0:00:00 – (Kurt Dusek): If you’re looking at these tools and things, it’s like, what is the impact this tool is going to have across the board? Yeah, maybe this new tool is 20% cheaper than the other tool we’re using, or they’re saying it’s faster or it’s better. I think that’s where you have to really break down to, is this the right tool for the job? Are we going to take advantage of it? Are we going to allocate the time to not only just integrate it, there’s a whole overhead that’s going to go with this change.

0:00:33 – (Matt Widdoes): Today’s guest is Kurt Dusek. Kurt is an experienced technology advisor and systems architect with a background in leading software development teams and building application platforms. He also has worked in product partnership and alliances for notable technology startups, including GitLab and Appdome. In our conversation, we talk about data technology and how the two are critical to helping companies scale.

0:00:57 – (Matt Widdoes): If you enjoy this episode, don’t forget to subscribe to Growth@Scale on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or your favorite podcasting platform. It’s the best way to stay caught up with future episodes and also helps us out at the same time with that. Here’s my conversation with Kirk Dusek. Thank you for tuning into another episode of Growth@ Scale. I’m your host, Matt Widdoes, CEO of MAVAN, and today we’re joined by Kurt Dusek, an experienced technologist, advisor, and systems architect. He’s got a background in leading software development teams and building application platforms, and he’s also worked in product partnerships and alliances for notable technology startups, including GitLab and Appdome.

0:01:35 – (Matt Widdoes): Kurt, welcome to the podcast.

0:01:37 – (Kurt Dusek): Thanks for having me.

0:01:38 – (Matt Widdoes): I’m so excited to talk to you today. Everything that we do in growth is underlined by data. And, you know, for people who don’t know you, maybe just tell us, who are you? Where have you been? What do you do? A little bit of background about Kurt. Yeah.

0:01:50 – (Kurt Dusek): So, you know, I’ve been in technology for about 20 years. Back in, you know, initially started in the days of AOL dial up Internet, and that’s kind of been where I’ve hung my hat for quite a while. My whole career, I’ve worked in a broad range of companies, everything from startups to solo, founding a few things and working with a lot of the big Silicon Valley giants and a lot of customers and side projects in between. And so outside of that, I live a little bit outside of Denver, Colorado.

0:02:23 – (Kurt Dusek): I am an obsessive car guy tinkerer. So that’s how I get my kicks outside of technology.

0:02:30 – (Matt Widdoes): Great. What kind of cars are you into?

0:02:32 – (Kurt Dusek): Oh, anything old. So the crown jewel is I have an 86 Porsche 911 that had for a few years, and then I have a few old. An old Mercedes that I’m doing a restoration on. An old 70’s Toyota I’m doing a restoration on. So anything that’s a nice departure from keyboard and a screen and the Internet interests me, you know, outside of work.

0:02:56 – (Matt Widdoes): My. My first car, you may be. This may be up your alley. It’s not quite the Porsche, but it has similarities to the Toyota was a first gen Mazda RX7  with a rotary-B engine. And it was. It was like, the coolest car I could possibly find for the price. Had 111,000 miles on it. I think I got it for $1700, maybe $2100, but I think it was 17, and it was awesome. It did. It was just like the greatest car ever. And every time I run into. Back then, when I would run into people, they’re like, oh, man, rotary. And it’s like this whole.

0:03:26 – (Matt Widdoes): Whole thing for the old guys. And I think the-  I think it’s like the two eight.

0:03:29 – (Kurt Dusek): Yeah, no, so, yeah, yeah. Quick aside, I had an RX-8, the last generation of those rotaries. So, no, I’m definitely a fan. Again, my taste is pretty broad and varied, so I’m not a snob.

0:03:43 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah, well, and that’s the thing, is, like, I imagine going back to that car, and I’m like, one, if I hunted down the original and brought it back to my house, how much trouble would I be in? And two, I’m like, how. How unsatisfying might it be where I’m like, oh, man, this is not as fast as it used to be. Cause you look at, like, you look like a 20. You look at, like, a 20. Like, this is a real thing. If you look at a 2023, like, Honda van, like a odyssey, they are faster than, like, a 2002 V6 Mustang, which in 2002 V6 mustangs felt pretty damn fast. And now you’re like, wait, the vans are faster? It’s like, uh huh.

0:04:19 – (Matt Widdoes): And then it’s like, okay. And then, yeah, you compare that to, like, a Tesla or something. It’s like, not even, like, there’s no joy in it outside of, like, the core of it and maybe tinkering and bringing it up. So I can appreciate that. Well, we’ll have to talk cars another day. I have a friend I could pair you with who’s a deep in the Porsche, and he. I think he just bought a company in San Francisco that has all these, OEM, old school Porsche parts. And I think it had a million dollars worth of parts when he bought it. But they’re like highly coveted OEM stuff. And he, he bought it because he’s interested in it. But he also was like, I can make money on it and I also need some of these parts. So anyway, he’s an, he’s an interesting guy. Interesting guy, interesting boat.

0:04:55 – (Kurt Dusek): That’s, that’s a hell of a way.

0:04:57 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah.

0:04:57 – (Kurt Dusek): To expand your parts catalog. But I get it.

0:05:01 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah. I mean, he’s, yeah. Needless to say, he’s done well enough in, in other ventures to be like, that’s not a big deal, but, but anyways, for, for another day. So, you know, I’m curious, like, you know, we talk about kind of old things, new things, and technology generally, it’s changing all the time. And so you’ve, you’ve had to reinvent. You’ve seen, you know, going back to the AOL days, you’ve kind of seen it all. I mean, that’s kind of from the sense of the Internet, that kind of is the beginning, more or less.

0:05:28 – (Matt Widdoes): And so given that technology is constantly changing, I’m curious. I know there are some, but like, what are some of the universal constants in a world like technology where the tools and best practices are constantly evolving but kind of some underlying things remain true? What are you putting into that kind of camp? Yeah.

0:05:45 – (Kurt Dusek): So for me, you know, it’s about choosing the right tool for the job and understanding, you know, what are you trying to achieve and what’s out there, and understanding that, you know, in addition to picking the right tool, there’s a follow on process of adopting, getting the most out of it, really putting the effort in to know this tool, get familiar with it, get all of the value out of it right when we’re making investments, whether that’s in cloud or AI or whatever product development aspect, there’s a reason why you chose the platform you did. Hopefully there’s a reason that’s driving these decisions. There’s a why behind all of these choices.

0:06:27 – (Kurt Dusek): And so factoring that why into how we adopt it to get the most out of it, I think that’s something that companies would be well served to stop. Understand? Okay. If we’re going to make this decision, if we’re going to go down this road, what’s the right path? And picking that based on the needs, not based on, hey, this is the most popular logo we’ve seen. This is the sales rep who’s been bugging us the hardest.

0:06:53 – (Kurt Dusek): This is what we’re getting free from some other vendor, but actually understanding, okay, is this going to meet our needs? Is this the right thing to do? Because if it’s not, then not only are you wasting money, but then there’s the potential of, okay, do we need to pull this thing out and replace it with something that is the right thing? And then you’ve lost all that potential, time and momentum.

0:07:13 – (Kurt Dusek): So the idea of understanding what problem you’re trying to solve and then factoring that criteria really into the decision making process, rather than just going with whatever latest and greatest is coming out of big, popular brand du jour.

