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Should You Choose One Customer Persona or Several? (Episode 96)

Sonciary Perez is a Boston-based founder on a mission to change the interaction with customers through fast technology to deliver exceptional experiences. She is Co-Founder of Quala.io, the only frontline intelligence platform for B2B SaaS companies that helps them better serve, retain, and upsell customers.

With two decades in early-stage B2B SaaS, she has dedicated the last twelve years to focusing on building and scaling pre-and post-sales motions. Ten of those years were at the helm of customer success, services, and support teams.

Before Quala, she co-founded Promoboxx, a marketing technology startup connecting brands with independent retailers to increase awareness of where to buy goods locally. She also serves as a Mentor with Techstars Boston and represents BOSS – an accomplice VC’s syndicate of hundreds of Boston Angel Investors.

Sonci is a well-versed, insightful speaker and is eager to provide customer success leaders and innovators in SaaS businesses with fresh perspectives on how to improve customer health, gain retention, and create expansion to upgrade their company.

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What you will learn

  • How Sonciary Perez deals with doubt and fear
  • Where she gets her ideas from
  • Whether you should choose one customer persona to target or several
  • What her “Aha” moment was
  • Why “speed” is important

Transcript

Jeff Bullas

00:00:03 - 00:01:06

Hi everyone and welcome to the Jeff Bullas show. Today I have with me Sonciary Perez. Sonciary is a.. done multiple startups and she is a co-founder of Quala.io. Her depth of knowledge about the state of customer success today and what is needed to revolutionize the field is matched by her passion for startup and software as a service growth everywhere. She is a well-known growth mentor in Boston and is a leading figure in customer experience with almost two decades of experience in the area.

So I'm looking to find out a little bit more about what Sonciary does and also find out some of the idea, where the ideas came from because I'm intrigued by these beautiful creative ideas that turn up in the human mind and then it turned into a manifested as creative products businesses and then find out what she learned and then discover what she can share with us about that journey. The journey she's had along the way.

So welcome to the show Sonciary, it's a pleasure,

Sonciary Perez

00:01:07 - 00:01:09

Thank you so much for having me, Jeff, pleasure to be here.

Jeff Bullas

00:01:10 - 00:02:00

Now, I'm always intrigued by it, because when I introduced and get to meet lovely people like yourself, very smart people, I get the pleasure, I'm grateful for able to interview these smart, creative people all around the world and I'm fascinated by where do the ideas come from? And so you started Promoboxx, which before you got into Quala. And so Promoboxx, that's what I know is technology startup connecting brands with independent retailers to increase awareness of where to buy goods locally. Now you started this about 10 years ago I believe. So where did the idea for that business come from?

Sonciary Perez

00:02:01 - 00:03:55

Yes. Promoboxx was such an amazing, fun journey. I'm a marketer by trade. And before Promoboxx had been working with local independent retailers as a part of a marketing co-op. So basically I was responsible for trying to understand the brands that they sold and how could we work with those brands in order to provide marketing materials ad hoc so that the local independent retailers could sell more of the manufacturing brands products and that process was fraught. It was expensive for local retailers. The imagery didn't make sense to their business all the time at some point when they would get to order the, the brochures for the items, it would be not timely or the offer didn't make sense or there was a variety of reasons why these campaigns, traditional marketing campaigns didn't really jump off the page or weren't hugely successful. And so we had the idea of my co-founders, could we create a social digital experience for manufacturing brands and their local independent retailers that was more timely and that could provide offering of where to buy in store locally and facilitate this connection. So what I loved about Promoboxx was that I felt like we were supporting the.. we were supporting the local economy and ecosystem and the dreams of these entrepreneurs, but also the manufacturing brands paid for Promoboxx outright to sponsor marketing materials, further local independent retailers. So it felt like a great initiative. We felt like we were doing good in the world. And funny enough, you know, a lot of entrepreneurship, I feel like obviously hard work and then a lot of luck, our very first campaign that we officially launched with Promoboxx was with the Chevrolet, was with Chevrolet for their Super Bowl campaign in 2012. And it changed our lives,

Jeff Bullas

00:03:56 - 00:04:04

Right? So in what way did it change your lives? And also obviously the retailer.

