This episode is a TREAT. We're all lucky to hear from Cristina Cordova who scaled the API ecosystem at Stripe (one of the most API centric SaaS companies, ever) and is currently building out platform at Notion.
Cristina is as good as they come at understanding what it takes to launch and scale API ecosystems to the moon and she shares some of her secret lessons as she's iterated on this critical piece of the partner GTM motion.
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This episode is brought to you by Crossbeam. Crossbeam is a partner ecosystem platform. It acts as a data escrow service that finds overlapping customers and prospects with your partners while keeping the rest of your data private and secure. Sign up for free at Crossbeam.com.
Jared Fuller 00:00
Yeah, too superficial kept down, as we kind of get acquainted here. So welcome to partner up. Howdy, folks. Kevin, what is going on in San Francisco right now?
Kevin Raheja 00:33
I mean, we're experiencing a lot of fires out here. And so Christina and I, if we've looked out our windows, it's a there's a layer of smoke that's covering the sun. So it looks like Mars outside today.
Cristina Cordova 00:48
Yeah, that I liken it to Total Recall.
Jared Fuller 00:52
Total Recall. Okay. Wow. I don't know if we can use that as a topic for today's conversation with Christina, thank you so much for joining us before we hop into the intro. Just a friendly reminder for everyone to leave us a rating. on your favorite podcast network, five stars only six stars if you can't get that button to work. In the ditch, keep on pressing past 578 910. And this episode is sponsored by cross beam cross beam is a partner ecosystem platform that acts as a data escrow service that finds overlapping customers and prospects with your partners, while keeping the rest of your data private insecure, you can sign up for free at cross beam.com. So with that, Kevin, who's our esteemed guests that we're going to be talking to?
Kevin Raheja 01:38
Yeah. So our guest today is Christina Cordova. Christina has a pretty illustrious background. I would say you've spent over seven years at stripe in a BD partnerships role prior to that you were at pulse for a couple couple years before it got acquired by LinkedIn in 2013. I believe. And you're at notion now. I think it was was it April when notion raised 50 million at a $2 billion valuation?
Cristina Cordova 02:07
Pretty much Yeah, right. Right. Right, as I joined. So, yeah, it's been it's been an exciting few months for us, we've been able to, you know, kind of right off of that straight into more COVID times. And certainly into thinking just a lot more about how we can use that funding to bring about new products like our API, new partnerships, new product features, all those kinds of things. Did you did you join?
Jared Fuller 02:35
Or I have to ask, did you join before the strike price changed?
Cristina Cordova 02:41
That is a great question. No, unfortunately. So I had a I had kind of like a long transition period between stripe and notion just because I wanted to make sure that the products that I was getting at stripe at the time, were in really good hands and stripe, and obviously just started to go through COVID itself. And it was just a lot of time for change in the company. And so I ended up joining a little later, um, which meant I didn't join until after the official round closed.
Kevin Raheja 03:14
So but besides the remote nature of how you're now forced to work, how has notion been impacted by COVID? I'm curious.
Cristina Cordova 03:22
Yeah, I would say in a couple ways. So one, you know, I think a lot of companies these days are thinking a lot more about how they can facilitate remote work. And do that in a way where people can find all the information that they need to run their business in an efficient way. So being able to like pass information through your company in the old fashioned way of just like, oh, I'll walk in and ask someone about this, or something like that just doesn't really fly anymore. And you kind of need to just document document, document everything within your company. So I think we're very much kind of riding that wave with a lot of folks. So that's where we see just a ton of more usage and sign ups on the kind of enterprise side of our business. And then the other half would be among personal usage. So a lot of folks are using notion for things like note taking, or we have this like big thing for back to school right now. So like how to create your own like kind of custom school workspace for students and all those kinds of things. I think just people need, like many different ways to like get organized and use the product in ways that we hadn't really anticipated before. So we're just seeing like a lot of new and interesting use cases. And the great thing about notion is that you can take a lot of those use cases, make them into templates, and then other people can build off of them which is really exciting.
