070 - Xero to Hero - Building a World-Class Platform Ecosystem, with Bryan Williams

What is up PartnerUp!?

Many people don’t realize how far ahead of its Intuit competitor Xero was in winning the ecosystem battle and becoming a necessary layer across the finance and accounting world.

Bryan Williams joins us to talk about their unique strategy, how they managed to win big, and what the pros and pitfalls are of going platform-first. It’s the way to dominate a category, but it’s not something you can do easily, lightly, or in every situation. We also discuss Bryan’s next career chapter bringing these insights to the world!

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Full Transcript:

Jared Fuller  0:11

Isaac the other day you published this story. What was it called? Like a second person story from the future?

Isaac Morehouse  0:17

That's right. Yes. That was probably my. Yeah, probably my favorite piece of business writing I've ever gotten to play around with. It was a lot of fun. Because I was trying because I was trying to envision, like, this world that we're talking about where we're going this decade of ecosystems. What happens when we get there? What does that actually look like? What would that feel like from a day to day? Can we make this kind of fun? Can we pretend that we're in that future? So? Yes, that was that was one of our Sunday stories.

Jared Fuller  0:48

Well, guess what? We're joined today by someone from the future.

Isaac Morehouse  0:53

Oh, what is tie in?

Jared Fuller  0:55

What a tie in, right, because we're recording this on our evening. And it's his morning, Mr. Brian Williams, welcome to partner up.

Bryan Williams  1:04

Thanks, guys. Thanks for having me excited to be here in the future, as you say.

Isaac Morehouse  1:08

We are like Darren said only He knows what has happened tomorrow. He and yeah, fellow Aziz over there. So

Bryan Williams  1:17

I've had I've had do not already I've already been through it slipped. I'm ready to go on. 15 hours ahead.

Isaac Morehouse  1:23

I was telling Jared. Before I think it was in our last episode, that we should we should have a requirement that guests have a drink while they're filming the podcast with us. But it's, you know, it's 9am Over there. So I don't know the the rest of your day could be a little bit less productive if we enforce that.

Bryan Williams  1:44

That's right. I have five o'clock, five o'clock somewhere like us.

Jared Fuller  1:47

I have a really bad so Okay, so in the spirit of us, just like rolling itches, I have a really bad story around this, which I don't think anyone can get in trouble anymore. Isaac. This, Brian, I generally want your reaction to this. So okay, whatever we had, I will not name the company. That's how no one will get in trouble. We had a hyper growth company. And we did company wide stand up every day. 9am. So I mean, everyone was in stand up is you know, about 20 employees. So it's not that big. But we were growing really quickly. And it was hell to get people to be there at 9am. Why? Well, because type progress started up people to work late. So it's not like people wouldn't show up. It's the people were working late. We were trying to force them like rituals. And then one day, someone had the idea that if you were late to stand up, you had to take a shot of fireball whiskey at 9am. Now, that was really cute. The first like three or four times, and then two weeks. So this was not a mandate. Like I didn't mean like mandate this down on the team. This like socially emerged. And it was really funny the first couple times, but then like, one guy did it three days and like two weeks, he's like, Fuck this. I'm showing up on time this fireball whiskey at night. So maybe don't take a shot, but could be a good enforcement mechanism.

Bryan Williams  3:11

Yeah, I like that. Jared, similar sort of story in a startup I used to work at also won't be named. You know, as an international sort of team was less than 50 With few offices around the world. And another timezone even more ahead of us more into the future, Isaac, they haven't great afternoon going well, and they decided to start having some beers, and they wanted to get the other officers involved. So we had an international game of flip cup via Google meet where in one country started flip cup down the table. And then it skipped over to Australia's turn to have flip cup and run it down the table of a team event went to North America and to Europe before it went back to the host country to sort of keep that going. And probably not approved by bigger companies. But definitely that startup phase. It's a really good way to build international culture.

Jared Fuller  4:01

Well, we've definitely started this episode with ways to get your company in big trouble.

Isaac Morehouse  4:06

Yeah, get get those out of the way quick. Yep. Yeah.

