October 27, 2014 Issue
The Most Powerful Name In Corporate News and Information
Enterprise-Ready Cloud App for Work Management and Collaboration
About Smartsheet.com Inc.
Smartsheet, a leading Software as a Service (SaaS) company, offers an enterprise-ready cloud app for work management and collaboration. More than 50,000 businesses and millions of users in over 170 countries rely on the award-winning tool.
Regarded for its online project management, collaboration, and file sharing features, Smartsheet's intuitive spreadsheet-inspired app is used broadly to track and manage diverse types of work including: team projects and task lists, customer information, sales pipelines, event schedules, and business processes.
Smartsheet is deployed in a broad range of customer environments, including many of the world’s industry-leading organizations such as Google, Netflix, Cisco, Bayer, Groupon, Pearson, HomeAway, McGraw-Hill Education, DHL, ESPN, Sony Music and MetLife. Customers include construction companies, consulting firms, schools and universities, utility firms, government entities, healthcare organizations, high-tech firms, nonprofits and manufacturing and law firms, among others. Additionally, Smartsheet offers mobile apps, pre-built templates and integrations with leading cloud apps such as Box, Dropbox, Evernote, Salesforce and Google Drive to ensure users are up and running quickly.
The company’s headquarters are located in Bellevue, Washington. Investors include Sutter Hill Ventures, Insight Venture Partners and Madrona Venture Group.
Mark Mader is the chief executive officer of Smartsheet.com. Passionate about productivity and collaboration, Mark strives to enable teams and organizations worldwide to transform how they work using cloud, collaboration, and mobile technologies.
During his nine years with Smartsheet, Mark has driven and overseen a wide variety of achievements. As CEO and board member, he played a central role in partnering with three of the leading venture capital firms in the United States, raising $70 million of capital. Through four consecutive years of 85%+ year over year growth, Mark has also driven a ‘customer first’ mindset within the firm.
Under Mark’s guidance, Smartsheet has assumed the leadership position in cloud-first, mobile-first work management for enterprises. As a trusted solution provider to Cisco, Google, the GSA, and over 50,000 other subscribing organizations, Smartsheet is making significant strides towards becoming the global standard for work management and collaboration for businesses worldwide.
Earlier this year, Smartsheet was voted #1 Best Midsize Company in the 100 Best Companies to Work For awards (organized by Seattle Business Magazine) and was awarded Best Small Business by the Eastside Journal. Those wins are in no small part influenced by Mark’s leadership within the company.
Previous to Smartsheet, Mark served as Senior Vice President of Global Services for Onyx Software, leading the consulting and customer-facing teams in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. As an executive team member, he led the publicly traded software firm’s services organization of 200 people.
Interview conducted by:
CEOCFO: Mr. Mader, what is the concept of Smartsheet?
Mr. Mader: Smartsheet is a collaborative work management platform. We have taken the spreadsheet, which most people on the planet are familiar with, and married it with capabilities often found in team collaboration and project management tools. The result is a tool that teams both inside and outside the organization use to manage projects and processes – basically any kind of work.
One of the key attributes of Smartsheet is that it’s very familiar to people and therefore unintimidating and very easy to use. It is also infused with enterprise-grade capabilities, mobile apps and rich integrations with other leading web apps. It meets the expectations and requirements of IT organizations and users alike.
CEOCFO: What are a couple of common tasks that can be accomplished and something a little more outside of the box?
Mr. Mader: It has been written that 60% of spreadsheets in the world contain no formulas. So how are the majority of spreadsheets getting used? The answer is to coordinate everything! Lists of tasks, event plans, project assignments, sales forecasts, inventory, marketing campaigns, new hire onboarding, and on and on.
All of these processes are being tracked in spreadsheets at nearly every single organization on the globe today. We have created a tool to help people manage those processes in a collaborative way so teams can work together, viewing and updating this work in the cloud and on the mobile devices. Smartsheet is displacing what people have historically used spreadsheets for, giving them one centralized, always available place to collaborate on operational processes and projects.
CEOCFO: Are you primarily replacing Excel?
Mr. Mader: We are – it’s the number one thing we hear from our clients in terms of our competitors. For decades, people have been creating a list of tasks in a spreadsheet, attaching it to email, sending it to colleagues or partners and asking for feedback or updates. We hear over and over again that that scenario is still the majority of use cases people employ today to get work done.