Kevin Raheja 04:51
Is notion kind of like a starter product for companies that are transitioning or like forced to transition from mostly offline. Now looking at having like an online strategy is notion, one of the first tools that they would sign up for, are you seeing a rush of people from that wave, I would
Cristina Cordova 05:12
say a lot of folks who are signing up for notion for the first time, are not necessarily like, new to like the world of online collaboration, um, in a way. So they're typically using, you know, other online services, and find that all their information is kind of all over the place, and they needed to centralize it all in one place. So that's, I would say the biggest thing, it's not as if someone's moving from like, let's say, a pen and paper to notion. And we are seeing people use, you know, some combination of, you know, five, six services and coming to us and saying, Oh, actually, I can do, you know, notes, wiki, project management, bug tracking, you know, just everything kind of all in one place. And then I don't need to be able to, I don't have to buy all these separate SAS services, and then kind of cobble them together. Because, you know, as we all know, they don't work necessarily as nicely as you would like, often because a lot of these companies don't tend to partner as much as they should.
Kevin Raheja 06:25
Sure. So so you're working on partnerships, there? What does that mean? What, what are some of the things that that you're working on?
Cristina Cordova 06:34
Yes, so I lead our partnership and platform initiatives. So I would say it's kind of like a hybrid role between product and service internally facing with its own kind of engineering team, all the way to the external facing component. And that's really where I like to spend my time. So I don't want to be fully external or fully internal. And I really like to spend time with customers, partners, anyone who wants to get kind of value out of the product in ways that they're unable to today, and figure out what are the right solutions for that. So the big thing that we're working on right now is the first version of our API. So that will enable partners as well as customers to programmatically import update content, programmatically export content, integrate notion into all the different services that they use to run their business or run their lives. And we've seen just a ton of folks both, you know, just personal users who want to use notion in like a unique way. Whether it's, you know, something simple, like, Oh, they want a custom domain, or they want to use notion as like kind of this like a headless CMS all the way to how can they integrate notion with slack in a way that will enable them to do their jobs better communicate with your team better, in a more efficient way? And so it's a combination of how can we work with customers who want to use the API, mostly for enterprise use cases? I would say? And then second, how can we work with partners, so typically, other like SAS service providers, thinking about how notion and their software service can work really closely together? So building out that API, and then kind of representing notion externally, and working with a lot of our kind of beta partners right now.
Jared Fuller 08:32
So this is, this is interesting. So stripe, I mean, API centric company, right, like pretty much everything API, you know, and developer centric, to a degree that I don't know any other company that had risen to stripes, you know, kind of a claim in terms of developer centricity, at least in recent memory. And then to notion where you're developing the API for the first time, I think, what one of the things Kevin reached, we were chatting about was like, how do you take that experience and like, you know, for those folks that are starting to transition from like, one partner role to the next and the vast wealth of experience you have with API ecosystems and stripe, talk to us a little bit about how you're thinking about like that experience from stripe translating into, you know, notion.
Cristina Cordova 09:19
Yeah, it's funny, I think when I left, my wife had the job I had before stripe, I was telling everyone where I was going, and kind of joining this payments company. And I was working primarily with media companies at the time, and all the partners I was working with, were like, Okay, well probably never talk to you again. But you know, see ya, like none of that none of that work really kind of nicely translated into the next role. And what was funny is that a bunch of those publishers ended up reaching out to me over the kind of lifetime you know, that I was at stripe and said, Oh, like we're actually building like a new way to do paid subscription models or you No other kind of like micro payments with journalism or like those kinds of things. And it actually translated more than I think I would have thought even you know, even if you just look at it on face content, not necessarily having much to do with API's. And I think in moving from a company that, you know, is API only or API first like stripe, to a company like notion, which doesn't yet have an API, I think I look at it as, you know, a really unique challenge. I think a lot of companies that add an API on kind of after the fact, tend to not necessarily have as great of a developer ecosystem, as the companies that are, you know, very much API first. And it can be a lot harder to just get interest in having people developed with the API. So I've talked to other folks on the BD side, as well as on more kind of like developer advocacy, developer evangelism roles, where, you know, they want to be part of like an API first or API only type of company. I think the thing that's different about notion is that it is basically our number one feature request. So whether it's, you know, customers who use this for personal use cases, enterprise use cases, etc. They all really want the API. So the thing that's really exciting is that the API is both a, you know, deliver what the customer wants, like build this feature type of product, as well as a product that enables us to significantly expand the ecosystem that we're in. So right now, we don't really kind of nicely work with a bunch of other software services, you can embed content really neatly within our service, and you can import content from a few providers that we've decided to work with. But that's pretty much it. And notion kind of stays, as you know, notion is, and I think the thing that's really exciting about the API with notion is that, you know, we really cater our product to toolmakers. So if you think about all the different features of notion, whether it's like databases, page content, etc, the way we like to think about is that there are a bunch of kind of different Lego blocks. And you as the person who's writing, composing, building on notion, in a very non technical way can bring those different Legos together and building kind of software that works for you. Rather than trying to adopt a piece of software, that you can't really change and mold to your needs. And that's really the heart of the API as well, right? The API gives developers that ability to change software, make it adapt to their own needs, and do it in a technical way, versus a non technical way. So I'm really excited to kind of translate the mission of notion from a non technical perspective into something that works for developers and software services out there.
