Title: Chief Operating Officer

Learnings 2 with Steve Johnson

Learnings 2 with Steve Johnson


The ABC’s of Life = “Always Be Curious” #Insights [Click to Tweet]

“If there’s something you’re doing and it’s not working, go deep quick, and pull the plug quick.” – @steve1johnson [Click to Tweet]

Be curious, ask questions, learn & don’t act like you know it all cause there’s no need to. #Insights [Click to Tweet]

Steve Johnson: I would be much more aware that you don’t have to know it all. And that is completely fine to ask lots and lots of questions and get advice early. I didn’t do that early enough.

Steve Johnson: Going back to the mentor question, I wish I had gotten mentors really earlier and I wish I’ve asked a lot more questions. And I felt that I was expected to know everything.  I’m hired for this role. Act like you know it.

Steve Johnson: Well, the reality is most people don’t know exactly everything about that role. If I could go back in time tell my 10-year old self, I’m like, “Just constantly be looking.”

Steve Johnson: One of the things I tell my daughter, “The ABCs of life were ‘always be curious’. Just be curious. Ask questions. Learn and don’t act like you know it all because there’s no need for it.”

Steve Johnson: Some of the best people, I mentioned Dave Goldberg earlier, I mean, he was always asking questions. And some of the best execs that I have worked with and found are similar. They are the most humble of people and are always interested in finding out a different way; learning a different way and understanding how some things are changing; what’s going on. So that would be my advice.

Steve Johnson: Everyone has failures and I always say, “Fail fast.” Over the years, there are tons of things that you look back, “Oh, man! That didn’t work.” I’m trying to give a very specific one.

Steve Johnson: I probably don’t want to do something from my most recent company but I know one in the past. We had a partner program. It was a different software company targeting a specific group of partners and we went at it, went at it and went too long, we should have shut it down quicker.

Steve Johnson: It’s not really very specific example. But the learning I took away from it was if there’s something you’re doing and it’s not working, you really should go deep on it quick and pull the plug quick because we went and spent a couple of years just – I don’t want to say wasting time. But fail fast, get through it.

Steve Johnson: In some cases, you don’t know. Some things take a long time to incubate. I understand that. So if you know that it’s something that takes more time, that’s different. That’s probably my biggest learning from that particular failure, and there are others that I have different lessons, but that was really… Don’t spend more time on it than it’s worth. Tried it, failed, move on, get to the next opportunity or try something else out.

Leadership 2 with Steve Johnson

Leadership 2 with Steve Johnson


“You have to move with speed, you have to be strategic, and you have to be open to new things” – @steve1johnson #Insights [Click to Tweet]

Purpose drives passion #Insights [Click to Tweet]

Companies get so caught up in numbers that they end up with employees that don’t align with their values #Insights [Click to Tweet]

Choose attitude over aptitude when hiring to get the most passionate people on your team #Insights [Click to Tweet]

Steve Johnson: So for hiring the right people I look at, this is not new but we look at the four quadrant; values on one quadrant and results on another. So your top right is high values high results.  And making sure as you’re hiring somebody, do they have the values that align with your company? And would you hire them on that?

Steve Johnson: And also conversely, if somebody was in the bottom left quadrant, low results low values, would you fire them? But they also then lead you to the next question. Do you have your values? Are they clear enough that you could hire and fire based on them?

Steve Johnson: And I think that’s what I see a lot of times in companies that you get so caught up in just trying to make the day to day payroll numbers survive that you forget that then you end up with people that don’t really align with what you want the company to be about. I was looking, life is too short to spend time with people that don’t have the right – if you’re not lined up in the same way and have the same values.

Steve Johnson: Then, that’s the other thing I would say – one of the biggest things I’ve seen with companies that don’t make it or have challenges is that they’re just not open. They think they know it all. They’re not open.

Steve Johnson: I mean, I’m constantly listening to people and learning. It’s just there’s always a different way and the world is changing. What used to be right 10 years ago is not right.

Steve Johnson: Enterprise software in the field is more into online sales and revenue that’s driven in a different way; constantly asking questions, constantly digging in, learning what’s new. It’s like, call it the SSO. You have to move with speed; you have to be strategic and you got to be open constantly to new things. Anyway, that’s what I look in hiring talent. 

