Behind a $3 Billion Company: Strategy and Culture with Alina

Mar 11, 2024

Notes

Welcome to Andy's Pod the place where we dive deep into the stories of the do'ers. Today, we're excited to present an exclusive interview with Alina, the co-founder of Chili Piper, it helps sales teams automatically schedule appointments with leads and Instantly turn inbound leads into qualified meetings.

In this episode, Alina shares the intentional steps behind building Chili Piper's recognizable brand and how culture plays a pivotal role in the company's success. Discover how Chili Piper's journey began, the dynamics of founding a company with a spouse, and the strategies that propelled their business forward. Alina offers invaluable insights into the importance of a cohesive brand beyond just colors and logos, tackling the challenges of maintaining company culture at scale, and the innovative approaches to product development and team collaboration that set Chili Piper apart.

Learn about the challenges and triumphs of growing a business, from the initial idea sketched on a piece of paper to becoming a renowned name in the SaaS industry. Alina also shares her vision for Chili Piper in the next five years and the personal aspirations driving her forward.

Whether you're an aspiring entrepreneur, a business enthusiast, or simply curious about the inner workings of a successful startup, this episode is packed with stories, strategies, and wisdom you won't want to miss.

🌶️ Topics Covered:
- The intentionality behind Chili Piper's branding
- The unique challenges and rewards of co-founding with a partner
- Strategies for scaling culture and maintaining employee happiness
- The evolution of Chili Piper's product and its market fit
- Future aspirations and the dream of taking Chili Piper public

For more inspiring conversations and insights into the entrepreneurial journey, subscribe to [Your Podcast Channel Name] and hit the bell icon to stay updated on our latest episodes. Join us as we explore the minds and motivations of those who are reshaping the business world.

Stay Connected with Us:
Don't forget to subscribe for more inspiring interviews and startup stories.
- Follow me on X (Formerly Twitter): https://twitter.com/andymewborn
- Follow me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/amewborn
- Follow me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/andy.mewborn

📩Feedback & Contact:
We value your feedback and questions! Leave us a comment below or reach out at: andy@distribute.so

🎙️ About the Channel:
Our channel is dedicated to uncovering the stories of entrepreneurs who are changing the game. From tech innovators to wellness pioneers, we bring you the insights and behind-the-scenes looks at the journeys of today's top founders.

🔔 Hit the bell icon to stay updated with our latest content and dive into the world of entrepreneurship with us! 🔔

‍

Transcript

Andy Mewborn:
Building a great brand alongside, you know, the company there from the beginning, was that always kind of part of the plan or?


Alina Vandenberghe:
It was very intentional, yes. The brand creation was very intentional. For sure, people remember the name and they remember the logo and all of that that's associated with it. However, that's not the entirety of it. It's not the color and it's not only the name. It's all the other things that come with it.


Andy Mewborn:
Did you ever have to go and be like, Hey, I just want you to like treat me as another part of the person in the company, or did you just roll with it?


Alina Vandenberghe:
So a lot of some companies say, Oh, we're family and we're friends. The problem with that is that it creates some unrealistic type of relationships. In my case, when I see some of my salespeople doubling their salary somewhere else, it makes me happy that they've managed to create a lot more value for themselves and they've managed to create a brand that resets them.


Andy Mewborn:
Last question I want to ask you is like, what's your dream for Chili Piper in the next five years? I would love to hear that from a founder's perspective. So welcome everyone. We've got Alina here, the co-founder of Chili Piper. And if y'all don't know Chili Piper, one, their logo is an awesome chili. So for those fans that like spicy food, you probably know what Chili Piper is. And for those people that want an awesome calendaring solution, we've also, you probably know what Chili Piper is. So welcome Alina and really excited to have you. Actually, one of the first, are you and your husband, did you and your husband start Chili Piper together?


Alina Vandenberghe:
That's correct. My husband is my co-founder. I'm always with him.


Andy Mewborn:
You know, like something that I'm interested in is like, how has that been? I mean, cause I'm going to be honest, me and my wife, if I started coming in with her, we would like drive each other nuts. Right. And so I just, we would probably each other. Um, so like, I want to dive into that. Like how, how has that been? Like, how have you in, sorry, if this is like getting too in the weeds, personal life, but like, you know, how do you, how do you guys like manage that and keep everything kosher with doing a company and the personal stuff. I'd love to hear about that.


