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Dave Grow is the chief operating officer (and chief marketing officer) at Lucid Software, a rapidly growing tech startup in Utah. Prior to joining Lucid, Dave graduated summa cum laude from BYU with a B.S. in Business Management and then worked as a management consultant at Bain & Company. He left Bain and turned down an admissions offer from Dartmouth Business School to join Lucid, which at the time was still a startup run from a basement, as the first business hire. Five years later, Lucid has over 150 employees and over 8 million users worldwide.

An integral part of the process from the very beginning, Dave has worn nearly every hat on the business and product teams. He has written the pricing model for Lucid’s core product, Lucidchart, redesigned and A/B tested web pages, crafted marketing strategies, brought the product from a freemium model to an enterprise-level solution, and even launched Lucid’s second product, Lucidpress. Despite having a support team, Dave still takes the time each and every day to review and answer customer support tickets to ensure he maintains a thorough understanding of all aspects of the business.

Dave continues his hands-on approach and has been instrumental in Lucid’s funding efforts, the most recent of which resulted in $36 million series B from Spectrum Equity which was just recently announced. He has played a crucial role in the company’s being able to double its revenue for each of the past four years.

You can follow him on Twitter: @dmgrow

He will be live on Oct 20 starting at 930 AM PT for one and a half hours during which he will answer as many questions as possible.

  • BH

    Braden Hess

    9 months ago #

    Dave,

    Given that you've grown with this business and seen some amazing growth in a relatively short amount of time, what advice would you give to a small startup (also in a basement) that hopes to grow quickly. What are some key principles/lessons learned that you would recommend to other SaaS entrepreneurs hoping to grow quickly?

    • DG

      Dave Grow

      9 months ago #

      Great question. There are probably a few lessons I’d share:

      (1) Surround yourself with great people. If you’re at an early-stage startup and you regularly consider yourself the smartest person in the room, that’s a problem. You’re going to make mistakes as a company, but having enough smart, humble people in the room dramatically lowers that rate. More on team-building coming in another answer...

      (2) Stay close to the customer. As mentioned above, I personally answered nearly every support ticket -- thousands of them -- for the first couple years at Lucid. Even as we began growing the team, I still answered tickets regularly. While I can’t answer very many today, I still read nearly every single support ticket that comes in for Lucidchart. In 6 years, I have not found a better way to keep a pulse on the company. It gives me visibility into the most pressing product issues and opportunities, it helps spark ideas of how we should be communicating with our customers, it helps highlight areas for internal training among our employees, etc. So find whatever way is most effective for you to stay close to the customer.

      (3) Find a true confidant. Let’s be honest -- building a company is grueling work. You’re going to have terrible days, like the types of days that are near-death for the company. You’re going to lose that major customer or great recruit. You’re going to have significant disagreements with your co-founders or colleagues. That happens in any company, even the great ones! And to survive and thrive, you’ll need someone real and authentic to talk to, someone who doesn’t have any skin in the game. For me, it’s been my wife. She listens incredibly well, cheers me on and often gives simple, profound advice. And boy, it makes a world of difference in this journey.

      7 Share
  • S:

    shmula : pete abilla

    9 months ago #

    In the 1960's, Avis Rent-a-Car advertised the following:

    [Avis is #2. But we try harder.]

    Since then, that approach has been responsible for a 700% increase in market share. Why? By admitting they're #2 demonstrates honesty and is disarming. Then, the public even more intently listens to what they say next, which is "we try harder".

    What do you think would happen if Lucidchart did the following experiment:

    [Visio is #1. Lucidchart is #2, but we try harder.]

    Or some variant.

    What's your hypothesis?

    And, has Lucidchart done similar experiments with copy, elements on a page, and on images? What were they and what were the results?

    • DG

      Dave Grow

      9 months ago #

      Great question, Pete. Interesting case study that I wasn't familiar with.

      I would imagine that a key variable here would be the value/importance of customer service. Renting a car can be a miserable experience and the product (the car) can be different every time, or certainly different from expectations (e.g., dirty, smoke-filled, etc). Avis bet big on the message of customer service and seems like it was a winning strategy.

