January 31, 2024

Mastering the Art of Growth in the SaaS Industry with Kyle Poyar

In this episode of sales therapy, Kyle and Alper delve into the evolution of growth in the SaaS industry.

Table of contents

Meet our guest

Kyle Poyar, Operating Partner at OpenView | Growth Unhinged

As the mind behind the weekly newsletter Growth Unhinged, Kyle shares expertise in SaaS growth, focusing on product-led strategies, pricing, go-to-market, benchmarks, and VC value-add. 

Key takeaways

  • Recognize the signs of burnout and take proactive steps to reassess your career path.
  • Acknowledge the power of personal-led brands and community building in modern growth strategies.
  • Study successful examples to extract insights for your own community-building endeavors.
  • Prioritize validating your product through user feedback.
  • Constantly evaluate your progress by validating your product, understanding your customers, and building a supportive community.

Prefer audion? Listen on Spotify!

Choosing the professional path

The conversation delves into Kyle's background, growing up in a family of entrepreneurs, his early experience working at a car dealership, and the pivotal moments that shaped his journey from studying environmental studies to becoming a business consultant.

“I've never had a master plan, I'll say that. And I also tried to craft my own path. There were a lot of changes though. Like when I was in college, I studied environmental studies, right? Not business-oriented at all. And my internships, I actually had one in chemistry at a paint company.”

Kyle shares insights into his career choices and the transition from environmental consulting to business-focused roles during the recession. The narrative weaves through his time at Simon-Kucher, a niche consulting firm specializing in revenue growth, where he found passion in solving diverse business problems. 

The dialogue reflects on the challenges and opportunities of consulting, highlighting moments of being thrust into unfamiliar boardrooms and the valuable skills gained in the process. The engaging conversation provides a glimpse into Kyle's eclectic background and the experiences that molded him into a partner at OpenView.

Discovering the world or venture capital

Kyle reflects on the highs and lows of his consulting career, emphasizing the burnout that came with excessive responsibilities and a challenging travel schedule. This experience prompted him to reassess his long-term commitment to consulting and seek a more balanced and fulfilling path. 

“I had to make a last minute trip and spend two weekends in a row in the city where my client was. And I was so burnt out. I remember I got a massage at the hotel after the final presentation. It was the most painful massage I've ever experienced. And I was like, can you reduce the pressure? She's like, this is the lowest pressure I can give.”

Transitioning to VC, Kyle took a step back in pay and responsibility to gain a broader range of experiences, particularly in working with startups. He shares insights into the differences between consulting and VC, highlighting the challenges of influencing startup founders and the evolving themes in discussions with them.

The conversation touches upon the common concerns of early-stage startups, such as defining ideal customer profiles, testing monetization strategies, and structuring go-to-market plans. Kyle notes that over time, the questions have evolved, with founders seeking advice on integrating AI into their strategies, optimizing the balance between product-led growth and sales, and exploring disruptive pricing models. The dialogue showcases the dynamic nature of the startup landscape and the shifting focus of founders as the industry matures.

Personal and community-led for growth

They then discuss problems and challenges within the founder community. Kyle shares his concerns about the intersection of AI and SaaS, wondering if the strategies that worked for SaaS growth will apply to AI companies. He also expresses the difficulty of standing out in a crowded market, particularly for SaaS companies targeting other SaaS companies.

The conversation then delves into growth experiments, where Kyle highlights the trend of a shift towards personal-led brands powered by communities. He cites examples such as Enzo from June, Adam Schoenfeld from Keyplay/Peer Signal, and the POCUS team, showcasing how these individuals and companies effectively leverage personal branding and community building for growth.

“Powering a community around the product that facilitates growth. That's just been, it's been a trend for a while. And I think that there is an emerging playbook around like at least kind of ways to kickstart that. But I find that to be an amazing area right now. I mean, it's obviously really hard to prove attribution from it.”

Alper poses a rapid-fire question about the journey from zero to one, and Kyle emphasizes the importance of:

  • Validating the product with users
  • Honing an ideal customer profile
  • Building a community around early adopters. 

Resources

Full episode transcript

Alper Yurder: So today in the therapy chair, we have Kyle Poyar, who needs no introduction. This introduction is gonna take forever because he is the creator of Growth Unhinged, probably one of the very few newsletters I still keep an eye on in my 50,000 plus unread email inbox. Kyle is an ex-consultant like myself. He's currently a partner at OpenView. He's a true influencer and trendsetter for me that I follow on everything from founder stories to revenue growth. Client success. He always writes data-driven full of amazing example content and he always speaks to the best people to speak to. So I'm really looking forward to this chat. We'll talk about his success, the joy, the pain and the journey. So after that very long intro, welcome to Sales Therapy. Kyle, how are you feeling today?