Alina Vandenberghe:
I think that this kind of setup would not work for 99.99% of the couples out there. I can completely understand what you're saying. In our case, it's very specific because we're both obsessed with work, with this particular line of work. And that's all we can think about. And at the same time, we also both love traveling. And so traveling to all these amazing places in the world and talking about work, for us, that's like our dream life. So because we're both the same that way, the two of them go very well together. And the other thing that I think that contributes to the 0.0% exception that we are working together is because we're very complementary. So the skill sets that we have are very different. And as a result, we have very high respect for one another on these areas of expertise that we have. So we seek the other's wisdom and we feel so lucky that they're around because we know that in our case, one plus one doesn't equal two, one plus one equals three. So we're just like, I can't believe my luck that he's with me and he feels the same. So it's very specific to our setup.


Andy Mewborn:
Yeah. I'm curious, like what was that moment where y'all were like, was this the first thing you built together as a couple? Was Chili Piper the first thing? Nice. And what was that like, like that first moment when you were like, hey, I'm going to, we're going to build this company together. Was that really planned or was it just something that like came together? How was that?


Alina Vandenberghe:
He has been a serial entrepreneur, so he has the experience of building companies. For me, it's my first venture. I come from a product engineering background and that's my skills and that's my strength. And he comes from, his strengths are operations and sales. So he was doing all these startups before, but he always had somebody that was working with him on the technical side. And when he saw that I was doing well in other corporations and working for these other founders, he said, Alina, you have to do this with me. You have to do this with me.


SPEAKER_01:
And he kept saying that for, I don't know, like 10 years that you have to do this with me. Eventually I gave it in and I'm happy that he insisted.


Andy Mewborn:
Oh, yeah. I mean, well, you did really well for this being like your first startup, technically. Right. So that's pretty amazing. And so I want to you know, get into how you got over really that cold start problem, Alina, because, I mean, Chili Piper is doing great, right? Y'all are pretty much a calendar solution used by so many people now. How did, you know, walk us through how you just got started, like when did you have a live product? And let's base it around that, right? Like I would love to hear based on when you first had a product, how did you get it out in the market? What did you do? Just love to hear kind of all of the insights. And what was that one arbitrage that you had, right? That like, you know, every company has that one thing that they kind of used to grow. That's like their secret sauce at the beginning. I'd love to hear a little bit about that.


Alina Vandenberghe:
Well, funny enough, the calendar piece is more of an accidental part. I know that that's what we're known for because you see our links in the wild, so they say Powered by Chili Pepper, but that part was not how we started and we had something very specific. We would attend any possible sales events and I had On a piece of paper with a pen, I would go to people and I would draw my ideas and I would ask them if they would pay for it. I didn't have anything yet. And when I saw that 10 people said that they would pay in advance for a year for what I had built, I knew I had something. Because there's one thing where it's like, yeah, that's cool. But it's another thing that you say, yeah, I would pay 40k for that, right? It's very different. commitment. And that initial paper idea was something very simple. It was the handoff from an SDR to an AE, or from an AE to a CS. because they all had spreadsheets and they all were fighting for who gets what. The head of sales was always getting complaints that people are picking their favorites. There was also the equation that some people were on vacation and the person that was next was blocking their calendar or whatever. So it was a very specific part of the buying process that we started with. Eventually, the master idea was that the full B2B buying experience is broken. You get passed from one person to a person. It's so much easier as a consumer to buy something, right? You click and it shows up right at your door. And when you go to somebody else's website and you want to buy something, they say, thank you, somebody will contact you soon. And then you wait and then you go to a competitor. There were so many things that were broken in that B2B buying experience and I knew it could be done better. So the product evolved from that simple handoff, but that's how we got started. And the other question that you had is, what was the thing that caught fire? It was not the handoff that caught fire, that caught fire to get us to bootstrapped. sustainable mode. It was the inbound process where when somebody comes in, they come to your form, they fill it out, they're completely qualified, but yet they say thank you, somebody will contact you soon. You wait sometimes more than 24 hours for somebody to get back to you. You're in the meantime, you go to a competitor. most of companies lose 60% of their inbound qualified leads that they pay so much money to get because somebody doesn't get back to them as quick as possible. So we fixed that. When somebody comes in, they're qualified, they talk to sales directly or If it's after 5pm, they book a meeting. If it's a weekend, they book a meeting with the account owner, with the SDR that's working it, with the account manager, if they're already a client. So all these rules are baked in and there's a beautiful buying journey there.


