Operators Ep 30 Transcript

Delian:

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 Denise Persson, chief marketing officer at Snowflake. Prior to joining Snowflake, Denise served as CMO for Apigee an API platform company, that went public in 2015 and was acquired by Google in 2016. She also built and led a global marketing organization at Genesys through their successful expansion and IPO before that. I hope you enjoy the show.

            Cool. Well, Denise, thank you so much for coming on to the podcast today. I really appreciate you taking the time.

Denise Persson:

Great to be here with you.

Delian:

So yeah, I'm sure everyone's going to be really excited to hear about your experience at Snowflake, but the way that we like to start these conversations is just rewinding to where you started your career. You started off at a software company called Genesys. It was one of the largest SaaS providers of conferencing and collaboration services, and you started off in marketing management there. And you ended up spending 11 years there almost 12. And you work your way up all the way to EVP of marketing and led the business in corporate marketing, product marketing, comms, demand gen, global sales coordination, a ton of different areas while you were there. How did you expand your scope of responsibilities over the course of your time there? And were there particular areas that really stood out to you? Or how did you even start to figure out what you were good at and lean into that and expand the scope over the course of your time there?

Denise Persson:

And this is really the great advantage of working for a high growth, successful startups is that you get exposure into so many things. So if you do an amazing job, you are going to get amazing opportunities as well. So I got thrown into new responsibilities every six months, and I really ended up doing every aspect of marketing itself during my career there. But actually four years later at Genesys, I was promoted to global VP. So I have been running marketing departments since 2000s, really. So it's been actually over 20 years now where I've been in a marketing leadership role. And it really started with me really getting exposure into all or parts of marketing.

Delian:

And maybe talk us through maybe some of the more impactful projects you've worked on while you were there, the things that you're the most proud of. And it sounds like the company really went through a ton of Harper scale. Can you point to maybe, I don't know, two or three examples of just the things that were the most pivotal that you felt you really contributed to, or had the most impact on the company's growth introductory. And maybe also just give people a little bit of background on what the company does or provides, or what was it that you were marketing?

Denise Persson:

Yeah. So Genesys was very similar to what Zoom is today. So Genesys invented the first automated conferencing service, this was in the early '90s. Before that you had to call AT&T and they scheduled a conference call for you. Most of us don't remember those times today, but that was actually the reality, right [Jordan 00:03:29]? Usually there was the admin to call AT&T and book that meeting for you, and then your phone would ring, and Genesys invented that automated conferencing service. And then we added on things like video conferencing, online presentation services similar to what WebEx was back in the day. That really was what Genesys was all about. I joined the company when where about 50 employees globally, and we grew that company to over 2000 employees worldwide.

            So during my time there building out the marketing function globally, we open up operations in over 25 countries around the world. So it was really an adventure of a lifetime. And that opportunity gave me so much more than just career opportunities. It has had a tremendous impact on my life overall because I was essentially constantly traveling. I was out traveling every week for years. I had most of my life in three boxes. I relocated five times, first from Sweden, Stockholm to Paris. Then I moved to the headquarters in the South of France. Then I moved with them over to Silicon Valley, down to Denver, Colorado. And then I landed towards the end in Washington DC. So just [inaudible 00:04:56] a work can have so much more impact on you than just a career. For me, it really changed my entire life. And just the friendships and people you meet around the world, I think that has been the greatest reward for me honestly, in my career.

Delian:

And then I imagined back then SaaS was only just starting to become a type of even business model. Just at SaaS sales force is really growing, and so I imagine there wasn't much of a playbook around how to market something like this. Can you talk through maybe some of the more effective channels or messaging? Or what were the things that the marketing team was able to do that really helped drive the growth of the company or really helped bring in sales leads or convince companies to switch over from AT&A manual booking to something like Genesys?

Denise Persson:

Yeah. And this was the very early days in SaaS, and essential I've been in SaaS almost my entire career, so we're talking 1996 year. So these was the early days, and the big thing with SaaS was of course the scale you had in front of you. I did, I just spent some time at a computer company as well, Commodore, this was back in 1993. Most people probably don't even remember them, but back in the days, Commodore was the most sold home computer in the world. And the challenges we had at Commodore sometimes is that we simply didn't have enough computers to sell in stock, you run into those kinds of scale issues. And that's the beauty of SaaS as well is that you have endless scale in your product. The new thing with SaaS, was that land and expand and in emotion.

