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With Scott Orn

A Startup Podcast by Kruze Consulting

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Scott Orn

Scott Orn, CFA

Josh Lowy of Hugo - Software that Rescues and Leverages Your Meeting Insights

Posted on: 10/24/2017

Josh Lowy

Josh Lowy

Co-Founder & CEO - Hugo

Josh Lowy of Hugo - Podcast Summary

Josh Lowy discusses Hugo’s software which makes documenting meeting insights easy and sharing with your team even easier. Hugo lets the team “be in the Know without being in the Room.” Go to Hugo.ai and use the discount code “KRUZE” to get 6 months of Hugo for free!

Josh Lowy of Hugo - Podcast Transcript

Scott Orn: Welcome to Founders and Friends Podcast with Scott Orn at Kruze Consulting and my very special guest today is Josh Lowy of Hugo. Welcome Josh.
Josh Lowy: Hey Scott. Thanks for having us.
Scott Orn: Josh has built a really cool software tool that we’re in the process of betaing at Kruze Consulting and Josh and Darren are also clients of Kruze Consulting, so it’s an honor to have them in here. Josh, maybe retrace your steps a little bit in your career and how you ended up with this awesome idea at Hugo.
Josh Lowy: Yeah, sure. As you can probably tell from my accent, I’m not from here. I’ve been in San Francisco … I’ve been coming here since about 2012, but been living here full-time since 2014. Originally from Sydney, Australia. I moved here for a job working at a shopping center company, oddly enough, called Westfield.
Scott Orn: Didn’t know that.
Josh Lowy: Yeah, so Westfield’s a vertically integrated shopping center business that do design, construction, marketing, leasing, and center management. They have about 35 properties in the US, but I was working in their digital team, which is called Westfield Retail Solutions on the product side and we were focused on helping the center both from a consumer experience standpoint internally, but also helping the retailers who are our customers at the end of the day respond to a lot of the shifting changes in retail and a lot of that has to do with the merging of both their digital physical inventory, experiences, and that end to end holistic approach to the customer journey.
Scott Orn: We have a couple of clients actually who Westfield is a client of theirs that pays their like all mobile, analytics, or things like that companies that Westfield’s like a big client, so that’s interesting you did that. I didn’t know that.
Josh Lowy: Yeah, it’s a very interesting industry.
Scott Orn: Yeah, and then you had like what, this epiphany or how did you get to Hugo?
Josh Lowy: It’s a mix of a few things. First of all, my co-founder and I are both from Sydney, so we were friends before. We hadn’t worked together before. We had a bond over many things, one of which was definitely technology and entrepreneurship and doing something ourselves, so there’s definitely always that internal drive to do something ourselves one day. Second to that, coming to America gives us a unique perspective on things, one of which is how information is transferred, how relationships are developed, and how businesses are built, particularly in an environment as immersive as San Francisco and so we always had an interesting view on those dynamics around relationship development and how different relationships can lead to different business outcomes and so that was something that we were interested intellectually. Then on the ground, particularly in my role and co-founder, Darren, had the same thing in his role as a lawyer, there’s this problem in particularly product development, business development, partnerships, which I was exposed to at Westfield Retail Solutions, where there’s a small group, or a small subset, of the total working group are actually interfacing with the outside world, whether they are customers, existing or prospective, companies that the business needs to partner with, brands, media, those sorts of things where there’s a small group being exposed to information that is absolutely necessary for the rest of the business to be responding to. Whether it’s the product team for ideation and specification, whether it’s the engineering team, the marketing team, communications, PR, customer service. All of those departments are typically stuck within the four walls of the business’s office. Yet, they’re the ones that are supposed to be responding to the customer needs and the market needs and so it’s a very difficult thing, particularly. We experienced it ourselves in product development, bringing that information to the team in a fluid way where everyone’s on the same page and you’re able to tap into the collective intelligence of the team outside of them just being strict executors, which typically doesn’t work and they often … If you give them the right information, they’ll have better ideas than you. This problem, on the ground, from a tactical perspective of bringing that information from the outside world into the business so that we can respond appropriately and swiftly, was something that we were very interested in solving.