Andy Mewborn:
Your focus was really on this buying journey. It sounds like y'all were pretty obsessed with that, right? And building products around that. And so to build on that, my question for you is like, What's your take on, on, on the SDR function today. Right. And like in, in having the cold for those that don't know that are maybe listening SDRs are the people that typically a little bit more entry level work. They used to be, um, do a lot of the cold call on the cold emailing, all that stuff. So for you, Alina, what, how has that function changing in B2B SaaS today? Like, where do you think it's going?


Alina Vandenberghe:
I think that there are two parts to that. There's the inbound SDR and I think 99.99% of companies do not need an inbound SDR because if somebody comes in and they're already interested and they already want to talk to you, all you need to do before you pass them to an account executive is make sure that they're qualified and you always have like three questions that you can ask or four questions. that you can ask in a form to make sure that that's the case, that it can be passed over. And the questions that you ask on the phone, that an SDR can ask on the phone, you can ask them on a form, you can ask them in many other formats. You can augment, you can use Clearbit, ZoomInfo. You can use all these data points and you can triangulate and see if it's someone that you want to talk to. If you cannot ask in a form, then an SDR cannot ask either. So the reality is that you don't need an inbound SDR. It's very rare, very rare that you have a very specific thing and you're still trying to figure out who's your ICP and you still want to talk to them, but you don't really need an inbound SDR. And we've done a million tests on this. There are very few exceptions. On the outbound side, I have a very different opinion. Outbound, if done well, can work really, really well. Our outbound team books more than 600 meetings a quarter. They're amazing. And it works well because we're a well-known brand and people have heard of Chili Pepper. They might not quite know what we're sold for. So when an SDR comes with something that's very specific to their point points, and it shows very specific how we can solve that buyer journey for them. And we can have like an instant ROI on how they think about their marketing budgets, especially when everybody's cutting their budgets and everybody's thinking about efficiencies and how to grow their pipeline with fewer resources, Chillipepper is like the perfect fit. But they don't really know it unless an SDR comes and explains to them how they can make a huge difference. And because we have such an immediate ROI and that matches the market needs right now, That inbound SDR, that outbound SDR makes that customer, that prospect very happy. So that outbound SDR brings happiness. Now the question is, can you automate that? Can you do the next level up where you can use generative AI to do that outreach, that one-on-one outreach at scale with tools? The reality is that it's not there yet. It is not there yet. There are all sorts of things that can aid an outbound SDR to get a lot more precise. We use that and we automate many of the steps that they used to do in terms of research, in terms of qualifications, in terms of signals, to make sure that they reach the prospect in the right place, in the right channel as well. But the generative AI is not It's not at the level where it can replace people.


Andy Mewborn:
Yeah. Yeah. And something you mentioned that was interesting is that you're booking 600 meetings a quarter, which isn't, and how many SDRs is that? 11. 11. Wow. That's insane. Um, that is crazy. And I'm sure all teams will do that. And something you mentioned is like the people know the brand, right? I know the brand. It's an awesome brand. And for you was, was building a great brand alongside, you know, the company there from the beginning, was that always kind of part of the plan or. Was that something that you kind of like fell into like, Oh, Hey, people really like the brand and maybe we should put more emphasis on, on the chili pipe aspect. Like how did that part come about? Because I think it's becoming a lot more important. Right.


Alina Vandenberghe:
It was very intentional. Yes. The brand creation was very intentional. Um, for sure. People remember the name. Um, the logo and all of that, that's associated with it. However, that's not the entirety of it. It's not the color and it's not only the name. It's all the other things that come with it. Um, and, um, the number one thing that probably, um. first time founders pay less attention to and they probably, because they've not gone through the motions but my co-founder did, one of the first thing that matters a lot is culture. And I know it's like esoteric and nebulous of what really culture means, The reality is that your buyers and your customers are going to interact with your people. And if your people are unhappy and if your employees are not showing up with the values that you want to be as part of the representation of your company, then there's a disconnect. You might have experienced this where You know of a company and then you meet an employee at a happy hour. And that employee spends like 30 minutes bitching about their, about the company that they work for. You no longer like that company. You no longer think great about that brand. So the way people show up in your company matters a huge lot. Matters a huge lot. So culture and employees for us was like the number one thing that we cared for at the beginning. And the best way to instill culture and make sure that employees kind of understand what's important is by action, not by words. I don't print, these are my values, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Because you don't remember this, it's too abstract. It's by actioning. You represent those values as a leader and as a founder, day in and day out. In our case, we work hard, but we also play hard. And those things come up every day. And I show up with those values. My co-founder shows up with those values. And we make a purpose in showing that we experiment and we fail. And then we go above and beyond to help those around us, beyond what our product says that it helps. So those are the kind of intentional things that we did from the beginning.