Jared Fuller  4:10

Well, Brian, I'm so excited to talk with you. And congrats on the launch of hockey stick advisory. It's always fun to see partner execs, you know, take the leap into starting their own business. And I want to take a minute to kind of frame up the Convo for today because I've taken personal delight in being close friends with people like pika puja and you know, developing business relationships with other nations a high who's on the board there, too. I mean, a lot of executives, I could just go through lists and lists Brad coffee, kept their cmo Volpe, that previous CMO, sales leaders, you name it. There's something really interesting that I feel like a lot of companies have never realized that HubSpot and zero were You were kind of like leading ecosystem for APAC proper and larger by the time you left. They don't realize how hard it is to do what you two companies did. And I want to I want to kick this off with what I think is the most universal principle between these two ecosystems in demonstrate and see if you think that that is the real fundamental reason that you had an ecosystem business. And here's this principle. HubSpot took marketing agencies that used to bill on a project basis, to one time revenue. And they said, Hey, that's a horrible business, your cashflow restarts every quarter. And it did. And what they did is they helped marketing agencies build retained services now that retain services, it's, you know, six of one half a dozen of the other. It's still a hard business because you're trading time for money. But it's fundamentally a much better business, because you can exit. If you were managing $5 million in revenue, you're managing $5 million in revenue. You're not I sold $5 million in revenue, you're managing that revenue. Here's what's interesting. marketing agencies represented a giant cohort of the service industry. Accountants, same problem, right project base that comes to you once a year, hey, let's do your taxes or your books. Don't make any money until the next year. And what I saw happen in HubSpot was marketing agency started selling to other marketing agencies. I've never seen that before. And then I saw zero accountants started selling to other zero accountants. You never see CPA acquisitions at scale, I saw lots of Xero practices being acquired. I thought that was super cool. So is that a fundamental principle is that they took project based companies and helped establish ecosystems in terms of their service wider channel to recurring revenue. So that's another that's a lot of framing, but I feel like no one's really picked up on that fundamental point.

Bryan Williams  6:49

Yeah, I think the theme of what you're talking around is very similar. And I'm not sure if we'll have enough time to talk or to detail the magical unpack here. Around I think, with the accounting lens, and sort of how it relates to what HubSpot has done and you know, progress along the way. Yeah, I suppose if we look at accountant or bookkeeper, it's kind of like the jobs to be done. And, you know, I've had a chance over the over the years to interview when it wasn't zero where it had robbed jury to founder. And it was it was early on a stage he realized that they couldn't build it all. And they didn't really have to and he thought Salesforce was doing to build this amazing app exchange in the early days. And you really had this vision around. Well, if we open up some API's and see what happens and get our people to build bits and pieces, then maybe we don't have to build retail. You know, we don't have to build reporting as deep and forecasting means our clients, they can access other tools for tradies, or hair and beauty or get some pieces. And so as a core business, nothing you see a lot of business coming through, especially the sort of the earliest age ones, they try and build everything they try and build broad rather and niche than zero just nailed the value proposition for accountants and bookkeepers, and small business within the depths of what they do. And like HubSpot has done that very well as well. And being able to provide this ecosystem which sort of wraps around it and be able to add more value ongoing. And on the zero side, it was ecosystem actually flourishes on two main sides, right. It's to your point around HubSpot. It's getting accounting bookkeepers, using all the coolest tech and what's available out there to run better firms, so they can be more efficient, offer more to their clients move beyond the one once a year tax return, like you said, Jared, then also on the other side, they're gonna like a, you know, some of them 1000s of small business clients. And it's like, we're out, we're out and we just do a tax return, you guys should get your point of sale sorted. Here's an option. What about your time and attendance? How does that work, and like, if you get all this updated, and we can have better conversations, because we've got all your books on around it. And so the way the platform's able to manifest is like really cool to sort of see it come together. And, you know, the amount of case studies I've seen over the years, they've run accounting and bookkeeping side of a small business of, you know, those businesses, which just go deep in this space and plug in all the tools and get really streamlined, nice fries are doing pretty well.

Jared Fuller  9:08

Right? Well, I think you hit the nail on the head whenever you said, it was about helping them build a better business. What people forget so often, in this partnerships, triangle, partner, there's many more layers than the triangle. But if you were to dumb it down to partner, customer and yourself, right, your own company, what's really remarkable is how many companies think that they can get away with the customer value, absent the partner value. Like if you're trying to build something outside of your own walls, like this is the thing I've said a lot, Brian, partnerships is hard. Why you gotta know marketing, sales, customer success and product. You got to build that inside of your own department. And then you gotta go build that instead of other people's companies that aren't on your payroll. Good luck.

Bryan Williams  9:49

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yep. Yep.

Jared Fuller  9:53

Wait, what? That seems really hard. Well, yeah. So if you don't lead with where the partner value is, how you're helping them Build a better business. That's what HubSpot did, seeing Peekapoo in action and all of the agency CEOs, so smartbug, media, new breed, salted stone, I could just go down and list the diamond agencies in the platinum agencies in the elite agencies that I saw P create that they're 1020 50 million 170 $5 million revenue visit, like they're growing tremendously. And they would have never done that absent HubSpot partner program, I bet you could tell the same stories of the zero practices, right? Yeah, they don't just doubled revenue over five years. It's like they've either x or 10x. They're fundamentally different businesses. And as a result of that, that ecosystem that starts to develop, when I was launching integrations, at Panda dock, to me, zero was more strategic in 2016. Than into it. Why? Because I had an ecosystem of partners to work with, where's QuickBooks, Intuit? They were behind actually, they didn't have a retainer based ecosystem behind them.