Kevin Raheja 13:10
So I'm really curious how much of your role is working externally with partners? And then how much of it is working internally with I assume, like product managers to like, open up the surfaces? And these endpoints?
Cristina Cordova 13:24
Yeah, yeah. So um, I would love to say we have product managers. But we don't yet so we're just starting to hire our very first kind of full time product person. So okay,
Kevin Raheja 13:37
so who? Who's in charge then of opening up those who's who are kind of the stakeholders of opening up the API's?
Cristina Cordova 13:44
Yeah, so I work directly with right now an engineering team. So like an NGO, lead and individual contributors on the engineering side, and we meet daily, in our lovely, zoom standups these days, really thinking through, you know, what are the things that we need to do to get closer and closer to delivering the key API to our first beta users and then releasing it publicly? And so in a way, I act as like, you know, a Kwazii product person, right? I'm working internally with that team. And I'm the only one of us that is going out there and speaking to the outside world to get feedback, fully understand what the different use cases are for the API, etc. and then come back to the engineering team and saying, okay, you know, here's what we're being told, here's what customers need, here's what partners need. And so I would say I'm spending my time probably about 5050 internal versus external. Right now we're in a pretty heavy customer development phase. So it's a little heavier kind of on the external side. But as we release the API, and then start continuing to build I think it'll, that external side will kind of continue to go up. To date, it's been very, very internal, just because we're at such like the early kind of foundational stages of building the API. But it's been a lot of just like, you know, hiring engineers to build out the team to build the API, you know, a lot of those kinds of things.
Kevin Raheja 15:21
Cool. All right. So are your KPIs more weighted towards acquiring new customers through platform partnerships? Or they, or more retention of existing customers? Because you're satisfying? Like, an integration need? Or what's
Cristina Cordova 15:39
our Yes, good? Yeah. So I would say, it's both of those. So, you know, one, there are customers who don't want to use notion right now, because we don't have an API. So for them, it's like, you know, they need to check the box. And so we need to deliver on an API that will check that box for them and making sure that there's not a single customer who chooses to not use our product because of the API. Second, retention. So there are a lot of users who are certainly aware that we're working on the API and are, you know, sticking with us, because they know we're working on it. And, and so we really very much need to deliver for them. And then last, and this is certainly not least, you know, it's not just about the direct customers who want or that will keep, as a result of having the API. It's also about all of the developers out there who may not be like direct customers, but are building integrations for our customers. So we're also looking to drastically increase the number of integrations that exist out there, the number of different things that people are building, you know, as an example, I see on Product Hunt, which I check every few days, just like what are the latest and greatest kind of like notion integrations that people are putting up there? You know, and kind of unofficial ways of using notion? And how can we rapidly increase that because I think if you have a lot of developers and people who are building either for themselves and saying, oh, maybe I want to open source this or make it available to other folks. Or they're saying, you know, I want to actually build this integration and sell it, I think that's a really fantastic ecosystem to build. If you look at, let's say, the Apple App Store, right, it's not just about, you know, the, the 30% that Apple is getting, right? It's the fact that, you know, by far, you can certainly say that Apple has the the best applications in and of themselves, you know, compared to any other service out there. And that adds to the value of your phone. And so I look at it, as you know, each and every single fantastic integration that is built on top of notion makes the notion product more valuable. And so for me, it's about trying to make sure that there are more and more great integrations out there, that we build the developer community with thousands of developers who are part of it. So those are all kind of KPIs that we'll stick to that will be, you know, indicators that what we're doing from an ecosystem perspective is, is working for our customers.
