Adil Saleh 0:04
Hey, greetings, everybody Its Adil from the Hyperengage podcast. My Co host Taylor Kenerson very special guest Emily Wang. Let me tell you a bit about Emily. Like she started up, you know as as as Founding back in 2014, finding a platform that is more of an app then she transitioned herself into coming into the product management journey that worked at platforms as as intercom, spoke. Now currently, she is the CEO at Bento, which is a hybrid onboarding platform for more towards GTM teams. They're doing it real differently than most platforms that we spoken on the stage. So thank you very much, Emily, for, for taking the time.
Emily Wang 0:46
Yeah, happy to be here.
Taylor Kenerson 0:48
So excited for this one. Emily, you have to dive into this before we go into Bento. So you did you started a company before Bento and I would love to dive into a little bit maybe what were some of those lessons and key takeaways and your experience founding a company and then deciding that, you know, it wasn't going in the right direction and actually stopping that venture and then kind of going into these different product roles to then spurn to bento? So can you touch on like that that little journey there from when you first founded a company to then you moved into product roles, and then you began another company?
Emily Wang 1:26
Yeah, so you're talking about Vinoba leave, which I don't think a lot of people know about. The Vinobly was a personalised wine recommendation app. So number one, it's in the consumer space. And number two, it's about wine, which could not be more different than what we're working on now. But fun fact, I used to be a competitive wine taster, which is a whole nother world. And that's sort of the personal interest in the whitespace. But I started denoble, in my second year of business school. So in many ways, it really did start as a project I had this amazing professor that I was working with, who also was very passionate about wine. And so you know, it was really to kind of this, this side project. And as I was thinking about graduating, I thought, you know, if I go into the whole recruiting circus, I'm going to come out of business school and like a nice cushy, corporate job. And while I could just kind of see the rest of my life played out, and I thought, you know, like, if I'm not going to do something, a little out of character now, when and why. And I think what's touched on this throughout the conversation, but I think as a founder time and again, as you know, you just confront your own beliefs of what you can and can't do. And I think the real difference is just putting one foot in front of the next and finding out, as opposed to pre determining what that looks like. We know we had all sorts of issues. First of all, we wanted to offer not just wine recommendations, but only the wines that were available in your local store. So we use geolocation on your phone to map you to your nearest Whole Foods or Trader Joe's, and originally thought, oh, we'll just plug into the inventory systems of the stores. And we'll know what the winds are. Turns out back in 2014, a lot of grocery stores, you know, are printing out their inventory on paper, you're like, Sure, I can show you where one. And so I end up having like an army of interns going into these stores literally doing inventory. It was absurd. And then we also tried to like map the floor plans, you know, wanted to create this wonderful end user experience where operationally was just not happening. And so yeah, I worked on it for probably another six months after graduating, and realised, I don't want to have an idea of how to turn this into a sustainable level of scalable business. And that there was a lot to learn, right, it was the first time I had built a software product, in this case, a mobile app. And I think as with any topic, once you walk into it, you develop a lot of humility for how hard it is. And so going into product was this combination of realising I really enjoyed this kind of work, but also Boyd I have a lot to learn, and surrounding yourself with people who do the job. Do you know adjacent roles over the last, you know, eight to 10 years has been the most incredible learning experience. I also
Taylor Kenerson 4:12
I love that and I love that you took a little bit of a different approach like you founded a company then you began to realise that maybe it wasn't working out in the way that you envisioned and then instead of going to just go found another company and another one and another one you recognise that you you had a gap in something that you wanted to get more knowledge on. So that's the direction of why you went into the product, you know, industry and really went on those pm roles and understood how the thing that you're creating works and go dive into that a little bit more on maybe how your understanding and what being a product manager and working very hands on with like the different teams and specifically on the product end and understanding the user the psychology of a user and how they It all played into them building something that, you know, was your second company bento and dive a little into that.
