Delian: [00:00:00] Hi everyone. My name is Delian and I'm a principal at founders fund, a venture capital firm based in San Francisco. This is operators where I interview non VC, non CEO, non founder operators that make the startup world go round. Today I'm interviewing Kyle Spackman SVP of commercial sales at Sword Health.
Prior to joining sword. Kyle worked in sales at Artemis health Marketware and the Utah department of health. I hope you enjoy the show.
Hey Kyle, thanks so much for joining today. Excited to have you on the podcast.
Kyle: No, of course, I'm a big fan of.
Delian: Yeah, sweet. Uh, well, you know, as you probably know, um, I always love starting out, not before we dive into the world of, you know, sort of health and the work that you're doing over there. Uh, the dive in the early parts of your career.
I see, you know, harken back to my Homeland university of [00:01:00] Utah, um, uh, you know, went to school there and then afterwards actually went straight into just like, you know, working in a variety of different sort of like healthcare focused companies. Was that always sort of just like the, you know, coming from a healthcare family or something that are always kind of the focus or, you know, how did you.
Um, in some of these, you know, sort of various, uh, you know, various different groups, uh, both the Utah department of health, uh, you know, and then, uh, afterwards.
Kyle: Yeah. You know, I honestly didn't come from a healthcare family, uh, by any means, but I think I was. Kind of the typical science nerd loved loved school, had good grades and so wanted to go to med school.
Right. And that was kind of the, it seemed like that's what every, every person wanted to do with it. That was at that stage. And so that was kind of my path. Um, when, for the, obviously the science degree in biology, public health was going that route, um, and then decided not to go to med school. And so I liked the lab sciences.
Got a job initially during college at air, at a big laboratory there, and then got my first real job using my actual degree [00:02:00] at the Utah public health department. So at their lab. So it was so just kind of was from the medical path, wanted to do something in healthcare, really starting to like the laboratory stuff.
And then. Um, kind of bounced around a little bit there with different, with different lab tech. So it was really fascinated by the science. I felt like I got to use my brain a lot on the scientific side of things, which was, which was really important to me. And so that's, I think what drew me to healthcare is it's a big problem.
Uh, but it's a need, it's a problem that needs to be solved. And so whether I was on the front lines of healthcare, um, kind of helping individuals and helping push along the sciences that was meaningful to me. And now on the business side, trying to kind of do.
Delian: And then yeah, after about three plus years there, you moved over to a, you know, market, uh, where a physician relationship tool.
Maybe you can tell us both it, you know, a bit about that. Uh, what made you want to jump over into sort of tech, startup land, and maybe even tell us a little bit about the Utah tech startup scene, um, and how that opportunity came about. Um, and then also would love to hear about, you know, kind of your.
Kyle: Yeah, no.
So pure a pure good [00:03:00] conversation with a good friend, to be honest. So I, uh, was in laboratories realizing hat. I want to get more into the business side of things. So I went back, uh, went back to him, my MBA, and was getting into, uh, some sales type conversations and, and positions with some laboratory, uh, Uh, manufacturer's lab, lab, equipment, and reagents.
So talk to a good friend who said, Hey, look, tech margins are, are a lot different from lab reagents. And so that was honestly, it was that conversation. I was like, Hey, let me check out tech. And so youth obviously has this. Uh, growing, uh, Silicon slopes type movement where we're trying to, we've got a fair following of software companies and I we're putting some on the map.
And so I started to see what's out there and a good friend said, Hey, look, you know, you should look at mark aware. He took a chance on me, frankly, uh, to say, Hey, you know, you, you've got the smarts, you've got the business acumen, you've got the healthcare experience. You know how to talk to these individual.
Um, and was able to give me a shot. [00:04:00] And so went in kind of first, first real frontline sales role there at Marketware learned a ton, again, it was working with hospitals and large clinics. And so that the same type of conversations I was having with the same type of people, um, just on the other side of the table.
And so it really was fascinated with, you know, that was kind of my first taste of, I think some people have. Yeah, you can look down on cells. It's pretty easy to look down on sale sometime. And I frankly had done that. And so I, that was my first experience of like, Hey, it's it actually takes some, some strategy, some work, some smarts to do this whole sales thing.
And so that opened my mind to, Hey, there's, there's a real big business need for sales and you can be strategic about it. And it's not just pounding doors. Uh, lie to people to buy your product. Right. So to speak, there was real, a lot of strategy. So I really liked that. And I thrived in that, that environment.
And so a market where was a great stepping stone for me.
Delian: And what were some of the things that, you know, like translated well from the, you know, call it, uh, you know, more [00:05:00] healthcare focus days, uh, versus what were some things. It just like it started playing just like, you know, it felt totally foreign or just like did not, uh, you know, you did not pick up on.
Kyle: Yeah. So look in a, in the startup world, it was all was all about speed. So the speed was vastly different. The, the speed to make a decision, the speed to implement a decision was vastly different in the startup world versus the, the scientific world. The thing, the other thing that was very different to me, that it was foreign for me, was the.
I came from a world of standard operating procedures, right? Like you use this exact amount of microliters of reagent, you do this and that. And if you do it slightly off, like it won't work and your, your asset would fell and you, you would not get the test results. So I came from that world into a world.
