SaaS Founder Interview with Jessica Day, Co-Founder & CMO of IdeaScale
IdeaScale is the largest cloud-based innovation software platform in the world
Tony Zayas 0:01
All right. Hello, everyone, and welcome to the SaaS Founder Show, where we have fascinating conversations with successful SaaS founders who share their journeys, learnings and insights along the way. Well, I’m Tony Zayas, your host with your co-host, Andy Halko. Should be joining us, popping in here in a moment. Maybe, maybe not, just some technical difficulties, but I want to get right to it and jump right in. Because we have, today we have Jessica Day who is the co-founder and CMO of IdeaScale and IdeaScale is an idea management platform that uses crowdsourcing to help you find and develop the next big thing. Super excited to hear all about it. Jessica, welcome.
Jessica Day 0:44
Thank you so much, Tony. Hopefully, Andy can join us soon. But I’m really pleased to be here. I love the stories that you’re sharing.
Tony Zayas 0:51
Yeah, thank you. We enjoyed a lot. We always have, you know, really interesting conversations. You asked us about some of the things that when we first reached out, so I will actually start with that point. Because you’re, you’re somewhat prepared for this question now. So on a scale of 1 to 10, how weird would you say you are?
Jessica Day 1:12
I was thinking about this, and I think I’m a solid eight. But like, I do a real, like, I make those like extra two points work hard. So that I you don’t can’t always tell. But like the example I was using in my head for this is we had a Halloween party one year as the company. And we invited people to show up in costume, but I showed up with a box of costumes and changed into four different ones throughout the night. So it comes out sometimes I think that like former theater nerd thing.
Tony Zayas 1:45
That’s funny. Well, I think there is probably something to that. You know, as a founder, as a visionary. You know, there’s probably something about you that you think a little bit differently than, you know, the average person that you might run into. So I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. But pretty cool, but I appreciate you playing along with us there. That’s a fun one. So tell us about IdeaScale. Just a high level, you know, overview of the company, and then we could dive in, you know, want to hear about the journey and where you started and all that big picture overview, we’d love to hear more about it.
Jessica Day 2:23
Yeah, so IdeaScale is, you know, sort of the value of it is in the name. The idea is that you can gather great ideas from anyone, anywhere, whether it’s like your frontline employee or your customer. But you want to be able to organize all those ideas that you’re gathering, because if they can come from anywhere, you’re going to get a lot. So you’ve got to be able to prioritize them, make choices about them, turn them into products, turn them into different projects, or new ways of working. So our software helps you do all that. Both gather those ideas, and then prioritize them to take action on them.
Tony Zayas 2:57
That’s awesome. I never necessarily heard of something just like that. But it sounds like something super relevant for a lot of people. So I would love to ask and find out, you know, where did that idea come from? And how did how was that born?
Jessica Day 3:15
Well, it’s funny, actually, my co founders and I, we, we kind of, you know, got out of school, and we’re getting through our first couple of jobs. Most of us ended up working at these like larger organizations or working for large organizations, like, you know, banks, my… One of my co founders was working as an intern at the White House. I was, you know, working with Microsoft, things like that. And we found that there is this, this like, really impenetrable layer for new ideas that kept, that always turned up in these big companies, and sometimes for good reason. But you had to like know, a lot of people, be there for a long time to get your ideas heard in any meaningful way. And we also were all all of us very mission-focused, like we cared about things like the growing income gap, or climate change. And we knew, like, the solutions to those problems are not going to come from the people who have always been running things already, you know, you need to be looking in under every rock for solutions. So we were like, Okay, if we’re going to solve some of the world’s biggest problems, we need to find a way to get, you know, to connect the people with the ideas to the people with the resources to make those changes.
Tony Zayas 4:29
Awesome. So what was the like, initial idea for like, for the product service? What did that look like?
Jessica Day 4:37
Um, it’s funny. So two of my other co founders were working in the survey software space. And at first they were like, maybe this is a type of survey question. You know, like, we can ask people like, what should we be asking about and then other people can respond to the answers. But as they started to build that, they realized that we were entering this realm of what people were just starting to call crowdsourcing at the time. which covered like a wide variety of things, everything from like Wikipedia to, you know, Quora. And we were in this space where it was crowdsourcing ideas, and we realized it had to be its own product, because there were a lot of other things that needed to go with it. Like, if you’re going to gather all those ideas, you’ve got to be ready to do something with them. And if they’re going to be, you know, great, you know, bringing all these people into the process, you’re actually kind of building community and these using some of the social mechanics of social media. So if that’s how it became its own thing, and not just a question type within survey software.
Tony Zayas 5:35
Very cool. So started fairly simple, and then probably grew into a lot more than that. What was when… When you guys first launched the product, what did the MVP look like?
