UB Insider #66: Utah is The Place for the Next Era in Tech
About this episode:
Andrew Joiner, CEO of InMoment, knows the tech business world pretty well—he used to be the worldwide head of HP Software’s $250 million independent customer experience business, and before that, led a $1.1 billion business unit within HP. Drawn to the Beehive State by stories of Utah’s tech success, Joiner shares how he is taking the reins of InMoment to help build the next era of the tech industry.
[The following has been edited for grammar and clarity.]
Lisa Christensen: Hello and welcome to UB Insider. I’m Lisa Christensen, online editor at Utah Business magazine. Andrew Joiner, CEO of InMoment knows the tech business world pretty well. He used to be the worldwide head of HP Software’s $250 million independent customer experience business and before that he led a $1.1 billion business unit within HP. Welcome.
Andrew Joiner: Hi Lisa, thanks for having me.
Lisa Christensen: So you were with HP for a long time. Tell me about your background.
Andrew Joiner: I’d love to. So I’ve sort of always been an entrepreneur by training, if you will. But in 2001 after working a little stint on Wall Street I started a business with my brother. We started off with my brother and a dog and we did the best that we could as any other entrepreneur. We ended up selling out to Wall Street and sold software in the compliance and email supervision space. In 2006 we were fortunate enough to grow the business to a certain size that we were acquired by a West-coast software company that was pre-IPO. That company was then acquired by a U.K. software provider six months later.
So like all software businesses you start getting acquired as people want to expand their portfolio to customers. It was a very high growth business, one of the fastest growing enterprise software companies on the planet. It grew to $150 million in revenue, only slower than Google or Microsoft. In 2012, it was acquired by HP in one of the largest software transactions in history. Then HP itself started building it up. So at the end of the day, after we were acquired by HP, you can’t get acquired again. But it did go the other way around. I’ve sort of been with two people and a dog up to 300,000 people and that’s been an interesting ride through the enterprise software market.
Lisa Christensen: So you do kind of know it from the very smallest details to on a very macro scale.
Andrew Joiner: Well what I would say is that one thing I’ve learned is that the same things I was constrained at as two people in a small company raising money from friends and family are consistent to an organization that had $142 billion in revenue and over 300,000 people. What you learn as an entrepreneur and what you face every single day is that you don’t have enough time. You don’t have enough resources. You don’t have enough people. And I can remember sitting around in a barren office trying to get hardware purchases so that you could do your next demo and so forth. By the time I realized that we were at 300,000 people and $142 billion I thought finally I will have money and resources and time. But the constraints were the same at a large organization.
Lisa Christensen: More money, more problems?
Andrew Joiner: That’s exactly right. It’s the same. So what you do realize as an executive team when you travel around, every office you visit, everyone asks the same questions. Can we have more hires? Can we have more funding? I could do more. And what you realize is that that’s consistent for everybody. Everyone can do something with more money, more people. It’s the entrepreneurs that can solve problems within similar constraints that really succeed in business.
Lisa Christensen: So you went from two people and a dog to 300,000 people. What brought you to Utah?
Andrew Joiner: The dog was the smartest of all of us in this story. He never had the stress and he seemed to live a happy life. I continue to try to grow. Part of that experience of continuing to try to grow was when we had the opportunity to divest the business. We talked to a number of investors who were excited in that business and I had time to reflect on what it was I wanted to do next.
So I pursued becoming a barista in my off time. I tried to learn how to make coffee. And I realized that that probably wasn’t going to be a great future. While I love the process, I was not exactly great at it. I’m still trying to refine that craft. So I needed to turn my time more towards business and business outcomes for myself and my career.
I had an opportunity to look at software companies from New York to Austin to Atlanta to California and then obviously Utah. And what I would say is of all the opportunities, if you’re trying to scale a software business, Utah offers the best ingredients to scale a software business of any other region in America. The reason why is while there’s a vibrant tech community in California, the labor cost market and the competition is so fierce. Real estate prices are absolutely crazy. In Austin you have a small community, a small tech oriented community. But you don’t have the success stories that you have in Utah to piggyback on.
