Key topics in today’s conversation include:
The SaaS Ramp Podcast explores how tech leaders scale from product adoption to enterprise success. Learn more at www.saasrampmedia.com.
Pete Thornton 0:06
Hey everyone, welcome to The SaaS Ramp Podcast. A great, great special guest today on with us: Sarika Garg, co-founder and CEO of Cacheflow. Cacheflow is spelled C-A-C-H-E-F-L-O-W so it’s a great play on words for developer tooling. Welcome to show, Sarika.
Sarika Garg 0:23
Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Pete Thornton 0:26
So I reached out to you because, as co-founder and CEO of Cacheflow, I’d kind of noticed some of the things that you guys have recently done over the last year, unbelievable number of things that I know will unpack throughout the course of the show. But when you gotten the seed funding and the product bill and got your live customers, referenceable customers and, and everything went GA, I was like, she’s just blowing up, everything’s going, go and so so well. But on the show, we often like to start with the personal piece like where you came from, what college courses did you take in order to become a CEO and co-founder?
Sarika Garg 1:00
Yeah, absolutely. I think the personal journey is always important. That’s what makes us who we are, my personal journey actually goes and starts even before college and starts when I was two years old when my parents decided to integrate from India to Africa. So I grew up in very remote places in Africa, places you’ve probably never heard of, like a place called Morogoro. And Monza in Tanzania, Dwolla, in Zambia, and these remote places. And being a very, very curious kid, I started thinking of how do you actually from a remote place, get your voice out to, to the whole world. And when I went to college, I decided that I wanted to study technology, and came to the US. And the first job I actually started with was at a company called SAP, which is the ERP software, the German ERP software company. And I actually saw things at scale there. Right and, and that opened my eyes to what technology could do for the biggest companies of the world. And it really made me realize that it was because of technology that companies like Procter and Gamble, Johnson, and Johnson, Nike, Caterpillar all the companies that we all know the brand names of became as big as they were, because they put technology and software and systems in place. And it really made me a believer that we need to use a be the technology sort of the gateway for us to create impact in the world and reach and really help people all across the world.
Pete Thornton 2:42
That’s so interesting. So you kind of just kind of gave the full 360 there from a very, very small place and being very, very young and trying to reach out like what would a medium look like so that you can move from a place like Tanzania into the greater globe, and then all the way to SAP which is just have friends and family. They’re like a few friends, a few family. And they’re just it’s like its own world. 150,000 employees. Amazing.
Sarika Garg 3:10
Yeah, yeah. And it was at SAP, I learned what it was to live in a company that was creating the sort of massive impact for other companies. I did many things over there worked closely with very important projects that happened, but I think what made me sort of want to become an intrapreneur was a years after, and, and today, I was one of 150 people, whatever, 50,000 people and I really wanted to be— how could I be not just a number more and more have more impact? The question I kept asking myself is, how do I have more, and it led me to change my jobs move into a company called arriba, which was procure to pay order to Cacheflow platform. And there I worked with much more smaller companies. So mid-market, small, one or two people company, to large companies, there were million buyers of sellers on arriba network, and I was responsible for them. And that made me realize that, hey, you could really impact not only large companies, but you could actually help these small companies become Big by helping them with tooling and technology. Right? So arriba was my next stop. And after that, I joined a startup and you see the trend me going from 150,000 people come up to less than 100 people count me and say, Can I help this company grow bigger and again, take their product out to the world and did that for five years, the company from 100 to 1,000 wore many hats, built multiple products from scratch to taking them to market and decided that this is what I wanted to pretty much dedicate my professional career to building software.
Pete Thornton 4:59
Okay. So oh, this that contrast from going small having to do it all, and then moving to large and seeing it done, like, like 10 people for every micro job 100 people for every micro job maybe. And then back and forth. That’s an interesting contract contrast, that flip, the one place and then the other.
You mentioned a term that’s very popular but, being in enablement, I love to take things and like, Okay, can we define that? And can we break it into some pieces that are a little more digestible? You mentioned moving into SAP and then becoming an intrapreneur, meaning you’re almost running your own business within SAP, or wood, maybe you could just kind of explain that to us a little bit and why that might have been your first step?
Sarika Garg 5:42
Yeah, I think throughout my career, I kept looking for places where we were starting new products, right, like from scratch. So at SAP, we built out some supply chain products. And I was like the first product manager building out the solutions working closely with customers. When I moved over to trade shift, I did the same in a GM role. We had a full team that ran from engineering to go to market to sales to marketing, and we did the same thing, taking the product to market, it was all very different context. But the idea was creating something out of nothing and then helping it to get out there to many, many people.