Jessica Day 5:49
Yeah, well, it’s it’s funny. So our company kind of came of age during the Obama administration coming into office, and they had a whole new approach to how they were going to do feedback management in open government. They Obama launched the open government initiative. And he said that every federal agency needed to have a system that was transparent, participatory and collaborative. We had some sort of connections into some of those government relationships. And so one of our first customers was the White House.
Tony Zayas 6:22
Jessica Day 6:24
And, and we were like, okay, that’s what the MVP has to be, we need a system for gathering that feedback. It needs to be transparent, participatory, and collaborative. And that’s sort of how we launched. We helped them launch one of the premier initiatives, which was called the Save award, which was asking any federal employee, whether they were, you know, in, you know, BC or Wisconsin for ideas on how they could save the government money. And so we were preparing for that project. And that’s how we got the Minimum Viable Product of like, you can share your ideas, other people can vote on them, and comment on them, and you can prioritize them that way.
Tony Zayas 7:06
Very cool. So how you mentioned collaboration? So how does, how does the platform encourage and enable collaboration? Curious, that sounds, sounds awesome.
Jessica Day 7:18
Well, at the time, it was it was very, you know, kind of just… The MVP was like, you can vote on it, you can vote it up, you can vote it down, you can comment on it. And you can, those are threaded comments. So you could see certain people, you know, you could see people responding within like conversations, you could pin certain comments, like if if there was like something like, Oh, we actually already did this, you know, when you want it to pin that to the top, you can make sure that people already knew that. And you can move those ideas between basic stages of like, in-progress, or, you know, completed. And that’s what the MVP experience looks like, what it looks like now is much more like, you can do a lot more to collaborate with each other. You can build business proposals together. You can share documents. You can kind of like estimate value and record the or potential ROI of certain ideas. And that can come from anyone anywhere. And of course, there’s some like game mechanics too like you can, right now you can do things like anybody in the community can offer kudos to anybody else in the community for their comments or for their ideas. And the more you get course, the higher you proceed on the leaderboard.
Tony Zayas 8:34
That’s cool. We talk to a lot of founders that have introduced some level of gamification. And, you know, we always see, you know, that always sparks a great conversation. What has that done for the platform, and the engagement interaction? Does that happen on an important piece?
Jessica Day 8:51
it has, but it’s also been an evolution. And when we started off with this unique set of badges that we created, and our own scoring for different types of things that we’ve shifted to this peer to peer recognition system that we’ve seen, be like, kind of one of the new trends because it’s provided a lot more value and a system that’s trying to reward people for the contributions they make, you know, honoring the crowd’s decisions about what’s valuable, instead of just what our algorithm or our badges say, is valuable.
Tony Zayas 9:23
Yeah, y’know, that’s really cool. So I would love to hear about the cofounders, because I know you mentioned that there’s, there’s other you know, founders. What does, you know, we typically like to talk about what the dynamic relationship between founders looks like, and, you know, how do you guys… How did you guys come up with that, you know, joint vision and what’s the working relationship like?
Jessica Day 9:48
Yeah, it’s interesting. So, you know, one of the questions that you had said, was potentially going to be talked about on this podcast was who are the three most influential people on your life? My first thought was, well, my three cofounders probably had the biggest imprint on my on my life. And so I have my CEO, Rob Hoehn, was one of our co founders. And he sort of had was able to take this vision and run with it. Vivek Bhaskaran, one of our other co founders is a multi time entrepreneur, has founded many other companies. So he brought a lot of that leadership and is still a member of our board today. And my other co founder, Josh Folk, he was sort of our entry into business, which I know not a lot of, like SaaS founders that I’ve talked to are getting their start working with government. But we certainly did. And that’s one of the things that Josh brought to us.
Tony Zayas 10:45
Oh, great. So do you guys all have experience from different arenas basically?
Jessica Day 10:53
you know, most of them, besides me have founded some other company and some other way, at least one other. Whereas the only thing other thing I had ever founded before was a nonprofit, which is, you know, has had some similarities, but has been a lot different in a lot of ways, too.
Tony Zayas 11:12
Yeah, that’s great. So how do you guys from a strategic perspective of you know, what’s next in the evolution of IdeaScale? How do you guys collaborate? What does that look like? Do you do you know, quarterly strategy meetings? Or how do you handle that?
Jessica Day 11:32
Well, it looks a lot different now than it used to, in some ways. And in some ways, it’s because we’re actually all spread out. Rob and I are co-located here in California. But Josh is still located close to our federal government business in DC, and Vivek down in Texas. In some ways, it’s easier for us all to coordinate now in COVID time, so we’re meeting on a pretty regular basis, actually, usually at least once a month. Usually, all of us are there sometimes Vivek can’t make it because he’s still also major interest in some of our other his other startups. And, but but Josh and Rob and I are talking all the time, about big decisions and small decisions sometimes too.