Bryan Williams  11:01

Yeah, yeah, you're spot on. And so exactly, to your point, if if you are able to add more value as a partner, and I really have to go both ways, you know, platforms only when when there is the true value exchange both sides, right. And so, to your point, Jared, if you're, if you got a partnership have had on, you've likely got limited resources around who you want to partner with the ease of to be able to partner what's required to integrate around it. And so you're gonna make choices on the back of that. And so, if the platform doesn't provide opportunities back to the partners, the partners are going to get look left or right. And if the partners don't see value in the platform, and it also doesn't work, right, the flywheel doesn't spin.

Jared Fuller  11:40

No, it's the funnel.

Isaac Morehouse  11:42

It's, it's interesting. I'm trying to think from like a product standpoint, you have something like a deep philosophical and cultural commitment as an organization like a, like a humility, right? Because what's the tendency is to say, Okay, we have this core thing, you know, this bookkeeping, software, whatever it is. Now, we're also going to build the greatest visualization, dashboard tools, and then we're also going to build and to say, No, we're going to focus on this and we are going to let our ecosystem it's almost like admitting that the ecosystem is going to do a better job of sectioning this segmenting this off and building these different use cases for all these different markets than we are you all those companies that do that and get it they always tend to win on a much bigger scale in the long run. But that is a really hard, like, kind of humble way to approach product. And that's got to be a challenge for ambitious product people. I know that's moving off sort of the strict partnerships component, but I'm just curious, your thoughts on that? How do you stay committed to that without feeling like you just want to keep building all this stuff yourself? And making the best? You know, it's because you want to feel like your product team is the best, right?

Bryan Williams  12:54

Yeah, yeah, conflicting views, right. And this is where the, you know, a lot of the chatter in this community, which is evolving, which is awesome as around, you need that exact support from top down to be fully committed, and all in on ecosystem. And unless, unless you have that, then you get conflict or pushback. And when I started 05, plus years ago, it was very a first year, it's like building the foundations to like, why it matters. I spent more time advocating internally, then it was potentially externally and building that side as well. And, as I've, you know, done some courses with the edX strategy platform business course, which I'd recommend for any partnership professional, and Peter Evans and Marshall on that course. They talk around the bigger platform gets, the more you've kind of got to let go a little bit and allow people to build around the edges. And that's why you've seen HubSpot, and Xero. And Shopify, we've actually got open platform principles, which actually just plaster on their website that sort of say, Hey, guys, this is our rules of engagement. This is our terms, and part of it actually accessing around it. But then internally, Isaac, is spot on. A product team has spent a few years building out this feature, you've already got some options in the ecosystem, they're fully all in on on this component. And if the company or platform decides to release something, even though like, there's a lot of conflict externally, and you've got to manage that internally. And it's an interesting trend. But you know, here's, here's what's actually interesting is that a rising tide does lift all ships. So if a platform makes an acquisition, what I've seen is all the other players around it, all of a sudden, it's in the headlights, and everyone's like, Shit, I gotta look at Data Automation. Look, zeros has built this old quad. It's what's all the other options in the market. And so there's a change season. And the growth following these for a few years afterwards is they all grow because it got so much attention the limelight and so trying to convince a product team internally on that is very challenging, especially if you've got KPIs around adoption usage, you know, they're building their careers on the back of it. The constant validation and reasons why the ecosystems the bigger play around it doesn't doesn't Stop, you gotta keep beating that drum.

Isaac Morehouse  15:02

It's funny. anybody listening to this that's interested in this sort of how do you, you know, how do you stay discipline if you're truly trying to build a platform out of that approach? The episode we did a couple of weeks ago with Alec Komorowski. If you haven't looked, go look at the deck that he has the gardening platforms, it's called and it's mentioned in that episode, but because he just visualized, it's such a great simple way he visualizes this so well, like you have all these different consumer needs and use cases. And then you're trying to, you know, you're trying to meet them with this sort of, you know, getting from where you are to where the customer's needs are by building this like full stack to reach them there. But if instead, you can build a broad stack, and then have, you know, you only need to own the base layer and maybe some other layers, and just something about seeing visually portrayed like step by step. To me that just really, really helps me get because if you're thinking only in terms of end user problems, and you're like, we can solve those, why would we let other people solve those. But if you can, if you can visualize all of these different end users with different problems that are all A's, they're all over the place. They're not all symmetrical. And you have that broad base, you say, but what if we could build the base, because we can't solve all of these. But if we can build a base and let people build building blocks on top to solve hundreds of diverse use cases, instead of just the three or four that we're really good at. And just then it gets exciting. Instead of feeling limiting it can get exciting.

