Under the Hood of Product-Led Growth with OpenView's Kyle Poyar

Media Thumbnail
  • 0.5
  • 1
  • 1.25
  • 1.5
  • 1.75
  • 2
This is a podcast episode titled, Under the Hood of Product-Led Growth with OpenView's Kyle Poyar. The summary for this episode is: <p>The tech industry is definitely one of trends and hype for those trends. Go on Twitter, go on LinkedIn -- you’ll find evangelists for the next big thing.</p><p><br></p><p>One of those new shiny things in our industry is PLG, or product-led growth. So on this episode, we're going under the hood of product-led growth to figure out how Operators should think about it and what considerations to make in this Go-To-Market motion.</p><p><br></p><p>Our guide, and our guest on this episode, is one of the foremost thought leaders on product-led growth: Kyle Poyar. Kyle is the Operating Partner at OpenView, the VC firm that coined the term "product-led growth" in 2016.</p><p><br></p><p>In our conversation, we talk about how to make smart pricing decisions in product-led growth, the burden it creates on Operators, and why he views this approach as less of an on/off switch and more of a light dimmer.&nbsp;</p><p><br></p><p>Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️&nbsp;review and share the pod with your friends! You can connect with Sean on Twitter @Seany_Biz @DriftPodcasts</p>
What it means to be a product-led growth company(PLG)
01:16 MIN
How to invest in the product-led journey
02:40 MIN
Deliver value before capturing the value
03:31 MIN
Insights into common missteps when pricing and balancing a PLG approach
02:38 MIN

Sean Lane: Hey, everyone. Welcome to Operations, the show where we look under the hood of companies in hypergrowth. My name is Sean Lane. Let's face it, the tech industry is definitely one of trends and hype for those trends. Go on Twitter, go on LinkedIn, you're going to find evangelists for the next big thing. The new product, the new approach, the new technology. Usually there's some three letter acronym attached to whatever they're pitching. One of those new shiny things in our industry is PLG, or product led growth. As it becomes more and more popular, it got me thinking, what does it look like under the hood of a product led growth motion? How can operators think about product led growth? What considerations should there be in this type of go to market motion? To help us answer these questions, I went to one of the foremost thought leaders on product led growth, Kyle Poyar. Kyle is our guest today, and he is the operating partner at OpenView, an expansion stage venture capital firm with investments in companies like Calendly, Datadog, and Expensify. In our conversation, I asked Kyle to teach me all things product led growth, a term he said OpenView actually coined themselves back in 2016. We also talked about how to make smart pricing decisions in product led growth, the burden that it can sometimes create on operators like us, and why he views this approach as less of an on off switch and more of a dimmer. To start though, I was intrigued by this unique role that Kyle plays at OpenView as an operating partner. What exactly does that mean for the type of work he does, and the portfolio companies that he supports?

Kyle Poyar: As an operating partner, I lead growth initiatives with our portfolio. Essentially, think of it as I want my team to be the first phone call that a CEO or someone on their executive team makes when they've got a strategic challenge around growing their business, whether that's around top the funnel, conversion through the funnel, pricing and packaging to monetize their products, or customer success and expansion. That means essentially that it's a very data driven role. There's a lot of different requests and things that come up. It's tons of variety. You're always challenged to figure out, what's the best way to prioritize for time? Because we could really go deep and spend months solving a problem with the company, but might not be able to do that across 30 portfolio companies and every topic. So never a dull moment in the role, and I wish I could say what a day in the life looked like, but it varies so much.

Sean Lane: I feel ops is very similar, right? For me at least, our team works across the entire go- to- market spectrum, and it seems like you do that as well. I'm curious, with so many different types of companies and different business models, and then also having to have expertise in all those buckets you just mentioned, how do you stay up to speed on what the latest and greatest things are in each one of those categories?

