The 35th in our special series of interviews with leaders of unicorn companies recorded in partnership with European PR Agency, Tyto, and their Without Borders podcast. Russell Goldsmith and co-host, Tyto’s Senior Partner, Holly Justice were joined online from Atlanta by Scott Voigt, Founder and CEO of digital experience intelligence company FullStory. FullStory’s technology helps site owners improve digital experiences by identifying and fixing problems, lowering support and engineering costs and enabling faster website building. Voigt co-founded FullStory in 2014 with two colleagues he previously worked with at Google. Company Background FullStory is a digital experience intelligence company that uses novel technology to identify and solve issues that result in poor digital experiences. Their technology sits on clients’ browsers or native devices, helping site owners pinpoint and quantify problems and providing workflows to fix them. By improving conversion rates, lowering support, and engineering costs and enabling faster website building, FullStory helps businesses make more money while perfecting the digital experience. Entrepreneurial Journey Scott has been involved in the software service industry since 1997, back when it was known as Service Bureau software. He has worked with early stage technology companies in a B2B capacity for a long time. The story of FullStory began in 2004 when Scott met his co-founders, Bruce Johnson and Joel Webber, while working on a startup at Georgia Tech. The three of them started working together and eventually they were acquired by Google. Bruce and Joel went on to lead and build out Google’s engineering presence in Atlanta while Scott worked for another SaaS company. However, they always wanted to work together again and after many years they quit their day jobs to pursue their idea of perfecting digital experience with a novel piece of technology that didn’t exist. Investments Scott discussed that the bulk of their investments is put back into the product to ensure customer satisfaction. As a software as a service company, they prioritise hiring smart product managers, engineers, and designers to create amazing experiences for customers. They also invest in sales and marketing to promote their product. Recently FullStory has been leaning into the enterprise market and expanding globally. They have opened offices in Germany and Singapore and have a strong presence in Australia and Europe. With 33,000 paying customers worldwide, FullStory is committed to serving big companies with complex problems. Leadership FullStory is a successful global company and requires great leadership to continue to grow. Scott emphasised the importance of communication and hiring skilled people who are smart and more skilled than himself. Regarding the FullStory management team, he said that they focus on leaders who are masters of their craft and still enjoy practising it, be it engineering, sales or anything else. Scott believes that it’s important to have team members who are craftspeople and want to continue that. In terms of individuals that have had an impact on his development as a leader, Scott mentioned his parents Nick and Starr Voigt. His mother always encouraged him to take on roles of leadership while his father, a corporate man at Hewlett-Packard for 32 years, instilled in him business principles from a young age. Scott learned from his father’s challenges at work and his experiences with hiring, firing and customer service. Growing up in an environment with leadership and business principles helped shape Scott’s ideals as he matured in the business world. Perception after becoming a unicorn When a company gains unicorn status the perception of that company can change regarding communication and culture. Scott emphasised the FullStory’s focus has always been on building a great product and improving customer experience, regardless of its valuation. He also stated that the company’s culture has remained constant throughout its growth, with a strong emphasis on empathy, clarity, bionics, and trust. As the company grows, they screen heavily through the interview process to ensure that new hires align with these cultural values. Trust, in particular, has been tested through hypergrowth and the pandemic but remains at the core of FullStory’s culture. Culture Scott discusses the influence of his father’s time at HP on FullStory’s culture. He admired the lack of hierarchy and the open door policy for former employees. He hopes FullStory can maintain a similar culture. He shares a story of his father welcoming back former employees who left and returned. Scott believes that if former employees were good at their job they should be welcomed back. Scott also mentions his interest in studying other companies’ culture like Amazon, Goldman Sachs and McKinsey and Company. He is less interested in what he likes and more interested in what he finds interesting. Scott notes that winning is essential for FullStory but they don’t have to be jerks about it. Teamwork is vital, Scott looks for anti-patterns in other cultures that don’t share the same values. Differentiation When thinking about differentiating itself from competitors, Scott emphasised the importance of the company’s technology and product which has served them well to date and he hopes will continue to do so in the future. Initially, FullStory relied on a product led growth model where users would try the product and tell others if they liked it. However, as they moved into larger enterprise opportunities, they realised they needed to understand their clients’ problems and offer solutions tailored to their needs. One way FullStory has differentiated itself is through its novel approach to solving problems in digital experiences. The company invented a way to capture, structure and index data automatically, eliminating the need for time-consuming and often flawed event instrumentation. They capture all data in a privacy-friendly way, structures it and indexes it making it easy to access and analyse retroactively. Communication Scott believes that being genuine is the most important thing for a leader to maintain confidence in the company. He doesn’t believe in adjusting his communications approach and always aims to be true to himself. He believes in being clear and explaining the reality of situations, even if they are tough. He believes in honouring the inner sceptic and encourages his team to test what he says to build trust and alignment. Internal communications Scott spoke about the internal communication approach he utilises to engage with his team. He mentioned that he prefers to give talks that are not scripted and titled “Scott Rambles” to avoid corporate speak. He uses a micro board to keep an outline of his points which makes giving a presentation easier. Scott also emphasised that he is not slide heavy and prefers to use images, usually emojis to convey his points. He believes that being genuine in his communicant builds trust with his team. External communications Scott talks about having mixed feelings about being an external spokesperson. He enjoys chatting with people and getting excited about the company but dreads the preparation and worries about saying something stupid. Despite this, he feels a certain energy from doing it. Communication challenge Scott mentioned two major communications challenges he faced during his journey. The first was his struggle with the written communication which he overcame through practice and perseverance. The second was transitioning from small company communications to communicating with larger groups where it was impossible to read the room and know everyone. Scott said that every time he spoke to a large group, someone was bound to be confused or misunderstand him. While some might opt for scripted communication to avoid confusion, Scott believes in rolling with the punches. However, he admitted that if they became a public company, he might have to consider more scripted communication. Advice Finally, Scott shares his advice on communication if he could go back in time and speak to his old self. His guidance would be to “say less” which highlights the importance of concise communication. In partnership with PRCA members receive 10 CPD points for listening to this podcast if they log it on the CPD programme.
What we have to focus on is building a wonderful product and delivering fantastic value and improving digital experience for our customers.
– Scott Voigt, Founder and CEO, FullStory