Kyle Poyar: Yeah, thanks for having me on, but I'm feeling a little triggered by 50,000 unread emails. Is that true? Do you have that many?

Alper Yurder: Yeah, and I post about it too. Honestly, since I've become a buyer the last four or five years, I get bombarded like anybody else. At some point I gave up. I mean, obviously I had this old, oh, nice, good. This is my therapy now. I have the old CD and I was cleaning, but I gave up, man. Don't you give up? What do you do?

Kyle Poyar:  I'm at inbox zero. So I'm that kind of, I'm still an OCD person.

Alper Yurder: Oh my god. Ah! I am holding myself so much not to swear because I'm so jealous of that but I won't. Okay. Good for you! 

Kyle Poyar: I unsubscribe a lot, I can tell you that.

Alper Yurder: Ah, yes, yes, teach me, master. I can tell you the one thing I haven't unsubscribed from yet and I probably will never be you. And there's so much people can learn from you. Whatever, we'll talk. So I made a very long inch.

Kyle Poyar: That is very kind of you. You're making me uncomfortable. The Bostonian in me is getting more and more uncomfortable the more you call me an influencer. So let's dive in.

Alper Yurder: Yeah, OK. OK, fine. All right. I'll shut up making you feel cringe about it. Yeah. If you have 48 followers and you're writing good stuff in the middle of a lot of shit, then I think you deserve it. Anyway, whatever. Let's go into therapy. So any good therapy starts with childhood and growing up. I love understanding the relationship between your growing up experience and the person you've become today, your values, who you are in business. So can we hear a little bit about your life before work?

Kyle Poyar: Yeah, happy to jump into it. So I come from a family of small business owners and entrepreneurs. It's actually my grandfather who fought in World War II. He came back and on the ship back, he gambled all of his earnings from the war and actually like 10 X what he made and used that to open initially a tire business and then a used car business. He had 10 kids, including my dad, obviously, and all 10 kids worked at the business. And then my dad actually started his own car dealership business. And then I worked there in high school. And so that kind of part of being part of a small business and seeing the ups and downs and also that sort of angle of like, my dad didn't have a boss, he didn't want to have his own boss, right? He wanted to be his own boss. That was instilled in me pretty early on like going and building what you want to exist in the world of creating your own future. And then, you know, other things I come from Ohio. We moved there when I was 15. It was a difficult transition coming from California to Ohio and trying to navigate that new school, new environment a different cultural experience from what I was used to, especially being someone who's LGBT, moving at the age of 15 to a really socially conservative place is not something I'd recommend to anyone listening here. And then other things from childhood, I mean, I'm always always someone that likes to explore different topic areas. And so I went to college at Brown where there's famously like no required curriculum. You can kind of study what you want. And I remember my parents were so concerned. They were like, we've heard of people studying New England cemetery design. And you could major in that at Brown. Are you sure this is what you want to do? It's like, that sounds amazing. And I did actually take a course on that, where I had to literally walk through a number of cemeteries and got locked in one at one point. But I just loved that, exploring different topics and. I was very much like a liberal arts student at heart.

Alper Yurder: Okay, it sounds like in life you've been able to do things that you wanted to and this is... Have you ever felt like you're forced to do something work -wise or education -wise just because you were told or you had to or you had to achieve some goals or it's kind of being like, yeah, I like this so I'll do this.

Kyle Poyar: I've been, whether you could call it like, I've never had a master plan, I'll say that. And I also tried to craft my own path. There were a lot of changes though. Like when I was in college, I studied environmental studies, right? Not business oriented at all. And my internships, I actually had one in chemistry at a paint company. I had one in environmental studies working for the municipal government in the city of Cleveland, and then one in climate adaptation working for a federal agency in NOAA. And then I pivoted and went into business consulting and then now BC, which is very different from the environment. And I think the only kind of trigger on that that actually was externally forced was I graduated in the recession. A lot of energy and investment around climate change and climate adaptation really went down after a big US climate bill failed to pass and become legislation. And so I pivoted my focus from climate and the environment, which is still a passion area of mine personally, but pivoted into business. And that was very, very challenging to both even navigate like, what does a business career mean? And how do you break in? And like, what is going to be interesting to me that I'm going to want to do? And so it was still very much like a kind of personal decision to go down that path, but motivated partly by external circumstances and having a bunch of student loans and graduating in a recession, which sort of forces your hand to go find something that has a blueprint of career opportunity.

Alper Yurder: Yeah, that's kind of what I wanted to get to because in my life... So you've been a consultant at what was it? Simon Kushner? What? Which consultancy was it?

Kyle Poyar: Yep, Simon Kuchar. That was my first job out of college. I graduated in May and started in June of that same year.