            You land the deal, but it doesn't matter, until they start using the product, then you start expanding across the enterprise. So at Genesys a lot of our marketing's really focused on what we call account-based marketing. At that time it was really about how we expanded within an existing account. So you land the deal, and it was really then a lot of marketing programs within those accounts. And it was everything from, it was posters in the cafeterias in the offices of those customers, lunch and learns, all of that. We of course used our product, it was an online presentation product to market our product as well. But that was where most of our marketing was focused on was really on that account-based expansion. Today, of course, account-based marketing is something completely different, and it's really driven by technology and how you can, again, expand within businesses at scale, in a whole different way than we could in the past.

Delian:

I was going to say some of these tactics sound almost very offline and very boots on the ground type mentality, of literally one by one hand holding users through that experience. How has it been like... We'll obviously talk about the various companies you've worked at, but how have you seen this account-based marketing shift over time? What were some of the early times where you started to see digitize your automated versions of this, let's call it wallet share expansion or upselling. How did it shift from offline type marketing, to things that were more digital and more automated and more self-serve, for enabling and allowing people to start to utilize and learn about the software?

Denise Persson:

Yeah. And B2B marketing is night and day or it was 25 years ago when I started. Back in the days to B2B marketing was about events, trade shows, seminars, a lot of creating brochures, that's what we did back in the days, direct marketing, a lot of direct mail. I remember every morning I went to the mailbox to pick up the different coupons that people filled in. They had to fill in, "I'd like to get more information," and you have to send them a brochure. That was marketing back in the days. Account-based marketing, which today's really all about how you expand and develop bespoke campaigns to your largest target accounts. Back in the days, that was about sending them a box with something. I don't know if you remember the campaigns where maybe you sent the sales leader the golf club and you sent the golf balls to someone else or... That was really account based marketing back in the days.

            You couldn't do it at scale, you could maybe only pick, "Okay, we're going to do this for 100 accounts." And you had no idea what happened afterwards, you don't even know if they received that box. And if you got a 5% response rate, that was amazing. And the big evolution in B2B marketing is the way you can track the performance of your marketing today. Digital of course, has had the biggest impact that on marketing. And that's what makes me so excited. Because back in the days when those leads came in, there was a coupon, or there was someone coming right to your booth at a trade show and you handed that over to sales, and you didn't know what's going to happen next.

            It was a revolution when the business card scanner came. In the early days, you had someone that had to take a physical business card and enter that into Excel, that could take days, after a trade show when you'd do that. The way it works today, when everything is completely automated, you can track the performance of everything you do, has just been an amazing evolution and revolution to be a part of.

Delian:

Yeah. You talked about not being able to track what happens, let's say after you have that discussion at a conference or at a booth, or you send them the golf balls. I feel one of the most difficult things about marketing is understanding the ROI of the various channels and activities that you're doing, because that also informs the budget that you have and how much you can pursue it. Can you talk through at Genesys how were your budgets even set, and how did you determine whether or not, "Okay, send more golf balls or go to more conferences." Or was it fly by wire? And you would look at sales and be like, "Well, marketing is just going to get 10% of the sales that we got and then hopefully we're allocating it correctly." How did you even figure out how to prioritize certain activities over others, given it was so hard to figure out that ROI?

Denise Persson:

Yeah. And at that time it was more decisions based on a hunch, what do we feel is working? Or feedback from your sales organization. You're relied really entirely on having that really strong alignment with a sales team, where you got that day to day feedback. You had to go back and ask them, "How did it go with this deal or this lead," afterwards. So it was very based on anecdotal feedback completely at that time. And I think to succeed in marketing at that time, you had to have an extremely strong alignment with your sales team. And at that time, sales was king, sales led essentially, the entire sales process and your work was there to help them along the way.