      For Lucidchart, customer service matters certainly. But when we ask customers or potential customers about what they consider when looking for a diagramming solution, customer service is further down on the list behind things like how intuitive the product is, how feature rich it is, how accessible and collaborative it is, etc.

      So, I think we'll continue focusing on building the best product in the market and driving that message home about the intuitiveness, accessibility, collaboration, etc. vs. the incumbent Visio.

  • LS

    Logan Stoneman

    9 months ago #

    Hey Dave! Thanks for joining us today. As content marketing has grown, I've found it harder and harder to find quality content. So many companies are just creating content to "create content", rather than produce something of value for their readers. This shift has made me weary of clicking articles and spending time on company blogs.

    Do you find this saturation of content marketing to be a positive change {now easier for those who do create value to stand out} or a negative change {quality companies now fighting consumer trust}?

    • DG

      Dave Grow

      9 months ago #

      I completely agree. I have become inherently skeptical of most content, as it seems like there is a diminishing rate of content (1) being written by true experts; and (2) delivering something new and unique.

      Generally I think it’s a negative trend and a couple take-aways for me. First, we have to get the experts within our company to write and share. Audiences are hungry for it -- and they quickly recognize the difference. For example, a sales leader at Lucid wrote a blog post several months ago on LinkedIn about the “Death of the Cold Call” (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/death-cold-call-plague-affecting-millions-sales-blake-j-harber). He wrote the article because he wanted to and because he had a unique perspective to share -- not because he had been given some quota of articles to produce. The content was awesome and was not something that I, or our content team, could have written in the same way. More than 100,000 views and thousands of leads later for Lucidchart, the results speak for themselves. Not every expert piece will be a viral hit like that, but *only* the expert pieces have the opportunity to do that.

      Second, we have to find the truly unique ways to stand out. What is it about you, your company, your product, your brand that is unique? For example, at Lucidchart, our product is used to create visuals -- flowcharts, mind maps and other diagrams. And yet, like most companies, we were pumping out exclusively *written* content. But wait, we’re a visual company! And so, earlier this year, we started creating flowcharts around pop culture (and business) topics. For example, our flowchart last week about Hamilton (https://www.lucidchart.com/pages/flowcharts/hamilton) generated 4,000 likes and 2,500 shares on Facebook alone. For us, this has become a unique way to introduce entire new audiences to Lucidchart and the world of diagramming generally.

      Sorry if those seem like shameless plugs but they are the closest examples that I can speak to quickly.

      5 Share
  • JC

    Jackson Carpenter

    9 months ago #

    Hey Dave,

    I think a lot of people in rapidly growing organizations find the people aspect to be one of the hardest things to get right and feel confident about. Everyone wants to minimize risk and make sure each hire is the perfect "fit."

    What is your guiding philosophy when it comes to hiring and team building?

    • DG

      Dave Grow

      9 months ago #

      “Never settle.” This is easy to say. In fact, nearly everyone does say it; you don’t hear CEOs say, “We’re going to build our business with mediocre people!”

      But it’s very hard to actually do, particularly in a high-growth startup. At Lucid, we went through a stage very early on when we were 5-10 people and recruiting was hard. No one knew us and we couldn’t even pay market rates yet because revenues were still relatively low. And yet, we were growing and there was way more to do than any of us had the bandwidth for… and each day that passed, we felt even more stretched.

      There were occasional times when I was nearly ready to settle, ready to hire that “pretty good” person who could help take some of those things off my plate and could likely add some value. But our CEO never let us…. and sometimes that meant going *months* without hiring that next person. At the time, it was a bit frustrating but now I realize it was one of the most important things we did.

      What happened is we built a nucleus of truly great people. And over time, it became increasingly easier to attract great people -- because they want to work with other great people! If you go off and hire a lot of “pretty good” people, you will likely be stuck with “pretty good” people for a long time. Hire smart, hungry, down-to-earth folks and many more will want to join you.

      So, don’t settle. Hold out for the great people, especially in the early days. It’s worth it.

      (Oh, and we don’t hire jerks, even if they’re very good at what they do. Our core value of “Teamwork over ego” is an important screen.)