0:07:28 – (Matt Widdoes): Well, and how do you deal with that? I mean, this is like, such a loaded question, but something that everybody deals with and the kind of classic thing we see all the time, particularly for companies that are growing quickly or that they spent their first five years growing quickly, and now they got in some new capital and they’re kind of reevaluating their, their tech stack. You know, you have, like, one team, maybe the marketing team wants this tool because it solves this main problem that they need.

0:07:53 – (Matt Widdoes): Uh, and, yeah, it does some other stuff, but, like, we haven’t really used that yet right now. We just kind of. It’s worth it just to have this one thing. And then some other team is like, all right, we brought this tool to do this other thing that, as it turns out, that first thing does. But nobody knows that the marketing team is even using it because there’s, they’re so early and growing so quickly, there’s less oversight or, um, you know, and they’re beyond, like, a two person team. Everybody knows what’s going on and then, you know, evaluating, I think, coupled to that, you know, so how do you deal with this kind of bloat where you have multiple tools, different teams using it for different reasons? And, you know, sometimes that’s just like, we have to meet with the people who are using them and understand why they want them and why they didn’t choose this. Like, there’s a lot of kind of deconstruction that has to go on and kind of investigation as to how do we get here.

0:08:38 – (Matt Widdoes): But also, like, thinking through and being deliberate about the technology that not only serves us today, but our foreseen needs and really factoring that into the equation as well, which is like a whole other subset of challenges, which is, well, this one is $1,000 a month, and it’s really, really good, and it serves us well because it’s nimble and we can turn it off. This other one is way better, but it’s eighty k a year, full stop. No, monthly.

0:09:03 – (Matt Widdoes): So what do we do? Do we go all in on this one and then transition later? Because we know that one’s going to serve us? And lots of this is just math problems at the end of the day for the business. But, you know, how can maybe let’s, let’s take like, the early stage founder who has a lot of experts in house, but he maybe doesn’t have, like, a pure technology. He has got a back end and a front end. He’s got some product people and some marketing people, but ultimately, like, you know, ctos not usually, like, first hire or somebody to, like, really make sure there’s checks and balances and some guardrails or some kind of, you know, coordination between what it is that we’re putting on top of the stack.

0:09:41 – (Matt Widdoes): How do you kind of think about that early days? And for somebody without a CTO, are there any processes or things that they can do to just say, look, here’s how we consider new technology. Under a certain dollar, you can kind of do whatever you want. But we do want to, like, sanity check. Is there like a monthly call that says, this is all the new technology we’re thinking about and make sure everybody knows what it does or doesn’t do, because you have somebody else talking to the other sales rep and you don’t even know they’re looking for the same tool as you are. Like, is there, is there a solution there? Is it just better communication? Is there process? Like, how do you prevent that bloat from the onset versus so often looking back and saying, how in the hell did we get here? And, like, what did we miss to, like, what, what caused this that we could have prevented otherwise for, uh, for somebody who’s maybe earlier stage and still has hope?

0:10:25 – (Kurt Dusek): Yeah. I think that, you know, when you’re early stage, you’re definitely looking at, you know, you’re counting every nickel, right?

0:10:32 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah.

0:10:32 – (Kurt Dusek): And so I think there’s, there’s definitely the gates that you can put on the procurement process to say, look, we’re not going to buy anything, we’re not going to expense anything or let somebody put something on their credit card as some shadow app or shadow it initiative that we don’t know about. So there’s definitely the gates you can put on procurement from finding if you’re looking at something that’s an investment level procurement or tool.

0:10:59 – (Kurt Dusek): This isn’t a $10 a month type app. This is something that’s a specific investment.

0:11:04 – (Matt Widdoes): Going to be the backbone of our project management or something like it’s exactly, it’s the tool, it’s how we’re going to ship or whatever. Yeah.

0:11:12 – (Kurt Dusek): These, these fundamental tools. You know, you have to think of first and foremost, what is your vision as if you’re not, if you’re the founder, especially a non technical founder, you know, you’re the core of your idea, the vision, the main reason why that’s always got to be your foundation, that’s got to be your bedrock and anchor, and so carry that into your procurement process, into your evaluation process. Right. This is going back to the right tool for the job.

0:11:38 – (Kurt Dusek): If you’re saying, hey, look, I’m a non technical founder, but I know that there’s this very valid business case. I know there’s this very valid problem that we’re solving. I know there is a market fit here. These are all the things that we’re doing as we build our product, as we grow our business. Factor those things into how you pick who your vendors are, because at this early phase, if you’re making a big strategic investment and you’re at an early stage, this matters. This is a really big deal.

0:12:05 – (Kurt Dusek): So when you’re going to make that move, understanding and being able to trust that there’s a difference between vendors and partners. This is something I learned in alliances when I worked with a lot of companies. There’s plenty of companies that their partnership with you is really just sliding that contract across the table and waiting for you to sign. Right. Then there’s the people that say, hey, we want to have a touch point.

0:12:28 – (Kurt Dusek): We want to have a quarterly business review. We want to understand where you’re coming from. We want to understand how do you measure success, mister customer? So that way we’re tracking that. And so being able to engage with a vendor and say, look, this is what matters to us, and then looking at what their reaction is, that’s going to tell you a lot of what you need to know of, hey, is this a thing that checks some boxes today but is going to go stale or these guys are going to go dark on us after we’ve signed the deal?

0:13:02 – (Kurt Dusek): Or is this something where, hey, we can see potentially going to buy whatever product or make this investment? We see they’re invested in this just as much as we’re potentially going to be monetarily invested in this platform, our vendor is invested in our success. And so that’s going to be the criteria. And sometimes I think you have to front load that. If you’re a customer, being a good customer is a consideration. If you’re in the buying process saying, look, this is what is important to me, putting that out there and say, this is how we measure success. This is what we expect out of a tool like this.

0:13:35 – (Kurt Dusek): This is how we want you to work with us over time. It’s everybody’s your best friend leading up to signing that deal. But day two, day five, day 365 of that installation, where is our partner now? So being able to proof that out and understand how are they engaging with us? And even again, it goes beyond the salesperson, right. Salespeople. Again, they’ll tell you everything you want to hear. So then it’s like, okay, what’s the product organization here?

0:14:03 – (Kurt Dusek): Who’s onboarding us before we sign on the dotted line? Who’s going to be our friend after the sales guy is gone? So those are going to be the things that look at and making sure that they’re receptive to your vision and their understanding of your vision, and they can tell you your vision back. You know, if you have an account rep, if you have a support people that you’re engaging with, having them be able to tell you no, yeah, we totally understand what your product does, who your customer is, what you’re trying to achieve.

0:14:31 – (Kurt Dusek): You know, that’s as important to us, you know, in delivering our product to you because it’s going to help you with that goal. Right. That’s the type of engaged customer or vendor you want.

0:14:41 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah. And we see that a lot with like, you know, well staffed technology companies. Some are, some are really big, but they’re well staffed and prepared for that. And we see that a lot with like the early stage. They’re kind of like number, they’re like the challenger, and they can give you way more post sales support because they’re like, hey, we’re small too. And I think that kind of looking for commitment post sale and particularly, I mean, at least asking even if you don’t use it. But it’s, can we have a quarterly call with your product people so that we can share feedback? I mean, I have spent my entire career on some level working, I mean, at larger companies working in these broader contracts to say, hey, like, we want to be on the phone with your product people.