So I remember telling the employees that I remembered a famous quote from Larry Ellison, the current CEO of Oracle. I probably heard it fifth hand or sixth hand. But I remember the quote being, “If you’re not selling software or developing software then what are you doing?” And I think about Utah and the way that if it’s just about selling software and developing software, the human capital that’s available in Utah is second to none.
There is a vibrant community of developers and engineering talent coming out of the universities. And then there is a vibrant community of people who want to get into technology companies through the sales process. So you have this ingredient in Utah of great human capital, terrific labor costs but then of course you have the work-life balance. This is my first real snow day since I moved to Utah. I was white knuckled coming down the Parleys Canyon to work. I made it successfully and everyone said you have 440 more inches to go, Andrew, so get ready for the rest of the year. But it’s been no problem and I’ve enjoyed it so far.
Lisa Christensen: Yeah, tell me about the work-life balance given your prior experience. What was the work-life balance like elsewhere and what do you think the work-life balance here does to companies or for companies?
Andrew Joiner: It was one of the things that I connected with InMoment instantly. We have this saying that culture eats strategy for breakfast. If you can create the right culture, whether it’s helping others come into their own from a professional standpoint, whether it’s running through walls for customers and making sure they’re successful, that’s the most important thing to you. Some of those culture ingredients are impossible to manufacture.
I’ve learned two things as an entrepreneur. You get inside organizations and if they think they’re going to manufacture innovation, rarely are they able to do it. It’s just part of the company. If you’re going to try to manufacture culture, that’s also very hard to do. InMoment had both. And so reflecting back on how do you take advantage of building that culture at scale is a really, really hard task. But it’s part of, I realize, the fabric of Utah.
Utah is a very welcoming community and environment. I thought that Georgia and Atlanta had something on Southern hospitality but there’s something about Western hospitality here. It’s a very welcoming community. The business leaders have all reached out to me. There’s networking events for both women who are getting into the technology community, young entrepreneurs, as well as more seasoned professionals. So that type of community is sort of the fabric that it takes to have the foundation to build really good businesses that are just hard to create in other areas. It’s just hard to manufacture that type of networking community, but I think InMoment and Utah have that in spades.
Lisa Christensen: Tell me about how the business culture or climate here compares or differs and what impact that makes.
Andrew Joiner: I think this is a really unique place to scale and even potentially create a business. And I’ll tell you what I see that I think most others might not be aware of because they live here or they just may not know of. I think it’s a terrific secret.
As an entrepreneur, one of the things you’re focused on is raising money to fuel your overall growth and your overall business. What I’ve found is that the financing models for entrepreneurs are really, really horrible. You know, you start off with borrowing from your family and your friends and they really just invest in you. The next stage is maybe you find early stage capital or venture investors who want to invest in the idea. Not necessarily you, but the idea. They then look at who the people are who sort of surround you. Then as you mature you get into areas like private equity who look at it differently, who can scale the business.
And so each time as an entrepreneur you have to solve against all these new dynamics of people providing you funding. You have to do it on different time scales. Friends and family tend to be very patient. Venture capitalists are still fairly patient. Private equity is less patient. And then obviously the public market in and of itself. What’s unique about Utah is that there’s a fabric to start a business here because we’ve had so many successful technology companies here that have created a foundation of capital to help entrepreneurs get off the ground.
I was recently at a conference here with Peterson. There were over 100 vibrant, young companies pitching their ideas. There’s a great startup community, but the community will stay with you all the way through your growth. I had lunch with Fraser Bullock just last Wednesday and what I thought was so interesting is that he was a seed investor in Omniture. It’s very rare that you meet a seed investor that was Josh James’ earliest investor, who stayed all the way through the acquisition of $1.8 billion by Adobe. That stays here in Utah, someone who can watch your enterprise grow from a startup all the way through to its next stage of growth. I think it’s a really unique culture unlike all the other financing environments that make you solve against a whole new set of requirements every time you go to raise money.