Andy Mewborn:
Yeah. And that's, that's super, it's almost like when you're looking inward for like yourself personally, right? Like how you are externally is how you feel internally, right? About yourself and your confidence in yourself and all that. It's almost the same with the company culture. Right. Whereas like, you know, the culture, a lot of us think about brand as external, but really what's feeding it is also what's happening internally. Right. And so that I would say that's very similar to like the experience I had in helping build outreach. Right. It was which was like, you know, especially when we were smaller, like as a company grows, it could change. It's harder to maintain that culture. And it's I'm sure you notice that. Right. And I'd love to, you know, kind of the my next question to you is going to be as you grow, because you're booking 600 meetings a quarter, you're obviously growing, you're doing the right things. Like what what would you recommend to people to keep that culture in place? And what are you doing to to make sure as you scale, it doesn't break. Right. And that you keep you keep the culture alive and kind of those values going around the hundred or so employees.


Alina Vandenberghe:
I notice a huge shift in that. At the beginning it was easy, when we were 20 I knew everybody and I would spend a lot of time with everybody. So they would listen to my calls. They would see how I would talk to a customer. They would see what I would do. It was a lot easier. At around 100 or so, I was noticing that people treated me with white gloves. I was seen differently. And as a result, my actions were harder to reach those people. Those people would behave very differently with me. And I don't know why the 100 mark and not like 80 and not why 60, 100 was that tipping point. Maybe it's, I don't know what precisely happens at 100. And then I understood that I would be a lot less able to impact culture. However, my first line managers would, my first line managers are the ones that are going to be my extension and they're going to be the ones that are going to have those values and represent them with our team. As a result, I spent a lot more time with that, with my first line managers and making sure that they're being exposed to my values. At that point in time, they'd already did that, so it was a lot easier, but if we would hire new managers, that would be my focus.


Andy Mewborn:
Wow. Okay. That's interesting. And so you're probably in recruiting those first line managers. You're making sure that they probably exude the values that you have, that you want to see, right? Because it's going to stem from the person. I've seen this too, because I saw outreach. When I was first there, we were about 10-ish people or something like that in an office, right? And as you said, it was definitely easy to be like, oh, it's all of us in a room. We all have a great attitude, da, da, da, da. Um, but then definitely as you grow, what I saw is like, um, you can have people that know how to read the values on the wall and whatever's put on the wall, like the 10 values or whatever. But like, if that person truly, it doesn't align with those as if personality wise, or, you know, who they are really as a person, it doesn't matter how much they read the values. It's just not going to work, you know, just having them on the wall. So. It comes back to, you know, what they say matters is like that, which is recruiting is probably one of the most important things that a company can do. Right. And so that's super interesting. And so you mentioned at around 100 employees. I have a theory on why that is. I think it's because like once you say you have a hundred employees, it's like, you're like, Oh shit, this is like a, this is like a big company. I don't know. It's maybe like this mental thing that like, you know, when you say you're going to 10 X something, you're like, Oh, they're going to be serious about it. Maybe a hundred is like, Oh shit, this is like, Alina is now a big time, like co-founder CEO, you know, uh, that might be it. I don't know. I can see that. Did you ever tell people like tell anyone like, hey, you can just treat me like a like a friend or something? Or did you want to kind of maintain that status and that white glove kind of, you know, status within the org? Or did you ever have to go and be like, hey, I just want you to like treat me as another part of the person in the company? Or did you just roll with it? How did you treat that?


Alina Vandenberghe:
So it's a bit of a tricky thing to manage because no matter what I would say, people were still treating me differently. The only way to really get down to what's really on their mind is to really at that point to do anonymous surveys because people are afraid of retaliation and they're afraid of that kind of status. It's interesting because I wouldn't, so a lot of some companies say, oh, we're family and we're friends. The problem with that is that it creates some unrealistic type of relationships where if they expect certain things from their friends or they expect certain things from their family and those expectations are not met, then it's very tricky. I much rather treat in this business context is like a sports team and in order to get the sports team winning, you might need different players or you might need to do certain things that might not be done in a family. It's a much better analogy, the sports team context in this particular case. If you're the coach, the coach is going to say what is going to move the team forward and is going to win, but the players are rarely telling the coach that he sucks, right? That's the reason why I think that in that context, anonymous helps a lot because then you really understand what they're thinking and what action you can take to get better.