Steve Johnson: The other thing aside on talent, I would say, is I choose aptitude, sorry, I had to choose attitude over aptitude. Ideally you want both but I found over and over and over some of the best people we had, the people in the early days that were super passionate about social, they have a much better chance of success than somebody that maybe had been this greater broader experience but they don’t really care about social, if it’s a Hootsuite world or pick the space, have someone that aligns that’s really, really passionate about you’re doing.

Steve Johnson: I think again, going back, I think purpose will help drive that passion.  If it’s a really clear purpose and what you guys are doing and what everybody is doing makes a difference. But yeah, can’t say enough about that.

Leadership 1 with Thilo Semmelbauer

Leadership 1 with Thilo Semmelbauer


Building a great product is important; but building relationships with people really creates value #Insights [Click to Tweet]

An essential part of being a #Leader is getting to know and motivate the people around you #Insights [Click to Tweet]

“#Leadership starts with a vision. It can come from great inspiration or hard analytical work.” @ThiloSemm #Insights [Click to Tweet]

Thilo Semmelbauer: Well, I think leadership always starts with a vision, a plan, I think. It can come from great inspiration or it can come from hard analytical and strategic work but it always starts with clarity of vision.

Thilo Semmelbauer: And I think the second part is getting other people on board. And that ultimately, I think, great leaders have a way of getting to know the people around them and motivating them.

Thilo Semmelbauer: You can’t motivate people who are all motivated by different things unless you get to know them, which requires listening, learning, observing, communicating–all those things to really connect so you can’t do it by yourself.

Thilo Semmelbauer: So I think it’s that combination of knowing where you want to go and being able to, at the end of the day, get others to follow. I think that’s what leadership is all about.

Thilo Semmelbauer: There’s a deeper thing perhaps underlying leadership that I didn’t mention and you’re making me think about it now. I think it’s kind of at the basic level of caring. So what does that mean?

Thilo Semmelbauer: I mean, caring about people. The people are going to help you. The people, together, are going to make it happen. And if you don’t care about them, it’s not going to work as well. It’s only going to work for a short time period.

Thilo Semmelbauer: So there’s something I don’t know quite to how to put words around it. But the teams that I have built and the people I’ve worked with, it’s like a relationship. I care about them, I want them to succeed, they want me to succeed, and there’s a bond there, I think, that makes it special and sometimes makes it work and you can build magic together.

Dave Carvajal: And it’s amazing how that leadership, Thilo, has inspired so many people in their own leadership growth and how they choose to lead and the active decision that they make in understanding how to be a better leader, creating value in the world.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I hope so. There’s a lot of people that I’ve worked with over the years that I’m still in touch with that are in leadership positions and they call me and ask for advice and I give them what I can.

Thilo Semmelbauer: Most of it is within them and they maybe need some help bringing it out. And that’s very gratifying, to see people move on and do amazing things. That’s part of the fun for me.

Thilo Semmelbauer: Yeah, it’s building great products and having impact on people’s lives but it’s also the relationships with the people you work with that is very gratifying.

Success 1 with Chris Mahl

Success 1 with Chris Mahl


During rough tech industry times, @Informatica was one of the few software companies to continue to grow #Insights [Click to Tweet]

#Innovation and recreating the market year after year helps keep companies on top #Insights [Click to Tweet]

@Informatica started from 20 people in a garage to just recently being acquired for about $5 Billion #Insights [Click to Tweet]

Chris Mahl: I have to say that Informatica, for those of you who know, they were just acquired for about five billion dollars in private, which I joined in 1995 as one of 20 people. So there was minus nine customers, there was zero revenue and I have to say I’m going to share two perspectives on what I was most proud of.

Chris Mahl: One is we grew that, we took that public profitably over the next five and a half years, built it from the ground up with great people, great passion, define the market, own that market. And so I’m certainly proud of all those achievements from a sales/marketing perspective, but what I’m really proud of is when the bubble bursts we were one of the only companies to actually truly grow during that nuclear time we grew the company 10{f7a32599756963b989bde631f1a44401cc789db6f847c3735c9e8f651be632a4} with no revenue.

