Tom Bachant 0:01
Just kind of a win win for that company that can now have a great support tool, but also has like really passionate users who are like able to connect with them directly.
Taylor Kenerson 0:10
Welcome to the Hyperengage Podcast. We are so happy to have you along our journey. Here, we uncover bits of knowledge from some of the greatest minds in tech. We unearth hows, whys and whats that drive the tech of today. Welcome to the movement.
Adil Saleh 0:29
Hey, greetings, everybody. This is Adil from Hyperengage podcast. And today in our episode, we’ve got Tom who’s the co founder and CEO of unthread. Prior to that he was the founder of Dashride. It’s more in the trucking and transportation industry. We’ll learn more about how it got acquired by cruise later on. And now he is started up his own startup co founder with other team members being a technical co founder and CEO. On thread, which is more of a native slack platform for its status as an inbox for Customer Success teams more works towards opposes journey. Thank you very much, Tom for taking the time. Hey, yeah, thanks for having me. That that. So Tom, looking at your private background, you have co founded a lot of tech platforms in a range of different niches, like industries, you talking about transportation, talking about some, you know, platforms that you’ve worked on Legendary will like cruise. And then you had ever space, you also co founded a you founded the platform, the chief executive officer as well, for good two years. And then more recently, you, your co founder, unthread. That is, for slightly a different tech, more in the tech space is where to see us hybrid CS teams. So walk us through your journey all together to pass I would say all together 10 years. Photography by
Tom Bachant 1:55
Sure. Yeah, I guess the common theme is just building software that people want to use. That’s the thing that gets me really excited. So yeah, as you mentioned, very different industries working in like the transportation space. I’ve worked briefly in like the HR tech space, and now focus really heavily on customer success and customer support. Yeah, ultimately, for me, I just get a lot of excitement out of building great software that makes people’s lives better. So the way I originally got started with Dashride, we actually started building a ride sharing platform for college students, back in 2011, I want to say is when we got started, so pretty early in the rideshare game, but me and my co founder were students at UConn, and it was just terrible to get around. And so we built this platform so students could offer to drive other students on the app and exchange for like a donation, we called it to get around some legal issues. And that was really great. We got a lot of great users for that platform, and eventually pivoted that into a b2b model, when we said that like okay, ride sharing is a thing. And all these existing taxi companies, a limo companies need software to, you know, efficiently move people around and actually, like offer on demand services. So that’s the dashboard was we helped, you know, a few 100 large transportation companies. Yeah, give people easy rides around. So we ran that for about five years, based on in New York. And towards the tail end, we started talking to AV companies, basically helping them to, you know, do all the dispatching and the the kind of like, automated logistics that comes with the, you know, during transportation like that, letting them focus on the actual hard part, which is like making a car drive itself, we would do the dispatching which is relatively speaking, an easier problem to solve. And, yeah, as we were having those conversations, we were talking to crews, and after, you know, kind of like a partnership conversation, they decided they wanted to acquire us and have us, you know, go in house to build some as technology.
Adil Saleh 3:59
love that. I still remember some of the stories came up from that time 2010 slash 11. From New York City, as well as from San Francisco where they’re two different worlds going on at their time, Briscoe was more of a tech startups more on the b2b side, at that firewalling pretty big sales force was also being the joint there. And then New York City more towards the consumer side, they had like big enterprise working towards the consumer tech. So at that plane, sitting in New York City, working around these different industry, what was your thought process? Like what kind of in terms of partnerships like you, you kind of, you know, kind of group into people that are look like interest and look like motivation and you know, they’re kind of dig or building something new. What kind of network that you had back then. And in New York, specifically, yes. In New York City. Yes.
Tom Bachant 4:53
Yeah. So we went through an accelerator program when we first moved to New York in 2014 who went through era; entrepreneurs roundtable accelerator, which connected us to like a really great network of people in New York. And yeah, I think there’s a broader range of industries here in New York. But in the tech scene specifically, yeah, we met a lot of great like b2b SaaS founders, a lot of great like fin tech founders. I think the tech scene in New York is equally diverse. Like there’s a bunch of different types of companies being built. But we definitely found a great network of also, like b2b SaaS founders who are building like, really solid, like lasting businesses. Yeah, I think what I saw when I was living in San Francisco is more like, high risk, high reward, I guess, type businesses and in New York is a lot more like solid fundamentals foundational, like, we’re gonna like become profitable type businesses. That was interesting to see that kind of distinction. But yeah, I mean, definitely, like smart, smart people everywhere. But New York, definitely. Yeah. Great, great SAS team.