  • SK

    S Kodial

    9 months ago #

    Hi Dave

    I was going through the LucidChart knowledgebase and saw this:
    "On our Free account level, users are limited to no more than three active documents but will have the opportunity each calendar month to create one additional document"

    The idea of being able to add one more document each month is very interesting - where did the inspiration for that come from?
    Also, why did you consider adding that in (assuming that the 3 document limit is in place to incentivize users at this plan to convert over to a paid plan)?

    • DG

      Dave Grow

      9 months ago #

      Ah, one of our many experiments! First, a little bit of background that I think may be interesting or relevant. Nearly two years ago, we put together an internal team (our “Growth” team) which consists of several analytical, creative business folks and several talented, creative engineers. This team is tasked with running experiments at various points in the funnel and user experience to help drive increased usage and conversion rates.

      Striking the right balance between usage and conversion can be a challenge. For example, if you implement a new paywall (e.g., 3 document limit), this will likely drive up conversion rates and it did! However, because more users run into a firm paywall (not being able to create their 4th document), this posed a potential challenge for ongoing usage of the product. Because like many products, we’ve found that if users continue to engage with the product while on the Free level, they are of course much more likely to convert.

      So this is an experiment to balance having the right paywall in place for those who need to create a lot of documents quickly, while also enabling users who have more sporadic use cases to continue engaging with the product. Like any experiment, we’ll let the data guide us!

      4 Share
  • MS

    Mackenzie Swapp

    9 months ago #

    What skill do you think you use daily, that you find to be the most useful or impactful to your work?

    • DG

      Dave Grow

      9 months ago #

      Hyper-organization. Because I wear a lot of hats at Lucid, I do often have to switch gears a lot (as Libby surmised in another question), keep a lot of balls in the air, and help push forward a wide variety of initiatives.

      I also try to ask a lot of questions. Most the time, I hope these questions will help inspire new ideas or approaches to issues that individuals or teams are facing. Occasionally, I know the right answer. :) But you have to bring people along in the journey and help them discover the answer themselves for them to be fully bought in.

  • LT

    Libby Thomas

    9 months ago #

    Hey Dave,

    It seems like you always have a plethora of projects, which must require switching focus a lot. Throw in unexpected requests/questions from coworkers in an open office, a few candidate interviews, 15 unread emails, and a slack message or two, and it seems like it would be incredibly difficult to get anything done, let alone focus deeply on any one project.

    How do you:
    - organize your day
    - find time for tasks of different sizes (ex. 5-minute email, 3 hour project, tackling months-long marketing goal)
    - have time to scout out new ideas, run analyses, track success of campaigns etc.
    - interact meaningfully with your coworkers, and help them while still getting your own stuff done?

    Thanks!

    • DG

      Dave Grow

      9 months ago #

      Tough one! Breaking down from the high-level on down, we set quarterly OKRs (Objectives & Key Results). This is as good of a goal-setting system as I’ve found and we’ve used it for several years at Lucid. It forces you to think about the somewhat longer-term, bigger goals that are important to achieve over the next few months.

      On a weekly basis, I am somewhat maniacal about my calendar. On Sunday night or Monday morning, I often rearrange or decline certain invites. First, I try to put meetings back-to-back to give me longer stretches of time to think and do, rather than having them spaced with 30 minutes in between for example. While declining a calendar invite for a group discussion might seem like I don’t care enough about that meeting, it’s actually because I know the people already in the meeting can do an exceptional job without me there and I have little unique value to add.

      Also on a weekly basis, I write down my goals and I typically break them down into 3 groups: (1) Value-add / operations; (2) Personnel; and (3) Recruiting. I outline my goals and what I hope to accomplish that week and roughly by when. Otherwise, it’s too easy for things to simply fill the day, especially meetings, and urgent but not important things. I’ve learned that for me, it’s especially important for me to find time for #1 because the strategic and operations is where I thrive. Periodically, when this balance gets out of whack, I have candid conversations with our CEO or other executive team members who help me re-balance, often by picking up recruiting or other activities where *they* thrive. So, the team has got to be supportive of each other so everyone can play to their strengths.

      On a daily basis, I’m a zero inbox guy. My inbox is where I live and often serves as a virtual to-do list so I either respond quickly, archive it, or mark it as “Follow up” for later. Every few days, I go back through the Follow Up folder and take action as appropriate.