Hey, there's not a playbook for this. Like you, you guys gotta do it. And that was really foreign to me at first. But then I found that I really thrive in that environment where it was, Hey, there's a general path, but you've got to bounce around. You've got to think [00:06:00] strategically, you've got to try different things and it's okay to fail failure before was like, Hey, you failed this test and you have to now.
Um, and so failure was never a good thing. It was never, there was never any positive thing from failing. You just wasted reagents and time and money. And frankly, you had to stay late because you had to rerun it. And so it changed failure from an inhibiting factor to something that helps you grow and say, Hey, the faster you fail at things, the faster you find things that work.
So that was the biggest foreign concept to me that really, I found myself thriving in, and that I've tried to live inside.
Delian: And so after about a year, little over of that, um, uh, at marker where you ended up, uh, joining Artemis health as the head of enterprise sales, how did you sort of make the leap from like, you know, at that time you were really only like an icy, you know, sales person to, you know, getting a sort of head of, you know, position, um, and what sort of made you, you know, seriously, seriously consider the opportunity.
Um, and then how was it transitioning sort of from ICU land to actually eat a sort of head of, and, you know, building out a whole team underneath you and, uh, [00:07:00] you know, sort of leading, leading the charge.
Kyle: So to be honest, I had to work to the head of, I went over as an IC, uh, Artemis, and so to kind of, uh, uh, career level position there, that was the same type of position.
Um, I thought a bigger market, a more bigger opportunity there. And so went over there as an individual contributor and to be honest, my, uh, our VP of sales started about three months after. And he had tone from a successful IPO exit. And on his first day he got there and he said, Hey, look, I had a good mentor at my last organization, uh, who, who gave me the opportunity to succeed and kind of made me who I am.
I need the next person, like who's that here in this group. And I, I knew it right then like, Hey, that's me, I'm your guy. That's what I'm here for. And so I connected really well with him. So he became a great mentor, still is a great mentor for me now. And it was just an experience of having to do everything I can to learn and to grow and to prove myself.
And he was [00:08:00] able to give me more and more responsibility very quickly. And so I quickly grew into. Um, that kind of head of the, the employer enterprise side of things and was a great experience. I learned more in those four years than any four years of college, and it was just kind of a crash course in business and taking on new things that you've never done, trying to figure it out, uh, but always had that great mentor to look to look towards.
So it was a great, huge, huge growth period for me and my.
Delian: And you talked a little bit about just like, yeah, what is your, you know, there's so many different philosophies, you know, sort of on sales, everything from just like, how do you approach customers? How do you discuss the problems with them? How do you, you know, motivate and compensate, you know, sort of sales teams, how do you even break up and structure the sales team or, you know, pod base is a pure, you know, SDR, a customer success.
I'd love to hear sort of like, yeah. What did you learn at arguments and what was sort of the philosophy that you took, you know, there, um, uh, or maybe, you know, what you did for mark aware, maybe applied, you know, at Artemis.
Kyle: Yeah. So I would say that one of the biggest learnings that I [00:09:00] had at Artemis was that a sales team and a Salesforce is different company to company and definitely, definitely industry to industry.
So, um, th no fault to my VP of sales. And he came from a pure SAS play in the ad tech space. And so most of everything we did was saying, Hey, let's create a SAS based Salesforce. Um, let's use the same exact tool stack. Let's use the same, you know, BDR to E ratio. Let's use the same solution engineering or to, to R D or a E ratio unless a bill like this.
And there was a lot of things about that that worked in the sense that we approached it very different from. Digital health companies at the time. Uh, so a lot of healthcare companies they're not run like SAS companies. And so there was a lot of positives to that where we threw a bunch of heads at it.
We did creative marketing, we did things different outside of the box and it was, it was hugely successful. I would say that at the same time, We learned things like for instance, in a SAS company, [00:10:00] when you have an average deal size, you know, sub 100,000, you can throw a whole bunch of BDRs at something and you can have a pretty massive team of, of meeting setters or these BDRs SDRs, wherever you want to call them.
And you can scale pretty, pretty linearly that way we found. And so we started with four, we, we doubled eight, we got up to 14 or something and we found inside a digital health. That there's there's diminishing returns. And so there's a lot about the SAS model that works. There's a lot that didn't work.
And so we had to realize, Hey, that part of the SAS model does not work. So when I came to sword, I knew right away, I'm not going there. Right? Like digital health is different. We need different teams. We need different ratios. Um, and he's part of that,
Delian: just like a limited world of like prospects effectively.
Like you can't, you know, you can't just, if I could be like, you know, canvas the whole world, um, it's actually, you know, a more limited set of players. And so you just have to be more strategic with the approach. And so that doesn't necessarily mean just, you know, dialing for dollars all day long.
Kyle: So totally that, I mean, there's essentially 7,000 [00:11:00] targets, um, that are, uh, kind of decent size.
There's a, there's a long tail of those, but there's essentially 7,000 targets. So you can't make up buyers. You can't create a. They exist. We know who they are, you can easily get their name and it's then much more strategic to go after them versus, Hey, let's go find all these new buyers in this location and let's cultivate them.
It's not that, you know, the buyers, you just got to go strategically.