0:15:20 – (Matt Widdoes): We are pretty advanced. We would like to be sharing product features that we would like to see that you don’t have right now. We can act as a sounding board for product people to say, hey, we’re trying to choose between these three things. On our roadmap. And we can tell you, like, this is just people complaining, but this one is legit. Like this one we need really, really bad. And we can also, and this is something I always shoot for, is we can be alpha testers. Let me test your, let me test your new stuff, because we’ve had so much advantage over the years with companies like Facebook and others testing new ad products, testing things that are not yet in the market.

0:15:52 – (Matt Widdoes): Most of the time they’re rough around the edges. But two, we can leave our fingerprints on it and make it a little bit more tailored to us, which is great. Of course, it enables our competitors as well. But in those rare instances where it’s really, really good, particularly an ad product, we have access to that for six months before the market does. Huge advantage, more than pays for all the kind of losers and for all the time that we had to spend in that call. So I think that’s a great call out, even if you don’t use it to kind of say, hey, beyond tier one support, can I meet with product people? Can I be constantly kept abreast of what’s the latest and greatest that maybe we don’t even know is out because we’re so busy in our day to day, we didn’t know the tool had gotten that good or that updated.

0:16:34 – (Matt Widdoes): Um, and so I think that’s important and kind of knowing on, on your side who’s going to own that. The, the other thing that it’s worth calling out, I’m sure you’ve seen this, but I’ve seen it a bunch and I won’t call out any names. Um, uh, just in case they’ve changed their policy or in case I’m, I’m, uh, to protect the innocent, I guess, is that, you know, there is a, this has happens all over the place, but there’s an email service provider that allows you to send emails and push notifications and all these things like, uh, you bought something, here’s a receipt, you know, transactional emails as well as CEO newsletters, whatever.

0:17:05 – (Matt Widdoes): And they are really attractive when your list is small. You got a thousand emails, no problem, might be free. Got 10,000 emails, $20 a month, no problem. You got 10 million emails, exorbitantly expensive. Like when you compare their costs of, if I have 10 million emails, I have a billion emails. How much am I at? 100 million emails. Right. And I think all founders in that early stage, you know, they’re all planning for the best outcome.

0:17:30 – (Matt Widdoes): But you really, really want to understand, like how am I charged. Is it on volume? Is it on data points in your case, right. Is it on storage? I mean, all these things matter and those have real costs associated with them on the, on the provider side. But show me what it looks like today. Show me what it looks like if I ten x. Show me what it looks like if I 100x. And if we’re really tiny. Show me what it looks like if I thousand x. Because then you can start to compare prices against, like, does this scale with me.

0:17:58 – (Matt Widdoes): And in the case of this made up email service provider, you’d find that, like, at any meaningful scale, meaningful being like, I don’t know, 500,000 customer records, right? That’s not a gigantic business in the grand scheme of things, is that you have 500,000 emails you’re trying to email. I’m making up a number, but it’s essentially like, oh, yeah, with that one that looked really, really cheap early and maybe was free early and really easy to use. And all these great things at 500,000 records, they’re $100 grand a month.

0:18:31 – (Matt Widdoes): And everybody else at 500,000 records is $5k a month. That’s a big difference. Right. And I think a lot of these companies that may or may not, but it may be part of their strategy to say we set our hooks early. It’s really a pain to rip and replace. We know that we’re going to be super attractive early, and then for the winners, we’re going to print money and, or they’re going to have to rip us out and most don’t because it’s painful.

0:18:56 – (Matt Widdoes): And so that would be something I’d throw on that I’m curious to hear, to jump to that point when you’re looking at, like, when you wake up in that position and you’re like, oh, my gosh. And again, maybe it’s just a math problem, but that, like, how do you go about, and this is maybe bigger. Too big of an a question to answer, but, like, how do you go about ripping and replacing? You say, this is the core of how we communicate with our customers in this example, this is our, this is our email service provider, and now we’ve got somebody coming in that says, I can save you $2.1 million a year and actually maybe improve your performance and deliverability and all these other things that you care about.

0:19:32 – (Matt Widdoes): And there are definitely situations where a company might look at that and say, it’s not worth the squeeze. Like, I appreciate it, $2 million would be great, but, like, it’s too much to risk or whatever. Like, how do you think about that? Less about the math problem, but like, yeah, just generally, how do you think about it? And then if you are going to do it, what are the considerations and high level planning and execution and rollout?

0:19:53 – (Matt Widdoes): I don’t know anything high level there to kind of as like a forewarning or just advice.

0:19:58 – (Kurt Dusek): Yeah, I think the main thing is really to set your technology team up to be able to adapt to change or to manage that kind of change, which everybody wants to do that to me, I view that as a couple things. Number one, where you’re looking at, we’re talking about the architecture of the enterprise or the technology. How does this entire company use technology, whether they’re a startup of 20 people that’s scaling to 1000, right, but we have all these kind of intermediate apps, we have our core product, we have our ticketing system, we have our support mechanism, we have all these different things. And so that’s going to be the concern of technology is everywhere. Everybody’s got a website or an app and a presence.

0:20:45 – (Kurt Dusek): At some point, having leadership around technology just becomes fundamental. WordPress is only going to get you so far. Outsourcing everything is only going to get you so far. At some point, at least at the senior level, you need a leader who’s saying, where are we going in five years? What problems do we anticipate in having in two years to get to that five year mark? What do we need to do? How big, you know, are we a software company or are we a physical goods company that has to leverage, software, has to leverage technology as part of go to market or as part of marketing or as part of ant sales or whatever, right? There’s always a technology arm. Now, it’s not a luxury, but even though technology may not be the core part of your business, it’s so fundamental to everything that you’re doing.

0:21:34 – (Kurt Dusek): Having a leader there who again, goes back to understanding what your vision is and say, okay, I get where we’re trying to go, and here are the hurdles that we may encounter on that road. So, hey, if email is a big part of our communication strategy and a part of our outreach, and that’s going to grow proportionally to how our user base is going to grow, then yeah, let’s take advantage of vendor a right now, knowing that when we do hit our goals, if we’re a victim of our own success, how do we not be victimized by our vendor? And so that’s going to be a thing where, hey, just like you have the idea of someone being a Series-A CTO or a Series-B CFO. Right. They’re a person that can get you through a certain range, but there may not be the person that’s going to help you go public, or there may not be the right person that’s going to help you through an acquisition.

0:22:25 – (Kurt Dusek): You kind of have to bake in certain expected change points. Right. Think of it as almost like perforated paper. You know, you may not have to tear that thing apart, right. But it’s kind of made there for, we need to make a change or a separation. And so that’s going to go back to what is our long term tech strategy. So we don’t want to be caught flat footed by, hey, we had a great Black Friday period, whatever happened, and then come January, we see a crazy bill that totally undermines all the revenue we generated from Black Friday.

0:22:59 – (Kurt Dusek): Right. So that’s going to be the thing of looking at somebody who’s factoring the technology strategy in lockstep with the product growth strategy, so that, hey, this is how we want to grow, this is how we want to build our product. These are the things that we want to measure over time. So then what’s the technology execution of that? You know, vendor email, vendor a is going to be great, up to a million users.