Kevin Raheja 18:21
It's such an ideal signal when you start seeing integrations being built and launched on Product Hunt. That's a wonderful thing to see.
Jared Fuller 18:29
Yeah, I have so many questions. This is this is such a fascinating, like build the app exchange app stores, like the whole concept of like, you know, platforms versus aggregators, it's a fantastic topic. Typically, you need to have executive alignment around like, you know, investing in this strategy. What is the org structure look like in terms of how you where you're strategically aligned inside of notion today?
Cristina Cordova 18:57
Yeah, so I report directly to our CEO, Ivan and I, we're very, we're about 70. Today. Okay. That's Yeah,
Jared Fuller 19:08
that's joined about fast. Y'all blowing up? Awesome.
Kevin Raheja 19:15
Yes. And you're hiring pretty aggressively right now.
Cristina Cordova 19:18
Yeah. So when I joined in, like, at the end of March, we were 40 just under 40 people. And, yeah, now over 70. So, you know, it's a lot of people for how small we were when I joined. So, you know, the goal is to definitely grow pretty rapidly, but not so rapidly that you, you know, compromise in terms of culture and other things that can be very difficult, especially in times like these where everyone's like, onboarding remotely and everything like that. We've all figured out but
Jared Fuller 19:53
yeah, we've all figured out. Basically, it's like, no one really
Cristina Cordova 19:56
knows exactly everyone's experiences. Perfect. Um, So yeah, so yeah, I work very closely with our CEO. And and then, you know, my peers, like the head of engineering, for example, or head of marketing, etc, I think
Jared Fuller 20:11
that's so important is the reason why I asked is like, you know, a lot of our audiences being tasked with building out, you know, API's it's like, and they might report into other parts of the organization, I think that executive alignment is so important, because your first phase is like, let's get traction and accelerate our community. How many developers are building? are we solving customer problems? But that next phase you kind of hinted towards? Which is, I want to know if you've done any research on this, but is there another ecosystem of like, I don't know how you kind of form your category. It's, it's, it's worth productivity, right? Like you're kind of in the Productivity Suite. So Chrome obviously has a massive ecosystem, right? A gigantic ecosystem of developers, for, you know, Chrome being the central place, but notion you have a desktop app, right? And were you looking to as your role models, that like, Hey, this is where the developers are, these are other companies that have built work, you know, for us workplace, work, productivity solutions that they've monetize, right? Like, I could go in and build this app and sell it. So I've done that in Chrome. Where else have people done this in this? You know, in the productivity space?
Cristina Cordova 21:25
Yeah, I think I'm in productivity. I don't necessarily think there's like a standout leader, I think, let's say yeah, in b2b, or like enterprise, SAS, I think the most obvious one is probably Salesforce, right? With their app exchange, and the fact that, you know, it does have similar building blocks. And the idea of, you know, Salesforce is that you can customize it exactly to your needs. Are you a 50% sales organization? Are you a 5000 person sales organization, right, you're probably going to need different things. And you can customize the software to be able to do that, I think in their world, you know, they operate very much in this kind of world of Salesforce admins, right, you kind of need to potentially hire someone to help you customize the software in a way that works for you. And, you know, I think our hope with notion is that you can customize the software yourself to your own needs without necessarily hiring like a developer, without necessarily needing that, like technical support, I think, you know, Microsoft, for example, has, you know, an amazing ecosystem of resellers, for example, for their product less so like people who are like, you know, necessarily deeply, deeply integrating into their stack. Because it is like a little bit more of a, of a walled garden in some ways, but definitely, he's working with, right. I think less so lately, right? Like word. Yeah, but you imagine, like, like, classic, classic Productivity Suite was very much this, like, you know, software that you downloaded, online, or that you like, bought in a box, right. And now, if you, let's say, go to dropboxes website, right, you want to edit a Word file, you can actually do that within the dropbox suite, without actually ever having to, like download that piece of software edited, re upload it back into Dropbox, which is really nice, right? So, you know, Microsoft is making a lot of those kinds of changes to do kind of like live productivity. And I think it's like, the difference would be a good example would be like, you know, what's the difference between like figma, and Adobe, right, also in the Productivity Suite here, so figma, kind of pioneering this, like, real time design collaboration, compared to Adobe, which was very much like, I'm going to download the software, and I'm going to, like, sit in my corner as a designer and design this by myself. And I will let you know when it's done. Kind of software, right. And now, you know, Adobe is certainly building much more into the spirit of collaboration and wanting to make that part of their software, right. So I think a lot with collaboration and b2b SaaS, productivity software generally, has been changing by virtue of a lot of new entrants who come into the space and have proven that you know, people actually do want to collaborate and work together. Not have what used to be this kind of like stagnant way of working these, you know, files that were, you know, versioned and dated and you know, kind of moved to the back of the drawer type of thing and So that's a big difference that I've seen. And you know, I think a lot of players these days have done. A lot of the older school players have done, you know, a great job trying to keep up for sure. But very much, you know, looking at what these kind of new companies are doing in the space.