Scott Orn: That’s such an awesome insight because you’re right. Even Kruze Consulting, we have 25 team members now, but the junior accountants don’t always get the direct feedback from like the CEOs or management teams. Sometimes it’s funneled through me or Vanessa or one of the other controllers, but it doesn’t always get back in a digestible way or we like forget to tell people and that’s our error, but figuring out a better software tool that can actually kind of make that happen a lot faster makes the whole organization a lot smarter. That’s a really good idea.
Josh Lowy: Totally, exactly, and it was this perfect environment or this nexus between a few things as I went through where we were young and hungry to do something ourselves, there was a problem that we were facing on the ground and we were viewing things we felt in a fairly unique way being outsiders ourselves and so we thought let’s have a go. Let’s do something.
Scott Orn: That’s awesome.
Josh Lowy: Let’s try to solve this.
Scott Orn: Then maybe you can explain what Hugo’s software does.
Josh Lowy: Yeah, sure. Hugo, first of all, is a team solution and our tagline is “Bring Knowledge from the Outside in,” which makes sense now that you’ve got the context and so our product makes it really easy for teams to document, organize, and share meeting insights so that everyone is on the same page and can reduce the response time between insights and execution. The way we think we approached this differently is through providing transparency over meeting insights that have been generated by the team and then creating a platform from which sharing and discourse can take place on top of that information in a way that’s very fluid and reduces overhead for the company, so there shouldn’t be additional work in bringing everyone up to speed, whether that’s with long lead time, like a two weekly or monthly all hands, which has a lot of prep time and is delaying the team’s ability to respond, so that’s the first thing. The second thing is allowing for osmosis to take place when information is exposed to those who typically don’t have access to it.
Scott Orn: Yeah, for us it’s like … I mean, we’ve talked about this. The use case for us is Vanessa and I might do a couple of sales calls and then we actually go to onboard the company, like to go through all the compliance and all the data gathering. Our junior people may not know what the company does or doesn’t have the background for that kind of stuff and so one of the reasons we think Hugo’s so cool is because we can actually type all that stuff in there and then instead of me having to do a 15 minute briefing before the call, which again we often forget to do, they can just read that stuff and they have access to it. It makes … It’s a really smart idea.
Josh Lowy: Yeah, so all of that is a fairly high level, analytical, or even philosophical way of viewing the space. Let’s bring that down to something that’s super simple. The product, all it does is integrate with your calendar and after each meeting, you and your teammates get prompted to save meeting notes. From there, Hugo takes care of the rest where it has organized and indexed the notes against both the contacts and companies that you’re meeting as well as those actual interactions, so it’s always there to be recalled later and then Hugo takes care a lot of the sharing without you having to do that yourself.
Scott Orn: Yeah. For me, my favorite part is I get that email and it’s like, “How was your meeting with Darren going over San Francisco payroll taxes in the Q3,” and I write, “Darren was very pleasant and told me that he’s got in under control. We don’t have to worry about it,” and that’s awesome for us. That’s like actual … Once again, I’m not going to have three people on that phone call with Darren. It’s just going to be me and Darren doing a 10 minute phone call, but I can share those notes across our team very quickly and that email prompt is like the catalyst to get me to do that.
Josh Lowy: Totally. I was about to say if we can get saving meeting notes and sharing as easy as replying to an email, then what happens next and that’s exactly what we’ve done.
Scott Orn: Exactly. That’s really cool. It actually does. It works. It’s very helpful to people. What have you … Have you heard … Do people write into you and be like, Oh my god, this is saving me or it’s making my life so much easier? What’s the feedback from customers?
Josh Lowy: Yeah, so the way we got here I think is important to answer. Typically, like most startups, we were wrong multiple times at the beginning. Originally, working on the relationship development side of things and while we were struggling to get some traction there, we were also struggling to get the team on the same page around responding to customer insights and so Darren and I thought let’s just use Hugo, which is a reporting tool, to capture all the meeting notes that we’re having and then the team already has access to it. All of a sudden, within about a week, our engineers had way better ideas than us and we just kind of took off from an ideation and building standpoint and then once we showed some of our existing customers and friends and people in the network, all of a sudden we just got this outpouring of war stories of deals that had been lost because people were stepping on each other’s toes or one person didn’t realize that someone else had already passed on meeting that company and all of a sudden everyone started sharing their problems once we showed them how we were using the product internally and that was kind of the light bulb moment for us.