Chris Mahl: If you take the whole software category and you look at real returns in that particular year which is roughest in the tech industry, that was a pretty amazing achievements. So it’s actually that, I love the IPO don’t get me wrong, but building it from a garage of 20 with Groap, Diaz and Mark Burton who’s now on the board of Mongodb and tremendous executives but it was actually sailing the ship through the tough storm that I’m most proud of. So I’d say that.

Chris Mahl: I have to say that after that I went to SalesForce and I was there for just about four years leading a bulk of sales and strategic sales. I have to say the early milestones I’m most proud of was the teams who I worked with who closed the first 400 seed deal. At the time when I joined it was 50 and 40 and Kevin was there and the board was curious so that would have been AOL with a fellow named Greg Brown and his team in the southeast.  Wow we can do 400 and shortly thereafter there was the Sungard deal which was 1,000 seeds.

Chris Mahl: Common at the Sales Force at that time, an on demand model trusting 1,000 people to put all my customer data in the cloud, not happening. And that was actually Eric Poley who actually works for me now, it runs outside sales now through JW Player so Eric they do a tremendous job and great work with Mark on that.

Chris Mahl: The following year, the first 2,000 seed deal so these were 6 million dollar plus deals- unheard of. Nobody does this with on demand and Sun Guard was the big bag in the Southeast and the ADP. Teams are all part of my organization so these major milestones really made the industry say this is real.  Everything up until then wasn’t real so I have to say those.

Chris Mahl: Up to where I am now, certainly Right Media don’t get me wrong Right Media was a remarkable run, really brilliant. Guys like Mike Walrath had an amazing model going I just helped scale it before Yahoo purchased it. Seven months to a year there, did I play role definitely. Was the course set, clearly- these guys innovated on the exchange model and really understood how to create that and I loved being a part of that.

Chris Mahl: But I have to say right now which is JWPlayer and the present folks on the commercialization and scaling of the business. When I joined with some great founders, you know the company had done well, huge footprint but relatively small commercial presence. We doubled that business year over year with phenomenal innovation, recreating the market, recreating the value there.

Success with Steve Johnson

Success with Steve Johnson


0 to 56,000{f7a32599756963b989bde631f1a44401cc789db6f847c3735c9e8f651be632a4} revenue growth at Hootsuite in the first 5 years #Insights [Click to Tweet]

Success can go hand in hand with great company culture #Insights [Click to Tweet]

Hootsuite went from 27 to 900 employees in 5 years with 55{f7a32599756963b989bde631f1a44401cc789db6f847c3735c9e8f651be632a4} revenue outside the US #Insights [Click to Tweet]

Steve Johnson: Hi, my name is Steve Johnson and up until December of this year, I was the CRO of Hootsuite. I had a super ride with them for almost five years so it was an awesome time.

Steve Johnson: So essentially, there was no revenue when I started. I was employed 27. I had a team of six when we started and really, it was not pre-revenue. We just started monetizing and we grew 56,000 percent revenue over a period of five years.

Steve Johnson: And it’s so private so I can’t say what those numbers are but it went from 27 employees to just over 900 by the end of December. It’s around the world with 55{f7a32599756963b989bde631f1a44401cc789db6f847c3735c9e8f651be632a4} of the revenue from outside the US.

Steve Johnson: You can have success, really good success and not have it be a culture that’s just awful. We really achieved that.

Steve Johnson: Hootsuite was a great place to work, great balance, all of that. I think that’s probably from a professional perspective. It’s what I’m most proud of.

Leadership 2 with Chris Mahl

Leadership 2 with Chris Mahl


The philosophy of building #businesses upside down #Insights [Click to Tweet]

“If the people at the point of contact are not #successful, the top is irrelevant.” #Insights [Click to Tweet]

Passion for your business: It’s gotta go through your toes, your ears, your nose! #Insights [Click to Tweet]

Chris Mahl: One is: What is belief in the problem you’re solving? The vision that what I’m doing is meaningful and different.  I think back to presentations I saw from Bill Gates 15, 18 years ago, Larry Olsen and in both cases they talked about is it a meaningful problem?  Can we find people that care?

Chris Mahl: One is be brutally honest with yourself. Not enthusiastic, not idealistic but realistic. One is that problem. Two is you got to have passion about it. I mean it’s got through your toes, your ears, your nose- you’ve got to care because there are things that will constantly change about that problem market and you need to know about it. Three is put your big person pants on.

