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With Scott Orn

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Scott Orn

Scott Orn, CFA

Alex Kracov, CEO and Founder of Dock, explains how Dock helps businesses collaborate

Posted on: 09/26/2022

Alex Kracov

Alex Kracov

Founder and CEO - Dock

Alex Kracov of Dock - Podcast Summary

Alex Kracov, CEO and Founder of Dock, explains how Dock helps businesses collaborate by hosting all the information that two organization share, to improve the way companies interact and build relationships.

Alex Kracov of Dock - Podcast Transcript

Scott: Welcome to Founders and Friends podcast. Before we get to our guest, special shout out to Kruze Consulting, we do all your startup accounting, startup taxes, and tons of consulting. We’re kind of whatever comes up, like financial models, budget actuals, maybe some state registrations, sales tax, VC due diligence support, whatever comes up for your company, we’re there for you. 750 clients strong now. $10 billion in capital raise by our clients. I can’t believe it. 2 billion this year. It’s been a crazy awesome year. So, check us out at kruzeconsulting.com and now onto our guest.
Singer: (singing). It’s Kruze Consulting. Founders and Friends with your host, Scotty Orn.
Scott: O welcome to Founders and Friends podcast with Scott Orn at Kruze Consulting. Today, my very special guest is Alex Kracov from Dock. Welcome, Alex.
Alex: Thanks for having me, Scott.
Scott: My pleasure. You’ve been a client for a couple years. You’re a super nice guy. I’ve always loved your company and wanted to have you on the podcast.
Alex: Yeah. Excited to be here. Tell my story.
Scott: Yeah. So, retrace your career and tell everyone how you had the idea, because this is a great founding story here.
Alex: Yeah. I don’t know. I guess I went to school at Tulane in New Orleans. My parents are lawyers, I always thought I was going to be a lawyer. But somewhere along the line, I was like, “I actually don’t want to do that. Why do I want to do that?” And I kind of fell in love with this idea of, “All right. I want to make money online. How do I do internet business stuff?” Long story short, I spent a year at Yelp doing sales. Then I got lucky, I worked at this advertising agency called Blue State Digital and they were famous for doing Obama’s campaigns.
Scott: Oh, I didn’t know that.
Alex: Yeah. I learned a lot from them. I didn’t actually do those campaigns, but they did ‘08 and ‘12. There was a lot of lessons from that, that they were then applying to corporate customers. My client was Google at the time. That’s what brought me out to California. I learned a lot about marketing while I was at Blue State. How do you do scrappy, organizing people online sort of campaign style marketing. Then I got some unique insights when I was working with Google and I got to do some fun projects like Google Fiber and do marketing launches and stuff. I did that fr three, four years, but I really wanted to do startups. That was always my goal was to start a company. I had all these random little things I was doing on the side, just playing around with different ideas. I had gone into business school. I was like, “Do I go to business school? Do I stay at this agency? Do I try and start my own company?” And I got very lucky. I was living in San Francisco. My roommate at the time had joined this company called Lattice as the first employee. I was sitting on the couch and he kept coming home with marketing problems. I was like, “I can help with that.” Long story short, I pitched Jack. I was like, “Here’s how I can help Lattice as a marketer.” Yeah, I was lucky enough to join Lattice as the third employee.
Scott: Oh my God. I [inaudible 00:02:56] you’re like the third employee. Are you insane? That’s crazy. Good for you.
Alex: Yeah. I learned so much there. I just describe it as I went from being the only dude doing marketing just on my laptop by myself and flash forward five years later, Lattice grew from three people, five people, to 300, 400 people, tens of millions in revenue.
Scott: That’s amazing. Amazing.
Alex: It was very formative for me. While I was at Lattice, I sort of came up with the idea for Dock as well.
Scott: I’m the third person at Kruze, seven and a half years ago. It’s wild. You do everything and then you slowly start specializing more and more. It’s incredible. Because things are getting taken off your plate, but you’re also seeing the company grow and all these new people and new relationships and new advice coming into the company, it’s super rewarding. That’s amazing that you stayed there for so long to ride that out for a long time. Then you hd the new idea for Dock. When we talked the first time, because we’ve talked right when you created the company, probably two and a half years ago, maybe something like that, two years ago? You’re like, “Dude, this is a problem. We literally have this problem. I know this is needed because we have this exact problem and I’m going to solve it with my new company.”