Bryan Williams  16:31

Oh, it's so exciting. Like over the years we've run, where we used to run developer hackathons and whatnot. And, you know, I've had a lot of back and forth with Scott Brinker at HubSpot over the years as he's building out on his side. And there's an amazing article he's got where they get a field trip to San Fran and check in an order coolest platforms. And there's a key draft which I refer to as you know, the platform solves the mainframe or a core business need as you put it back. And then the nature of a platform is you've always got a really hard bell curve to the left, and everything swings down. And so you've got this really long coordination of is really interesting user cases of what people are building out. And, you know, like stuff, people, like people are building something for a funeral home. So when you die, it just wraps up all your all your estates and fears and your business into boxes and up and ties into accounting software, like the daft user cases. Or if you've got a ranch, as you guys call it, and you got horse and cattle on there, and you might have adjustment, as a software for horse racing and whatnot, better push all that into accounting systems. And they're not they're not building, they're not building accounting software, they're building software to build that sort of stuff or one for like bug spraying like a pest manager, you know, software, which is they're not building accounting software, they just build out, keep, keep doing that build out your niche, and then you can just rely on that integration of partnership to to delight the customer. It's really cool.

Isaac Morehouse  17:54

Yeah, it's interesting that, you know, understanding the need to rely on and utilize, you know, an ecosystem, let let other people that you partner with build all these other things integrate with them. It's not only that it allows you to serve more use cases and expands your your market and gives your customers experience. But even just like for selling your core product, I think about something like accounting software for myself and businesses that I've started and stuff, I'm never going to go shopping for one, and I'm never going to care whether it's one or the other. What I'm going to do is I'm going to go to a bookkeeper, and I'm going to say, Well, you do my books for me. And they're gonna say, yep, here's my setup. I use this, this, this and this. And I say, Great, I don't care. Right? You just you tell me if you want to use gussto Plus QuickBooks plus, what a fine if you want to use something else, and what they're making their decision on, is what plays nice with everything else, because they have to do multiple things. And so it's like, yeah, that that ability, it's not only, you know, potentially expanding into different use cases, but it's also making if your product is like integrations, first ecosystem first, those resellers, many of them are not even formal partners, right? People who are who are contractors or whatever, who are just running, you know, doing accounting, bookkeeping, businesses, they care about and they care about flexibility, too, they care about with something we've mentioned before, not just what you integrate with today, but the likelihood that you will integrate with the newest thing that comes out, and how quickly will you do that? Because they want to be like, Oh, don't worry if it's if it's good, if a new payroll provider comes out, that's good. I'm sure Xero will pick it up soon. Like that having that confidence that culture, you know, sort of reputation.

Bryan Williams  19:47

Yeah. And also as well as that because they're going to do what makes life easy for them, right? Like if this core software that they use and they familiar with, like a HubSpot agency, which is really deep in that space. They know it inside out more plugs and how it works. Of course, they're gonna recommend HubSpot. And Tyler if it makes sense through like a discovery process of accounts. And bookkeepers are using a practice tools, which is really streamlined and seamless. And, and they know how to just roll it out. And the customer says, Hey, we need you to use this, of course, they're going to recommend something which makes their life easier and can plug in other stuff ahead. It's a no brainer. And so that downstream channel just really comes to life as well.

Jared Fuller  20:25

What's so interesting, and I just had like this crazy, I don't know if it's a realization was geeking out with YouTube, brilliant people talking about this, I love the way your brain works, Brian, just like the fact that you think that you have this ecosystem first approach because you saw the emergence of an actual app store. Yep. In a b2b Yep. Right, where there's actually apps built on a platform. And what I've realized what I potentially might have just realized, I don't have how I haven't thought about this before, is that zero isn't going in and knocking down logos, you know, of 10,000 person companies, that's not your job. And that space is a very hard space. I've kind of touched around it, but like going sage, and you know, all of those legacy financial platforms, I'm like, oh, no, thank you. It's a really hard place to be. But there are lots of companies that build to plug into those types of systems. Right? So you're building in an ecosystem, it seems to me that if you are targeting small business, the likelihood that you change your base platforms gets less and less as you grow. So what I mean is, it's much better to acquire that company and say, Hey, we're the foundation, let us help you tell the story of how you build the rest of your back office here, or, Hey, we're the foundation, let us help you tell the story of how you build the rest of your front of house here. So for zero, if you were trying to acquire a company, they already had 75 employees that are already on QuickBooks, they have 14 Things integrated, the likelihood that you switch them over to zero over time, to me seems like it goes down. The same thing with HubSpot. As they go from like 25 employees to 50 to 200. And they're on Marketo, the likelihood that you swap them over to HubSpot that

Isaac Morehouse  22:08

goes, this is why they give you 90% discounts for your first year. Right, which I have found ways to get those consecutive years in a row with a few companies before. But it's but it's sticky, right? It's sticky once that's your source of truth.

