Not having the financial resources to hire the best talent can actually be a great thing. Bring in young talent and nurture a relationship that will grow with you year to year, and possibly even company to company.
This is an insight Jeremy Levy learned after decades in entrepreneurship. His clients were Disney, Staples, and Old Navy. His companies were sold to Match.com and IBM. And his talent stayed with him.
Today his team at Indicative develops an automated customer analytics platform, and he credits them with the success of his business.
More information: https://www.indicative.com/
Jeremy Levy is the CEO and Co-Founder of Indicative a Customer Analytics platform for product and marketing teams. He is a serial entrepreneur and a veteran of New York City’s Silicon Alley. Jeremy Co-Founded Xtify, the first Mobile CRM for the Enterprise, acquired by IBM in 2013. He also Co-Founded MeetMoi, a pioneering location-based dating service for mobile sold to Match.com in 2014.
DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!
Jeremy Levy 0:00
We went to extreme lengths to work very closely with those customers to understand effectively what their needs were, in other words, validate what we were building and whether or not that actually resonated with a wide enough group in the market to to demonstrate that we should continue down this path.
Alexander Ferguson 0:23
Jeremy, I’m excited to continue our conversation now hearing a bit more about your journey, your story, where did it begin? And how did you get to where you are today.
Jeremy Levy 0:32
So I have been in the technology ecosystem for my entire career. I’ll try to give you the medium version. I get from graduating college I went and worked at I had a brief stint at Pfizer, I went on to Morgan Stanley. But my first job out of college is working at a startup called jolted, which was attempting to build the first back end system for Wi Fi. Very early on the tech ecosystem, we built a startup and eventually went bankrupt. But that was a formative experience in my background in the sense that I probably learned more in those two years that I worked in the Start than I did anywhere else. And I made a connection there that has benefited me for the rest of my life, which is my co founder for my next two companies was the founder of that company. So in 2006, him and I got together, and we started effectively the first location based mobile dating company, we were a pioneer in using location to match people in real time and then form a real time communication channel from a dating perspective. Whereas dating companies at that time, were more, you browse a profile, and then you send messages back and forth. You know, like email effectively, we sold that business to match.com, in 2012 2013. And a lot of sort of the inspiration for the subsequent companies that I started originated there, and I you know, in terms of the problems that we faced, and then coming up with solutions for them. So in 2008, we started a company called X to phi x to phi was the first mobile CRM for the enterprise. And the impetus for that essentially was, how do we leverage this new mobile communications channel essentially push push messages in an effective way. And so we after spinning out that business, we very quickly grew to have, you know, many, many Fortune 500 companies as our customers, Disney staples, Old Navy, more this subforum more than I can remember this time. And we sold that to IBM as part of their messaging cloud. The common theme throughout those businesses were effectively how do we better utilize our data? And that was essentially the impetus for starting indicative, which I’m the CEO of today.
Alexander Ferguson 2:49
Amazing how from one effort builds out of multiple and you, you started, meet my and and exa phi around the same time, do you running both at the same time? Exactly. Or
Jeremy Levy 3:03
so I was the CTO of both of those businesses. And then initially, and then we brought on a another CTO at x defy, and I was a board member and CTO emeritus.
Alexander Ferguson 3:16
Any lessons learned on running multiple endeavors at the same time?
Jeremy Levy 3:20
I mean, you know, it’s hard enough running one company, and, you know, part of my job basically is saying no, and more than saying, yes, you know, ultimately, it’s having great teams, you know, being able to delegate being able to trust people being able to share a common vision as the only way that work.
Alexander Ferguson 3:39
Obviously, those lessons learned taking into now indicative building a good team, what was it like to to build a team and scale it any, any tactics that you found have worked well, that you can share?
