The Pavilion Podcast
The Pavilion Podcast

Episode · 2 months ago

Ep 262: Start a Company w/ Evan Powell

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Start a Company w/ Evan Powell

Part of the "Is This A Good Time?" series hosted by Brandon Barton.

Hello everyone, and welcome to the Pavilion Podcast. I'm your host, Brandon Bart and you're listening to Is this a Good Time Show? Where I put Pavilion members on the hot seat for fifteen minutes we hear their incredible stories. Shows are out on every Monday, so hit subscribing you will not miss hearing from our experts. Today, our guest is Evan Powell. He's a co founder at Reprise, and we talk about why you should start a company. This episode was brought to you by Gong, the reality platform. Gong uses customer interactions what people say right, chat about rowse and read at the heart of its AI platform gives you autonomous insights about deals and suggested next steps that are based on what's really being communicated between customers and reps. No more decision making on anyone's opinion. For full visibility into performance and market data, visit Gong. That's g O n G dot io. All right, let's see this episode one thirty. This is a good done all right, and I...

...was so excited to have with me Evan Powell. He is the co founder at Reprise or one of the co founders of Uprise. That's what co means Evans. So great to have be on the pod Man, great to be here, Thanks so much for having me. Yeah, look I'll meet no Philler. We jump right into the questions. Uh, let's talk about the founding of this company. Uh, you know, how did you come up with it? How did it all come together? And then get into some of the things you did prior to this. You wrote some interesting companies like dal Chemical, We're Weirdly Squared. So so, but start with the reprise. Yeah, so so raprise. UM, it's it's a funny story. Actually. So you know, my my co founders here at Uprise, we all met at Insight Squared. Um. They were actually two of the co founders there. But the idea for the company started when I was in business school. UM. I noticed that Sam, my co founder, was teaching a class over at Harvard Business School, and I decided to cross register for that because I figured out, at least, you know, I'll get an a if I know the professor. So you know, I'm taking this class with Sam. And at the time, I wanted to go into venture capital, and so I was, you know, looking at firms that i'd go...

I could go work at or intern at and I you would go ask Sam. I'd be Sam, what do you think of this firm when you think of this job? And he'd be like, Oh, don't do any of that of it, and you should go start a company. And I was like, well, that's really nice and flattering, but like, I don't want to start a company just to say I did it, and like I don't have a particularly fantastic idea right now, and so you know, thank you, but I'm gonna keep looking at these jobs. Um. And he and I had that conversation probably like five times, and and the fifth time we had it, I then a little bit later get a message from our mutual friend Brian Stevenson saying, Hey, I was talking to Sam. I have this idea for a company. Do you want to talk And and so Brian is sort of a technical genius and then you know it was working at head of technology at Catalan here in Boston, and you know, we get on the phone in my backgrounds in sales, and he said, you know, I think the demo is broken because I don't think it's as accessible as people needed to be. I think it's a pain for engineers to build. I think it's just it's a problem because I spent hundreds of thousands of dollars a year of engineering time on am no environment that my engineers hate working on,...

...and my sales team don't even like it when we're done. And you know, my my response from from being in sales was well, yeah, I've given tons of demos. I've given tons of bad demos. You know, I've been on the demo where you've got a four or four in front of the CEO or you know, you're saying like, oh, just imagine this would look right for you. So I'm like, oh, this sounds like a great idea. I would love better demos, more customizable, all great stuff. But I don't know about starting a company because you know, I kind of told my wife I was going to have a salary after school, and this is not necessarily that, And so you know, why don't we do this, Like I'll go do market research where you I'll talk to everybody I know in sales and marketing, and in six months and we still think it's a good idea, maybe we can talk about it. Um. So I go out and start meeting with everybody I could find to get their take on this. Demo idea, and three weeks later I wind up back on the phone with Brian saying I'm all in, let's go do this. And the reason was everybody I talked to you, right, you kind of expect you go into a meeting like this, you sort of expect your friends are gonna be nice about your startup idea, right, and they're gonna be...

...like, oh, that's so cool, like good for you, like good luck? Right. Um. What I got instead and all these meetings was can I buy this? I really needed this. I would have won a deal if I had it. If only I could put the demo on my website, people would understand what I do better. I really wish I could send demos out. It was just kind of, you know, meeting after meeting with that kind of market poll. I didn't sales a long time, never done anything like that. So Brian and I decide we're gonna do this, and then we go back to Sam, who, in addition to being a professor, was a partner Accomplice Ventures here um and we say, hey, Sam, we we'd like to raise some money for this thing, and he said, well, Accomplice will definitely back you, but I want to come do this with you too, and so the three of us got together. We all, you know, I pulled out of all my interviews that we all quit our jobs, etcetera. On the first week of March, and so then the second week of March, the world the world call on fire and we you know, that was how we decided we were gonna be an remote company. And it actually it wound up. You know, I...