            But I think that has served me well today. Because I had to be so incredibly closely aligned with the sales team back at that time, because I relied entirely on their anecdotal feedback. And that has really helped me today to really build a very sales focused and sales aligned marketing teams. Although today, we can back up our investments with data in a whole different way. But I think a lot of people think today that, well today marketing owns a bigger part of the sales process. I see it as, this is a complete partnership, with your sales organization. And salespeople are individuals, they carry their own bags and you now have to treat every salesperson as an individual and have the respect for the craft of sales and what they're going through on the day to day basis. And align with them the most effectively in a way possible you can.

Delian:

Yeah, it makes a ton of sense how that's shifted over time. And so after your time at Genesys the company ended up getting acquired and at the same time you shifted over to ON24, which is a virtual communications platform. It is much smaller obviously than Genesys, but relatively mature. How did that opportunity for being the CMO there, come about? And why did you select that opportunity vis-a-vis, I'm sure you had a lot of other potential outcomes or paths that you could have taken. How did you decide to prioritize them?

Denise Persson:

Would you remember that this was 2008. 2008 was very, very difficult times for most companies around the world. Genesys was acquired again there it was late 2007, and a couple of our largest accounts where... Our largest account was actually Lehman Brothers. Lehman Brother's represented 5% of our revenue, Bear Stearns was one of our largest accounts as well. Those companies didn't exist a year later. I think we actually sold the company at the right time.

Delian:

Lucky timing. Yeah. Lucky timing.

Denise Persson:

Yeah. Very, very lucky timing. And no one could have predicted it and know what was going to happen as well. So at that time, actually I was living in DC. I had lived there for four years, really enjoyed it, but I enjoy California more. I'd lived in California four years earlier, and really also wanted to come back to California. My husband wanted to move back here as well. ON24 was one of Genesys partners. And I happened to be out in San Francisco visiting ON24 the day the announcement of Genesys acquisition happened. And they asked me, "So Denise what are you going to do now?" And I said, "Well, you know we're probably going to be move back to San Francisco." And the CEO said interesting. And then the interview process essentially started right there at that time.

            And I came back a few weeks later meeting with board members, et cetera, and then I got the job offer and that's how it happened. And I've always believed in, take opportunities when you get them, say yes, don't hesitate. ON24 was definitely the right move and the right company for me to go to. Also at the time we were in a big recession, all big events were canceled around the world and ON24 came in as that solution. And in 2008, we launched the first virtual events platform. We really became that alternative to big fiscal in-person events, it was a great, great, great time to join ON24.

Delian:

Yeah. It seems like a different process than most people take for assessing the next opportunities. I feel a lot of times... Nowadays I hear about people in the mid-career stages, really doing a whole market scan and talking to a lot of different opportunities, trying to parallel process, maybe even exploring a variety of different paths at once, versus it sounds like you just had a lot of trust with this organization. Decided like, "Hey, I have partnered with them. I know them as a corporate counterparty, I know the CEO fast track the process," and basically decided it. Do you feel you have suggestions for people who might be listening to the podcasts that are in that mid-career, have had great success? What do you think is the right way to think through future opportunities and how to figure out where to land next? I feel this type of high conviction, quick decision-making is something that I definitely resonate with, but I feel most people don't necessarily take this path. Why do you think it worked for you? Or how would you suggest other people think through these mid-career path changes?

Denise Persson:

I don't think there's one path that works for everyone. I don't believe in over-engineering my career path, because you don't know what you don't know. You might miss a lot of great opportunities along the way that you can never even thought of yourself. So I think most of my career, in the early days, it was really based on saying yes. When great opportunities came my way, I said yes, I didn't hesitate. And I hear this so many times from my own team numbers when they get opportunities and the say, "Wait, I don't know if I can do this. I need to go back and talk to my mom, to my boyfriend, my girlfriend. And can I get back to you in three weeks?" I'm telling them you have this amazing opportunity ahead of you, we believe in you, believe in yourself, say yes now.

            And yeah, that's what has worked for me and I have again, experienced things and got opportunities that I could never have planned for or engineer towards. I never in the beginning had any plans for become CMO. My big dream when I was in my early 20s in my plan was, to become a product manager before it was 28. I thought I was going to moving to more of a consumer marketing type of role. I didn't even know about tech that much from the beginning. And again, as I said, I really enjoyed advertising and commercials, and it was all about shampoos and food and those things.