Jeremy Levy 3:51
So I’d say two things. One, we have a fantastic team today, probably the best thing I’ve ever worked with. So part of that answer that question is, a lot of the people who I work with today are based on relationships from businesses that I’ve started the past. So for example, our VP of Engineering is someone who I’ve worked with for many, many years. And on that note, he was someone who we had hired out of effectively out of college, and he has grown incredibly, with our company. So the other sort of tip I would sort of say is, don’t be afraid of bringing on Junior talent, and then mentoring them to grow. As you know, when when these companies were startups, we were cost constrained. And so we couldn’t afford, you know, to hire someone with 10 years experience. But that doesn’t mean that someone with just just a great attitude and just pure raw intelligence, with some training can be incredibly effective. And that’s been a model that we’ve been able to employ across many roles, whether it be marketing or sales, is investing in people who are junior and finding sort of those diamonds in the rough, giving them the opportunity to grow, giving them responsibility and seeing them develop To effectively top to your talent,
Alexander Ferguson 5:03
powerful strategy of not necessarily hiring the best of the best and bringing them in, but Junior building up and they actually maybe go from one business endeavor to the next business endeavor that you have.
Jeremy Levy 5:12
It’s, I’d say it’s one of my best growth hacks.
Alexander Ferguson 5:15
I love it. How big is the team today? I didn’t get it.
Jeremy Levy 5:19
We’re about 2025 people nice.
Alexander Ferguson 5:21
And that this concept of the culture keeping it at different stages, I’m sure has its own unique challenges. Coming to the customer side, what is it like to get the first couple customers? Now the this is your third or or fourth business year endeavor? How do you get that first initial customer on board and be able to grow from there?
Jeremy Levy 5:41
Well, you know, to take a step back, I think what you’re really referring to is how do you get to product market fit. And so, you know, the approach that we took is, you know, we have a thesis about what we’re building, we went to extreme lengths to work very closely with those customers, to understand effectively what their needs were, in other words, validate what we were building, and whether or not that actually resonated with a wide enough group in the market, to to demonstrate that we should continue down this path. And, you know, we made a couple pivots in in all of the companies I’ve worked at, frankly, in terms of learning about what the what is responsive to the market, you know, my my best way of thinking, the way I think about that is really extreme feedback, you know, whether you’re b2c or b2b, it’s really taking the time to sit down, listen to your customers and distill from them, what they’re trying to tell you. In other words, a customer may not necessarily tell you, you should change this in your product. But if you ask the right questions, you could understand the pain point they’re trying to trying to solve, and incorporate that into your macro thesis about your business about your product, and inform those decisions. You know, your first customer who you get may not necessarily be be representative of your next customer, or your next customer, or even your ideal customer. And that can be an opportunity in saying, hey, maybe we should tilt the business a little bit to the left. Or it might mean we should double down on this type of customer and plow forward.
Alexander Ferguson 7:06
Going from that first few customers, after you found product market fit to then scale, has there been any tactics both with indicative or previous ventures that you found have worked to, to then actually start scaling up and getting more? Yeah,
Jeremy Levy 7:20
I mean, I think there are things that you can do when you’re small, that don’t scale, and I think you should embrace those. So you know, very often we’ll look at doing something that will only get us to the next stage, and we’re like, oh, but this will never work when we’re much bigger. And you know, that creates friction, that creates a hesitancy to do those things. But those might be the things that you need to do at that stage of your business. And so, you know, what I would say is don’t hesitate from embracing those tactics, or those strategies that only only serve you in the short term. Now, I don’t, I don’t want to I don’t want to say that you shouldn’t also be focusing on a larger strategy or understanding what you should be in different stage. But there are tons of little things you do at a lower scale that are necessary to get you to the next stage, the next plateau the next next, you know, funding round or something that will not let you know that will not work when you’re 2050 100 people but that work amazingly, when you’re five or 10 people
Alexander Ferguson 8:22
any come to your memory of one that didn’t scale, but you’re like, no actually hindsight that I’m glad we did it, because we needed to do that anything tactical come to your mind.
Jeremy Levy 8:31
Yeah, I mean, look, build the customer feedback example. I think it’s a really good one. I try, or at least I try to early on, speak to every single customer we have. I can’t do that anymore today. But you know, for what it’s worth that concept we can extend in scale. So now our customer success team does QBRs and a lot of our customers and the the insights from that are distilled. And you know, I still look at those every single time we see them. But I can’t spend you know, I can’t hop on the phone with every single customer.