We created a cloud tool that people can access in their browsers or on their phones or tablets, where they have a single version of the truth. It is the same list in a similar format that they are familiar with, but teams can make changes in real time. What is different from, say doing this in a Google Doc or the cloud version of Excel is that we’ve given them the ability to also link attachments to the sheet or an individual task on a row. We have given them the ability to visualize their work by converting their project schedule into an interactive Gantt chart timeline so they can easily convey to their team or client where the project stands. We have given them other things that are important, such as the ability to manage dates and get notifications when things change or receive alerts about upcoming deadlines. We can also provide various views into that work with reports so management can look across projects to see what tasks are at risk or what’s coming due. Those are all things that you cannot pull out in spreadsheets today and are pretty darn important in business.
CEOCFO: Are you surprised that with so much technology available that people have held on to Excel? When you are talking with a prospective customer, what is the objection you have to get over other than they have always done it this way?
Mr. Mader: We humans are fickle beasts. We care about control and flexibility. What Excel absolutely nails is this notion that I can pretty much do anything I want in it. I can name my columns, arrange my sheet any way I want and there is no limit or application that I can’t set it up to track. People love that flexibility. The other thing that is an advantage is that it has been the universal standard and is widely accepted in business. If I were to send an Excel sheet to you or anyone outside of our company, the likelihood that they will be able to open it, understand it, and update it is extremely high. That is one of the reasons why I think it has been so resilient over the years…because it caters to things that we as humans love.
So our challenge is how do we embrace and remain loyal to those things that people love about the spreadsheet, but make it a whole lot better? As you said, people have been burned using Excel for managing projects or processes. They don’t know where the most up to date version is, they don’t know who made what changes or when things were deleted. All those things absolutely frustrate us about spreadsheets. If you could deliver the things that people love about spreadsheets – the ease of use, the flexibility to set up your way and that others to instantly ‘get it,’ and then introduce functionality that solves the problems that the spreadsheets do not address, like real time collaboration, visual project schedules and workflow automation, we would argue that you have a winning solution.
Additionally, people are recognizing that it’s really easy to test new cloud technology to see if it fits their needs. We are seeing enormous numbers of teams and organizations kicking the tires of our software – in fact, each month over 120,000 people sign up for a trial of Smartsheet. There is a great deal of momentum in the market right now of people wanting to explore ways to work together more efficiently and they’re seeking solutions where they do not have to start from scratch. That’s a powerful shift that puts the control in the user’s hands, and the pressure on the technology to deliver – instantaneously.
CEOCFO: Is there a common denominator you are finding for your customers or is it more across the board?
Mr. Mader: I think we have matched the pattern of who uses spreadsheets to coordinate their work. We work within property management companies like Colliers, where people are managing all the moving parts in their property portfolios, from maintenance work orders, to leases and property inventory by client. The GSA – the federal government’s agency for approving and managing the process of procurement, uses Smartsheet for collaborative project management. Populous is an event architect company. They plan, manage and execute large scale sporting events like the NFL Super Bowl and the NCAA Final Four in Smartsheet. Magnolia Bakery manages international store openings – from Moscow to Mexico City in our tool. Groupon uses Smartsheet to run many worldwide operational processes. I could go on and on with examples and how they use Smartsheet is so diverse. We serve more than 50,000 organizations across 170 countries today on a paid basis.
There is an enormous footprint where Smartsheet is relevant – almost every single industry, most functional groups within those industries, and companies in almost every country in the world. If you are in charge of getting stuff done with other people, we view you as a prospective customer.
CEOCFO: Would you tell us about the Smartsheet 2.0 for iPhone and iPad?
Mr. Mader: Our mission is to deliver an incredibly easy and robust experience whether you are working at your computer in the office, or you have your tablet or phone in hand. The latest release of our iPhone and iPad mobile app really took Smartsheet to a point where people could not only view their work in that setting, but manage all aspects of it. It is a native app, an installed version on the phone or tablet.
It really enables people to do three things: First, configure the work they want to track. Secondly, quickly and easily find the things that are important to them that they need to get done or update. And thirdly, do the actual update. If you can enable someone to structure their work, see the work that they are participating in and make changes to that work, you are really enabling them to work across quite a wide spectrum as opposed to most mobile work management apps, which may give you the only visibility into the work. Our strategy is to be in a position where we can cater to people regardless if their primary interface is mobile, PC or Mac – our mission is to support their device.
CEOCFO: How is implementation accomplished?