      And of course, you sometimes just have to roll with it. Engaging with my team members and having fun and also high-intensity discussions is incredibly important. The team at Lucid is why I love what I do.

      The system works for me! But probably not for everyone.

  • HA

    Hasan Asfahani

    9 months ago #

    Hi Dave,

    What do you think about the marketing role in the age of blockchain? Are there any changes? And if we have to focus on some techniques more than the others, what are those?

    Thanks

    • DG

      Dave Grow

      9 months ago #

      Sorry Hasan, I'm a blockchain novice. I've yet to see many, if any, impacts to Lucid or peer companies from this trend.

      We're currently moving more internationally and will be accepting more currencies soon. Perhaps we should consider accepting Bitcoin too!

  • JF

    Javier Feldman

    9 months ago #

    Hi Dave, Thanks for being here today! Here's my question for you:

    Did you ever have the free trial vs freemium debate at LucidChart? You have a freemium model because you do allow for a limited use, free forever version of the product but can you talk about how all of that evolved into what you have today?

    Cheers!

    • DG

      Dave Grow

      9 months ago #

      This discussion happens from time to time at Lucid; I’m sure it happens at every freemium business! In the early days, I think it was clear we were going freemium. Part of this was likely driven by the influence of our CEO’s experience. Prior to Lucid, Karl spent 7 years at Google and embraced the mindset of building significant user bases. We’ve always talked about growing to 100 million users and beyond.

      Once you fully embrace freemium, I honestly think it’s hard to make the change to abandon it. First, because markets often adapt over time -- if there are strong freemium players in the market, competitors often adopt freemium as well. So then if you want to go free trial only, you are ceding that marketing benefit (or assumed benefit) to competitors. Second, because if your product is great, the long tail of conversions from freemium can be incredibly compelling. Would you believe the majority of our conversions come months after registration?

      That said, we have tested and adjusted our model over time to find the right balance. For example, until recently we had a free account and a free trial with no credit card required. The team made a valid argument that with the free account, we already had a no commitment option. So with the free trial, we should ask for some level of commitment from the user by inputting their credit card (which of course we wouldn’t charge until the end of their trial).

      This is still in testing but so far has been a positive experience -- both for the company and for users. It provides clarity for users between a free account and a free trial. And the lift in conversion rates looks interesting so far!

      2 Share
  • BW

    Brand Winnie

    9 months ago #

    Hey Dave,

    Thanks for being here...

    What do you wish you knew about fundraising (be it seed, Series A, Series B or all of the above) before you got into those discussions?

    Thanks

    • DG

      Dave Grow

      9 months ago #

      Fundraising is a beast. And success often comes down to relationships, and it is sure nice not to *need* the money. For example:

      When we raised our seed round, some of the initial commitment come through friends of friends who saw the product and were impressed. We were also far enough along to show strong traction so that Google Ventures, 500 Startups and others invested. The quality of the team -- and particularly Karl's background -- smoothed the way.

      For our A round, we considered raising from one of the big VC firms. And so like most companies, we did the dog and pony show in Silicon Valley, Boston, etc. We ended up with term sheets but not at terms we were excited about. Because we were cash-flow positive, we could comfortably walk away. Several months later, we made the smart move to raise from several groups we already knew. Groups we had built relationships with over the intervening 3-4 years from our seed round. We trusted them, they knew us, and so we were able to come to an agreement very quickly.

      For our B round, we raised from a firm where we had been developing relationships with for years. Because of our financial situation, we didn't *need* to raise money. Again, there was mutual trust and respect that existed with the folks at Spectrum Equity that enabled us to close a great round without us leaving our office. These relationships just don't happen. I took dozens of calls with VC firms over the prior few years, many office visits and lunches, etc. and was able to determine who could actually be the right type of partner with an aligned vision. My gut reaction would sometimes be to ignore these and focus on the business... but there's something to be said for taking time out to build relationships that matter.

      Probably the other thing that I wish I knew earlier was how important it is to sell the vision. Even if you have a great product with great traction, the vision matters a lot. Learn to tell that story in a compelling, succinct way -- what's behind you is important, but VCs are betting on where you're headed.

