We’ve reached the halfway point of the 5-part series in Patrick O’Shaughnessy’s Founder’s Field Guide podcast that features a conversation with Evan Reiser, Abnormal’s CEO and Co-founder. In Episode 3, Patrick and Evan talk about the enterprise go-to-market motion for Abnormal and how that influenced the selection of Azure as a cloud platform.
Listen to Evan’s segment in Episode 3 here:
As before, we’ve included a transcript of Evan’s segment below:
This episode was brought to you by Microsoft for Startups. Microsoft for Startups is a global program dedicated to helping enterprise-ready B2B startups successfully scale their companies. In our five part mini series we are talking to Evan Reiser, CEO of Abnormal Security, about his experience with Microsoft for Startups. In this week’s episode with Evan we talk about technology shifts and picking a cloud provider.
Can you say just a bit more about enterprise distribution? Many founders underestimate the difficulty of distribution, especially at the enterprise level, and tend to focus on product first and foremost, which maybe they should be doing, but the ability to distribute through enterprise becomes really important for companies like yours quickly. Just say a bit more about that experience, what it’s like and why you think a cloud provider, which is counter-intuitive, I bet most founders aren’t thinking that way, why a cloud provider might consider this as part of their decision?
So I do think a lot of entrepreneurs think about cloud infrastructure as a technology decision, but there’s three things that drove our decision. And to set the stage, we have a product that works really well, better than all of our peers. We have customers that really had that problem. So for us, the biggest existential risk at the company is the product distribution. How do we go to market before competitors do? Before attackers get to the customers before us and end up stealing money.
For us, a big business decision was around how do we accelerate our go to market? So there’s three things that Microsoft was able to provide as part of that Microsoft Platform that enabled us to do that better. One is the Azure marketplace, that enables customers to procure a solution directly from Microsoft that saves us months in sales and allows customers to buy directly on existing Microsoft contracts in paper, which helps them in their own procurement processes. So that shaves off months. The ability to deploy the product instantly through the Microsoft API, one click deployment of an Azure application, allows customers to see value super quickly.
So you’re able to take the traditional 12 months sales cycle for enterprise sales and compress that down to show value within days opposed to quarters, and then enable customers to purchase very quickly through things like the Azure marketplace. Then the final thing, which I mentioned earlier, was the ability to go to market together with Microsoft and taking part of this Azure co-sale program to basically enable our customers to more easily discover us and more easily integrate and evaluate our product to make sure it’s actually solving their problems.
Would it be fair to categorize that from the customer’s perspective, from your end customer’s prospective, almost like an App store for enterprises via Microsoft? Or am I stretching the analogy there?
So in some ways that’s what the Azure marketplace is. Enterprises can go there and they can look for different solutions, all of these solutions are natively built into the Microsoft ecosystem. So in some ways it is a bit of an app store and I’m less familiar with that product overall, but I imagine that it’d be reasonable for our customers to think of it that way. And generally, the Microsoft ecosystem is an app store where it’s directly from the website, we’re talking to the Microsoft sellers. A lot of CIOs have direct relationships with their Microsoft account executives, and they rely on these people to help them identify up-and-coming innovation and ultimately help them solve their problems across the business.
What has it been like working with Microsoft for Startups? What has that relationship felt like for you personally and what have been the interesting aspects of how you’ve worked with them to reach customers?
I think a lot of entrepreneurs think about these startup programs as, “Hey, you just get some credits and then you’re good to go.” So thankfully Microsoft for Startups does offer credits to enable you to test out and build on the infrastructure, so that was expected. I think what was less expected is the commitment that the Microsoft Team had to helping ensure our ultimate go-to-market success or working with us to build that go-to-market plan, help us identify what are the key industries, what are the key buying personas, and what is the right way for us to message the product to help customers best understand. I think that was surprising benefit and we just launched our Microsoft partnership last week and I think in that first week we were able to take place in the Microsoft Sales Planning conference and we set up about 20 meetings with Microsoft Account teams to talk about how we can work together to bring our product to various Fortune 500 customers.
So that’s a pretty amazing thing, right? And if we were going to try to do that all by ourselves that would take us months of time and potentially millions of dollars rather than a couple weeks.
As a reference to this chicken or egg type problem that I think younger startups have selling into enterprises where the enterprise is already huge — they’re going to buy from someone that they trust that they think will stick around. Just talk through that thinking a little bit, that it’s so hard to break into these bigger organizations typically and how the Microsoft partnership has maybe altered that.
I think it’s really challenging to be a IT executive. You have 1000 companies calling on you and trying to tell you why they’re a great solution, and some of them are great and some of them are fly by night startups that enterprises probably don’t like to do business with. So if you’re a customer you turn to people like Microsoft to help you identify who are the most innovative companies, what are those innovative solutions, and what of those solutions will integrate nicely into my existing Microsoft stack. People want to get more and more out of their investment in the Microsoft platform.
So being able to work with Microsoft Sales team and go-to-market together to talk to customers about how we can solve their problems, that is a competitive advantage that you wouldn’t otherwise have without this type of partnership.
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