Emily Wang 5:05
Yeah, I mean, I think you've touched on a lot of the points, you know, as to be expected that a lot of naivete walking into my first product role. And I think for a lot of people who want to transition into the into product, there's this fear of how do I get my engineers to take me seriously, especially if you don't come from a technical background. And I think over the last 10 years, what we value in product managers has shifted. But if we rewind 10 years ago, let alone 15 years ago, it was a lot about your your technical acumen. I remember one of my pm interviews back then, I can't remember for what job but the guy asked me, like how many kilobytes of data I would need to send to us to like send an email to the moon or how structure like my servers, and I just remember thinking, I'm so unqualified for this interview, and I really, that I can be effective and valuable as a product leader without knowing these things. And, and I think at the end of the day, product, let's talk about what product management are not right. Like they're not the people with all the brilliant ideas. There are so many valid ideas from everyone at the table around the room. But as we know, roadmaps aren't who can come up with the greatest list of ideas. It's always about, what do you work on? Now? What do you work on later? What are the trade offs as you think about the technical progression as you think about impact on customers, as you think about testing theses of who you are as a company, and I think, really great PMS are the ones who are able to through both conversation, data analysis, research, draw together enough context, to help sort through the list of really great ideas. And the ones who can really help people go deeper on what it is that they're really envisioning, with their idea what a starting small look like, how do we learn whether learning is an AB test or research is irrelevant? I think the point is still to learn. And how do we keep, you know, eyes on the ball in terms of impact right at the end of the day, on customers, which hopefully has a positive spillover effect on the business? So yeah, I think that level of synthesising context and making incredibly hard trade offs, and bringing people along with you, I do think is a trait I see consistently across Great product leaders, whether they're technical or design oriented or business oriented. Hmm,
Adil Saleh 7:33
interesting, interesting. And looking at your background in your home, like that's in the past 10 years, I would say, one of the greatest that the better pod bursts that have achieved that landmark included some category, and you've been a senior product manager there. So what was the key learning there, getting the foot in the door, that's fine, you know, having to make day to day, high level decision, working, cross functionally, with different teams, making sure you're living very, very close to the customer, and ensuring that you're getting the right feedback, and then investing in enabling the team into investing into the customer, education, all of that. So how did that experience unfold for you when you were at intercom?
Emily Wang 8:18
Yeah, it's funny. I also these days referred to intercom as one of like the OG plg companies. But, you know, back then we didn't have the term plg. And they were just very self serving. I think I mean, intercom did so many things. Well, like it built such an incredible fan base, like true for that x people who just adored, not just the brand, but the product and the way. I think Entercom has always done an incredible job of sharing thought leadership. You know, I first heard about intercoms, I'd read some blog posts on product management. And I think that actually is true for a lot of people who first encountered the brand. I mean, I could I could talk for hours about the things that I learned at intercom, but I think I might distil it down to two things that probably impact me more now better than ever. One is just what is great design really look like. Because that intercom I think, you know, designers really, truly had this incredible to be the solution owners. And in that one, you got better product at the end because you didn't just have designers designing screens and pixels, but really people thinking about solutions, which by the way, it might mean no pixels, and it might mean a change to your pricing or whatever. And I think in many ways that then also empower product leaders like myself to spend a lot of time cross functionally. I specifically was a pm on the growth team. And the growth teams mandate at the time was to own the customer journey from I believe trial trial start so we didn't own acquisition or anything up market that was owned by demand gen. We own them through their third billing cycle because for a lot of low ticket Other software products and intercom at the time, and I think still now has a long tail of easy ways to get in. You get a lot of churn in the beginning. But so much has evolved in that journey, right? It's not just the core product features, obviously things like onboarding and discovery, but it's also pricing and packaging. And, and, you know, what are the ways in which you can pay for this product. And it's also thinking about cross sells, and upsells. It's also thinking about product education. It's also things like, if we're going to now try to, you know, steal customers over from Zendesk, how do we make it really easy for them to, you know, there's a desk articles, intercom. And so there's, there's really kind of thinking about the problem very holistically, which I thought was really valuable, and something that I think sometimes core product teams because of their mandates, to focus on particular set of API's, or particular surfaces can get very silent.