Chris Mahl: I’ll be politically incorrect, these are tough cycles. Building companies is not easy, they’re like having babies. I’ve had both, it truly needs that kind of attention, and care at the right time when it needs it. It’s not a 9 to 5 thing ever, it’s part of what I’m addicted to which is why I keep doing this. The whole idea that there’s this whole opportunity to grow something and because meaningful. I think those will be three things.Then I do this for the entrepreneurs, good for you.

Dave Carvajal: How would you like to be remembered?

Chris Mahl: Well I think I’ll give you two aspects. One is my philosophy of building organizations is really upside down. What I mean by that is if you look at plastic structure somebody is at the top and really it doesn’t matter who is at the top. It’s the people at the point of contact with building the product, partners, clients are not successful the top is irrelevant. That has a lot to do with my philosophy in building people up and empowering them.

Chris Mahl: The stronger they are, the most successful I am. In fact over the years I’ve been able to say pretty succinctly certainly around sales leaders and folks on the revenue side is they’ve always made more money working for me than they had prior.  Pretty much that’s always true.  That helps them.

Chris Mahl: I think the other one is just in the eyes of my daughter, pretty simple. being her best friend. Time stops when I hang out with her, it doesn’t matter. The other thing which is still true when she was little we laughed all the time. So much so that she became a chronic hiccuper and in fact we’d have to stop and do the eye thing and help her stop hiccupping. We’d be laughing two seconds later and the hiccups were back. It’s till true today, it’s bizarre.

Chris Mahl: We laugh non-stop and probably that’s the number one joy, that is and will be the number one joy of my life really.

Challenges 2 with Thilo Semmelbauer

Challenges 2 with Thilo Semmelbauer


Failure is a necessary part of the creative and building process #Insights @ThiloSemm [Click to Tweet]

#Respect, #communication & shared #goals help people to work better together #Insights [Click to Tweet]

Tapping into the diversity of different generations #Insights [Click to Tweet]


Thilo Semmelbauer: I think another failure, kind of on a personal level, I think earlier in my career, I probably was too afraid of failure. I think what was drilled into me in school as an engineering-oriented person and analyst.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I’ve viewed my success as getting to the right answer and not making mistakes. And I think it took me a while in my career to get comfortable with, failures as a necessary part, hopefully, small failures as a necessary part of the creative and building process.

Thilo Semmelbauer: You know, there are stylistic differences and cultural differences across the generation but I think what makes good people in a workplace is largely, I think, has not changed significantly. I would argue, I will argue.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I think simple problems are easy problems in a company can be solved by one person. Hard problems require people to work together.

Thilo Semmelbauer: Well, if they’re going to work with each other successfully, they need to have an ability to respect each other, they need to communicate well and they have to have some shared goals.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I think that is evidently possible and I’ve seen it over and over again across generations. So I put the commonality across generations of people who are effective in a workplace. To me, that is the most important thing.

Thilo Semmelbauer: And yeah, of course, then you’re getting to some of the stylistic differences and it’s common today that you go into a meeting and everybody has some sort of a screen or device in front of them.

Thilo Semmelbauer: 15 years ago, that was considered bad behavior because you could be doing something else instead of paying attention. But today, it’s a way of paying attention. Maybe people are taking notes on their laptops, who knows.

Thilo Semmelbauer: So those things, I think, are more superficial. For me, on the precipice of my 50th birthday, I love working with young people. For me, it’s very energizing.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I remember there was a moment at Shutterstock, I won’t go into the whole story but suffice it to say that we needed to get a hold of some BitCoin. And all of the 40-year olds were looking around the table like, “Uh, I don’t know how to do this.” And of course, the 25-year old that the company wound up producing the account and knew exactly how to navigate that world.

Thilo Semmelbauer: That’s one plus one equals three when you have that diversity around you and you can tap into different generations.

Challenges 1 with Thilo Semmelbauer

Challenges 1 with Thilo Semmelbauer


#Technology that’s ahead of its time, the #learning’s of #failure #Insights @ThiloSemm [Click to Tweet]

Finding out the #true players on your #team with #crisis #management #hurricanesandy #Insights [Click to Tweet]

@Sotheby’s #auction services, how the some #businesses are ahead of their #time @ThiloSemm #Insights [Click to Tweet]

Thilo Semmelbauer: Well, failure is a long topic. I’ve had my fair share of those. I think one category of failures is such interesting to talk about, it happened a couple of times in my career.