Scott Orn: That’s awesome. That’s got to feel so good to like all of a sudden have people telling you what they want and giving tons of feedback. I mean, what did that feel like? Was it just-
Josh Lowy: Yeah, it’s very different when you’re used to pushing, pushing, pushing your product in a way that feels like it’s uphill and then all of a sudden someone comes and starts pulling it in a different direction and that’s your customer and that’s a great feeling.
Scott Orn: Yeah, so talk about … I know we made a couple of introductions for you for like some of our partners. Who’s the perfect kind of set up people, maybe even have a couple use cases, to be using this at a company? Is it early stage startups, late stage startups, big corporations, VCs? Who is getting a lot of value out of Hugo?
Josh Lowy: Sure. I’ll answer that as more of a point in time, who we’re going after right now. We’re laser focused on product and partnership teams in companies that are post-seed, so those that have … When you’re postseed, you’ve got some capital to be spending on tools that make your team more efficient, which is really important. The second is you’re starting to grow your team and you’re starting to experience all these problems. When it’s just you and your mates in someone’s garage, it’s not that hard to stay on the same page, but as soon as you get to 5+, 10+ employees, the problem becomes something that needs to be solved with software and so that’s a perfect entry point for us. On top of that, we are only working with companies on Google Apps, or G-Suite as it’s now been rebranded. That just makes it really easy for us to use those digital signals in your calendar and your inbox to then trigger the rest of the workflows that help you keep the team on the same page.
Scott Orn: In some of the pre-seed or post-seed companies, is it the sales team? Is it business development? Is it ops? Who’s using it?
Josh Lowy: It’s typically business development, partnerships, and product teams. That can sometimes be a mix of the founders and one or two employees or they can be dedicated teams if the company’s a little bit bigger. We’re more focused on the behavior moreso than if the department exists or not within the company and so it’s really around the team members who are out there talking to customers and talking to prospective partners and making sure whoever they get on board stays and is successful with their company. Those are the teams that we’re working with right now and that typically self-organizes between the founders and a core group of internal BD partnerships and product teammates.
Scott Orn: Yeah, that makes total sense. There’s something you kind of touched on briefly, but it’s worth kind of getting into. You kind of had an alpha product and now you have like full fledged Hugo. What was that … I mean, it must have been scary. Maybe tell like the war story from that, from going from like a basic working product to what Hugo has become today.
Josh Lowy: I would say that we’re in beta right now, so we’re not fully live.
Scott Orn: Advantage expectations. It’s still a beta product. I guess it’s that whole like you started with something and then the light bulb went on and how you got to like … How you really committed to building something else. You built something that’s different from what you originally came to market with.
Josh Lowy: 100% and you never have perfect information and so it’s always trying to find that balance between intuition and information. Usually, when you end up having maybe 60 to 70% of the information you’d like to have and having that conviction to double down on something that you intuitively think is the right direction to move in.
Scott Orn: Yeah, so was there like a moment when you and Darren looked at each other and were like, “We’ve got to do this. This is the moment we’re going to make this decision,” or what was that like?
Josh Lowy: It’s less of a black and white thing. It’s definitely not Darren and I, it’s the whole team, and when we started getting a lot enthusiasm with the whole team on the same product direction, it was obvious to us what to do because our use case internally was resonating with everyone else we were trying to serve and so it was an obvious decision from there.
Scott Orn: That makes so much sense. One of the other things we were talking about before we turned on the microphones was just like how software development has changed and what enterprises look for in software maybe versus the old days. Maybe talk a little bit … Because I think you have some really cool insights on that.
Josh Lowy: Yeah, that’s really something that we’re very interested in. We’ve experienced it ourselves in our previous companies and we also see it a lot now in the customers that we’re talking to and that’s this new generation of SAAS products that have a strong internal customer advocacy dynamic to the way that they get into these companies and grow within those companies. What do I mean by that? I mean that professionals deciding to adopt and use the tools that only they want to use, which are really consumer dynamics. Gone are the days where the head of IT can come and institute this top down tool that everyone must use because what will happen is no one will use it and then it turns