Adil Saleh 10:59
Hmm, very interesting. So talking about like, us sitting at bento, like that's an onboarding platform for hybrid eating and teams, you can call it, you know, the way you know, of course, in a marketing in the marketing way, that's fine as a CEO, thinking of startups, you know, from PC to SUSE, I would say, they are serving handful of customers, they are pretty much trying to strive towards plg, you know, model that motion. But they are struggling to have the best onboarding experiences in the first two years, we spoke to 50 plus startups in the past one and a half years. And what they say is they're consistently investing in the onboarding, at least in the first one year. So what is the best recommendation for you thinking of bento and how it delivers value to early startups? What would you would you like to share?
Emily Wang 11:55
Yeah, so maybe I'll answer this in three parts. So one is, I think, a helpful and very simple framework of how we think about onboarding. To we'll talk, I can talk a little bit about like, who we actually serve from a customer base perspective, because it actually ends up not being early stage startups and I can talk about why. And then three is like, then, you know, why is it that across so many of your podcasts, onboarding seems to be the topic that people really wrestle with? So when we talk about onboarding, whether that's the first user signing up for your product, or what we call the nth user coming in to a pre setup product, and just trying to adopt it, a framework that we oftentimes talk about is do they have clarity in what they're trying to do? Do they have the skills to do that? And then are they motivated? So clarity, if you go to any website, actually even want to talk about products that everyone else HubSpot, right, if you go into the HubSpot website, there's 47 things you can do. And just because I signed up for trial, HubSpot doesn't mean that in my head, I have a clear playbook of obviously, the four tasks that I'm going to do and the evaluation criteria of what it means to do it. Well, I have a general idea that I'm gonna sign up for HubSpot, and is going to something something organise my data, something something allows me to communicate, right? Like, it's not, for a lack of like, dog. It's just like, a lot, I'm tabbing, across four different things, I just shot off a Slack message. And so the people coming to you your product, unless it's something like Instacart, where obviously, the only thing I'm doing is trying to buy groceries, it's not oftentimes super clear what people are actually trying to do. And so if you just show them a tour of all your features supply, like Yeah, I already read the marketing site. So that's the first one clarity. The second one skill, you know, sometimes it is uncomfortable for people to navigate technical tools, but sometimes it's not about the interface. So for example, if I have to upload a CSV, and now you're trying to get me to map different columns to different data fields, like what if like, conceptually, they don't match? Or what if my data is actually dirty. And now I have to go back to the data team to get it cleaned up. It's not about your UI being bad. I understood that that button said upload, I can read your UI that says please map the columns. But there's something deeper, right. And I don't have the skills for that because I can't go in single handedly clean all of my data sources. And the third one being motivation is like Hey, am I looking at HubSpot? Because my boss locked me and said, Please look at the setup. And this was just a task task number 27 on my plate, or am I the one groundup spearheading right? This whole new movement, and now I'm super motivated, I'm going to do whatever it takes. And so all of these things, I think contribute to making, onboarding and activation really challenging. But I think too often, I hear tech companies He's assume that the biggest issue is that their product UI isn't clear. Or that the UI is hard to work with, which sometimes is true, right? There's paper cuts in many products that we deal with. So I think that's a little bit that break down. Actually, just really quickly on why I think early stage startups talk about this a lot is onboarding. Onboarding is the path into figuring out whether your product is delivering any value. And it's also a lot of messaging, I oftentimes like to say, I think initial onboarding is 50%, Product Marketing 50% task completion. Because you're really trying to say, Oh, you have a problem, let me describe to you the features that I have. And then okay, here are the three things that you have to do. I just say, here are the three things you have to do but haven't sold you on the value proposition of Dropbox. And of course, early stage companies are fundamentally wrestling with wrestling with messaging, quest wrestling with how easy or not there is to work on. So it's not like onboarding, optimization or scale, it's really I think, at the end of the day, just miss it just another way of saying they're looking for messaging solution problem
Adil Saleh 16:15