Thilo Semmelbauer: Once at Motorola in the 90’s when I launched a product that worked technically but nobody bought it. There’s no market for it, pre-cursor of what came later as smartphones but way too early for its time.

Thilo Semmelbauer: Sometimes you could have a great plan and you can have great people and great execution and you still don’t get any sales.

Thilo Semmelbauer: It happened to me also in ’99 when I was working with Sotheby’s to launch their online auction business. Now, many years later, the stuff is largely working.  But at the time, again, the site, the capabilities were there, the dealers were lined up and the business just wasn’t there, It was timing.

Thilo Semmelbauer: So I think failures of timing are interesting failures. I think that they’re just to be expected. It’s something that I really look out for now and in my recent jobs.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I think we try to be more careful about selecting to be part of things that were the time is right because that’s an important element of success and hard to control, except to select or deselect.

Thilo Semmelbauer: I think other failures have come from external events. I mean, one of the best things that ever happened to Shutterstock was when hurricane Sandy hit. And we were at a downtown office, right by the stock exchange. The office was flooded as what’s most of downtown, everybody knows what happened. And we had to scramble and find other space in midtown and people had makeshift offices in Brooklyn, in New Jersey.

Thilo Semmelbauer: And it was a failure of lack of preparedness at the end of the day because we didn’t anticipate something like that and the tech team was scrambling to put services in the Cloud.

Thilo Semmelbauer: It all worked, we never missed a beat in terms of serving customers and having the website running and even moving our projects forward, but during something like that, you really learn about the people on the team and who gets creative and figures out a way through that hardship and who kind of checks out and doesn’t show up for work.

Thilo Semmelbauer: It’s a very interesting learning experience so I think crisis can actually be very helpful for a company.

Learnings 1 with Chris Mahl

Learnings 1 with Chris Mahl


How to be an attractive leader #culture of #attraction #leadership #development #mentor #Insights [Click to Tweet]

#Executive dialog week after week, builds #businesses quarter after quarter #Insights [Click to Tweet]

#Developing #people = 10{f7a32599756963b989bde631f1a44401cc789db6f847c3735c9e8f651be632a4} #natural, 90{f7a32599756963b989bde631f1a44401cc789db6f847c3735c9e8f651be632a4} acquired #skill #Insights [Click to Tweet]

Chris Mahl: If I look at Informatica, sort of the first you know I was at Oracle for over five and a half years, Informatica was the first true start up.

Chris Mahl: The founders Gaurav and Diaz Nesamoney had really studied the problem they were solving and they had a unique answer, and it was a problem that the market wrestled with in weird ways.  This was the enterprise, analytics, data warehousing which was really nascent at that time. They solved a unique problem which gave us a lot of differentiation.

Chris Mahl: That’s different than sort of the quarter to quarter building the business. There was actually a lesson I learned there that was handed to me and this was really from a guy named Dave Pidwell which he’s retired now, I think he owns half of Hawaii. Guys who used to work for him founded Ariba he’s a tremendous man but he taught us a way to organize ourselves as executives committed to each other and be real time about it, sort of week to week, month to month.

Chris Mahl: It was really simply, at the end of each week we’d share a brief communication to each other around key metrics and needs and asks of each other. So this executive dialogue that went from sales to marketing, product engineering, to finance, to CEO was a very vibrant muscle from the beginning and it’s the lasting lesson I still use.

Chris Mahl: The idea was we got something week to week, month to month so that was actually a lesson that I was taught and got the benefit from in Informatica. I will say that we all have personality types, well lesson learned is what’s your personality type. Ultimately folks have heard the sales background conflicts and everybody’s type but when you’re inside the walls of a company you can be the driver and it should be, you are the number. In a sense to the board, to the public market you’re a number so you want to organize people, and concepts and execution to achieve that number and ultimately making that happen.

Chris Mahl: At Informatica I got a nickname which was brought to me by the sales teams which was The Edge. It’s not because of my remarkable guitar skills, it’s because of the amount of pressure I would bring to people objectively with support. It was a joke they could make to me so that I was approachable but I learned from that a little bit.