Tony Zayas 12:18
Very cool. So you guys have been at this for a while, we were just talking before we came on the air that, you know, 11 years. And now is that correct? And last Yeah, I think milestone right? 10 years in business, what would you say is, you know, the was was the biggest momentum that you guys got along the way, and really kind of scaling and growing and building a foundation? What would you say that biggest kind of…
Jessica Day 12:51
I think it was a mind shift that we needed to make as a company. It wasn’t like one single moment necessarily, but about five years in, we were continuing to grow. But we weren’t growing as fast as we wanted and as predictably as we wanted. And we realized that we had built a very sales-first, very sales-focused organization that was like really celebrating new revenue. Every time we close a deal, we bang the gong, and I’m what we realized we wanted to do is shift to being a customer-obsessed company. And really, like we that’s when we started building out that team and started investing much, much more in like the strategic support that we can provide to our customers. And that sort of transformed our business. And I think that’s led to, you know, both more predictable growth and some of those revenue benefits, but also, like better stories from our customers and like, you know, more brand advocates that are out there talking about the work that they’re doing with our tool.
Tony Zayas 13:54
That’s fantastic. So that was the shift to just being more customer-centric, and really focus on on. That’s outstanding. Just to you know, you mentioned a little bit about, you know, growing in the team, what does the team look like nowadays?
Jessica Day 14:12
Yeah, so we’re a very global team, actually. And it’s become even more like that. Post COVID, because now we’re kind of a virtual-first organization, but we have people in India, we have people in Bangladesh, we have people all over the US, and our biggest teams, our development team, because we’re really invested in building out the product and making it kind of like one of the leading solutions out there. And then our customer success team, because as I said, that’s the most important thing we can do is invest in our customers.
Tony Zayas 14:46
Yeah, that’s great. Just about your background, I don’t think we’ve talked about this at all yet, but you mentioned Microsoft, I’d love to hear some of the learnings that you got from your time there but do you have a technical background?
Jessica Day 15:02
No, no, I come from the kind of the arts world and hence the theater stuff. But I pursued writing. And I’ve always been obsessed with storytelling. And that’s kind of the thing that continues to draw me to IdeaScale is talking about the stories that are happening with our customers. But so that’s what I went to school for. I got my MFA in creative writing, and came out and started using that in the business world. And I wasn’t an employee of Microsoft directly, but I was working with some firms that did work with them. And that was sort of my first taste of what it’s like to work at a big company. And I remember coming out of school, and I would go to the Microsoft campus, and they’d be like, Oh, my god, there’s soda, and you can just take it. I was like, the the thing that floored me at the time. But now I think about like, what, what was interesting about that experience, you know, the way that they are able to organize some of those large teams at scale, and solve problems, like, but with like, hundreds of people working on different parts of it in some ways. It’s like crowdsourcing, yeah. All these different people working on these different tasks to make a company that huge.
Tony Zayas 16:15
That’s interesting. So you know, I’m sure there’s a number of things that played into how you built out IdeaScale. But did that offer up any, you know, ideas or concepts? And you know, again, you’re talking about really large teams, lots of people, lots of ideas, that
Jessica Day 16:34
I think we borrowed liberally from a lot of the other experiences that we had, but also we wanted to be, it’s funny, thinking about the 11 years that we’ve been around how different like the Internet has gone through like, several reinventions in that time. And when we were getting started, we were part of when we were talking to the Obama White House, we were part of what they called New Media, like they weren’t calling it digital media, or like, you know, and we were lumped in with like, YouTube, they didn’t know what to do with all of us.
Tony Zayas 17:06
Jessica Day 17:07
But we were all learning from each other. Like I remember, for a long time, we were calling ourself Reddit for ideas, because there were a lot of principles in Reddit that were inspiring to us. That we have, but certainly we looked at some of these larger tech companies to see like, yeah, how are they organizing ideas? And how do we have to like, get through all of these layers of permissions so that ideas eventually have a life of their own?
Tony Zayas 17:32
That’s really cool. I’d like to ask, you know, funding-wise, I know, you said that you’re you guys bootstrap. So we’d love to hear about, you know, how that has worked out for you? And is there any advice you give to others who are trying to decide between bootstrapping or trying to raise money and love to hear how you guys took the path that you did.
Jessica Day 17:55
Well, and, you know, I see merits to both. We’ve stayed bootstrap this whole time. And certainly there have been times where we’ve talked about like, Is it time to go do some fundraising. But we’ve stayed bootstrap, I think, because we really like the freedom to make our own choices, we’ve, you know, making certain shifts away from not being not just a crowdsourcing tool, but this, you know, this management prioritization tool, like we didn’t have to go to a board, pitch that strategy. We were able to sort of make some very agile decisions and do that. And then also, it’s allowed us to stay really, in keeping with our values, we’ve done a lot of things that I don’t necessarily think that VC funders would have cared about, like, we were the first of our type of software to go fully carbon neutral. And that was an initiative that took time to figure out. We like did things like when George Floyd was killed, we decided to take a week off and see us all non essential IdeaScale activities, and have a week of action where people could learn or, you know, take part and different things. And I think those would have been much riskier endeavors if we had gone the VC funding route. And we really enjoyed being able to do that be like a purpose driven company, as well as a like growing successful, profitable company.