Alper Yurder: Ah, okay. Yeah, I did my share of paying Accenture all that consulting life. And even though I was dying to do six due diligence in a row until 2 am. and no sleep and blah, blah, and now looking back, it was not particularly what I wanted to do in life. Hence my question. Like sometimes life forces us to do things because you have a career in mind you want to build and you feel like that's the thing to do. Also, your peers are doing it. But you sounded like you did in your intro. You just went with your heart. You weren't really forced to do something just to fit in. Anyway, I don't know.

Kyle Poyar: Yeah, I mean, for me, I didn't go in as a stepping stone job, even though it kind of is that way for a lot of people. If I probably were going in for a stepping stone job, I wouldn't have picked such a niche hyper specialized firm. But at Simon Kutcher, the pitch really spoke to me and just the opportunity to solve a bunch of interesting problems, work with a ton of a wide variety of clients and work on revenue growth, which like that's all the firm touches versus like cost cutting, diligence work, things like that. And honestly, like the, it seems like such a crazy jump to go from the environment to, to business and consulting. But a lot of what I was doing from a climate change standpoint was helping work with businesses or other organizations to identify. What was their carbon footprint and where were their opportunities to reduce their carbon footprint in a way that would actually save them money or help them meet their goals as a business, not just do it from an environmental standpoint. And so it was actually already working with organizations on different topics as kind of like in an advisory or consulting type of capacity. And so this was just like adding to that toolkit around being able to have other topics to be able to work with companies around. And, uh, that's it. I found a lot of passion in that, although there were certainly ups and downs. I mean, I remember one of my clients, I went to pitch the kind of final presentation and the CEO and founder were in the room. This is like a unicorn SaaS company. And he walks in and he sees me standing there ready to present and he goes, wait, you, you led this, you're leading this. It's like, yep. Like, we're paying us and I've been the one who's leading it. And then he's like, I thought you were the new BDR that we just hired. Like, all right, this is the challenge of consulting is it's like the flip side. You get a ton of career opportunities. You get put in rooms that you don't necessarily have any right to be in, but you kind of work hard and you figure it out. But it could be stressful, that's for sure.

Alper Yurder: Yeah, I love that. I hear a lot of actual patterns so when I read about things that you write, it's always so inspiring, so rich and fulfilling, filled with data that's not difficult to read. OK, now I'm going to give you the cringe again, but I don't care. But now I see the pattern, the research, the intellectual curiosity, which leads you to do what you are doing, I think. OK, before we move on with success. One thing you mentioned is the car dealership experience, which I'm still in my mind is still turning. So were you a stereotypical car dealer salesman? What were you? How was that experience for you?

Kyle Poyar: Well, this was in high school, so I was not in a position to sell anything. I would have been really, really bad at selling anything. So I was mostly responsible for odd jobs, cleaning and detailing cars, right, going and running titles, things like that. I do remember I had just gotten my license, right? I was like 16 years old. And I remember driving a car to go change the title. Right. And that… I got a blowout on the freeway, but I had no idea what a blowout was. I didn't know the term for it. And I remember pulling over on the side of the highway, calling my dad and saying, the tire came off the car. And he was like, what? It's like the tire is off the car. I was clearly not meant to, I was not meant to work in the automotive industry by any means, but it was a good experience. It's good to have that experience rather than it wasn't good while I was doing it.

Alper Yurder: That sounds like something I would say. That sounds like something I would say.I spoke over you there, but it sounded like something I would say as a non -native English speaker. But I'm glad you know the term now. Good for you. Achievement.

Kyle Poyar: I mean, I'd much rather have a different kind of blowout, like from a hair standpoint, you know, going to a having that kind of experience would be better than, you know, tire blowout on the freeway.

Alper Yurder: Yeah, okay. So moving to your years after your first career experience in that consult, like proper consult experience, I like to talk a little bit about, so we know you as the Kyle Poirier that we see you on, you know, multiple platforms, et cetera, et cetera. I'm sure a lot of people look up to you and like, oh yeah, this guy is really successful. Can you share a little bit the journey getting to that point and some career defining moments for you? Maybe some highs and lows where you felt like this is not for me or where you felt like this is for me. Did you have any of those?