Kyle Poyar: I come from a very privileged place of being able to work across 30 different portfolio companies. When we invest, the companies are series A, series B typically, and then we'll be investors for eight, 10 plus years, and so can see what happens as the companies grow and mature and try different things out. Because we only invest in B2B SaaS companies, it's really an amazing ability to take these lessons from other companies and apply those to our newer portfolio companies. So I have built in learning on the job. I'd say the other thing for me, this is more of a COVID thing, but I was never a big LinkedIn person until a couple of years ago and then really got into it in COVID. That's a great way of just putting ideas out there, building a community around it, learning about what other folks are doing. So when I'm stuck, I actually call on folks on LinkedIn, and it's amazing the response. Sometimes I do it with half baked ideas to see what the market thinks. I wrote something recently about whether SDRs should start reporting to product for product led businesses, and the resounding response for most folks is hell no.

Sean Lane: Well, that is actually what I want to talk to you about today though, which is taking advantage of this unique viewpoint that you have both across your portfolio companies and across the entire market. Because you just have so many more data points that are built into your job. Most of my data points are what happens at Drift and what happens at the company, and I have to very proactively seek outside data points to add to my point of view. So one of the things that I know hits that list for you, and it's one of the things I've seen you post about on LinkedIn, is this concept and this trend of product led growth. I know you're a big believer in it. Before we go too much deeper on the topic, can you just define what that means and what it looks like to be a product led growth company?

Kyle Poyar: Product led growth, it is a newer term in SaaS. OpenView actually coined the term in 2016, the year I joined the firm, and so it hasn't been around for a while. That's not to say that the concepts of it are totally new. There were companies doing product led growth before it even had a name. But the way we think of it is that it's an end user focused growth model that relies on the product itself as a key driver of acquisition, conversion, and expansion of your customers. While there are companies that are excellent at it, I call it more of a dimmer switch rather than an on or off switch. There are ways that any company, even an enterprise focused company following the traditional SaaS playbook, can start to incorporate elements of PLG to drive a better customer experience, and ultimately more efficient growth too. One way that folks can think about it is you might want to look for bottlenecks, where there's a bunch of humans in the funnel that might create a lot of friction, slowness, bad experience for your customers. Are there ways that you can start putting more of that into automated processes or product experiences, so it's on demand, self- service for your customers? That's a win- win for everyone.

Sean Lane: What Kyle is describing here, finding these inefficiencies in the customer journey, that sounds a lot like operations, doesn't it? As operators, we spend a lot of time and energy looking at those customer journeys, seeking out the points of friction, and trying to remove them. So let's review what we heard. Kyle defines product led growth as an end user focused growth model that relies on the product as a key driver of acquisition, conversion, and expansion. Acquisition, conversion, and expansion. So for each of those categories, Kyle is basically saying that humans sometimes, the humans involved in those three activities, might themselves be the inefficiencies. So what does that mean when we're looking at the future? Are we looking at a future world without salespeople involved in those points of the customer journey?

Kyle Poyar: I see it as a world where the role of sales still exists, but what it looks like changes a bit, because you're engaging with people generally that are already using the product, rather than someone that you're painting a vision or telling a story around the business value. They're already seeing it live, it's working for them, and so it's more of partnering with that customer around a shared objective and helping them combat and navigate the buying process for them internally, which might include things like security reviews, legal procurement. So it's guiding and consulting oriented sale, rather than the traditional SaaS sale. But the way I think of it is if you imagine the experience from a user's perspective, folks are doing more and more research online before they ever contact someone. They probably go to your website, maybe a bunch of times. In traditional businesses, you'd have to fill out a form to even contact someone and request a demo. That was kind of scary, and you didn't really want to do that until you were really ready to buy, so it was really hard to even just get basic questions answered. And then once you did get to that point, you probably got to it with multiple vendors. Just fill out a form and SDR called you, and probably called you and emailed you 10 times. And then they qualified you so that you would have the ability to then talk to an AE, who then spent most of the time asking questions about your business, rather than even demoing the product. You can think of this as weeks and weeks of this happening, bringing in more stakeholders, business casing, and then all that just to ever test out the product implemented in your environment. For a lot of cases, it might have been six months, nine months before any end user started to actually experience the product. There's just so much friction there. I think that from a product led perspective, one of the first things I think about is how do you get in touch with that buyer earlier on in their journey? So when they're still doing research and they're lower intent, can you even get them to start going into the product and trying it out, using the product an education experience? What folks had to find is that if you get this buyer early on in their journey, and they're seeing success with the product, they might just stay single tracked with you as a vendor. They might not even go to competitor solutions, because why start a process with a new vendor from scratch when this seems to be working, you like it, you've invited your team members, you've customized the workflow to your needs? So in a lot of cases, product led growth leads with the product for acquisition and getting folks in the door, which really opens up top of funnel, and then the sales process can be a lot faster, have higher conversion rates. It's very much collaborative between you and the user slash buyer.