Tony Zayas 19:18
Yeah, that’s super interesting. You know, as a purpose driven company, I would love to hear about, your like your culture.
Jessica Day 19:32
Tony Zayas 19:33
Driving forward and be really interested to hear.
Jessica Day 19:37
Yeah, we have sort of six key values at IdeaScale. They’re optimism and an undaunted attitude, kindness, collaborative, curious and conscientious. And those are sort of the things that we’re building for at all times. And because you know, you’ll you’ll notice like optimism is one of those things you really need, if you’re going to be in the change industry, because it’s hard along the way. And that’s gonna be one of the things that our customers are experiencing as they’re gathering ideas and trying to create change, it’s certainly something we experience. So that’s one of the things we’re like looking for. And also trying to actively help people with. One of the things I say in innovation too, is how important it is to embrace failure. My favorite quotes is like failure should always be the beginning, not the end of an experience. And so we definitely talk about our failures. And then we’re very much always encouraging people have a short memory, and just, you know, shake it off. And and like, you know, okay, well, remember what you learned from that. But on to the next thing, try something else, or maybe try even the same thing again. But you know, differently.
Tony Zayas 20:51
That’s an awesome observation. I love that concept. And I’m always curious why that isn’t more embedded just in education and kind of our day to day life, the idea that failure being, you know, an essential part of growing. So how do you guys? How do you guys, you know, take those learnings and, and grow from failures along the way? Because I think that’s something that’s, you know, every SaaS founders dealing with. Failures and setbacks, how do you use that to move forward?
Jessica Day 21:27
Well, I think one of the things we do is we talk about them, like we meet as a whole company once a month in these town hall style meetings. And oftentimes, we’re talking about things that didn’t go well. Like a customer we lost, or, you know, a mistake we made, or somebody that we brought on that doesn’t match our ideal customer profile, and therefore is probably not going to succeed with us and what to do about those things. So it’s not like they’re just something that’s being talked about, like, on our own, like, I remember, we brought on a customer that we were really excited about, like, we’re like, ah, this would be like, a really important project to work on. But it required all of these custom changes that were very specific to that customer. And it just, you know, no note, neither side was happy about it. In the end, you know, we were building stuff that was not serving the rest of our customer base, they felt like we weren’t delivering what we wanted, what they wanted. And in the end, like, we had to part ways with this really great customer. But the entire company was kind of privy to that story along the way. They knew why it wasn’t working. And, and I think that’s helped us, like get better customers that are a better fit for us ever since.
Tony Zayas 22:38
So that’s something you guys actively talk about your clients and how well they fit. Because I definitely, I think that’s something that’s super important, but hard to balance when you’re trying to grow, you know, a business. You’re typically, you know, early on, especially, until there’s some stability there, you know, you want to get as many customers as you can. So it’s hard to be able to say, oh, we don’t really want these times or, you know, firing clients, that type of thing.
Jessica Day 23:07
Especially, when you’re bootstrapped.
Tony Zayas 23:09
Absolutely. So how did you guys deal with that? Because I think that’s fantastic.
Jessica Day 23:14
Yeah, I think it was very all the reasons that you said, really difficult for us to be able to say, like… We need this revenue, you know, that’s what’s going to help us grow. But I think that was part of the same shift of this, like, we’ve got to be investing in our customers and growing these people, because in SaaS, you know, renewals are the lifeblood of the organization. So we really had to figure out, what are the hallmarks of somebody who’s going to be successful, making this into an innovation program? And like, vet them as they’re coming in? For those markers? You know, do they have an innovation process that’s going to serve them? Do they have some support from leadership? Do they have some sort of strategy to bring a large group of people into this process with them? And if they don’t have that, it’s, you know, it’s going to be a much harder thing for us to renew them in a year. So it doesn’t serve us in the end?
Tony Zayas 24:08
Or the you know, if you have to define your target audience, you know, that ideal prospect? What does that look like? What industry, industry or industry is, how big are these companies? You already got the logo of the White House on the website, right? Or I don’t know if you guys do, but that’s, you know, that’s starting out. That’s pretty powerful. But who is who’s that audience that you’re targeting?