Sonciary Perez

00:04:05 - 00:05:47

Sure, so for us, you know, for those of us, there were four of us at the time co-founders, we were bootstrapped for several years, didn't pay ourselves a dime and put everything back into the business. And when we were able to sign Chevrolet, as you can imagine, a lot of starting a new company is just is trying to appear maybe a little bit larger than you are and trying to borrow credibility because you're new and untested. And so since we were able to lock down Chevrolet for such a large campaign, no one really questioned our credibility moving forward because it was such a humongous opportunity for us and if we were vetted by GM for the Super Bowl, it should be good enough for almost anyone else. So that was life changing for us in the same way that getting into Techstars was life changing, and maybe we'll talk a little bit about that later and how it changed local independent retailers that were, that were part of the Promoboxx ecosystem is that they were getting these world class digital marketing campaigns essentially for free. If you think about it, retailers are the most important customer of the manufacturing brand, not necessarily consumers. So the idea of having a manufacturing brand provide sponsored marketing for those retailers, arguably their largest customer, is such an impactful thing for them to do if they can help you sell more of their products then everyone wins. So it was such an amazing experience to build and scale that team, specifically the customer success services and support teams for over a decade, and I learned so much and I'm still good friends with my co founders.

Jeff Bullas

00:05:48 - 00:06:11

So, you mentioned the term Techstars so obviously you boots, you're bootstrapped, didn't pay yourselves, and so where did the money come from while you're doing this? Because that's a question, I want to be entrepreneurs, do an existing entrepreneurs, so you still gotta put food on the table, look after the family. So where did the money come from while you bootstrap and not paying yourself for years?

Sonciary Perez

00:06:12 - 00:07:37

You know, I think there's, you know, special moments in your life where you can take on much of the risk associated with entrepreneurship, especially first time entrepreneurship, it's a little bit different for those that are at their, you know, 2nd, 3rd or fourth rodeo, but, you know, I consulted my co founders also consulted, we freelanced, we consulted and we were able to pay our own bills while we put everything into the business and we actually gave ourselves a two year timeline, we were just going to focus on the business, know that some of our time was going to be carved off for consulting and freelancing and decided we would check in with each other. We checked in often actually on the subject, but officially would check in about the two year mark and decide, is this something that we still want to hack at? Is it, do we think this could be an actual business? And it just so happened that around that mark, we got into Techstars and we, we signed Chevrolet and were able to, starts to not only put money into the business, but also pay ourselves a very small salary. So that's also something to consider, if you're looking at entrepreneurship, you know, you're not looking at a market rate that you're going to be earning, it's really the upside of creating something amazing and beautiful that could be valued, it's something much larger than it starts at. That's the, that's the dream.

Jeff Bullas

00:07:38 - 00:07:43

is streaming about growing it to something significant and makes a big difference.

Sonciary Perez

00:07:44 - 00:08:13

Sure, Yeah, and I think entrepreneurs or founders or solo preneurs or, you know, we're all motivated by different, different things, and so it's important to find what's your risk tolerance and what motivates you. What do you want to bring as your offering? That helps you uniquely understand what, what part of this process or journey is worth it to you, because it definitely is a crazy roller coaster ride of ups and downs.

Jeff Bullas

00:08:13 - 00:08:29

It is. Now, Techstars is like an accelerator VC fund, isn't it? So basically it's like an incubator that sort of brings in the best minds and then helps him and then helps with funding as well or find funding, is that correct?

Sonciary Perez

00:08:30 - 00:10:02

That's exactly correct. We got into Techstars, my co founders and I, and well, funny enough, the short story is that we actually didn't get into Techstars, we were rejected at the last at the last round and it just goes to show always be kind to people, we we were rejected and instead of maybe getting upset or throwing a fit or trying to contest or prove that they were wrong and, you know, we were going to prove them wrong, of course we wanted to do all of those things. We instead saw them in person at a local Boston networking event, thank them for their time, and acknowledge the fact that it must have been a really difficult decision. They see so many companies and it was as a result of us humbling ourselves and thanking them and not necessarily going at it from an aggressive standpoint that they said, “You know what, we think that your idea at the time Promoboxx was marketing itself under a slightly different idea. We're not sure if your idea has a lot of merit or could be a big company, but we think that you as founders have something special.” And then they invited us last minute to join the Boston Techstars Spring 2011 Class and being able to connect to a networking in Boston that we historically did not have access to. We felt a little bit like outsiders looking in. We hadn't started a company before. We could not have done it without Techstars. And so I love being able to be a continued member of that community. Once Techstars, always Techstars and it's been wonderful to keep in touch with them and pay it forward to other companies going through the program today.

Jeff Bullas

00:10:03 - 00:10:29

So Techstars, why did they reject you? Because they think you sort of mentioned it in passing, but obviously you learn from that and that's the thing is we're all gonna have problems and challenges. But do we learn from them? Why did they knock you back last minute and they took you in because they saw something special with you guys, the founders. So why did they knock you back on the product concept that sounds like to leave?