Sean Lane: And I think kind of all of those things that could potentially slow down that later conversion, the legal, the security, the procurement processes you were describing, those can still come later after that initial introduction that you're describing, it sounds like. So maybe that comes in the form of a free trial, maybe that comes in the form of someone experimenting with part of the tool as a single user before it goes out to the entire team. As you think about how companies can better align themselves to that product led growth strategy, I'm curious from an internal perspective, how do I, as an operator, think about that customer journey differently? Because there's probably going to be a bunch of people who try it, who still don't necessarily meet my ideal customer profile or still don't, to your point from before about the SDR qualification process, this is better, but you still could see end up creating a bunch of noise for your company. So what's the next step after that initial acquisition to make sure your company's still being smart and efficient in this approach?

Kyle Poyar: Yeah, absolutely. Well, first thing is just really investing in that product led journey. So the self- service experience, letting these users or buyers go as far as they want to go, which might be all the way through to self- service purchase on a credit card, especially if they're a smaller customer. But what most folks find is that for these folks that are in the product, they essentially become product qualified leads, and you want to provide multiple options to open up the commercial conversation after they've already engaged. So one of them obviously is just going to be hand raising. So someone might run into challenges where they need help onboarding, setting up a complicated integration, there's some technical questions they have. So they might need to engage with your team more in a customer support kind of interaction, or CS interaction. It becomes a channel for sales later on, so that's one kind of pathway to start that engagement. Another is that they might have some initial success, but raise their hand and say," Hey, this is working. I want to have a demo to figure out what are other ways we can use this product, start having commercial questions answered, so that I understand what a broader deployment looks like." So you want to have the ability for folks to contact you and either set up time with an AE, for instance, in the app, or fill out a form. With a lot of that, because you already have so much information about the user, you can generally automate some of the marketing qualification too, so that when you have these requests come through, you can either send them to the right person or route some of them maybe to more of a self- service experience and others to a higher touch experience. That's the basic blocking and tackling. What can be super fascinating to build on top of that is to start to do, it's almost called outbound, but into existing users. So this is where you're looking at product signals, whether it's hey, this person's invited a bunch of other people in their account, and it's an account that's in the Fortune 500, or it's an account that's in our IDO customer profile. So you marry the firmographic data, the insights you know about the company they work for, and the individual, with their product usage data, to proactively initiate that conversation. You're trying to do it at the right time with the right person, based on what you already know, so it's extremely personalized. The response rates tend to be great to that kind of outreach, but it takes a lot of testing to really figure out what are the right PQL triggers and PQL paths for the right customer profile?

Sean Lane: This is such an important part of the customer journey that Kyle is outlining for us. There's this treasure trove of information available about end users in a product led growth model versus, let's say, when people fill out a form. But it's important to know which product triggers and which customer profiles you actually care about. Only then are you going to be able to unlock the benefits that Kyle is outlining, things like where your product can serve as an education experience, the product opens up the top of the funnel for you, and it can lead to a faster, more accelerated sales process. It's super interesting for me to hear Kyle talk about opening up the conversion conversations and meeting the customer where they're at, because those are the exact same conversations we have with our customers about how they use Drift. So if we follow this line of thinking into how do we now operationalize the product led growth motion for that customer journey, kyle actually told me that he sees ops teams sometimes end up bearing the biggest part of the burden when it comes to figuring out how to capture and use all of those different data points. So I asked him, with this overwhelming amount of data available, how has he seen ops teams and companies in his portfolio actually handle this problem well?