Pete Thornton 6:24
Okay. So that’s zero to one motion within SAP. And then within Tradeshift, which was that smaller company that you said, Ted QCon, like 10. Next, its growth in the time frame that you spent there. Okay. So that’s where the continuity comes from. Because like if people hear “huge and small,” “huge and small,” but there was a continuity and kind of like building something from scratch or a new product, I suppose.
Sarika Garg 6:45
Pete Thornton 6:47
Okay, so one more piece about this, because you’re just so interesting, and all the things that you guys have done so recently with a brand new software development company, and that is, how did you decide you had an idea that was good enough, and that you were able to come and you were ready to make the launch into executing upon a new idea. I mean, it’s very common to do where you live, you’re in Palo Alto, as I understand, or Silicon Valley at large. When is that? When you say, I’m a W2 employee and I’m going to want to make this transition over?
Sarika Garg 7:23
When I worked in was an operator for 20 years building and taking products to market. And one of the things that I saw was a huge shift that was happening in the market. And that ship was, we were no longer just buying companies, we’re no longer just buying an ERP system or a CRM system. Every single department in every company was buying more and more software. So people like you and me who are not professional buyers of software, but we’re buying software, and we wanted it to be easier. And we didn’t have time we did our research we just wanted to buy. And what we found, what I saw was a huge gap. I come into what to call in the industry, or to cash or procure to pay, which is basically the transactional business that happens between two companies. And what I saw was a huge gap between these two companies, where this buying and selling was happening mostly manually, and in a very rigid way. And, and so my co-founder, Brian Zatar, who was an early employee at Salesforce, but he built out the Salesforce platform as VP of engineering, he had done a number of startups, and him and I joined for seven, we said, what is that product that sits between sales and the buyer, the seller and the buyer that can actually automate the buying experience. So it really spans, I believe, is software is going to change the world. Like I said, systems change the world, SAP changed, manufacturing for our software is now slowly changing every single industry. And we want to enable software to get in the hands of people across industries.
Pete Thornton 9:05
Yeah, yeah. Okay. So that challenge became really apparent like that, throughout your journey, you saw the way it was done. You saw this challenge that maybe your team was even having to manually handle day to day. And like, if it’s a, if it’s a pain, it’s a pain, or it’s an opportunity, I guess, it’s one of those kinds of things like depending on like, how you look at it.
Sarika Garg 9:26
Yeah, exactly. I’m sure you bought a piece of software, I had bought a piece of software. And actually the inspiration we took was from the car buying experience, right? You and I had bought cars and you have to go to the car dealer and you always feel like oh my god, this dealer is going to rip me off because he’s probably smarter and has more tools. And it’s just this kind of an uncomfortable process. And people delay car buying or they take time or they try to find somebody who can actually go with them. And when Tesla came in Long, they just put the car buying experience online. So you can actually literally go and buy a Tesla in four minutes by saying, Okay, I want this tire this color, I want auto drive and checkout. And in my checkout, I can leave it I can pay by cash or whatever format that I want. We want to do the same for software across the board. Right? It gives give them this sort of experience, which they can plug in. Right. Yeah. The Yeah. The other analogy, Pete, because I love analogies because they make things clear is: we used to buy the fine vacation homes online, like on Craigslist, yeah. And Airbnb basically put it online and actually enabled the whole buying experience of vacation, or, or hotel, or homes. And, and that’s what we tried to do for software, right to make it all go online. So it just becomes much, much smoother and easier to buy. Okay, okay. And so, yeah.
Pete Thornton 10:59
So, okay, so there’s It completely makes sense is, it’s just, it’s a one more niche place, like one more kind of a niche, like that happens all day, every day. It’s actually a massive gap. But it’s one more thing where you look at like software and say, fantastic saw it like this is this is something that can be recognized and made better for humans. So let’s do that. Then what do you do? So many of these inaugural steps that later you’ll be liked, or now kind of you’re getting to that point and talk about it later, like that you’re just continuing to ramp and scale some of the pieces that you built. But when you’re going from concept to actualization, this is a lot of steps in between I know, but maybe would you just unpack the last year at Cacheflow, Cacheflow for us, like some of the challenges and successes that you’ve had? So we can even understand how these successful companies get their start like that.