0:23:23 – (Kurt Dusek): But we know that the price is going to spike when we cross to 2 million users. So then that ends up becoming a metric that’s worth tracking. Because when we get to this, then now we need to think, okay, what’s the maneuver that we need to take to avoid this potential pitfall? Right. So you have an overarching technology architecture that’s driven by the vision, that’s informed by what the growth plan is going to be or what the growth objectives are going to be. So then you’re able to preload, hey, here are the markers, here are the milestones that we need to be aware of at a technological level that say, hey, we’re growing to this level.

0:24:02 – (Kurt Dusek): A good example of, we’re talking email now, but going to the cloud is a good example of that. There’s a lot of companies that will spend an absurd amount of money going to the cloud when they don’t need to. It’s a Google scale solution. For Google scale problems, they can throw two, three, $400,000 a year engineers to deliver Google level service. If you’re a small startup, hiring those people is going to be cost prohibitive. It’s not the right move to make.

0:24:31 – (Kurt Dusek): Maybe there’s going to be a time when that needs to happen. It’s on the horizon, but it’s not an investment that needs to be made today. It’s simply a matter of saying, this is where we view that growth curve taking us. This is going to need to be where we switch it up. Right. And that’s what you’re factoring into in addition to product development, you’re kind of factoring in, hey, here are the potential growing pains that we want to be aware of.

0:24:56 – (Kurt Dusek): Trey.

0:24:56 – (Matt Widdoes): Well, and I think there’s so much overlap with. I mean, this is part of why we had the podcast, so it’s no surprise. But there’s so much overlap with how growth works in so many other areas, which is what I’m hearing is you need to be deliberate. Okay. And, like, and thoughtful about it. You need to plan and kind of know where the edges are and, like, have a. And really, like, most importantly, I think, and this is especially true in. In things like paid and creative and other areas that are more, like, typical in the growth camp.

0:25:26 – (Matt Widdoes): But you need to be. You need to put together a plan when everyone’s sober, right? Where it’s like, okay, so we all agreed at some point in time that when we hit 500,000 users, that would be the alarm bell that says we got to start shopping for a new ESP. We already knew it. And yes, I know it’s painful, and yes, I know everybody wants to keep it, and you love this thing, but, like, our plan factors in 10 million users. Our plan factors in 100 million users.

0:25:56 – (Matt Widdoes): We made this plan. Now, unless something massive has changed, but if these conditions are still true, as painful as it is, as comfortable as everyone is in this tool or whatever, we have to do it. It’s part of the plan. And I think that it’s almost like you need that level of intention and deliberateness early to say, this is what we’re going to do, and then you need the guardrails to say, we’ve met that criteria maybe sooner than we thought or later, but that it also means that you have some mapping and then so you know, kind of how all these interplay and that as you’re adding in new technology, ideally with the same person who was involved in that initial mapping, that they’re like, oh, okay, that’s cool. Like, yeah, I get it. This is a new challenge that we’re solving that fits in here.

0:26:38 – (Matt Widdoes): Let me just double check the rest of the plan. That doesn’t really change anything here, or there’s a little nuance. And now this trigger needs to be set. When that happens, and so, but it’s really about that deliberateness and the kind of thoughtfulness when the bullets aren’t flying because everything goes out the window. That’s where I think a lot of people, you know, they’re making these decisions knowingly that, like, yeah, yeah, I know it’s all broken, but, like, we got to go fast. We got to go fast.

0:27:02 – (Matt Widdoes): And nobody on a marketing team is going to, as an example, is going to say, well, okay, I guess we’ll forego that whole tool that’s going to make us way more efficient in our role for the next three months versus putting it on my own credit card or some other thing. They’re just going to, they just want it. They want the cookie. And, like, that’s where you end up with this bloat and these sometimes conflicting tools and then the sometimes headaches. Like you mentioned a Black Friday sale that actually cost you more in the tech than it did in, in net profit because nobody had an eye on it.

0:27:34 – (Matt Widdoes): And I think that the risk for early stage growing companies is that it’s an easy thing to not invest in is that kind of watchdog advocate that says, yeah, this is a good plan. And by the way, hey, technologist, we’re going to run this big Black Friday sale if our conditions are met. Do we have any tech costs to this that we hadn’t anticipated in shipping or in any, just any other number of areas that oftentimes get overlooked because they don’t sit within the business or they don’t sit within a specific arm.

0:28:05 – (Matt Widdoes): And everybody’s just kind of looking at the data guy who’s like, dude, I’m an analyst. Like, I’m not. I didn’t pick any of these things either. It’s just a different skill set. Yeah.

0:28:12 – (Kurt Dusek): So I think that’s where a lot of companies kind of miss it in the sense of, you know, they have a lot invested in product, they have a lot invested in marketing. And then technology ends up being a thing we throw over the fence or we, here’s our list of stuff we need or things that don’t work that we need you to fix. And the difference here is really a matter going from a matter of being reactive to technology. It’s super easy to react to what your customers are doing or some new feature that’s out there to being strategic and saying, we’re going to set the market.

0:28:43 – (Kurt Dusek): We’re going to be two steps ahead of all these potential problems. We’re going to ensure that our technology growth mirrors our product growth and our organizational growth. Not one is a laggard and always constantly playing catch up to what the company has decided that they’re going to do. And then the technology department hears about it as an afterthought by being able to include those initiatives and say, hey, this is what we’re doing as a company. This is the decision we are making. This is the outcome we want to create.

0:29:16 – (Kurt Dusek): You know, finding out, hey, what is the technology part of the business? Again, even if you’re not a software company, even if you’re not an app.

0:29:24 – (Matt Widdoes): You know, even you can be a bakery. Yeah, yeah. You can be a big bakery, right? Yeah, yeah, exactly.

0:29:30 – (Kurt Dusek): But there’s technology in there somewhere. There’s whether those are, you know, mark, marketing campaigns that need to go out or analytics data that needs to be pulled in, or, you know, all sorts of different data points that you’re collecting, you know, it’s going to drive the business. It’s going to help and advance the business, or it’s doing it for your competitor. Right. They’re taking advantage of it even if you’re not.

0:29:50 – (Kurt Dusek): So that’s really the thing is, how do you know is including the technological decision making and architecture and planning at the same level as the actual business part of it, the marketing, the sales, the product.

0:30:03 – (Matt Widdoes): Let’s talk about this in a really general sense, just as a functional sense, because I think a lot of early stage, myself included, at some point you think of like, all right, I need. I need some data people. I need some technology people. And everything gets lumped into just one guy or one person or one function. And it’s like when you peel back the onion a little bit, it’s like, okay, well, you have like, technology planning. It’s kind of like CTO, and they’re really thinking about stack and these big fundamental, like, infrastructure stuff. And then, yeah, little tools here that are meant to solve one off things where they’re like, ooh, we can build that faster. Like, you just want that feature. Like, let me work with dev to kind of map out what, we could just build that feature for you. And like, now we have a decision to just build it internally, or like, what do you actually want? You just want that. That’s not that hard, but, and you’re paying for all this other stuff and you really don’t need all this stuff. Fine, but you’ve got like, that type of person.

0:30:59 – (Matt Widdoes): You’ve got backend engineer, but you also have like, data engineer, which is different than like web engineer. And then you’ve got like, analysts and then you’ve. Which is also very different than that. And then you’ve got, like, AI and ML people or people who are doing, like, predictive. That’s very different. And, like, you know, the, these kind of theoretical type seeds where it’s like heavy math, heavy science, they know nothing about the technology.

