This talk was given by Jose Gomez Cueto, Director, Microsoft at SaaS Connect 2019 in San Francisco, Mar 26-27, 2019. Get the slides

Getting your product to market can be overwhelming, as can scaling the company to support your product and your customers. But partnering with a massive company like Microsoft to achieve those goals can be intimidating, too.

That’s why at SaaS Connect 2019, Jose Gomez Cueto from Microsoft sat down with Fiind co-founder and CEO Vijay Kasireddy to talk about what such a partnership looks like.

What challenges do startups in such a partnership face? What’s it like for two companies of different sizes to grow concurrently, and how do those companies overcome obstacles together as partners?

Why Fiind decided to build on Microsoft’s platform and channel

Fiind helps sales, marketing and channel teams identify opportunities in their data. The product’s AI combs through CRM data and marketing automation data as well as a potential customer’s buying signals to reveal these insights.

That means Fiind’s potential market is huge, and it takes a lot of thoughtful groundwork to scale up a company in such a market. Vijay describes the startup phase as three steps, and he speaks candidly about how those steps went in Fiind’s collaboration with Microsoft:

  • Ideation. It was at this stage Vijay recognized just how big Fiind’s potential infrastructure costs could be. He says the Microsoft Startup program helped his team develop the architecture needed to scale.
  • Validation. “It was not that difficult for us to find many leaders within Microsoft and the ecosystem who were embracing new ideas, who were ready to sort of bring on innovation and startups,” Vijay says.
  • Preparing to Scale. Vijay says being able to co-participate in innovation and to find customers within an ecosystem helped Fiind get crucial experience and get the company ready to scale.

3 challenges Fiind faced going to market with Microsoft

Once Fiind got to market, the team began to learn lessons quickly:

  1. Models are only as good as your data. At first, a lot of Fiind’s data modeling happened outside of the Azure platform. This created silos that eventually had to be broken down, which open-source apps and platforms within the Azure framework eventually did.
  2. The data is only as good as it is actionable. Data from one customer might not create any practical intelligence for another. “One of the things that we realized is that there is no such thing as one model fits everything,” Vijay says.
  3. Actionable is only as good as it is useful. Fiind has to get intel to its customers’ salespeople and marketers — people don’t have time to parse complicated information. Delivering useful intel to an end user of Office 365, for example, was initially difficult because Fiind had to work with each Microsoft product’s team independently.

How Fiind went to market with Microsoft through co-selling

Vijay says Microsoft’s partnership network helped address two big questions of scale:

  • How do we get our solution in front of people? There wasn’t a marketplace just a few years ago. Now, Microsoft’s Azure marketplace allows startups to publish their solutions and get them in front of a variety of partners and potential customers.
  • How do we leverage the ecosystem of partners? This is where Microsoft’s notion of “co-selling” comes in. Within an ecosystem, there aren’t merely partners and customers. There are mutually reinforcing connections that allow opportunities to multiply.

Such an ecosystem, then, creates various mutual incentives for network partners to seek out and share opportunities. It’s a rising-tide-lifts-all-boats model, and it’s an ecosystem that has allowed Fiind to thrive.