Alex: Yeah. The story in how I stumbled across the idea for Dock was, with Lattice we were moving on market. We did the classic SaaS thing of you start selling to other YC companies, other small startups. As you build more features, you can move up market, sell to bigger and bigger companies and you just get a more sophisticated sale. That’s pretty much what most SaaS companies do unless you’re Workday or somebody like that. But I’m running marketing. I’m in charge of a team making all this stuff for the sales team. But the problem I noticed was one, it was hard to get the sales team to always realize what they should send over, because there’s just so much stuff. Then two-
Scott: Also, outdated stuff. It’s a mess.
Alex: Yeah, no, exactly.
Scott: There’s no standardization. Yeah.
Alex: Yeah. And it was even harder though for the customer and the buyer on the other side to sift through all of the different things. Because it was lost in emails, it was on our website. It was all over the place. The Lattice enterprise sale really hinged on, we would work with the HR person who was our champion, but then she would have to go around the rest of the organization and convince the CEO and the C-suite, the managers, the rest of the HR team. What is Lattice? Why should we do this? Why should we have this alongside our HRS system? What I builtwas this little micro site in Webflow where a sales team could duplicate it. There was these little toggles in the CMS, where they could swap out key studies and basically it just packaged up all of the content in one place with the customer’s logo on it. It became this great asset for the sales reps to send over to the HR champion. I did that. I don’t know, it was probably 2018, 2019 or something, and I kind of shipped it and didn’t forget about it, but I wasn’t actively managing it. I had to be a VP of marketing.
Scott: Yeah. That’s the kind of classic thing that the early employee who… I call it utility player in baseball or something like that. Like, “Hey, can you just figure this out for us, Alex?” And then you use Webflow, which is a like no-code software tool, because you probably couldn’t get any development time. So, you just did it yourself.
Alex: Well, it was more just my weird project, I think. It was more like I wanted to do this and then I had to pitch Dini who was the CRO and be like, “Hey, Dini, can I take a couple of your reps and try this?” Which is funny. I’d done enough successful things, but they were like, “Okay, this is cool.” But yeah, I basically looked back on the usage of it during COVID in 2020, 2021. The sales team had made over 600 of these different micro sites.
Scott: That’s awesome.
Alex: I was like, “There is something here.” And I’d always wanted [inaudible 00:06:40] a company. So I started scheming a little more on the side and flushing out the idea and it’s expanded beyond what I think it originally was. But yeah, that’s the backstory, what led me to start Dock.
Scott: That’s really cool. Then you got into business and I think you might have been a one or two-man show for a little while. Now, where’s the company today? You’ve got a full-on SaaS product that people can subscribe to, it’s self serve. I mean, what’s going on with it today?
Alex: Yeah. The idea has definitely evolved beyond just this micro site for sales people. The way we think about Dock today is it basically helps revenue teams collaborate with customers. We do that across the customer life cycle. We do it in three different ways. The first is at the top of the funnel, like a digital sales room, which is similar to the Webflow thing, which is like, let’s put all the content in one place. The sales team gets awesome analytics. It hooks up to the CRM. You could do mutual action plans within it for more enterprise deals and you can drip out the content as the relationship progresses.
Scott: Oh, that’s nice. Yeah.
Alex: Then we also do onboarding. We’ve taken, it’s a project plan, it’s like a little Asana, but it’s meant for collaborating directly with your customer. So, customer onboarding is a big use case that we stumbled across as we’ve been building Dock. Then the last one is a client portal. When a client has finished onboarding and they’re signed up with the company, one place to host all the different things, whether it’s your QBRs or your dashboards, deliverables, next steps, all of that stuff in one place. So, it’s a very flexible, we call it, collaborative workspace that you can really edit and change and mold to your company process. Yeah, it’s been a lot of fun building it. I teamed up with two of my friends from Lattice, so engineer and designer.
Scott: Oh, that’s awesome.
Alex: Then we have two other developers working on it as well. So, still a small scrappy team, but we’ve been pushing a lot of product. Yeah.
Scott: Yeah. We were talking before we turn the mics on. You want to stay that way for as long as you can, as long as things aren’t breaking or the stress isn’t too high.