Jared Fuller  22:27

Well, it's such a sticky though, I think this is where you for companies that are trying to disrupt SMB in particular, you have to recognize that you have like, look at any company, that's an SMB leader. Are they not all platforms? I've really think about that

Bryan Williams  22:44

depends. It depends how you define the platform, I suppose. And the emergence, I think a platform,

Jared Fuller  22:48

a platform is one where you can demonstrate value of the ecosystem that's outside your wall. So let's say apps, service providers, people that can help you that are not on your payroll. Yeah. So if I'm evaluating, Okay, Isaac, and I were spinning up a new business, hey, we need to, you know, we use we want to use panna doc for closing deals up front. We want to use HubSpot for CRM, we want to use Slack for this. We want to use this for that. And then, okay, should we need to back office finance platform, right to like, start to scale the business? I'm making that decision?

Bryan Williams  23:20

Yeah. And it's and the more the more you add in, the stickier it gets

Jared Fuller  23:24

from a platform. Right? Yeah.

Bryan Williams  23:27

And, you know, Jared, the way I look at it in the past is, depends on the vertical and the nature of what it is right for the platform where the heart of it is, like if you if you look at it like orchestrator versus compliment a compliment is building alongside or on the platform. Like for retail, the heart of the business is selling T shirts and whatnot. So it might be point of sale or inventory component for manufacturing and making shoes, its inventory, which is the heart of it. And then zero is the back office or the accounting software to go with it. Right. For an accounting firm. The heart of their platform is the accounting tools. That's where they operate, and they plug everything in. And so, you know, you saw that map recently across been put out with all the different nodes and the dots around as well how, you know, there's always various touch points, like, that's the reality of how ecosystem works. It's not one to one, it's one to a bazillion, depending on what industry call your industry and what's at the heart of your business and operations. And that's why it's a really cool thing about the ecosystem and the platforms as they evolve and, and you see that sort of trend emerging.

Jared Fuller  24:30

And if you're gonna if you're gonna go attack, something that is like back office or front office and say, hey, at that early company inflection point of like, I'm, I've now made the decision that this is a real business that I am growing, that we are growing. It really seems hard to disrupt that absent some sort of platform long term play, right where you're taking that ecosystem like approach because the the likelihood over time that you acquire customers later on actually goes down the less of that. Yeah. So like in the beginning, you might be able to get some early adopters on. But the less ecosystem components you are a, the more likely they are to leave you to go with a complementary tool. But be the, the less likely you are to have the staying power and the resiliency against that competition from anyone else. It's interesting because that that happens with HubSpot, that startup program, they get you early, and you stick with them through hundreds of employees, zero, same concept. If you didn't have an app ecosystem, that dynamic would not be true. Like that seems to be like necessary and sufficient. Yeah. If Isaac and I were having a debate, and Brian, you were moderating is that that seems both necessary and sufficient nature.

Bryan Williams  25:44

Like I mean, that's the genesis of wildcoast hockey stick, because he's scale up businesses, like we're gonna be everything to everyone. I'm like, just just cool your jets. Let's start like build, build deep, not broad. Don't try and like be everything, start off with your engineering team can't do that, you've probably got a small team to do that. If you nail your value proposition early, it could be you're in a crowded marketplace, there's a lot of competition, some people are ahead of you. Why are you different? Jared, your point before like, the more you're integrating whatnot, you're sticky. Increasingly sticky, the more applications you've got plugged in and integrated. And so the churn that spits out the other side, and the lifetime value and all these juicy metrics, which flow out, are amazing. But if you come out with a really deep value proposition, which customers are riding around, you know, you got reviews, flying in the advocacy flying in your building groundswell, and then you can start to emerge and evolve and, but you need, you need to play that role as a compliment early on, and work with the platform's not against them, then stop, don't alienate yourself against the channels which are there to to unlock you.

Jared Fuller  26:50

I say the same thing all the time, like build in an ecosystem versus build your own, you know, out of the gate, build in versus build your own. At the beginning, that makes a ton of sense. I think, though, if you're trying to disrupt SMB and be the platform of choice for like a small business, you have to have, it's no longer easy to have that quick solution, you have to have that mindset of, I am going to be the place that helps drive the success story for my customers, and I need to do that with the existing realm of tools and technology that are

Isaac Morehouse  27:20

theirs, where and here's where I think it maybe even gets more challenging now than it was five or 10 years ago. Because when you're talking about that market, trying to get those companies when they make that decision, because they're only going to make at once. Another way of saying that is you want you want your competitor to be spreadsheets, right? You want You want those companies to be okay, I'm currently using spreadsheets, I'm deciding whether I'm going to switch to something else. One thing that makes that harder now is things like Zapier and all these no code tools, because now you can make a spreadsheet, do a hell of a lot more. And so when you come to the table saying well abandon your spreadsheet, it doesn't scale. Well, nowadays, I'm like, well, actually, I can make my spreadsheet, do a whole lot of stuff and talk to a lot of other things and plug into different. So you have to be able to have that and more like from day one, you know,

Bryan Williams  28:14

yeah, spot on Isaac, it's like needs to come from the top down, you're even open, you're gonna open API strategy, or you're a closed shop, we're going to do it all ourselves, we have licensing fees, there's exit fees to get out of it. Or it's like, you know, we let the customer choose, we'll provide amazing solutions, our product will win if we had a best about it, and looked at our reviews and our product led approach or our community that we wrap around it. And it's up to you. There's two streams of thought here. And once moving forward and accelerating more, and the old way of methods going backwards. And that's what we're all here to advocate for it.