0:31:26 – (Matt Widdoes): They’re like, I just. I could do this on pen and paper technically, if I had to. And so, like, walk through, like, because I think a lot of times people are trying to solve that with a CTO, and the CTO is like, I’m not all those things. And then sometimes they’re trying to solve it with, like, a really smart analyst, and they’re like, I’m not all those things. And they’re like, well, I thought you were my data guy. Why can’t you figure out all the tech stack while you’re at it? It’s like, man, these are different functions, and they require different perspectives and different skill sets.

0:31:52 – (Matt Widdoes): And so, like, in no particular order, or maybe like, in different kind of, like, hierarchies roughly or something, like, how do you think about that? Like, all the people that make the technology, not even talking about necessarily your own technology. It might be, but really, as it relates to tools and stuff, because you got to get the guys implementing it. You got to get the guys, like, sanity checking, and then you got to have the people writing it and using it. And, like, okay, that’s the day to day user, which might be heavy analytics. Like, if you’re talking about, like, snowflake, you’re going to integrate snowflake.

0:32:21 – (Matt Widdoes): Why would we do that over somebody else? Who’s going to implement it? How does it play out at scale and all the business decisions? Who’s going to pull the reports and feed data into it? Right. Because there’s all these other things that have to map back that’s really more on the data engineer side. And a lot of times people are just trying to solve this with one go to savior. What are some of those? I name them all.

0:32:41 – (Matt Widdoes): Are there another dozen? What kind of other things do you put in?

0:32:44 – (Kurt Dusek): There’s an infinite number of titles. And also just the nature of technology is that it’s not like medicine. If somebody’s a doctor, they’re a doctor, they have an MD, they pass the board, they’ve got the credentials. Somebody calls themselves a data engineer, they just call myself a data engineer.

0:33:03 – (Matt Widdoes): Right? Yeah.

0:33:04 – (Kurt Dusek): So that, I think, is the thing. And so there is definitely a certain vetting that goes through that, you know, at the, at the leadership level, you know, you do need somebody who understands or comes from a level of getting the fundamentals, you know? And so that’s something where you have somebody who, they don’t need to be an expert in every single thing out there because you can’t. It’s technology. There’s always some new app, protocol, programming language. Right.

0:33:31 – (Matt Widdoes): Even a language, even the backend developers. Like, I don’t know anything about that language. Right. So you’re a backend developer. It’s like, yeah, yeah, there’s a lot, like, I got this one. Like, I got this one really well, and that lets me do these other things.

0:33:42 – (Kurt Dusek): Yeah, yeah, exactly. You know, to me, I, you know, the analogy is almost like sailing, right? So you think of a boat, you know, and you think of a little boat in a harbor, right? One person can pilot this boat around the harbor. You know, they’re just putting around. Maybe they have a few people in there. Maybe it’s a little sail kayak, whatever. Easy, no problem. You can do it with one person. We’re having fun.

0:34:03 – (Kurt Dusek): But that’s a lot different than a cruise ship, right? And so if you think of a.

0:34:08 – (Matt Widdoes): Cruise ship or a, or destroyer, like a Navy destroyer aircraft carrier, right?

0:34:17 – (Kurt Dusek): So you have a guy who, you know, the. The captain of a battleship or a cruise ship or whatever, probably he knows a lot about, you know, navigating and moving this thing around and how this thing works and all that sort of stuff. Probably not a super expert on, you know, how to fix the diesel engine, you know, when it’s leaking or whatever, all this. Or he knows that it’s generally needs to be done. He knows he needs a diesel guy for that.

0:34:44 – (Kurt Dusek): He knows there’s different parts. And the diesel guy is different from the navigator, right. And the navigator is different from the guys, you know, cleaning the outside of the ship or, I wasn’t in the Navy, so I’m not sure. I don’t know everything about it. But, you know, you know, you have all these roles to play that are ancillary, and I think, you know, at the leadership level, you want to get, you want somebody who really understands systems thinking where they can say, look, this is a battleship.

0:35:12 – (Kurt Dusek): But, you know, we have the thing. We have the big guns. We have the big engine. We have the troops. We have, you know, the mess hall where people are getting fed. We have the navigation. We have all these different components. And I know enough about these two components to know whether the job is being done. I know what success looks like, and my expertise is broad enough to know hey, if I need to peer into here, I can understand if, is this person unqualified?

0:35:40 – (Kurt Dusek): Do I have the cook in the engine room trying to fix the engine? Did we hire the right person for the job? You want somebody who understands where this thing is supposed to go. Again, goes back to vision. For me, there’s only a few simple rules here. What is our mission in this boat? Right? You know, whether, again, you’re the captain of a destroyer, you’re the captain of a cruise ship, you always going to have a mission, right? And all these components, all these teams are working together to move that mission forward, right? So whether that’s, you know, shooting the big guns or making sure everybody on the Lido deck is having a nice time, you know, you’re always in charge of kind of looking, how is this thing operating?

0:36:20 – (Kurt Dusek): And so that’s going to be a thing of where that system’s thinking, where you can say, hey, look, I can view this as a big ship or a big company, but I can also view it as a series of apps. And I know whether that app is working right. I know what we’re supposed to get out of this application. I know what we’re paying for it. I know what it needs to do to be worth that, and I know who should be operating it.

0:36:45 – (Kurt Dusek): I don’t want to have, if we’re going to build, start using whatever cloud platform, I don’t want to put a marketing analyst operating my cloud platform, because I know what that type of tool for the job is. Now, maybe I maybe not be a super expert on cloud down to every single line of code level, but I know what success looks like. I know how this should work. That’s going to be the thing where you’re looking at how all these systems work in concert with each other to say, okay, are we moving this vision forward?

0:37:16 – (Kurt Dusek): And then kind of being able to go below Dex and say, we’re not moving as fast as we should be? Why is that? Is this a tool problem? Is this a training problem? Is this an integration problem? You know, what’s, why are we solving the same problem over and over again? Right? Why are we not moving at optimal speed for some of these things? Right? And so being able to understand how these systems work, that’s going to be the thing where, again, if you’re the non technical co-founder, having that one person on your side who is your CTO, who says, yeah, no, I get what the vision is.

0:37:53 – (Kurt Dusek): I’m in alignment with what your vision is, and my expertise is going to help us drive to that vision. And I’m going to go below Dex and make sure that the engines are running and we’re navigating in the right direction and all of the systems are working as we expect them to because I know what course we should be on. I know how long generally it should take us to get there. You know, I know what we don’t have as well. Right. I know that what it’s, it’s, it’s not going to take us three days to get there.

0:38:21 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah. I think a lot of times that kind of, in the, in the smallest sense, the technical co founder oftentimes just a really killer hands on keyboards engineer. And they’re like, I can build anything. They’re just hacking away, put that up, put this down, whatever. And they’re either not interested or compelled or like really even sometimes just capable of, like, I don’t know. I mean, I guess you could use this, you could use this. They can look at the API documentation and be like, okay, this seems pretty easy to fix or to kind of put in, but really it’s about that kind of, we see this in every function. It’s no surprise.

0:38:51 – (Matt Widdoes): And this is why they have a million roles in the world is that like take product, million deep specializations within that, right? You’ve got people who think about the customer experience, people who actually code the experience, people who look at the math of the experience. When you think about gamification and some of those things, you look at user acquisition, you’ve got media buyers, you’ve got analysts, you’ve got forward looking LTV people and kind of retro and PLTV type stuff.