Kyle Poyar: Certainly, I don't know, everyone goes through those kinds of experiences in life. I mean, for me, if I look back to consulting days, I spent six years in consulting, generally had a very favorable time there, but it's also an environment where there's a ton of turnover, right? A lot of people are in that role for 18, 24 months. So I made some amazing friendships there. And then a lot of why you're willing to put in the hours and the travel is because you're like, you know 24 and all your friends are working there doing the same thing. It's going through a sort of loss and like losing touch with people, going from seeing them every day and working around the clock with them to like having them move and not keeping in touch was certainly painful. And then as I kind of stayed on and more and more the whole, I had started with left, I had started to, you know, get essentially, so much responsibility is that I got to the point of not being able to keep up with it at all, which I think happens to a lot of people in their careers, is that you reach this sort of breaking point where you feel like you're saying yes to every responsibility and don't know necessarily how to say no or if you can say no to something. So you just take it on and figure it out. And then all of a sudden there's a breaking point because it's not sustainable. And so I remember getting to that point where I was traveling every week, Monday through Thursday, I got to a point where I was traveling like 14 straight days. I had to make a last-minute trip and spend two weekends in a row in the city where my client was. And I was so burnt out. I remember I got a massage at the hotel after the final presentation. It was the most painful massage I've ever experienced. And I was like, can you reduce the pressure? She's like, this is the lowest pressure I can give. It was like not meant to be a painful massage at all, but that was how much sort of stressing and anxiety I had from that experience. So that really taught me both how to have more tools, and confidence to advocate for myself earlier on so things don't get unsustainable also taught me a lot of the importance of having a great team that you're working with, that you can delegate things to and trust that they're going to to get it done versus I was very much a micromanager up to that point. I still have some challenges with micromanaging. And then also just making sure I was, there's some things that are.

Alper Yurder: Yeah, everyone there has done that, I'm sure.

Kyle Poyar: That experience led me to really reflect on if consulting was the path that I wanted to do for forever, because I had been doing it for five, six years, was growing in the role of moving to that partner track, which was going to be essentially a career level commitment. It also led me to say, I had a great run, but what else is out there? I'm too young to give my entire life to this one thing. especially if there can be so much pain involved. So those were certainly some moments.

Alper Yurder: And you found this. And you found a solution in something even more challenging, the world of VC? Is that the answer?

Kyle Poyar: I don't know if it's more challenging than consulting. I mean, with VC, so the role that I moved into, I actually took a step down both in like paying responsibility initially. And the idea for me was getting a broader range of experience and also focusing more on startups. Like in consulting, you go to clients that will like to pay you more.

Alper Yurder: Yeah, established, of course, yeah.

Kyle Poyar: And so it's generally a more established company, either publicly traded companies or companies that have a ton of funding. And I worked with a few startups in my time, but I wanted to get more access to startups and work on a wide variety of problems with them. And so really got super fortunate to have that kind of role in Boston, where I was living. But for startups, a lot of times the experiences, They have like, they're very open to feedback and trying new things. They recognize they don't have it all figured out at an early stage in a company's growth. They don't have executive leaders who've been there, done that and a lot of functions. And so even having some experience in a topic is often really useful for someone that's like trying something for the first time. And so I found that it wasn't like this is more intellectually challenging because it's always like the problems were simpler. The challenges were more of like the context switching across a lot of companies and a lot of different topics, figuring out how to prioritize my time, and then also like influence. So like in a consulting world, you sell the project and then you're on the hook to deliver a recommendation. If they follow through with i, like that's on them. Like that's their decision. You have to just deliver on the service that someone paid, you know, a million dollars for, whatever it is. In a VC platform role, it's an opt -in service that companies have access to, but like you're not a majority investor. And so the company ultimately has control for what they do. And so if you think, if you have an idea for them to explore, you have to either be influential with how they, uh, how you communicate it or get them sort of eager to try it out and trust you. Uh, or there's actually the alternative path where like, because you're from a VC, there's sort of an innate like, the VC is influencing me, they're telling me what to do. And so in some cases, you actually have to be really mindful about not influencing someone from an independent decision, especially if it's not something that you have a ton of conviction around. And so communication and influence and what was the right level of influence for the different situations was very hard to navigate in that role.

Alper Yurder: I mean, a lot of that resonates. And I remember when at the end of my career at Accenture, I was dying to go into the startup world because I wanted to make that switch from an established enterprise to like new and like fresh problems and building something. I think a lot of younger people have that drive, like tangible. I want to be part of that story. In your time where you've been, how many fathers, if you were to do the math very quickly, like a ballpark. How many founders do you feel like you've interacted with in your time in VC?

Kyle Poyar: Well, it's definitely hundreds. The portfolio has about 30 active portfolio companies, but there's new ones every year, right? And exits every year. But then just given the work that I do with the community, I meet a lot of companies and I try to be open to having a number of conversations with founders, at least a few every single week that are not portfolio companies. And so, I also, I learned from those conversations and find them to be just mutually beneficial, like being exposed to more challenges and more diverse experiences. But yeah, it's been, there's been a lot of founders who I've met over the years.

Alper Yurder: Yeah, are there any common themes that come to your mind generally when people want to talk to you? These are the few things they want to talk about.