Kyle Poyar: That is a tough question. The first thing to think about is what's still fascinating to me is that third party product analytics platforms are still actually not the most widely adopted. What you want to be able to do is take all of the product event information that you're getting, and be able to send that through one of these platforms that allow you to do, or really get self- service access to the reports and insights and dashboards that you need, and to be able to open up that access to all the teams that need the information for their decision making or their day to day workflow. So as a starting point, investing in those kinds of tooling can make your life a lot easier, and everyone's life a lot easier. So that's probably the starting point. But then the thing that I look for is really an analysis intensive project, re- architecting the journey that folks have gone through in the past to say," What activities did someone do in their first day, first week, first month, that were leading indicators that they were ultimately going to buy or renew?" So if you have any sort of free trial motion or freebie motion, you probably can start looking at this retrospective analysis, and then you're looking for essentially a product activation metric where it's like, hey, someone did X in their first week, which means they're much, much more likely to buy. And then you also start identifying these product qualified lead indicators of, hey, after they did this first step, they took these really high value actions that increased their conversion likelihood from 30% to 50 or 60 or 70, you name it. With activation, while it can be a really intense data project, it tends be simple at the end of the day. Imagine a SurveyMonkey tool. It's going to be like," Hey, can someone fill out their first survey and get responses back from it, and a minimum viable number of that?" Not over complicating, not saying," Hey, did they set up a HubSpot integration yet? Did they deploy with three or more team members?" It's that bare bones moment of, hey, they did the thing that the product told them that they should be trying to do, which means we can now start to have a deeper, more commercial conversation at this point.

Sean Lane: I remember hearing this story again and again about HubSpot, where in the early days of the company, they were struggling with retention. They had this insight where if they could get their customers to use three specific features, then the stickiness and the retention of the product for those customers went through the roof. So first and foremost, getting your product info into a measurable place is a critical first step. Then you can take Kyle's point and look backwards at those critical leading indicators for both the original purchase and for the renewal. So if we follow along with this customer journey that we've been tracing with Kyle from the beginning, another key part of a product led growth model, in addition to these acquisition points, is figuring out how your pricing should work. It turns out Kyle is actually a pricing expert, so I wanted to get his take on how an organization might think about pricing differently when they're using a product led growth approach.

Kyle Poyar: It's funny. Coming from a background of doing pricing, I was in pricing strategy consulting for 6 years before OpenView. A fun fact that is that I've actually priced everything from diapers to caskets, but mostly focused on software and subscription business models. But the idea, if you have any sort of pricing background, it's hey, how do we maximize the willingness to pay of customers, really capture the full value of what we're providing? That's sort of the mantra. You also see, time and time again, when companies raise their prices, it tends to not actually hurt conversion all that much, and they can make a lot more money if they do it. So that thing is drilled in your head from a pricing standpoint, but for product led businesses, they flip that notion on its head, and all of them deliver value before they capture the value. There is some sort of free offering, whether that is a free side car product, a freemium offering, a free trial, something that allows folks to get a taste of the experience before they pay. In my experience, something that a lot of folks are fearful of, because there's this idea, will free devalue our paid product, or cannibalize our paid product? If people can just use the product for free, what reason they have to buy? The way I think about it is that it takes a lot of work, and this is where really the pricing analysis can come into play. It takes a lot of work to figure out, how do you design a product experience for free that really folks to buy into the vision and see an initial value delivered to their business, but still leave additional things out that would be reasons for them to upgrade over time? If you make the free experience too bad, people aren't going to think it's an enterprise grade product. They're going to think it's bad. They're going to stop using it, and then you can ever open up the commercial conversation. But if you make it too good, you can run into that old Evernote problem where people just stay on the free product, use it forever, and never pay for it. So the balance that I found really great with product led businesses is to have a usage limited free offering, and then also have a free trial for a period of time, that's time based, where all the features are unlocked, and so then at the end of that time limit, that goes away and you're downgraded to the free version. Calendly and Airtable are good examples. So with Calendly, for 14 days, you have access to all of their pro features. You can do whatever you want, but then once you hit that end of the 14 days, you're limited to one active meeting event type at a time. You might not have realized that you needed a lot more, but folks need a 30 minute meeting, 15 minute meeting, hour long meeting. You might want a Zoom meeting, a phone call meeting. There's going to be different and different blocks where hey, these kinds of meetings happen on Friday afternoons and these kinds of meetings. I just want people to be able to schedule outside of work hours. So you start realizing that you want all of this ability to customize around your scheduling workflow, and that's what goes away at the end of the trial. So you could still get plenty of value from the free product, and just toggle on and off what meetings slots are available, but you can also just pay 10 bucks a month and have a great product. So those kinds of free experiences do a great job. A lot of people discover where they could go with the product, but then have a compelling event where folks know, okay, I need to take my credit card out now.