intoScott Orn: I had that at my first job. It was like we bought Sybil at and literally no one used it and I was like, “This must have cost a couple million dollars.” Now, we took Sybil public, so of course were going to buy Sybil, but I totally lived that early in my career where we got something that no one wanted to use. It’s crazy.
Josh Lowy: 100% and I felt that during the days of Slack adoption at my previous company, which was really interesting to be a part of. That really manifests in two very important ways. The first is companies no longer buy a product and then test the value second. They need to evaluate the value first and pay later and so that really impacts the business model and then because of that, it impacts the way you build your customer experience and your product experience because the product itself has to be something that professionals really want to use and that’s a very new and interesting dynamic for someone who’s at their place of work to only use products that they feel like using as much as Twitter or Instagram or Facebook. It’s great for us because we love building products that are beautiful and easy to use and so now we can allocate the resources to that for an enterprise tool. It also means that we get to have some customers that are internal advocates and almost an augmented sales team for us, which is a lot of fun.
Scott Orn: Yeah, that last point is … Actually, maybe talk a little bit more about that because I’ve noticed that kind of happening in the last 10 years where like maybe one or two … Like a Kruze Consulting example is like one or two people might download something and check make sure they can download and then they start using it to test it out for the rest of us and then all of a sudden, next thing I know, they’ve invited three or four other people inside of Kruze Consulting that didn’t even know about to use it and then next thing you know, we’re using it, like the whole company is using it and it’s very powerful because that’s probably like it didn’t cost you any money to acquire that customer or maybe a little bit of advertising to get the first person to use it and then spreading throughout the rest of the corporate environment just happens like the way a consumer app would happen. It just spreads virally.
Josh Lowy: Totally and it seems like a new thing. I think that the trend itself does have a longer timeframe, so even if you look at a great Aussie company, Atlassian, founded in 2002.
Scott Orn: A perfect example.
Josh Lowy: They really were one of the pioneers of that approach, so that was a long time ago. The explosion is what is new and the density is what is new and so now it’s not just the Dropboxes and Slacks that everyone knows about, they’re very well-known brands, but the only way we adopt tools for our engineering team is when one of our engineers says, “Hey, I was at this Meet-up or I was on this forum or I read this blog post. I think this tool will make us much better. We should use it,” and so it’s even happening for engineering tools, marketing tools, customer service tools. Not just communication and project management.
Scott Orn: Yeah, and what I like about that trend also is that it empowers our individual team members to make a case for something, so instead of me having to talk to a salesperson, I can actually talk to one of our own team members who really understands what we need and it’s very empowering for them too to be able to make the case to the COO that we should use this tool. I still remember, this is how Kruze Consulting got on Gusto. Way before I was even involved in the company, Vanessa came home one day and she’s like, “I just met this company called Gusto and they are making payroll super easy and it’s actually a joy to use,” and I was like, “Payroll? Come on. That’s so boring. Who would ever make payroll fun to use.” Next thing you know, Kruze Consulting had every client on Gusto because it did make it easier for us, it cut our clients bill, and that’s actually one of these like growth drivers of Kruze Consulting, making everything so much easier. We’ve experienced that. We’ve actually capitalized on it as a service company this whole entire trend.
Josh Lowy: Totally. We use Gusto as well and never underestimate the importance of having an emoji in your paycheck.
Scott Orn: Exactly. We talk about them all the time. That’s cool. Just one more question on this topic because I think this is such a cool topic. Does this change how you guys staff your company? Does that mean that you as a … You’re a very typical Silicon Valley … Despite the Aussie roots, you guys operate here in San Francisco. Do you find yourself spending more money on engineers and less money on salespeople or do you find yourself taking different tactics than a normal kind of old school sales organization like Sybil might have done?