fit. Yeah, interesting. I love the way that you've been so liberated and trying to project for startups, I get the part that you know, they're not 100% shorted on their customer journey, they're not so familiar with, like what customer they need to serve at a scale at scale. So you can take that as well. So that's why, you know, we also tell them that you got to do things that don't scale in the beginning to make sure that you have one customer segment, and then you can find some lookalike segments where there you can have like predefined or standardised templates for onboarding, adopting all of that, which is of course, onboarding, why they vary so much about it, because they lose a lot of the customer base instal base, they are churning during the onboarding phase, because they, the the time to value is not there, like they haven't identified like these many steps they need to take in order to make sure that they're 100% activated inside the platform. And now the platform will start delivering that value, you know, then the the workaround around adoption stage. So talking about from the customer standpoint, customer success and win like postales How do you think bento for a midsize company which we spoke to many as well can contribute towards onboarding to adoption stage? And what kind of customer segment are you talking about? Like, in tech, there's retail businesses role. There's, there's enterprise tech as well, there's, there's tech that is also inclusive of managed services. There's so many of these we spoke with. So could you also identify the customer segment, identify them? And then, of course, how exactly bento can deliver value?
Emily Wang 18:02
Yeah, well, I think you had Kelsey, who leads the customer success team and Ashby on a podcast a little bit earlier. And so you know, Ashvini is a mental customer and a good example of one. So we focus on b2b SaaS companies. And one of the things that is I think particularly interesting about b2b SaaS is that you almost always serve multiple personas. And so because you serve multiple personas, who each also may have different jobs to be done. There's no one size fits all single path into onboarding and activation. And I think that's why b2b SaaS companies tend to hang on to exclusively handheld onboarding for a very long time, because humans are smart and adaptable. And we can figure out what the right playbook or the next step is, depending on who I'm talking to. And so one of the many ways that our customers get value out of Beto is the ability to very easily create branching experiences that tailor the onboarding based on your job to be done or your persona. And these days, what we're seeing actually in the data, is that job to be done based onboarding is actually a lot more effective. And so an example might be, let's say that I'm onboarding into Webflow. And you asked me what role I am I say I'm a PA, but am I pm coming into write copy? Am I pm coming in to review something that has already been built, or my pm actually coming in? Because I'm kind of, you know, technical, and I'm going to lay out the initial wireframes is entirely different than how I should use web flow. And so if you were instead to ask me, am I coming in to build something? Versus Am I coming in to review things that have already been built? Right, then you're getting me to what I need to do a lot faster. Absolutely. And so, you know, to be able to create these branching experiences and to be able to learn I think is incredibly powerful in our Analytics, you can easily see how They counted, people picked each path. And you can also easily see for the paths that they picked. And the onboarding that you gave them based on that path. How successful were they? And so I think that duality of being able to have that type of flexible experience. And then of course, the insights to pair with it is powerful. One of our customers at conveyor, which is a digital security data room, they're head of design, Sydney's the one who really built out her bento experience, and their bento experience actually lays out three completely different use cases of conveyor because they end up stepping back and said, Well, there's our marketing site. Oh, it turns out, we actually market several different ways of using the product. And then how do we bring that again, into the onboarding experience. The second thing that makes b2b SaaS onboarding, think very different, is that onboarding tends to not happen in a single web session. So again, if you signed up for threads three weeks ago, right, boom, boom, boom, you're like in threads, like three seconds. You never need to see that onboarding again, because you're in. But again, if we go back to HubSpot, like you're not done setting up HubSpot in 20 seconds, it has nothing to do with like your skill set. It's just hard. You have to like, coordinate with your internal teams on how to set things up. And so bentos onboarding components, that component library that we give you includes a lot of inline components. So they actually render in your page. They're not iframes. They're web components. So they look native. And the reason we invested so much there is that you need your users session after session to be able to pick up where they left off. If you just throw a model on their face, try asking them five seconds after they click the X on what your model said, let alone a week later when they log it, right. Like we all conceptually know, people aren't paying attention. They don't remember people are so busy. And so this type of a persistent experience can be incredibly