Sean Lane: So first of all, I am by no means any sort of pricing expert, so forgive my lack of knowledge here. But do those same concepts apply when it's not just an individual user who could potentially purchase this product? When you think about, you were saying before, this transition across your, your traditional SaaS models, a lot of those companies have a platform based component to their pricing in addition to a seat based or user based component to their pricing. How do those concepts, if at all, translate into companies that have a platform aspect to their pricing as well?

Kyle Poyar: In those companies, product led growth does work best when you have a user value story, and not just an executive level one. So if you're solving some sort of pain point for an individual user, that is great for any sort of bottom up adoption. Or if you're in the case of Shopify and you sell to small businesses, where the user and the buyer are the same person, that also works pretty well for product led growth. It is really tough if your core value prop is that executive company wide story, where you're selling a platform with ROI and it's really only beneficial if everyone's adopting it. That's much harder to go down the PLG route. In my experience, what folks tend to do in that environment is they look for the person that is maybe the direct report of the executive, who has a project to go figure something out, and offer them more of a proof of concept for that platform story, where they know it's about testing it out, seeing what it would look like in production, being able to visualize where they could go with the product. But you're probably not offering that same style of pricing as a Calendly or an Airtable that can start with that individual user.

Sean Lane: One of the reasons I was excited to talk to Kyle was to get this depth of insight into pricing and balancing that product led growth approach with the traditional SaaS platform go to market approach. Additionally, because he has so many data points at his disposal from all the companies he works with across his portfolio, I also knew he'd have some insights into how companies have made missteps along the way. Put simply, what has he seen other people screw up?

Kyle Poyar: The most common misstep is that folks generally don't have anyone that's looking at pricing. So that is the most common misstep and probably the easiest one to fix. In my experience, companies tend to not have anyone full time in their company devoted to pricing until they're about 50 million in ARR. So if you think about the impact that pricing can have on revenue growth, it's enormous. I've seen companies that have been able to increase revenue growth 25% year on year with no head count and no additional customer acquisition costs just because they unlocked better pricing. So if you think about the potential ROI from working on it, versus the cost of bringing in a full- time resource, it is a no brainer investment. Think about whether that's a full time hire or just carving out someone on your team. Maybe it's half of their time, a third of their time, to facilitate a pricing committee, to collect pricing data, survey the field, survey users periodically, to understand how you are price positioned and what opportunities exist in the market. So that's probably the first thing. Second thing is that for a lot of businesses, when they start out, their products are pretty immature. They're doing anything it takes to acquire customers. While love that hustle and that mentality, the reality tends to be that your product improves a lot over time. You get better at positioning it, selling it, and you can capture more of that value. So if you're not consistently raising prices in your first couple of years, you've probably left a ton of money on the table. The nuance here is it's different about freemium models as an acquisition strategy. I'm thinking once you have that enterprise customer that maybe started freemium, started self- served, but you now scaled up in delivering a ton of value to that business, executive buyers at large businesses aren't all that price sensitive. I mean, if you even think about your experience buying software, you're probably more concerned about your reputation, change management. Is this going to work? Am I going to have to change again in a year Is this business well funded? So there's a lot more important things to buyers than price. Essentially, I just advocate for folks to when in doubt, test pricing and test a higher price, and see what the response is. I think that you would be surprised to see how little push back there is to at least moving a little bit up.