Josh Lowy: Yeah, that’s a great question and definitely the other side of this new trend in SAAS adoption is the self-serve model and what are the implications of that on the way you structure your team. Sales is the side of the business that is experiencing a lot of change as a result of this. The best articulation I’ve heard of it is this not necessarily the replacement or usurping of the sales function, but the hollowing out where you still need a sales function, but it’s a smaller team that is optimized to achieve disproportionate outcomes. The best example again coming back to a company like Atlassian, they don’t have the sales team that does outside lead gen. It’s all internal lead gen, where they are targeting customers who are already using the product and they need to adopt other products within their suite or increase their spend and they’re qualified, they’re pre-qualified, leads and so you’re able to have a much smaller team provide much higher returns for the business because they’re only targeting their resources towards existing.
Scott Orn: Yeah. I think I’ve told Darren this, but my buddy’s like … I forget his exact title, but it’s like head of sales or something like that at Atlassian and I read an interview where the CEO of Atlassian was talking about how they don’t have a sales team or something like that and I texted my friend, I’m like, “Aren’t you head of sales team? What’s going on here,” and he’s like, “This is the model that works for us. Don’t mess it up. Leave me alone. We know what we’re doing,” but that’s like part of the messaging of Atlassian, but it’s actually very true. We just bought Zoom like two weeks ago, so now it’s like whenever I talk to Darren, it’s always going to be through Zoom where we can see each other, but like I had a seamless kind of experience. Actually I was chatting on Twitter with my friend at Sequoia, who backed Zoom. One of the Zoom reps somehow surfaced that. Literally texted me inside of Twitter and said, “Let’s set up a call.” Next thing you know I did a call, talked to a guy for 15 minutes, and I was buying Zoom and we spend $5,000. That’s a good bang for your buck right there. This trend is happening everywhere across SAAS.
Josh Lowy: Yeah, and we’re definitely not pros at that at all. It’s something that we see ourselves as students of and it will evolve for us over time, but the biggest impact for us again is if you’re the person that’s used to taking these sales demos calls, you can see from the other side of the fence that if you need an hour to explain your product, that’s pretty easy to do, but when you have a self-serve model where someone has to discover and educate and evaluate the product without talking to a single human being, it’s very different when you have to sell it in 140 characters and that’s the most unique point for us.
Scott Orn: Yeah. I think the Hugo sell is keep your team updated on what’s going on in the outside world. That’s your 140 … I don’t even know how many characters that is, but that sounds like it would fit.
Josh Lowy: I’ll go publish the change right now.
Scott Orn: We’re also a marketing consulting agency here at Kruze Consulting. Okay, so a couple things. Talk about … Now we kind of know what Hugo is doing, where you guys have come from. Where are you guys going in the future? What’s next on the roadmap?
Josh Lowy: Yeah, so there’s two really interesting areas for us that we’re going to be moving into quite soon and soon for us means in the next few weeks. We don’t think in terms of months and quarters.
Scott Orn: You guys move pretty fast. I’ve experienced it.
Josh Lowy: The first is again you’ve got to focus on what are you customers doing from a work around standpoint and we’re seeing a lot of notes being copied and pasted and emailed to teams and posted in Slack channels and those sorts of things and so building out some functionality to enable and empower teams to create discourse on top of those meeting notes is something that’s really important. You’ve got that use case where one of the BD guys, he’s running out of a meeting, he’s quickly fired off an email with his notes. That needs to be … That stream of consciousness needs to be sent to the team straight away where everyone can start asking questions, saying, “Ooh, that’s a really good idea. I’m going to go investigate that,” and you need to have a way for teams to be able to chat on top of those meeting insights and so one of the things that will be coming quite soon is enabling that in Slack as a V1 and we’re really excited. We’ve been doing that ourselves internally and it’s working really well, so we’re going to make that available to our customers soon, but that general topic of discourse on top of meeting insights is the next step for us that we’re really focused on.
Scott Orn: That makes so much sense. This will make you guys happy. We have a Slack channel called Kruze Sales where like me, Vanessa, Jace, Kevin, and Aveek talk about our sales meetings and that’s where it goes, but it’s only living in Slack. It’s not really getting in email and then again I always come back to like the staff accountants don’t know what we’re talking about. They don’t know that kind of stuff and they need to know that kind of stuff. I love the Slack integration. That’s super smart.