Jared Fuller  28:52

It's interesting, I'm curious, by the time you left, I was actually just in geeking, out with Isaac on this episode. It's really cool. And you know, you have an ecosystem whenever you start to have the opportunity to like acquire companies that come after you. So you have like a build by partner conversation, right? I was just talking about the story of Scott Britton, my friend from trips.ai, because they really built a partnership strategy. They're like, let's win by connecting slack and Salesforce. That was their thesis, their product literally did nothing other than connect slack and Salesforce. I mean, nothing. Like if you did not have slack, or Salesforce, their product is 100% useless to you. So not only was it built on one, it was built for two. And I was a customer of troops because if you've ever tried to do reporting from Salesforce on a mobile device, that's the thing that like you're on your deathbed and you have regrets. Of course reporting on a mobile device, just like this is I just want to be able to tell someone by looking quickly, how many skiing opportunities that we booked yesterday. Right, like just just that number impossible in the mobile app absolutely impossible. But troops, you can you just like do a Slack command, number of opportunities booked yesterday boom, there you go, no easy way, right? They got acquired by Salesforce. So 100%, partner led, you know, valuable, obviously slack acquired Salesforce before that even happened. And then I got to see that opportunity where it's like just seeing a little bit where I was doing some m&a with drift with some of our people that had built on top of us. How did you think about that? Because it goes both ways. Like you buy someone, then you kind of kill that category a little bit. But then maybe it comes back up later on? How did you start to think about that is like, you know, for the partner, lead founders that are out there that are like thinking about their next thing and building on top of a complementary ecosystem, Brian, you know, acquiring those points, solutions that drive value, did you say Yeah,

Bryan Williams  30:49

a few trends. My sort of journey, which I saw was those who are early to adopt and get on the platform and played a complementary role run along, you know, some of them got acquired or crazy amounts of funding along the way and build international offices around it, and build out their own features, then they started to acquire, which is really cool to see. So you see the the platform journey in play? That's around it. I think, Jared, you touched on this earlier, like, there's now similar applications, which go out there and build connected solutions in and around the ecosystem as well. And these businesses evolved on the back of that, right. And I know of a few accounting firms who are using all the tools, and they go around looking for accounting firms, or booking games are about to retire, they grab all of their customers are buying in a fire sale, when someone's got the relief, they close down the office, I put in all the tech, they save about 40% operating costs straightaway, they streamline the shit out of all their clients and are often going. And so outside that the base user case of partner plus platform, there's other opportunities emerge as these companies sort of grow and evolve through the journey. So that's so that's a really interesting trend over time. And to come back to your question, Jared, like, I kind of see that the platform's typically a commonly, if you've got the core features of what they do, they often acquire what's horizontally, usually, because it's closest to the core, what's an application that can be used for everyone, it's international might be similar code base, what makes most sense most organically, and you see that sort of trend on various platforms around it. And then you leave the medium to long tail to solve those unique user cases across the board. So as a platform, they're able to deepening adding more value to the clients, we've got more network effects on because we're offering better solutions around the sides, and allowed enable their customers more and keep people on their platform as well, rather than being off platform as your point earlier.

Isaac Morehouse  32:45

Yeah, the whole point, one of the whole point of that platform approach is to increase your luck surface, you know, to say, we need more surface area that allows us to discover things that we didn't even know about the market, you know, but other builders in the market users in the market. And again, that's where that humility comes in. Like we don't know. Now, it's not enough to have no point of view and just be like, oh, we'll just put out some code and then people will just do whatever they want with it. And then we'll decide right, but like, but having at least having that ability, like I love the way you put it when we open this up that on the on the margins, allow around the edges, right, like, let people do stuff around the edges that you're not you're not you shouldn't be distracted with trying to support but they can. So I gotta ask you, Brian, the switch to to starting this company. Yeah, really curious what what precipitated that in like, you know, why? Why the timing was right. And just a quick, the judges love to hear that quickly.

