Friday, September 9, 2016
Interview with Matt Talbot, GoSpotCheck
Earlier this week, Denver's GoSpotCheck (www.gospotcheck.com) announced a big funding round from Insight Partners, for its enterprise, mobile software for managing field teams—to help fuel its already rapid growth. What not everyone knows, is the fascinating story behind how the company actually started as a maternity clothing rental business at Techstars—before the founding team figured out that wasn't the real business to pursue. We spoke with Matt Talbot, CEO and co-founder of GoSpotCheck, to hear how a timely pivot into mobile, enterprise software has turned GoSpotCheck into a 70-person-and-growing company with the backing of some top notch investors.
What is GoSpotCheck?
Matt Talbot: We're a mobile, SaaS company. Our product helps organizations that have large field teams, to help them execute in the market. Imagine that you work for a large soda bottling or beverage distributor, for example. You have lots of folks running around every day, implementing things in the field, getting displays put up in stores, getting drinks put on a menu, or working on accounts in another way. Traditionally, it's been very hard to measure activity in the field and manage those workers. Our product makes it super simple. We have a mobile app, that teams use, to enter their activities and what they are doing, with real time reporting and a dashboard, which lets you slice an dice data, and gives you perspective on the direction to go to improve results.
Explain more why that's useful to your customers?
Matt Talbot: One of the very classic problems with a field team, is your visibility and verification of that team. It's very hard, when you have a rep running around a state, visiting given stores in a day, to figure out what's going on. Traditionally, companies have relied on very offline reporting methods. For example, they might fill out a spreadsheet of weekly visits, or put together a PowerPoint on Friday with their activities, or send an email with photos. What we do, is we provide real time and trustworthy data, so that a management team knows exactly what a rep did at what location. It's easy for them to use the app, because we're aware of the context. It's all location-based, so when they pull up their device, they get to see all of their accounts nearby, and when they get to an account they can check in, and see the mission for that account. That mission might be executing a display, getting shelf placement, or doing a certain promotional activity. It's very flexible, in terms of the mission that can be run. A rep is instantly on the same page on what is important for the management team, and the management team gets a trustworthy, time-stamped, and GPS-stamped report in one place. Rather than spending lots of time wrangling information from their team, they're able to move on to higher level activities, such as prescribing activities for the team, rather than just gathering reports.
You've got a fascinating story behind how this whole business came about, involving a big pivot in your business. Can you tell us that story?
Matt Talbot: It's a long story, but here's a short version. We were originally in Techstars in the summer of 2011. We had the concept that we could create a Netflix for maternity stores, to create a rental model for women who were expecting, so they could spend less on maternity wear. It was a problem I had experience first hand, as my daughter was born in January of 2011. In May of 2011, I was in Techstars, and I was building this solution for my wife, to help her save money over her pregnancy. After getting into Techstars, we realized that the model didn't work all that well, and it just wouldn't scale. So we took a step back, and looked at the problem and our expertise. My experience was at Johnson and Johnson, and one of my cofounders was at SAB Miller, the other was a retail entrepreneur. We realized that there was a lack of visibility into the retail market, and that now was really the time to take advantage of connected devices, and build some software around that.
We started out of Techstars with a crowdsourced, mystery shopping app, where we were providing labor and people to help companies audit retail locations. The thought was that consumer product goods companies could very what their field force was doing and their activities. After awhile, we started to get inbound requests from our customers, saying that our software was really cool—but the coolest thing was the software we'd built for our self, to manage our own field team. They said—if you could implement that for us, we wouldn't need those third party audits, and we'd have a trustworth way to collect data from the field. So, we pivoted again, and started licensing that software. Our first customer came in June of 2013, and we've now been on the market for three years, and basically scaled from just 8 people when we launched, to over 70. Since they've we've raised a lot of financing and our revenues have been increasing, day in and day out.
Where was that turning point where you really began to scale?
Matt Talbot: For us, it's really been the last eighteen months or so, where we've seen really aggressive growth. What I think, is that the market is still very early for enterprise mobile. Even though the iPhone has been out for ten years, and it has lots of adoption, a tremendous amount of that is for the consumer. It's just now getting to the point where Android devices and iOS devices are beginning to be used every day in the enterprise. The enterprises are now being able to say—there are now these devices out there, there is software to enable teams to do real work, and it's not just about sending messages and managing email. For us, what we're finding is we're just beginning to reach the tipping point. When we first launched, I think we were very early. Only early adopters were willing to pay for a mobile app for their field team, but now that's the norm. I think people really are looking for solutions, now that everyone has a device, and can take photos, and have GPS, and are always connected to the Internet. The tipping point was really the last twelve to eighteen months when I think the market has really waken up to the value. That's been driving our growth, more than anything.
What has been the biggest lesson you've learned through all of this?
Matt Talbot: There have been lots of lessons, for sure. There's no doubt about that, however, there are a couple of things that are fundamentally true. First, is don't fall in love with your idea, fall in love with solving problems. Have we just kept our head down, building a maternity rental business, I'd have ended up back in my job as a financial analyst, and that would have really sucked. If you're open to solving problems, and going to bed smarter every day—our core values—what you'll find, is the market will show you the way, and it will pull a product out of you. Your customers may not be able to explain things exactly, but they'll surface the problem, and the market will end up driving that. If you're solving those problems, and waking up taking what you learned yesterday, and applying it today, you can make all of the difference in the world. You have to have a commitment to learning, and listening to what the market needs.
So what are you planning to do with the growth funding?
Matt Talbot: At the end of the day, our broad vision is to lead the category of field execution and management. It's a real challenge for companies, who have a large workforce in the field every day, on how to orchestrate every day to drive flawless execution to meet their goals. We're focused on the broader retail market, CPGs, wholesalers, distributors, and retailers, and in facilities management. Those are our core target. So what lots of that funding is for growth capital, building out our platform and product advantage, creating a fantastic UI and power reporting tools, and doubling down on these with a number of new and exciting products. Lots of that is also to getting our story out there, and scaling up our marketing. We've generally been under-invested in sales and marketing versus our revenues and our team. We're doubling down and getting out to market aggressively. We initially had been heavy on our engineering and customer success team, really focused on building our product and listening to customers. Now, we're thrilled to be able to take this to market in an aggressive way, with that growth capital.
So where are we, do you think, with that whole enterprise mobile adoption curve?
Matt Talbot: I think we're at the very early adopter stage. One things that has helped to drive things, is the core technology itself. Obviously, the amount of storage and processing is increasing every cycle, which allows us to bring more context to a user, to work with more data, and connect more quickly to access reports and information. Our big bet, is that the platforms will continue to evolve in a predictable and fast way over the next few years, and move more and more into the mainstream enterprise. Our expectation, looking into the future, is that most workers won't be behind a desk, but they'll be out in the field, working in stores, selling beer, serving accounts, on their feet most of the day. There's a revolution in terms of technology, which allows us to reach those people, and allow them to use our software every day, to perform their job perfectly and be more successful in what they want to get done. We're betting on those macro trends, which are no doubt happening. I think we'll look back and be surprised at how early this still is. I think I think we have most of our great growth years ahead of us, and there are a number of important companies which will come out of this generation of the mobile enterprise, and I hope that GoSpotCheck is one of those.
Thanks, and good luck!