Alex: Yeah.
Scott: I mean, you went through it at Lattice, you look back and you’re like, “Oh, very similar pattern and trajectory.” You can have faith in the SaaS compounding, right?
Alex: Totally. Yeah. I think the hardest part about building a SaaS business is the people element, which is why Lattice is an amazing business in the first place. But there’s just so much complexity as you grow a team, as you scale people, humans are just complex. As you add more people, you have to add more layers of management and all of this stuff, it just becomes more complex. What I wouldlove to do at Dock is keep the team as small as possible, so we can focus on the core part, which is delivering value to our customers, building an awesome product and reduce some of the overhead crap that a lot of companies have, at least for as long as we can. I was like, “Put that off as long as we can.” Hiring people is not a metric of success. I actually think it’s the reverse. It’s a metric of failing, where you fail to do the job with the current team, so you have to add more people. That’s at least how I’m trying to run Dock right now. But it’s always appealing to be like, “All right, I need a salesperson to go faster with this and that,” which we are hiring for, but yeah.
Scott: You remind me of Calendly in that you take this very specific action and make it super efficient. Because how much time do we all waste trying to schedule meetings before Calendly? And you guys are centralizing this content. And I can tell you, dude, because we update our PDFs and things like that. And I’m constantly trying to figure out which one is the newest. I just looked at it the other day and was like, “Oh, we got to update these three things.” Then I get it, it’s back in Slack to me. You’re onto something big time. And I didn’t even think about the analytics, but being able to see who even looked at this stuff and what’s going on, that’s probably super helpful.
Alex: Yeah. It gets very powerful, too, when it hooks up to the CRM, where you can pull in that data.
Scott: Yeah. Talk about that a little bit. Yeah.
Alex: Yeah. You can pull in mutual action plan data, or customer onboarding data, or content data to your CRM, Salesforce and HubSpot, and then pull it into different reports for lead scoring, forecasting, different things like that. So you can get a sense of how the deal’s progressing and be a little bit more predictive in how it goes.
Scott: That’s amazing. Now, where are you having success selling this? Is it tech companies, SMBs? Or is it bigger companies? Like you said, you talked about the Lattice march up the adoption thing, the Gartner adoption curve or whatever. Are you seeing that with Dock? Or are you seeing like, “Hey, this traditional SaaS companies that are starting out love this thing.” Who’s using It?
Alex: Yeah. My goal is to build a company that helps one person all the way up to 10,000 people. To do that, we are of focusing on the lower end of the market right now, where it’s like, how can we deliver an amazing experience for SMB to lower, mid market, let’s say. [inaudible 00:11:32] to standard company size. And so, we’ve spent more time building a self-serve flow in order to better serve some of those SMB customers and how they match-
Scott: Yeah. So smart.
Alex: … they want to buy. Then over time, we’re going to layer on different features. Right now, in Dock, everyone is an admin. We have no concept of different user permissions.
Scott: Roles. Yeah.
Alex: Roles. Yeah. That’s something we are adding to over time. It’s funny, the customer base is pretty diverse. I mean, it definitely leans tech company and that’s just my own personal network-
Scott: That happens, yeah.
Alex: … and who I know and who follows me on LinkedIn and stuff. But I just talked to someone this week who’s building decks and pergolas and a landscaping business.
Scott: Oh, that’s amazing.
Alex: And they’re trying to be more digitally forward and stuff. It’s a great… And I see the use, my mom was just rebuilding her backyard and it was a mess. So, I see the use cases for basically any B2B player.
Scott: I was going to say… Yeah, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt you.
Alex: [inaudible 00:12:31].
Scott: I’m sorry. But a landscaping business or something super tangible, they want to present that stuff in an interactive way because that’s their best sales tool. Before and after, this is what your backyard can look like. And you have that Yelp background, too, which I didn’t even think about, but the SMB market is so deep. That’s interesting.