Kyle Poyar: The themes have changed over the years. I mean, in the startup world, like for especially early stage companies, the themes can be kind of consistent, right? It's like, how do I figure out my ideal customer profile, especially if we don't have that many customers, we're like any customers yet. How do I figure out how to monetize my product and like, can I test monetization? How do you do that? Right. Should I go to the PLG from the beginning? Should I go sales oriented?

Alper Yurder: Good.

Kyle Poyar: What should be the profile of my first salesperson? What about my first marketing hire? Right. A lot of it's around that company building and setting up like the V1 to go to market for a new product. But then over time, you know, especially as sort of the markets change and as founders have gotten more sophisticated and like the rise of AI, the questions are a little different now. Like there's a lot more baseline knowledge around like the conventional ways to build a software company. And so now the questions are more of like, how does AI change my go-to-market strategy and where can we leverage AI to be much more efficient? Or how do I pair PLG and sales in the right way without overburdening my team? Because it's a lot to manage to do it both at the same time. How can I think about usage -based or more creative pricing models that are disruptive in my space, but that are really unproven as well? So. The questions are more fun these days than they were six, seven years ago.

Alper Yurder: And we'll dive into the questions in a minute. I'm just curious, like, do you have your process for you figured, bringing it a little bit back to today and how you juggle different things? You have the community, you have the newsletter, you talk to people, you have your day job, et cetera. Do you have a process to keep it all kind of like a virtual cycle? You know, you have a conversation with somebody, it sparks something else, like… How does that work for you? How do you juggle all those different things?

Kyle Poyar:  Yeah, I mean, it's an evolution over time. And for me, a lot of the beginning of like, sort of content and like, influencing, if you will, started with like, I'd have a co... I know, I hate... I hate influencing. I'd have a conversation with a founder or get asked a question over email, write something really detailed...

Alper Yurder: Let's find you a better word, creator. Let's call you creator so you'll feel better.

Kyle Poyar:  …response to set of ideas or bring data to that question. And then it would sort of die. And then a few months later, I'd have the same question be like searching through my email, hey, how did I respond to this before maybe editing it? And I realized I could take a lot of what I was writing and obviously anonymize it, open source the knowledge, put it out there, and then learn in that process, right? Because as soon as you put that out there publicly, people start commenting on it either agreeing with it or disagreeing with it, giving you other examples, or just you kind of figure out who the people are that are interested in these topics. And then you start to meet those people and have conversations with them to really explore this. So I found I was giving better advice when I open sourced that and got more feedback and built more of a community. I just like also got to know people that were true experts in different, like very specific topic areas. And so that was the seed posting on LinkedIn. I started doing it much more actively around COVID times in 2020 and just found it was a really great outlet when I had extra time not commuting and being at home. It was a great way to meet people when I wasn't going to events or meeting people face to face. And then so much goodness came out of it. I mean, I'd even have portfolio companies that saw something and then they wanted to talk about it, right? Because… They were thinking about that too. They just didn't even realize they should have reached out to me for help or to discuss it. But because they saw it publicly, they were like, hey, let's figure a topic to explore further. So it started to become that virtuous cycle there. And then I realized I was too beholden to LinkedIn and the whims of the algorithm. And so many things would go away. They would have traction in the first 24 hours. And then once it's out of someone's feed, they'd like,basically can never find it again. And I felt like I should take some of these ideas, especially the ones that really resonated and build them out, take the knowledge, take the comments and so on and like to craft a more thoughtful piece. And so I started to basically write this newsletter about, I think it was March, 2021 that I started it. It's been almost three years and the initial pieces were all essentially like deeper dives on LinkedIn posts that I had had. And then the nice thing is like you share those back on LinkedIn, it kind of re -engaged the conversation. And then it kind of all kind of promotes itself, but also kind of becomes bigger as you keep doing it. That also allowed me to meet a ton of really interesting people with thoughtful ideas and then feature their ideas on the newsletter. And so more and more of the newsletter is now not just my miscellaneous thoughts on growth, but sort of like the community where there's readers of the newsletter who are contributing the bylines or who I've interviewed for pieces, we're kind of all getting smarter together. And then, you know, the hope for me is that that makes me much more useful for any portfolio companies.

Alper Yurder: I just love that you say we're all getting smarter together because sometimes amidst the LinkedIn noise, I feel like I'm getting dumber. So I'm making sure that I follow the right people. So I keep being smart and despite the algorithm and whatever, where did that name growth on the hitch come from?

Kyle Poyar:  I brainstormed like a bunch of names and I was really, I did not have chatGPT. I brainstormed a bunch of names. The key things for me was like, I wanted it to have growth because that was like the core to what I was doing and like what was getting in focus. And then I wanted something else with that, but I just didn't want it to sound like something else that was out there. I didn't want to copy someone else's name.

Alper Yurder: And you didn't have chatGPT then, so you had to come up with it yourself.