Chris Mahl: I used to think about it am I pushing them to the edge to be productive or over the edge where they become unproductive. There’s a real good lesson for everybody, I’d actually say in today’s world a lot of CEOs who have an idea and maybe not a lot of management background to be honest, developing people is a skill. It’s not natural maybe 10{f7a32599756963b989bde631f1a44401cc789db6f847c3735c9e8f651be632a4} of the time and acquired maybe 90{f7a32599756963b989bde631f1a44401cc789db6f847c3735c9e8f651be632a4} of the time in my experience.

Chris Mahl: I can encourage new CEOs, younger CEOs to think about that dynamic and get a mentor. I know we’ll talk about that who might be very good at that sort of really be able to reflect on that for you. We need people to hire to increase productivity, nirvana leading them there where they’re exciting and doing it themselves- brilliance. That’s not that easy at this scale. Being The Edge, have a driver personality, backing them up a little bit and bringing people up the productivity curve, definite valuable lesson.

Success 1 with Thilo Semmelbauer

Success 1 with Thilo Semmelbauer


#Breaking #paradigm shifts with the #availability of #information #Insights [Click to Tweet]

Being an #impactful leader, #creating #people and #products #Insights [Click to Tweet]

Creating #global #jobs, #touching #peoples #lives #Insights @ThiloSemm [Click to Tweet]

Thilo Semmelbauer: Two experiences worth mentioning when I started Weight Watchers online business, there was no revenue. It grew to a peak of about 400 million in revenue with, probably more importantly, millions of users. Many of them satisfied and some of them having had significant life changes, which was very gratifying.

Thilo Semmelbauer: Shutterstock is probably one of the things I’m most proud of in my career and during my time there, it grew from 50 million to 350 million in revenue over the course of five years.

Dave Carvajal: Yeah, and there was an IPO in there as well.

Thilo Semmelbauer: There was an IPO, which was I think a great confirmation for this sort of staying power in the company and the impact that it has on the industry.

Dave Carvajal: Thilo, what is the impact of some of your greatest achievements? What are you most proud of?

Thilo Semmelbauer: Yeah, well I mean, I think at Weight Watchers, the whole brand is around helping people so that’s something I really connected with. I mean, helping people lead healthier lives, lose weight, make personal transformations.

Thilo Semmelbauer: Weight Watchers had been doing that for 40 years but we were trying to bring that into the online experience as well and I think one of the most exciting things that happened after we built and launched the product was seeing people purchase it online. I mean, watching the ticker that people were actually buying what we built.

Thilo Semmelbauer: But, I think that paled in comparison to hearing stories of people months later and over the years that had success with it, with either right in or…

Thilo Semmelbauer: I would meet users, after having millions of users, it was not so hard to people who would just come up to me and say, “Wow, you were involved with Weight Watchers online. It really helped me, I lost 30 pounds. I became healthier. This happened, that happened.” And to hear those stories that people’s lives changed in some way, that made me feel great.

Thilo Semmelbauer: It happened at Shutterstock as well, although in different ways. I mean, even before I got there, the concept behind the Shutterstock subscription offering was very appealing.

Thilo Semmelbauer: But once we blew it out and got a lot more users on the platform and made the product better and improved the content, one woman came up to me who’s a customer who said, “We used Shutterstock so much we’ve turned it into a verb. In office, when we have a creative problem we say, ‘Hey, let’s Shutterstock it.’

Thilo Semmelbauer: And they go on the site and they got lots of ideas. And I had never thought about Shutterstock that way but the fact that it was getting such heavy use and had such appeal for creative people. That was very powerful.

Thilo Semmelbauer: And I think Shutterstock, being a marketplace business, equally powerful where some of the stories on the contributor side. I mean, photographers, videographers all over the world.

Thilo Semmelbauer: One woman, I remember we invited her into the office, who worked from her home in a small town in Siberia halfway around the world selling her images and her illustrations to customers all over the world and she was making a living doing that.

Thilo Semmelbauer: And there’s probably no way she would be able to pursue that passion without Shutterstock, so again, maybe small ways but important ways of touching people’s lives. I mean, that’s exciting.