Sonciary Perez

00:10:30 - 00:12:00

Yeah, they did. So when we first started marketing Promoboxx before we pivoted and signed Chevrolet or I want to say evolved and signed Chevrolet. We were a social media marketing engine for small businesses, basically any small business could sign up for Promoboxx and build like scratch ticket campaigns or spin the wheel campaigns and then add them to Facebook as a tab if anyone remembers those days and then promote them to their customer base or their fan base and founders or I should say small businesses would pay about 100 bucks a pop, $100 per campaign. And the feedback from Techstars was just, it's, that's a great idea, but we don't see the market as being that large or the opportunity being that large and, and frankly they arguably were correct given the fact that there were some other players like Wildfire at the time, I'm sure if anyone listening remembers the space. But at the time, Wildfire was a competitor of ours that just had just taken off and had a direct partnership with Facebook and we were a day late and a dollar short. So they did ding us on the product, they dinged us on the market opportunity and they dinged us for being a little bit too late, but they feel like they saw something in our grit and our determination and if if we didn't figure out or if we didn't have the idea just yet, they believed that we likely would find a good idea and that we would be the team that could execute on it. So they took a risk on us and, and it's I'm really glad that they did.

Jeff Bullas

00:12:01 - 00:12:14

It's interesting is that in terms of, timing is almost everything. I remember watching a TED presentation and they looked at the five top factors and timing was like 42% of the success factor.

Sonciary Perez

00:12:14 - 00:13:09

Wow. Yeah, wow. I mean, that's definitely when I was, when I was younger and earlier on in my career, if you would have said that to me at the time, I would have, I would have poo pooed it because I wanted to believe that so much was in my control. I needed to believe that so much was in my control because there's just like I said, a lot of risk and a lot of unknowns with starting a company and living life in general that I would sort of wave offense, that sentiment, okay, sure, timing is everything. But I make my own luck, I force things to happen. I can control the narrative and ensure success, but the reality is that now being little bit of time later, it really is. Yes, of course, it's great. It's knowledge, it's the community that surrounds you, but a lot of it is timing and a lot of it is just blind. Being in their right place, right time and that's luck.

Jeff Bullas

00:13:09 - 00:13:46

I totally agree. And I'm not reflecting for me as well, looking at my business history, is that the best results that come from by stepping into a fast flowing river rather than having to swim against it and fly versus force in other words, I've looked back to try to force things to happen is turning typically into a disaster as in, okay, this is what's happening in the marketplace and it's and you're right when you, especially when you're very young and you said like I can make it happen, but you're almost like fighting City Hall really what you're trying to do that.

Sonciary Perez

00:13:47 - 00:14:18

You know, it's such a, it's such a good point and I think it's good to acknowledge the things that you can control and what you can't control. It can be very empowering to know this is what I can do and this is outside of what I can do and to focus. And we talk a lot about focus as founders because you hardly have any time or any money or any resources so you gotta focus or else and it was just the, that will be too big to crack.

Jeff Bullas

00:14:19 - 00:14:44

So let's move on to Quala. So you've got Promoboxx still running today and you wanted to move on to a new project which excited you. So Quala is about customer success stories. In other words, taking a lot of data and bubbling up the most important data for the customer success marriage to actually make good decisions from that data. So where did the idea for Quala come from?

Sonciary Perez

00:14:46 - 00:17:37

Oh my goodness! This is, it's so it's so fun to think about this and share because while I was building the services support and success teams at Promoboxx I started to become very aware of the importance of the relationship we had with our manufacturing brand customers and with our retailers and how the qualitative narrative and interactions that we had with these customers could was such a powerful stream of intelligence that if harnessed correctly could help us understand what features should we be focused on? Which one should we be promoting? Which one should we be building? How should we evolve our sales narrative based on the vernacular of our customers and prospects? And what does strategic decision making on pricing look like based on customer and prospect feedback?