Delian: It's after, you know, four years though, you did end up deciding to join sorta as a VP of sales. And I remember this, um, both, you know, search and time, very distinctly. It was a, you know, crazy Portuguese company that effectively, you know, had, um, you know, had one client in the United States and, uh, you know, weird Bulgarian, uh, on the.
Um, yeah, I guess, you know, what, what, what made you both want to change over given that, you know, I feel like Artemis has gone pretty well at the time. Um, and you know, how did you actually decide to join something that was just say at the time, you know, I think just clearly, um, you know, socio risky, I mean, there was a large competitor incumbent in the space that was doing pretty damn well.
Um, it's not like there's an infinite set of clients that were, you know, here in the United States, you could build off of, [00:12:00] um, and you know, you effectively had to build out an entire team, you know, that was effectively zero, um, at the time that you joined. So what got you comfortable with that risk? Um, and what got you excited to join
I'm bad at this answer, to be honest, people ask me, like, how do you decide when to make a career move? And honestly, I don't know, like, I I'll tell you how I evaluated it. I can't, I can't say anything different than I've lucked in a couple of great opportunities to be quite honest with you. Um, so yeah, look, this is how it sounds sword.
So surgery shout, um, and started having conversations with me about a rep that I've worked with in the past and say, we're looking for how to sales and I hadn't heard of them. Like you said, crazy Portuguese. Um, but I knew the space. Well, I had followed this incumbent very closely. We had common board members.
I had given introductions. Like I knew this one comment very well, this competitor. So they told me what they did at first. I thought, Kay, you're crazy. There's this digging comment. You're not going to do anything there. Then, then they talked to me a little bit about their business model and how they did things [00:13:00] different.
And that started realizing, I had heard some things from clients like. That actually there's a need for that. And so they first had to convince me that their model was different enough from this incumbent. Um, once I got comfortable with that, and I guess the difference of the bat of why it's different was it was, it was clinically superior.
So it automatically started, started speaking to me for my science background, as far as saying, Hey, we're not just a better technology, a better like engineered software. We have a higher clinical. A more efficacious clinical model. And so that spoke to me saying, all right, so like you're doing things more clinical and that's your differentiator.
I can buy into that. And so as I looked back and said, like, one of the challenges that I had at, at Artemis frankly, was we were selling big, big contracts. We sold Amazon, Google, Boeing home Depot. We sold great big logos and it was awesome. The challenge that I personally had was I was selling data [00:14:00] analytics.
And so there's no, like, I was always a step removed from the value of saying, because I did this, like somebody lives a better life than their health care world right now. There was definitely the story. Note, those shots, anyone, there's definitely the story that says, Hey, I giving them data so they can prove what needs they have.
They can address those. He's like, it definitely was in the value chain. I was just a little bit further removed than my scientific kind of. Made me want to be. And so in sword came around gay. There's definitely a market. I knew that, okay, they're differentiated. And the differentiator in a way that means something to me personally.
And it just connected so many passions to me, for me, because it then said they were so connected the value chain of saying, Hey, I'm now selling something that somebody physically uses and avoids pain and decrease the pain of what imports boards life. I mean, combine that with the fact that. On my way home from work one day I was in a car accident, herniated to death, and now I'm literally the walking statistic that half of back surgeries don't work.
I saw the [00:15:00] healthcare ecosystem of saying, Hey, I've got herniated disc, those are physical. Right? Those are physically displaced. I have to have surgery. Like that's the only thing in my mind at the time. And surgeons were telling me that essentially. So yeah, that's the thing. And so anyways, I go through my own healthcare experience that says, I've got to jump through the hoops to get to surgery.
And now I've got this company telling you. No, no, no, no, no. Like we can solve things without surgery and I'm like, okay, like so many things are lining up of saying, okay, this is the next step of my career. I think I'm ready for it. Uh it's it's an, a market that's massive. They're clearly differentiated.
They're differentiating homemade. It means something to. And I think I can, I can connect to this mission because of my personal experience. I feel like
Delian: one of the, I feel like one of the classic things like enterprise sales that people always talk about is that, you know, especially when the, the sort of buyer and the user are so disconnected, that actually matters like very little, what the quality of the value proposition is, right?
Like, this is why the SAP's of the world like end up, you know, being around for, you know, [00:16:00] 40 year contracts is like, yeah, even though it's got terrible software at the end of the day, the person making that decision doesn't really have to deal with it. And just like the switching costs, you're just like, you know, so painful.
And so I guess, like what gave you confidence that, you know, the clinical value proposition would actually end up like, you know, translating to the customers or maybe as like a, you know, the, the flip side of that question, like how have you, uh, you know, thought about, okay, you know, how do I demonstrate this clinical value proposition to make sure, um, debt becomes a part of the actual evaluation?
Uh, when maybe it's not typically a part of the evaluation process when a certain RFP or, you know, customers debating what to, uh, you know, where to go.
Kyle: Yeah. Look, I think that there's such a, I think you're right when there's a disconnect between the user and the value that it's easy to, it's easy to use a bad product for a long time.
Um, and so my thought at this time I saw the product and yeah. And I, I knew that that experience could touch people and could get people bought in that, Hey, this is actually different. [00:17:00] So I knew the product that existed. And I knew that this experience was very different from what I just saw from restored.