Kyle Poyar: And I also just wanted it to feel a little different, like not the advice that you'd hear from everyone. Like at the time PLG was relatively new and I wanted to talk about PLG and not just traditional SaaS growth, which was very sales happy at the time. I wanted to talk about pricing. I wanted to talk about what's new and what's next. And so I liked this idea of like unhinged because unhinged both means like instead of constraining your growth, you're going to like unhinge that growth and it can kind of take off. But it's also unhinged and that's like, it's out of the box. It's a little weird. It's different. It has a personality to it. It's unexpected. And so I like the name and I've stuck with it for almost three years now. So it seems to be resonating.

Alper Yurder: It certainly is. You inspire a lot of people, obviously, with what you do to you. And I know your community, et cetera, maybe you're like an Oscar speech. Your father and mother inspires you, but are there any particular people you would love to name or books or anything that inspires you to do something better? Like, for example, I have a couple of them. One of them is you and others that I see like authors, et cetera that inspires me to do better, that inspires me not to give in to the just decide guys what's happening, but keep on track, like be smart, write the right thing, et cetera. That was a long tailed question, but do you have some of those?

Kyle Poyar: Yeah, well, my initial inspirations were always the people that were doing this kind of work outside of tech. I'm like, if you probably can't tell, I'm a junkie when it comes to history, the environment, politics, and a bunch of other topics that are non -tech related. My friends generally don't work in tech. They're like, what the heck do you do? And so people like Ezra Klein or if you look at like,

Alper Yurder: Love it.

Kyle Poyar: There's so many creators kind of in both politics and history that have a mix of like data-driven content, research, deep dives, like podcasts. And I was always drawn to that over more traditional news. And so those kinds of folks were always the ones that I've kind of gravitated to, like the Nate Silvers of the world. And then in the tech world, Lenny is a huge inspiration. I mean, you can't be a creator and not a fan, fanboy Lenny Ryszczycki. He had one of the first like quality sub sec newsletters that I ever read and subscribed to. And it was like such a different way of doing content. And I was drawn to that. He also, you could tell the thought and the time that he puts into every piece in terms of editing and like, original research that goes into it and that really amazing visuals. So he's been an inspiration and like being able to do two bylines with him in 2023 was like a huge highlight for me personally or like being featured on my like heroes news center. And then otherwise, in terms of like the people that do kind of what I do, Elena Verna is just like incredible. And for me, it's the authenticity she brings around like,

Alper Yurder: 100% yeah.

Kyle Poyar: Her personality shows through, her originality, her voice. She's not afraid to say things that might be controversial or that not everyone agrees with her. And she's just so out of the box with her gifts and memes and everything. So I've been hesitant to be as authentic and as personal in that way. And a lot of my content and so on, my goal for myself for the next year is to infuse more of that personality into what I do.

Alper Yurder: I think that can only do you good, Carl. All right. So this next section is generally where I put you in the therapist chair, meaning I want to discuss some of the things like problems, issues that you see with the founder community, what are you solving for some juice topics, which are very practical. I'm sure you have a lot of practical advice on those. But just before I go into that, very quick question, if I may, which generally I do with my guests today, I won't do in detail with you. But generally I go, what brought you to the therapy chair today? Which is basically what problem are you trying to solve for your own business, for yourself, other than the help that you give to people. Are you trying to figure out something yourself at the moment? A problem you're seeking a solution to, what keeps you awake at night? Do you have any of those?

Kyle Poyar: Well, there's a few. One is like, I think I can't say AI without someone cringing. But like, I spent the last long time, like working on SaaS and how SaaS companies grow. And so the thing that keeps me sort of up at night, but also excited is like, did any of that resonate with AI companies? Is it going to look the same?

Alper Yurder: Me first.

Kyle Poyar: How different is it going to be? What's relevant for these kinds of businesses? And what are the innovators doing in this space that we should all be learning from? I don't want to be the dinosaur that knew how to sell on -premise software through state dinners and missed the wave of SaaS and cloud and then PLG. I'm very cognizant about that. And so that's an area of interest for me. But the other thing that I've

Alper Yurder:Thank you.

Kyle Poyar: I think about a lot of things because it feels really hard to sell and stand out in this environment for everyone. And some of it is the economy for sure. But a lot of it's just like, there are so many SaaS companies, especially SaaS companies that sell to other SaaS companies. There's also, in some ways, never been an easier time to build a startup. If you look at the talent that's available, the tools to get something off the ground. There's a lot of competition in many, many, many markets. And so how do you break through that noise and build something that can grow and grow in a sustainable and efficient way with fewer resources than you might have had a year or two ago? That's just really, really hard to do. And so I'm always wowed by the folks that do it. But I'm also thinking about like, what is that playbook in this economic environment?