Adil Saleh 5:57
Wonderful, wonderful. So now, I was thinking about unfair. And, you know, you started back a few months back, it’s just been a year into a business. So what kind of, you know what led you to build some startups like this, we’ve we’ve had a lot of big sets in CST and more the tektites not so much height, as you know, serving in a small to midsize customer base and that segment, they have integration in size, their Salesforce, you know, having their push notification onto the slack, having, you know, some sort of custom objects that feed information into the slack. So how did you find this, this market gap? I would say addressable gap, is why we’re building this platform.
Tom Bachant 6:43
Yeah, definitely. So after my time, at Cruise, I left to start a platform called Everyspace, which was kind of in the HR tech space, it was about like employee engagement and internal communication, and starting the SAS company in you know, 2021 versus when we started, Dash, right, in 2013, or whatever. Things were a little bit different. Like, we tried to set up the typical stack, like you said, intercom and a little inapt chat widget and you know, set up your email support that way. What we found was that the way people wanted to talk to us was totally different than the last time we were running a SaaS company, our customers kept adding us to these shared Slack channels via slack connect. And you know, we had our intercom widget, we had our email support, but no one would touch those things. It just kept DMing us on slack to send us bug reports or feature requests or to talk to us through there. And we just didn’t have the infrastructure to deal with this. Like, you can’t deal with like dozens or sometimes hundreds of Slack channels that are just, you know, customer issue after customer issue. Like you need a good way to manage that. And we couldn’t find a tool for that. So we tried to hack something together ourselves just to like, solve this problem. And what we found was like, you know, we weren’t alone in this, like, there are tons of companies out there like this just a growing trend of companies wanting to talk over slack instead of email. And so you know, that theme of just like building things that have a big impact, we found that this can really solve a big problem for people. And so yeah, it was about about six months ago, we went through the Y Combinator accelerator, with every space, we realized this new problem, we talked to a ton of customers like YC was great for that. So many other b2b SaaS companies who are experiencing this problem. And yeah, officially launched unthread out of yc. And, yeah, overall, like, it’s been just like a totally different story from the old SAS company to now like, we were just like solving a really key pain point for people. And yeah, just the tool that people use every day. So yeah, as I mentioned before, that’s what really gets me excited. So it’s been really fun to see a tool that just like people get really passionate about and that they’re like, it really has a big impact on our workflow.
Adil Saleh 8:48
Very interesting. Love that. So talking about like, I’ve seen your packages, well, you’re more towards startup to small business kind of technology to incorporate into the process. Like you might have also learned throughout this one and a half, two years in the past, investments are not that easy of a deal. For startups, they’re finding it really hard to get the growth map metrics, real growth metrics to investors and pitch deck to be able to get the desired, you know, fund. And that way, they are trying to do more with less, they’re trying to make sure they they have facilitated their team as well as they manage the bandwidth, they optimize the cost to be able to run the business. So when it comes to platforms like unthread, you know, trying to place into a startup. Let’s say start at sitting at servizi Max see too soon. So how do you think I’m tread can be placed Incorporated, and replaces some of the next step to be able to optimize this class because they don’t want another tooth on top of their CRM on top of the existing free slack account that they use for a bank. to 15 people. So how do you see this problem?