0:39:17 – (Matt Widdoes): You’ve got people who specialize in ad monetization. Very different than the media buyer. It’s all very, very different. And I think the big piece there is ultimately in all of these, it’s funny, companies see this like, there’s this kind of like ebb and flow of needing and benefiting from generalists. And I think what we see a lot, I’ve seen through my career a lot. It’s the early stage. I think it’s a mistake. They often start with generalists because they’re like, I don’t have that much money.

0:39:42 – (Matt Widdoes): Let me get a marketing generalist and a dev generalist. I actually think that’s upside down. Now, I benefit from that because that’s how we approach it at Maven is. I’m like, no, no, no. You bring in specialists early. First thing you do is get them in so they can set the course, identify exactly who you need and where temporarily for these discrete things. And then once you have it up and running.

0:40:04 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah. Then you bring the generalist in to oversee it. They can kind of keep it running. They can fix most problems. If something big comes up, call in a specialist again. But then you scale, scale on top of that generalist. Don’t do the first work on the generalist. Specialist on that generalist to scale breaks at some point. Cool. Specialist. What’s that? Media buyer. All they do is media buying. Okay, great.

0:40:25 – (Matt Widdoes): Scale, scale, scale. Google buyer. Okay, great. Scale, scale, scale. Facebook buyer. Like, you just keep getting more segmentation and then it ebbs and flows with generalists. You start to look at like the CMO type cto. Okay, that’s generalist again. Now we have a full time, but you don’t start with the full time CTO usually because you’re going to get hit from all sides. They’re going to not be a great engineer. They’re going to not like it.

0:40:45 – (Matt Widdoes): They’re, you know, vice versa. And so I think there are opportunities and luckily, people who have like good networks and charisma and stuff like that, they can go beg, cheat and steal and get people to come and do that, like one particular part or kind of help them with advisor shares and stuff like that. You see that a lot. But I think the biggest thing is really kind of knowing what people need and so like, and like, what, who’s the right person for that job and the right amount of time? Because that also helps to say, yeah, that’s going to be the diesel guy. And in my experience, that’s like a day.

0:41:14 – (Matt Widdoes): And then you get some diesel guy in front of you says, ah, that’s like a, that’s a year. And you’re like, that’s not a year. What are you talking about? Why is it a year? And like, let me get another diesel guy in here, right? Versus, he’s like, oh, that’ll take like 2 hours. You’re like, sweet. Okay. Way faster than I thought. And then he says, ooh, it didn’t take two, it ended up taking a day. Sorry, I didn’t know it was like this. You’re like, yeah, that’s why I said it’s day. Sometimes it is a day. And he was just kind of ambitious there. Yeah, but that, that’s like where I think oftentimes the founders we meet are really lost because they’re like, I don’t, they’re like, I know a lot about this thing or this thing or kind of a few things, but like, I don’t have.

0:41:48 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah, I need somebody to kind of help me map this. And because I’m in a world where I need lots of things, I also need somebody to help me prioritize that across many different things as well. So, you know, with that kind of in mind, and given how much I’ve relied in my career on really everybody in every seat, from data to legal, to finance, to product and brand and creative, et cetera, when you think about technology, maybe data more generally, and data driven applications driving efficacy within performance marketing, how should startups be thinking about integrating data driven applications for improving their paid efforts?

0:42:29 – (Matt Widdoes): Any high level thoughts there?

0:42:30 – (Kurt Dusek): Yeah, I think that you got to look holistically. I think that it is like, what is the architecture that we’re doing here? And I think that’s when you’re at the early idea of, hey, we want to build the nucleus of this idea here. What’s the basic proof of concept? If you’re thinking of Uber, how do I build an app that on one person’s phone, they can pull up a map and say, I’m here, and I want to go there.

0:42:55 – (Kurt Dusek): And then on another person’s phone, they get an alert that says, pick this person up and drive them over there. How do we just solve that one little problem? All the scale and all the other stuff can come later. I think that’s the idea of solving for that nucleus of. We got the basic use case solved. Great. Now, how long does this use case last us for? You know, is this something where or this architecture at this level lasts for. I think that’s what you’re saying. This ebb and flow of, okay, it works.

0:43:23 – (Kurt Dusek): It’s not going to support that many people. We do a lot of stuff manually. You know, it’s not perfect, but it’s. It’s good enough for now. And I think that idea of, like.

0:43:32 – (Matt Widdoes): It gets us to the next gas station, basically.

0:43:35 – (Kurt Dusek): Exactly. I think good enough for now is a good idea. Right, because it’s good enough for now. So we’re saying this is going to address our need that we have, but we’re also leaving the door open to say, we’re going to need to at least reevaluate, maybe migrate, maybe go somewhere else, do whatever. But the good enough gives us the ability to say, okay, let’s look at some other problem that we need to solve here, because we’re in the good enough phase for this thing.

0:44:02 – (Kurt Dusek): And so I think that’s where, you know, especially in those early days, you just kind of have this kind of pinpoints of a solution. You have a basic use case, you have a basic user flow, you have a basic analytics, and then you’re kind of rotating between these attributes or these kind of components of the company to say, okay, is this good enough for now? Are we still in the good enough phase or are we in the reevaluation phase?

0:44:26 – (Kurt Dusek): And knowing that, again, you’re pivoting, you’re doing more market research, sometimes your product direction is kind of changing or shifting, right. So it’s a matter of, I think, evaluating. Are we good enough or are we, you know, or has the time come, right. Have we come to that time of needing to reevaluate that? You know, for me, the data apps, there’s so many apps that are coming out all the time, right? Especially with, you know, now everything’s AI based. Before it was blockchain this and cloud that and. Right. So there’s always going to be a new trend, a new fad, a new, you know, thing to adopt.

0:45:03 – (Kurt Dusek): So that’s going to be where, again, going back to the vision, what is our product vision? What does our architecture tell us? What is our, and that architecture is a roadmap of what problems are we trying to solve? What are we view? Where are we going to scale this thing? Where are the breakpoints for certain things that need to be replaced? So I think that the idea here is whenever there’s some new shiny thing that’s going to pop up, you know, that’s the idea of, okay, we need to hold it against this lens of what is our vision, what is our architecture, what is our plan?

0:45:31 – (Kurt Dusek): And so if this is going to advance that, if it’s going to help us, hey, this is going to accelerate our roadmap by three months, or this is going to give us a 10% gain in whatever efficiency or whatever gain here, that’s cool.

0:45:45 – (Matt Widdoes): Sure.

0:45:46 – (Kurt Dusek): But does it become a distraction because it’s something neat that when that three month period happens, we realize, like, oh, it actually didn’t, actually didn’t do anything that helped us in a material way. Maybe it made something more convenient, but I still had to go and do this myself. I think that’s the thing where you almost have to measure for impact, where if you’re looking at these tools and things, it’s like, what is the impact this tool is going to have across the board?

0:46:15 – (Kurt Dusek): And we’re optimizing for, how is this going to. Okay, yeah, maybe this new tool is 20% cheaper than the other tool we’re using, or they’re saying it’s faster or it’s better. I think that’s where you have to really break down to. Is this the right tool for the job? Are we going to take advantage of it? Are we going to allocate the time to not only just integrate it, train our people, update our processes, improve our integrations, improve our downstream, whatever dashboards, whatever things, there’s a whole overhead that’s going to go with this change.