But the problem was I felt like while our CSM or customer success managers were these deep oceans of intelligence and insights, I could not get at that unless I was speaking to them directly one on one. And I felt like a lot of times when I was speaking to them or even myself with customers that I was getting In some cases an opinion that might be 100% correct but not necessarily data-backed solutions or data-backed advice. And I thought about this problem a lot the intersection of qualitative data and relationships, we have customers and how do we, what does that mean for how we think about our businesses and how we grow our businesses and essentially decided to once I left Promoboxx and transitioned out, I thought you know I think there's something here. I started speaking with product leaders, data science leaders, customer success leaders and asking them, you know, where does their qualitative information live today? And if they could streamline that and essentially query that those insights that intelligence and that information, what would that mean for, how they would grow their businesses and realized that you know, we had sort of stumbled upon something that was pretty impactful and and began to dream about what that could look like from a technology offering perspective. And it's been great to be in customer success. Of course I lead all of go-to-market efforts at Quala, so sales customer success support. But it's been fantastic to be in CS proper working on tools for frontline teams, were calling this idea that we are, we call ourselves a frontline intelligence platform. And just really iron sharpens iron every day. I learn from the leaders in our industry because it's my job to have conversations with them every day. And it's been helpful for me because I truly believe you customers are our competitive edge.

Jeff Bullas

00:17:38 - 00:17:43

So in other words, the idea came from observing a problem within Promoboxx?

Sonciary Perez

00:17:44 - 00:18:27

Yeah, yeah, yeah. And so today how it manifests for Quala, as I mentioned, we are the only frontline intelligence platform for specifically scaling B2B SaAS companies. And we streamline qualitative data from wherever our customers store it whether it's chats, calls, notes, surveys, CRM. So they can answer questions like which of our customers are talking about a certain competitor or should we integrate with this potential partner or which of our customers are poised to expand so they can then use that data to make strategic, excuse me, strategic CX recommendations. They're backed by not just opinion but solid data that they can visualize.

Jeff Bullas

00:18:28 - 00:18:40

So in other words you're taking a lot of data and trying to put into a more visual and simpler format so you can actually make good decisions rather than just having to be overwhelmed by a sea of data.

Sonciary Perez

00:18:41 - 00:19:36

Right right. A sea of qualitative data. And this data is very hard to mind. It's it feels like it's a lot of opinions and I think what's the you know the magic of what we're trying to do here at Quala or our wedge is that we're not just looking at survey data from customers or NPS data. Net promoter score data. And the comments associated with those scores were looking at the day to day interactions between those in the field largely CSM and the customer. We're looking at the information that's going back and forth between not just one stakeholder that might answer a survey but buyers, champions, day to day contact, agencies bringing all of that together across all customer bases and across all frontline agents in order to deliver on these insights and it's a powerful, powerful streamline of intelligence for many businesses.

Jeff Bullas

00:19:36 - 00:20:30

Yes, fascinating. Some recent writing I had from Reid Hoffman book, he mentions that what one thing he mentioned was people will, it's great to get data, but the interesting thing is you can any class surveys and that's interesting he said, but people will tell you one thing, but what you've got to really watch is what they do because the other little little gem I heard recently too was people start telling the truth once they start paying for your service. And that's so but the other thing, the thing I liked about Reid Hoffman's observation in his book was watching people's actions in other words, what are they actually doing? What are their key strokes? What are they doing as opposed to what they're telling you? Because it's two different things.

Sonciary Perez

00:20:31 - 00:21:41

It's true, it's true and you know, for those of us that are focused on the qualitative narrative, we also in Quala, we bring in usage data as well. So it's not, you know, I talked about a lot about the narrative because that's our wedge in the market. We do also bring in behavior data or keystroke data into our platform that you can marry with the qualitative to get a better sense of customer health. But for us we believe understanding customer health is art and science, it's not just how customers use the platform. I've had customers that have been, that have used at Promoboxx used their platform up until the very day that they churned. If I was just looking at the data, the usage data, I would miss the fact that they were hugely frustrated by our pricing and they were hugely frustrated by some key features that they had requested that we had not delivered on or vice versa. I might have happy years and have the day to day contact saying that they love us and they're great but they're not our buyer then they're not using our technology and they churn so you need both together to truly understand where is the customer, what's the value they're experiencing from a usage perspective and what's the value they're perceiving from a narrative perspective.

Jeff Bullas

00:21:41 - 00:22:32

That's fascinating. And it reminds me of the experience of the founders of Dropbox. So Dropbox started and they built this beautiful what they thought, beautiful. Easy to use platform built by engineers. Right, okay. Which tech savvy. So they put out a promotion, no one signed up, apparently no one - zero. So what they did do is they pulled these customers into the room and actually sat next to them and going to show me how you use the platform and what they discovered was not one of the customers could actually get in and use the platform. They failed 100%. So that was, that was fascinating. Like, okay, user experience was very good.