Andy Mewborn:
What anonymous survey like I'm going to be I've always been scared to even do those because I've been like, oh, like, is it truly anonymous? You know, like, is it truly anonymous? But I'm sure, you know, most of them actually are. But there's the kind of that hesitation and there's still that like, oh, maybe I don't put something like very, very honest because, you know, is it really anonymous? You know, but Was there any insight in those anonymous surveys, Alina, because we're on this whole culture kick that was like an inflection point for you, right? Maybe after the 100 employees when you started doing them, was there anything that was like brutally, like super brutally honest that made you want to be like, holy shit, maybe we do need to transform something here.


Alina Vandenberghe:
There's always some insight of these things that might have not been obvious to me in the first place. And at any point in time, as a founder, you're not going to be perfect. And you're going to learn and you're going to learn and you're going to learn that we are not born perfect CEOs. We're not born perfect founders. And I've yet to meet the perfect CEO or perfect founder in my entire life. And it's an idealistic state that I still think it's worth pursuing because it gets us better. But you're always going to find something that's going to help. In my case, for instance, I uncovered that even though people would not admit that they would be afraid, they would be afraid that what our cash balance looks like or what our competitor landscape would look like or whatever those, you know, people get afraid and it's normal to be afraid. Because I'm a founder, and I take certain type of risks, I may not be the kind of person that worries about certain type of things. But I could see that some of our employees would be afraid of certain things. And that to me was, interesting to see that there would be like a percentage of people that would worry about that. And then there would be a percentage of people that would worry about that. And that would be something that I could take action because I could talk about it. And I would say, well, this is our cash balance. This is our runway. This is how it's going to take us there. Or if they would be afraid of a competitor, I would say, that's amazing. Competitors make us better. We're not complacent anymore. So fear is a good signal in this case. So it was things that I could action.


Andy Mewborn:
Yeah, nice, nice. And then you would know what to talk about, what your talking points were, all that. And one thing that's interesting is you have a big emphasis on culture, I can see. The thing that people may not realize as they listen to this is you've been remote first since the beginning of the company, right? And so you've put a big emphasis on that. Was the emphasis on culture early on because you knew that you were remote first, so you had to be intentional about it? Or, you know, talk me through that, because that in itself is, I would say, the biggest problem that a lot of these companies are having and why they want people in the office, because they want to like, you know, put people, they want to say, oh, maintain the culture, you know, a few different reasons, more creativity, more, you know, people working together, whatever, whatever it may be. But like, how does that culture relate to you being remote first? That's what I'd be interested in.


Alina Vandenberghe:
It started in 2016. Remote was not prevalent back then. COVID had not happened. So it was not a cool thing. Yeah. The reason why we started remote was two reasons. First, I really love traveling and I can't stand being boxed somewhere in one location. It's just not part of my personality. And Secondary, we could not afford talent in New York. We could not afford to pay people in New York when we started. I couldn't even pay myself for two years, so it was not an option for me. So hiring in other places of the world was accessible. Plus, I'm from Eastern Europe and there we could find a lot better talent for what we could afford at that time. Now things have changed, but when we started it, that was the case. So it was more of a forced way into it. And there's an idealistic state of remote where yes, you can travel and you have these beautiful pictures from everywhere. And you can do your own working hours. If you're a morning person, you work in the morning or if you're an evening person, you work in the evening because there's no constraint over time per se. There's this idealistic state and then there's the reality. The reality is that remote is hard from a cultural standpoint of view, it's hard from an employer standpoint of view because you don't really know if people are contributing or not. There's this trend over employment and they might have like a hundred jobs at the same time, so you don't know if they're really contributing to the business to the extent that you want. want the business to succeed and thrive. So there's the idealistic state and then there's the reality of it. In our case, because we started in 2016, we realized that when we're hiring, you have to hire a certain type of person that can succeed in this kind of environment. Because you're very alone. You don't have the people to put pressure on you to perform, right? You don't have that, oh, fuck, he's watching over my shoulder. I better get my shit together and not watch Netflix or whatever. So it's a lot harder to be productive remote. So it takes a certain type of mindset to hire for, and we do hire for that particular mindset. And we're very precise by saying, If you work for Chili Piper, you cannot work for somebody else. And if you work for somebody else, you will get fired immediately and your reputation will follow and it will precede you, that you're not an honest team player, you're not contributing. So you see, it's very... It's very intentional. It's very intentional to create this kind of environment that everybody trusts, that you're going to be there, that you're going to be a team player, that you're going to contribute to the success. And it's It's hard. It's not for me.