0:46:52 – (Kurt Dusek): Right? It’s not just, oh, yeah, we just swipe our credit card and turn it on. Right. So are we prepared to allocate the time to get everybody onto this platform and then is this going to have an impact that again, is across the board and is going to. The impact is one that moves us closer to the vision in a material way, not just help somebody process a report a little bit faster, which is great, or help somebody do some trivial task in less time.

0:47:22 – (Kurt Dusek): Wonderful. But again, is this worth that investment? I think measuring for impact?

0:47:29 – (Matt Widdoes): I’m going to ask you what is really the billion dollar question. Trillion dollar question, certainly million dollar question. If you don’t have a great answer for it, that’s fine because nobody seems to. But there is a process for this and we see it all the time. It’s one of the first questions I ask team leaders. I typically like to ask them separately because you’ll get people guiding each other, unbiased sample, but I’ll simply ask them how, on a scale of one to ten, how much do you trust your data?

0:47:54 – (Matt Widdoes): Ten is, it’s amazing. We, I trust it with my life. One is we have no idea. We’re totally lost. It’s fundamentally broken. We all know it. Nobody disagrees. Never hear a ten, never really hear a one. Hear lots of fives, which is terrifying when you think about it. It’s a coin flip. Like, okay, that’s not great. Lots of fours and sixes. Occasionally we’ll hear an eight, maybe I’ve heard one nine. And sometimes the nine means that, like, actually it’s a seven and nobody just knows it yet.

0:48:23 – (Matt Widdoes): And it depends on who you ask. But everybody wants perfect data and the rules are so different now. Like, everything’s flowing a million different ways. Your bigger company, like, especially the bigger. The companies we work with, 2000 person companies, public companies, billion dollar companies, literally, they’re like, yeah, yeah, we got some problems. And they sometimes have like little rules they use internally that not always the leadership’s not always aware of it. Where they say, well, if it’s before April 3, 2022, we divide that number by two from that source.

0:48:51 – (Matt Widdoes): Sometimes they’ll be like, well, if it’s before April 22, 2021, we divide the number by two. If it’s from Facebook, but after that point that it’s tracking correctly, and then if it’s from this other time period, in this other place where we used to store our data, we have this whole complicated algorithm that fixes all that. But now it’s like this or that. When somebody’s basically saying, and we see this a lot, where they say, yeah, I mean, can you fix that? Like, that’s a whole thing, and it’s a rat’s nest. Nobody wants to touch it internally.

0:49:22 – (Matt Widdoes): I know of nobody else that wants to look at it externally except us on some level. And this is one of those things that, like, there is an answer. It’s. It is just data at the end of the day. And if we get it flowing and it’s communicating correctly, like it should all track, this is ultimately like accounting. It’s fine. Like pennies in, pennies out. We got it. But you have 15 different systems. You have systems talking to systems. You have different postbac periods. You have all these different considerations. But once you have your data at a nine or a ten, oh, boy. The things you can do with that data, if you’re at scale, are really meaningful.

0:49:55 – (Matt Widdoes): And I would love to hear the answer from a Google or Facebook. My guess is they’re like, it’s a ten. It’s a nine or a ten. We’ve invested billions of dollars into making that a ten. Not everybody has that type of budget. But, like, let’s say I just. I’m a guy off the street, and I say, hey, I got big data problems. Obviously, we need a full team of people, so we bring lots of people. You being one of them, to kind of map out where we’re looking at different pieces is like, what is the high level process?

0:50:24 – (Matt Widdoes): You know, we’re going to look at how all the data is flowing. Like, where are all the places data exists? Where are they supposed to be going? Are they going there? And are they changed? Like, does. Is there any shift between, you know, input, output? Input, output? Okay. No. So there’s some diagnostics and some sort of audit, or. Nobody wants to hear audit, but, like, essentially an audit, it’s detective work.

0:50:48 – (Matt Widdoes): And then, like, what else? Like, you know, because everyone’s kind of like, yeah, I mean, I know that. But then obviously we need engineers, data people, data engineer type people. What are some of the things that go into unraveling that rat’s nest. And are there things that companies can do now that are low hanging where they at least know where the pain is, even if they don’t know yet how to resolve it?

0:51:08 – (Kurt Dusek): Yeah, I think that it’s. I hate to be the guy that answers a question with a question.

0:51:13 – (Matt Widdoes): Sure.

0:51:14 – (Kurt Dusek): But I think when you ask that question of how confident are you in your data, maybe the follow up question would be, how important is your data?

0:51:22 – (Matt Widdoes): Good question.

0:51:24 – (Kurt Dusek): On a scale of one to ten, if you consider the data to be a ten of ten importance, who’s responsible for that? How important is money to your business? Ten CFO. Yeah, there’s a.

0:51:37 – (Matt Widdoes): If you equate the two. Yeah.

0:51:40 – (Kurt Dusek): Right. So for me, that’s the thing, is that you have a CFO, you have a Chief Revenue Officer, you have a, you know, all of these things in the company because dollars, money is fundamental to the business.

0:51:53 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah.

0:51:53 – (Kurt Dusek): And so if you consider data to be fundamental to the business, then you need somebody who is, you know, the chief data officer. Right. Just like you have a chief financial officer who, at the end of the.

0:52:05 – (Matt Widdoes): Year, who’s the accountant on the data.

0:52:08 – (Kurt Dusek): Right. They sign their name to say, every dime in our bank account is exactly where it needs to be. And. And the reason why we have that is because there’s a whole compliance aspect to it.

0:52:20 – (Matt Widdoes): Right.

0:52:20 – (Kurt Dusek): You go to jail if you don’t have that. Right. You’ll shut your company down if you don’t have that.

0:52:25 – (Matt Widdoes): Yes.

0:52:25 – (Kurt Dusek): If you don’t have that on a data side, you’re just. You don’t even know what the side effect is.

0:52:30 – (Kurt Dusek): There’s things leaking out the bottom that you may not even be aware of. So companies, I think, first and foremost, have to reconcile the fact of if the data is important, we need someone to own it. It’s really that simple. Not being someone’s part. We outsourced it to whatever. Or we have a really good app. It’s like saying we don’t have a CFO, but we pay for Quickbooks super prediction. The tool only gets you so far.

0:52:55 – (Kurt Dusek): So for me, I think that’s the thing, is that companies have to really put the value of if they consider data to be important. You do need somebody who is job is to reconcile all of that data, just like you have somebody whose job is to reconcile the money. You know, we have this. This idea of, you know, data is the new oil. Right. And so when you think of if that’s a true statement, if somebody believes that there’s value.

0:53:21 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah. Just in data, yeah.

0:53:23 – (Kurt Dusek): Right. Then think of the impact of what that means, right? Countries go to war, there’s all these political implications of the value of this substance. Right? So then what commitment, what investment are you making to maximize this other form of currency that your company is potentially producing and generating? Right? So there’s, you know, that’s the thing is where the consequences aren’t obvious enough or it’s too easy to just kind of say, like, well, we don’t know, it’s great or we don’t recognize it as a real big pain point.