Tom Bachant 10:04
Yeah, I think you’re right, like the bar for adopting SaaS is a lot higher, people do not want to adopt another dashboard and other separate tool. But for us, this actually works in our favor. So when you have something like a Zendesk or an intercom, you have this now separate dashboard where your team is going to like give a support request, but they’re living in Slack every single day. And the more important part is your customers have now moved to start talking to you in Slack. And so you’re trying to do as much of your workflow in the slack app as possible, it’s becoming the sort of like operating system for the business, instead of going your email client for some emails, go into Slack, go into intercom go to Zendesk, you’re now staying inside of Slack. So one of the benefits for us that we’ve seen is actually like presenting this as a reduction in the number of different dashboards need to check, our app is fully slack native. So we create an inbox view inside of your Slack account that tracks all of your open tickets and conversations. And so from that standpoint, like you’re totally right, we want to present this as like, we’re going to simplify your workflow. And now those things that used to have to leave slack and you know, copy and paste links to different dashboards, we’re going to do this in one place. And we’ve seen a lot of great feedback on that.
Adil Saleh 11:13
Love that. So you’re trying to organize inside Slack, all of these hybrid tasks that they need that need action, from respective teams, are these specifically for success teams? Or does this work for the GTM team to revenue teams as
Tom Bachant 11:27
well? Yes, we focus on customer success and customer support. Now, because we know this is the biggest pain point that people feel. It’s you know, you’re juggling, you know, again, like hundreds of Slack channels, messages are being lost customers are having a bad experience, if you like forget to respond to them. And so that that need is like really pressing, we are looking to expand to definitely like, sales teams like closing deals via slack is now a thing that is happening. That wasn’t happening like two years ago, as well as like internal workflows. So even for internal channels, where you have someone who’s like kind of reaching out a channel asking for help with something, you don’t want that request to be lost. And that’s we can do the same thing. But yeah, definitely our target market right now we’re focused on success teams, really solving this pain point that they feel right away. But there’s a lot of exciting other opportunities, as we think about like companies, again, just moving more and more workflows, out of email, out of tickets, and just into your your day to day slack.
Adil Saleh 12:23
Flow. Exactly. So because we were talking about this a lot, like there’s there lots of motions going on. But the biggest motion for the next three to five years, what I see I can be wrong, is moving from plg product led growth to community led growth. You know, a lot of these open source platforms like to there’s one that came last week as well, API navigation platform. So they don’t have support. They don’t use intercom. They don’t use cap scale. They use HubSpot. They have their community, their customers sitting inside Slack. They have very much close knit community, they ask questions that share the feedback they trade, their support team is sitting on Slack, answering their questions. So it works. I know that it works more for open source tools. But you know, more and more of these startups they are instead of investing too much, and three other tools, the CRM and all of that. They have one data, customer information stored in one place, and they use Slack for all the you know, support exchange, you know, community building, you know, maybe sharing stories and getting people the right information. But the sports surveys test growing, they’re there, they’re growing with their goals, evolving with their goals, that is a part of success. So how do you see that like community led growth? How do you do you see that from that angle, you know, while incorporating a tool like unthread, or building a tool, or maybe shaping the product that way?
Tom Bachant 13:43
Yeah, so I totally agree, like community led growth is a real thing. And it’s definitely growing a lot in popularity. We have an example of one of our customers that I can think of right now, elementary data, they’re an open source tool, but they’re also I think, a seed or series, a stage company, where they do all of their support through a public Slack channel, anyone can come in and ask a question. And what we’ve seen is like, progression of like team members starting to answer questions to start with, like, you’re gonna be there to like, feel the support questions. But then eventually, you build enough community and people start to help each other and it becomes this kind of like, self, you know, like efficient flywheel of support. And that’s been really cool to see. Like, when people are passionate about a project, they’ll jump in and try to help each other out. And yeah, all this is happening through slack. Those people who are asking those questions, they use Slack in their day job day to day, so it’s easy for them to just like hop into this slack account to ask their questions. Whereas the old way of like going to different like forums and these different dashboards, like people just don’t feel compelled to do that. It’s too much of a distraction. So Slack has the benefit of like being easy to use for people who already use it every day, but also being able to like create a sense of community and yeah, let people help each other let people see like what are other people building with this tool and and it’s just kind of a win win for that company that can now have a great support tool, but also has like really passionate users who are like, able to connect with them directly?