...don't ever want to say that the pandemic was good, because it's it was a horrible thing, but it did create market forces that worked for us. It created a world where people were looking for more self service options. They wanted information at their fingertips. They want to be able to do things on their own without having to rely on their teams, so they weren't sitting next to anymore. And so that that really kind of helped Reprise get get up and running. The way the market changed that, yeah, I mean, of course, uh, you know, you don't want to be profiting off of what's hurting many other people. But the fact is the market dynamics change. Um I can tell you this is a product that I nearly to me as a salesperson as well. The idea to be able to switch around the demo to you know, manipulate things right and do it in a that way. I saw a little bit of your cap table and it's it's interesting who's gotten involved, who's gotten involved in your series? B Uh yeah you already that is two years ago you start a company and now you're you're you know, at your Series B level, which is kind of sick. But you have some celebrities on the cap table as well. It looks like we do. Yeah, yeah, I think. Um. The craziest meeting I've ever...

...had was a zoom with with Trevor Noah, Um, who is the nicest person I've you know, you started you never know. It's one of those like don't be your heroes kind of things. Um, but it's actually, you know, really interested in technology and and uh, you know, innovation and had a lot of really cool things to say about what we were doing and likening it to other things he's seen in the bat of C Space and it was you know, it was a conversation that we went in there being like, all right, what are we gonna tell Trevor Noah about demos um and walked out of there being like, oh wow, he's you know, he's a really cool dude and he actually does you know, no his stuff. Um, and and that was that was that was a crazy one for sure. I love it, um. I love seeing all the celebrities popping up into the investment world and stuff like that. So that's pretty great. Now, were any of your any of the co founders technical, Yes, so, um, Brian is a technical wizard, you know, came up with the code of the core and then um, Sam has many many years of product experience. It's gone back to being an early product employee at HubSpot...

...awesome. And so what would and and and if that's the case, tell me, like, what was your role? How did you guys divvy up who was doing what? Um, you know in the beginning. Yeah, so, I mean, um, Brian and Sam have sort of a co CEO role where they do different internal and external facing parts of of the CEO job. Then you know, Brian does this kind of core R and D technology. Sam does a lot of the product vision in addition to that, and then I'm the day to day and making sure the business runs. I mean, as we've gotten bigger, obviously now there are more executives and more places, but at various points I've been the sort of nursery for future executive functions, or sometimes I've referred myself to like the head of picking up dropped balls whatever whatever we need to get done. Um is kind of where I go and and honestly it's the best job I've ever had. I love it, love it well. Look, I mean we we we talked about always success being made up of hard work and luck, and it seems like you've almost told a story of just kind of some really good turns that that has ended up in being a freeze. I wonder if there's anything else that you'd...

...want to share about, like your career, and maybe maybe the luck is not going into VC in the middle of and going into a company that is really built for a remote world. Yeah, I mean, I think you know one of the things. And I'm it's awesome that you bring that up, because I I have been extremely lucky, and I don't think that that invalidates the hard work that I or anyone else does to acknowledge when you're lucky. And and yeah, right, if I you know, I very easily could have said, oh, Sam's class doesn't really fit into my schedule and I'd be in a totally different place and that was actually a schedule. I was like hopping ubers and doing all kinds of things, so like it's it's all of those kinds of things. And so one of the things that I think is is kind of freeing is to acknowledge when you've been lucky, um, and to sort of take that burden off of yourself a little bit and be like, yeah, I was lucky, and that's you know, that's okay. If I can pay it forward and help other people be lucky, that's great. I I asked the question to everybody because I originally had I had some people that are like, well that you know, luck is is...

I make my own luck? And like that is not the answer, and and it's funny. Most there was a recent interview that I did with and I said this in the last episode as well, but MAKEO achieved. She said, really, what we're talking about his privilege in a way, And I'm like, coach it. Actually, you know, good, good call, right, Like the fact that you're even deciding to go and take an HBS class, right, Yeah, that I was able to do that, yeah, exactly, like even be able to do. It's it's it's it's kind of a cool thing to think about. But well, there's always these sliding doors moment moments where if something went one day one way versus another, and and and that's yours. I find I find that those stories kind of incredibly interesting. So are there any key positions that you're hiring for. Um, yeah, we're we're gonna be growing on the sales team over the next year pretty significantly, you know, as as we look to ramp up. You know, we've just brought in a new c r O and a new CFO, so you know, we're, um, we're scaling, you know, in a in a pretty significant way. I think, you know again, right, Like I think it's tempting, like thought we had something cool,...