            So if I had really engineered everything to go in that path, I would have missed the most amazing opportunities in my life. So my recommendation is that, don't over-engineer things. The best careers I've ever seen have been discovered. When I meet people with incredible careers, no one ever said that, "Yes, I did this step, then I was planning this next step." That's not really the way I've seen it work. Again, take those opportunities and ask yourself, "What is the worst thing that can happen if you say yes?" And when you've thought about that for 30 seconds, you say yes, and you just move on.

Delian:

Yeah, I 100% agree with that framework. And so you were at ON24 for about five years and eventually even joined the board. Tell me a bit about what were some things that directly translated from Genesys where it was like, "I'm just applying the exact same playbook, doing marketing for SaaS." Versus, what were some things that were maybe quite different where you either tripped up or ended up realizing that, "This same playbook didn't necessarily apply."

Denise Persson:

You learn different things, at different companies in your career. ON24 was very different in many ways because demand gen was the big component of my role really at ON24. And ON24 was really at the center of B2B demand gen. So we were used by marketers and still of course, ON24 is still one of the main marketing channels that B2B marketing departments use. So I really had to challenge myself in terms of being on top of everything around the latest in demand gen. And I learned a lot from the people that I hired at the ON24 as well. So you push your skills in different ways in different companies. And at ON24 was really about developing my skills when it came to modern revenue marketing, if you will. Again, Genesys was very product marketing focused, very again, account-based marketing focus, expanding within those accounts, building a global brand, that's we did at Genesys. And again, ON24, that's really where I became a demand gen marketer.

Delian:

Quite different than what you'd done in the past.

Denise Persson:

Yeah.

Delian:

And so you were there for about five and a half years, and then went to Apigee and was also CMO there. Can you tell us again, this time around was it again, something that just sort of spontaneously came across your table, and you were like, "I wasn't planning for this, but this is just an incredible opportunity I need to come." Was it a corporate counterparty that you were familiar with or how did that opportunity come about?

Denise Persson:

Yeah. At that time I felt that I need to go out and challenge myself with something new and difficult. Genesys and ON24 were similar in a way because it was a similar type of technology, solving a similar problem. Apigee was infrastructure and Apigee was marketing to developers to, to IT, but also people on the business side who were leading more digital transformations at their companies. So it was really an opportunity to learn something new. And I am a person who would prefer to learn something new everyday, that's a great day for me, if I've learned something new that day. So this has really forced me and to just challenge myself to learn something new. Apigee was amazing at content marketing and Apigee really became synonymous with APIs, not just the fact that API was in the name, but they really built out the category of APIs with incredible content marketing.

            So that's the thing I really learned at Apigee from the folks that were there. It was really, how should the most amazing, stellar content marketing function look like? And what I brought with me from ON24 was really the discipline around demand gen. Okay, you have all this incredible content assets, how would you put that into a demand generation machine to build your pipeline et cetera. So it's just amazing how you can really develop your skills at different companies.

Delian:

And what were some of the parts of... I think there's obviously a lot of really great companies, obviously, including the one that you're currently at Snowflake, that market primarily to developers. And it sounds like Apigee was the first time that you were doing this. Can you talk me through what were some of the parts of either the demand gen and actually building the funnel, or even customer success marketing and account marketing, that were different when you were dealing with a developer as a customer? As opposed to, let's say, I'm sure at the Lehman brothers, it was a trader or a trading desk, or more business type persona, how did that change in persona change the actual tactics or the way they actually thought about just top of funnel marketing and also customer success marketing?

Denise Persson:

Yeah. And I think the core of successful marketing is customer centricity, and truly understanding your customers. What are their problems? What are their opportunities and how do you align with those? You need to understand truly the pain your customers are in. And then what is the gain of what you're bringing to them? And that difference between the pain and the gain, that's the important piece that needs to be large enough for them to make the decision to use your product. So trying not to engage developers, you need to really truly understand that segments and put yourselves in the shoes in all of that segment. And that was probably the hardest thing for me that I've done. Because it was harder for me to identify myself with that segment as well.