Alper Yurder: No, which I just feel like I need in three months, another episode with you, because that topic alone is A, I try to solve that for others. B, I try to solve that for myself. It resonates in so many ways. Actually, it's much more exciting for me to stand out from the crowd instead of talking about AI. But I'm going to throw a few topics at you. Let's dive into one because we're coming to the end of our very lovely conversation. But I have to be a good therapist and cut us in on time. So I'm going to throw a bunch. Let's pick one and dive a little deeper. Is that okay? Okay. So, you always talk about growth experiments in your newsletter. So, you know, what are people trying to do to figure out how to grow? Maybe we can talk about some trends for 24 that you're observing. Another one, we already mentioned this, what stands out or not. That's, that's always, I think it can be a podcast on its own. Another one, which is really interesting for a lot of my listeners from the journey from zero to one.

Kyle Poyar: Sounds good.

Alper Yurder: And I know you mentioned AI as well. So how do you monetize AI? How do you explore the unexpected? I guess there are four of them. So let's pick one and go.

Kyle Poyar: Yeah, we like trends around going to marketing company building is a good one to start with. A few observations from my standpoint. There is a shift that I can feel in the market. It's hard to quantify, but like a shift away from like corporate brands and corporate marketing to creator and sort of more personal led brands where

Alper Yurder: Let's do that.

Kyle Poyar: They're powered a lot by the community and the community is often very influential in creating the brand and evangelizing the brand. And so tapping into personal brands, leaning on influencers in an authentic way, maybe like even enabling employees and leaders to become influential within a space. And then like, just powering a community around the product that facilitates growth. That's just been, it's been a trend for a while. And I think that there is an emerging playbook around like at least kind of ways to kickstart that. But I find that to be an amazing area right now. I mean, it's obviously really hard to prove attribution from it doesn't generate revenue right away as soon as you do it like running a paid campaign might, but it can lead to really, really powerful modern brands and like strong advocates that will go to bat for great products.

Alper Yurder: Yeah. It's like the air, we all feel it's there and that's kind of the playbook for the modern founder, like from zero to one, I think it's a no brainer, which includes yours truly trying to do and learn from in that sense. So if I may just interject on that, like, do you have a few examples, a few people, brands, whatever?

Kyle Poyar: Totally.

Alper Yurder: Even the ones that you speak to more recently who do a good job of that, people can get inspired from or can copy, I guess.

Kyle Poyar: I mean, I think Enzo from June .so does a great job of that. He does a lot of content around the journey to like building products, pre -product market fit and building in public with his own company. And his visuals are amazing. So it's both authentic to him, value add to his audience and very relevant to like using his product. I think Adam Schoenfeld from Keyplay slash Peer Signal has also done a ton of interesting things. I mean, it's a data player on go -to -market data and to have kind of a media lab that's looking at that data and writing about trends and kind of key learnings that are emerging from this data set and like doing so from like his personal vantage point really helps kind of like create the brand to drive awareness and interest in how other companies can leverage that data for their own go -to -market playbooks. And then, otherwise, I think the POCUS team does a great job, too. They're in the product -led sales space. And with POCUS, they have a very strong community around their product. It's called the product-led sales community. And they've curated it. So it's a really amazing expert group of people. And then they'll have interviews with that community as kind of like an AMA session with a given PLS leader. And then they'll turn that into a really great, like very thoughtful content piece, and share that in public. People learn from it, get inspired by what the best of the best companies are doing. And then, you know, that reaches more people that want to be part of the community, right? And it's kind of evangelizing this concept of product led sales more so than it is like selling a product. But their bet is that the more people know what this is and how to do it, the more need there will be for a product like Pocus. They also built this community, I think, before they even had a product. So I think that's kind of a cool play. But the obvious examples that I follow are the ones of tech companies that sell to other tech companies. I think it is harder to do this when your target audience is not this tech sort of early adopter audience that likes lives on LinkedIn more than they should. And so, and so you do see some companies that are doing this pretty well in a vertical SaaS or like other markets. But that playbook does look different from tech companies selling to the tech companies.

Alper Yurder: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, absolutely. And as the show progresses, I definitely want to have more people from that web because I wasn't always on LinkedIn like this before maybe starting Flowla or going into the SaaS world. I mean, I used to be in complex enterprise sales and other verticals and I figured like, okay, so all the good ideas, they're only from the SaaS world. Is that it? Like, what about all these other industries? Like, where's those people? Where's the salespeople and where are they speaking? Sometimes it becomes a bit of an echo chamber for sure. Those names that you mentioned though.