Adil Saleh 15:08
Absolutely, absolutely. We are also working on a b2b product for Customer Success teams more of a data analytics platform. And we this is one thing that we have done day one, like we need to build a close up community inside Slack, where people can share information that you can they have in your communication, where they can help them, you know, grouping all these texts, TechStars founders by secret partners, and then these accelerators, and we see the GTM funds, printing them and you know, making sort of a community that contributes, you know, in terms of anything, you know, that the startup needs. So that’s where this harboring a podcast is because has been the biggest support hub for startups to now talking about GTM, you’ve been there a few months, getting out of Y Combinator, but you’re looking at what kind of funds you have in the pocket in the back pocket? How do you see financially like on the commercial side, while while acquiring more customers, you will need more team better team better systems to retain those customers, you know, the dollar retention, that revenue and retention, all of that part? So how do you see it from commercial and from business standpoint?
Tom Bachant 16:15
Yeah. So well, from a funding standpoint, we have some unannounced funding that we’ll hopefully be able to announce soon, that’ll be really exciting. But from a commercial standpoint, I mean, from our perspective, like, we’ve been making money from day one, all of our customers be brought on or, or paid customers. And we do that on purpose to like, validate the idea. So we’ve been fortunate enough to have customers who have felt this problem strongly enough that they’ve paid us to work with us as we build a solution out for them. And I really believe in that, that methodology, because you have customers who are like really invested in your success, you have the ability to work really closely with them on the right solution. And it validates the idea, like if you build something that people say they want, but they don’t actually pay for it, you don’t have any business there. So we’ve been really fortunate to find a bunch of great partners who wanted to work with us and pay us as we build the solution out. And yeah, going forward, like we start with some small companies to, you know, maybe fit a certain niche that we’re targeting, and we start to expand out from there. So for us, like going through YC, that was a great place to find our initial customers. And from there, you’re gonna find a wide variety of companies, right, like from pre seed to, you know, IPO to companies. And that’s been really helpful for us like using this network or talking to as many people as we can to figure out like, okay, within this broad swath of companies that we can pursue, which segment do we find is experiencing this pain point the most, and then just targeting that really heavily, trying to get as many paid pilots as possible with those customers, as we build up the product? So yeah, that’s been been our approach. And yeah, just kind of like picking that segment that works really well. And starting to expand once we feel that we’ve like, got the resources to do so.
Adil Saleh 17:57
Interesting, very interesting. I like the fact that you keep things very, very simple. You have already a customer, you just wait handed over to product and see what, for what customer it works best. So we can scale. So that’s when you will get the product market fit. Now, you got the investment, you’ve got pretty much laid out simplified plan, of course, there’s going to be challenges, there’s going to be maybe some product a question based on the feedback that you would have. So do you have bandwidth on the back office like technical team? And of course, the customer facing team? How did you plan that out?
Tom Bachant 18:30
Yeah, so it’s been just me and my co founder for a while. We’re both technical people. So my co founder more so the knees Absolutely. Just like an incredible engineer, me I’m like an ok engineer, I can build some stuff. I can build the basics. And so for us, we’ve been pretty fortunate that we haven’t been kind of like bottlenecked. With our technical skills. I think that is definitely really challenging for a lot of teams. The ability to like iterate really quickly, you know, Jake, my co founder and I, we see a customer issue or a customer request, and we can just brainstorm, get a solution going like that day. And it can be really challenging. If you’re like outsourcing your development to some other team, you know, outside of the country somewhere, or you have Yeah, just like a dev shop, building your product for you. It’s gonna be really hard to iterate at the speed that you need to iterate. Like, sometimes we’ll build something, we’ll find out. It didn’t work, and we’ll change it like that day. We’ll like ship it. Absolutely. That changes the way things work. So
Adil Saleh 19:26
let’s try like, you know, these. That’s why these YC people like I was, I was here listening to Michael Seibel like he was so preaching that, you know, we vouch, and we basically bet on teams that are more technical, because we know that, you know, there’s going to be iteration and they will be the folks that will do it in quick succession. So that’s important, and that that falls in their interest too.