And so I knew, Hey, this is because look, this is a mix of technology and service, right? And so it was this, there's an actual, physically tangible medical device that people can relate to and can use. And that's what I was like, okay. I just got to get this in the hands of. And combine that with the fact that I knew that the market penetration was just so low.
So every month. It's going to have multiple, right? You look at diabetes and digital health. You've got multiple multi-billion dollar companies that are both, they're all very successful. So I knew there was definitely room for, for it to be a two horse race. Um, and I knew that if we got the physical product in the hands of people that could see that.
So it was honestly at that though. And I look back, look, I'll be not, no, uh, no shot at Azir, our founders or anything, but I knew Franklin. Look, I've had a little bit of, I've had a couple of good stops. I can have a mark in my resume. And I had a plan to be honest of going in and saying, [00:18:00] if this doesn't work, how am I going to explain it to my next gig to get the next thing?
And I thought I got, I got, I have, I have the ability to take a chance. And I think that's something that's always helped me in my career. If you can, if you can align your career, your life in a way that allows you to take chances that. You can jump on something. And if I was super concerned that, Hey, if this fails here I'm screwed, then it would have been a different decision.
So I took the chance and glad it did.
Delian: And you know, it's obviously you become, you know, much more, you know, modern in like the post COVID era, but at least when you first got started, um, this was a, you know, I believe, you know, just, you know, pre COVID. Um, and so the idea of like, you know, working remotely for a CEO, that's like halfway across the world and you're like the first effectively like employee United States, at least I'm like the go to market side and are like responsible for building out this team.
Can you just talk through like, you know, some of the challenges. What was it like, sort of, you know, in the early days being that, you know, still a person. And then on the flip side, as you've been building it out and building up this team, [00:19:00] um, in the United States, how have you thought about building it out and making sure that there is this sort of like, you know, cross cultural pollination between the, you know, Portuguese, you know, exec team and the engineering team, that's there with the sort of like, you know, us go to market.
Um, especially given that again, you guys were really ahead of the curve on this versus now it's, you know, in some ways, much more acceptable for people to be structuring their companies this way versus back then it was very contrary.
Kyle: Yeah, look, to be honest, I didn't know what I didn't know. Um, and I was, I was concerned, my wife was concerned like, Hey, your, your boss has crossed the world.
How often are you going to be able to be there in person with them? And so I didn't know what I didn't know, but I think the thing that gave me the, the comfort of saying, Hey, this is going to work was, was our CEO. Um, and I remember vividly as going through my final interview processes with. He, uh, he had a son that was young.
It was my son's age. So I think he was around three at the time. And his wife was, his wife was pregnant with her, with their daughter and his son came onto his lap or something [00:20:00] during the call and he let it happen. And he's like, Hey, this is a gal. And so like I bought into, Hey, this, this person's a good human.
And he knows that I'm trying to be a good human and therefore look for across the world. But. We both want to be good humans. And that means that there's going to be limits to things. And so I trusted that they were going to do what it takes to be successful. There's going to be limits to this as well.
And I knew they were bought in on the U S and so if there was going to be any, any demand on this, some of it was fall in there and frankly, they were going to travel to the U S right. Um, and so that it was part of like, Hey, I'm working with a good human being. And so that's what I was like, I can get over challenges that come up.
If I'm working with. Um, and then from there, like, this was my first experience with international. I, with mixing cultures like this, that was all kind of foreign to me. It's been fascinating, you know, um, you know, the conversations that, that our CEO and I have had a brown, I mean, look in the U S we start with, Hey, you did really well with this, but then this sucks.
Right. Uh, but this was good. [00:21:00] And he's, he told he's like, knock it off. Stop saying that, just tell me straight. So it's helped me as a leader to be more. In a, in a non Portuguese direct way, right? Like I'm not saying everything. Everything is perfect. Uh, I hope, I hope be listened to this one that, uh, but I think.
I think it helped me be more direct and it allowed me to take things from their culture and incorporate them to eat to me. And I think vice versa. So I think it's become a real big selling point to us as we hire candidates of like, Hey, there's, there's this whole art, there's this whole other team that's important.
You get to interact with that. You're going to be able to go see, like it's been really, it's been really cool. And I think, especially with COVID, we've, we've had to make sure that with that distance, we do things that, that bring us together. I think we try to, we learn more about each other's holidays, right.
So we know they know what Memorial day is. And labor day, I know at St John's day is that that's kinda kick off. So like we know some of these things and know when not bother them on certain days cause that's important to them. So. [00:22:00] I think we've just had to mix these two cultures. Um, but it's been a, it's definitely been a net positive for us.
Delian: Uh I'm in total shock that, you know, Portuguese and a Utahns communicate differently. I can't, I can't possibly imagine why that would be.
Kyle: Yeah. That's the only difference between us by the way.
Delian: Exactly. Exactly. Um, well, you talked a little bit about like, obviously a strategy that translated very directly from Artemis and that like, you know, uh, you know, 7,000 clients, it means, you know, it's not like you can make customers, you've got to, you know, really strategically I think about this.
Can you talk about, you know, sort of, you know, what else, you know, translated really well, uh, you know, over from Artemis in terms of, you know, strategies on, uh, you know, whether it was structure of the team competitions, et cetera. Uh, but then, you know, what were also some things that were like, you know, truly, you know, sort of net new, um, that really actually did fundamentally change, you know, either the, you know, sales process or how the team was structured because of either the, the market that sort of is going after or the way the solution instructor.
