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How to Build a SaaS Unicorn: The Outreach Story (getlatka.com)
93 points by tomhuntio 3 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 15 comments

Not to be dramatic, but it would be nice if this domain/"enterprise" were not allowed here based on the reporting from Vox[0].

[0] - https://www.vox.com/recode/2019/11/26/20930374/nathan-latka-...

After reading that article, I have got to say that it's so ironic that many of these SV founders are mad that Latka is selling their company data. One actually said when I provided that information for the podcast, "I didn't intend for that data to be sold."

Latka's argument is that he is clear in the podcast and many other places that is what he does.

It sounds like he is playing startup founders with their own game. Provide a service that the founder/company wants for free or little cost. Then turn around and sell their data to 3rd parties.

I would be willing to bet that is the business model of many of the companies that have appeared on the podcast and are mad at having their data packaged and sold.

And Latka's response is the same as all the founders of those types of companies.

"It's in the fine print, bro!"

What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Here is a human person doing to corporate persons what they have been doing to human persons.

It drives a stake in the heart of their hypocrisy.

They take your private info and sell it for marketing and he takes their marketing and sells their private info. The desire for HN'ers to silence this publication of private data speaks to the nature of the community being blind to their own wrongs.

You beat me to it. I was going to share this too.

I believe Michael Seibel had some choice words on Twitter last week about this guy.

If you want to see one of the interviews, the one from Workato is particularly memorable: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cg8q6RqpefM. The founder couldn't handle the pressure.

What about that article makes it worth banning Latka?

Congratulations! Some key take aways:

1. Postpone investment in marketing for the first few years and focus on the product. No need to spend time on social media.

2. Bid on competitors brand names in Google Ads.

3. When you buy other SaaS, give them testimonials with back links to boost your SEO.

The article omits arguably the highest-impact element:

  4. Be comfortable selling a product that almost all customers use to send spam to strangers.
That's the ingredient many, hopefully most, entrepreneurs don't have. Outreach got popular by letting salespeople send the same template to more strangers, faster. That was its whole business for the first few years.

Even today, the leftovers exist on their Web site. https://support.outreach.io/hc/en-us/articles/216288348-Avoi... is one example: "When using Outreach, it is up to the individual to follow these requirements. Remember, being marked as spam can have a detrimental impact on your organization's deliverability rates."

If there's a universal lesson, it might be to find a market, customer, or delivery method that you are uniquely suited for. Outreach's founders cared less than average about enforcing policies or making a positive overall impact, and they found a field where caring about paying customers at the expense of all other stakeholders (like recipients) was rewarded. While I sure wouldn't encourage differentiating that way, the concept works.

>Outreach's founders cared less than average about enforcing policies or making a positive overall impact

Didn't realize you were privy to the founders' nefarious intentions, do you have evidence to back this claim up? That's a huge story if you're telling the truth.

There’s nothing nefarious about it. These are 2 of many relative priorities. For example, at one extreme, some people care only about impact and don’t care at all about money; that usually leads to a not-for-profit. At the other extreme is barely-legal greyhat malware/adware, where a lot of collateral damage is accepted as long as it’s profitable.

I wouldn’t personally be comfortable with the tradeoffs that Outreach made, but it’s legal and making them doesn’t make them evil. One might describe it as greedy.

(I don’t think greed is newsworthy and I’m far from the only person to see it here. Regarding evidence of Outreach’s spot on the continuum, https://twitter.com/annepmitchell/status/671386007850192896, https://twitter.com/dswiese/status/713039678287405056, and https://twitter.com/troyd/status/753721604081799168 are 3 of many examples.)

Making legal trade-offs can be evil, and setting & enforcing social norms is a basic responsibility of every adult.

Per another commenter's link in here, [1] shows pretty clearly what kind of person the founder is. I don't think there's much ground to stand on if you want to actually argue that the initial product wasn't designed explicitly to enable spamming sales prospects.

[1] https://www.vox.com/recode/2019/11/26/20930374/nathan-latka-...

That article is about the founder of the Web site where this article was published, rather than the founders of the company, Outreach.io, that the article is about.

Ah you're right. Should have read more closely. Here's an interview with the actual founder [1]. Relevant quote on the start of what became the current company: "Then at the end of 2013, we decided to give it one more go and we decided to build a workflow internally that would make our sales reps book 10x more meetings."

We can debate if that's a good or a bad idea ethically, but to a lot of people including myself, increasing sales meetings 10x = spamming the hell out of people, regardless of what "workflow" you're using. It's rather like increasing your ad clicks 10x with dark patterns and claiming you're totally helping people.

[1] https://tanyaprive.com/manny-medina-outreach-io/

Another point - a version of "do things that don't scale", sign up your first 100 customers door-to-door

I'm guessing this advice shouldn't be taken completely literally, but rather, the point is that one shouldn't fear signing up your first 100 customers in an unscalable, high-touch way. In fact, he seems to argue that by doing it this way you are more likely to get real, raw, and candid feedback from those users

A fantastic short summary, thanks so much for pulling these out Jakozaur :)

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