Jessica Day 24:33
Well, it’s it’s changed a lot in 11 years. So but so we don’t necessarily work in any particular vertical, because who doesn’t need to change? Like, is there anybody who’s like, ‘No, I don’t need new ideas.’ I will say, though, that our track record in government and some of the features that we’ve built specifically for the government audience, have made it like, just like the foundation of our business. It’s over 40% of our business. But then everything else through the enterprise is, is really divided up. But what we used to be working with, you know, kind of could be anybody, project managers, somebody in the communications team. But what we’re finding now is almost half of the people that we’re working with have this title of innovation manager. It’s this role that didn’t exist probably 10 or 11 years ago, or not as much, and it’s exploded in the past 10 years.
Tony Zayas 25:34
Yeah, I have heard of that role. So that’s, and to your point, it’s, it’s a newer title out there. But that’s pretty cool. So is that typically the primary person that you’re dealing with if you had a single point of contact, and a client calm?
Jessica Day 25:49
Yeah, that’s usually the person who’s getting in there and coordinating this effort. Sometimes they’re reporting to a Chief Innovation Officer. Sometimes there’s, you know, Transformation Officers, and we often play in the Digital Transformation space, too. But yeah, innovation managers, the most common person that we’ll be working with,
Tony Zayas 26:11
Very cool. Let us circle back to talk a little bit about, you know, with the things you mentioned about culture, and talking about the team. How do you find the right people that are a good fit? So what is the hiring process? What are things that you’re looking for? Because I think you have a lot of unique things. And, you know, being purpose driven and all that. You got to have the right match just like, with your clients, your people as well, I’m assuming, but I’d like to hear more.
Jessica Day 26:42
Well, I think one of the best things that we did for ourselves in the past couple of years, as we started working with recruiting firms, instead of trying to do the recruiting ourselves, we found we’ve found just more diverse talent. That’s been a real priority. We, you know, we, you know, if you’re only hiring off of your LinkedIn, you’re sort of limited by your network. Whereas once we started opening it up, and asking some recruiters for some help, we started finding people that didn’t always look and think like us. So that was a big change. And now, so now I’m when we hire a role, we work with a recruiter. And we go through multiple stages, usually, there’s some sort of initial conversation, usually, there’s some sort of task or opportunity to see some of that person how they work. And then usually, there’s some sort of group paced conversation that both assesses, you know, their interest and their skills, but also, you know, what they think of us. We used to actually, when we still had an office, invite that person in and we do a puzzle together. We really just like sit there and work on a puzzle and ask each other questions to kind of hang out. So it’s harder to approximate that on a zoom call. But that’s what we’re trying to do.
Tony Zayas 27:58
That’s cool. It’s funny, my wife bought a puzzle for me and my daughter for her to work on, past couple of weeks. And I didn’t realize how therapeutic and interesting puzzles could be, it’s been a long time for me. So that’s a cool concept. So what did you learn in that process?
Jessica Day 28:16
I think one of the things that we learned is just the the more we can get, like, I guess it’s the diversity thing. That diversity, it’s one of the things that drives innovation, like the firm’s that are higher levels of diversity, I think there’s like 45% more likely to grow revenue, and 70% more likely to capture a new market, if that’s the type of thing that serving our customers, we should be investing in it ourselves. And so that’s one of the things we’re looking for. And that doesn’t just mean like, you know, race or background, but also people who think differently, like, maybe we need some shy people and with this group of like, gabby people, maybe we need some people who, you know, haven’t worked in government before, even though we’ve got, you know, great government customer set, because it’s great. Bringing in that diversity of thought is what helps us try and think of new things as well.
Tony Zayas 29:08
It’s very cool. Yeah, the ideas business, I would imagine, you want a lot of perspectives, a lot of different, you know, take something so that’s, that’s really fascinating. We talked about the idea when we’re talking about founders, about the vision gap. And so we actually have this white paper that we published a few years back. And it’s really the idea that, you know, founders, you know, are visionaries, and they come in and they have this, this vision for what they want, you know. Their, their business, their solution to be and look like, and all the things all these possibilities that exist, but the challenge that message along the way, and that’s, you know. Between amongst, you know, the co founders, from the founder, you know, the team of founders to the internal team, out to the market, out to your clients. I would love to hear you know, some of the things that you guys have done to really solidify, first of all, their vision. And then how do you take the message out there, as the CMO and someone, in marketing, you know. Marketing expertise, I would love to hear how you go about, you know, broaching that topic.
