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I'm David Subar,
Managing Partner of Interna.

 

We enable technology companies to ship better products faster, to achieve product-market fit more quickly, and to deploy capital more efficiently.

 

You might recognize some of our clients. They range in size from small, six-member startups to the Walt Disney Company. We've helped companies such as Pluto on their way to a $340MM sale to Viacom, and Lynda.com on their path to a $1.5B sale to Linkedin.

The Growth Equation 2: Navigating Challenging Investments in the B2B EdTech Space with Troy Williams



Welcome to a new episode of “The Growth Equation: PE Perspectives on Product”! In today's episode, we have a fascinating conversation with Troy Williams, a seasoned PE investor, who shares his valuable insights and experiences in private equity, specifically in the B2B EdTech sector. Join us as we delve into his unconventional path into the industry, his strategies behind successful investments, and the delicate balance between making decisions that are scalable and listening to your specific customer. We hope you enjoy.



More about Troy:


Troy Williams is the Managing Director at Achieve Partners. Troy leads both firm’s investments in education technology companies, including Boclips, MasteryPrep, AdmitHub, EverTrue, Examity, Motimatic, Packback and Ready Education.

Prior to Acheive Partners, Troy was a senior executive at Macmillan where he was CEO of Macmillan Enterprise Solutions and President of Macmillan New Ventures. Previously, Troy founded and served as CEO of Questia Media, an early ebook company.

Troy received his bachelor's degree in History, Phi Beta Kappa, from Rice University, and his law degree from Harvard Law School where he was a member of Harvard Law Review.



Transcript:


David Subar: Thank you, Troy, for being here.


Troy Williams: Yeah. I'm thrilled to be here today, David. Thanks. Thanks for inviting me.

David Subar: Glad to have you. So let's, let's set the stage. How did you get into PE? How did you start your career?


Troy Williams: When I left that and became an entrepreneur founded a company, it was VC backed. Ran that company for nine years and then ultimately sold it.

And when I sold it, I was recruited into a major corporation to build them a division through a buy strategy. And so had some success doing that in building a, what was an educational software division through buying a number of, of smaller bootstrapped software companies. And it was from there that I migrated into kind of our predecessor firm to, to [00:01:00] invest in fast growing, you know, educational software companies.


And that was my path into private equity.


David Subar: Got it. So, so why the edgy, why the focus on education? Had you, it was because of the kind of companies you were buying before?


Troy Williams: Yeah, so I, my company was really an e library company or, or really one of the first e book companies, if you will. And this was nine years before the launch of Kindle. So we were, we were really early. And we launched as a B2C company, selling to consumers. But along the way, about three or four years in, Google decided to enter the space.


And and so we kind of pivoted into selling to schools. And it was at that time that my company was kind of considered an ed tech company. And, and so when we sold it I, I stayed in the education space. Obviously, I find education incredibly fulfilling. The concept of doing good and doing well financially is, is very [00:02:00] attractive to me and to many other people.


So, it's incredibly fulfilling to help companies that have the opportunity. To, to have a massive impact on student learning and outcomes and the success of our educational institutions because fundamentally I believe our democracy is predicated upon a an educated population that can, that can that can think critically and, and given all the complexity in our world today and all the things that are happening with technology, it's only more important than ever that we have an educated populace.


David Subar: I 100 percent agree with that. I. I prefer educated voters to ignorant ones.


Troy Williams: We all do. Well, most of us do.


David Subar: When did the chief partners start?


Troy Williams: Well, our predecessor firm was called University Ventures. It started in 2011. And we rebranded as Achieve Partners in 2018. So depending on how you look at it, we've been around [00:03:00] for, for 12 or 5 years.


David Subar: Yeah. Okay. So let's talk about some key portfolio companies.


Can you talk about some of the greatest success stories that you had. And then I'm going to ask you the side about some things that you learned that might have been harder lessons.


Troy Williams: Yeah, So well, so the great success company, successful companies was a company called Examity that we invested in, in, in early 2017 and we exited in 2019. So it was only a 26 month hold period. But this was a company that provides online proctoring for test taking. And so authenticates and make sure that the David who's taking the test is actually the David who's enrolled in the class and then, and then while you take the test to make sure that you're not you're not cheating or, or doing something inappropriate and so it has a lot of different technologies, eye tracking, facial recognition, voice recognition, keystroke recognition, various other things that did that. [00:04:00] And we invested in, in 2017 as big believers that that test taking was going to move online. There were relatively few other folks who saw that opportunity at that point in time. And, and we exited actually in 2019 before COVID. This is a, this is a solution that blew up during COVID. The whole sector grew dramatically and it became apparent to everybody that you needed to have this type of solution, as, as everybody was suddenly taking their classes and studying from home.


David Subar: Yeah, I've got two kids in med school and they're both uh, I'm not sure if they use that technology or similar technology to do uh, classes from home and I asked, I walked in once and I was shooed away. Quickly.


Troy Williams: Yeah, you're not allowed to have any other voices in the room. That'll, that'll, that'll throw up a red flag when it'll have to be reviewed. That clip, that portion of the test will have to be reviewed to make sure that you weren't, you weren't helping them cheat.


David Subar: Well, I [00:05:00] promise anybody who, if, if one of my daughters is their surgeons, they did not cheat. Your surgery will go well.


Troy Williams: Good. Good.


David Subar: So what, what made, it was, so you guys had foresight that made that successful. Were there other attributes?


Troy Williams: Well, I mean, one of the things is, is, is, you know, we're pretty focused on founders. Finding the right founders. We we back bootstrap founders and help them scale. So, you know, we knew a lot of folks in the higher ed space as well as in the professional certification space. But fundamentally, there was a great founder there, and there was a great momentum when we invested.


But we did add a focus around professional certifications, which the ultimate buyer of this company. It was Great Hill, and I think Great Hill underwrote to that professional certification market, whereas previously the company had almost all of its sales from, from higher [00:06:00] education. So mostly what we do is we scale sales and marketing, go to market.


Since we focus on businesses that sell to schools or universities, it's really important to understand the process of selling to schools and universities. And most generalists, come into these type of companies and try to use the playbook they use in selling to companies and corporations, which doesn't necessarily work.


You're effectively selling to a government entity. Sales cycles are long, and so it's about knowing how to scale the sales and marketing, and that's what we really did for Examity, is we helped them scale that go to market.


David Subar: Got it. So the founders were product people, engineering people, what did they look like?


Troy Williams: Yeah, they were, they were primarily product people. Michael London is, is the founder of, of Examity and he was a third time entrepreneur. He had, he had previously been at Bloomberg. And prior to that, he founded a company that was was acquired by Bright Horizons and his co founder of that company is the current CEO of [00:07:00] Bright Horizons, which is a very successful, large publicly traded firm.


David Subar: So let's go to the other side. You don't have to name a company, but tell a story about one that maybe didn't work out as well and some things you learned there, what you might've changed.


Troy Williams: Yeah. So most of our challenges, challenging investments have to do with companies that we just bought too early. And, and we used to do some, some growth equity and minority investing, which we don't do anymore, primarily for this reason. We found that when we invest too early It's, it's, it's hard to sustain a, what may be early growth that, that isn't sustainable.


And so, that's most of our, our challenging investments are just companies that, that that we got into too early. Because they were primarily sexy and there was a lot of belief in what the potential was. And so today I would say, you know, [00:08:00] we're not necessarily running toward A.I. and education companies.


We have some in our portfolio, but but but that's not like a focus. Whenever we see a lot of generalists get excited about a trend. That's a, that's a warning sign to us to stay away from it. The more boring, the more interesting it is to us. And so a lot of administrative solutions and things that are in the background, making schools and universities much more productive and effective, but, but aren't necessarily things that you would ever read about in the paper or going to make news headlines are where we find the ability to create alpha.


David Subar: Got it. Okay. So basically the companies already have this kind of product market fit and you're accelerating, you're accelerating their ability to, to penetrate the market.


Troy Williams: Yeah, I mean, one of the, yeah, one of the companies that was the most, one of the biggest challenges for us it was just, it was a Y Combinator graduate, and it was a company that had a lot of sex appeal, if you [00:09:00] will, around it, and there were a lot of people chasing it. We are typically most successful where, when we are one of, we are either the only bidder or one of two or three bidders, rather than in a situation where there's there's a whole lot of people interested in the company.


David Subar: Yeah. Okay. Okay, so you go into a company, you're, you, you've purchased it. They've had some founders, maybe the founders have a strong product background, strong engineering background. What do you, what do you instinctive...what do you wish they instinctively knew? What makes, you know, what makes those people successful for companies you buy.


Troy Williams: Yeah, I mean, first off, we have a little bit different approach than most PE firms in that we get to know a founder or a management team for typically more than a year before we invest. And so we get, it's one of our core filters is who that team is. And one of the things we're looking for are just mission driven [00:10:00] folks

.

You know, folks who they're, they're, they're not just for the returns, they're there because they're trying to solve a problem that they fundamentally care about. And that means that they're up at 2 a. m. Thinking about the business. Both in good times and bad times, right? Not just because they're stressed, but because they're, they're just mission driven.


So that's one of those things that is a hard to quantify thing. But if the first meeting the founder is telling me how rich he or she is going to get or how rich I'm going to get after I invest, that's actually probably a warning sign. I want to hear why they're changing the world and why they're passionate about changing the world and and how they measure the outcomes and the effectiveness of their product. So it really comes down to believing in efficacy and valuing efficacy, sometimes even more so than profits.


David Subar: Yeah yeah, we, I believe that we believe that in [00:11:00] turn, it's, it's profits and, and profits and revenue are side effect of creating the value and knowing how to do that, do you work with them on roadmaps and the things that are on the roadmaps and why they're on the roadmaps and how they're measuring each of them, or do they just come to you on that?


Troy Williams: Yeah. Well, conceptually, we spend time before we invest, setting out a strategic plan. Most of the associates and vice presidents at Achieve Partners come out of either McKinsey and BCG, which is another, which is another, you know, fundamental difference between most PE firms and in this place. That we believe we can train people on the PE components of investing, but it's really hard for us to give give folks who might be coming out of other PE firms or, or banking the skill set that a McKinsey or BCG would give their associates.


So we spend time aligning before investment on, on what the, the roadmap and strategy is on a go forward basis. And so that's one of the reasons we get picked, [00:12:00] even if we're not the highest bidder many times by founders, because they recognize that we are, we're committed to the outcome and the goals and that we've aligned on it.


And so, you know, then post investment, it's really about executing against that strategy and implementing that strategy. And certainly a part of that is is staging and timing of product investment and, and, and go to market investment around around those products. And so, you know, depending on the company, it can mean that we're first going to scale up a sales organization, go to market regionally or nationally before we spend more money building new products.


It's, you know, again, founder led companies are oftentimes building product faster than they're building go to market and and many times it's important to pause new development to let the go to market mature enough to catch up to the product vision. And [00:13:00] that's a hard thing. It's a hard conversation with founders, but but but oftentimes it's necessary to mature that the existing product before you continue to add onto it, and that means spending more time in scaling.


Scaling the sales and marketing and separating renewals and upsells from from new sales and, and really having that feedback loop from customer success back into product kind of built out before we start building more product.


David Subar: But it's interesting because B2B companies and B2C companies are very different. Obviously, the kind of companies you're backing are effectively B2B or


Troy Williams: That's right. They are


David Subar: university, right? And the, the feedback channel in a B2B market is harder. It's not, you know, product led growth. I do this feature and then people click on it and therefore I get more usage.


Troy Williams: Fundamentally different. Yeah.


David Subar: Yeah.


Troy Williams: So my company was a B2C company. The company I founded 20 plus years ago, and we could get [00:14:00] feedback overnight. And decide the next day what, what, what iteration we were going to do. Today, you know, it's a year long sales cycle in, in selling to schools or universities.


And so you really in some, sometimes have to wait nearly a year to get good feedback on a new, on a new product development. And so it's, it's just fundamentally different than running a B2C kind of app based or web based solution, mobile based solution. And we have to think about it differently and and generalist investors who come into the space who don't realize that you really can't shorten the sales cycles in selling to schools.


You can't get them to 60 to 90 days, even though they think they might be able to. You can't. You have to. You have to build a business around the fact of that of that sales cycle.


David Subar: And you probably have seasonality, right? You have to sell generally before the school year starts.


Troy Williams: Right? Yeah.


Your core selling season is is the 2nd and 3rd quarter of the year. You know, most budgets go July to [00:15:00] June, and so they're either buying in the second quarter with remainder funds that they have left over, or they're buying in the third quarter with a new budget. And, and the fourth and first quarters tend to be pretty dark in terms of new sales.


You gotta be building pipeline. It's important time to build the pipeline that you're gonna close in the second and third quarter, but, but you're not gonna get a lot of bookings.


David Subar: On, on product roadmaps, some features help sell and some features help use, in B2B environments. Sometimes, unfortunately, they're not the same, you know, the same feature may not help sell and may increase usage for the end user. Do you find that much in the university market that you have, like, that bifurcation of users, the things you have to have to close a sale versus what's ultimately valuable for the end user?


Troy Williams: Less so probably than, than in the B2C market primarily because there's a, it's more of a committee led decision, decision basis. [00:16:00] So it's not, it's not one person getting excited about a feature and buying. It's, it's a relatively complex time consuming sale. And so, yeah, there are certain check the box items that really don't drive efficacy or usage that you have to have.


They're just table stakes, but so they're more disqualifiers if you don't, as opposed to driving the sale. There's very few things that, a feature that actually drives a sale that's not efficacious or not, not, not used but there are a number of table stakes, function, functionality, just because somebody on the committee cares about that.


And there's somebody like that at every institution that you have to have it even though it's not that important. But at, it's, again, it's not driving the sale. So I would say, I would say rather than driving the sale, it's, it's, it's really what drives sales in, in, in education is, is referenceable clients.


It's whether or not you've sold peer institutions.[00:17:00] That's the, that's the, that's the thing that actually accelerates sales.


David Subar: Got it. So in the case that there's some member of the community that wants a particular feature, are those generally one offs that they want, or are those generally features that other universities have, other universities want?


Troy Williams: Yeah, so it, it, it's a, it's a mixture. There are certain functional groups that will be on committees. Whatever, whatever group, whatever type of. product you're selling, and that functional group you can imagine at a university could be the registrar. All registrars are going to care about similar things.


And so, the reality is the registrar is going to be on the committee and going to want that thing, whether or not it's really going to drive efficacy, you know, efficacy for the product for the institution, and you're just going to have to have it. Separate from that, you know, I would say especially in higher ed more so than K 12, every institution is a snowflake and it thinks that it is [00:18:00] unique and has unique expectations.


And So one of the things that happens in higher ed is you see homegrown solutions early on. And, and, you know, flagship institutions. Now we're talking about big universities like the University of Texas, the University of Wisconsin, or, you know, UCLA, or another institution like that. Oftentimes they'll build solutions for themselves out of the gate. And then it's, it's smaller institutions who can't afford to do that, to do that, that adopt kind of a generic solution. That generic solution, over time, gets better and better and better. And eventually, the costs of maintaining their homegrown solution that those flagship institutions built gets more and more expensive with more and more technical debt.


That they then move to the generic solution, which now has matured over a course of time with hundreds, if not thousands, of clients that have generalized. What is what is needed across the ecosystem? But the challenge of that migration and turning turning off that [00:19:00] homegrown solution is something that they're having to give up the unique nooks and crannies that they built that they love for something that's much more scalable and, and, and, and, and, you know, generalizable.


And so that's just a trend line that we've seen in virtually every subsector of software. At the university level and I think it's probably true in some other sectors as well, but it's really obvious in the higher education space


David Subar: So you basically innovator's dilemma out the big systems that giant universities built,


Troy Williams: Yeah, it happens over a decade or more. But we, you know, it happens so slowly that we can observe it happening and make investments. And so sometimes people say, you know, one of the things about education is it's behind corporate America in terms of adopting software and solutions. And so I oftentimes say I don't have to be visionary.


I just have to look at what the corporations did six years ago and what the universities or schools aren't yet doing and [00:20:00] say, well, how long is it going to take them to get there and and invest along that time frame? But that it is a reality that large universities have massive resources and do have some unique components, and they have a lot of different fiefdoms on campus who are very vocal.


And if they are responsive to those vocal minorities, they build product that is not scalable or generalizable to other institutions.


David Subar: Okay, so I want to wrap this back into product management engineering for a second. So you've got a sales cycle, which sometimes, particularly at bigger institutions, requires some unique feature. And, and you have the general development process of here's some features we're going to build because they create value.


But for this sale, and by the way, this is typical of a lot of B2B. For this sale, we need to build this feature. And that's distracting maybe from our [00:21:00] main life cycle or product product life cycle. Are there unique attributes you need your tech teams and your product teams to be able to deal with those two kinds of things simultaneously?


And then I'm going to add a third one because I'm inferring that then there's this integration pack. It's almost like professional services for integrating the things you build into these larger settings.


Troy Williams: Yeah, I


David Subar: That may be the same team or a different team. I don't know.


Troy Williams: Yeah.


I think that the core philosophy is that you have, you have to have an architect and a tech leader who understands what is generalizable and what is what is scalable. And you need a product leader who's hearing from multiple customers. And able to differentiate between one offs and in general, more general, generalizable needs.


And so then you do not build into the platform [00:22:00] anything that's that, that smells like it's a one off. You, you have a platform and then you structure it so you can build features and functionalities that are one offs on top of that. And then you charge that particular institution, the full cost plus profit on building out that functionality for them and you make it clear. This is uniquely being built for you. So you're gonna have to pay for it and we'll see whether or not they're willing to pay for it. Many of them are not willing to pay for it, which then immediately tells you it's not that big of a need.


And we get out of doing it. So it's a lot of…


It requires, it requires the, the CEO and the leadership team to to not get overly excited about any one sale and have discipline to build something that's truly scalable. And, and, and, you know, obviously we, everybody makes mistakes now and again on that front and regrets them.


But, [00:23:00] but, you know, there are certain types of founders or leaders who are sale, they're the sales people and they get excited about sales, no matter what, and selling the big deal and they can. Those type of leaders can lead you down a really bad road in, in this sector, in this, in this sector of the economy.


David Subar: And I've seen that dance before between sales and product. Product tends to be future long term thinking. Sales tends to be what's this quarter. And that relationship is critical in how they work. And then with engineering as well.


Troy Williams: That's right.


David Subar: What, what are the attributes do you think...you kind of described what the sales folks need to have to play a nice net sandbox, what are the, what are the product and engineering leaders need to look like?


Because sometimes they have to make trade offs that hurt.


Troy Williams: Yeah, look, I mean, I think product leaders, the most important thing is that they ideally have spent a ton of time with the customers. And [00:24:00] come out of something close to the ecosystem that they're building for. And if not, that they're spending a ton of time actually on site with customers. Not just doing zooms, but really getting into it.


And and I think that differentiates really successful companies from from companies. That, you know, look, most founders had a vision. I know I had a vision. That vision tends to hold back companies after the first launch of the product many times. I mean, Steve Jobs accepted probably, but many, many other founders.


Have this sense that they know where the market's going. And the reality is once you get into market with a product, it's time to have your product leader go sit with customers all day, every day, almost. And, and really understand where those needs are, so that they can make these very hard trade offs.


You know, I always say products should define what's going to be built, and then technology and the engineering group defines [00:25:00] how it's gonna be built, meaning what what technology choices or or tools are going to be used. And the two of them have to have a, you know, a fight, drag it out to figure out when it's going to be delivered.


And there's trade offs to be made between what you want built and how it's going to be built in order to in order to deliver, you know, and decide when it's going to be delivered. And in this market, it needs to be delivered in June or July, be ready for August or or else you've missed a whole year and so those lead to very hard decisions and many other sectors a few weeks later does not make that big a difference between you know, it might, it might affect one quarter, but it doesn't make that big a difference.


But in in schools and universities missing, missing the launch of a product, you could lose a whole year.


David Subar: Interesting. So I picked up a lot of things you just said there differently. One was the vision doesn't survive. No battle plan survives first [00:26:00] contact with the enemy. Or as Mike Tyson I think said everyone has a plan to get hit in the mouth.


Troy Williams: Yeah, yeah. I mean, you can have a, the reality is you could be directionally right. But


and, and, and, and some founders have directional visions that are right for multiple iterations. But, uh, but, but that doesn't mean that they're perfectly right. They need to be adjusted as soon as you, as soon as you come into contact with that punch, So to speak.


David Subar: So it's about, so sitting with a customer really, the way I interpreted what you just said, it's about knowledge and empathy for,


Troy Williams: Yeah, it's leaving the ego at the door, which is the mistake I made when I was in my 20s. I had a very strong vision of what, what I thought we should build. And the reality was you need to be listening to customers.


David Subar: we'll I I have like three lines of questions from that. One is when you are, let's say you have to hire a new product leader, a customer or at a, at a [00:27:00] portfolio company. Can you test for that? Is that something that's becomes obvious?


Troy Williams: Look, most, most people are going to tell you when you, so you can test for it, for it in the sense of you can ask them, how much time do you spend on site with customers in the past year? I mean, if they tell you a lie, then, you know, it's harder, you know, it's harder to find that lie, but most people will tell you exactly how they spend their time.


And and that's a pretty big telling, you know, that's pretty telling as to whether or not they're a functionary or, or they're somebody who, who actually understands how to extract customer needs in a way that gets you to product market fit faster.


David Subar: So do you have situations where you prefer the CTO and the chief product officer to be one person or versus two?


Troy Williams: I, I always prefer him to be two people and not to report to one another. [00:28:00]


David Subar: Because,


Troy Williams: Because of that dialectic that I talked about. I


David Subar: Yep.


Troy Williams: Otherwise, otherwise one is getting the upper hand on determining the when, the when, and it's, it's really important for, for, from the architecture perspective choices to be made that are generalizable and scalable. But from the product perspective you know, you need to have folks who really understand that it has to be done this way in order for customers in order for it to be efficacious for customers in a way that that many time times engineers, they just don't, that's too soft too, too, too much of a soft science for, for many engineers. And so if you have a CTO in charge of both, which is oftentimes when you have one they're either coming out of the product side of the engineering side, they're not usually coming out of both.


So it's difficult. I think it's just, I prefer, at the stage of companies we invest in [00:29:00] to, to have a chief product officer and you know, CTO or head of engineering. Both report to the CTO the CEO or the COO, depending,


David Subar: So tell me about a time where you saw something going awry with product or engineering and you had to do an early intervention to prevent a crisis. What, what do you, what kind of things do you look at as an investor? What kind of things do you see? What kind of steps do you like to take?


Troy Williams: Well I don't know if I have any crystallized ...you should have asked me that in advance so I could think of a of a, a specific case and give you a great answer. But I would say, you know, you are, you're oftentimes in a board meeting where there's, there's trade-offs being made around technical debt a need to go back and solve things.


Historic issues. As well as the need to [00:30:00] drive new product development, and there's, there's trade offs there, and it really has to, you know, it really requires a lot of hard questioning, um, and, and analysis, and there's a desire to just, you know, have a one hour or 90 minute meeting and come out of it with an answer.


And the reality is that that's usually, you're usually not going to get to the right answer. What. What you have to do is narrow down the choices and then research those choices and come back and make a multiple, sometimes multiple iterations of that before you can make a really momentous decision like replatforming.


I seen, you know, one of the biggest mistakes is a decision to replatform too quickly. Many times it's coming from the engineering side where there's a desire. There's just so much technical debt to replatform on a company that's growing. [00:31:00] But if you have to hit the pause button for a year or 18 months, it's really hard to restart the engine of growth that a company has.


And so it, you know, a massive kind of comprehensive replatforming is my experience, almost always a mistake, certainly on the investment horizon we have, which is typically five to seven years. And so it really requires much more judicious and thoughtful approach to okay, let's make sure that we've at first modularized the product so that there are different modules, right?


And so it's not like a massive one step replatforming, we're able to both advance certain products. But one of the key things is to move from monolithic platform if you have one into a platform. with multiple different modules that can be either re architected or advanced, and ideally priced separately from one another.


David Subar: Yeah, [00:32:00] I have conversations with CTOs about this all the time. If you're going to walk up to the CEO or the board and say, we're not going to do anything for six months, but everything's going to be much better later.


Troy Williams: DOA, my book.


David Subar: Yeah, right, right. Nobody ever says yes to that because they don't believe the six months and they can't wait for six months to stop all development.


Just not possible. So,


Troy Williams: But, but, but that doesn't mean that there isn't work that can immediately begin to kind of seize apart certain parts of the product which can be costly and time consuming, but absolutely needs to start because, you know, if you're not going to do that, and I agree, it never is going to be six months, but if you're going to do it kind of piecemeal over time, it could take many years.


And So, you have to, you have to make sure you're, you're staging everything appropriately and, and doing the most important tasks. Because now you're, instead of doing things in parallel, you're doing them serially and you [00:33:00] need to make sure that you've ordered them properly.


David Subar: Yeah, yeah. Well, that's, that's, brings me up to maybe my last question is, We see a lot of companies like that, right? Where they have to make these decisions. And sometimes it comes down to the decision of we keep putting capital into product management and engineering and not getting more out. And they have to make the decision about whether we reduce the investment or whether we use fundamentally change something about the way product management and engineering work.


Do you, do you come to those kind of junctures in the road? Do you see things like that? Or is it less drastic of that kind of, is it less of an existential choice?


Troy Williams: Yeah, well, hopefully we've done our diligence before we get into a company that we don't, we don't end up with that, that, that hard of a question being asked. You know, I'm a, I'm a fairly [00:34:00] frugal guy in terms of kind of how I think about investing in, in businesses when we get in, as well as investments we make along the way.


And I think when you ask hard questions and you repeatedly ask those hard questions and, and make sure you get an answer that makes sense. There's typically a cheaper way, a much cheaper way to solve is a classic 80 20 rule. You solve 80 percent of the problem with 20 percent of the, uh, the investment.


And there tends to be a group out there who, who just wants it to be pretty. They want the to have a bow on top and they want it to be, you know, just, just architect it. Everything's in its spot. Yeah. And that's an incredibly expensive uh, proposition. And so, you know, in life and in companies and in running things, the perfect is the enemy of the good enough.


And, and you really have to be pretty rigorous of saying, [00:35:00] what does it take us, what does it take in terms of investment and time to get good enough? And let's get going on that. But we're definitely not doing the perfect. And if you want to do the perfect if that's what gets you excited, this is probably not the right place for you.


David Subar: So actually I'll leave one last question. I'm a company and I'm looking for an investment and I'm going to approach you. What do you want me to know? What do you want me to say to you? What would be helpful? What would be helpful for you for possible investment companies to know about you?


Troy Williams: I want to know why you're doing what you're doing and what motivates you and and how committed you are for the next 10 years. And, and, and one of the reasons I go back to what I said, if, if, if your answer is, you know, I'm trying to get rich, well, you know, the funny thing about that is people always seem to find, the grass is always greener.


So there's always some other way to get rich faster than as soon as you run into a wall on this way. And I don't want you to give up. I want you to run through [00:36:00] that wall, have to drill through that wall, break that wall down, and keep going. And, and so that's why I'm looking for something other than "I'm trying to make a bunch of money here."


David Subar: It's all about mission and value creation.


Troy Williams: Yeah.


David Subar: Well, thank you very much I appreciate the time


Troy Williams: Thank you.


David Subar: Thanks


Troy Williams: All right. It was fun.






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