Andy Mewborn:
Yeah. So you test for people that are self-motivated, right? That don't need the pressure. Like you said, someone looking over their back. How do you test for that in the interview process? Is there a certain trick that you have for that?


Alina Vandenberghe:
So this kind of Ownership usually shows up very early. You can tell from someone on their school years how they go about their classes, how they go about their mentality to thrive and success on their own. We ask a lot of questions about their early beginnings.


Andy Mewborn:
Oh, got it. Got it. And kind of see what their track record is of like, Hey, did they maybe do their own projects or that? That's the biggest one that I would in interviews that I would use, right. Which was at outreach, which is. one of the things there's the company values. And then there was like values that I had as someone there. I was early, you know, and I was like, OK, like, what do I think these values mean? And one of mine was like default to action. Like, do people just like not overthink it? And if something needs to get done, can they will they just jump in and do it even if they don't know all the pieces? Right. And so that's what my favorite question would be like, hey, tell me something that like you worked on that wasn't part of your day job. right? And it can be an app. It can be, you know, you gardening. I don't care. But like, what was something that you worked on outside of your day job that was like, that helped you get better at something, right? Or get towards a certain goal. And that one was great because you get people's like, sometimes passion projects that they liked, what they were into. But like, you could also see how they transformed from like, Oh, we tried to create this app, you know, and we wanted to solve X problem and do this. You're like, OK, I see it now. I see that like these people want to like they see a problem, they want to solve it. Right. And that for me was one of the biggest questions there that I would love to do in seeing are these people self-motivated? Do they default to that action?


Alina Vandenberghe:
And there's something else that I've observed in the remote world. If it's someone who's just coming to the job market, so they have not worked before in an office, the reality is that they will not survive the remote world. The likelihood of them surviving remote is very, very low.


Andy Mewborn:
Really? And you've noticed that yourself with your own employees. Wow. So how do you, so for SDRs who are typically entry-level, right? Like has your hiring strategy been to just hire SDRs that have been in that office environment then already so that they're not fully like fresh out of college basically is, is kind of what your, what your strategy is there. Interesting. I've seen some companies, what they do, I think Outreach when I was there, we did this, which is when we went COVID. is that everyone could be remote except SDRs, like entry-level SDRs had to like be hired in a certain place, go into the office and kind of like maybe to help with the discipline or something. So I think we did that and that might have helped a little bit, but that's an interesting insight that you have, right? Which is like, holy crap, if they've never been in office. And why do you think it is that they don't succeed? They don't know what it is they should be doing maybe? Like, is it that easy?


Alina Vandenberghe:
It's because in the formative years, you go to school all the time. And at school, you have to abide by certain rules. And those rules are made by people around you. And you have to pay attention to the class, you have to participate in the project. There are some rules, some predefined rules. Whereas when you're in front of the computer, and you have to do 100 dials or whatever the things that you have to do, and there's a fridge close by, and there's some fear associated with whatever you have to do at your desk. And there's a fridge, you're always going to pick the fridge, you're always going to pick the things that you're normally attracted to at home, especially if you work from home. We always encourage people to go to an office, to a remote office, even if it's not your colleagues, it's a lot better conducive environment for work. Everybody's a little bit different. But at the beginning, they typically say, oh, it's perfect if I stay at home. But at home, they have certain habits. And those habits don't go away. And it's just going to be Netflix, TV, fridge. And work is not going to get done. It's just not miraculously going to get done.


Andy Mewborn:
I work for Chili Piper and I do Netflix and chill all day.


Alina Vandenberghe:
It's hard to get self-motivated in an environment where you're used to doing something else.


Andy Mewborn:
Yes, yes, yes. Now, the next topic that I wanted to bring up with you, Lena, I've seen you get really active on social on LinkedIn, like you're posting a lot, you're doing that. And I wish more CEOs or founders would do this. And I'm trying to like, my founder friends will always call me and be like, you know, I'll tell them exactly what to do. Some of them will do it, some of them won't. Tell me about that. What's your strategy there and what was the catalyst for that, for you posting on LinkedIn and doing the social strategy here?