Delian:

How did you... Was it a lot of just talking to Apigee customers and deeply understanding the persona, where you literally going to hackathons and understanding how people were using APIs, or how did you step into that persona? Because yeah, I can imagine... as a general marketer, it's easier to imagine just a general business purchase or somebody within the world of Lehman brothers versus as a marketer trying to dive into the persona of a developer. It actually is quite different in terms of prioritizations, pain versus gains, how did you dive into that persona?

Denise Persson:

Fortunately, I had people... All my team there had significantly more experience in marketing to developers than myself. And that's another key thing as well. You need to understand, "What are your own weaknesses?" My weakness was clearly the fact that I didn't have much experience in marketing developer. So I needed those people on my team who fully understand that segment much, much better than myself. We were also marketing into the traditional segments that I had experienced in marketing to before. The difference with developers is that they don't want any marketing fluff or any marketing spin, they look for highly straightforward educational content, they want to hear from their peers. So developer marketing you need to put your own developers at the center of your marketing. And I think that's also the case for many other segments as well. We trust our peers more than anything else.

            In B2B marketing, when you do the surveys on, "Where do you go to learn more about new product?" Peers is at the top. So now in marketing, how do you leverage that as much as you possibly can? Snowflake today, for instance, we put our customers at the forefront of our marketing all the time, because no one can market or sell Snowflake better than our customers. So that's something to think about as well. Who does the customer listen to? Who do they trust? And how can you then market to your prospect through that channel?

Delian:

So you're telling me a Lehman Brother trader really likes golf balls, but a developer in Midland park they probably don't care as much about golf balls.

Denise Persson:

No, they don't care about the golf balls, they care about t-shirts though. They care about t-shirts, great t-shirts. I remember they had to be... they prefer black t-shirt as well, and hoodie as well and a watch. Definitely no golf balls. Yeah.

Delian:

Makes sense. And so after Apigee got acquired by Google you made your way over to Snowflake where you've now been for the last five years and a quarter. Yet again, how did that opportunity come across your plate? And obviously I'm sure it stretched you in some ways, but in some ways also yet again, you were selling to, correct me if I'm wrong, but the Snowflake core persona and skillset and user is developers. Maybe a slightly different type of developer than Apigee, in that it's probably more of a data engineer than it is a full stack engineer. But yeah, walk me through, why did you choose that? Was there again, this want for a challenge? And if so, what was that challenge at Snowflake?

Denise Persson:

Yeah. At this point in my career, I had decided, "Okay, this time I'm actually going to talk to a few different companies out there." Because in the past, I've always been... I went from one place to another saying yes, and that was absolutely the right thing for me to do. But you get to know yourself after 20 years of experience in technology marketing. I was the point that again, I want to talk to a couple of different companies and the next opportunity needs to be really a great fit from a number of different aspects. So Snowflake, it ended up being also a decision that I made with my heart. The people at Snowflake are absolutely amazing and the product is absolutely amazing too. So it was really a decision there, the people, the product and my heart at the same time.

            And it was also a product and market opportunity that I could identify myself with personally. As a marketer, I've had that challenge with data, I wanted real time data on my programs, but I had to go IT. I had to go to IT to ask for that data. And what happened was that I got the report back three weeks later, and it's too late. The campaign, the program was already over and it was too late to actually make any changes. With Snowflake, I saw that potential, "Well, I can actually get all our data into one place and I can actually personally access this platform and get real time data on everything that we're doing in marketing." And that was such an incredible, compelling value proposition. So I just saw that incredible market opportunity for the product. And I saw that the team that was there, if any team in the world is going to make this happen, it's the team at Snowflake.

Delian:

And yeah, walk me through again, what were some of the things that were maybe... It sounds like obviously at this point marketing has shifted totally digital, I'm sure demand gen was very relevant to appreciate the persona of developers. But what were some of the things that were fully net new or things that you hadn't yet done a Genesys or ON24 or Apigee, that you had to learn while you were at Snowflake, that were totally net new?