0:53:55 – (Kurt Dusek): There’s no hard deadline. There’s no specific issue that we can see where the IR’s is going to come and radar offices or whatever like that for data. So, you know, the idea is that if you think of data as important as a form of value in your company, then there’s got to be somebody who is the steward of that data and is the person that is the directly responsible individual that says, yeah, hey, I have the clout and the executive authority to move heaven and earth to make sure that, hey, that data from August of whatever year, we need to fix that. Like, we can’t be having special queries and reports and whatever to reconcile that. We’ve got to fix it long term because it matters.

0:54:40 – (Kurt Dusek): And so, and that’s kind of the thing is elevating it to more than just liking the idea of data, but actually saying this is something we value and it’s another form of currency. Just like the dollars in our bank account, the rows in our database have a form of value. And so we need to treat that in the same way and get somebody who’s going to be, that’s going to be their priority and then they’re also going to produce, here’s the return from that.

0:55:06 – (Matt Widdoes): Well, I think also to that point, for every company that says we trust our data, like a six, and maybe they’re being a little generous, six or seven, some subset of those, maybe 80%. If you said before you ask them that, if you said, how, how much do you guys culturally say you value data and that you’re data driven and you’ll get tens across the board. Oh, we’re data driven. And it’s like, well, are you, it’s like, do you value your physical health and are you, so how much do you work out like every day or something? No, no, no.

0:55:38 – (Matt Widdoes): It’s like, well, you don’t. It’s just you can’t. Do you eat well? Yeah. You. Well, okay, well, that’s a good start, but it’s like, nah, I kind of don’t eat very well and, like, my metabolism, and I think that’s maybe the catch, is that the company’s metabolism is so high, they can get away with bad data hygiene, and they can get away with bad other things because they’re actually just really good. And so then, yeah, so then that, that, like, what forces you to go to the gym is getting fat and slow. Well, if you’re not fat and slow yet, you’re like, yeah, I don’t need to go to the gym. I’ll go to the gym later. I value it. I do value it, but, like, I am not hurting from it, right? And so it’s like, well, imagine if you did like, man, wow, you’d be, you’d be a superstar, right? And so I think that the, the desire is usually there. The pain is high enough that nobody wants to open up the door, where they open up the door and they see all the monsters and everyone just shuts it because it’s terrifying. And like, normally nobody is celebrated for cleaning up the data because they don’t know what that’s going to get them. To your point, it’s like, well, what does that mean in revenue? It’s like, we don’t know yet.

0:56:33 – (Matt Widdoes): And I think the other piece that I see a lot is you can be on top of your data through and through. But if we go back to your oil analogy, did you realize you have all this other data you’re not even asking for? You have this untapped area. Like, we don’t, in onboarding, we don’t ask any, like, qualifying questions to kind of get a sense for the psycho or demographics of the user. Well, if I had that at scale, ten years in, and I’ve got 150 million consumer records, all of which they opted in to psychographic and demographic data, you have any idea how valuable that is? It’s like, yeah, you want me to show you everybody between these ages of this amount of, like, income, like, boop, those are all those users. Might we want to send them something?

0:57:21 – (Matt Widdoes): Might we want to like, treat them differently in our marketing? Maybe, probably. But if we’re not even collecting it. So that’s a whole other thing. Yeah. Okay. So gun to your head, though. I don’t trust my data. I want a group to come in and figure it out. What do you, what are you going to need to do, high level? Like, how are you going to spend the first month?

0:57:39 – (Kurt Dusek): Yeah, we spent the first month by, you know, understanding. To me, it goes back to, why, why do people care about this product. Why would somebody use it? Why would somebody pull out their wallet and swipe their credit card and say, this is worth my money? And I think from those reasons why, then you can say, okay, because it’s solving this problem or it’s doing this or it’s doing that. And I think that’s, that’s going to give you one baseline of things to measure. But then also looking at what phase are we at?

0:58:03 – (Kurt Dusek): You know, again, if we’re at this, like we were talking about, you know, this is good enough for now. You have to measure those things, too. When did we cross over the good enough threshold? It’s time to change to something else. So I think those are, there’s definitely the external things, the customer metrics, the KPI’s, the funnels, all that other stuff. But then again, the internal things has to be measured as well because they’re inevitably intertwined.

0:58:30 – (Kurt Dusek): Especially in the early days, you don’t have siloed divisions, vastly separate budgets and lines of business and things like that. So there’s always going to be that cross talk between the internal metrics and the external customer facing metrics.

0:58:43 – (Matt Widdoes): Right.

0:58:44 – (Kurt Dusek): So that’s going to be the first thing is what do we need to measure? Understanding what’s important now. Well, then looking at, okay, what are we, you know, go ahead.

0:58:51 – (Matt Widdoes): I was just saying who needs to measure what? Because the desires of the executive team don’t always trickle down all the way to the operators and what the operators want to look at. Or it’s like, okay, I don’t need that. I just, I need XYZ as the, in the executive seat and vice versa. So it’s like, who are the stakeholders and what’s most important, because, yes, in this world where you can track anything kind of, do we want to make that investment?

0:59:16 – (Matt Widdoes): Is that demographic data that marketing is suggesting we collect off the rip when somebody signs up? Does that, how does that impact our signup flow? Does that actually make people not sign up more often? Because I don’t want to do that. And what are we going to do with it? Even if we collect it, why are we collecting it? What’s the plan? How much is that going to make us? And we have to store all this data and then we have to keep it clean because now we have all these other new rules around GDPR, others in the States, et cetera. So there’s just all these considerations.

0:59:46 – (Matt Widdoes): Maybe we’ll do a different one where we go deep on some war stories from that and unwinding or kind of cleaning up data and getting it into a. I think because, yeah, I think.

0:59:57 – (Kurt Dusek): Also you have at the company, at the leadership level, they want to work big to small. What are the big goals? What are the big objectives? What are the big challenges we want to address? Certainly that has to be done. But with data, you have to kind of work small to big because the data is just a collection of individual rows.

1:00:14 – (Matt Widdoes): It all adds up.

1:00:15 – (Kurt Dusek): It all adds up. And so you have to make sure, oh, the tracking pixel on this page is not there, the A/B testing data is not flowing to the right place. All these little things we’re getting, you’re talking, how confident are you in your data? Well, I’m not confident because there’s a million little pieces that have to be categorized in the right way and adjusted.

1:00:34 – (Matt Widdoes): Right.

1:00:34 – (Kurt Dusek): It’s a bunch of little things that add up to creating the big result in many hands. Right.

1:00:40 – (Matt Widdoes): In many different hands. And so, yeah, now it’s like, oh, we don’t have that captured in that process. Half of our campaigns, because they were set up by this one person who never does that part of the process or didn’t know that was part of the process, because this one person didn’t roll it out to everybody equally, or this person left the business. And now nobody remembers what that process is because we didn’t document that. So it all goes back to this kind of, it always goes back to the kind of hive and that everything is so reliant on everything else but data, more so than anything.

1:01:09 – (Matt Widdoes): Cool. Well, Kurt, thank you so much for the time. We’ll have to go deeper on some of these topics at another time, and I can’t wait to get feedback on it. I really enjoyed the time, and thanks again for joining us. Thanks.

1:01:22 – (Kurt Dusek): Yeah, it was fun. Happy to be here.

1:01:23 – (Matt Widdoes): Cool. Look forward to next time. Thanks again for listening to Growth@Scale. We hope you enjoyed our interview with Kurt Dusek as much as we enjoyed having him, and that you took some value away from lessons in growth data and how to make sure you have an interconnected data platform to support the broader edges of your businesses.

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