Bryan Williams  33:43

Yeah, so I'll give you the backstory. So I always thought about five years is a good amount of time and sort of what I've achieved in the zero journey. And so, before Christmas, I was working with a performance coach, great guy. And just working for what my strengths and what I like to do you know, that old adage of like, work on your strengths and what you like to do you do your best work and all that stuff, he really brought that to the forefront for me. And then around Christmas time. I sent out an email to explorator email to the VCs in Australia. And no surprise, have always tapped me on the shoulder and want to chat to me because I know the ecosystem, the marketplaces are shopping around, right? So, you know, I had to keep an arm's distance is there sort of like triple A due diligence because I've got the overall view. And what I've discovered pretty quickly and was really quite pleasing to see is sending out like 1015 emails to QVC VCs in space a few days, they introduced me to a truckload of their portfolio, we're starting to think about partnerships and platforms and the future ahead and you should chat and catch up. So all of a sudden had this market demand to validate that hang on. There's no one really doing this down this region at all. And I'm seeing all these emerging companies come through and wearing zero hat. I've lost over two years, I'd have companies reach out to me via various channels, or hey, can you chat to us throughout time I mean, we think about building out a partnership and ecosystem strategy. And so I just realized this organic demand and the VC market, then validated it. And so I thought, what rather than hoping to an early stage company,

Jared Fuller  35:11

and Brian, positive real quick, when you said VC market validated it, what did you see?

Bryan Williams  35:17

Upon setting up the ADM to venture capitalists, the introductions to the CEOs and founders of their portfolio, which they're invested in, and they've actually growing internationally, or building partnership, muscle or ecosystem and how to how to talk through that journey. The conversations with those CEOs were like, we've got to get on this. We've got it, we've got to actually deepen our ecosystem ourselves.

Jared Fuller  35:40

So there was there was a change in that there was an accelerant in interest from those conversations that seemed like hey, this is all of a sudden,

Bryan Williams  35:47

yeah. And we need to be starting to think, I think it's like, it's kind of like, we need to think like a platform or ecosystem today. But we've got to move and migrate towards that as well. And we might not have got to it yet. But it's on our radar. And we need to we need to make this happen.

Isaac Morehouse  36:02

It's like that moment, like, hey, wait a minute, this thing that I do, now, everybody wants it. There's there's demand for this thing, you know?

Bryan Williams  36:11

Yeah. Yeah. And then from there, like it's, you know, honestly, it's the community which you guys are all part of. It's incredible workout on Adler continues to push out. It's, it's Jesse, it's you guys, you know, you know, it's a thing it

Jared Fuller  36:26

takes more than two. So

Bryan Williams  36:30

yeah, drinking.

Jared Fuller  36:33

He will comment on this, because I always have to call it out. Because

Bryan Williams  36:35

like, I think when he started like your community, I think it's like a groundswell movement of like, this is the future coming through. Once again, it's like, you know, what, I've got the opportunity to go help a bunch of upcoming companies go through this migration, and really go on this journey. And it's something I've personally been part of, I've been trying to validate and advocate for, and it's, yeah, pretty exciting, looking forward.

Jared Fuller  37:01

It's amazing. I'm, I'm glad that you're taking up the mantle, so to speak, in the region, because some of my best friends are from that region, my mentors like Matt Cameron. I mean, he's a kiwi, not an Aussie, but whatever, to me, you also have better hearts than a lot of people. And I think there's such a big opportunity and like interest in taking that approach, where you don't have a lot of the SAS baggage that can kind of like, they can come along with, you know, go to market and b2b here stateside, versus developing markets, where it makes a perfect sense, if you're building a business out of there to start where the existing, like, why are you going to try to drum up demand natively? there and build your own solutions with routes to customers, when all these other platforms exist elsewhere? Like if you have an international strategy, of course, how could that not be a corporate strategy?

Bryan Williams  37:53

That's right, and, you know, and down here and across the region, sort of per capita, adoption of most tech is significantly higher than other regions, right. And so it is a testing ground for a lot of US or European companies to set up a regional office here to test and learn some ideas, get the penetration to market and take it back to other regions as a real pilot ahead. And so, you know, the appetite down here it is growing, you know, Sydney and Melbourne in particular as hearts or hubs, I suppose continue to invest by big companies and government accelerators and whatnot and, and the whole ecosystem industry right down here it is quite a buzz. And, you know, there's been so much talk of the tech downturn and layoffs and whatnot, they'd like it, just in my view, it just amplifies the shit out of the value proposition of like a deep strong partnership. You know, everyone's lifetime value, stickiness, customer delight, making sure your partnerships teams deliver, enable and work with your whole sales team who might have less resources or less people than before. It's gonna get even get stronger the value prop.

Isaac Morehouse  38:57

So are we bringing up are we bringing the opposite ends of the world together? You You come into catalyst in Miami?

Bryan Williams  39:04

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm, I'm coming for a few reasons, Isaak. Firstly, you know, started COVID Something happened to me has changed my life, which is I had twins, and so I haven't really slept so much since and so coming to Miami. Yeah.

Jared Fuller  39:21

You were trying to say like I was gonna have it hard to do to get the double whammy up front twins.

Bryan Williams  39:26

Yeah, not we're at we had a toddler as well already. He just added more chaos to the mix. So, you know, a long haul flight. You know, I could fly up see him back and I'll be happy right now. So no pressure there.

