Welcome to the second post in this series of entrepreneur interviews, where successful tech company founders will be sharing their experiences, guidance, and lessons learned. It’s fitting that this second post highlights an entrepreneur who is now on his second company.
Scott Burns was just 24 years old when he founded GovDelivery, a software firm that helped government agencies communicate digitally with the public, in 2000—right on the cusp of the dot-com bust.
After some challenging early years, he grew the company into a leader in its space, before it was sold to Vista Equity Partners for $153 million in late 2016. The next year, he and marketing leader Chip House founded Structural, which develops employee success management software.
Structural uses people data to create more agile, connected, and productive enterprises. It starts with what looks like a powerful internal LinkedIn profile, and then leverages the siloed, incomplete data organizations already have stored in different systems to create actionable insights to power productivity for everyone within an organization.
Year founded: 2017
Funding rounds: On June 5th, 2018, Structural announced the completion of a $2.5M equity investment from top tier investors, bringing total investment in the business to $5M. The round had participation from top-tier investors including Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, High Alpha, Matchstick Ventures, The Syndicate Fund, and Great North Labs, as well as Fortune 500 executives and technology industry leaders.
Current size: Structural has more than 40 customers.
Webbiquity: What inspired you to work on a solution to this particular problem?
Scott Burns: When I was building my last company at GovDelivery, I had to transition from running a business in a basement with a few friends to running a company with 250 people with offices in eight locations around the world. As an entrepreneur, I ran into challenges that I’d never anticipated, especially when it came to bringing the right people on board and creating teams from the ground up.
When I traveled to our satellite offices, I would bring a big binder around with everyone’s picture in it, and the org chart, and my notes about everyone, so I could remember who was who and what they did. Imagine leading a growing company and trying to make important decisions about team composition and talent alignment, with nothing more than a stack of outdated resumes with notes scribbled in the margins.
It was an untenable system. I knew we could do better and that larger organizations would see even more benefits from using people data to its full potential to empower people and teams.
Structural is featured in:
Webbiquity: What were the most effective channels or methods for you to get the word out to prospective customers when you first launched your product?
Scott Burns: Structural forged strong relationships with beta customers when we were just experimenting with what the platform could do. Most of these pilot users are still customers today. These customers helped us refine the product and define our roadmap as we got our technology off the ground.
From there, we focused our efforts on connecting with innovative leaders in similar organizations to introduce them to the platform. Sometimes this meant connecting with someone in our own network to get an introduction to the right people; other times it meant inviting prospective clients to an event we were sponsoring or attending.
Like other companies at our stage, we also worked to build awareness in the market with PR, content marketing, email, and a robust digital and web presence.
Webbiquity: Finish this sentence: “Knowing what I know now, if I were starting over today, what I would do differently is…”
Scott Burns: Knowing what I know now, if I were starting over today from the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey, what I would do differently is ask for help when I needed it. I can’t stress the importance of having coaches and mentors in your corner who have a different perspective and approach to the problems you’re inevitably going to encounter at every stage of growth.
As leaders, we need to fight the urge to power through challenges alone, and embrace the support of a trusted network. I’m trying to do this better the second time around in starting Structural.
Webbiquity: What’s the most important advice you could offer to an entrepreneur starting out today?
Scott Burns: People decisions are the most important decisions they’ll make. Without the right people in the right seats, you’ll struggle to make the kind of progress you need to achieve important milestones. Take an active role in building a pipeline of potential team members and in hiring decisions.
Then, empower those people to make the decisions, learn from mistakes, and to facilitate growth so they feel a strong sense of ownership and accountability.