Sarika Garg 11:56
We went in with a hypothesis saying, software’s buying needs to be just easier because we’ve experienced it ourselves. And software selling needs to be easier, because we know, like, we’ve sold software, and it’s just really difficult for the salesperson and the Reb ops person. And when we went and talked to customers, we found that it was actually worse than we thought, and they are a few company who have built out checkout experiences themselves, like actually Postmates has, or a postman has, but most companies don’t have the r&d to be able to build this themselves. So you have teams at the back who are trying to connect systems do this themselves, your sales, people try to create templates to make this real, you have finance people who are trying to build things manually. And we actually realized that it was really an automation problem. It was a payments problem that needed to be solved. And it actually ran, ran from sales, it connected sales with finance team, right? So we went in saying it’s a buying problem, and we realize it’s actually a selling and a payments problem, too. Right, that needs to be solved. So we went in, the two of us, Brian and I, and we built out an engineering team. And zero sales, zero marketing, and we had inbound interest where people were feeling the pain because more and more SAS or software is becoming about remove friction, sales velocity, right? Remove sales, get sales velocity, do it with the least amount of effort, yeah, build, build renewals, right? Like, it’s not about just build a relationship with your customer. So it’s not about just selling once, but actually growing that customer over time, you really need a system to actually scale you up into that. DocuSign can only take you so far, right? Because it’s really in the end, just a Word document that you’re getting a signature on. It’s not an online system that you have.
Pete Thornton 13:54
Right. Yeah, you mentioned you mentioned about my organization, postman. And it’s true with there’s a self-service or a fruit, a free tier, and to self-service tiers, and only one that’s the one that’s at the enterprise level after there is heavily adopted usage within a company that is sales lead or sales served. And that’s because there’s going to be a consultative piece that comes along with it. But of the four levels, it’s only one that is actually with a human-to-human interaction commonly known as product lead growth. And from that 20 million developers have been able to leverage the product and I think it’s just because it works for one, but there’s a lot of things that work, but it’s seamless, like your experience your user experiences going in and being able to quickly download whether it was a long time ago and just a Chrome extension or, or being able to get what you need when you need it. And self-service. It’s kind of what we’ve become accustomed to. So that’s interesting.
Sarika Garg 14:55
Yeah, you know, Pete, I hear every day from bars of software saying I really You don’t want to talk to a salesperson, I’ve done my research, I know what I want, I wish they would just get out of the way and just let me buy how I want to buy. I’m ready to give money like, like, don’t create blocks for me. It’s very interesting.
Pete Thornton 15:15
That’s in every industry, and not just software. But in software, there’s something we could probably do about it, my wife told me on her way out that there was going to be like a worker coming by the home, it’s a new home we’re in a new place, we were just South Carolina. And I said, great to have them work I’ll be doing something else at the time. And like, well, they need to talk to you about all these things. And like you already talked to him, right? Like, but they need to talk to you too. I’m not ready for it. But please come on. So we can both get down to doing business.
Sarika Garg 15:46
The friction of selling and paying is a worldwide problem that goes across industry. So funny story or to saying that, but we had we were talking to a videographer to do some customer testimonials. And he asked, So what do you do? And we said, we help you do a coat and get paid. And he’s like, can I use your first steps? It’s so painful for me. I’m like, “Huh, maybe.”
Pete Thornton 16:11
Perfect. It is. So like you truly touched on like a ubiquitous problem, I’ll tell you like, on my resume, I put in a span of this time, I was able to purchase this many software’s and I would have never put that before as a seller because I was an enterprise SaaS seller. But now like, as a buyer, it’s the same process just in reverse. You have to work hard to get the facts you need, roll them internally, and make sure the payment pieces get connected over time. So it is definitely a problem.
You mentioned something though. You had inbound interest. How is it that there’s inbound interest? That’s a massive challenge, but how do they know to even touch base with you? Or that you’re building a product like that? You’re building an engineering team, you’re not building a marketing team yet, so how do they know to come to you and even request?
Sarika Garg 17:01
Just post on LinkedIn or Twitter and they find you when people have a problem they find you. And that’s what we’ve found is we’ve just actually just hired off first head of sales or head of revenue, and severe building out our sort of marketing machine. But all the interest we’ve got all the deals with clothes have been involved, which has been very interesting. So So yeah, people find you when they have a problem.
Pete Thornton 17:26
That’s fantastic. Another major checkmark there. Then you’re building a go-to-market function, it sounds like. We have a lot of go-to-market leaders on this podcast. Where will you start? I ask because at Postman, we started with customer success, and based on the number of free and self-serve customers that we had these customers at various levels. And so we were already trying to make these customers successful customers before we were actually trying to add the next tier and sell anything at the enterprise level. And so where I sat within enablement, initially, this only recently changed was in customer success. So the go-to-market team that you’re building. Do you have an insight as to kind of how you guys will build that one out?
