, set of challenges. Let's start at the least challenging. I'd say, the G&A function, that's the general administrative, yeah. Recruiting, HR, finance, we all have to be on lockstep, right? the employees, head count, sensitive data, a- the communication needs to be extra tight there. I think when you move into the, sales and marketing world, it does get a bit more challenging, right? and look, they, sales and marketing, they have really, large goals that are placed on them, right? Sales has to close, rev- hit a revenue target. Marketing has to generate pipeline to feed sales.

and when you're dealing with VP's, so for example, let me pick sales, I remember that, VP of sales would come and ask, about hiring needs, he would say, "I need 100 sales reps." And, for us, we really had to ask the questions as a finance team and we really took a data driven approach to do this, right? we would take a lot at the request, parse it out, parse it into pieces and say, "Look, that's about eight people a month, Can we actually do that? Do we have the recruiting capacity, to meet that demand? where are these, account executives going sit? Do we even have the office, or the real estate rather, to satisfy that demand?

And I think when you take a data driven approach you're able to, really disarm the conversation and make it more about the business and really strip away the emotional piece of it which, budget conversations can get a bit heated. With marketing, similar thing, We would look at, benchmarking data and say, "Hey, look, this is what we've heard or seen, other software vendors are spending when it comes to marketing campaigns." looking at peers in the space and showing that benchmarking information, really helped, persuade the decision makers that, they may not be thinking about it in the best manner possible.

Delian: [00:21:02] You obviously have to, not just, let's say give a financial model as you're going through, this, both pitching process to somebody's department, but also, talking to the executives, but I feel like part of it's also, telling, taking all that complex data and, pulling i- it into a sort, good s- good story. Do you think that's, one of the more important skills for, or something that people should be screening for when they're, thinking about, FP&A, exec hire, or some people, need, the team?

Or what do you feel have been some of the most maybe important attributes, for your, role in terms of, what do you feel like was, key, to, successfully building out a sort of FP&A team at an org like Slack?

Joseph [00:21:34] Yeah. I would say that skillsets of being able to articulate the financial narrative is what separates a good finance leader from a great finance leader. I- it is absolutely imperative to nail that. What good is a financial model if you can't distill, those keys outputs, a- and share that with the organization to empower them and to really think like owners? a couple of examples, externally when you're meeting with investors, your financial model is great, but you really you have to manage expectations with the financial narrative. Is it a high growth or is it a low growth story? Are you investing for the near term or the long term?

and then I think secondly, when you're dealing with the employees, executives internally, you have to be able to really distill those key outputs and get them to rally around the metric, and, and a good example at Slack was, the all hands. We would, take one or two metrics, from our financial model and really put it on the slide and get people to, get excited about where we were going as a company. We did this both from a revenue perspective and an expense perspective. Employees are really hungry to, see how they can impact the organization.

And, one, one clever thing we actually did was we took a one-dollar bill and, showed, on a percentage basis, how much of our spending’s are allocated to Amazon web services versus marketing, campaigns versus head count. And that was really eye opening for the employees, So the next time an engineer spins up, and EC2 Instance, they- they've thought long and hard [laughs] before doing so. And I think, that's just an example of how being able to distill something as complex as a three to five-year model into something that, really what is the atomic unit, that can, that employees can relate to and that they can influence? Because they, at the end of the day, employees want to help. You just going to ha- be able to show them how.

And, another attribute that I think that was really, critical in the success, while I was at Slack was relationship building. I think, bud- budgeting is never an easy discussion to have with senior leadership. They, obviously they have really, they have a really stressful job. They have really important goals to hit, and your job is to really teach them how to do more with less [laughs]. And those conversations can get very heated at times. But, build those relationships, invest in them. Because at the end of the day, the- they're human beings just like you and I, and if you can establish that rapport, it'll make the conversations go a lot smoother, during difficult times.

Delian: [00:23:55] I- It seems like a lot of this stuff went, super well for you, at Slack. But were there, things that maybe didn't go as well as you hoped or, things where you felt like you were out of your league or, mistakes that happened that you ended up having to l- you know, course correct on, over the first, couple of years? maybe on the flip side of, it sounds like there's things that really, went particularly well, but were there things that maybe if you were to, go into a similar org and have a similar role that you would do very differently this time around?

Joseph [00:24:18] Yeah. I think one area that we could've invested in more as a finance team is the marketing to sales handoff motion. I think we fell into the trap of, "Oh, marketing's staying within budget, so all is well," right? But really you need to dig a little further and make sure that, things are mo- moving smoothly u- underneath the surface. What I mean by that is, there's a systems component, to that marketing and sales handoff. You got, conversational marketing was a really big thing at Slack, ho- how's Drift talking to Marketo, right? ho- how's Zendesk talking to Salesforce? as you're adding more software to the marketing stack, making sure that your systems are talking to each other and operating in a very cohesive fashion is super important.

another one is just the fundamentals, making sure that you're aligned on definitions, right? what is elite? is how marketing thinks about elite the same as how a sales person thinks about elite? just align on that upfront. Customer data's another one, right? Make sure your customer data's cleaned up in your CRM. Are the zip codes right? zip codes are what will dictate, re-routing and which customer or prospect should go to which AE. And being very thoughtful and intentional about that's really important. Otherwise you're going end up in these meetings with 10 people, and you look around and you're spending half the hour talking to about what the right definition is, and that's a pretty expensive meeting [laughs] when you think about all the salaries, 

Delian: [00:25:34] I forget how people, talked about it before, but I think it's something on the order of, 10 people in a room is costing roughly 10,000 bucks a, 10,000 bucks a [inaudible 00:30:22], that's a pretty expensive, meeting.

