April 29, 2019
PUBLISHED BY Wildcat Venture Partners
Wildcat’s CEO Interview Blog Series features in-depth interviews with CEOs who have successfully traversed the Traction Gap. In each blog, we focus on the CEOs’ experience during one phase of the Traction Gap journey.
We interviewed Tim Eades, CEO of vArmour, about his experiences getting to Minimum Viable Repeatability (MVR).
MVR is the smallest amount of repeatability a startup can demonstrate, while still proving its business model and product/market fit.
Wildcat’s Traction Gap Principles at MVR
- Product: Measure your product’s success and communicate those metrics with customers to influence retention.
- Revenue: Leverage reference selling to fuel a repeatable sales engine.
- Team: Not everyone is good at every stage of the company. Remove anyone who isn’t consistently producing.
- Systems: Spend more time on finance than you think you should; make sure the math works.
Like all CEOs, Tim needed a strong showing at every board meeting. And he found an inspired way to help with this: “In just about every board meeting, we have a customer present. A customer comes and presents to our board. Nobody else does this. Normally you just have a board meeting, and you look at your sales pipeline, your product, or whatever.”
“We have customers come to the company, too. We have all hands with customers every three weeks, but at board meetings we literally have customers present because VCs don’t meet many customers, and our board doesn’t meet many customers, but once they see a customer, then they can relate to what the customer is saying. They can see what we’re building, and for whom. And then they can say, let’s go get more of them.”
This is an unorthodox idea, but it highlights how companies should think outside the norm when looking for ways to engage with customers.
For Tim and vArmour, aside from impressing the board, moving from Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to MVR required laser-focus on understanding their customer. “We had to know who we were selling to, and not be distracted by every conceivable avenue,” said Tim. “Discipline on products, discipline on customer orientation, discipline everywhere. It’s really hard because what makes a good entrepreneur is curiosity. But you’ve got to temper that. You have to become much more guided about what you’re listening to, and what you’re reading.”
And when things do start happening, Tim advises, don’t go too broad. vArmour made this mistake at first. Around MVR, their phone was ringing off the hook. “At one point there were 45 customers a week trying to install the product. That’s bad, believe it or not, at the stage we were at, it was bad.” vArmour’s market is broad, and they maxed out their sales teams, chasing leads that weren’t that attractive. This was the mistake. “We had loads of people with very low scores coming in, and our sales team would still chase them even though we were never going to close them. We were like hold the fort.”
“Repeatability,” said Tim, “if you’re not careful, isn’t attainable. The reason why is because you go too broad.” The solution? Focus on the right verticals. “We rotated from volume to value, and focused on our verticals to common product requirements, and common messaging, common positioning, and the thing just flew.”
All companies need a strong top-down vision to inspire the whole team to reach MVP. What was that vision, for vArmour? “A balance of curiosity and focus,” says Tim. “A lot of people talk about peripheral vision, right? Peripheral means you have context to making a decision, but it doesn’t mean to say you’re always making changes. What happens is, too many people get distracted. They listen to the wrong people, and they lose sight of what got them to where they were. Be curious but stay focused.”
CEO Takeaways at MVR
- Consider bringing customers into board meetings. It gives you a fresh angle on showing investors the successes of the product.
- Don’t go too broad. Don’t be attracted by every potential customer. Know your verticals and focus on them.
- As an entrepreneur, balance curiosity and discipline. Be open to new ideas but avoid distraction.
vArmour offers data defined perimeter security solutions for mobile, virtual, and cloud platforms. vArmour is a private startup funded by venture firms such as Menlo Ventures, and Citi Ventures.