Kevin Raheja 25:18
It seems like the collaboration space has this, like renewed effort of attracting generalists versus specialists, and therefore, they have to make their software more intuitive and the rise of low code and no code tools and things like this. And you fall nicely into that category. I'm curious, though, what, what's your perspective on setting up your company to be a platform? When did notion kind of decide to invest in in, in that movement?
Cristina Cordova 25:48
Sure. Yeah, I think, um, you know, certainly Well, before I was hired, and I had spoken quite a bit to Ivan, our CEO and armchair CEO about just the power of the ability for all of these developers to be able to kind of contribute to notion in a new way that they're kind of unable to today. And that being something that has made a pretty big difference in a lot of companies. So I think a great example of this would be Slack, right? I was actually part of a team at stripe, that partnered with Slack, when slack first launched you the ability to create a bot, right? And their entire platform. So I think we were one of like, the first 10 integrations, and it was something that was just like, super easy, just being able to see like, you know, how much money do you make today pop up in slack as a business owner. And obviously, they've built this entire platform. From there, that is really powerful for them, right? The fact that I can use all this other software and the messaging medium is slack itself. And that being something that's, that's really powerful. So I think for us, we want to make sure that when you are a business, and you're thinking about, Hey, does all of this software work together, like we know, notion can't be everything to everyone. And it's really critical that we work with all the different services that you use to run your business. And so for us, it has very much been something we've wanted to do for quite some time. And, you know, I think the only reason why we haven't done it sooner is because we have been, you know, just struck by the amount of usage and growth that we've had, and, you know, just the sheer number of like infrastructure upgrades and everything else that we've had to do to kind of keep up with that growth, you know, has slowed us down in some ways. You know, but I think it's hard to balance, like, do you build the platform? Or do you, you know, make sure your service doesn't fall down. So for us, it's trying to bring about like, more of that integrity to our infrastructure, and then also, you know, build more things on top of it.
Jared Fuller 28:24
Cool, whenever you start to look at that kind of that kind of next phase. So like, you know, if you talk to Ivan, your CEO, and you're, you're like, Hey, we're, we're gonna, we're gonna go to monetization monetization? Have you started to have those conversations, because I'm sure that's like the holy grail that, you know, that would align and executive and convince the, you know, board, etc, to invest the resources necessary. And potentially the other thing people don't talk about is that an API can slow down product development, right? If you create a bunch of dependencies here. So it's like, hey, go get all these integrations, but it's like we were there's kind of like a cost benefit analysis. How are you thinking about that step beyond this step? Because it has to be the long game, you wouldn't just do this? Just to have it?