Sarika Garg 18:10
Absolutely. I’m a go-to-market fanatic, I think products succeed because you get the go-to-market, right. And we have a three-prong approach to go to market. One of them is the customers that are coming in, get out of the way, let them come in. So we’re actually building out an ability right now, in a half an hour demo, you can get a demo in half an hour, and then you could buy our product, we’re building out what you built at Postman wait for people to self serve and start using it a product just requires a tiny little bit of configuration to attach your DocuSign, then we have we believe this problem is actually quite painful for enterprises. So any enterprise that’s selling high-velocity deals. Any deal that 60k or under is high velocity, they really want to make this a much better process and they feel the pain significantly, we can help them offer monthly payments to their customers or deferred payments and just make it a much better process. So we actually have an enterprise motion that we’re starting, which is basically a deeper motion where we have a person involved and then I actually— You mentioned scale is kind of what you’re focusing on this podcast. We’re thinking of scale already and how we’re going to get ready for next year and the year after. And the main way we’re doing that is by figuring out what are the hubs where people who care about this problem live at like where are they and can we start building those relationships and this comes from my experience. I worked in building a virtual card product for employee spend, just like ramp and Divi we actually built it out with Amex Tradeshift and go-to-market motion was filled with annex, so it took us some time to build that relationship and the product together with Amex. But in terms of our go-to-market, we were a startup at Redshift. We had a few salespeople on this. But Amex actually was able to put 1000 salespeople on theirs on it. And we were able to once a tap started working, it just worked. And we just started getting sales all across the US that with American Express, Salesforce, referring us and actually selling our product. So we are already thinking about what are those hubs for Cacheflow? Where Reb ops team live? Or sales teams live? And how can we actually be there when the need arises for them so that they think is super important to get right as well?
Pete Thornton 20:46
Okay. That’s a great plan: co-selling, being attached to a leader moving forward like that. And you’ve experienced that before, which is great. It’s not a new thing. Do you call that partnerships or alliances? Or we have a certain kind of name for that within the motion.
Sarika Garg 21:02
I think it’s probably called partnerships. I call them hubs. They’re basically hubs where you can get to 1000s of people very quickly, the last effort, but yes, these are partnerships, they’re, they usually take some time to build because you’re either co-building a product, or co-selling together. And that takes some time.
Pete Thornton 21:26
Right, right. Yeah, a great notion. There is an overall stages, but it’s kind of like the vision is there.
So maybe a step back. You’ve had a wonderful year, four great quarters in a row, so many milestones. Looking ahead, you mentioned already looking at next year’s planning. What are two or three challenges that you think you’ll face that probably are common for everybody trying to take that next step might face?
Sarika Garg 21:53
It always comes down to getting things right in terms of people, right, every person we hire is super, super important. But establishing the foundational layer of who you are, as a company, what you care about the culture, what you call the culture is super important. So I worry a lot about that. And both Brian and I spend a lot of time thinking about and defining how can we create an environment where when we hire the best people, they can come in and be successful, they can bring the best to Cacheflow. Maybe a story to talk about that: I worked at SAP very closely with Bill McDermott, who was now the CEO of ServiceNow. And he was a phenomenal or is a phenomenal people person. And the story that really sort of stuck with me and sort of made me have always think about this as he values people at all levels, right? Not just the exec team, but every single person in the company. And there was a shoot or like a video shoot that was going on the Bill McDermott, and I was there. And in the guide, who was the cameraman, he came to me and he said, Oh, my God, Bill is fantastic. And I said, Okay, so why do you say that? And he said, Well, Bill remembered that the last time I met him, my wife was sick. And so he asked me how she was doing. And so it was sort of this value of really understand that every person is a human, and they have a story and they have a life and you want to show that you care is really important. It’s making people feel seen and if we can succeed in doing that at Cacheflow at a cultural level, I don’t think we’ll have problems scaling next year or the year after or the year after, so we spend a lot of time thinking about that.
Pete Thornton 23:44
Yeah, it’s a great thing to think about—especially at this size—and trying to think about like how do we once we 10x the size and much, much more like how do we keep that core connectedness and the culture piece, it may not be time for you but at this juncture at Postman, what a piece of what my team does the enablement team and sitting within the go to market teams is new hire ramp and one of the main challenges that was asked to be overcome this hey, we fleek we have moved from 250 employees to 650 employees in I guess it’s about an eight to 18 month time period. And with that growth we would like to keep this particular culture but we also need to uplevel them within skills and get them to their job done. There’s this triangulation that’s happening of like general skills but a people like a culture set and all within the context of like practical outcomes being able to move from what we call day one to job done. Is there anything at like a micro level y’all even thought about so far? Like hey, when a person comes in, they are remote or maybe they can come visit us at the headquarters or is there anything at that level? Or is it still the point where you’re like, “Hey, it’s such a tight-knit community. Just come hang with me for a little bit. We’ll do this all together,” as in very one-to-one still?