Josh Lowy: Yeah, and so that comes with its own problems, as you said, when that post just bumps up the list within a few hours and then it disappears into the ether. There’s a lot of people that haven’t read that and should and so solving that problem is something that we’re interested in getting around to. The other really interesting point of feedback, or I suppose it’s not surprising that it happens, but it’s surprising that our customers want it with our product, is being able to track and assign the outcomes from these meetings to different individuals, so meeting takeaways, tasks, they’re very well-known features of other products. We always assume that wouldn’t be something that customers wanted from our product, from Hugo, but that’s definitely something that people are looking to have nicely coupled integration, particularly when you combine that with the note and what insights we glean from it, what are the takeaways from that, and then when different team members, who did attend that meeting, but have identified other interesting takeaways, how they track and assign those tasks to one another is something that we’re working on too.
Scott Orn: That’s huge. That’s like a page out of my life. Right now, our workflow is we’ll take that and put it into BaseCamp, but it takes me a while to transition into BaseCamp, write that note, write the task, so that’s pretty interesting you guys are doing that.
Josh Lowy: Yeah, and so you zoom out of all of this and what’s the general company or team experience that’s happening here. The first is anyone in the team should be able to walk into a room with anyone of their stakeholders and pull up the most recently saved notes on that interaction or that relationship. That’s the step one and that’s already a game changer. You didn’t even have to be in the last meeting to take over the next one. The second is then actually, as I said at the beginning, rapidly reducing that response time between those insights and the rest of the team, product engineering, marketing, comms. Whoever it is, responding and executing on those insights and massively ramping up the speed and velocity in which these companies can start to respond to feedback once again, which is already something that’s very important in the world today.
Scott Orn: That’s awesome. That is a very good sales pitch. You’re touching on all the … It’s not challenges, but like we view as opportunities like things we can do to serve our clients better and like closing those loops and not letting things fall through the cracks, that’s huge for us. We’re blessed to have, and I bet you a lot of your clients that really love Hugo, are … Vanessa’s a very process-oriented person, so she’s good at ironing out those problems or those inefficiencies, but there’s still messaging inefficiencies that we haven’t been able to address that you guys are addressing, so that’s super exciting from our perspective. Well, let’s wrap it up here. This has been a good talk. We all got to listen to a charming, Australian accent for half and hour here. Tell everyone where they can find Hugo and how they can get in touch with you if they’re interested in trying the product.
Josh Lowy: Yeah, great. We didn’t come entirely unprepared for today, so the first thing is you can find us at Hugo.ai. Just go there. You can learn more about the product and you can sign up today. The second is if you’re interested in signing up particularly from if you’re Kruze customer or if you’re a member of the Kruze community, we’ve got a code for you to input. It’s just KRUZE in all caps and that will give you six months off the product.
Scott Orn: Wow, that’s awesome.
Josh Lowy: You’ll get Hugo for free for your first six months, which we’re really excited about. You guys support us a lot, so we want to support you too.
Scott Orn: Thank you. Well, let me spell Kruze for everybody because everyone always misspells, like K-R-U-Z-E, so put in … Well, they’ll go to Hugo.ai and then there’s like a code and just put in KRUZE.
Josh Lowy: Yeah, Hugo.ai, you can sign up, create an account, and then once you get to the billing page, you put in the coupon and your first six months are on the house.
Scott Orn: That’s awesome. By the way, we broken something here. We’ve never had an actual offer on the Founders and Friends Podcast. This is amazing. This is why you guys are going to be successful. This is like-
Josh Lowy: Because we always give our products away for free.
Scott Orn: Smart. No, no. You got people in. That’s like smart entrepreneurs right there. Awesome. Josh, thank you so much. Just to recap, we are trying Hugo right now and we really like it. It’s a way for us to spread … We do tons of calls with clients or prospective clients and getting that information distributed throughout Kruze Consulting is actually really hard and you guys are making it easy, so awesome. Keep doing great work. I enjoy … I have been privileged to do a couple of focus groups with you guys, so I really appreciate that and then if you’re going to sign up for Hugo, check it out at Hugo.ai and then don’t for … I can’t believe we have a promotion code here. This is so exciting. K-R-U-Z-E. Get six months of Hugo for free. Awesome. Thanks for coming by, Josh. Darren, you’ve been amazing sitting there, laughing at all my jokes. Appreciate it. That’s it. Take care and thanks for coming by guys.
Josh Lowy: Thanks Scott.

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