Sonciary Perez

00:22:34 - 00:23:29

Yeah. I also, I mean of course, so many of us respect Dropbox for obvious reasons. I loved their story, their marketing story because their founder essentially created a super low five quicktime video of him connecting sources to Dropbox and then just, you know, uploading files and it was such a magic ah-ha moment. We always talk about what's the product? Aha moment where people are like, I need this. Um but they had historically had a really hard time talking about their Aha moment. The fact that it was easy. People almost don't believe it or like sure people throw around the word easy very often. What does that actually mean? So instead he created this super low five quicktime video and walked through the steps to illustrate how easy it was. And that video blew up and essentially helped power the first iteration of their first customer cohort. I love that story.

Jeff Bullas

00:23:30 - 00:23:43

So let's go back a little bit too when you started and you're going to Techstars before with Promoboxx. So how did you go about getting funding for Quala?

Sonciary Perez

00:23:44 - 00:25:03

Yes. So we are funded by Underscore VC, a Boston based firm, a fantastic group of individuals. They believe in us. We believe in them. We appreciate the network that they have also plugged us into. And of course I still leverage the Techstars network, so much like life, it's relationship based. So we historically already had a good relationship with some of the team members there at Underscore and it's really a testament to my co founder, Jonathan Tushman, who is the technology behind Quala, firms really do back founders, they back that founding team and again, they saw something in the, in the founding team and thought whatever problem that you attempt to solve, we think that it could be an amazing problem worth solving because of some of the track record that Jonathan and I had. So it's great to be able to partner with them and they've been good to us, we appreciate the partnership that we have and how they help us understand our, better understand our business and the opportunity we talk with them often, I can't, I can't recommend them enough to other, other tech founders that are looking for potential firms to partner with.

Jeff Bullas

00:25:04 - 00:25:32

Yeah, it's great to have the right sort of partner on board, isn't it? And I think it's important to, it's part of discussion. We've had the Shuttle Rock over the years, which I've been part of, which is a startup, which is a 10 year start up again out of New Zealand and it's important to, and I've heard horror stories about partnerships where someone's come in, give them money and then the founders basically been railroaded out of the business. But keeping the culture of the company I think is very, very important.

Sonciary Perez

00:25:34 - 00:26:03

I agree, I agree. And, and thankfully we haven't had any other experiences thus far. And, and don't, you know, don't intend to, but the firms that we have worked with are very pro founder, and very much in support of us and the vision that we have for the company and want to understand how do they come alongside us? They're also honest with us. They challenge us. They in addition to sort of supporting and, and pumping us up as well.

Jeff Bullas

00:26:04 - 00:26:15

So, the other thing I want to ask you was what are some of the biggest challenges you're sort of as you grow in the company. Some of the biggest challenges that you're experiencing or have experienced?

Sonciary Perez

00:26:16 - 00:29:03

Sure. So, you know, I think building any technology company are starting something from scratch, finding those early customers that believe in you that are willing to take a risk, that are willing to try the technology without it necessarily being backed by any sexy logos thus far. It's a very special type of person and finding those individuals can be, can be difficult. So I would say you're going to hear a lot of knows you have to fortify yourself emotionally and mentally for the fact that they're going to be a lot of people that are going to give you a false yes or say they like the idea or the opportunity, but not necessarily going to move on it and then you're going to have people that are flat out going to share why they don't feel like the problem that you're solving is a worthy problem to be solving or maybe they don't like the way you are going about it or don't agree with it. And then you're going to find a very, very small corporate of individuals that see the opportunity to align with you in mission and vision and have the actual autonomy and power to help align with you to be an early customer. So that's, that's the first piece is really and talk about funding or you know how financials economics work around it. But really it's getting those early customers because you need those proof points and that credibility so that you can continue to build on that.

And then a lot of us, I'm sure I've talked about this fairly often on, on the podcast, but it's then a race against time. How do you focus in a way that you can use best speed to your advantage? You're not letting great get in the way of good, but you're also not delivering subpar trash that's not necessarily going to be well used by your customer base and how are you racing against the clock because you only have so much time whether it's you raised a small pre-seed or seed and that's going to get you only so far. You're always thinking about the next steps. So it's that challenge of knowing that you're staring down the barrel and what does that mean for how you focus and what does that mean for how you develop a technology? Which is again why, another reason why we find that this qualitative data is so important for some early stage younger companies because again their customers, their early believers are so impactful to how they grow their business and it's important to listen to them. So making sure that you stay on the front lines and continue to have these conversations can be the difference between us creating a viable amazing company and thus creating a company that maybe doesn't get to the stage that we hoped it would.

Jeff Bullas

00:29:04 - 00:29:15

The term is tossed around also is a minimal viable product isn't it to go which is high quality enough. So has that been a challenge too? Trying to actually launch something has got enough features. Not too many.

