Pierre Metrailler tells us how SpotMe became a virtual event platform during the pandemic.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Pierre Metrailler: We welcomed our first child in December last year, and expecting a baby in 2020 was quite an experience – one that inspired hope, joy and growth, in a world that was not exactly in that mindset.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined SpotMe.
Pierre Metrailler: I joined SpotMe in 2001, a couple of months after it had been founded. At the time, the company had developed a device for networking at conferences. I was an undergrad computer science student lost in a group of hardware engineers. While we had a great product, we never got traction. And staying on was the opportunity to join the founding team, and ultimately, being a software type, lead the company pivot to SaaS in 2012. In the process, I had the opportunity to learn and practice a broader scope of activities, from sales and marketing to operations, and took on the CEO role as of 2016.
How does SpotMe innovate?
Pierre Metrailler: We have a hiring bias: we are looking for people who are curious and have grit. These are two core values that we are very deliberate about when we bring new talents onboard. And when your entire team has curiosity and grit, everything flows from there. Because innovation is not just product features, it is deeply built into the fabric of everything we do, from software architecture to account receivables.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Pierre Metrailler: Live events were amongst the first businesses to be affected and will probably be the last one to re-open. We lost about 95% of our revenue within 3 weeks. So, we were crippled. Ultimately, we changed course, shipped our new virtual event platform product, and our 2020 Q4 run rate was higher than 2019.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Pierre Metrailler: Yes. At first, I told everyone, “we are going through this together”, until I truly internalized what was going on. One thing was 100% certain: the world that would emerge post-COVID would be very different, and so would our company. So, we went back to the drawing board and reimagined what SpotMe could look like 12 months later, looked at our cash runway, built a plan around this vision and made the difficult decision on who would be part of this plan. Being bootstrapped comes with constraints, but it forces you to bring clarity to everyone. And the lesson is simple: with clarity comes alignment and commitment.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Pierre Metrailler: As we closed our offices in March last year, I left a note on the whiteboard saying, “connect with the team, connected with customers, ship our pivot product”. More than tools, we are customer-obsessed, and I am grateful everyone on the team embraces this idea. With live events being shut down, customers looked at us for solutions, and this newly found sense of purpose and trust was deeply gratifying.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Pierre Metrailler: Switzerland had a strong and comprehensive program for supporting companies, and while it technically did not help us keep the business afloat, it provided us with the extra security margin we needed in order to make bold decisions as we transformed the company.
Your final thoughts?
Pierre Metrailler: Everyone hates the idea that the Darwinian theory of biological evolution is also true for businesses because it hurts and is uncomfortable. But I am blessed with the team we have here at SpotMe who has been embracing change with pure enthusiasm and desire to grow.