Lisa Christensen: Why do you think that exists here?
Andrew Joiner: I think it’s part of the culture which is hard to manufacture. Again, they’re more focused on the individual’s growth and their success rather than just the financial outcome. I think it’s a fabric that’s hard to solve against. I think it’s also why people are interested in the outdoors. They tend to be less material inside of Utah.
I think it’s a fabric that’s hard to manufacture because there’s such an abundance of things for all of us to enjoy and to explore. But then I think that people have seen this handful of highly successful technology companies that have started here and have exited here. The next phase for Utah is for folks like myself who come from the outside, who come here and recognize this is a great culture to invest in a business and to grow a business and then to help accelerate the progress of some of these businesses just like InMoment.
Lisa Christensen: Where do you see the technology going or evolving as this next stage that you just mentioned comes?
Andrew Joiner: What’s interesting about Utah is for some reason in Salt Lake City it has become the CX technology capital of the world. There are a handful of highly successful companies, InMoment, of course, in the leadership. So it’s really unique. I look at the technology market and every decade or so there’s a dramatic C-suite influence that happens.
If you start back in the 70s you have the chief financial officer who was the most important technology buyer in the C-suite. Let’s get financial metrics. Let’s get software so that we can understand our cost drivers and our revenue drivers. That then shifted in the next decade to the chief sales officer. So CRM systems became a huge driver in the C-suite. Let’s get forecasting discipline and access to more of the data that’s driving our deals. That was a huge influence on a lot of companies that succeeded. So it was sort of the sales force in that transition. The next big C-suite influence to me was the CIO. We all moved to cloud and mobile environments and it was a whole uprising in the technology industry. There were a handful of companies that just obviously exploded. Amazon Web Services is a great example of that.
I think the next big decade is going to be around the chief marketing officer or the chief experience officer. It’s one of the largest items on your P&L sheet. We delegate a lot of money to brand marketing and advertising but it’s shifting now to be more pragmatic. You don’t need more people detracting and trying to acquire more people to use your products if you’re just smart about the people using it every single day. And technology now helps you tap into that voice of the customer. You can find out why people are happy with your product and why they chose you for those experiences. The companies that do that better using technology are going to succeed.
We just had a recent announcement with InMoment about tapping into Yelp information. So Yelp is an exciting company around helping consumers tap into great local experiences. If you go try to find a restaurant or a shopping experience you’re most likely to go to Yelp and read other people’s reviews. Brands have had a hard time tapping into what customers think. What is it about my product that they love the most? And now the technology allows you to get into that voice of the customer and understand what’s driving them. Knowing this can then guide your organization to action. It’s almost like self-driving feedback. So I think it’s really exciting.
I think the next decade is going to be all around customers delivering great experiences. And what’s great for you and I is that the things we experience are just going to get better in the future.
Lisa Christensen: And I know you’ve only been here for a few months and who knows how this first winter is going to go, but do you think that you’ll be around in the area to experience that next year?
Andrew Joiner: I think so. What I heard is while it snows heavily in Utah it has almost 300 days of sun. And so that’s not unlike an entrepreneurial journey. In many ways you’re able to look back and the days that you were laughing, you know, can make you cry. Whereas the days that made you cry can make you laugh. And so in many ways I think that all businesses go through turbulent, stormy times. But if there’s a metaphor in the situation I think that there are 300 days of sunshine. I think that in many ways that’s what I hope to experience is to get out, experience the success of InMoment but also experience what is an amazing set of mountains.
Lisa Christensen: Well great. I hope you get an ample opportunity this winter.
Andrew Joiner: Well I appreciate it, thank you.
Lisa Christensen: Thanks for coming in.
Andrew Joiner: I appreciate the time, thank you.
Lisa Christensen: Thanks also to Mike Sasich for production help. You can drop us a line at email@example.com and follow us on social media at @utahbusiness. You can also subscribe to us wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening.