Max: Hello, Ignasi. Thank you very, very much for being here and giving me your precious time. You have a very impressive resume and you have lots of interesting experience that I wanna talk about. But just to start us off, could you tell me a little about your role at pitch and then a bit about pitch itself as well?
Ignasi: Yes, absolutely. So, hi everyone, and thank you for having me. Of course. My role at Pitch, I am the head of product growth and Pitch is a product growth company, the collaborative presentation software for modern teams, teams that want to stand out from the rest.
Max: Great. And you're the head of product growth, which is something I'm very, very interested to talk about. So how long have you been at Pitch?
Ignasi: I’ve been at Pitch for about now a year and a half. A little over a year and a half? Yes. Started in October, 2021.
Max: And when was the company founded?
Ignasi: The company was founded in 2018, at the beginning of it, January, 2018.
Max: So what I find quite exciting about that is it’s quite new. That's quite a new company. And what's the headcount over at Pitch roughly?
Ignasi: Right now we're a little over 130.
Max: Okay. See, that's quite impressive growth. Do you know how many customers you have or how many users?
Ignasi: Yes, we have about 800,000 workspaces, which is how we like to count customers. Now many of these workspaces will be single users, other multiple users. We're little over a million users for sure.
Max: See those are really impressive and big numbers, especially for a company that's only five years old. How do you find this space where you're working with a product that is being used by so many people? I'm sure you've worked at other companies where maybe sometimes the problem is there's too small a sample size of customers to know if this launch is really gonna work. Now you've got the opposite problem. How do you go about finding the right customers to speak to, to know to launch new features?
Ignasi: Yes, well for me, actually this is probably the company with the fewest users I've ever worked with. So I'm used to larger user bases. But yes, this is exactly one of the challenges of these very horizontal products that support many different use cases. Who are the interesting users to talk to because of the way they use the product, because of the kind of traits they display with it, retention and the value they find with it. So we use various ways, of course we do. User interviews, we run surveys and there's various ways that we use to gather who our users are and what are some interesting traits they have.
Max: So I've seen you talk about something called the activation metric, and I was curious if you could tell me a little bit more about this concept, because I find it very interesting and I've worked in customer success before, so I know about the pressures of activation. So I'd love to hear a little more about that and how you tackle it at Pitch.
Ignasi: So the concept of activation in a generic way for any sort of product would be, that's the point in time where you see your user, let's say, display the habits that you want to build for the first time. So they use the product for the first time fully. Activation is just the start of the journey. In a way then you want users to actually retain, displaying the right habit. And that might be having a Zoom call with someone else for Zoom, or it might be for Typeform. It used to be launching a form that collects at least five responses which gets you the first responses collected and so on and so forth. And for Pitch, we’re constantly tweaking. We're still at the at the moment where we're still constantly tweaking what activation is. What we're looking at right now is a workspace that actually has a presentation that is being shared with others, and there's consumption for that presentation. So a little bit similar to eresponses in a survey would be for a company like Typeform or SurveyMonkey and so on and so forth. And hat's what we do at Pitch. And that's a lot of the work that I do as head of product growth as well is trying to understand from the data at what point in time do we start seeing a lot higher likeliness to retain our users and customers, and seeing whether that's a behaviour that actually makes sense and it aligns with our strategy and our product vision. Is that the way we intend people to be using the product basically, and we sort of put a pin on it and try to optimize for trying to get as many people to that stage as possible.
Max: Okay, great. There's a lot for me to ask about this because I think there's some people who listen to this and they know exactly what we're talking about, and I think obviously activation is something every single company thinks about, but something I'd really love to find out about from you specifically, because you're at Pitch, and the activation there is pretty high and you have such great growth. I would love to understand how you tackle those moments where maybe the activation metric that you're seeing doesn't align with the exact way you want to use the product. Do you react to change your activation metric or do you try and change the way people use your product?
Ignasi: It depends. It depends on what the activation goal or metric is at the moment. And it depends on whether we understand. So the most important thing is whether we understand what's happening for those, let’s say, signups we've acquired to them not following through activation. And there's various typical hypothesis we could go through. The first one is that this might be someone who doesn't fit our ideal customer profile, and so they might not see value in Pitch. They might not have a need ready for them in the one or two sessions in a matter of very few days to actually build a presentation, right? So they might just be looking around. They might not be ready. So a lot of those reasons would drive a lot of the drop off from signup to activation. So one of the first steps that I like to do is instead of obsessing about those and trying to convince someone who isn't there to create a presentation to actually focus on helping those who show intents to create a presentation and removing blockers basically in friction from those that do show highest intent, and then walk backwards from that. And so, theoretically, once that's well solved, aligned, and we've had good traction and had a few wins, then we can go towards people with lower intent and try to raise their intent and motivation to create a Pitch, etc. Of course the challenge becomes harder and harder as we move away, but first step would be recognizing a bit. What’s the diversity of reasons for why people aren't activating? If we're looking at our best customers and say, hey, people are still not activating because we see recurrent requests for a certain feature, “Hey, you guys do not have feature X that for me is super critical, but I would use speech otherwise”. That's a case where we need to modify the product, core product offering to actually allow that activation to occur. It depends on the nature of the reason, basically.
Max: And is that something you guys think about? You've worked at, like you said, companies with lots of users and I think you know very well pace is really, really important and iteration and launching as much as possible is really important to not only increase activation just in case that's the feature that someone wants, but even your power users. They’re interested in you because you keep wowing them and putting out these new features. Is pace something that you guys really, really think about at Pitch and something you really try to get something out every single month, every couple weeks?
Ignasi: Absolutely ,we do. We've been really good at keeping a good pace in the past. Then we've had ups and downs, let's say. And now recently we've even made decisions to adjust our product process to ensure a higher pace of delivery. We're actually on a six week cycle development process basically that would ensure on average that every six weeks there's new things coming up, but we don't restrict ourselves to launching every six weeks. Like if improvements, fixes etc can be made faster than that, then that's great as well. So we care a lot about pace.
Max: Okay great. That's good to know. When it comes to that pace as well, is time to value something you guys think about a lot? I think I've seen you mention it somewhere before, but I know it's something that a lot of people are thinking about a lot more and more nowadays, especially with activation rates becoming such a big topic.
Ignasi: Exactly, yes we do. So activation has two components. One is the rate, how many people get to the active state, and the other one is the time it takes to activate. So that's how we can express, it's a way to express time to value so it's not the same activating in one week, then activating in six months. Why is there activation at six months and can we accelerate that. What could we do differently to shorten it. So it's super important. So anything that indicates elongated time to value. Of course a long time to value the probability that you activate drops over time because you know, life happens and gets in the way. But that's something we also seek to understand. Right now we're for Pitch, we're at a point where we’re trying to understand more the qualitative reasons for why people do not reach the state of activation. It's less of a case where like, hey, we understand really well the reasons, and we accelerate the time. So we're less at the point where we wanna accelerate the time and more at understanding the reasons for why that doesn't happen in the first place. But super important. Absolutely.
Max: Yeah I bet. Do you have any recommendations for other companies about the best ways to tackle this?
Let’s say you’re a young company and you're setting up your user feedback process and you want to find out what your activation metric might be and the best ways to measure it. Do you break it down by cohort into activation rates for different cohorts? Do you have any kind of recommendations or good blueprints that someone could use and copy?
Ignasi: Yeah, first of all, apply common sense. Basically what sort of product do you have and what is the most important action that anyone could do in your product? If they were doing one thing, what's the thing that you would like to see users repeatedly doing, and how do they get value? So it becomes then, there goes the founding team hypothesis of what it is, and then it needs to become a conversation with those early adopter users on what delivers a lot of value from this product, and how do you see yourself using it very often? And through those conversations and understanding how people are using, we’ll spot that the behaviors that matter really, and then you can translate and transform those into metrics. Is there an easy metric that I can derivefrom this behavior? Are there proxies that I can use? And then that's your best initial hypothesis for what your activation metric might need to be. Hey, I've observed successful customers do X, Y, or Z within a matter of one or two weeks. So we're gonna start with that. So let's say this is our activation metric. Can we calculate it at large for the whole population? And can we identify common traits from those successful users. What is it? Is it their company size? Is it their location? Is it their job role? Is it right? So usually segmenting, now it's quite common in any product - so anyone starting that might be listening to this - if you experience 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 onboarding flows, you'll see that usually these onboarding flows will ask you for a set of firmographic questions, and under the hood might also be segmenting you for some of these. Additionally, those are very important to be asked, and it'll depend on the industry. It really depends on the type of product, etc. But if you have those, then you can use those and understand which combinations of these segments actually display higher activation rates, which ones display lower activation rates. Then that's food for research, basically. Does that teach you anything about product market fit, maybe. Does it teach you anything about, what? And so it's through those steps, first you identify the value of transforming into a metric. Make sure that you can segment new users coming in by properties that can teach you about which segments are more or less successful, and then draw conclusions from that and start hypothesizing on what might you do to actually improve these people's experience and increase activation rates for them.
Max: It sounds very much like you are tied in with the data team and the research team and the analytics teams that you have. Is that something that you found in lots of places you've worked over the years and there’s always been this tight relationship, or have you noticed a change over time and product people become more analytical?
Ignasi: Yes the relationship with analytics or user research teams, uh, it's fundamental in the way that I understand product. There's no product without them and for growth especially. Quantitative data, it’s a must. You need to have data before attempting to drive any sort of growth. It’s definitely a relationship that I've seen evolve over time now I've been in close to… I actually personally started as an analyst. I started as a QA engineer and very quickly moved into product analytics. So I've been for a long time working in product as an analyst or as a PM so I've seen the evolution. It’s been 10 years this year that I've been in the job and I've seen the evolution of having the analysts embedded in product teams. I like to say I was one of the first ones when I was in the US once and then moved back to Barcelona with my family and I could not find a single job of product analysts, which is the role that I had in the US. Basically, the concept did not exist here. People weren't hiring for them, but in talking to companies, everyone had the need. Everyone wanted to experiment, everyone wanted to make their informed decisions, but that sort of like, oh, we have an analyst that specialized in product. It's not something that people had instilled yet. So I was lucky to be part of that transformation as well and see how product teams equip themselves with new roles that help them leverage data. Make better decisions basically, and analyze user behavior. So we've come a long way and now it's very common that you could find product analyst roles, marketing analyst roles, growth analyst roles etc being part of the process. And I would say a similar thing with user research. Very close collaboration usually delivers really good results.
Max: That makes a lot of sense because in my experience there's always been so many conversations surrounded around experimentation and you have these big debates, AB testing isn't enough. We need to be AZ testing, we need to be… all these different approaches to experimentation. I would love to hear maybe what you think is the best approach to experimentation if you want to keep growing as fast as possible.
Ignasi: I would say the fundamental, it's less about the technique that you use to experiment. As long as you experiment in a structured way, the process of experimentation is what's most important. So basically to experiment you need to run an experiment. An experiment is a test that you run based on some hypotheses, right? So you have a hypothesis that's based on some observation of the world, basically. So you observe a phenomenon and you make a hype. For instance, ‘user does not activate’. So you make the hypothesis that they do not activate because of some reason. And so your test will be, I'm gonna fix that reason, and therefore I expect that if I fix that reason, users will activate. That's a test. That's an experiment, and you can launch this as an AP test if you have the capability. You can launch this as a before and after product change, You can launch this as an AZ test if you can afford doing multiple variants and so on and so forth. But the most important thing, regardless of the testing method that you use, is that you form a hypothesis, and that's the basis for a very good experiment. Now, some testing methodologies will allow you to learn better, more accurately than others. If you AP test, you are removing a lot of confounding factors, basically a lot of things that could have explained changes in metrics. Seasonality, day of the week, time of year, different cohorts coming in. If you were to test, now we're gonna make before and after product change. If you're AP testing, all of that is randomized, right? So you remove a lot of potential confusion. But sometimes you might not be ready to AP test. You might not have the traffic to be able to AP test. You might not have the tooling in place. But the most important thing is that you're able to learn and you'll learn when you have a hypothesis. I think that by changing that, so and so will happen. You'll make the change and then you'll go and observe and see if that occurred. If you can do that recurrently, quickly, then you have very good chances of learning and getting better and better and better over time.
Max: That’s very, very useful information. I totally feel you with the young companies and having less traffic. I’ve definitely worked at companies before where you're trying to run these tests and you end up wasting time because you're not focusing on what's realistic. You're just kind of trying to tick a box, right?
Max: On that note of doing whatever you can, in the first episode we spoke to the wonderful Leah Theen and we talked a bit about product-led growth, which is something I know you are very interested in as well. We talked about kind of the job title-less jobs that we will have. Our job title doesn't completely describe the job we're doing anymore because everyone's doing so many different things and I feel like product-led growth is a great example of that. Where your job as marketers and product people and salespeople and developers is all one together, because you're all working on one big campaign, one big project. I would love to hear about how you've ended up becoming quite interested in product-led growth and how you apply that at Pitch to your growth model.
Ignasi: So I stumbled into a product growth basically at Typeform joined as a data scientist for the growth team back in 2018, pretty much as Pitch was being founded. I joined Typeform and I discovered product like growth while being an analyst at Typeform and I saw what it means from a great product company, Typeform, that still is, and at the end of the day, the product is so good, and then it does some things very smartly. But it's so good that a product is shared by word of mouth and it's naturally, organically picked. It's very useful and people recommend it to friends and colleagues, and people see it out there in the wild as well. Super important for Typeform because they receive type forms. They recognize it is what it is, and then they also have the need and they wanna use it, right? So it has these elements that it helps it grow itself. Now with Pitch, I've seen another turn of the wheel or notch to what it means to be product like growth, which is that as you use the product, you don't use it solo, you actually use it collaboratively. So by virtue of needing to use the product, you need to actually take other people's attention and invite them to your workspace and then collaboratively work on it. So that's another degree of product like growth. Plus the hey, here’s my Pitch deck. You recognize it’s Pitch, and then next time you wanna build a Pitch deck, and you'll come and you'll use Pitch perhaps, and so on and so forth. So we're extremely conscious that we have a PLG product, a product like growth product, and are making, very specific and targeted investments and making that stronger were possible. And that’s 90% of my job, identifying those opportunities and seizing them.
Max: I guess that would help a lot with something that I struggle with always, metrics that feel unmeasurable, trying to measure them. Like that thing you mentioned, how do we know that where someone got our product because of this experience. How do we know that someone subscribed because of this experience? People can answer the golden question and say yes, I signed up because of this person. But you can't do that with every customer. So do you feel like product led growth helps you guys feel a lot more transparency between what you are doing and why customers are becoming customers?
Ignasi: Yes, and a lot of that you will get by… there will be the golden questions, let’s say, where you ask people where they found you and all, but a lot of it you get by casual customer conversations. They’ll tell you this is an awesome product, and my colleague/whatever told me about it, or everyone's using it or things like this. So the actual quality of the product, and also a product that speaks to a certain audience that seeks that quality of craft, also drive a lot of the demands. And then the other ones are like the growth tactics that basically make that a fantastic engine for growth. But the market is probably full of examples where you have not so great products with awesome distribution strategies that are extremely viral, but they're not that beautiful. And probably the opposite where you have beautiful products, but that don't distribute really well. Neither one of these is sufficient. Probably great distribution beats great product craft at the end of the day when it comes to numbers, but the combination is what's super powerful and that's what we're trying to do with Pitch here. Amazing craft, amazing way of building presentations and a fantastic distribution model, a very thoughtful one.
Max: When I was researching for this interview, I got the wonderful reminder of how nice your website is, and how nice that is to use, and such a great billboard.
Ignasi: Thank you. It's in constant development, so you might see change soon.
Max: See, that's why we're talking about iteration and reiteration.
Max: Something, I'd love to know more about as well, is how you guys communicate with each other at Pitch. What's your approach to remote work and office work? Obviously, as you said, you live in Barcelona. I think the company has got offices, in Berlin, London and places. So what's their approach to remote work?
Ignasi: Pitch went remote with the pandemic, and after that basically adopted a default remote operation system. Yes we do have a headquarters, an office in Berlin that some of our colleagues can enjoy. But even if they do, the default is everyone communicates via Slack. We have Zoom calls, individually people on their laptops even if they're in the same room or close together in the office. So we do a lot of that out of the box. From having joined remote and staying permanently remote, there's no sense of being left out of conversations. Of course, a lot of people met from before the time when Pitch was basically an in-person company and there are all those great relationships already built, but operationally you don't really feel that there's some people in remote and then the other people. So that's a fantastic thing. Now we do leverage a lot and try to get better even at writing documents, documenting the written narrative, etc. So sharing ideas less through casual chats and more through thoughtful project proposals. There's been a huge improvement over the last couple years in that. We still have a way to go. We doc food a lot. Pitch has a feature called recordings, which you can record yourself pretty much like you would do with Claap, but within the presentation. So you record yourself, and you paste yourself as a block as part of the presentation. So we use that a lot. So people will use Pitch a lot for project proposals and stuff, and then we'll record themselves and paste themselves into the presentation. So e leverage a lot of the AC communication solutions that we have. I would say we don't have an official way of doing things with that regard. It's just acing as much as possible where possible. That's the policy basically, and it's working for a company of our size. I think it's working well. There's certainly room for improvement, but I would say it works well.
Max: Exactly that. I mean there's always room for improvement. Even Claap, which is a company where our whole ethos is empowering everyone to work the way they want. That's the whole point of the product. We’re still figuring it out because it changes all the time and you're learning and relearning how different people work. I would love to know, there's no policy basically, right? There’s no written down in Notion somewhere, this is our policy, it’s just kind of open…
Ignasi: When it comes to these communication channels, yes it’s open. Maybe the minimum that that there will be is for instance, Slack is preferred over email. So Slack's the main communication channel, and then there'll be some maybe light suggestions on, it’s good as a Slack message, but what might be better is a meeting or a document, etc. But in any case, it's very light and certainly not something we sweat over.
Max: Good. I was gonna say, something I feel more and more is having no policy is almost like the best policy now.
Max: Where you are letting people choose sthey wanna work. And I would love to know what your stance is or your thoughts about companies that do take a hard stance. For example, I think it was Shopify the other day that got rid of all meetings that were more than two people. And then you have other companies which are like Tesla for example, who are saying you have to be in the office, otherwise you can't work here. I would love to hear your thoughts when you hear things like that.