Kyle: So I would say that the similarity is looking at the exact same buyers. It's the same people that signed our contracts [00:23:00] before that are signing them now. Um, and so we took from that, it took, we knew, I knew what worked, what didn't work. I knew the appropriate size for teams relative to others. And so it was a real kind of similar just go to market.
I would say that, um, where we got into differences were now we weren't selling purely. And so I had the strategy of, Hey, when do you pull a solution engineer in to do a demo? It's kind of a one thing. And then you, you go to other, you kind of move on from that demo. Now we've had to really incorporate this, the physical product.
People love it when they. And so we've really had to incorporate that process in the cells that stays in the sales process that might slow it down on paper. It's like, why are you spending so much time doing that? But it's what works. Um, and so we really had to customize the sales cycle to the product I came in with kind of, Hey, we're gonna use the same stages.
We're gonna use the same. Nomenclature for Salesforce and, and realized, Hey, that's not, that's not exactly how it's going to work. We got to enter it. We [00:24:00] got to add a stage. We got to shorten this one late in this one. So it was all a customization thing. Um, a lot of similarities though, to the, to be quite honest, uh, with the addition of you gotta sell towards your product.
So we include our product way more than I've ever included. In the past. I thought we were product led in the past. We're definitely product letters. Um, I would say, you know, another, another similarity that I think is different from, uh, from some others in the spaces we found a real good flywheel, um, at Artemis with everyone wants to close the Pepsis of the forum.
Right. So do I, um, we love it, but there's a flywheel effect that can take place with last parking, right. They have like 5,000 employees that do parking gates across the. And so like you never ever think of these companies, but you can get this flywheel effect with these smaller employers. And so I came in and said, Hey, we need to figure out some specific strategies to help with that.
Not just the PepsiCo's, let's go for the last parking lot of the world, because there's [00:25:00] a lot of revenue, a lot of lives are covered by insurance, by tiny employers. Um, and so that was something that was, I think, different in the industry, but similar to the strategy we had at Artimus, I was able to pull over.
But again, It, doesn't just, it's not a cookie cutter approach. It's all, it's all different. So from these last couple of experiences, you know, really taught me that there's some things that, that transfer company to company. There's some things that go industry to industry, but it's also different if you're, if you're coming in with a playbook, um, and this is kind of the, the first time I'm really been developing the playbook soup to nuts the whole thing on my own, or at least leading the.
There's not a single playbook that works. And so you gotta adjust and if you're not okay with that ambiguity again, thinking back to my science, there's not an SOP, there's not standard operating procedures. You've got to just make it up as you go. Um, and that's, that's the fun of this for me.
Delian: I think also one of the, you know, impressive things, you know, watching you work with, you know, Virgilio over the past few [00:26:00] years has been your ability to scale up with the company as it's sort of gone through your hyperscale, which I think is something that a lot of, you know, executives aspire towards.
Right. Um, you know, when you joined, uh, you know, the company was maybe, you know, ever so slightly, or, you know, in the midst of basically, you know, closing, uh, you know, the series B, which, you know, today's nomenclature would honestly be more of like a series. Um, and you know, now you guys effectively you to close your series D massively expanded the team, um, gone through, you know, sort of crazy hyper growth on the revenue customer, um, you know, actual customer success and implementations and patients on board, like, you know, everything has just gone through hyperscale.
And at the same time, a year in, you actually got started promoted from not just, you know, You know, sales, but you know, sort of as VP of all commercial, what do you feel like, you know, uh, where some of the things that you did that sort of allows you to scale with the company at that level, right? Are they like, you know, most executives it's just difficult to, you know, scale yourself.
In an exponential way, right? Like companies can grow exponentially. It's a lot harder for people to grow their own skills, responsibilities, et cetera, you know, um, you know, exponentially versus, you know, requiring sort of, you know, outside help [00:27:00] or, you know, going out and helping leading a CRO search, um, to, you know, have somebody that can act as that, you know, mentor, um, that is gonna be, you know, dealt with sort of larger scale teams and problems.
What do you feel like you did that allowed you to sort of scale, you know, with the company
Kyle: first and foremost? I think I was honest with myself and honest. I think it's look, we all try to fake it till we make it. Um, like, and I'm not saying I never do that, but I think that it's, I do that a lot, frankly, but I think that it's all about I came in the plan was they were gonna hire a chief revenue officer over me.
Um, and we were actively going through that process as we went. And so I took that as a challenge. Every time the, uh, interviewed someone, I'd say, let me interview alongside them. Right? Like, let me do the challenge set. I want your feedback. And I was really, I try to be really open and honest with them as Savara is and encourage him to be open.
And on his back to me of saying, this is what I'm good at now, this is my gap. There is a clear gap here. How do I get across that gap? Give me some, uh, some chances to do that. And I'm going to be. [00:28:00] I'm going to be a quick study and try to get over that gap. So if you, if you pretend like there's not gaps, uh, in, in the Portuguese again, they don't pretend there's not gaps.
