Episode 322: The Future of Distributed Teams: Building Human Connection in a Virtual World with Brett Martin

GUEST: Brett Martin, Co-Founder/ Investor at Charge Ventures and Kumospace

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Have you ever dreamt of starting a global company but are unsure where to begin? 

Or maybe you're struggling to keep your remote team connected and productive. 

The question is: 

How do you launch a successful startup, target the perfect niche market, and navigate the complexities of remote work without losing the human touch?

To help us with this today, we have Brett Martin, Co-Founder/ Investor at Charge Ventures and Kumospace. He delves into the secret sauce for SaaS companies and how to integrate a sales team into a PLG strategy for maximum growth. 

Brett is an entrepreneur, angel investor, pragmatist, and optimist. Having spent most of his career in the startup trenches, he now focuses on supporting other entrepreneurs as Managing Partner of a small seed-stage venture fund: Charge Ventures. Charge is a NYC-based pre-seed/seed stage venture fund. They invest 200-500k at the earliest stages of company formation and then help founders take things from 0 to 1.

The secret sauce of successful startups

Brett’s investment philosophy highlights that successful businesses have rapid revenue growth, high margins, viral and network effects, and strong management with unique advantages. When investing, he focuses on these traits and is driven by a mission to use technology for authentic human interactions.

Brett also addresses common startup mistakes, emphasizing the need to be problem-finders rather than simply applying existing solutions. His roadmap for aspiring entrepreneurs references the Japanese concept of IKIGAI, that successful ventures must align with what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs, and what you can get paid for. This approach provides a clear roadmap for aspiring entrepreneurs.

“There's lots of ways to make money. But if you're going to start a company, you should have some deep personal connection to the problem you're solving”

Brett Martin, Co-Founder/ Investor at Charge Ventures and Kumospace

Brett's guide to finding the perfect market niche

Brett emphasizes the importance of startups identifying a precise market niche rather than trying to be all-encompassing. He advises focusing on underserved, profitable markets, citing the plus-size clothing market as an example. By honing in on a specific niche, businesses can develop tailored products that meet unique customer needs, ensuring they stand out.

He also stresses aligning your product, messaging, and marketing channels with your chosen niche. Using Kumo Space as an example, Brett highlights targeting remote teams, particularly agencies and consultancies. Effective communication and targeted marketing channels, like advertising hearing aids in Playbill brochures for symphony-goers, ensure startups reach their ideal customers and maximize success.

“So once you find that niche, you say, OK, I can narrow down to the point. I'm gonna build my product exactly for this customer, right? So you keep segmenting down the market until you have, you can literally build the best product in the world for that particular niche. And if you can't build the best products in the world, you need to get smaller with your niche.”

Brett Martin, Co-Founder/ Investor at Charge Ventures and Kumospace

Distributed teams beyond just working remotely

Brett explores the shift towards remote and distributed work, noting how companies naturally expand across different locations as they grow. He emphasizes the difficulty in maintaining smooth workflows and communication once physical proximity is no longer guaranteed. As remote and distributed teams heavily rely on digital tools, the scattered nature of these tools often leads to decreased productivity. 

This is where tools like Kumo Space come in. Brett highlights the pain point of onboarding new team members in a distributed setting. It can feel isolating and confusing, with no central hub to get acquainted with colleagues and workflows. Kumo Space aims to bridge that gap by providing a virtual space that fosters a sense of "awareness." It's about recreating the positive aspects of an office environment - visibility, accountability, and spontaneous collaboration - all within a virtual setting.

”And I guess when I think about, you know, remote and distributed teams, you live in your tools. All your work happens in your tools. There's no physical nexus for where everyone comes together and connects. So if your tools are fragmented and scattered, which has been, you know, kind of the story of SAAS over the past 15 years is tool fragmentation. Then your teams are scattered. And then how do you keep track of everyone? How do you know where everyone is? How do you communicate quickly and then, you know, how do you sort of build a cult of productivity? If you're just spread out everywhere”

Brett Martin, Co-Founder/ Investor at Charge Ventures and Kumospace

When to Introduce Sales in the PLG Model

SaaS (Software as a Service) can be divided into Product-Led Growth (PLG) and traditional sales-driven models. Brett Martin, however, argues for a "sweet spot"—the Sales Assist Model. In Brett's virtual office software, Users can explore the product independently, but at a crucial moment—right after activation—a salesperson steps in. This "just right" timing allows the salesperson, Phil, to answer questions and help users get the most out of Kumo Space.

The key takeaway is carefully considering the user journey and identifying the optimal moment to introduce a human touch.  This "right time, right place, right message" approach can significantly enhance your sales efforts within a PLG framework.

“What's the right time in the user journey? What's the right place in terms of the product? Where's a native way to get your team in front of your users? And that right time, right place, right message, way of helping and sort of think about your funnel, right time, right place, right message. And that's where you put in your sales assist.”

Brett Martin, Co-Founder/ Investor at Charge Ventures and Kumospace

Now that you know that strategically integrating a sales team into the product user journey can be a successful growth strategy for SaaS companies. Check out the full list of episodes at The B2B Revenue Executive Experience. If you enjoy the show, instructions to rate and review it are found here.

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