Sarika Garg 24:58
I think there’s there’s another one-to-one. But even where we are, it’s important to establish this, this culture of being able to come in and be able to what did you call it? Going to job done?
Pete Thornton 25:11
Yeah, job done.
Sarika Garg 25:13
Yeah. And I think it’s bringing the person on and giving them context of what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it, why it’s important. And then matching the skills with the jobs to be done. At the point we are, everybody wears multiple hats, but as we scale, the job becomes much more specialized, your job becomes much more specialized and, and we will build out the competencies around that, what we do right now is we, we try to get the entire company together, fully remote company, which actually has, has really, we are doing things very intentionally, we try to think write things down so that a new person when they come in, they can find it, we try to do a lot of videos, so we’re not spending too much time on the phone. So we can actually have some sort of lines of communication that are much more visual as well. And lastly, we actually bring the team together, the entire company together twice a year, and the entire subset of team, like the go-to-market product team every quarter. And the goal is again, aligned, let’s come together, let’s align, let’s know what we doing, let’s figure out where the gaps are. And then let’s go execute. Right. So we kind of had this sort of rhythm that’s going on with the company.
Pete Thornton 26:31
Okay. And so you just mentioned the communication structure, you talked about how you like to hire, you talked about trying to get context to people as quickly as possible, measuring outcomes, or just starting to talk about what results we’re trying to drive. I mean, as far as you can, at this point, everybody’s wearing so many hats, and then getting together in person to maybe even write on whiteboards, like what’s behind you. There’s something special about all the technology, but sometimes the brain has to touch the pen and the paper. That’s me, anyway. Love a whiteboard.
Sarika Garg 27:02
Right. I love whiteboarding, too, and I missed that. And so remote culture has its advantages and disadvantages, but we try to sort of balance that as best as we can. We also use the Salesforce to be to mom to keep us very aligned, which is what Marc Benioff came across where you have vision values, and then methods of how to achieve them. And so we definitely agree that we have to be very, very clear with what’s the goal of the company, but why are we here personally to help with that goal of the company? And then how are we going to achieve that goal?
Pete Thornton 27:37
Right, that’s a great framework, I’m very familiar with it, I was in a Salesforce ecosystem company has come in to visit you in a Dreamforce, once a year, and, of course, all the quarterly events for a time period of my life at great model, we integrated that company as well. So very cool, good thing to start with.
As usual, we have so many interesting insights, and like rabbit holes, the dive downs, of course, we went well past the time I asked for, but maybe as a parting shot, I’m not sure if you thought of anything, if any one thing in particular that you might tell somebody else in your spot, or maybe even like one year behind you hoping to be a co-founder and a CEO at a world-changing software company. Anything like a parting gift to offer?
Sarika Garg 28:20
I think this is something that I would say because I’ve seen companies at every level of scale. And one of the things that I’ve realized is, that there’s that first product that you’re going to take to market and be successful with what you really need to understand what are the other problems that your customer has, right? That you’re the customer that you’re serving, you may not build that product just yet. But you need to know where you’re going and the problems that you’re solving for the customer at a much wider scale than just that one problem. So it really is create empathy with that particular user that you’re solving the problem for. Because once you build a relationship, that’s how you can actually grow that relationship and grow that customer by solving the next problem and the next problems. So I think of product/market fit as almost like a poll and forgetting and running out of words, but like it’s options that you have and you can actually pick one option to go with but there are other things that you can lean on right, it’s a wide, you should have a wide lens, go focus on one thing that you do and then have a wide lens and then go focus on the next thing.
Pete Thornton 29:34
Right. You had mentioned like you thought it was a buyers problem that and then you turn it was it getting right and then you found out it was a seller’s problem. So that’s probably like maybe the analogy, the example that you’d might be speaking of like going in like, this is a challenge, whose challenge is it? And then once you got in there understanding like which side of the line was actually sitting on.
Sarika Garg 29:55
Right. Absolutely, yes.
Pete Thornton 29:57
Okay, that’s wonderful. Yeah, it’s a great tip. Congratulations again on all the success has been so fun to just kind of catch up on LinkedIn and follow it as it’s gone through. I know you’ll learn just marketing and posting left and right. But even a week ago, another little update over there as I was kind of following as we were coming into the interview. So that’s, that’s fantastic. Congrats on that. Thank you on all the success. Yeah, appreciate you coming on target. Thanks so much.
Sarika Garg 30:21