How 4 Austin Companies Navigate Growth While Scaling

by Janey Zitomer
November 8, 2019

We’ve all been blindsided by an “out of business” sign hanging from the door of our favorite bakery or bookstore. Did people just stop ordering the famous carrot cake? Often, it’s more complicated than that. While brick-and-mortar businesses do pull the plug for reasons like lack of consumer demand, adequately preparing to scale is crucial for any company, tech or otherwise. 

We caught up with four tech leaders whose companies are in the midst of incredible growth spurts. They told us how they are preparing to take their organizations to the next level and what lessons are most important to remember as you ramp. 

 

Rigup meeting
rigup

Energy is a luxury we certainly take for granted, especially in a world where more devices are battery-operated than cord-dependent. Just think about the last time your electricity went out. What are you supposed to do, read by candlelight?

RigUp, a service marketplace for the energy industry, understands the importance of powering the world, specifically using technology-driven, green solutions. Head of Talent Dan Adamson shared how the company has stayed focused on their main mission despite tripling in size (yes, you heard that right) in the last 12 months.  

 

What's an example of a growing pain you experienced as the company scaled? 

RigUp has tripled in size over the last year. We have also ventured into new verticals. While these times are extremely exciting, they also pose unique challenges. As we’ve grown at such a rapid pace, our talent infrastructure wasn’t necessarily equipped to mirror that same velocity. We’ve implemented systems, tools and strategies that support our hyper-scale. We’ve also hired the right teams to roll out those initiatives. But that’s all part of the fun of joining a high-growth tech company, right?! 

As it pertains to new verticals, we’ve identified opportunity with virtually limitless upside. We continue to lean heavily on our executive team and hire externally to bring market experts to the table in order to keep our strategy focused. 

As it pertains to new verticals, we’ve identified opportunity with virtually limitless upside.’’ 

 

What were the most important lessons learned during that period of scale?

With our most recent round of funding, this level of growth is only expected to continue. A RigUp core value is to “always be growing” and that’s how I think about our current team at RigUp. We’ve put a ton of work into the foundational pieces that will enable ongoing success, but there’s still plenty to do. I’m extremely proud of everyone for getting us to this point in our journey and I can’t wait to see where we go. 

 

Signpost team
signpost

A foundation of support is necessary for success, especially in business. Will Foster, vice president of customer success and business operations at Signpost, told us how the team behind the smart CRM constantly evaluates their office-wide culture and mentorship opportunities to facilitate growth. 

 

What's an example of a growing pain you experienced as the company scaled? 

I have been with Signpost since our Series A funding, and one of the biggest challenges of scaling is replicating your successes over and over again, especially as your team grows. For Signpost, that has meant investing in our training programs and making sure that every person we hire has the opportunity to learn their role and be successful quickly. In my time here, I have seen our training program transform to become a strength and a key to our success. 

Scaling effectively requires strong managers and a strong culture.’’ 

 

What were the most important lessons learned during that period of scale?

Scaling effectively requires strong managers and a strong culture. This may sound obvious, but as the company grows, having a strong management team that can coach your new team members and help to develop the next group of leaders in your organization becomes critical to success. Beyond managers helping to guide your growing team, a strong, winning culture will set the tone from day one.

 

Adia outing
Adia

A popular spot or great deal in New York is very possibly not a popular spot or great deal in California. This is a lesson that Adia’s sales department has learned on the job as the gig economy marketplace has grown and expanded both nationally and internationally. Uri Barasch, head of the U.S. team, told us more about what opening new markets looks like during a high-stakes period. 

 

What's an example of a growing pain you experienced as the company scaled? 

We’ve experienced tremendous growth since launching in the U.S. about a year-and-a-half ago. And we anticipate exponential growth over the next several years as we continue to open key markets across the country. While growth is certainly positive, launching new markets is a learning curve for everyone in the business, sales in particular. 

Determining which sales drivers work in specific markets and which objections are most common in new markets can be a challenge for employees who are used to seeing results on a daily basis. To address this, we are investing significant time and resources into coaching and enabling our sales team as we further scale. Prioritizing this upfront not only ensures better success for the business but also a better experience for our sales team and our users.

With each new market opening, we’ve learned just how important it is to conduct thorough research...’’ 

 

What were the most important lessons learned during that period of scale?

With each new market opening, we’ve learned just how important it is to conduct thorough research and apply insights in a quick and agile way. As we continue improving and adjusting our product, marketing campaigns and value propositions, the most important focus is enabling our sales team to address specific areas of opportunity within a market and/or industry. They can then instantly relay their feedback to enhance our product development and marketing strategies.

 

Smarter Sorting employees
Smarter Sorting

What do retailers do with unsold items that have a limited shelf-life at the end of the day? Before Smarter Sorting, we’re not sure. The company’s machine learning database allows merchants to access state waste classification information, see individual item disposal costs and savings and make better decisions about returns. 

Below, Chief Product Officer and Co-Founder Charlie Vallely explains how a recent partnership has changed the way the team operates and what that means for the business going forward. 

 

What's an example of a growing pain you experienced as the company scaled? 

The trickiest thing about scaling is being beholden to promises that you may not be able to control, especially when it comes to timeline expectations. In our case, we ran into a situation where we had a large trajectory change because we landed a partnership with one of the largest retail corporations. As a startup, you need to be nimble. 

On one hand, you have to be frugal. But on the other hand, you have to sprint forward at a giant opportunity. Large corporations have differing expectations of timelines than a scrappy startup. Part of being a startup means your timelines can shift and quickly, which can be paralyzing. Smarter Sorting had to figure out how to build the product we wanted and how to build and hire the team we wanted and needed, while also being lean with our resources. This meant making sure we had three dozen “plan b's.” 

As a startup, you need to be nimble.’’

 

What were the most important lessons learned during that period of scale?

To find incremental wins and celebrate them with the customer. We had a rare opportunity to sell a grand vision to a partner. Selling a grand vision without communicating the roadmap efficiently puts the goal post too far away. Placing smaller goal posts along the way allows you to better measure expectations fairly. As we continue to work with our retail partners, breaking down our deliverables into digestible chunks is the best lesson learned. 

 

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