Tom Bachant 19:49
Yeah, and I think YC we definitely saw that with the other founders that we work with. And for anyone who’s like looking to apply to YC like, yeah, absolutely. I think that that’s what we’re here to. It’s just like the index so heavily on builders, people who, who can put stuff together because, yeah, let’s say you’ve shipped something, and it’s not what the customer wants, like, you can’t wait two weeks for like a sprint cycle to change. Like, you just gotta change it that day, if you’re gonna hack some shitty code together, like hack that code, like, you know, you got to do whatever it takes.
Adil Saleh 20:19
Absolutely, absolutely. So on the commercial standpoint, you said that, you know, you’re you had the funding that will help you marketing in the in the right position, like Mark, positioning the product, and then scaling it, penetrating it across those. So how these, like just talking about you, you build you guys build a product? So selling now, we haven’t have haven’t had it over to a lot of people’s right now. So you don’t know what exactly is going to play out? So thinking on your foresight. I mean, I’m thinking that there’s there’s, there’s startups that are willing to invest in these tools, there are some SMBs that have random other tools, and they have for one segment they can use for a product like unthread. So how do you see it penetrating and breaking out big into one segment? If we just talk about one segment? Is that startup is that SMB that market? Is that enterprise? Who knows?
Tom Bachant 21:11
Yeah, no, totally. It’s like, we’re thinking about the short term today, like, who does this product, you know, solve problem store, like right now? And it’s like desperate for the solution? And then what does that mean? Like going forward, like a year from now? Like, is that customer going to be the same? And the answer is, so yeah, right now, the people who feel this the strongest, and you can like move forward by our product in a day and just like sign up and start using it giving us feedback. Giving us revenue, like that, for sure is more on like the SMBs. You know, series A Series B companies is like where we really find a sweet spot right now. But that means like, while we’re doing that, we’re thinking about, like, what’s the next segment, the next segment is definitely to go off market to mid market companies, and from there go up to enterprise. And so these, you know, smaller companies have been a great kind of jumping off point to see, okay, we can sell this slack connect specific pain point. But what else are they unhappy about with their stack, and like, definitely, these teams are looking to move off of intercom to move off of Zendesk and kind of to your point earlier, like, reduce the amount of like cognitive load of having too many dashboards for different things. And so when we think about like, going forward, we see that same problem exist in the mid market and in the enterprise. So we are investing heavily in building out parts of our product that are going to be this holistic, like all encompassing customer support solution. So one example is, we just launched email base support that you can do inside of Slack. So instead of your support email address, that will forward to a Slack channel, use our app under the hood to assign it to the right person escalate messages, prioritize, have internal discussions with you do their response from slack and have it go out back out to the customer via email, same for like in app chat, and all these features are gonna be necessary when we eventually, you know, become the all in one support solution for a larger company. You know, we’re building stuff kind of piece by piece, while still getting good feedback, or initial slack based products from from these early customers.
Adil Saleh 23:07
Hmm, that’s nice. That’s, that’s, that’s nice. So you’re already thinking about, you know, making sure you the you work with their work. And you’re trying to integrate as many their use cases inside Slack and video platform
Tom Bachant 23:23
like a land and expand strategy now.
Adil Saleh 23:25
Yes, try, So now. Yes. So now talking about scalability. You know, you have on one side, you have this product, as of now, customer is getting pretty smoothly, how do you want this operation, this post sales operation to be as seamless and scalable at the same time, when it comes to, you know, increasing the lifetime value of the customer, you know, making startups being small business growing with them. You know, just like saying what happened with notion. I’m using notion for the last three years for all my team, I know that they are going us you know, in a year or two, they’ll pick us and have sort of a customer success manager, having kid instead of QB ours down the road. So they’re trying to increase their install base, increasing the lifetime value of their install base, and then making them startup making small business small to mid market mid market enterprise. So that’s, you can call itself for model how you’re working towards it.
Tom Bachant 24:18
Yeah, I think that there. Yeah, they take a similar approach, right? Like they get in with a company, they solve some problems for some team at the organization, other teams start to adopt it over time, like Slack took the same approach. You know, this is like the definition of product lead growth, like a couple of people sign up for slack to make it easier to communicate, and then they eventually move up and take over the whole company. Yeah, we’ve seen that model work really well. And for us, the model works well for us too. So we think about support and success as that first segment that like gets a lot of value out of the product. We’ve also seen teams adopted, but as you mentioned, for sales, so doing like, you know, sort of like pre closed conversations with with like, Yeah, you’re gonna see far higher response rates and engagement with Slack messages that you send to a to a prospective customer and a Slack connect channel versus an email in there, you know, straight other emails.