There's a gap, you know, there's a gap, right? That's the good thing about these different culture communication styles. And so you gotta be honest with what the gaps are and you gotta own it and say, I got it. How do I figure out how to get over this gap? Because he was very clear, um, like saying, Hey look, the Spotify.
Um, is you hire people that essentially are good. They stay with you for two years and the company's going to grow much faster than them, and they did their time and it was a great experience and you appreciate their work and you help them find the next. But it's rare for leaders to kind of stay on longer than two years.
The company is growing too fast. And so he was honest with me that like, Hey, that's, that's, that's probably what's going to happen. And I was honest that like, yeah, that's probably what's going to happen unless I, unless I'm honest with myself that these are the gaps and then work like mad to fix those gaps.
So if you don't have Stockholm syndrome, uh, like I, [00:29:00] I definitely have had Stockholm syndrome thing. Like, what am I doing here? But then you just got to. Uh, balanced that with the reality that, Hey, there's gaps and I got to fix those and I got.
Delian: And can you dive a bit into the dynamics of just like, you know, what is it like either these types of, you know, deals are so complex relative to just call it like your standard enterprise SAS deal, where it's just like, you're dealing with like the, you know, dev team and you're like, you know, selling to them.
And it's like, you know, a piece of software versus here as much as they call it, like, you know, fortune 500 company you're dealing with like probably a chief medical officer. And by the way, the like, you know, deal, isn't like some fixed amount of revenue it's entirely based off of like usage. And so you then have.
The post-deal success. And then by the way, they like outcomes have to be good because if two or three years down the line, you don't have like, you know, healthy patients that like, you know, ultimately, you know, people aren't going to be, you know, super-stoked on the product. Can you just talk through like, in a more integrated way of.
What is it like getting a deal like this over the line? And what are maybe some of like the, you know, nuances of like the signaling of like, Hey, you know, you're not gonna get Walmart on day one, but Walmart actually really respects [00:30:00] Fry's electronics, even though fries is a fucking, like, you know, random retailer, but it turns out they're the ones that is always the tip of the curve on, you know, adoption of benefits.
And so you actually got to go that kingmaker first, uh, you know, before I ever go into Walmart, just a little bit of like the nuances of this, uh, of this world.
Kyle: Totally. Yeah. So look, we, there's no denying that the incumbent, uh, in our space, when we started help to catapult our growth, they had kind of educated the market that there's a need for this, so that their evaluations that were taking place half the challenge with this, because to your point, there's not like one thing on an engineering team that you say, Hey, your engineering team is spending too much time on this.
I can decrease that. Increase their efficiency. Cool. Right? Like we solve this problem. It's like, Hey, healthcare is this immensely overpaid budget line item for you. And everyone has been talking about this forever. Everyone's been pitching you solutions to this, but I've got a solution, right? And so half of it is just convincing people that [00:31:00] there's a different way to think in a different way to do things and keep in mind this isn't to your point earlier, this isn't like an engineer using a different software than they used in the past.
This is like, Hey, instead of seeing this physician or this physical therapist that lives down the street, We want you to do it digitally. So it's a complete reworking and that the employer, you know, they, they have, they have the responsibility for their members to do what's right. And if they then say, use this thing for your health care, it's kind of a, that's a, that's a big deal.
And there, that's not a responsibility to take lightly. So to your point, I think it's all about like, you've got to navigate these things and there is there it's, it's navigating the market as much as it's navigating. So your, your fries and Walmart example, we took, we took a, we had a very strategic initiative to go find one very key employer that we knew was from center.
That was on the speaking circuit that people looked at. And in 2020, our [00:32:00] first year we won. Uh, they've got around 230,000 lives. And we, we really leaned into that and we used every advisor. I mean, I'm sure you and I were on the phone, but like we used everything we could to wouldn't Pepsi and we knew, Hey, if we win.
That's going to signal to the market. That we're the real deal. They're going to speak with us. They've spoken with us several times now and it worked. And so it's playing the market as much as it's playing the deal, the market signals each deal, Hey, people are doing this. You should evaluate this. Once someone tries to do about it besides evaluate it's easy.
Um, it's getting them to evaluate and it's getting them to see that you're a real player in the market. So I would say half the challenge has been navigating the market as much as the deal.
Delian: And have you guys thought about, you know, especially again with this type of EO, uh, Product or service, you know, a lot of it is in like the, like post-sale like, you know, success, uh, and, you know, structuring the, you know, incentives and teams, et cetera, in a way such that like, you know, sales doesn't, you know, over promise what's possible and, you know, set up [00:33:00] customer success, not for success, um, or, you know, get someone involved in the relationship such that like, you know, even if they did sell it appropriately, uh, you know, you just don't get the engagement that you hope for from, you know, the members of the, you know, customer, uh, you know, Yeah.
How did you guys initially structure it? Did that work well, did it not have you guys iterated on that structure to make sure that that handoff is sort of like as smooth as possible because it feels like a perennial problem in some of these like, sort of usage-based, uh, you know, call it contracts or industry.
Kyle: Yeah, w we've definitely had our struggles we've definitely worked through. So this is our third comp comp plan that we've rolled out all three years have been very different. Normally I like to kind of lock something in you adjust the rates. It's kind of like easy if that's not been the case, we've revamped that every year.