Isaac Morehouse  39:37

Do you think twins and a toddler? Yeah. Did you have Did you or do you have three children in diapers at the same time? That's really the marker. I got

Bryan Williams  39:49

three. We had three under two and a half for a period of time. Right. So we're talking about Yeah, like lock downs or we talk about restrictions and travelers. You know, I've been locked down for the last few years, so I'm ready to escape. So that's the first reason. The second reason is I want to come and connect with the groundswell community that's in North America and building and advocating in the case studies and examples. And I want to bring back best in class methodologies that we're seeing in a global front. And this people from Europe and Africa are coming now say, as well. And I want to come back and own and PAL, the tech companies down here who are building an international presence, and they're building up their arm, they want to say, Hey, this is what are these companies doing? This is what's around this is where to focus on right now. And I think that's really exciting to sort of be able to bring that to life and so that's why I'm coming over and also to escape Melbourne winter for the Miami Beach is not a hard sell as

Isaac Morehouse  40:43

I love it. I love there's there's something to be said for just love that. Just having that time that connecting with people face to face, you know, kind of just feeling the energy, we were talking to our previous thing as our previous podcast about. Like she said at supernode. It was like, Oh, I just, I just like I knew it intellectually, but I didn't feel there's so many of us. And there's so much going on here. There's just an energy there. So I will be I will be a catalyst as well. I'm really looking forward to it. Jared will be probably with a new baby around that time. So

Bryan Williams  41:18

yeah, not any day. No, hey.

Jared Fuller  41:21

No. Yeah, any any second. So for on the last podcast, I plugged YouTube pretty hard. I feel like for this one. Now that I'm like recording, I'm trying to catch up on recording because I'm gonna be out for a few weeks. I'm looking like worse and worse, as we get up to this day. Like, I'm currently

Isaac Morehouse  41:38

preemptively falling into the, you know, haven't haven't shaved and showered and gone out and weeks thing you're getting ready. It's like, it's like training for when the baby comes?

Jared Fuller  41:53

Well, Isaac, you have the track record of like, the 1am 2am slacks. Here's like your bicycle wake up in the morning. Like, I didn't check my phone. And I wake up. It's like, oh my gosh, Jared, what were you doing last night? But yes, unfortunately, I will not be a catalyst because of work moving my daughter. So child number two to the to the world. I'm super excited for it. I can't wait for it. I'm sad that I'm going to miss it. But I actually think you just did a great job of selling for partnerships, leaders who were big fans and friends of Chris Ty Asher, like the founders and then the community at large. And because it's much bigger than it's much bigger than all of us is coming together. And I mean, if you're not going, Brian just said how he's when he's going across the world people. So get there. I wish I would be there. I just gonna be there. Will's gonna be there. I'll be there in spirit. You guys give me foam

Isaac Morehouse  42:47

fly like whatever. Like 15 hours or something?

Bryan Williams  42:51

Oh, I can I can longer maybe like 20 hours of time and get a curl. Yeah, see?

Isaac Morehouse  42:55

What's your excuse? If Brian's willing to do that? Yeah. Yeah.

Bryan Williams  43:00

I'll send you Jared. I'll send you some twin horror stories early on to make you realize that it's not so bad. You know, as you're sort of getting

Jared Fuller  43:10

what's called anchoring. Let me anchor you as crazy horror stories. Yeah, that's, that's, uh, that resilience is, is pretty tough. Because you're, you're basically one is affecting the other. I just, that's compounding effects that I can't wrap my mind around. Brian, I'm so glad I finally got to like geek out and talk a little bit about the zero ecosystem because I've I've talked privately about the similarities and the differences between, you know, emergent or new ecosystems the zero story because I mean, founded in

Bryan Williams  43:43

Wellington, aliens it right to a company, we now have a very much global presence and continues to go from strength to strength. Yeah.

Jared Fuller  43:51

So I think it gets overlooked a lot because just into it was such a juggernaut, but I feel like zero really was the accelerant that changed. I mean, any anything that's been innovated with intuits, you know, ecosystem and channels, I feel like as a result of direct pressure from zero, like you all did a ton to affect the, you know, accounting and back office world. For any partner people out there. I'm not going into the space, there's only one left. There's only one left that shares the same opportunity. So you had marketing agencies project based recurring, then you had accounting project based recurring guest who's still charging project based out there in the world. Legal. That's the only one I feel like hasn't been got fully flipped into value added services. I almost wanted to go after a paradox with someone go do it. Brian Williams is the guy to help you do it. Hockey stick advisory. He's, he's tell the story.

Bryan Williams  44:39

Thanks, Jared. Thanks, Isaac. It's been great to chat. I'm sure we'll have plenty of engagements and debates back and forth for him. Looking forward to it. Yeah.

Jared Fuller  44:48

Catalyst. Bryan, appreciate it. Partner up. We will see you all next time. Thanks for joining us from Down Under and the future. Brian Williams. Thanks, guys.

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