      2 Share
    • DG

      Dave Grow

      9 months ago #

      Oh, and one more thing. Regardless how they frame it, you're always pitching when you're meeting with these firms. We were invited to meet with "a couple folks" from one of the most prominent VC firms in Silicon Valley. We showed up and the room was full of 25 people including the entire senior investment team.

      Be ready to pitch at any time if you're raising money. And even when you're not.

      2 Share
  • JW

    Joe Wilkinson

    9 months ago #

    Hey Dave,

    As other people have mentioned here, you’ve clearly been very successful in growing Lucid Software. To do this, I imagine you have had to adapt, and learn how to address new and different problems with each stage of Lucid Software’s growth.

    What has helped you do that so successfully? Specifically are there any books, people, or other resources you have used to that have helped you adapt and succeed at each stage, and if so, would you share some of those resources?

    • DG

      Dave Grow

      9 months ago #

      Sorry - I accidentally responded to the wrong question with this answer...

      You’re absolutely right, and this is one of the more challenging aspects of a high-growth company -- particularly for a founder or early employee. It seems that you either learn to reinvent yourself and your role every 12-18 months, or you risk being left behind. A couple specific thoughts:

      (1) For years, the executive team at Lucid has joked that I am regularly hiring people to do my job. And so one of the most relatable articles I ever read about scaling a startup talked about “giving away your legos.” (http://firstround.com/review/give-away-your-legos-and-other-commandments-for-scaling-startups/) Absolutely read it and bookmark it again for later! My favorite quote from the article summed up my experience: “If you personally want to grow as fast as your company, you have to give away your job every couple months.”

      Again, easier said than done. At times when we have hired incredibly talented people and I’ve transitioned major areas of my previous responsibilities, it has made me wonder whether my role or my influence will diminish. And every time, I’ve realized that it has enabled us collectively to do more, and for me individually to go tackle the latest and greatest challenge facing the company.

      (2) You probably see a pattern in my answers that I talk a lot about the right team and it’s partially because they’ve helped me to develop in many ways. In the early days, our VP of Engineering mentored me to understand the ins-and-outs of product management which teed me up to lead our product strategy efforts for years. Our CEO taught me, mainly through example, how to recruit and build a great team -- an incredibly valuable skill that is essential for an executive in a high growth startup. And my other colleagues refined my experience in countless other ways. This is another reason to surround yourself with great people -- they will push you to new and different levels.

      (3) All of that said, I try to keep perspective. From early days, I realized that there may come a time when I will be “topped,” when the right thing for Lucid is to bring in a different leader in my position to take the company to the next level. It’s not all that uncommon in successful startups and companies -- and it’s okay. In the meantime, I’ll keep hustling and reinventing myself for the next challenge that I can tackle for Lucid and the team.

  • GB

    German Baryshnikov

    9 months ago #

    Dave, which channel(s) do you consider as the top priority to aquare new users for your business today and why? How you channel prioritization was made in your Company? What channels you will recomend to examine for start-ups that at the beginning of accelerating Growth?

    • DG

      Dave Grow

      9 months ago #

      Many of the standard channels you would expect. SEO was our first major channel. When I joined Lucid, I had a bit of background in SEO (and we had no money to spend anyway on advertising), and so I started building up our SEO channel which has been amazing for us over time. The beauty of SEO is that -- for the most part -- you produce that content and get those rankings, and then it's the gift that keeps on giving every year.

      Early on, we also integrated with Google Apps and started developing those relationships. Then Google invited us to be a launch partner for the Chrome Web Store, and later for Google Drive, and later for many other launches. The visibility these integrations have brought have been amazing, and they also help more deeply insert Lucidchart into the end users' workflows.

      Since then, we've obviously layered on paid advertising and a few other channels, including some other great integrations / partnernships.

      Overall, I think focus is so critical, particularly at an early-stage. There is a common feeling -- I remember it! -- that we've now got XYZ channel working, time to move on to the next one. But if a channel is really working, double-down on it. Triple-down on it. Extract all the value you can out of that channel because finding channels that work for your business isn't easy, so don't be anxious to run to the next one.