Jessica Day 30:22
It’s really interesting, I should read your white paper. I haven’t read it yet. But that’s definitely the real thing, the vision gap. And it’s making me think that one of our other core values should be patience. Because I think that, especially when you do have ideas about where you want it to go, and you get really excited about the future, it’s hard to have, like patience for that, that roadmap. I think one of the things that we do for sure is come together as a leadership team and talk about ideas, not just as co founders, but like the leads of all of the teams and try and get in everybody’s perspective, so that the solution that we’re developing over in services or in our product is not being made in a vacuum that people understand. Like, why the customers thinking this way, or what new technology is driving this instead of just making a decision. So that the transparency, I think, matters a lot. And then yeah, I just think also, like patience with the process. Like, yes, we know that AI and natural language processing is the future of innovation management. We’ve got people working on it, but like, what we want it to be and what it is right now. Like it’s helping us better organize things right now. And like kind of helping us sort through the data, but like what it can do in the future, we’re not there yet. And so we’ve got to kind of wait for that. And at the same time, new trends are coming in all the time. Like I think voice is going to be really interesting when it comes to innovation because you know, you’ll you can start just gathering ideas from, with your voice from anywhere, making it like even more frictionless. But that’s still, you know, in the future for us.
Tony Zayas 32:07
Being as client-centric as you guys are, and having you know, an innovative, you know, product and solution. Curious how you guys take feedback from your users. Obviously, there’s a lot of ideas, and you guys are open and sharing a lot internally with the team. How do you take and learn from your, your clients on how to improve and adding features to the roadmap? What’s the process look like for that?
Jessica Day 32:36
Well, we wouldn’t be very good, you know, a very good company if we didn’t use our own product for that. So we definitely have a community where everyone not even just our customers, but like the public if they have ideas for what they think we should build, they can come in and make that suggestion, vote on other people’s see where certain things are in our process. That’s ideas.ideascale.com. Like, we go to that all the time, especially for like, I don’t know, like what what is, you know, NLP? How is that going to affect us looking go in there and we’ll look at the ideas that are in there already for NLP. So it’s kind of this like living thing. But, you know, there are lots of ways to get that feedback. So we also have a customer advisory board that meets with us a couple of times a year, and gives us feedback on some of the strategic choices that we’re making. We run a survey every year and in depth survey where we pay our customers to tell us more of what’s happening beyond the walls of our software. And like that’s like my favorite time of year. I like constantly refreshing the results as they come in and think of it as like our annual report card. And, you know, and then lighter touch things like of course, we do the NPS survey and gather feedback from that if we can, but so it’s, you know, everything from those kind of like really qualitative, small focus group type things like in our customer advisory board to crowdsourcing ideas for our next product decision.
Tony Zayas 34:07
Very cool. Yeah, that’s, that’s great. And to your point, since that’s what you guys are all about. I’m sure that’s a big part of what you do but that’s that’s exciting. When do you do that? What time is it, is it the same time a year?
Jessica Day 34:22
The annual survey?
Tony Zayas 34:23
Jessica Day 34:24
That’s, that’s always like January-February so it’s happening right now. Like I’ll probably get off of this interview and then go see what’s changed. Yeah,
Tony Zayas 34:33
That’s cool, very cool. So for talk marketing since you know that is your your area. I would love to hear you know how you guys go to market. Obviously you’re you I’m guessing target. You know those personas that will match like you said, you know, you have a pretty you guys trying to stay guys go to market. What are the some of the things from a tactical perspective that you’re doing? And what has worked really well for you guys?
Jessica Day 35:04
Yeah, well, we’ve been very fortunate in that we’ve been able to be almost 100% inbound for, like, at least the first nine years of our business, we’ve started to do more outbound in the past two years. And that’s been a great investment, very happy that we’re doing that. But because we’ve been focused on inbound, the biggest win for us has been the content marketing that we’ve done, that’s helped us with our search engine optimization. We, I think, also one of the things that we did in those early days that helped us was we decided to, like, lean into our brand and, like, make that something that we was recognizable with our from our customer experiences. For example, White House first customer, like, where we really want that business. But at the same time, they were like, you have to take the IdeaScale logo off of it. And we were like, we’re on this sort of like white knuckled call, and we’re like, no, we’re not going to do that. And I think that’s one of the things that helped us because because you’re crowdsourcing, there are a lot more visibility on your brand. So you’ve got to be able to make your brand recognizable, and something that people come back to. So I’d say like, definitely, like making white labeling something that’s a really, really premium feature that you don’t sacrifice. And, and SEO, investing in our content marketing.
Tony Zayas 36:32
Yeah, we’ve we’ve found the same, Insivia gets like 90 plus percent of our business that way. And, you know, it’s, it’s fascinating, we talk to a lot of our clients and SaaS founders. And yeah, I mean, SEO is it’s so important, because people that are finding you are researching, they’re learning, they’re pre-qualifying themselves. And so yeah, leads to kind of, we’d like to say, a frictionless process, once we start talking to people, which is fantastic. So that, that’s great. So what have you guys done from an outbound sampling? I’d be curious to hear success more past couple of years. It sounds like,
Jessica Day 37:11
Yeah, we’re working with some firms who are essentially SDRs for us. And we’ve tried to find ways to rapidly onboard them to get to know our story and our customer profile. And they do that like hard work of being on LinkedIn, cold calling, emailing and getting people who are interested to, like, take that first step. But it’s very interesting. The story that you tell is so different. When you’re talking to somebody who’s outbound versus somebody who’s inbound. We actually have two separate decks that we we use, depending on how that conversation started. Because somebody who’s coming to through, you know, a Google search, they’re like, yes, yes, I know why I need you, you know, just tell me what’s different about you, or somebody who’s outbound that you’ve got to start at the beginning and be like, just so you know, this is why crowdsource innovation is what, you know, the fortune 500 is doing.