Sonciary Perez

00:29:16 - 00:30:09

Okay. Yes. Absolutely. I mean product focus can be very difficult. You're pulled in so many different directions. So I think before we talk about minimal viable products, it's so important to talk about minimal viable segment because your minimal viable segment is going to direct what the MVP looks like and if you are trying to serve many different segments then your minimal viable product could be in risk of being all over the place. And again, we're losing focus. So I find it's very important to deputize, who are we going to first try to focus on? What does that person look like? What do they care about? What is their, what is their role? What are they focused on and then developing something that's very specific to them and what you're able to get those early wins, then you can decide, okay, how do we expand our minimal viable segment and what does that mean for our product? Yeah.

Jeff Bullas

00:30:10 - 00:30:28

So because when you sit down, excuse me. So you might say, well, I think I've got five different personas I need to actually target. You maybe say that you really, you need to just focus on one initially.

Sonciary Perez

00:30:30 - 00:31:50

Yes, I would, you know, we give a lot of recommendations to founders, to other founders or investors to founders. And of course at the end of the day, founders are in their seats for a reason. They know their business intricately. I believe very much in the gut sense of the founder. They know what path is likely the best path to take. With that being said, my offering definitely would be in the, with the desire and need to focus that if you are trying to solve the problems of many different segments too early, then it's, that's going to wreak havoc on development resources in general, but it's not just how you develop your product, it's how you market and sell your product, because now you're creating or attempting to create a product that solves the needs of, let's say, even just three different user personas now, you have to worry about, how do you market a website to three different user personas and then how do you develop sales materials to three different types of personas? It might feel early on that you're widening your opportunities and you're like, well, if we build something that's for so many people, then we have more sales opportunities. But the problem with that thinking quite often, not all the time, is that these expanded personas have a lot more needs and when you're just starting you're not going to fill every single product gap that they need. So you might as well focus very clearly on one specific segment.

Jeff Bullas

00:31:50 - 00:31:57

So I love that you're talking about creating a minimal viable segment, not just the minimal viable product.

Sonciary Perez

00:31:57 - 00:32:13

Yeah, yeah. It's, I have to, I can't claim the idea from, I know I heard it somewhere or read it somewhere. So I'm parroting or passing along my knowledge for, to pay it forward to anyone else, so I can't take credit.

Jeff Bullas

00:32:14 - 00:33:01

So let's go back to the word you used before.. speed. I totally agree with that, especially in a global world where people can copy your tech, and also market the product as well globally. So I sort of see, I suppose speed as being important in two areas. I'm interested in your thoughts on this. Basically it's an arms race on two levels to keep it simple. Number one is a technology arms race for you to develop tech that's actually gonna win in the marketplace in your segment, number two, then it's a marketing sales arms race to actually reach the world quicker than anyone else and dominate the sector. Is that what you mean by speed?

Sonciary Perez

00:33:02 - 00:34:53

That is what I mean by speed. And I think it's important to note, this is why this experience can be so crazy because you are trying to find the space where you can deliver a beautiful, elegant product. Of course none of us do that bug free, but that's solid, but you're also just working against the clock. And that's a difficult thing to manage in the data that I believe firmly, you know, just in little ways to celebrate accomplishment and then you have two very, very quickly move on. And this is why, you know, we've talked about it already a few times, but why focus is so important because speed is so important and someone will eat your lunch incredibly quickly unless you are focused on a technology that solves a product where there aren't many, excuse me, a technology that solves a problem where there aren't many competitors, arguably though, if you go to raise funds based on a market that where there are no competitors, there might be a little bit of a question mark. Is this a problem we're solving if no one else is trying to do it? And that may or may not be the case, depends on, depends on the market. So you know, I would say when you're looking at markets and you're thinking about the type of product that you want to create, this is specifically for technology companies. Do you want to find a wide blue ocean? Do you want to try to create a new category and be the gorilla in the category? How big is this? Do you want the opportunity to be for you to, for it to be worth you spending your life on it or some some of your life on it or are you looking to be a best in breed tool that's maybe not necessarily the gorilla in the market but a, you know, a sort of very strategic offering that focuses on a very specific segment. So it matters the problem that you're solving and how the market has developed historically to try to solve that problem.

Jeff Bullas

00:34:54 - 00:35:27

Yeah, it's, it's like, it's just, you can feel overwhelming. Can't really, in terms of trying to do, you're going right? Also, the problem is you got choices what market do I really focus on. And so, and then you've got data then you've got intuition and creativity as well. So this is the challenge, isn't it? Trying to map the qualitative as well as the quantitative data and then add the beautiful mix of human creativity and intuition to that mix served by that information.