Alex: Yeah. Very, very deep. I think Dock is riding a wave and a shift of buyer behavior. It used to be that, you think of old school sales, where it was the boiler room or Wolf of Wall Street where they just call someone up and swindle them over the phone. But with the internet you can just research like crazy. I think there’s some stat, I’m going to butcher this a little bit, but it’s like a buyer only spends 20% of their buying time actually talking to a salesperson and that’s across salespeople across every competitor, too. So, they’re only talking to you as a salesperson 4% or 5% of their whole buying experience. So, you need as a salesperson to immediately curate all the value and personalize it in one place for a buyer. That’s why we’ve been successful to date is we’re building a platform that helps sales teams match what they’re doing with the modern buyer experience and what the buyer expects on the other side.
Scott: I totally agree. I like to think about it as the buyer, hopefully, is coming into that sales conversation with testing you to validate that what they’ve researched already is true, instead of pretending they don’t know anything about you. It’s more of like, “Hey, what questions can I answer for you? How can I demonstrate value for you just to put the cherry on top of the sundae?” Instead of trying to build the sundae in front of the buyer.
Alex: Exactly. It’s funny, I used to get so frustrated in marketing, because I put everything on the website, we were not gating things. It was just like it’s on the website. Then people would ask me, “Where is it?” And I’m like, “It’s on the website.” Then I think over time I learned that’s like, no, the website is not the best answer. You actually need to really curate and personalize it to the person you’re speaking with.
Scott: Yeah, that’s amazing. I’m really excited for you that you’re getting these other non-tech companies, because there is no reason why so many of these types of companies wouldn’t be using you. It’s probably that, we were talking also before we turned the mics on about being patient and letting the company build and letting… Also, one thing I’m a big fan of is your product gets better every day and you don’t have to be in a huge rush. You definitely want to be signing up customers and making sure the business is viable, but you need some patience in business. It sounds like that’s kind of what you’re doing, too.
Alex: Definitely. Yeah. I mean I think of my job, number one, is listen to customers and invest into R&D and build a good product. We will be a successful company because of Dock, the product, not Dock, anything else. I think there’s some companies maybe are just amazing at sales and the products, meh. It’s like, I want to be the opposite, and self-serve and what we’re doing I think demand that. That’s definitely been the mentality as I’ve started to build the company.
Scott: Is there any super interesting way you’ve seen someone use Dock? You talked about the landscaping business, but something that you never would’ve anticipated and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, that’s interesting.”
Alex: We have one company is using Dock and they’re using Dock to help… I guess they work with founders and they’re trying to help founders start companies.
Scott: [inaudible 00:15:57].
Alex: So, their customer is a founder on the other side, it’s called Fractal Software is the company. I think their model is they’re a venture studio or something and they basically help founders meet each other. It’s a founder matching and then start companies out of that. They’re using Dock to explain their offering and explaining it onboarding to the program. It’s still sales and onboarding, but it’s not traditional SaaS sales. It’s not the stuff that I had in my core templates and stuff when we started. What’s interesting about the future of Dock and all this stuff is it all operates around the template. So, it’s a flexible editor that we can templatize. As we learn about different use cases, we can really templatize them and then share learnings with other customers. So, it becomes this really scalable self-learning engine over time.
Scott: Hey, it’s Scott Orn at Kruze Consulting, taking a quick pit stop to give some of the groups at Kruze a big shout out. First up is our tax team, amazing. They can do your federal and state income tax returns, R&D tax credits, sales tax help, anything you need for state registrations, they do it all and we’re so grateful for all their awesome work. Also, our finance team is doing amazing work now, they build financial models, budget actuals, and help your company navigate the VC due diligence process. I guess our tax team does that too on the tax side, but the finance team is doing great work. Then I think everyone knows our accounting team is pretty awesome, but want to give them a shout out, too. Thanks, and back to the guest. You’re als touching on something that I find is so interesting, which is when is venture capital going to become like other businesses? Still, even to this day, VC is so centric on getting the introduction to a partner. And you see some partners be like, “I only want to talk to people who are introduced to me.” I always look at that and I’m like, “Oh, there’s just…” Like what that client’s doing for you, they’re using Dock to tell their story proactively and get it out there, like a normal business would. Every business wants someone to listen to their story. I just think that’s so, so interesting. Venture capital is slowly becoming like every other business and having funnels and lead gen and telling their story and all that kind of stuff.
