Recently you might have started to hear the name Larry Gadea. It might have something to do with his startup, Envoy raising a $15 Million series A round from the rockstar Silicon Valley VC firm, Andreessen Horowitz. We’re pretty sure, you’re going to start hearing a lot more from Larry and Envoy so here’s a short Q&A with Larry to get to know him better.
Why Did you Start Envoy?
Envoy got started because I noticed a massive oversight at companies’ front desks when it comes to welcoming visitors. They spend all this money on fancy furniture, tv monitors, a great receptionist, etc, but actually getting to the nitty gritty and collecting the names of visitors and getting the actual employee to show up is still a very manual process. In the past I built software systems to bring efficiency to web services, but I really liked this opportunity to bring more efficiency to a real human problem.
How did you get Marc Benioff, amongst other notables, to become a seed investor?
Adam and Yishan I know from a while ago. Razmig too. Many of the others, like Marc, came through referrals. Some referrals even happened from firms which turned us down. Everyone has their own areas they’re excited about. One thing I noticed is that you can really see how much an investor is excited about your company if they introduce you to their friends. They’re putting their reputation on the line, they must be pretty trusting!
Are you a Single Founder and has that had any challenges?
Yes, by the time we ended up raising our seed round, i ended up doing it as a solo founder. I havent had a co-founder before, so i kind of don’t know what i’m missing out on, but i can assure you there are tons of challenges every day. It’s always good to have someone to talk to. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to give bad news to investors and have them be helpful instead of having them distance themselves. The right Angels can be extremely helpful that way.
You initially launched Envoy as an App for $19.99. Why the switch to a SaaS Model?
We switched to the SaaS model when we were sure this is what we wanted to build a huge empire around. I feel that if you just done a one-time payment on an App Store, you’re more of a toy, something that shouldn’t be taken too seriously (though there are some few exceptions). We’re interested in building a real company with amazing products and hire the best people. These things aren’t cheap to do, so we need to get real, recurring, revenue to build out the company. A race to the bottom is in nobody’s interest, quality goes out the window. We’re here to build quality products.
Andreessen Horowitz recently invested $15 Million in a series A round in Envoy. When pitching to them for funding, were you confident you’d get a term sheet and how did it feel when you got it?
Like any CEO, i’m religiously convinced I’ll get a term sheet from everyone. Reality is far from that, but you need to present and talk to them as if that was the reality. Not so much a fake-it-till-you-make-it thing, but confidence and a great product is mandatory for raising a great A round.
What will you spend the money on?
Hiring. You can’t build a company without amazing people. We could cut corners and outsource many core parts of our business, but that will radically reduce quality. We have a really nice work environment as a result. It might be surprising, but we’re a very expensive company to operate. Not just salaries, but to be the best product, you must use the best products and services.
Without your 3 years at Twitter and 4 years at google, would you have been able to build your first startup?
It would have been a *LOT* harder. The things I learned at Google and Twitter were paramount for building out the org. The internal philosophies of Google and Twitter go very different from traditional teachings. They are super accurate. I’d recommend Eric Schmidt’s “How Google Works” and taking the book religiously. Google doesn’t quite work exactly like described in the book, but it describes the goals that they’re very close to.
Who have been your mentors and how have they helped you?
All our Angels have been super helpful. They all have run companies and really know that things can get dirty.
Is Enterprise Software now a much less boring place?
Our Enterprise Software is! 🙂 Joking aside, people are used to great experiences day-to-day now, it’s how companies compete. It’s surprising how terrible most enterprise software is. Purchasers usually don’t care about aesthetics and usability they just care about getting that RFP checklist done. What companies don’t notice is that the majority of the sale is done *after* the purchase. It’s about exciting the users of the software so they can recommend your product to others. That’s so much cheaper and honorable than a but-we’re-so-much-cheaper or sales-heavy approach. Quality is king.
Larry was interviewed over email by Alex Theuma