Landing And Expanding Clients Like Comcast – With Paul Caswell

by Tim Jahn on October 22, 2010

I met Paul Caswell some time ago at a Chicago networking event and was intrigued by his website Weave The People.  The site allows event and meeting participants to connect with other participants and view their relevant info in an easy to use, very visual format.

When I ran into Paul at the midVentures Launch conference a few weeks ago, I learned he had Comcast and big pharmaceutical companies as clients.  My question was, how?

Watch my interview with Paul to find out how he “lands and expands” clients like Comcast.

Transcript

Paul Caswell:
My name’s Paul Caswell, founder of Weave the People. And we build software to make visible people. We’re passionate about unleashing the potential of people. And we’re helping corporate teams around the world really see the people when they meet face to face.

Tim Jahn:
And where did you get the idea or where did this come from?

Paul Caswell:
Several times where I’ve been in meetings whether I’ve felt that people were not able to contribute in a way that I knew was possible. And that was a problem that I wanted to solve. So I wanted to have people see each other in corporate meetings.

So it actually was from a problem that I’ve experienced working as a technologist in corporate America and how can the technical insides be shared effectively with the management and leadership insights. So it was from this experience that I knew there was a problem that software could help with.

Tim Jahn:
And what made you actually decide to tackle the problem and say, let’s fix this?

Paul Caswell:
I’ve been passionate about technology and playing with technology since a teenager, and also animation. So I was playing around with animating views of people. Initially I built something which showed communication preferences, introverted, extroverted, thinking, feeling, and shared that with a couple of coaches I was working with who were coaching people on communication preferences.

And got some great feedback and I realized there’s something here. And I was actually sitting in a coffee shop in Austin that the idea that people, and threads of conversation, and the potential that exists here in America and Weave the People was born.

Tim Jahn:
And so you had the idea, you executed on it, and you brought it to life. At what point did you realize that this was a viable business? That this was something that people really do need?

Paul Caswell:
I had some great mentorship from people in the meeting industry. And that’s when I first met Scott who’s president of BCD Meetings And Incentives. And I showed this to him. He immediately saw the value and commercial viability of this. And so we then tweaked it based on the industry needs. So we had the technology but we mapped this to what people needed and what they’re willing to pay for. So it was then that I realized it was a viable business.

Tim Jahn:
And you said that — I mean this is actually doing pretty well in terms of money. I mean, you’re making money and landing big clients?

Paul Caswell:
We are very grateful for some fantastic clients that are supporting us financially and helping us grow by using this software in the field. So I’m delighted to be working with Comcast and we’ve delivered eleven weaves this year, 2010. We’re working with a large pharmaceutical company in Chicago and we are delighted that the word is now spreading and we’re being challenged to grow.

Tim Jahn:
It’s just phenomenal. How did you go from wanting to connect people to landing pharmaceutical companies and Comcast as a client? Like that seems like a pretty long, challenging road. What — how did you do that?

Paul Caswell:
Through our own relationships and our own connections. So we were chatting to people, other facilitators. And the facilitators have been key because they get how important it is for people to connect at meetings. And so through working with the facilitators, they then introduced us to a lot of these corporate executives. And based on the relationship that they already had, the executives gave us the time the day and we were able to convince them that we have something of value.

And we wanted to demonstrate it. So we have a fairly low entry point for price and our strategy is to land and expand. It’s like us do one. And so we get in the door and then when they see and we prove ourselves, the word spreads as it has with Comcast for example. And yeah –

Tim Jahn:
That’s a cool technique. Land and expand.

Paul Caswell:
Yeah. Land and expand. Yeah, that’s — my partner Alex I think coined that phrase. And it’s changed. At the start of the year, we didn’t have that. Being a small company we changed our approach and were trying to market ourselves, and cold call, and hit a large number of companies.

And we realized, wow, we got some great relationships already. Let’s really service those. So I’ll my partner Alex for that land and expand strategy. And it’s proven successful.

Tim Jahn:
What’s been the biggest challenge working on Weave the People?

Paul Caswell:
Communicating what it is in words. I’m challenged now without having a visual of what it is. When people see it, and they see the animation, and they see the faces over maps and groups, they get it. So one of my challenges continues to be how to communicate in words what we do visually.

Tim Jahn:
That’s interesting. Your business is such a, not emotional, but it’s on that kind of level of connection that it’s harder to write down in a sense. Like you almost have to experience it, and feel it to understand.

Paul Caswell:
It is. And that’s why our strategy is this land and expand. Just get in there and help people experience it, and then they can see the effect it has on the people in the room. Because at the end of the day, it’s not about our software. We think our software’s great and we hope you check out the demo and see the cool animation.

But it’s about the people in the room. As good as our software is, we are getting feedback and we change what we do based on that experience. We got some great feedback from Cindy from Comcast who’s the VP of communications there. And she said, “It helped build the pillars of relationship and open up conversation at a meeting.” And that’s what we’re about.

Tim Jahn:
What does that feel like when a company of the size and magnitude of Comcast is using your product and telling you they love it and its helping them?

Paul Caswell:
It’s exciting and it’s humbling because we know we cannot be successful without these opportunities. And so it’s very exciting, and it’s very humbling because we realize we are a part of the puzzle in this exciting country and world that we live in.

Tim Jahn:
That’s awesome. What one piece of advice would you have for someone who was in a similar situation where they saw a problem, and decided to fill the need? What once piece of advice would you have?

Paul Caswell:
Build a minimal, viable product as fast as you can and get that feedback. You can only learn through doing it. You can only build a better product by learning from your customers. And so we are delighted by the feedback that we get from our customers. And so my advice would be take it out into the market. And that’s advice that I didn’t take.

Yeah, I spent eight months home alone coding and I had to make many pivots when I took it to market and I could have been further ahead if I’d got that feedback earlier in the process. So yeah, that was a mistake I made and the advice that I’d share.

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