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What is the background story of Calixa and how did its founders come to start the company?

Thomas Schiavone

Co-founder and CEO at Calixa

I would say the formative experience for me was that I was the first product manager at Twilio. I was the 15th employee. The business was just really starting to take off, like I could squint at it and see, "This is going to be fucking huge." At that point, it was probably only 25k, maybe 30k, MRR. But you could see it because people were signing up and doing shit. I love developers and developer platforms and just letting people build on you.

The challenge was, "Well, how do you figure out who to talk to about what?" We weren't looking at Salesforce because it didn't have the data we wanted. Our bottoms up motion meant that developers were signing up before we even talked to them. Twilio’s marketing engine with developer evangelists was doing a great job getting the word out there, and people were flocking to us.

So how do you figure out who to talk to? You need to expose the actual product usage and then give a way for people inside the organization to figure out who's doing what, prioritize those people, and take action on them all in one place. So we built a tool called Monkey. Product, engineering, and ops needed this tool but it also took off within the broader organization. Our salespeople, our support people, our success people were leveraging this tool as part of their every day. And I thought, "Huh, this is interesting."

Fast forward 10 years, when I was looking for ideas for what to build, I realized, "Well, I've been at a bunch of companies since, and most tools are shittier than the Monkey thing we built." How is that possible? I think the reason why it was so good is because Jeff Lawson, the Twilio CEO, is so passionate about customers. He’s customer-driven, customer-focused. Most CEOs are not as much as that. He's the max. 

Most companies don't want to devote product and engineering resources to this problem. And I think we have an opportunity to build an opinionated view on this data and build a place where customer teams can really understand who's using the product, how they're using it, and build it into the workflow of how customer teams function. I think it's a combination of analytics understanding with customer/sales workflows. That was what was powerful about Monkey, and I think a more refined version of that is Calixa.

Find this answer in Thomas Schiavone, co-founder and CEO of Calixa, on the PLG data pipeline
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