Alper Yurder: I follow and some of them I'm having as guests as well. So I'm really lucky. I'm going to squeeze in one or two rapid fire questions just before we close. There's going to be like one minute answers, whatever you want to go with if you don't mind. So journey from, okay, because I want to cover those other things that I said, okay, pick from and now I'm going to be cheeky. Journey from zero to one. Top three recommendations for anyone trying to go for a journey from zero to one million euros.

Kyle Poyar: Yeah, I think spending more time validating the product with users before focusing on growth, I think is key. And also not rushing to get to that kind of point of being able to launch and grow. Like I think there's like soul searching, there's sort of like a creative innovation process. And the more you rush to like, hey, there's a need here, people are using the product, let's go the more you can lose sight of building something that's really going to stand out. I also think right now, it's especially important to hone an ideal customer profile. So using the early process in customer discovery interviews before you have a product, and then there's also some data -driven ways you can do this, but figuring out who has the most pain around your product and being able to be really clear of like, we are trying to reach this type of person who has this kind of role in this kind of organization. They're using this kind of software. They're experiencing these pain points today. This is where they find products. Like the more you can build that out, you kind of have the plan or how you can go to market before you necessarily even have a product for that person. And then I think the third is like building a community in those early days around like these early people that you're interviewing, these early beta users, like, they're often very motivated to help you and can be some of the best advocates for what you're building. And so thinking about that as a community opportunity from the early days, I think makes it so that it's a lot easier to then scale that community later because now is when people are most engaged with helping you out.

Alper Yurder: Yeah, that's definitely all of the above is the strategies that we try to implement. I think they used to call it true fans when I first came to the term like building true fans. And so people who want to see you achieve in life are going to help you to achieve. So definitely leveraging the community. Last question. Are you looking into our space, buyer enablement, digital sales rooms? Is that something that is even remotely interesting to you? If so, what do you think about it?

Kyle Poyar: Well, the OpenView is invested in Highspot, which is in the sales enablement space. And so I do spend a little bit of time there. In general, my view is that the way people buy products is changing. I do think more and more people want to have some sort of product experience before they buy. That's sort of the rise of PLG, but they don't want to just have a product experience.  They also now have multiple stakeholders involved in a buying decision. They have finance that needs to sign off. There's security reviews. Many PLG products kind of get shut down because security doesn't want them in. I also see a number of companies say, we're not going to adopt any gen AI in our organization because we're worried about security risks. So there's a need to demonstrate that great product experience, but also… multithread and have enablement across different personas and organizations. And while you could try to avoid doing that and like try to go for a faster deal with like a more limited persona, often that leads to a deal that's like really small deal size or never gets the final approval to close, even though the champion loves you or just leads to churn because the customer doesn't have the full support that they need going in.

Alper Yurder: Absolutely, yes. And thank you for all that insight. I completely agree. I think a lot of that resonates with me, the complexity, the difficulty. I mean, I've been both on the buyer side and the seller side. On the seller side, I was like, oh my God, closing a deal is terrible. Then I was a buyer and I realized buying is even worse. So I thought, okay, let's try to fix these. Any questions you have for me before we close?

Kyle Poyar: What do you see changing the most around go-to-market?

Alper Yurder: I guess this is going to be so cliche, but like very simple quality over quantity. I mean, that's, that's the major thing. I think to the moon and skyrockets and bless people with 1000 emails and you'll get something in return is no more. I think quality in everything, the product, the content, people smell BS very easily. Especially because now I'm selling to salespeople, you all my life I've sold to different, you know, industries, et cetera. But now I have been interacting with salespeople all day, every day for two years. Yeah, they, they, they, everybody differentiates between the good and bad easily. So I think just figure out what you're good at and do that the best, you know, don't try to be everything to all. Therefore you don't need to go for quantity, but go for quality. Bit of a cliche answer, but that's my honest answer.

Kyle Poyar: It's a good reminder.

Alper Yurder: Absolutely. I think we all need reminders and not just during the day because we all fall back from good habits if we don't have them. Well, that was a great conversation. Thank you so much, Kyle. Any closing remarks?

Kyle Poyar: Well, thanks for having me on. Hopefully people took something away from my sales therapy session here. And yeah, if you are curious to follow my musings on how to grow a software business, you can find me on LinkedIn or the newsletter Growth Unhinged. Just be mindful that it's not meant to be me telling you what to do. It's meant to be a conversation where we're all getting smart.

Alper Yurder: Thank you for getting smarter together. Definitely we need more of that. Now Kyle, our time is over and I need to cut it on the clock just like any good therapist. That's a wrap on this episode of Sales Therapy. If you enjoy the show, follow, subscribe on your favorite channels, YouTube, Spotify, we're everywhere. And obviously I don't need to tell you to follow Kyle or Growth Unhinged because yeah, you'll get smarter basically. So do it for yourself. Thank you for watching this episode. See you, bye.

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