Why Zapier Doesn't Care About Fundraising, with CFO Jenny Bloom
“When you have investors, you have to do what they want to do and you have to exit when they want you to. I just want to help build great companies.”
In our first episode of CFO Yeah! we chat with Jenny Bloom, CFO at Zapier. Jenny is a veritable wealth of knowledge on startup finance leadership, having spent 13 years as CFO of Mailchimp before joining Zapier in 2016.
Zapier is a household name in the tech world, but if you aren’t familiar — they have over 7M users, and $50M+ in ARR — all with only $1.3M in venture funding. So, Jenny’s insights on growth and fundraising (or the lack of) are especially fascinating.
In this episode, you’ll hear Jenny’s take on the differences between the last major crises and the recent pandemic, her experience working at internet companies in the early 90s, the pros & cons of fully-remote teams, why she doesn’t believe in fundraising, and lots more.
We’ve pulled out a few highlights from our conversation, including:
How finance works best with other business teams
The biggest challenges for finance teams in SaaS companies
Why Jenny is so anti-fundraising
What makes a fully remote finance team (and company) great
Read more on each of these points below, and listen to the full episode on:
How can finance work best with other business teams?
We have a lot of users, but there's so many more users we could have. I mean, Zapier should be used by every accountant, every recruiter, every lawyer. There's so many uses and we haven't got to that market yet.
Some people are still intimidated by it, so we need to provide people with more use cases and help them understand how to use it. So that's the piece I think we need to work on — our core product. We also have a labs team and other people that are working on the next thing we're going to do.
Finance is not involved in product decisions per se — it's more the analysis piece. I'm looking at Support and how long the wait times are on support versus when somebody becomes a paying user, and we found out that there's actually this window of time, that if they get support within this time period, then they will become a paying user. So, I can say, okay, we need to hire that many support people so that we can make sure that our response times are within that window.
At times you just need to dig into the metrics and say, "Why did this change?" and “where are our leading indicators?” So, it's really good to dig into some of this stuff and figure out why the churn went up or down, based on different programs that we had, etc...
What are the biggest challenges for finance teams in SaaS companies?
Right now, I think with COVID, a SaaS business should be very predictable as to what the revenue is, but with where we are right now, it makes it much harder because you just don't know and there's lots of ups and downs.
When COVID hit in March, our business dropped dramatically and we put in this five-step plan where we paused hiring, raises and promotions. We cut marketing way back, and then we also went through and looked at different contracts we could cancel or renegotiate. But thankfully, revenue came back at the end of April … and then we were able to reinstate everything by the end of July.
What are your thoughts on fundraising?
I actually don't believe in fundraising and that's part of the reason why I joined Zapier. MailChimp was also 100% self-funded. In my previous world I worked for VC-funded companies and it was very different — I like the self-funded route much better.
You know, when you have investors, you have to do what they want to do and you have to exit when they want you to, and I just want to help build great companies, and that's where I look for founders that feel the same way. We've built cash reserves and have money, equal to large funding rounds. So we have money available.
What does being a remote finance team look like in practice?
Since we are self funded and fully distributed, we're very different and have different issues from a lot of companies.
Being remote turns everything on its head. That's what made Zapier exciting for me, because I can do the same thing, but it's in a totally different way. You have to figure out ways to work with people, like — how do you solve a problem together? So you have to jump on Zoom and share a screen to figure it out. It works - it just took a while to figure out how to actually do this.
From the finance side - we're totally paperless, so we use QuickBooks for our accounting, we use Google Sheets for all of our work and then we save it to Box, so we're able to work collaboratively. We’re constantly building new things to change and automate.
We get on Zoom when we have questions or need to work through a problem. We couldn't have done this eight, ten years ago; but now I think with the tools available, it's made it very easy to do.
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