Tony Zayas 38:08
Yeah, for sure. That’s, that’s a great point. Um, what is, what has, aside from SEO, what other types of you know, marketing is had the best results for you guys?
Jessica Day 38:23
Well, I don’t know. So we have this sort of controversial ideas. Like, when Rob and I about event marketing, where we’re like, it’s like, it’s kind of over, or at least the traditional sense. And so one of the things that we decided to do is, instead of taking all of those, that budget that we would have used for sponsoring events, we decided to take that and put on our own event. That’s just for our customers and people who are interested in crowd sourced innovation. And there’s no sales that happens at that. And like, we don’t, you know, pitch the product. There’s very there. We had some requests for people to see like what’s coming, you know, on the product roadmap, and so we’ve done some of that. But it’s, there’s no like sales focus of it. It’s just our customers talking about their use cases, challenges they’ve had, we’ve In fact, encouraged them to talk about like, what are your roadblocks and like, wide networking, and it’s sort of a workshop feel. And that has been one of our most powerful marketing tools, I’d say, bar none, because it’s helped us build this community of practice. So you’re not just buying into software. It’s helped us create this great library of best practices content over the years. And it’s also been a really great like social validation tool like this is working for other people, or here’s what you can expect. So that’s been a big win for us.
Tony Zayas 39:48
That’s really cool. And that sounds along the lines of that commitment that you have to the you know, customer-centric approach. And pretty fascinating, right, that you’re not selling, but it’s been really successful to. That’s really cool. I would love to hear I mean, you already talked a bit about your cofounders, and you know the importance that they play in your life, which is really cool to hear that story. But are there any other mentors or others that you lean on along the way along your journey. We hear from a lot of people that they’ll talk about, you know, groups, that they’re a part of: Other entrepreneurs, friends, family members. For you, who are the people that you lean on? And I realized that might be some of the, you know, the cofounders there as well, but would love to hear.
Jessica Day 40:35
Yeah, I mean, I think one of the things that’s been really powerful as I keep, we have what we call it at IdeaScale, an alumni network. So people who used to work at idea scale who have moved on to like really great places like HubSpot, Coursera. Like other startups. We learn a lot from them, and we bring it up, especially in the past year, we’ve had this sort of like lunch with an alumni. And like, we’ll bring the whole company whoever wants to come and sort of like an open zoom call, and we’ll have somebody from their current company come in and just tell us how they’re doing, what they’re working on, what they’re learning. And I think that’s been really rich. It’s not just about the time you have when you’re here, it’s about this relationship that’s ongoing. And yeah, as you say, I think networking provides this really rich place to be outside the walls of your organization. So I’m constantly going to things like I work, I’m part of something called the mag collective. I’m part of this, like, women tech founders group. And I’ve met some really interesting people that way, like, this woman who has been like a, you know, tech founder in the past, but is now this like, CEO of this cane, like dog adoption training nonprofit, like she’s had some really interesting insights into pricing strategy that I wouldn’t have, you know, known. And I wouldn’t have found her any other way except through somebody that kind of connecting us that way.
Tony Zayas 42:01
It’s really cool. And I love that idea of, you know, the alumni network. I’m in close touch with an organization I used to be with prior to Insivia. Yeah. And it’s funny, because some of those relationships have grown even deeper than when I was there. And a lot of those ideas and all that, and that’s kind of how I look at it is that, an alumni group. So, yeah, really cool. I think that’s kind of a missed opportunity for a lot of companies that kind of, you know, cut the cord, that someone wants to move on. Right? That’s, where did that idea come from?
Jessica Day 42:35
Um, you know, I think it’s just part of like, the culture is we, I think kindness, I said, is one of our values. I think it’s very much like, we see each other as people first. So we just stay in touch. But we also, you know, we have people’s contact information. And that was just one of the things that seemed particularly important to us as to, to not just for me to be calling our old Product Manager, but to be like, you know, what, James has got some ideas that everybody should be hearing.
Tony Zayas 43:06
Yeah, I love that. That’s really cool. It’s a gem that well.
Jessica Day 43:10
What are people coming to you for? You’re, are they trying to learn how to do podcasting, live streaming?