Sean Lane: It's funny, I'm thinking back to earlier in our conversation when you said," Hey look, a lot of what happens in product led growth ends up falling on the ops team. There's a ton of data and there's a lot of burden there." It's the exact same thing with pricing, where each time there's a package change or a price increase or a different way you're going to impact both new customers and your existing customer base with pricing changes, there's a ton of ripple effects internally you that you need to think about as you prepare for these changes. Like you said, it's good for the business most of the time, because you don't want to leave value on the table. But you also I think need to plan very well to make sure that you don't A, upset the customer base, and B, that your team is prepared for what the next version of your pricing is going to look like. I'm curious, have you developed a point of view on what the right way to make those changes is, both in relation to your existing customers as well as to the team?

Kyle Poyar: In my experience, the hardest thing to change is pricing on existing customers. That is probably the biggest lift from an ops perspective, but more broadly. When you think about it, probably even your experience as a buyer, do you know the price that a product is going to be before you get on their website or talk to a sales rep? Probably not, but you do know once you've paid for it. So for folks that are new customers, who've never bought from you before, it's a lot easier to change your price, because they don't have a reference point. You're not going to probably get a ton of pushback, and you have an opportunity to tell the story around it that you want to. Your existing customers are going to be like," Well, I budgeted X for it. Is it going to keep going up, or is this a one time increase?" There's a lot more questions and a lot more complexity, especially if you've changed the metric around your pricing or your packages, and you have to migrate people into something different and disrupt their day to day. It's never pleasant. So the first thing I think about is, is it viable? Is it in your best interest from a cost benefit standpoint to migrate existing customers, or just let them stay on their existing plans? Because for a business that's an early stage, business growing 100%, 200% year over year, your new cohorts that you sign up over the next year or two years are going to way outpace the revenue that you've gotten from your legacy cohorts. The impact of changing pricing on your existing customers might not even be worth the time and effort involved in it. That's not necessarily true once you've hit a certain ARR mark, have a bunch of customers in place, but in the early days, it probably is. So that's probably the first thing I think about. The second thing I look at is where are their opportunities to pilot new pricing or de- risk it before you have to make big operational changes? So one example is that for a lot of folks, they want might want to add a package or change packages, but they don't have feature flags in their product. So they can't actually gate feature access to someone in one plan versus another. That's something that you might want to pilot the new packages, knowing that you're going to be really generous with certain customers for a few months, but you can quickly change that or build it into the license agreement if you find that the new packages are successful. So in my experience, I tend to look for lightweight ways of getting actually insight back from customers around pricing. Being able to figure out, hey, is this the right path for my business and for my customer base? And then if so, you can build the roadmap around operationalizing that accordingly. But I tend to not try to let that gate making the change or running the experiment in the first place.

Sean Lane: Yeah. I think that's a perfect roadmap for people. I mean, to your point, there's nothing more frustrating for a buyer than it's time for renewal, and somebody somewhere made the decision that that company was going to change their pricing, and they come back to me and they say," Your price was$ 100 last year and it's$ 175 this year for the exact same thing." It just is a brutal experience from a customer perspective, and so I think that's the last thing you want to do. In that scenario you're describing, where let's say we go through the pilot, we make some of these decisions, we build the feature flags, and there are, in fact, these new things that have been built into the product at this point. At a certain point, I would imagine there's an operational burden or a technical burden to continue to say," Okay, we have to put guardrails up around all of these legacy customers, or should we just give them everything and not worry about it and just give them some of this new stuff?" Is there a right way to balance that trade off? Does that make sense?

Kyle Poyar: It can become an issue over time, especially if you keep having the same thing happen repeatedly. What I tend to find works well in that instance is to on the side of being generous. Migrate customers into a new package, even if it means keeping the same price or getting a discount on what that new package would be. Kind of stair stepping them into new pricing, so that way you're really treating your early customers well. You're able to generate goodwill with them. In a lot of cases, its position is hey, look, we've lodged X, Y, Z new features. We really want you to have access to them. We're going to give you six months access for free, one year access for free, and then we'll revisit. Hey, if you're using them, seeing value, your price at renewal will go to X. If not, you can keep at your current price. So there are ways to navigate some of those potentially stressful or challenging scenarios where you're putting the customer first, and not trying to overly optimize short term revenue from just pricing based changes on your customers.