Joseph [00:25:42] Exactly.

Delian: [00:25:43] after a couple years of, FP&A and leading the team at Slack, it sounds like you moved into the world, sales and vis-ops, what led to that decision? Was it, wanting to tackle a new area of the business? and then, maybe similar to the question that I, asked in relation to your sort of first, role, but, basically, what skills, translated over from FP&A versus what were some of the new things you had to, tackle in that role?

Joseph [00:26:02] Yeah. Yeah, so I guess to give you some context, so Slack in the first three years really benefited from, a ton of [inaudible 00:31:00] demand, right? Pro- you know, the company had really strong product market fit, the customers loved the product, really viral growth, and the majority of the customers, already had some exposure to the product. And there came a point where the company had to, really build out an outbound motion, right? and most enterprise software companies do that from day one. And what I mean by outbound is pulled column, trying to win over new prospects. And yeah, this really unique opportunity had presented itself to help launch the sales development function and, really also doubled down on mid-market sales which was working well for the company at the time.

yeah, from that perspective I, I wanted to build again. And I think, this opportunity provided for that. And I think, when you're on the finance side, I would see all these dollars being invested in sales and marketing, hundreds of millions of dollars, right? And I wanted to again a deeper understanding of how these dollars show up in the day to day operations of the business. And how do you the sales orientation from the ground up? Because, if you can have appreciation for that, from within, it'll make you that much better as a leader down the line, whether it's as a CFO, a CO or an investor.

And those are a couple of the reasons. And I think, when it comes to what translated well, I would say, being very prescriptive and data driven when it comes to establishing targets. I think helping an account executive, tie their activities to how they build pipeline for example is a good one. How many calls do I have to make? How many emails do I have to send out? And trying to put brackets around those targets so that they feel like they have a recipe for success. And then I think another big one was bringing that forecasting mindset to the sales organization. Slack was on a path to becoming a public company and, being able to forecast accurately is very critical, to becoming a public company.

And ho- how do teach and enable and empower sales leadership to become better forecasters in their business. That was one that we, was one that I really, brought to the table.

Delian: [00:27:58] Since you, since you've left Slack you decided to start doing a little bit of, operational, angel investing, where, it sounds like you're [inaudible 00:33:13] investing but then, also joining as a, an advisor for the companies. What made you want to start doing that? have you found that to be an interesting way to you know, keep learning from a variety of different companies and, would you maybe recommend to other people at, similar, let's say, life stages or career stages, spend some time angel investing so they, learn from a broader array of perspectives beyond just their own company?

Joseph [00:28:22] Yeah. The angel investing thing is something I've become really passionate about. I did it for a couple of reasons. Number one, it gives me an opportunity to meet with founders and learn about new businesses. Again, that gets me really excited. I'm naturally a very curious person. I love asking questions. And, from that perspective, I really enjoy it. And then secondly, I've acquired so much knowledge. I've seen, so many challenges and think it's a great way for me to, share that, with people, with the future generation of founders.

And I think at the end of the day building a start-up is really hard and challenging and if I can help, founders down the line avoid some of those critical mistakes and pitfalls that I've seen as an operator, I think that'll be great for the, start-up ecosystem.

Delian: [00:29:01] maybe if you, maybe to backtrack a little bit to, maybe earlier on in your career, imagine that there was somebody that was listening to the, podcast today that was a, relatively recent, college finance grad, maybe had a year or two by be- and wanting to get into the world of start-ups, what, where would you recommend for them to go? what stage of company, what do you think is like the best sort of initial entry point that, guarantees success, but also, helps them get into the world of start-ups, and what do you think that process is? I don't know, what the best way you would recommend for people even to, get in touch or reach out to some of these, companies as well?

Joseph [00:29:28] Yeah. I, get this question a lot and I answer it the same way every time [laughs]. I've got this thing I call the three P's, and it's product, people and potential. Number one, do you like the product that the company's building? do you, does it resonate with you? Are you genuinely interested in the problem that they're trying to solve?

number two, people. Ho- are you really, do you really admire the talent that's on board, right? and d- do they inspire you? and more importantly if you're young in your career, you want to have a manager that's going take you under their wing and really invest in you. I was really fortunate enough to have Matt Heist at Slack, and he did a great job investing in me, and it really paid off in the long run.

And then lastly, potential. What type of impact will the company have, on the community, on the stakeholders and maybe even the world? I feel like if you can use those three, lenses to make your decision, your career, will do just fine.

Delian: [00:30:21] Makes a ton of sense. Jo, thanks for, coming onto the podcast today, really appreciate, your time and, look forward to seeing what you end up doing next, whether it's more angel investing or if you dive back into, FP&A, sales, vis-ops, whatever it is.

Joseph [00:30:33] [laughs]. Thanks, Delian, I had a great time. Thanks for having me.

Delian: [00:30:42] Thanks for listening everyone. If you'd like to support the podcast, please sign up for a paid Substack subscription which we use to pay for transcripts, mics, and other improvements. If you had any comments or feedback on what kinds of questions I should ask, who should come on the show, or anything else, please do let me know. Have a great rest of your day.

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