Rob Nelson is the Founder and CEO at Grow. Grow builds end to end BI software for SaaS and eComm companies from $1-100M in revenue. Massive connector library, integrated data warehouse, and viz library making it super easy relative to what’s on the market. Located in Silicon Slopes, Utah.
Rob is an Entrepreneur at heart, loves technology loves the creative and building process in developing value for others. Inspired by brilliant design, strong culture, competition, and the emotional connection products can give. Finding new innovations excite him, and he believes in continuous growth and improvement, both personally and in helping others.
Grow helps companies accelerate their growth by aligning and engaging teams with real-time data. Grow aggregates scattered data from spreadsheets, databases and cloud SaaS tools (Quickbooks, Salesforce, etc) to create custom BI dashboards that easily cross-analyze data from multiple sources, creating insights unique to each business.
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Rob what did you have to change about the business model after Series B?
We started out as a custom dashboard co for SMB…been maniacal on solving the problem which has us going up market and building full-stack business intelligence. Still focused on the SMB market, just the upper end.
Hey Rob, thanks for taking the time to do this AMA! Were you aware going into your B round that you’d be changing the business model?
I knew i needed to change something. It was about 3 months after closing that round I went to the board and told them I was going to pull back on sales and marketing pretty significantly and make some changes. BOD was fully supportive.
There are a lot of analytics solutions out there. What is Grow’s specific value add and target customer? (Thanks for being here.)
Sure…its not necessarily a crowded space for our customer but its noisy. We focus on SaaS and eComm companies $5-$50M in revenue. We focus on the ETL layer, data storage, and the visualization…that’s what makes us unique. vs building all those components out.
How many of those (SaaS and eComm companies $5-$50M in revenue) are there?
A lot…data we pulled there’s about 10K companies in the US
Rob of those 10k companies, do majority use existing solutions and you’re trying to get them to convert? Or is there any untapped ‘greenspace’ left / a big enough stream of new entrants?
2 years ago it would have been untapped. a lot more common now. which is why we’re thinking a new category, unique functionality to back that new category, etc. working on some very big stuff.
You’ve raised almost $30M (crunchbase), so I assume that you investors are betting on an expansion story that gets to a higher TAM than $100 million. Can you share any of your thoughts/plans on other markets?
Raised about $25M…its a fairly new category. SMBs are buying BI software 3X more than Enterprise. Our big bet is that adoption of BI becomes a tier 1 tech stack for SMBs, just like CRM or Accounting…I think we’re in the best position in the market to take advantage of that.
Great to have you, Rob. You’ve gone from founding team –> 100+ employees in 4 years, how does that growth compare to other similar BI companies in your space?
I think a lot of BI / Analytics companies have grown quickly then had to go through some kind of pivot. Feels like we all thrashed around a bit, then the dust settled and we are figuring out all of our places.
Do you bake in client-onboarding costs into your ~$4,000 CAC? (assume getting the client’s data model into your software is somewhat high touch) Or is the platform majority self-service.
We do have an onboarding team with BI Engineers. Its been one of our keys to success. We charge a modest implementation fee…or eat the cost if the client is paying annually.
Hi Rob! Have any of your investors been particularly helpful in bringing on new customers?
No hahaha. SMB is different. I think investors are more relevant with enterprise. Our investors have been really helpful on other fronts.
Where have they provided the most value and help?
Thinking through the biz model, developing the go-to-market motion, they have brought a lot of financial modeling discipline to the business, access to a network of CEOs and entrepreneurs, recruiting.
Hi Rob thanks for being there! What are your top acquisition channels to get $8K deals?
We basically scaled the company on Facebook ads channel in 2015-2016…before B2B SMB was really on that channel. Now its still primarily Inbound channels…we’re working to build the OB SDR motion.
So, I know you’re here to talk about your business but how/why did you make the leap to owning a single word .com? I’d love to know why you picked it, how much it cost, and (in hindsight) your opinion of the branding/domain and what it’s done for you.
My wife came up with it….took a long time to get the domain. Yes i think it adds a lot of credibility.
Rob did you guys A/B test around showing pricing on your website?
Oh boy…yes. A lot. Conversion rates went down when we showed it. but i don’t think conversion rates is the right metric to measure it. this is a much longer discussion.
What is the technical talent pool like in Utah? It seems like there are tons of tech companies in Silicon Slopes, and being a BYU alum I am wondering if we should consider moving our dev HQ up there. Are you able to find experienced developers that know your tech stack?
Great tech talent…great universities. young working population. educated, etc. Its competitive. The last 24 months salaries have gone gang busters. Happy to chat more offline if your thinking about an office here. Sales…yes. Engineering…probably not
How valuable has The Grow Cycle been for customer acquisition? Is there any other value that blog provides besides potential leads?
Its been great to get how we think about a problem to the market. its really helped our customers onboard with the most important content to start tracking and analyzing…as far as blog value outside of leads, i think the brand. I also think blogs are mostly outdated and you can win without much of a content strategy.
How have you managed to maintain operating margins without a self-serve product and needing sales to be actively involved in $8k ACV deals? Seems on the low-end for a heavier lift sales motion.
Not being in the Bay ;) But seriously, with that low of an acv, you have to have a high velocity sales motion. 25 day sales cycle, etc.
Hi Rob, for your target market, have you been unseating incumbents, or is your tool new to your customers? If the latter, how do you think about educating the customer during the sales cycle?
Traditionally, its a customers first exposure to BI…the alternative is Domo or building out a data warehouse and buying Looker/Tableau on top. All solutions $50K plus.
Hi Rob. What does Year 2 look like in terms of expansion MRR vs Year 1 net new MRR?
Not great. I think that’s one of the challenges with BI or analytics is finding a good up grade path…we found something we think is better for customers and a much better path for us. we’re working on implementing it.
Hi Rob, on your website you write that you connect with over 140 tools. Did you build all these integrations youself with your core team, did you outsource that? How long did this take? Or is there even a middlewre that gives you access all 3rd parties from where you pull the data?
We built them all. I looked at 3rd parties but we felt like we needed to control that. Plus when we first did most of the building, not a lot of options like what you see in the market today.
Wow, impressive. How many devs did you have working on these? Is it a lot of effor to maintain?
We had about 5 devs working on the integrations at the time.