      Of course, an important skill to develop though is to realize when the diminishing returns are hitting, and the growth of that channel is starting to crest. Catch it early enough so that you can test and ramp the next channel as the growth of that one starts to level out. I've gotten this timing wrong a couple times, but gotten it right enough to help maintain some awesome growth at Lucid.

      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        9 months ago #

        Are there any emerging channels that you're looking to try ( or are currently trying)?

  • JH

    Jace Hansen

    9 months ago #

    Hey Dave,

    Thanks for joining us here today!

    Joining a startup can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it's also a risky move since a lot of startups end up failing. What motivated you to join Lucid? And what do you think is the difference between a successful start-up & the ones that fail?

    Thanks,

    • DG

      Dave Grow

      9 months ago #

      Great question, Jace, and you're absolutely right that some risks exists at that early stage. I had been working for several years at a major consulting firm (Bain & Company) and I had the five-year plan which included attending graduate school to earn my MBA.

      I had actually put in my applications when Karl, our CEO, gave me a call and told me about what they were starting at Lucid. They had some amazing technical talent with our co-founder and another engineer, but needed someone to help figure out and grow the business. Essentially, I agreed to come to Lucid for 6 months before attending Dartmouth (Tuck) where I had been accepted.

      3 weeks in though, I was hooked. The company was making virtually no money at the time ($1000 my first month!), but I knew that's where I wanted to be. The opportunity to really build something was amazing... and a bit addicting. I do distinctly remember looking around that basement though at the few other folks that made up Lucid at the time, and thinking to myself, "This is a group I can bet my next couple years on."

      The difference between successful ones and not are the the things you hear frequently, I think. A real pain you're solving. A real pain, not something that you can convince people is a pain. And amazing people. Great teams can often overcome challenges that would be insurmountable to pretty good ones. At the early stage, you are betting as much -- if not more -- on the people than you are the idea or product.

      2 Share
  • GH

    Glen Harper

    9 months ago #

    Hi Dave, thanks so much for being on the AMA. Given that you've written the pricing model for LucidChart - could you talk about the key lessons you've learned about pricing? Any specific tests you can talk about as well on this front? Thanks!

    • DG

      Dave Grow

      9 months ago #

      Funny enough, redefining the pricing model was my first project at Lucidchart. They had a very basic way for individuals/teams to pay but hadn't been a focus.

      I was coming from Bain, a big consulting firm, where I had actually just done a 4-month pricing study for a large entertainment venue. This was a very sophisticated project with historical data analysis, robust benchmarking, complex surveys, conjoint analyses, focus groups and more.

      I arrived at Lucid on a Monday and Karl asked me to tackle pricing first. On Wednesday afternoon, he said, "What do you have for us?" Woah! I had just been prepping my 4-month plan like I had done at Bain, not creating a pricing model yet. Nonetheless, I responded, "Let me share something with the team on Friday." Over the next couple days, I used some basic benchmarking, best practices and common sense to develop our first pricing model.

      That pricing did the job and we stuck with it -- mostly unchanged -- for a few years, as most the focus went to growing top of funnel. Over time though, we started making some changes and I've learned a few lessons from it:

      (1) Don't overthink it, and don't compare much to other products. In our case, we integrate deeply with Google Apps and so a lot of our customers use Google Apps. For years, I made the argument that because Google only charged $50/yr for mail, calendar, and apps, customers would balk at paying more than $50 for Lucidchart as a single point solution. I overthought it. I was wrong. It didn't matter what Google did -- it mattered how much value we provided. We raised prices, and in some cases well past $50/yr, and customers didn't balk.

      (2) Pricing is more challenging in a freemium situation. When we were developing the pricing for Lucidpress, we did some more complex surveys and analysis that time around that was based more on a value approach. From the surveys, it seemed clear that users would be willing to pay $XX / month for the solution. Then we launched. And initial conversion rates were well below what we had expected.

      Over time, I developed the hypothesis that we were asking people about how much they would pay for a solution... but then we were giving away a significant chunk of that value in the free option. So when they went to upgrade, their willingness to pay likely dropped because they already had part of the value. This wasn't concerning enough for us to drop the freemium model by any means because it has served us well, but it did mean some pricing experimentation was done.