Alexander Ferguson 9:00
For you moving forward, what hurdles? Do you see you’re going to need to overcome especially I don’t know, if the COVID era changed anything for you? Maybe not? What do you see challenges both internally, with your team as well as externally with your clients that you’re gonna need to overcome?
Jeremy Levy 9:15
Yeah, I mean, COVID has obviously been, I think, a challenge for every business. And it’s, I think, you know, to maybe put a positive in it also, it’s also been an opportunity for us, like every other business is figuring out how we can work in in a time where showing up face to face is no longer possible where we can’t get together and work collaboratively. But on the other hand, I think bringing to the forefront awareness around making sure that people are are okay, people are coping people are we can be more responsive to people’s individual needs, both in terms of their their family lives. I think that’s a unawareness and a change that has come from COVID that I think is really positive. And I hope that persists in how business operates in the future when things return to quote unquote, normal, you know, this awareness of just being more mindful of people. And I think, you know, not that it’s late. It’s a challenge we have to overcome. But I think we’re turning back to the standard quo is something that we should be wary of, you know, I think, you know, I’ve enjoyed working remotely to some extent is that something that we can sustain is, how do we keep in touch over long distances? You know, I think that’s an interesting one. Also, how do we keep that culture going? And how does our culture evolve? Our challenges that I don’t think we have the answers to yet, in given the uncertainty we face in market today?
Alexander Ferguson 10:44
I actually was gonna ask that as a follow up, as I’m curious, ask a lot of folks, do you see bringing everyone back into the same office, you’re gonna go all remote now with the team? Have you any thoughts on that?
Jeremy Levy 10:54
You know, I think we’re just gonna have to wait and see, you know, I think the first thing is, we’re not going to make anybody do anything. You know, I think when the time comes, you know, we’ll figure out what people are comfortable doing. And then we’ll decide then, you know, I, I can’t, I’m not, we’re not at a place where we can even begin to speculate on what’s going to happen. I can say this, we’ve been able to transition to working remotely, incredibly, effectively, my team has done an absolutely tremendous job of not skipping a step when it came to working remotely. And at the same time, you know, it’s just, it’s impossible to see what will happen on the other side.
Alexander Ferguson 11:31
Last quick questions, any places you go to get new insight information as a business tech leader, whether it’s books, podcasts, journals, where do you go?
Jeremy Levy 11:41
Um, so you know, I think all of your listeners probably go to Hacker News, probably fairly routinely. That’s been a, an informative, interesting source for me for years. And obviously, the comments section is fun to peruse. I you know, given how busy things are these days, it I find it really hard to dedicate time just sit down and read a book. So I haven’t read a business book, embarrassingly in like a year and a half, two years. One newsletter that I read religiously, though, is, and I’m going to butcher his name, but Tom Tang is from Redpoint is a VC, who sends out a weekly newsletter, and he focuses on the SAS space on the data space. But it’s bite size, it’s the kind of email you can read in three minutes. And it’s just filled with interesting insights and thoughts. That’s one that I read almost weekly, if not going back to the archives and looking at interesting topics from time to time.
Alexander Ferguson 12:41
Last question for you, what kind of technology innovations do you predict we’ll see in the near term next year and long term 510 years?
Jeremy Levy 12:50
So, you know, obviously, you know, sort of from the data space, I think a faster time to insights and reduction of the friction from getting to those insights, I think is is inevitable. We’re clearly moving in that direction with with ML and AI and plugging these models into effectively doing the analysis that we’re doing together. I think the more I think a interesting area that I don’t have a good answer for you in terms of how it’s going to go. But it’s the intersection of social media, news, politics, and human behavior. I’m fascinated by that topic and frightened by it also, because I observe just in my own behavior, how I am addicted to my phone, I’m addicted to scrolling down and doing all those behaviors, which I can clearly see are very unhealthy. And I think understanding those is going to be one of the one of the I think one of the big challenges of the future, but also from a technology perspective. How do we how do we coexist with this technology that is just giving us dopamine hits every 30 seconds.
Alexander Ferguson 13:56
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