helpful. Especially also if you have multiple people engaging in onboarding. So the mental components will show you, Taylor completed the step, you know, on June 15, and auto completed this step on July 14. And so then I come in and No, no, I don't mean to do these things, I can move on to the third one. The very, the very last thing is that context matters. Again, because so much of b2b SaaS isn't just about selling you a tool, as long as possible you a hammer is about changing your company's workflow. When you move off of Google Sheets to Salesforce, the biggest change isn't the UI of which obviously, has changed tremendously. It's your workflow. And so for having people change their workflows, it's not just about the clicks and the pixels on your screen, it's also about being able to talk to the person on the other side, who has to move mountains sometimes to get workflows to change. And so human context super valuable. And so one of the other things that's very unique about bento, so we actually fork the copies of onboarding per customer when you launch a template. And so for your extra special snowflake customers that are paying you more probably, a CSM can actually go in there and change and tailor the onboarding experience for a particular customer, as well, perfect example of swapping out your generic marketing video for a loop that you filmed in their instance. And you can say, hey, here's why Acme CO was buying my product, right? You're using it for these three workflows. And suddenly, I'm not just trying to, again, click through your UI. It makes sense, right? We were dialling up that motivation factor, because now I understand how this is supposed to apply to my actual context.
Taylor Kenerson 23:47
And what it what you're saying to is, the only way to really drive the value is to peel all of these layers away and understand that it's one, it's a holistic approach and thinking it's not simply just identifying your user or your persona as a title because yes, that title is one. Yeah, that's one element. But there can be multiple layers to that, are they coming in as a builder as a reviewer, and that really does determine how they're going to use the product. And if your messaging is just very generic, you're losing them at some point. And that's perhaps also why we see so much turn to in the onboarding is because you met the customer with correct messaging, but then your onboarding experience missed that mark. And now there might be confused, or there might be, you know, a delay, and that's where the lack of motivation comes in. They thought this one thing and now they're receiving maybe something a little different, and it's not meeting them where they initially thought they were.
Emily Wang 24:47
Yeah, yeah. I think actually, in the products that we have a lot to learn from our marketing counterparts. You know, when you go to a marketing site, like yes, you see a product drop down and it has, you know, products, but imagine if every marketing site was just like, let me show you on my feet. jurors bounce instantly, right? And marketing sites are like, these are my use cases, which of these personas are you and like, how we're not doing that in product, you see all of these, like, you know, people like they're like, I built onboarding, and it's like a 10 step walk through the features. Like, would you like this feature? How about this feature? Here's another one. And so yeah, I think I'm obviously being facetious. But I think we have a lot to learn from our marketing counterparts. And from our go to market counterparts, right? You like listen to, you know, brand new baby II, they know they're not supposed to hawk the features, they're supposed to understand the pain, the use case. And we toss all of that out the door when we think about activation, which, as we said out loud, now you're like, Wow, gosh, we shouldn't?
Adil Saleh 25:47
Yes, absolutely. Because in this day, in this day and age, it's more about retaining your installed base, then acquiring a new customer, it's always, you know, it's always smart to make sure you retain and expand your installed base. That is why that is why a lot of these SMB, to midsize businesses. They need onboarding platforms, where they have like analytics, just like you have backed by analytics, they're giving analytics on user level, account level. And they're giving customised onboarding experiences based on customer patterns, behaviours, and it's all about it, you know, a lot of these onboarding platforms that we get to see they're all already emerging, they learn and they have their entire data database on their warehouse, doing the machine learning, learning from the pattern and giving automation. So coming to my one last question, after January, what different bento is going to do because a lot of platforms, we talked about HubSpot, they have their own CRM, where you can speak with the CRM sales for the next day. There are a lot of other platforms that were supposed to be the first one where more is in the category. They didn't they applied, generally. So how better since I know that you have a conversation tool as well, you have mailing system integration, some sort of this so people can communicate and it's human factor. So what is that one thing that you're thinking of applying, taking on gender to be checked up for?