Cristina Cordova 29:12
Sure, sure. So I think for us, given the position that we're in, where, you know, unlike most companies that are at our stage and venture funded, we are a profitable company. And you know, want to continue to be a business that is kind of long term sustainable on its own without having to raise tons of money. And as a result, I think with every feature, or product that you release, you want to think about, you know, how is this continuing to lead back to our ability to sustain the business for the long term future. And so for us, the API is both a know how do we ensure sure that people who are maybe not choosing our product today not paying for it, by virtue of the fact they don't have an API are able to get that product and get that feature so that they can buy our service as a whole. So thinking about that as just like a feature that you are adding into a software piece of software that is, you know, kind of having everything bundled together. And then as, of course, with lots of API's. And, you know, as you mentioned, just thinking about things that could slow us down, wanting to ensure that we have an API where, you know, it is not something that drastically burdens us as a company. And so thinking about all the protections we can put in place, everything from like API rate limiting, so that people are not hitting our API like crazy, especially if they choose not pay for the product. You know, I think these are a lot of the areas where especially consumer companies that have launched API's, you know, have failed, I would say last, making sure that you're very clear about what you want out of the API to the external developers who are going to use it. And so I think, for a lot of companies, you are often worried about, well, what if someone takes the API actually build something that's like better than our own service? Maybe we shouldn't release this, or maybe we should just drastically limit its features. I think for us, given we are dealing with people's content, right, you know, people who are like dropping their brains on to our product, we want to ensure that they feel like they have the ability to do what they want with that content. And whether it's like programmatically exporting it to another service, you know, you can easily build exporters that enable you to go from notion to a competitor. Those are all things that, you know, ultimately, we want to enable, we should be the best service because the service itself is great, not because we are artificially restricting the API, so that you can't move from one service to another. And so I think a lot of these considerations come up when we think about, you know, how are we monetizing this? How are we making sure that we're giving value, and I think it comes down to making sure that people were using the API Are you no one paying for the product, right. And that that way, the API is a paid feature of a product versus a, you know, free feature of a free product. And then to making sure that those users are getting a lot of value out of the API itself. So that there are you know, great integrations that they can use off the shelf without a developer, they have the ability to build an integration themselves quite easily and at the API isn't restrictive. All of those things, I think, will add up into a service that enables our users to really do what they want, and still get us what we need out of the day, which is the ability to continue to stay in the business, hire really great people build more into the product and really deliver for our customers.
Jared Fuller 33:28
So the six star experience, I referenced this model a lot because of Brian chesky. From Airbnb, he talks about it a lot is like, is the final destination here supposed to be where companies are developers independence, or maybe companies that are actually built on notion, quote, unquote, right? Like, hey, we built the company on top of notion where they can have a contained product that you can purchase from an e commerce prospective. Because like, that's the thing I've really missed in b2b like Slack, you kind of can you can, you can engage with Slack, but they don't really have that marketplace, so to speak. Right? It's a, but are you thinking about, hey, the experience we want is like, hey, I need to do this and notion click Buy. It's live.
Cristina Cordova 34:13
Yeah, so that already exists today with people effectively building integrations on top of, you know, notion As it stands, or are kind of like hidden unofficial API's. So I think we are well aware that that's going to be something that kind of continues into the future when we kind of migrate some of those integrations over to the official API once we release it. And that's something that we want to exist, right. We want to be in a place where you can go somewhere, use someone software, and maybe their software is like completely you built off of notion, right? Like maybe notion is the database that below which that software exists. And if people want to do that with our software, I think we'd be really excited to see it. So. And if you have your own kind of mechanism of charging for it, etc, etc, I think all great, right? I think you have to have the foundational elements of ensuring that what you want people to do with the API is something that is available and contributes both back to notion and back to our customers at the end of the day. So, you know, for us, I think making sure that people are doing the right thing with the API like, Yeah, not violating our users privacy in a way that they shouldn't not storing data in a way that they shouldn't. Those are, you know, clear ways where I think we want to have a say, in what's kind of being done with the ecosystem. But I really do think, you know, we get really excited when there's a service that's built on top of notion, and we see it launch. And a lot of our users are like, Oh, my gosh, like, I've been waiting for this. And, you know, often sometimes it's because we haven't built it yet. And so one of the developers out there does. And I think that's okay, you know, I think if, if people out there are like, a little bit ahead of us in terms of our own product development, you know, I think knowing that, like we are likely to go in a particular direction is something that we want to share, we want to be open about, I remember, there were several times at stripe, where we would basically see a product that was out there, and we were actively working on the same thing internally. And I would, when it made sense, reach out to those partners and say, Hey, I know that you're building this, but maybe it would be better if you actually went in this direction instead of in this direction. Because if we ended up building this and giving it away for free, that's not gonna be a really great sustainable business for you. Right? So I think you always have to operate these ecosystems in a way where you are, like, true to your customers, and being honest with developers about kind of where it makes sense for them to build. And I think, you know, we've had, you know, a trip, for example, you know, 100 billion dollar plus companies build a top AR platform, when you look at like what Shopify has done with Shopify payments built on top of stripe, you know, and I think that's really powerful. When we can see another company's product and say, Wow, like they've been so so successful on top of our platform, and that's a good thing. I think, if you can look at your platform and see that there's 100 billion dollar company that's been built off of it. That's a success, not something that you should look at and say, oh, maybe that could have been us, right.