Ignasi: I think I respect them. If I were an employee at that company or for those examples which I don't know the details, but what I would like to understand is where does the assessment come from, right? So what was the problem that that's trying to solve? And again, back to the idea of experimentation, what’s a hypothesis of what will happen? So I'm very experimental in that mindset, in that sense, and I'm very flexible as long as there's an articulated reason and some sort of evaluation criteria that we're gonna use. If it's just because some executive pet peeve decided that “blah”, I wouldn't be in favour. But even so, like even in those cases, maybe the Elon Musks of the world, there might be a core reason that you could still unpack into some form of hypothesis because this will happen and therefore X, Y, and Z. So you could even still challenge that if it doesn't work. So I'm all in favour of this as long as, again, it comes from a place of an informed observation and we have some way of evaluating whether it works or not. Back to the point about policies, I'm also of the opinion that minimal policy being parsimonious, like let's do the minimum we can do, but then let's be observant about what problems emerge. What things that we're doing work, don’t work, and what problems emerge so that we can correct and maybe more process or remove some as necessary and being in constant flux. That's usually the environment that I'm very comfortable in and Pitch is very much that way. It's very thoughtful about the changes it introduces and constantly evaluating the decisions. It makes in terms of people and processes. And I love that
Max: That's something I think is really important. People thought that when people stopped working in the office, that the office manager role would just disappear. These people who had made professions as office managers and receptionists had to disappear. But now there's this whole new role, HR and home teams have these whole new roles where they need to manage remote teams, which is a whole new world and we're still figuring it out. Like you said, I think it was 2020 when Covid started. So it's been three years now. We're just at the start and there's so much to figure out and so much to learn. Such an exciting time to be figuring it out, you know? And there's so many young companies and older companies and so many remote teams all trying to figure out the best way to work, and no one's cracked it yet, but it's coming.
Ignasi: Absolutely. And we are remote, but we're hybrid if you're in Berlin. But a a lot of that, like the office manager, become like a remote people manager/happiness…
Max: Happiness officer. I remember companies having happiness officers
Ignasi: But also having to manage the physical presence as well, and the traveling and meet up of people. So they act a lot as the interface between the remotes and the real world as well. So I think it's super interesting and when you need them and our one Martinez is fantastic. When you need them they’re extremely helpful because they can help you. I like to think I'm some virtual person usually, and then I basically manifest myself, condense myself in Berlin every now and then for meetups, and they help my physical self adjust to Pitch locally. So super important roles, I think. Super important. In the end, we're humans, we will need the occasional human interaction in real life, so that role still makes a lot of sense.
Max: 100% agree, 100% agree. Just to finish off, I've got one last question for you and I ask everyone this question. You don't need to make any strong predictions, but I always ask everyone, what's one trend you're seeing now? It can be in your line of work in product, that you see continuing or getting bigger over the next five years. If I had to get some kind of forecast out of you for the next five years in product, what do you think is something that's gonna boom or keep booming?
Ignasi: I think it's pretty obvious probably as an answer. It’s gonna be in everyone's mind that AI, and generative AI is very transformational in so many ways and in so many ways that we cannot even fathom yet. I like to do a couple caveats. How it will be transformational, in what sort of tasks, is what needs to be figured out. I think that on the productivity front, it'll be very transformational, but it won't be perhaps very visibly obvious. It'll be in the smaller task, summarizing a task, a text, like starting up a document. Things like this that will probably amount to a lot of savings for the knowledge worker. But there’ll be the small, very contextual, very integrated nudges. That's one, then the second caveat is also a bit of a trend that we do risk when these things, these big leaps forward in terms of technological capabilities happen. It also produces a little bit of a shiny effect, object, where people tend to be like everything now is about AI and there's no world around it. Outside aids and every solution needs to be AI, every product needs to have some sort of AI stamp, etc. I'm quite sceptical of that. Sceptical meaning mindful of that, making sure that this doesn't occur to us as well. So I think that it's important that we're able to identify where's the true breakthrough and opportunity with a breakthrough like AI, and where's just the shiny effect object. Like everything, we’re supposed to be web three whatever blockchain power two years ago, and now it’s not maybe the case, at least not in the short term, right?
Max: Not yet.
Ignasi: Just to protect ourselves from some of that.
Max: Yeah that's really interesting. I'll tell you what, when we do a season two and Pitch are deep in the AI phase, I’ll have you back to come and explain your latest AI feature.
Ignasi: Yeah okay. Will do, will do, haha!
Max: That’s perfect. Okay thank you so much for being on, Ignasi. I think there's so much to learn here for someone like me who's a novice and I think there's plenty for someone else to learn as well, who's maybe an expert in the product field. So thanks.
Ignasi: Thank you so much, Max. This was a lot of fun.