...don't get me wrong, right, We we knew demos were important. We knew this would be a big thing. I think we any entrepreneur who tells you like, oh, yeah, we knew that, Like, we'd be growing incredibly quickly as soon as we put this out to market. I honestly don't think they're telling you the truth. You never really know for sure. And and it's been a really wild ride, and and yeah, so we'll we'll be scaling on on the on the sales team over the next year, and with that comes everything else, right, Um, I think in the in the current economic environment where we want to make sure we're being responsible, and so we start with sales and then as the revenue comes in, we scale the rest of the business as well. Yeah. I love that. And look, I mean, you know, you guys are in an interesting position within kind of the sales stack, so to speak. I wonder your perspective on what's like a great sales and marketing tactic that people are not kind of paying attention to enough. Yeah, I mean it's it's gonna be a bit self serving, um, but but it's it's it's true. I think it's that, you know, if you fundamentally, I don't think sales and marketing teams are thinking enough about the way that modern buyers. I think,...

...you know, we've all been hearing, right, Like I've been in sales for for many years before starting Reprise, We've all heard, oh, people don't want to spend as much time with a salesperson, you know, open rates are down on cold email, all this kind of stuff. And I think our response as as a sales profession. And I can still say we because you never really stop being a salesperson. Um. You know, our response to sales profession has been, well, let's do more, let's do more of the same, let's let's more emails, more calls, and and you know, really what we should be doing is sitting down and thinking about, Okay, well, how does the modern buyer want to buy? The modern buyer wants to hit your website and understand immediately not just what you do, but how you do it, because everyone's bought software by now, and they know that just because your software can do what they want doesn't mean they're gonna like doing it. And they want to have that experience, and they don't want to sit and have like a thirty minute discovery call before you give them a demo next week. By the time they get on the phone with you, they want to be having a real conversation where you're showing them something custom and that relates to them. And then, by the way, they're not gonna be inviting you into the buying can any meeting with ten people...

...because they've done that song and dance before and and ended up buying something that didn't work. Out for them. They want to control that access, so you need to be thinking about how can I enable them and put myself in the room without being there. That's a it's a great point, especially now that there's so obviously we don't we don't sell things in person anymore, where you might have had a full day of meetings which would include you know, multiple stakeholders. You in a way salespeople are gate keeped by one or two people. Now it's easy to do that, and I I like that last point of not taking enough time to think about how you're enabling your champion to go sell it internally and what's better today, here's my plug. What's better to do that with the custom than than having some custom demo? Let's go absolutely Yeah, I love it man, all I um some some quick fires here. Um, any anybody that you would want to shout out in terms of like the content or or or or you know, their thought leadership that that you really, um, you know picked up on. Yeah, I mean there's you know someone in micro have had the fortune the good fortune to...

...encounter I think Matt Cameron has done some of the I had the fortune of attending one of his sales manager trainings and now we we send our management they're some of the best sort of sales management piece I think we you know, and there's a whole industry around sales training if we're the individual reps. But that frontline manager role is so important, and I think Matt's got a really great take on how to do that, and I really enjoy that from him. And then you know, of course, we have plenty folks writing great things here who I could I could shout out as well. UM, folks like Christo Raffla on on our content team, UM puts out a lot of great stuff. And then I really like some of the thought leadership that I had the good fortune of working in glass In one of our seed investors while he was in business school, and they have some really interesting takes on AI and frontier tech that I find fascinating. UM, So definitely follow all those I love that awesome man and uh less and and and certainly not least because it's the most important one to me. Give us a restaurant where we eating.

Man, oh boy, I'm here in Boston. You know, there's a place that opened up a few blocks from me called Crossing that is a kind of Greek top us place uh, and my wife and I have fallen in love with it. We have to make a reservation like a month ahead and so we'll like make you know, we'll we'll do it like two months before we want to go. And then we're also like, oh oh wow, it's cross the week this week. They are excellent UM and opened up during the pandemic and still managed to have a two month wait list. UM, really really great Mediterranean. I love it man, awesome, well did the world needs your product? Love watching you guys from Afar and awesome to meet and kind of hear the story and how it was started. Good luck with the rest of the year, and I think you guys, you guys might be onto something. Thank you so much. It was great talking to you. This is a lot of fun. All right. That's our show. Thank you so much for listening. You love the show, Rate and review in the Apple podcast or Spotify app, send it to some friends, or smash that subscribe button. That matters the most to me. This episode was brought to you by Gung, the reality form create an aligned and seamless...

...buying experience for your teams and customers. It's based on reality not opinions. Go check it out at gong g o n g dot io. I had so much fun today, hope you did too. Now get out and crush those numbers.

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