Alina Vandenberghe:
It's funny because I spoke to two founders last night about this particular topic and the two founders that I was speaking to, they were in the same stage that I was two years ago and two years ago, If you'd tell me that I would post a lot on social, I would say, no, no, no. It can't be true that Alina would be very active on social. And two years ago, I was so not wanting any kind of attention from myself. I would tell my co-founder, my marketing team, do not book me on podcasts. Do not put me on speaking stage. Do not put me in front of journalists. I do not want to post on social. I did not want any attention, like zero. And part of it was, I felt it was unnecessary. I felt like we should shine the light on the product. I don't need to speak. It doesn't make any sense that I would be the face. The product is the face. And part of it was fear, fear that I would say stupid things or that I would freeze or that I would, God knows, I had those sorts of fears associated with it. And what happened, the reason why it has flipped for me is because there was something that created a lot more motivation for me than the fear that I had. And the moment in time that flipped out for me was specifically the war in Ukraine, that where I felt so strongly that I had to do something. I had to do something to make sure that I help as much as I can in the region. I was devastated to see what the influx of people at the borders, all these refugees fleeing their homes, the mothers with the children, and I was a mother at the time. And I was so overwhelmed by my emotion of of pain seeing these people fleeing, and I wanted to do something. And I went on every possible TV station, I went on every possible podcast to talk to people about how they can take action and how they can help. And when I saw what we managed to do by me being able to be active, because we've managed to help like hundreds of thousands of refugees with certain documents, and we deployed millions of dollars in cash to help at the borders. And I said, When I talk, there's action and there's impact and there's positive. And here I am sitting quiet and I'm afraid it doesn't make any sense. I'm going to use my voice to do good. And that catalyst outweighed the fear that I had.


Andy Mewborn:
That's an amazing story, Alina. Holy crap. Wow. And so you that was like, I love how you said that your motivation there outweighed your fear. Right. And it was your motive because you're from Ukraine originally. Right.


Alina Vandenberghe:
I'm Romanian. I'm Romanian, but it's very similar regions and very similar.


Andy Mewborn:
Yeah. Wow. Yeah. And that is that's awesome. And so you saw that and then you were like, holy crap, I should keep doing this for for Chili Piper, too. Right. I can get them to take action and help solve their problems as it relates to what we're solving. How do you feel about pushing this down your team, Alina? Because you've seen it. It works, right? And I think a question that a lot of founders have today is, how do we get more of my team to do this? But it always starts with the founders, what I noticed. It has to start from the top. Right. If if you don't have a culture of like posting on LinkedIn, like, you know, or probably the culture was born because people at the top like, you know, Gong's a great example. They had, you know, Udi was always posting on LinkedIn, which helped, you know, outreach. We had a lot of people who were there early or execs posting. So that helps some people do that. But for you, like, how are you thinking about how your team can now you can take that and give it to your team to take action?


Alina Vandenberghe:
So our team is actually quite active on social media. It is the main channel where the team is active. The reason why it's self-perpetuated, at the beginning it was harder, but right now the reason why it's self-perpetuated is because we have a good reputation of employees from Chili Piper are really good employees outside and I know it's not normal for a founder to be happy that people are leaving. In my case, when I see some of my salespeople doubling their salary somewhere else, it makes me happy. that they've managed to create a lot more value for themselves and they've managed to create a brand. And part of that brand, part of the personal brand is them posting on social media and they see the benefits. Because when you come with a social media following, you're increasing and you know this better than most people, your value as a seller increases. And you can negotiate your salaries better, you can negotiate your premium, your bonuses, et cetera. It makes a huge difference to have that personal brand outside. And because some of our other employees have done it and people immediately find out about what kind of salaries they get on the outside, so people are motivated to create that personal brand for themselves.


Andy Mewborn:
It comes down to the motivation. Yeah. And I think a lot of companies are scared to, to have their employees post, right? Because like of what you just said, they're like, well, we don't want to lose our employees. I've had people, you went through brand 30, right? We've had some people that went through the program I run and they had to drop out because they said they, they sent me messages.


SPEAKER_01:
Wow.