Tony Zayas 43:16
Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s certain things that I used to, you know, a role that I played there that just getting feedback on ways that they can improve and grow. And as they changed, so it’s just like, they’re tapping me for some of the expertise that I brought, and I’m asking them for, you know, things and, and it has to do with that whole, just, you know, having have, you know, having a really solid relationship and just staying in touch. Because of that relationship over, you know, any title or any company that’s next to my name, right? It’s just the people. And it’s a good group of people. And I think that, especially when they when you know, a company like yours, you’re putting emphasis on culture. And so hopefully you’re working with people that are aligned with you, they’re like minded, they bring different perspectives, but at the same time, share some of those values. And those tend to be the type of relationships that regardless of where someone’s working, you want to stay in touch with. So I, I just, I have not heard that type of approach. And I love it. I love that idea. So thanks.
Jessica Day 44:18
Yeah, I guess I would have to say that a big part proponent of that was our CEO, my co founder, Rob, I remember being really bummed when like one of our, like, my favorite people is like moving on to a different role. And he was like, ‘Jessica, we did our job. We set them up to get their next great thing.’ And I was like, Oh, yeah, that’s what our purpose is, is like to be like, helping people be part of this larger world and have a great experience while they’re here. So definitely a priority for us.
Tony Zayas 44:51
That’s fantastic. I would love to hear just just, you know, as a founder. I realize that you know, it And it’s not an easy role is giving, you know, a co founder and a CMO at a growing company. How do you manage? I realized that it’s not always balanced. But how do you, how do you handle that and deal with it, especially now that, you know, so many people are virtual? And I don’t know how that has changed or affected you. But what are some of the things you’re doing just to, you know, stay in a good place? I guess I should say,
Jessica Day 45:30
Sorry. You cut out a little bit. It was about how to like, like, maintain. Yeah, like work life balance?
Tony Zayas 45:40
Yeah. And I realize it’s not always balanced. But just as a founder, how do you stay in a good place? And I realize you have your nonprofit as well. How do you juggle all those things?
Jessica Day 45:50
Yeah, I mean, I think it’s, it’s a silly thing. But I think the hardest thing for me to manage in my life is email, because it’s always on. So I, one of the things I found very powerful is to create boundaries. Like I’m like, I’m not checking email until noon. And I’m not like, and then I’m done with email at four. And that’s what lets me get real work done. And I think creating those boundaries around other things helps, too. But email has been like a powerful one, because it’s like, so easy to be like, well, I’ll just answer one more and get that dopamine hit of task completion. But also, it distracts you from some of the deeper thinking work that you need. For marketing, like, so much of what I need to do is content creation and writing. And if I’m constantly like, oh, something new in the inbox! You don’t get very much done. So boundaries matter.
Tony Zayas 46:45
Yeah, that’s great. Um, I think a lot like you in the sense that I’m easily distracted by all those alerts and everything. So I, I turn off as many as possible. And I try to keep with that, you know, constantly boundaries as well. And it’s been kind of a game changer for me since I started doing that, you know, a couple years back, but that’s cool. Um, so I guess, last question, we’ve been asking everybody this question. But I would love to hear your take on it. So basically, the idea is, you’ve been at this for 11 years now. You guys have grown, you know, doing some incredible things. If you were to go back into, you know, the early days and be able to sit down have a cup of coffee of yourself, with yourself back, you know, early days, what would you what’s, what piece of advice would you give to that, you know, earlier you?
Jessica Day 47:37
Um, I think one of the things is, have more fun along the way, there’s a lot of things that were a lot of fun that I didn’t think I’d necessarily appreciated that don’t happen anymore. One of my favorite stories is like, when we were like redoing and relaunching the website and I was just like, there at 10pm on Halloween evening, like eating candy, listening to loud music with like, a couple of my other coworkers. Like putting together redirects. And like, I really, like long for that time right now. In some ways, the the problems have shifted, and hopefully I don’t, you know, you don’t miss those things along the way. But I think some of the other things too, like the, for us to focus at the beginning was very much on crowdsourcing, getting as many ideas as possible. But one of the things that we’ve realized, and what’s driven a lot of our product development since is you need to do something with those ideas, which is why you needed, we needed to have all to add all the stages where you can prioritize them, build proposals together. So I think that was one thing to keep in mind, like what’s going to happen to those ideas afterwards? And then the thing I already told you about focus on the customers. Don’t be so sales first.
Tony Zayas 48:58
Love it. That’s all really good stuff. Jessica, where could the audience learn more about you and IdeaScale?
Jessica Day 49:06
Yeah, so you can find out all about IdeaScale, at Ideascale.com. You can join some of our live challenges and be part of the community itself. Some of these problems that crowd.ideascale.com as well.
Tony Zayas 49:21
Awesome. That’s fantastic. I hope everyone goes and checks it out. Jessica, just want to say thank you, again so much for your time here today, some really fascinating insights and ideas. We certainly value it. And to everyone tuning in. Thank you guys for joining, and we’ll see you next time. Thanks again, Jessica.
Jessica Day 49:40