So I think we're getting closer and closer. Uh, frankly, I thought that last year, and we weren't all the way there, so we revamped. So we'll see, we'll see how this one goes. But I think, look, I think when, uh, when. Like developing the comp structure. And for this handoff, from sales to CS, you want [00:34:00] there to be a healthy level of friction.
You want everyone to be gold on the same thing, but for us, like if we paid ourselves reps and said, Hey, you're done now, it's on the other side. Like, I want them in the deal. I want them to still, to some extent care what happens with that deal, because then they're going to be, their minds are going to be thinking about it.
They're going to be creative and they're going to sell it differently with that. If they're selling it to give it up, Hey, it's done, it's implemented I'm onto the next, like, yeah. There's a lot of value to that from that's their job is to hunt and find you. So I totally get that, but they sell different when they have the end in mind.
And so you've got to compliment that ends in mind. Now on the flip side, the CS team has to be comp the same way so that they're helping to force, Hey, these are the things I need. So every year we've added things of saying we're not counting a deal book, unless you have X, Y, and Z. And so every year we tightened that up a little bit.
Some things mattered last year, that don't matter this year. So we're always tweaking that. But I think this healthy level of [00:35:00] friction of sales wanting CS to be successful and vice versa. It can be, uh, it can be a pain to deal with from a management perspective, but it's healthy and it helps get better deals overall.
And I think it starts at the top, my, our customer success lead, you know, have a great relationship. And I think that it helps a ton when the leaders are that way and then it flows down and there's always going to be contention and friction that sucks deal with, but it's healthy overall. So we're not up there all the way.
Um, but I think the other, the last thing I'll say on that is it's an enablement thing as much as. If the sales rep does not know what causes for a good deal, then they can't do anything about it. And so it's an enablement thing. That's on, that's on management to say, this is what causes for a good deal.
And these are the things you should push for early on. These are things you should avoid. And so it's really on us. They'll sell what we tell them to sell. So even more so here than it, just software, it's been this enablement challenge of, I got to tell them exactly what to do. [00:36:00] In like not what software to sell, but what ecosystem to sell this solution into.
You've got to create that ecosystem. You've got to prove that ecosystem that Hey, marketing access is important and this is who should be able to get this product and things. Those nuances don't exist with software and they do here. It's been a bigger, a bigger enablement challenge that I've dealt with.
And I see
Delian: a part of that is just like the, you know, trial and error from the prior, you know, sort of customers and feeding back in, you know, sort of what worked and what didn't work and studying recently, the ones that had the highest engagement in best usage sources, where, where it, didn't it finding those basically patterns.
And does that ultimately come down on you, is that you coordinating with sort of head of customer success or how do you end up sort of feeding back that enablement, you know, information back into the sales.
Kyle: Yeah. I mean, I think, I think it comes back from, from CS and it comes to my enablement team. So then comes back, it's on sales to, to educate the sales team.
Our CS team does, does a great job. I think they provide the data and then it's up to sales to do something like that. I think, you know, [00:37:00] to, to credit you and the advisors around us though, the, the one thing that I've really. Not the one thing I've have really respected about soar the ability to, to understand what we're good at and to surround us with people that are good at the other things.
And so when I joined visa put a commercial, um, advisory board in place, so we got the old CCO of Castlight of, of MD live as well product. We put these, these people around me. And so we got a lot of this stuff, a lot of these learnings from our advisor network that helped us catapult. Jump a couple layers forward.
And so we know, Hey, enablement's going to be a big thing. And so we don't have to wait to fail. We can implement those things early on. So that's been a big strategy of surround ourselves with people that are better smarter than us, the key areas, and then try to learn.
Delian: It makes a ton of sense. I'm curious also, you know, given that you're so deep in the ecosystem here, uh, it seems like, you know, digital health is having a sort of truly, you know, wanting generation moment.
Right. Um, you know, maybe, you know, that, [00:38:00] you know, ahead of the curve, you know, Lavango and Teladoc, but across so many different, um, you know, uh, either disciplines or, you know, parts of the healthcare system, these types of, you know, digital health, full stack focus players going off, like, you know, self-insured employers and healthcare planes is just, you know, becoming very much the norm.
I'm curious, like. How do you think this just like, you know, market at large plays out over the coming, you know, five years, 10 years, is it that like, you know, this is just going to fundamentally change how healthcare is delivered in the United States. Um, is there going to be some level consolidation is going to be something like Omni channel approach where yeah.
It turns out there's some level of stuff you just can't do without a brick and mortar, you know, for, you know, some really deep conditions and stuff. Uh, well, if you've got the whole contract with sword might as well have to be the brick and mortar one day too. And so you guys are going to be opening up physical therapy centers.
Like what do you think the sort of like, you know, five, 10 year impact of, you know, this massive wave that we're riding is?
Kyle: Yeah, it look as much as I'd say, I want the whole ecosystem to go digital. I don't think it is. I think there are certain parts of the population, certain segments [00:39:00] that like brick and mortar.
I think there's certain things that need brick and mortar. Um, I do think that digital is. Like the pandemic was the best thing that happened. The sword, um, as scary as it was like, uh, joining a new company and then having the world flip upside down, it solidified the need for digital health. People were talking to doctors on zoom that have never, ever considered doing that.