Alex: Yeah. And every VC, when I was raising money, it’s like every VC, they’re like, “Oh yeah, we should use this for our portfolio companies.” That’s their reaction. Maybe they’re pandering to me or not. But it’s like they want to impress their portfolio companies, they have all these services and things that they’re offering to them and they can use Dock as a way to explain that to them and get them onboarding into those different services. Yeah. I mean, I honestly think it could work pretty much any B2B business in the world.
Scott: I had a friend who was a B2B founder, who he kept kind of pseudo raising money for a while. I was like, “What are you doing?” And he’s like, “Actually,” he’s like, “Don’t tell anyone,” because I won’t name this person, but he’s like, “Actually, every time I meet with a VC firm, I get 10 leads out of it. So, it’s the most efficient thing I can… 10 leads from their portfolio company.” So he’s like, “It’s the most efficient thing I can do with my time right now.” I was like, sounds like that’s happening for you, too.
Alex: Yeah, no, definitely, every VC you talk to as you’re raising, if they want to invest, they’re like, “Ooh, I’ll introduce you to these people.” It’s their best way also to do due diligence on you as well. When they’re like, “Oh, if these customers bite, then there’s something there. If not, maybe not.” Yeah.
Scott: For sure. One of the things you talked about was integrating that into the CRM system. I’m constantly telling our clients, maybe you can do an amen here or chime in, to get up and running on a CRM as soon as possible. Because for us, we need sales by state and that kind of stuff, and need to know where the customers are to do taxes correctly. I can’t tell you how many clients don’t track where their customers are and it becomes this giant headache around tax time. I mean, can you sell it to some of these founders why should they be using CRM? Then of course Dock probably turbocharges the CRM, because they’re getting so much more value out of it, right?
Alex: Yeah. It’s funny. To me, a CRM is just the first software you buy. It’s a no-brainer solution. It’s like your customers are the most important thing you need to keep track of. For dock, when I started with Airtable, doing a little CRM in Airtable. But then pretty quickly, I didn’t want to have to set up all the CRM stuff in Airtable myself. So, I switched to HubSpot, which HubSpot has been fantastic, honestly. I did Salesforce at Lattice, beast of a tool, a lot to do, but HubSpot out of the box does a lot for you.Yeah, I mean it’s just a fundamental tool to run your business. And as soon as you have sales folks in there, they’re going to demand it too. I think you just honestly go crazy if you didn’t have a CRM. It’s like, who’s doing what? What customer’s doing this? Where are people at? Early, at Dock, I haven’t been the best sale hygiene in the CRM and keeping it-
Scott: Yeah. That’s important.
Alex: … all clean. It doesn’t matter as much when it’s just me, but as I hire sales people that will become more and more… Then the way I think about Dock is it obviously syncs directly with the CRM. In some ways, Dock is the client-facing CRM.
Scott: Yeah. That’s a good way of saying that. That’s really smart.
Alex: [inaudible 00:21:17] that gets shared. One of the top five, probably, reason people, I think, Dock appeals to them is the sales to customer success handoff is famously always a disaster. I haven’t talked to anybody who’s like, “Oh, this is perfect. We figured it out.” Dock literally just will show what they had sent over. So, you as a CX person to have this record and if people use Dock really well, they’ll even have success criteria in there or why the customer’s buying? And the CX person can just look at that and then switch to onboarding. We’ve designed Dock in a way where you can drip out content over time and [inaudible 00:21:58] in the same workspace, you can transition it from all the sales stuff, and you can hide all of that and just drop in your onboarding plan [inaudible 00:22:05]-
Scott: Onboarding. Yeah.
Alex: … deck and stuff like that.
Scott: That’s amazing. That’s really funny about the transition, too. Yeah. They’re already used to the tool, so they’re already experimenting with it, they know, they bought the software or whatever the service is. Then it’s just a continuation. I really like that comment about how it’s the client-facing version of the CRM. Because you’re right, because the client doesn’t always get that much value out of a company using the… That’s probably why one of the reasons people are slower to adopt it, the CRM, even though they should be using it early. I’m going to be thinking about that all day. That was a wise, wise comment.