      (3) On that last point, don't be afraid to experiment. There have been times when we have considered running an A/B test on pricing but there is almost always the concern of, "Well what if someone sees one pricing and then comes back on a different computer and sees something different?" or "What if their co-worker sees a different price than they do?" Much ado about nothing, in our experience. If users ask about it, we explain and we give them the best price available in the test.

      2 Share
  • DO

    Danielle Olivas

    9 months ago #

    Hi, Dave!

    Thanks for hosting today's AMA!

    Could you talk about a particular experiment that was either a big win or provided you with some deep insights that you never had before?

    Thanks!

  • BS

    Brandon Stauffer

    9 months ago #

    Hey Dave,

    Since Lucid has had tremendous growth and success when other SaaS startups struggle to get off the ground, what avenues did you pursue for that growth? For a SaaS startup, how did you acquire your first customers and where do you recommend investing most of your time in the early development of a company?

    • DG

      Dave Grow

      9 months ago #

      Thanks Brandon -- my answer to German above probably hits on a lot of the relevant points.

      Test a few things early on for acquiring customers, and when you start to see 1-2 show promise, double down. Don't continue to spread yourself thin -- go after what works.

  • MS

    Mackenzie Swapp

    9 months ago #

    Are you of Greek heritage? If not, why did you learn Greek (curious because I saw that on your LI profile)?

    • DG

      Dave Grow

      9 months ago #

      Not of Greek heritage, but I love the people and the culture. When I was 19, I spent about 18 months living in Greece and Cyprus as a volunteer for my church. Great opportunity to see some of the world, get exposure to a new culture, and eat some amazing gyros!

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    9 months ago #

    Hey Dave - so cool to have you on!
    I have a couple questions for you.

    1. Given all the hats you've worn, which would you say was the most challenging and why?

    2. Where does your growth team fit in organizationally within Lucid and why does it reside where it does?

    • DG

      Dave Grow

      9 months ago #

      Thanks Anuj!

      1. Leading product. It was challenging for a few reasons. First, Lucidchart has a lot of different end users / personas and so balancing and prioritizing the needs of those various groups is tough. Especially when you start hearing from the users whose needs you can't focus on at that very moment. Second, everyone in a company can be (or thinks they can be) an "armchair PM." Everyone has an opinion on what the product should be, where it should go, the next feature that should be built. And I love seeing that passion, but at the end of the day, one person needs to make that call. (This is compared to other positions where one could argue more "hard" skills are used like an engineer or marketer.)

      • DG

        Dave Grow

        9 months ago #

        2. Great question and it doesn't seem like there is an industry standard on this. The growth team currently is an independent group that reports to me. This works at Lucid because I also help manage the marketing and sales teams, so I can help ensure that everyone's efforts are generally aligned.

        This is an interesting group because you have to give them the flexibility and freedom to test big ideas. Ideas that make you uncomfortable. Having my involvement allows me to provide some aircover occasionally (or the right level of pushback) to hopefully strike the right balance.

      • DG

        Dave Grow

        9 months ago #

        3. Sorry Anuj, can't seem to answer your nested reply. Great product leaders seem to have empathy.

        Empathy for users, what they want to accomplish, what they're currently experiencing, and the current gap. And that often requires a lot of natural curiosity to really go deep and understand.

        And, empathy for the engineering team they work with. Product managers occasionally (or often) fall into the trap of thinking they can do things like more accurately estimate how long it should take to build features or fix bugs. That can come off as pretty insulting to engineers because it sends the message that you think you know more than they do. I believe there should always be a bit of a healthy tension between PMs and engineers, but it has to be built on a foundation of trust and respect.

      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        9 months ago #

        No question that's tough!
        Beyond what you mentioned, what other characteristics/traits/skills do you think someone leading product absolutely should have?

  • DG

    Dave Grow

    9 months ago #

    I'll plan to circle back in the next day and answer any remaining questions. Thanks for the fun experience and great discussions! Happy to chat anytime.

  • HD

    Hugo Damásio

    9 months ago #

    Hi Dave, what in your view woild be mandatory growth related literature?

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