So they were doing that and they realized, Hey, this works. So I think there's a lot about digital health that is here and it will never leave. I don't think I will ever take my child into. You know, for certain appointments, I'll just do Teladoc. I'll just do video because it's so much easier. It shaves an hour off.
And I think there's a lot of people that realize that. So it solidified the need. It's here to stay. I would say that, look, the market goes back and forth every, every decade or half decade from, Hey, let's go to direct to P to people, to these point solutions, Hey, let's go. And then it switches and they say, let's buy through partners.
And it has to be this combined bulk solution that I'm going to bolt on altogether. And then it swings [00:40:00] back. Um, we're currently swinging from people don't want to sign as many individual contracts with point solutions. They want to do things more in a conglomerated fashion. Um, personally, I don't think we're ever going to go all the way there.
There's always going to be these direct things, but there is going to be a lot of consolidations. I think that you will see consolidation both from vendors in the same space, but then vendors in similar spaces, either con consolidation from an actual ownership perspective, or just a simple partnership.
So we've got, we've got partnerships that are, that are far stronger than I would imagined at this point because of. We're, we're not competitive. We're not trying to do what they're doing. They're not trying to do what we're doing, but they're way better at what they do. Then we could do it and vice versa.
And so we're better together, employers and health plans like that. They value that. And so there's going to be a lot of consolidation now, is that ownership, stake, maybe, maybe not, um, in certain areas, but it's definitely from a better together. Hey, let's combine these and we're seeing, we're [00:41:00] seeing employer evaluations right now.
So they're putting out their request for proposals. And just frankly, the other day, we got one from a very large employer and we look at them and say, is this the right one? There's 400 questions. And 35 of them were about us. Like, did they send us the right one? Or, and it's because they want us to be a part of a larger strategy.
So I think there's gonna be a lot more about that, but digital health is here to stay. Um, and there's going to be many, many wins. There's going to be many losers, I think as well as if you, if you can get into the right partnerships, if you can get those right better together stories. The thing that we're seeing right now is for a while here, your technology was not necessarily needed at the initial onset.
Anything was better than nothing. And what we're seeing now is better technology wins and that's where sword was. Well-positioned by staying in R and D mode for five years, we have the most superior solution on the market and. And so I think we see [00:42:00] that regardless of the condition, like to begin with anything's better than nothing, but over time, the best solution, the best clinical, the highest quality solution will win.
So I think we'll continue to see that.
Delian: And maybe it's, you know, sort of final question to wrap up, uh, you know, the chat I'd love to hear sort of, you know, if you're talking to call, you know, a fresh university of Utah, 2021. They want to, you know, dive into this ecosystem and whether it's digital health or beyond just, you know, want to grow into being, I sort of, you know, go to market, you know, executive, uh, while, while living in Utah, what do you feel like are the sort of, you know, where would you point them in what direction of like the type of company would be looking for a stage of company, uh, or just, you know, a major, you know, piece of advice on, you know, just, you know, where to, uh, you know, project the career towards, in order to end up in a situation like you've ended up in.
Kyle: Yeah. So I look for first and foremost, I wouldn't go anywhere for tech. Uh, you gotta be connected tech it's to your, to your question. If this is someone in Utah, but essentially look, there's [00:43:00] not a market. And there you go to Poissy to go to New Mexico, to go to Phoenix, all these kind of tier two tier three markets, they've all got.
So don't go anywhere, but tech that's my first advice. Second, I would say, look, if you want to be in a go-to-market kind of executive role, there's a traditional path where you, you start hitting the phones and you're cold calling people. You prove yourself, you get a junior, a role and you kind of move up the chain.
Um, that's definitely a path that you can take and that's a valuable, uh, valley and path to take. And I would love to help. I love to help people take that path. There's a second route though, that I think is closer to me where, uh, You, you don't have to necessarily take that path. And if you find yourself on a career path, that's not that.
And you say, Hey, I don't want to go back and start from the ground. Started hitting the phones. Um, you just got to believe that you can, that if someone gives you the shot, you can do it. Someone will give you the shot. There's so much growth right now. There's so much ability. There's so much technology and growth that we need.[00:44:00]
And if you can prove that you're talented in one area that you Excel somewhere, someone will give you a shot. So don't be afraid to go for it. Don't be afraid to, to try for a role rather than going from ground up. Um, and so that's what I was able to try to prove with my science background, with my MBA of saying, Hey, I don't, I don't want to start cold calling, give me a shot.
And I took it and I did the most with it. And so I think, look, either pass it pass is fine. Do it in tech. Uh, no matter what job you're doing. Do that job in tech. I have a brother that's in finance and I said, do finance, wherever, like do finance and tech. Uh, and I, and I strongly believe that. So be in tech, take the traditional path, or don't be afraid to be non-traditional.
Some will give you a shot, I'll give you a shot. Um, and I think it's just believe yourself and go for it.
Delian: I love it, man. Well, Kyle, thanks so much for taking the time to chat today. It was a, you know, super great to hear about your whole background and you know, your work with.
Kyle: Now daily. Appreciate it.
Thanks for having [00:45:00] me. Let's chat.
Delian: Thanks for listening everyone. If you'd like to support the podcast, please sign up for a paid sub-sect subscription, which we use to pay for transcripts mikes and other improvements. If you have 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.