Emily Wang 27:16
Yeah, well, like you mentioned earlier in the episode, before I started bento, I was actually the head of product at a company called spoke and spoke is was just say, a AI powered internal ticketing system. And so this was many years ago, this is definitely pre pre open AI and pre GBT. And we had our own in house models that we trained, and I remember spending evenings trying to tag everything manually. And, and I think maybe it's that experience that, you know, has me looking at this current hype wave with certainly, you know, a grain of scepticism, not scepticism of the power of derivative AI, but a little bit of scepticism when people are trying to sprinkle it everywhere. So I think we've all product, right. It's like, what problem are you trying to solve? And is the solution made better by by AI? So one of the things I think AI is incredibly powerful for is allowing humans to go from a creation mode to an editing mode. Yes, because as people, we're better at critiquing, right when we're not facing a piece of white paper. And so inside of bento, one of the things that we learned is actually getting bento setup is very, very fast. You can do it in 30 minutes. And people always ask, How long will it take for me to actually stand up and publish my first onboarding experience? And my question back to them is, do you know what your onboarding experience is? Because if you know what it is, oh, my gosh, like soup to nuts, you should have this published in less than an hour, or something has gone very wrong. But if you don't know what it is, then the Well the question isn't bento. The question is like, what is your onboarding experience? And so one of the things that we've learned is that when you have people try to write or design onboarding, they get very stuck on the semantics. But you know, what's out there already, loom videos, tonnes of live videos. Every founder, every CSM has filmed the loom video of welcome my application, blah, blah, blah, you know what else we will have help centre articles, like, Hey, here's the opposite of Here's a general overview of bla bla. And so what we've already done inside of bento, is to say, how do we just reduce the friction of taking stuff that you already have, and allowing you to get something up pretty good on the other side that you can edit. So it's not a bad job, you can just drop in a live video, and we will audit automatically generate a guide for you. And we don't just generate any guide, we generate a guide with the parameters of what we've already seen in data of what works, the number of steps, the tone, the number of calls to action, you should have formatting. So we can take all of those best practices, which we write about but you know, humans aren't necessarily great at incorporating contributing is a bit more reliable on that. And you get something on the other side, that's like, pretty darn good. Your CTs are built out, your links are built out. And now what you have to do is, you know, edit it and make sure that the GPT certainly isn't hallucinating. You can do the same thing with feeding and help centre articles. And you can actually now also do the same thing of having us actually record you, as you do click through the walkthrough, which is pretty exciting as well. And so in all of those cases, it's really about saying, what are the things that are making it hard for our users to not just adopt bento, but get the right outcome at the end? And for those where can we incorporate AI and there's definitely room. But we just want to be thoughtful about it. Right? Because I do think users are smart. And there's already a lot of skepticism, when it's like, tell me what guide you want to write and your tone and they just like create something here, like no context. How can we possibly generate something that's good?
Adil Saleh 31:00
So yeah, I mean, so I'm glad that you're thinking along those lines. And of course, there's so much part research, experimentation involved in making decisions at a stage Ben to his right now, and appreciate your time. Emily, it was so interesting, some some lady coming, you know, went to Harvard started off, you know, the first platform like a tech platform, sort of an app and had a successful third year when product, product management, joined intercom had a platform experience, like spoke then jumped into, you know, starting as a CEO adventure, it was a great experience talking to you, and learning through. I love the way that you've been so opinionated, which is something that we always want our guests to be, and I wish you good luck at your journey with mental
Emily Wang 31:55
yeah, thanks both great to hang out this morning.
Taylor Kenerson 31:58
Thank you so much, Emily. Have a beautiful day.
Emily Wang 32:01
Yeah, take care.