Mr. Mader: This is one of my favorite topics. To put it into perspective, our first 30,000 clients on a paid basis came to us before we even had a sales team. When I think of one of the key attributes of Smartsheet, I think of this notion of “instant on.” I find something online, I trial it, I find value and I want to start using it, without having to speak to a product specialist or a consultant. The vast majority of our clients are able to use our service with the templates we provide without ever speaking to a member of our team, and that is key to our success. In addition, we also serve large enterprises like Cisco, Google and the federal government who have very sophisticated needs. We have now developed a team of solution experts that can partner with those organizations to devise and optimize work flows, helping put solutions in place that are very specific to their requirements.
CEOCFO: Are people able to import what they have from Excel or are they starting from scratch?
Mr. Mader: About 40 percent of our customers start by importing existing work. They are pulling in information or task lists from Excel or Google Spreadsheets or a project schedule from Microsoft Project. One of the things that we have tried to solve very elegantly through our import functionality is the recognition that the blank slate syndrome is very scary. When you look at any software system, it doesn’t matter how easy it is to use; if you give me a starting point of zero, I will have to learn something before I can get started and gain any value. Importing is the way to really lower that initial hurdle.
CEOCFO: How do you insure that the data will always be there, that it is going to work and that people can really trust that?
Mr. Mader: As a Software as a Service provider, your success as an organization is dependent on the trust people put in place on you. Your track record is a big deal. We have been serving customers exclusively through a cloud platform since 2006. When companies like Cisco, Google and the federal government do deals with you, they go through exhaustive measures to insure that your physical security, your operational processes and the people who manage those environments meet the standard. They also make sure those practices are audited by outside firms. There are many layers to how we insure that customer’s data is secure and also the people who are operating our service do it in a very methodical, scheduled manner.
We have passed the security requirements of some of the world’s leading organizations – companies who are well known as discerning buyers of technology. We can also confidently say that we have not had a data breach or data loss of customer content. Part of that is investing heavily in insuring that we have availability and redundancy through our networks. We have multiple locations for hosting customer data and heaven forbid something disastrous happens to a location, it is fully redundant across those geographically dispersed locations. That enables us to confidently serve the application to well over 150 countries.
CEOCFO: What is the strategy so that Smartsheet is the solution that is first in everyone’s mind?
Mr. Mader: One of the strategies is to continue to highlight for people why using Smartsheet, as opposed to the spreadsheet, is the answer for managing the work. I think the other thing we are very focused on right now is ensuring that we are well aligned with the other solutions people use. We are in the process of getting Smartsheet integrated with Microsoft Azure and Microsoft Office 365, much like we have with Google Drive, Box, Dropbox, Evernote and others. There are multiple touch points with these services that people use, and our goal is to align Smartsheet with of these existing players and add value. I think users expect to have a cohesive, integrated app experience as opposed to managing all these disparate systems. That is a key part of our growth strategy and it adds value to that client experience.
The other piece that is setting Smartsheet apart is on the enterprise side. There are very few software companies today who have the ability to have their application selected and used by millions of users while also meeting the requirements of enterprise and security. We call this “consumer easy, and enterprise ready.” We have a unique position in the sense that we are getting very broad adoption globally and are also being chosen by some of these leading enterprises as a corporate standard. The strategy will be to continue to serve the broad base of customer organizations and also be able to cater to those very discriminating large enterprises.
CEOCFO: Put it all together for our readers; why Smartsheet?
Mr. Mader: The way in which people are managing information today is changing. When people are responsible for getting things done, they are responsible and accountable to themselves, their team members within their businesses, and the people outside of their business with whom they work. The requirement of having a collaborative platform that enables them to track, update and manage work with others in an efficient manner, will become a requirement for every single team worldwide. As companies look for solutions to solve that requirement, they’ll find solutions like Smartsheet, which is unintimidating and very easy to use, can be used by literally every team and department across the company, and enables people to become productive very quickly. More importantly, the people who are enrolled into the work process or project easily understand it.
We are in an interconnected, mobile world. People are changing the way they work and their expectation is that the solutions are going to meet their requirements. Organizations who succeed a global scale will be able to address those needs very simply and consistently.
“We have a unique position in the sense that we are getting very broad adoption globally and are also being chosen by some of these leading enterprises as a corporate standard.” - Mark Mader
10500 NE 8th St, Suite 2000
Bellevue, WA 98004-4357
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