Denise Persson:

So snowflake, it was actually the smallest company I've ever joined. And I think when I joined, I think we're done 3 million in ARR at that point, when I joined back in 2016. So there were a number of logical steps that needed to happen on the marketing side. One piece was around positioning of the company. How are we going to position as Snowflake? A lot of work there in the beginning couple of few months was really around, what's the positioning we're going to go to market with? And we're going to be incredibly consistent with that positioning as well. Second was around building up the demand gen discipline for the company as well. With that came developing the contents marketing engine. The first person I called on day one at Snowflake was the person who's running content marketing at Snowflake today.

            So he really started building out the content that became the foundation for the demand gen engine. And also when you're developing a new category, it's the content that supports that positioning. So he started really building out that content to support our positioning, which was backing then. We have evolved quite a bit since then, but our positioning was the data warehouse built for the cloud. And we really claimed to lead that category. But again, to do that, we had to start building out all that educational content around the category. So in the beginning, again, content building, building up the demand gen function, putting the right technology stack into place, the positioning of the company. Then as we started getting more and more customers, we started really putting our customers at the forefront of all our marketing. And I think that has really been one of the most scalable component of our marketing, because we have thousands of customers now everyday out there evangelizing Snowflake. And I would say that we are really a brand that is really built on customer advocacy as well.

Delian:

Makes a ton of sense. And it sounds like I'm [inaudible 00:33:36] you joined Snowflake a lot earlier, I'm sure you had to do let's say a lot more team building, and there was less infrastructure around that. Can you talk me through just, what are the frameworks that you used for thinking through how to expand the team on the marketing side, when to expand it? How to assess the candidates that were appropriate for it? How did the marketing team go from when you joined a 3 million ARR, what was the structure of it then, versus how is it structured today? And how have you gone through the various phases of the company and built up that team?

Denise Persson:

Most of the people that joined the marketing team in the early days were people that I worked with in the past. So there were people that I worked with back 20 years ago at Genesys. So our leader today for international marketing, for instance, I worked with her over 20 years ago at Genesys. Our head of demand gen who joined in the early days of Snowflake, he ran demand gen at ON24 for instance. And the second person in command for demand gen at ON24, she's also with Snowflake today. She's the second person in command on the demand gen side. So in the early days we brought the band together and there were different bands. I had bands from Genesys, from ON24 from Apigee. And I knew exactly the strength of every single individual.

            I know what they're passionate about. I know what they're capable of. I knew how these people will compliment each other, how they will really team up as a team. And in the beginning, it's all about wearing many different hats. And as you grow, people of course, move into more of a specialization. So one of the early employees, she ran social, she ran PR, she ran custom marketing, and today she's only focused on PR. So she goes really to focus on [inaudible 00:35:32] something that she's most passionate about. But it's critical in that early days that you can roll up your sleeves and wear many different hats.

            But again, then you get that opportunity to really hone in on something that you're really, really passionate about later. And today, of course the people joining Snowflake today, they have more specific domain expertise in their field. And marketing today, there's so many areas that are so much more specialized than what they were 20 years ago. Just within demand gen, there's so many different components of demand gen where you need deep expertise. Everything just around SEO and SEM, and data-driven marketing, that's a whole world in itself. So today, of course, we're bringing in new skill sets, people with more domain expertise in different areas that we need to grow next.

Delian:

One of the things that I also find quite impressive about your career is while you've been at snowflake, you've joined a couple of boards as an infinite board member, including some that have obviously gone public. Can you talk through... So you obviously joined the board of ON24, where you previously worked at, Neo4j. Can you talk me through just how those opportunities came about your plate? I think it's something that a lot of people admire or aspire to, and that they want to get to the point where they are invited to join boards. But it's not always clear exactly how one gets to that point.

            What about your career have you done, and how did you signal or start to get these opportunities that came across your plate? And then how do you decide which ones to join and prioritize that, obviously, vis-a-vis the day-to-day role? I'm sure there's a lot of learnings that you get that apply to Snowflake by being on some of these boards, but we'd love to hear how those came across your plate, and how you decided to join them and how that prioritizes vis-a-vis the Snowflake work?