Andy Mewborn:
And the messages they would send me was from their, and they would, they would X out the boss's name, but they'd be like, it was emails that were basically like, Hey, you need to stop posting on LinkedIn because you need to focus on your work or whatever. And yeah, like, yeah, like in these were more old school companies. I haven't seen it from like, you know, a Chili Piper and an outreach, a gong, a deal, none of that stuff. Cause those people understand the value of it. But some of these companies with more old school type leaders, right. They're like, Hey, don't do that. Um, and that's a mentality, which I, which blows my mind. I've, I've seen like probably 10 plus of these messages. It's sad. It's very sad.


Alina Vandenberghe:
I think that most companies focus on attrition, right? You don't want people to be leaving. And I understand why they do that. The thought is that if you have a really good employee, they should be productive within the confines of the business. But the reality is that you can't keep people captive. Like you're not a prison, right? You can only keep people there if they're happy. And I don't have attrition goals. Like if people go and then they find something that's a million times better for them, in my case, I know that that's where they would be happier. And if I keep them miserable, it's not like it's going to help my business outcomes. So this focus that I have on people thriving forces me to go above what I would traditionally do as a business, because I know it helps culture. And even if they go somewhere else, they're going to be a champion for us. So they might bring Chili Piper there or they might push others to think about it. So it's actually helpful that we have ex-employees out there in the wild because it just extends our reach.


Andy Mewborn:
Wow. And that's the mindset I think every every founder or CEO needs to have these days, right? And that shows, Alina, kudos to you, because that shows how confident you are also in how great of a company y'all are in your culture and your product and what you provide, right? Because you could be like, hey, we know we have a good place. People aren't just going to come and leave after a month, right? But if there is stuff out there, it's better for the company. And I like how you said that, which is like, If they want to leave, they're probably not. Chances are there's probably a correlation with them, like not happy where they are anyways. So they're probably not going to be as productive as they can. Right. It's almost a lose-lose situation. Last question I want to ask you is like, what's your what's your dream for Chili Piper in the next five years? I would love to hear that from a founder's perspective.


Alina Vandenberghe:
Oh, I have all of it mapped out. In the next four to five years, I want to take the company public. And after that, I want to myself move to China so that I can learn all about that culture and expand the company in there, in Asia.


Andy Mewborn:
Really? Okay, so we were going to end this, but like, I have to ask. China. Why China? Just because it's a huge opportunity, you think? Or do you like Chinese culture?


Alina Vandenberghe:
Tell me a little more about that. For two reasons. First, it's the economic growth there. It's mind-blowing. There are so many people and so many things going on and cracking the code going to market for a SaaS company in China seems so difficult. And I'm very attracted by difficult problems. Going IPO is very difficult, but going public in a market that seems so different than the U.S. market is a puzzle that I look forward to solving. And the other thing is my curiosity towards the culture. It's so different than the values that I have. They have such different values and I'm completely curious how the mindset works and how it gets formed and how they make decisions. I'm very, very curious.


Andy Mewborn:
Wow, that is an interesting answer. So now I got to ask you because you're always traveling. You're traveling while you're building your company, which is I think that's a lot of people's dream, right? At least younger folk maybe don't have a family yet, right? And all that. For you, what's the number one place that people should travel to that's not like Greece or the most common travel destinations? What's the most underrated travel location that people should go to?


Alina Vandenberghe:
I'm finding that the more different the culture of the travel destination is, the more enriching it is to us as humans. So if you're from US and you're traveling to London, it doesn't really count.


Andy Mewborn:
I agree with you. There's not really a huge change there.


Alina Vandenberghe:
Even Italy and Greece is beautiful and people are very beautiful. The food is amazing. It's not that different. But if you go to Bogota or if you go to Thailand or if you go to Korea, Japan, it's so different and just spending time in a completely different environment. It depends on your upbringing and depends on your descendants. But if you're from US and you have certain types of people around you, go as far differently on the cultural spectrum as you can. That's most enriching experience by far.


Andy Mewborn:
Yeah. Awesome. Well, next time we do this podcast, Alina, we'll do it in like the middle of Thailand or something. How about that?


SPEAKER_01:
I'm down for it.


Andy Mewborn:
Yeah, that'd be awesome. Well, thank you so much, Alina. It's been awesome. People can find you on LinkedIn. It's probably the best place to find you. Awesome. OK, because I see you getting active there. So I'm like, oh, probably LinkedIn. But thank you so much for hopping on. This has been great.

‍