Kevin Raheja 37:58
Yeah, this Yeah, this is this is what I noticed that we had achieved platform success. When I was at HubSpot, when we started seeing these software companies emerge from our platform that had built exclusively tools for HubSpot. And of course, you see that at a larger scale with Shopify and Salesforce and stripe and Twilio. But that's fantastic that you're seeing that
Jared Fuller 38:22
whenever you look at that, those those leading indicators of of that success like 100 billion dollar company built on your platform, like of course, right, like that's that that's the massive Rolls Royce. You know, kind of problem. It's like, oh, it could have been us. No sales, Salesforce
Cristina Cordova 38:41
is gonna be fine.
Jared Fuller 38:43
There's been a lot of companies built off and, you know, the app exchange that, you know, it ends up becoming an acquisition channel, right, like, it's an acquisition channel for for HubSpot, its acquisition channel for Salesforce for Microsoft, right. They're exchanges, so to speak. But kind of taking a different direction. I'm kind of curious, like, what would be a lesson for the partnerships people out there that you took from, you know, your, your first role at pulse to stripe, whereas like, I learned this a pulse from partnerships, and I absolutely applied that at stripe or lesson to learning a hard thing. It could be a great thing or a hard thing.
Cristina Cordova 39:27
I think, um, I definitely think being the the underdog and both companies was definitely something that I took with me. Me I think, yeah, as an example, when I joined pulse. We were trying to get all of these media companies to give us their content for free. And I was 22 this my first job out of college. I was trying to get these, you know, much older media executives to give me something that other advertisers pay money to be kind of sitting next to for free. And I think for me, the difficulty there was that, yeah, I think combination of age and to, you know, truly not necessarily knowing what I was doing, can be very intimidating. When you're up against these, like large media conglomerates, and for me, it was an effort of trial and error, knowing that there were like, you know, an endless number of partners that we could work with. And starting off with the partners that were maybe smaller, not as, you know, breaking if, if you messed up, ultimately, and trying to learn from that experience, and doing a lot of iteration. So I mean, I feel like I got really good at cold emailing. When I was at pulse, just sending emails to people trying to get emails, and then just constantly like tweaking the email, once I figured out that there was an email that like worked, or that got somebody's attention. I'm actually really animated BD
Jared Fuller 41:19
skill, like, anyone in partnerships is gonna have to reach out to people. Right? Like, in most, most people don't think about that, from a partnerships perspective. Like, you got to get good at writing cold emails. What about referrals? That's, that's my trick. Like, I never get into anywhere. Like I always go through referrals, I find the people that I need to talk to, and then I get them to make the introduction for me.
Cristina Cordova 41:42
Yes, yeah. Yeah, no, exactly. And like, I would have done that. Had I known anyone, but right, like,
Jared Fuller 41:49
this people, the people that are just getting into like, Hey, I don't know, anyone new network, it's like, study the best do outbound cold email tactics that there are right?
Cristina Cordova 41:59
Yes, yeah. And I think, you know, a lot of what works is thinking about things from the other person's perspective, like, okay, I am a 40 year old, busy media executive with, you know, 100 emails in my inbox. And I'm thinking about what's next in my career, what's going to make me look good, etc, etc. And, you know, I want this email to speak to that person, and be that one cold email, you know, every month that they decide to respond to. And so, combination of, you know, trial and error, and just really thinking about things from the other person's perspective, because if you're just thinking about, you know, why this is going to work for you, the person who's reaching out, it's probably not going to work. So really, findings sound like mutually beneficial ways for why this person is going to want to do what you want them to do. And that very much translated when I made the move to stripe, because very similarly, you know, I would talk to people and they were like, oh, like, payments company that starts with an S like, is that square? And I was like, No, they make the little dongle we kind of, you know, do something different with like an API. And then you have to explain what an API is. And we were, you know, not a company. Like, I think we had like less than 100, like real customers, when I joined. So you're really at a point where, you know, of course, everyone's heard of like PayPal, for example. And so you're trying to like, build a name for yourself and describe how like you're different, and how you can offer something that this like, no giant payments, incumbent can't. And so it was very similar. And I think a lot of those skills can really translate if you're willing to kind of test and iterate on what's going to work. Because you really don't know what's going to work when you jump into these like new industries with different people and different objectives. And then to really think about it from the other person's perspective.
