I Become a Unipub

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It only took 13 years, but my first startup which I created with 6 credit cards finally hit the $1 billion dollar market cap on NASDAQ.

To which my fiance said, “I’m so proud of you babe! Could you take out the trash please?”

What can I say, she keeps me humble.

My buddy who is a VC said, “Hey, you’re a unicorn that’s gone public, like a pubicorn!”

I said, “Uhm, that sounds like something you find in your food and leave a bad Yelp review about.”

“So what do you want to be called?” another friend asked.

“How about a Unipub? That sounds like a place where you can meet a unicorn and have Guinness on draft.”

He nodded solemnly.   Clearly, I was on to something.

 #FIVN

“I’m Searching for a Co-Founder”

Mischa Spiegelmock

I fucking hate hearing this as an angel investor.

It’s often said by the same people who don’t want to tell you too much about their idea because the idea is “Secret.”

There are passionate, competent software and hardware engineers all over the world. The world. If you can’t find one, you’re not looking hard enough or you’re a shitty salesperson.

If you can’t find one engineer to work with you, how the hell are you going to build a company full of them? Finding great talent (technical, operational or creative) gets harder after raising money, not easier.

And duuude. No one cares about your fucking idea. Now go find a good technical partner and treat each other like gold.

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  • These two are the co-founders of a startup that was a copycat of my second company (but in Singapore). They cold called me and asked to meet for some advice, which tickled me pink.  One is the business person, the other person technical. Can you guess which one is which?

 

 

JetBridge – My New StartUp

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Software for sales teams “the sales tech stack” is growing in complexity and costs. Multiple enterprise software vendors are fighting for the same $300 per rep IT budget, and most of these solutions are out of reach for the SMB. We see a massive opportunity in this “crowded” space.

The common wisdom is that entrepreneurs find a problem with a big enough TAM, interview potential customers via Lean methodologies, then find your product-market fit. And this is right, but for me I’ve found that it’s better to first start with finding the team you want to work with.

Meaning, regardless of the product, “Would I enjoy riding with this team for the next 4 to 5 years?”

After my second startup DoctorBase was acquired, I wasn’t sure if I would do another software company or if I would just become an investor and advisor. As part of the purchase I had agreed not to solicit any DoctorBase employees as long as they were working for the acquirer, which is quite standard.

But then that company decided to consolidate some of their engineering, there were some inevitable layoffs, and I found that fate had given me an opportunity to work with my core engineering team again. I hired them all immediately without a plan.

So then the questions came up in our group – “What do we code up? What kind of company do we want to build? Can we handle John’s bullshit for another 4 years?”

One of the biggest challenges we had running both Five9 and DoctorBase was growing our sales teams –

We had a variety of wonderful tools for our sales reps, but their cost and complexity meant we had less money to spend on generating leads for them, and reps were increasingly spending more than 30% of their day on IT and admin tasks.

Mischa (who had started DoctorBase with me) and I discussed creating another startup and we came up with these elements that we wanted for our company –

  • We agreed that we had too many expensive software apps for our sales teams that we either didn’t end up getting sales rep engagement or didn’t integrate into other apps, creating administrative overhead for our reps.
  • Running a sales team cost us nearly a third of our operational costs (normal for SaaS) at our previous startups and we did not want to repeat that. We wanted to build a product that was low-priced and so easy to use that we could run a self-service model. This way we could be a price leader and invest heavily into fanatical customer support.
  • We wanted an international team. Over the years we spent building DoctorBase, Mischa and I made friends with brilliant engineers all over the world, and we wanted a chance to be able to work with them.
  • We’re big believers in Machine Learning. While few models in the sales tech stack are true machine learning right now, we think models will emerge where machine learning, and maybe even A.I., can be applicable.
  • We want competitors. DoctorBase operated in the healthcare vertical, where EHR systems fought madly to lock out competing vendors. At JetBridge, Mischa and I both agreed that open platforms where 3rd parties can re-use our base infrastructure to create their own new  features aren’t just better for customers, they make us cooler people too.

We decided JetBridge would build an open software platform for professional communications that’s affordable by all and easy enough to onboard yourself. Built by a team of the best engineers we knew.

I quickly drew up our logo over beers for Mischa and the gang.

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“So you’re basically making our logo look like your new tattoo,” one of the engineers said.

“Uhm. Yeah.” I took a pic of the napkin and crumpled it up. “Look guys, let me worry about the marketing, ok?”

They smiled. It felt like we were back in business again.

#JetBridge

 

By Bye, Panda

DoctorBase Founders

In 2009 my buddy Mischa and I wanted to make a ding in the healthcare universe. We were both pretty fed up with the status quo for consumer health, and felt like we could build a communications app that made it much easier for doctors and their patients to communicate digitally.

Man, we learned some really harsh lessons about the American healthcare system. Namely, the folks who control our national healthcare policies at the highest levels make Russian mobsters look like pussies.

  • If you work for the Russian or Ukrainian mob, please know that I have the highest respect for your craft – no insult intended.

DoctorBase was also a lesson in competing with better funded competitors by sticking to your passion for building the best damn product and ignoring the VC hype machine. Our closest competitor HealthXXX had raised 30x more money than we did, but at the time of our acquisition we were a totally employee-controlled company and was doing almost triple their revenues with nominal churn.

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This took 5 years to build out completely, and by then it was one of the dominant apps in the market with very little funding or marketing. Of course, VCs passed on us because, well HealthXXX had raised much more money and that meant they were going to win. A very famous VC said he felt that “HealthXXX is going to run away with the market.”

At the time I sold the company we had about 18,000 doctors communicating electronically with nearly 7 million American patients. We were small, but we were a bad ass gang. I mean, not as bad as Russian mobsters, but still.