Alex: I think that customer relationship management, which is what CRM stands for, it doesn’t actually help the… A CRM is-
Scott: Yeah, that’s what I’m saying.
Alex: … the customer need the backend, it’s the data. I know I’m the promoting Dock, whatever. But Dock actually helps you impact the customer relationship. I guess, in theory, the data helps you have better conversations. I get why it’s called that. But I don’t know, it’s a weird category name that’s evolved. It should be your customer data management platform or something like that. Yeah.
Scott: But I do how you guys are making it tangible for the customer. Also, it’s got to be super rewarding. Do you get stories from your clients, your customers being like, “Oh man, we nailed this big client because of Dock or they got us in the door. I’ve been calling this person five times and they finally actually looked at the Dock content and then let me in the door.”
Alex: The best feeling is when I get forwarded my customer’s customer email. I black out the or whatever, but they’ll say, “Oh my God, best onboarding resource I’ve ever seen.” Or, “Wow, that was so easy, great sales proposal,” or something like that. That’s when I know it’s working and that’s actually also our biggest hurdle to overcome. I think Dock demos really well. People get the concept, it’s exciting. And then the middle setting up takes a little work. But once I get someone to set it up and share it with a customer and then the customer responds positively, then they’re hooked-
Scott: They’re sold. They’re sold.
Alex: … and very sticky. We give the analytics to show that it happens. And that’s our aha moment I think for Dock.
Scott: I also like the concept, I don’t know how to say this, but there’s an old saying like, “Money works 24 hours a day. Money never sleeps.” It’s like why Wall Street people make so much money, because their money’s working for them all the time. And Dock is working for your sales team all the time. You don’t know if the prospect is like… Like me, I’m sitting on the couch at 9:00 PM and my family, we’re watching TV, but I’m really looking at something on my phone or looking at a video or something like that. You don’t know if the prospect is doing it 9:00 PM or 8:00 AM or in the middle of their day or whatever. So, Dock is always working for the sales team basically.
Alex: Yeah. And to take that thread a step further, you, as a salesperson, very rarely get in the room where the champion is talking to the internal team [inaudible 00:24:56].
Scott: Yeah.
Alex: When they go and talk to the boss and all the other people, you have no insight when that conversation’s happening or what was said and you have very little control over it. Dock solves that, because you give the thing that the champion will pass to their boss and then you’ll be able to see when the boss checks it out and then you can also control what the champion is sending over, because it’s not like they’re just sending over one random PDF. They’re sending over your full story and all the different components of [inaudible 00:25:24].
Scott: Yeah. That’s really smart. You’re arming the champion with everything they could possibly need. That’s really, really cool. Yeah. It’s a good idea, man. I’ve always loved this, I’m so glad you came on the pod. Well, I have to be respectful of your time so we should wrap it up. But can you tell everyone how to reach out and if they want to work with Dock or try it out, where to find it?
Alex: Yeah, Of course. This has been a lot of fun. Thanks for having me. Dock.us is the website. D-O-C-K.us. Go to that. We have a free trial, 14 days. Go, sign up, play around with it. If you ever want to reach out to me, Alex@dock.us. I’ve also blogged a little bit about marketing, if you ever want to check that out. Kracov, my last name, .co is the website. Yeah, my Twitter handle is Kracov, too, I share random stuff on there. Yeah. We’d love to talk to anybody. We survive off customer feedback. That is how we’re building it. Even if you don’t even want to be a customer, you just want to shoot the shit and talk about ideas, always came to talk [inaudible 00:26:19].
Scott: I love it. I love it. Great product. I wish you the best. I think arming the champion is really, really… You’re just making people more successful. And ultimately that champion feel strongly about whatever they’re going to buy, because they want their company to be more successful. You’re kind of accelerating change everywhere. I’m really happy for you. Well, keep going and we’ll check out in on you in a year or so and best of the luck and thanks for coming on the pod.
Alex: Awesome. Thanks so much, Scott.
Scott: All right, buddy. Thank you.
Singer: (singing). It’s Kruze Consulting, Founders and Friends with your host, Scotty Orn.

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