First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID19 times?
Alejandro Rivas-Micoud : Doing well, thank you. Had a few close calls with family and a close friend, but all ok and out of the woods now.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Userlytics
Alejandro Rivas-Micoud : I have founded a number of companies in Europe, Japan and the US. Some were very good investments, some “learning experiences” and all had their moments of exhilaration as well as difficult challenges.
Userlytics, founded in 2009, followed this pattern. I invested a significant amount of time and money in the initial “Dreamer” phase of every startup, and then faced the challenge of traversing the “Valley of the Shadow of Death” that most have to cross, thankfully ending up in the “Nirvana” stage of rapid growth and positive cash flow, which we are in today and have been for some time.
As for myself and my background, I was born in San Francisco and have spent most of my life in various places in the US, France, Spain and Japan. A US Navy veteran, I have worked extensively in the Utility, Telecom and Internet sectors, and I have an MBA from INSEAD.
How does Userlytics innovate?
Alejandro Rivas-Micoud : We pay extremely close attention to prospect and customer feedback, and a wary eye on both direct and indirect competition. Our corporate culture fosters openness, transparency and extensive cross departmental communication and ideation. We look for and encourage entrepreneurial traits.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects Userlytics’ business and how are you coping?
Alejandro Rivas-Micoud : June was our best month ever, followed by March. We started the year with a lot of momentum from 2019, when we grew revenues by 3X. Since April we have seen three trends:
1. Companies in certain sectors (e.g.: Aviation, Travel), cutting budgets and delaying projects
2. Most companies, even in those cutting overall budgets, increasing or at least maintaining their “digital” budgets
3. Any entity conducting In Person User Experience Research rapidly moving to Remote User Experience Research
The effects on us have been that the trends of number 2 and number 3 have balanced the trend of number 1 during April and May, and in June the combination resulted in a very strong net growth.
So I would say we have been extremely fortunate, and are very well positioned
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Alejandro Rivas-Micoud : Not so far, fortunately.
That said, in previous companies I founded and ran, I have had to make difficult choices, as well as with Userlytics during the very early years. I would say the main lesson I have taken away is that suppliers, partners, employees and clients appreciate transparency and open communication when issues arise; if you explain the situation, lay out a reasonable plan to deal with it and are open to criticism and feedback, you can achieve miracles with your team, even in extremely difficult circumstances.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Userlytics in the future ?
Alejandro Rivas-Micoud : I have gone through many stressful situations in various prior startups, so I believe I have become somewhat “immune” to stress…:-)
I am very positive and optimistic about the future of the company, we have one of the best teams I have ever had the privilege to work with, and are very fortunate in that we are extremely well positioned in a fast growing and high potential market
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Alejandro Rivas-Micoud : Our principal competitors are usertesting and userzoom, both of which started more or less at the same time as Userlytics. So far we have done very well in terms of competing with them, we see them as great peers to have, with all three companies having differentiated features and advantages, and lots of space in a fast growing market.
Your final thoughts
Alejandro Rivas-Micoud : Being part of a startup (or a “scaleup”, which is the stage Userlytics is in) is a hard, but rewarding challenge. In the multiple entrepreneurial projects I have been involved with, as founder, investor, advisor or mentor, I have seen a few common patterns:
1. Most startups fail. Whoever attempts one should keep that in mind, because facts (and statistics) are stubborn and the odds are that your project will not make it. If you launch a company, and it fails, do not be ashamed or discouraged; you just went through one of the most educational learning experiences you can go through, as an entrepreneur, but also as a manager and human being, and it will reap many rewards for you down the road
2. If you manage to traverse the “Valley of the Shadow of Death” stage into the “Nirvana” phase of your startup, and on to a successful exit, do not believe that it was due to a magical quality you have, or your inherent genius; you definitively had a lot to do with its success, but so did your team, and, something very important, luck; do not assume your next project will necessarily be a success. In fact, success can lead to hubris, which can lead to failure, which can lead to humility, which can lead to success, in an ongoing cycle
3. It’s been said by many, many times. The most important determinant of success is not your idea/business model (paraphrasing Napoleon, most business models do not survive first contact with the market), nor your investors, nor your cash raise. The most important driver of success other than luck is the team. Try to spend at least 40% of your time hiring the right people, and creating a great corporate culture. As Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”