Sean Lane: Before we go, at the end of each episode, we're going to ask each guest the same lightning round of questions. Ready? Here we go. Best book you've read in the six months.

Kyle Poyar: Honestly, I don't think I've read a book in the last six months. I'm sad.

Sean Lane: Perfectly fine. That is perfectly fine. Any show you've binged that you care to share or recommend to people?

Kyle Poyar: I am all about the TV. Yeah. I mean, we're in a golden age of TV. The Other Two is my current favorite. It's on HBO Max. It is hysterical. If you were ever a fan of Schitt's Creek and you want The new Schitt's Creek, that would be my bet.

Sean Lane: Yeah. All right, cool. The Other Two, I love it. So typically, when I'm talking to people who work in ops, I ask them their favorite part about working in ops. So you kind of do, and so I'm going to ask you your favorite part about working with ops.

Kyle Poyar: Yeah. I mean, my favorite part is the endless variety of problems that you get exposed to. And then to me, I mean, I'm a data nerd. Being able to figure out what's the right information to make a good decision, and then when you really get that insight from the data that changes the way that you either think about a problem or think about a business, those moments can be really incredible and impactful for companies. So love any of those that happen.

Sean Lane: Least favorite part about working in ops.

Kyle Poyar: Probably also the data. It's never as clean as you want it to be. It's never as easy to access. There's always a lot of work that goes into the prep, pulling it, vetting it. So that can be exhausting. I don't even face as much of it as our portfolio companies do.

Sean Lane: Someone who impacted you getting to the job you have today.

Kyle Poyar: We give a shout out to Liz Cain. She was the one who hired me at OpenView, and she is just an incredible, incredible growth leader. She built out the first SDR team at NetSuite and scaled it from zero to 170 people, and then joined OpenView to work with the portfolio. I came from a consulting background, very different background than her, but really being able to learn the ins and out of coaching and mentoring team members, and being able to drive things forward in organizations is just so incredible.

Sean Lane: That's amazing. Sounds like someone we're going to have to get on the show. Last one for you. One piece of advice for people who want to have your job someday.

Kyle Poyar: That's a great question. My piece of advice would be start building relationships early. For most VC firms, they don't have a ton of these roles, but they do pop up occasionally, so you can find yourself in the right place at the right time. That starts with getting to know the people around the table. So that's probably number one, and then number two is build a personal brand around yourself. So as much as a core job for me is working with our portfolio companies, OpenView operates in a really competitive VC market where there's a ton of other VC firms that could fund companies. Having access to value add support is one of our differentiators. That becomes a differentiator when we have people that have an external facing brand, who are seen as thought leaders in the market and who companies just actually want to work with because of that. So you can do that before you work at a VC and think about, what insights do you have? How can you tell your story? That personal brand can pay off in so many ways that you don't expect.

Sean Lane: Thanks so much to Kyle for being our guest on this week's episode of Operations. If you liked what you heard, make sure you're subscribed to our show. A new episode comes out every other Friday. We don't want you to miss one. Also, if you feel like you learned something from Kyle and from our show today, make sure you leave us a six star review on Apple Podcasts. If you listen to this show every other week and you haven't left us a review yet, come on. Six star reviews only. All right, that's going to do it for me. Thanks so much for listening. We'll see you next time.


The tech industry is definitely one of trends and hype for those trends. Go on Twitter, go on LinkedIn -- you’ll find evangelists for the next big thing.

One of those new shiny things in our industry is PLG, or product-led growth. So on this episode, we're going under the hood of product-led growth to figure out how Operators should think about it and what considerations to make in this Go-To-Market motion.

Our guide, and our guest on this episode, is one of the foremost thought leaders on product-led growth: Kyle Poyar. Kyle is the Operating Partner at OpenView, the VC firm that coined the term "product-led growth" in 2016.

In our conversation, we talk about how to make smart pricing decisions in product-led growth, the burden it creates on Operators, and why he views this approach as less of an on/off switch and more of a light dimmer. 

Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the pod with your friends! You can connect with Sean on Twitter @Seany_Biz @DriftPodcasts