Jared Fuller 44:13
So absolutely. Last would go to the kind of final questions here. So the, the one that I have is like, what was that inflection point from a partnerships perspective at stripe, where it was like, this is a core tenant of our business. Right? So you obviously you had lots of companies that were built on on stripe, or like Twilio is another, you know, a good modern example of companies using Twilio for SMS, right? But what was that inflection point where you were like, this has to be core to everything that we build, what the way that we market, how we treat our customers, etc?
Cristina Cordova 44:48
Sure, so I think so when I first joined, we had basically launched the OAuth flow on top of the stripe API. And that was was basically our first means with which partners could offer stripe to their customers and become a channel for us. And, and I think we had signed, maybe, you know, five, six deals and it was like, you know, Squarespace, Shopify, a few others. And they were getting to be a very significant portion of our business. And, and then there was a certain point where one of our partners, one of our big big partners comes in and says, we're actually like, we're going to be like leaving stripe, and we've signed with another payment provider who's going to allow us to, you know, really customize a payment service to the needs of our customers who are like little less technical, and need a slightly different service. And so we basically talked about partner and said, We need you to like work your way out of the steel, we will figure out a solution for you, we will build it. And we got them to terminate that deal that they just signed with a competitor and use the product that we were going to build over the course of the next six months, instead. And I think the reason that was an inflection point was because it basically completely threw off our engineering roadmap. So everything that we were building and going to do at that point, you know, got pushed back, because we needed to completely change course, and move in this direction, because we didn't want to lose one of these partners. And I think that really told everybody within the company like, hey, these partners are really important. And they're going to be a significant portion of our growth and our strategy long term. And knowing how big some of these partners have become, and how, you know, much of stripes business they represent, I think it was something that really spoke to the fact that, you know, partners can be a really significant value add to a given company and their ecosystem. And that's not true for a lot of companies. I say this all the time. Like, you know, there are a lot of companies that are like extremely successful without BB people or without partner ecosystems, etc. And, you know, I think you want to be a BD professional at a company where partnerships are important. And I think they're only going to be important if they're making up directly or indirectly a significant portion of the company's revenue at the end of the day, right? It has to lead back to that. And be really close to the product development roadmap, and being able to influence that roadmap very directly.
Jared Fuller 48:14
That's such an awesome story and a great point to end it on tonight. I really want to thank you for popping in and sharing a lot of these stories today. Because stripe is just such an epic partner, you know, example of like how you can build a platform company and I know you're gonna do awesome things, that notion and what's really unfair is that like you had to figure this all out on your own. And our hope with this podcast is that we can, we can share some examples because there's no book for us. There's no blog, there's no like, Hey, here's how you build platform ecosystems channel partnerships. So we want to share this stuff with the world. So don't forget to like, subscribe, find us on YouTube, if you're listening to us through your favorite podcast channel. And a quick reminder, this episode is sponsored by cross beam cross beam is a partner ecosystem platform that acts as a data escrow service that defines overlapping customers and prospects with your partners while keeping the rest of your data private and secure. So you can sign up for free across beam comm Kevin's a customer. I'm in a pilot, one of these episodes, they're going to get me I know they are. But thanks so much, Christina, this was a real honor a treat to have you and I know our listeners are gonna find a lot of value out of it. Where do they find you? You share? You share beady thoughts on Twitter or anything like that?
Cristina Cordova 49:28
I do from time to time. My Twitter handle is cjC Okay,
Jared Fuller 49:33
all right. Find her there. She's gonna be tweeting out some BD wisdom and great having you on
Cristina Cordova 49:39