**Adil Saleh 25:**11 You talking about STRS. You talking about
Tom Bachant 25:14
STRS? That, definitely
Adil Saleh 25:17
that are reachingout doing outreach to instead of using email. I mean, I want to hear about these experiences. It’s a unique, you know, I never I never, I never, I cannot imagine an SCR reaching out and getting people instead slack and trying to have a communication over slack. I cannot imagine. So how does that play out?
Tom Bachant 25:34
Yeah, well, I’d say there’s less like prospecting less cold outreach via slack like that doesn’t make as much sense. But once a lead has been qualified, you’ve like, let’s say you’ve done a demo with them. And they’re a great account for you, they’re a great fit, there’s an interest in both sides. At that point, if you can convince this customer to open a Slack connect channel with you, your odds of closing them are far higher your messages to them, like get to them via slack versus your competitors messages that are coming to them via email, your message, you’re gonna fire far higher engagement rate and your close rate is going to be higher. So yeah, that’s something is really exciting for us. Like, we do want to move more into that space. Yeah, right. Now we’re solving this for customer success, and then expanding to the revenue themes.
Adil Saleh 26:15
So it works on top of your Pooky rose, like product qualified leads, you got to make sure that you have like, once or like first touch point, having them showcase with the product and all of that to cases, maybe going not even the product, maybe having a presentation or short like that is small to mid market customer with a high dollar value on the complex side. So you can get your account executive, have a presentation about 30 minute meeting and pass them out for slack and conversation later on. To see how we can integrate.
Tom Bachant 26:46
You have a shared channel to share resources between the two companies, you can DM your champion at the other side inside of slack, instead of sending an email, you can just collaborate a lot more quickly. And yeah, we’ve seen We’ve done that ourselves, we see our customers doing that it’s definitely this thing that people are starting to do. And I don’t see it stopping anytime soon,
Adil Saleh 27:04
we’ll definitely our product is pretty much in the stead of three months, download up for the launch. And this is the first thing I’ve got to make notes after this meeting type of information,
Tom Bachant 27:15
or a tool to help manage it. You’re talking to the right guy.
Adil Saleh 27:19
Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. So great. So now, you talk about this there two people. Of course, once you get the fun, you need to expand your team, what kind of roles in the person looking at?
Tom Bachant 27:32
Yeah, so for us, I mean, any company around our stage seed stage company, there’s two different sides, there’s the idea of growing the revenue. So bringing on SDRs, building up the sales side of the organization, for sure is gonna be really important, filling up our funnel, being able to like do like, expand the amount of outreach we can do and get more customers on board. And then on the engineering side, right, being able to build the product execute on the vision that we have, and that we’re selling to people. And then people are really excited about we need more, you know, firepower here writing code to to build it out. So I mean, those two sides for a company of our stage, it’s it’s pretty straightforward, yet SDRs and engineers, and then someone who can help us run our Customer Success Program is also really important. And again, to your point earlier, build community around that. So we have a great, you know, batch of customers who are really passionate about customer success, and we want to encourage that help people share resources, and use as an opportunity to like build, you know, passionate, untrained users where, you know, we’re sharing best practices, you know, and people can just help each other out.
Adil Saleh 28:36
Hmm, Cool. Cool. Tom, it was really amazing conversation today. I’m sure that folks listening they will definitely, you know, listen to this episode and figure out how you know, they can they can reach you out on LinkedIn, it’s, it’s Tom from unthread. You can find it there to folks that are working right now. They’re still trying to grow the team in the near future once they get done with the funding. So I really appreciate your time. You know, Tom, for this conversation.
Tom Bachant 29:05
Yeah. Thanks for the fun. All right, you too. Bye.
Adil Saleh 29:10
Have a good rest of the day.
Thank you so very much for staying with us on the episode, please share your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org
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