Sonciary Perez

00:35:29 - 00:36:42

It's a beautiful, a beautiful journey. And I'm reminded by a quote that I've said so many times. I feel like my team is probably sick of it but it's, I forget who exactly is attributed to, but it is “In the mind of the beginner, the possibilities are endless and in the mind of the expert, the possibilities are few.” And it's a reminder right? When I, when we created my very first company had no idea what I was doing and maybe some people might say I still have no idea what you're still learning but you're naive and you don't think that things aren't possible, you just go after it and you're not thinking about all the reasons why something would fail. You're thinking about all the reasons why it could succeed. And many, I think it's important for many of us founders to yes, rely on our experience and in some ways be very realistic but we have to have the mental fortitude of being in many cases incredibly honest or excuse me optimistic and drinking the Kool Aid and being like the chief believing officers because you are just knocked down constantly for good reason. And so yeah, being, taking that beginner's mind and pairing it with the expert is a difficult dance, but I think it's very important,

Jeff Bullas

00:36:42 - 00:36:48

That's what I think beautiful, naivety mixed with energy.

Sonciary Perez

00:36:48 - 00:36:50

Yeah, I like that.

Jeff Bullas

00:36:50 - 00:37:10

So it's, I totally agree. And so the other question to ask you in the dark of night where you're doubting your mission, who supports you here with your mentors and where does that inspiration support come from?

Sonciary Perez

00:37:10 - 00:38:46

This is the, thank you for this question. Well I, I will say that when it gets dark first I turtle, I completely turtle, I go inward and I'm just like how am I gonna survive and turtle-ing can be that my friends and family don't hear from me for a little bit of time. I'm just at the gym, you know, just trying to get all the excess stress out and then after I've totaled for a few days and then I sort of come up and, or sometimes a few hours, it depends, I come up and I have conversations with my partner who is in a similar industry, has similar experiences and helps me process and I talked to my co founder, Jonathan, who is an incredible source of just stability. He sort of, I feel like has a very non-emotional even keel approach, he's ballast in my life and we'll talk through things and he comes from a place of non judgment, I feel like I can always be honest with him and then I also will speak a little bit to my past co founders actually having conversations with them. Getting there. Getting their thoughts and feedback. And usually I keep the circle small. If it's a very specific question or that the Dark Knight is a very specific subject, I might go to a subject expert where I'm like, I know this person, like maybe it's sales focus. Like I'm having trouble with this, bringing this one piece across the finish line. I might talk to a good friend who I know is just an amazing saleswoman and she could help give me ideas.

Jeff Bullas

00:38:47 - 00:39:18

Yeah, it's everyone sees a shoddy front end quite often. Don't learn. They're going don't realize that just all of us are human. There's doubts and fears that that always creeping in and moving forward it takes a lot of courage and persistence and resilience. Thing I've loved about life for me is that in reflection, I've looked back and going, where did the biggest opportunities came from? And it came from the darkest moments.

Sonciary Perez

00:39:18 - 00:39:19

Wow.

Jeff Bullas

00:39:20 - 00:39:26

Because you don't learn from comfort. You learn from pain.

Sonciary Perez

00:39:26 - 00:39:29

I know it, don't we know it.

Jeff Bullas

00:39:29 - 00:39:36

So what's an accelerator incubator opportunity? Pain.

Sonciary Perez

00:39:36 - 00:39:37

It's so true.

Jeff Bullas

00:39:38 - 00:39:48

Mm So, um just to wrap it up here? Since you're what are some of the things you've learned along the way that you'd like to share with our listeners and viewers?

Sonciary Perez

00:39:51 - 00:40:54

I would say for of course I only have my own experiences, but for those also type a highly critical, highly passionate individuals out there. I would say, be gentle on yourself. It is, it is a long ride. It's a long road, a long ride. It's, you know, we talked about it being a marathon versus a sprint. Like I am at Promoboxx, there is a period for about four-ish years where I didn't take a single vacation. I do not take a single day off. And I would say we're all committed, but we don't need to be martyrs. You need to take, it's important to take a little bit of time away from the business. You can reflect and restore and come back with new and exciting ideas, get out, go for a hike, go for a walk, go to the gym and other experiences in life are always going to be tied back to the business you're creating because you just can't leave it. It's how your mind works. You're highly focused. So give your, give yourself, spend time with family. Like give yourself the ability to step away and restore, you'll be better for yourself. You're ready for your co-founders, for your team.