Denise Persson:

No, absolutely. So Neo4j was the first board I joined, that was a little bit over three years ago now, and I knew the CEO. So the CEO was someone I've known for years, and we often met and shared different experiences. And Neo4j is also a data campaign, they're more in the graph data space. So we used to meet again from time to time, and then one day he just called me and he said, "Yesterday, I woke up in the middle of the night. I was thinking, why don't I have Denise on the board?" So that's how it started. And then we had a conversation about that. And then again, I said, yes again. Which has been always my recipe for success. I said, yes. And it's been a great journey to be on with them.

            And really they get to learn from my experience, because that's my role as an independent board member is really to share my experience this with them. And then it's vice versa. I learn so much from them too, and also what they're doing on the marketing team at Neo4j as well. So it's really a sharing of experiences back and forth. And then with ON24, again, I was their CMO for five years and it was a little bit of an unfinished journey there. So it was great to come back with that team. It's the same leadership team that I used to work with, same CEO, to get back with them again as a board member, and then also be a part of taking the company public this year in February.

            So it was a great new experience for me to take a company public and being on the board, because it's a very different experience from when you're an operator, which I've always been. So that was the fourth company. With that all my four companies have had gone public. So it was just an incredible experience to be with them through that experience, and be with them now on their journey ahead as well.

Delian:

And walk me through a little bit about how life has an operator changed, as the company went public, Snowflake. And then maybe tell me a little bit about some of the things that maybe weren't as apparent to you as an operator with your company public, that now you've gotten to see via being a board member taking these companies public. What were some things that maybe I don't know, surprising to you or weren't as apparent from the operating role?

Denise Persson:

Yeah. I've worked with public companies for over 20 years. So my first company Genesys went public there in the 2000s timeframe. So I've really only worked for public companies and moved to startups who became public companies. From a marketing standpoint, it's not that much difference. It's all about... You of course need to have predictability into your pipeline and those things. And if you don't have predictability into pipeline and revenue growth, then you're not ready to be a public company. How to determine when you're ready to go public, that is when you say, "Okay. Do we have predictability into our ourselves and go to market motion? Can we grow at a specific rate?" And that's the big difference is that after you're public, of course there's no way going back. And you need to make sure that you can always exceed your pipeline goals, et cetera. That's the big difference. There's no room for any mistakes at that point, the stakes are much, much higher.

Delian:

Makes a ton of sense. And if you were giving advice to somebody that was listening to this podcast that let's say is just graduating today with their bachelor's in business admin and economics from Stockholm. And they wanted to eventually get to the role that you're in, CMO of a public company getting to serve on multiple public company boards, what would you tell yourself from 21, 22 years ago? But maybe in the world of 2020, were obviously SaaS and marketing and all these things have changed so much, what advice would you give today?

Denise Persson:

I think it's great to have a dream and goals, because dreams and goals pull you in that direction. It's all about when people talk about visualization and how important that is. Of course, if you have a goal, everything you do is about getting closer to that goal. So I think it's important. I think it's a great thing to have a goal. And if your goal is to become a CMO, yeah that's a great goal to have. But I think you also need to ask yourself, "Why do I want to do this?" And making sure that you don't miss any other opportunities along the way. Because I also meet a lot of people that had a goal to do something, and then they realize that this wasn't exactly what they expected it to be. So don't miss the opportunities along the way to just broaden the horizons and see a lot of different things.

            In marketing, I think it's important to get expertise across all the different marketing disciplines. I think marketing is really about... It's really like running an orchestra, as a CMO. There are many different instruments, that's going to have to work well with each other. It's not a one instruments type of thing. So get experience, playing all the different instruments, so you know how they should sound like, and how to bring them all together, that's the key thing. It's also about aligning with sales. If you want to succeed as a CMO, you got to drive the business forward from a growth and sales perspective. I guess every company is in a different situation. My focus really only been on startup and hyper growth opportunity type of companies. And then it's all about sales, there's nothing else. So that's what you should focus on, if you're not situation you need to align incredibly well with sales, and you need to be able to demonstrate that you can drive the business in the most effective way possible.

Delian:

Makes total sense. Well Denise really appreciated the conversation. Thanks so much for coming onto the podcast today.

Denise Persson:

Thanks for having me on Delian.

Delian:

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