Jeff Bullas

00:40:55 - 00:41:03

So I heard that you're sort of saying that you need to give yourself permission to take some silent quiet time for yourself?

Sonciary Perez

00:41:04 - 00:41:15

Yeah, yeah, I would say so being someone that didn't do that for a while and seeing the impact and many like us? Iwould say that that's not the route to go.

Jeff Bullas

00:41:16 - 00:41:30

So what's the future you think for equal in terms of the vision you have in terms of the product as a separate entrance to help customer service success. Sure. Where's the big vision for you guys?

Sonciary Perez

00:41:31 - 00:42:39

Yeah, we are developing our AI ML approach to the technology we're creating and there's some natural language processing components of it as well. Our dream is that a team will be able to integrate essentially any data source that we don't have to necessarily force workflow transformation but wherever the work is happening today, they can bring that data into our platform. Our dream is to create a vibrant, amazing Boston-based company. We are primarily remote but our nexus is in Boston create something that's beautiful for the ecosystem there and a bullhorn for the startup cause Jonathan and I want to create something that matters that last, you know that that lasts a long time and we're focusing on having an environment that promotes not only that startup grit and best speed but also the balance of making sure that you're taking time for yourself and doing the things that you love because we all have one life and it's important for us to know that we are multifaceted beings were not just workers. We're a lot more than that.

Jeff Bullas

00:42:39 - 00:42:40

Yeah,

Sonciary Perez

00:42:40 - 00:42:42

We're not just machines.

Jeff Bullas

00:42:42 - 00:42:54

So what is your, I suppose sweet spot that you're identifying as your customer persona market segment. What is that? Sweet spot that you're aiming at?

Sonciary Perez

00:42:56 - 00:43:54

Thank you. Thank you for this question. It's funny. We're so, we're a few years into our journey. I'll preface it. So we actually have expanded our buyer personas. We started in the customer success space working with customer success leaders, primarily leaders that we're managing teams of about 20 CSM’s or more several 100 employees at the company overall. And you're looking at you know at least 10-15 million. And there are and now we've expanded it to chief product officers and also chief data officers that are looking to aggregate all of this qualitative information so that it's either it's a.) in one place and b.) helps to inform the customer experience to better that experience. And since we've expanded our persona, we've also expanded the customer maturity. We're now working with scaling organizations that are 1 to 2000 employees strong. And they are, you know 200-250 million an era.

Jeff Bullas

00:43:54 - 00:43:57

So in other words you're moving more up into the enterprise space?

Sonciary Perez

00:43:58 - 00:44:20

We are yeah we are I will say that startups are near and dear to our heart. We are one. So anyone approaches me that's a smaller team or CSM of one or CS team of one that's interested in these type of insights. Please don't hesitate to reach out. I would love to know that we're building a product where it could help serve their needs as well. We just want to, we all support the ecosystem.

Jeff Bullas

00:44:20 - 00:44:51

Fantastic. I love what you've been doing for the last 10, 15 years. It's been quite a journey, but the sounds of it with courage to start taking an idea and actually acting on it. I think that's where the magic happens is magic in the motion and hats off to you for doing such a fantastic job and continuing to so and look forward to seeing the explosion expansion of Quala. How do people contact you?

Sonciary Perez

00:44:52 - 00:45:19

Yes. Please don't hesitate to reach out. It's Sonciary, if you want to include in the show notes [email protected] or my I'm not on any social media except for Linkedin. So you can just find me by typing in S O N C I A R Y, I'm the only Sonciary, so it's not, not hard to find me. Oh and then also our website, it's Quala.io.

Jeff Bullas

00:45:19 - 00:45:33

Okay, well thank you very much for a fantastic conversation and your insights and wisdom. I always learn so much from these fireside chats without the fire.

Sonciary Perez

00:45:33 - 00:45:37

But the fire is internal, it's the internal burning.

Jeff Bullas

00:45:37 - 00:45:38

I think it's cold enough to have a fire in Boston at the moment, isn't?

Sonciary Perez

00:45:38 - 00:45:41

It really, totally is. Yeah.

Jeff Bullas

00:45:41 - 00:45:43

Yeah. I can see you wearing a jacket. I'm wearing a T shirt.

Jeff Bullas

00:45:43 - 00:45:48

Thank you very much for your time and your wisdom. It's been an absolute pleasure.

Sonciary Perez

00:45:48 - 00:45:53

Thank you so much. Thank you for spending some time with me and for the thoughtful and insightful questions.