Founder and CEO of G2, the leading B2B software review platform, Godard Abel is a serial entrepreneur. He’s founded and lead two enterprise SaaS organizations to acquisitions by Oracle and Salesforce respectively — and is now at the helm of one of the Midwest’s brightest success stories.
G2 helps millions of businesses make more informed buying decisions every month — G2 houses 500,000 peer reviews and sees 1.5 million visits each month from people seeking unique insights on B2B solutions. The high-growth Hyde Park Venture Partners’ portfolio company has raised over $100M in funding and is backed by standout investors including Accel, IVP, High Alpha and more. Last year, G2 raised an impressive $55 million Series C, led by Institutional Venture Partners, joined by Accel and Emergence Capital. With two acquisitions in six months and international offices, the company is on a growth tear.
In a recent SaaStr podcast with Harry Stebbings of 20MinuteVC, Godard shared his advice on everything from his “aha moment” of founding G2 to setting a culture of ambition and determination, to the importance of getting the right investors and advisors around the table for scaling SaaS startups. When asked how he’s been able to consistently surround himself with the best, Godard shared the following advice for other startup founders looking to do the same.
Seek investors who believe in your vision
If an investor truly believes in a founder’s vision, they will do what it takes to achieve success. For Godard, there’s no replacement for uncovering a partner that truly sees and feels the same ambition as a founder when starting out.
In fact, when first getting G2 off the ground, Godard cold contacted me via LinkedIn with just an idea. Although I was with ExactTarget at the time, I was hooked early on and saw real potential for Godard’s vision. Because of that, I became an early angel investor and instant advocate in that first meeting.
This holds true for a laundry list of early G2 supporters who Godard credits for helping to drive his vision and mission to disrupt the traditional analyst model forward.
Identify if there’s chemistry early on
Are your investors people you want to call with good or bad news? For Godard, the value of good chemistry is hugely important when looking to bring on new investors and advisors. It’s not an easily measured success metric that startup founders can just check a box on, but rather a sentiment that should be monitored in those early conversations and interactions. For Godard, these are investors like Accel’s Arun Matthew, who lead G2’s Series B, and IVP’s Jules Maltz, a repeat investor in G2.
If you find yourself wanting to connect with someone again, whether for advice or to run an idea by them, it’s likely that person will be helpful as you continue to navigate challenges and wins of scaling. If you’re picking up the phone to call, or not ignoring calls, take note.
This chemistry and inherent alignment is also necessary to scale a cohesive leadership team. For Godard, this means bringing on leaders, like Matt Gorniack, Ryan Bonnici and Tim Handorf, to name a couple, who can work together and foster healthy tension. It all comes down to trust, and understanding that even when there’s disagreement, relationships will be okay.
Pay attention to individual investors’ track records
Do your research with investors — deeper than logos and portfolio success. Pay special attention to the track record and networks of individual investors you’ll be working with.
Can these people help you get customers early on when every deal counts? Can they serve as a true partner and assist with driving revenue goals forward and leveraging their relationships for your early success? Revisiting the earlier point, if the investor believes in your vision, they’ll be willing to leverage their prior success and relationships to your benefit.
This also holds true for building a team. Godard continues to bring on executive talent based on previous relationships he’s cultivated of years of experience. His ability to bring executives he’s previously worked with from one company to the next enables fast-tracked growth — expertise (or, “zones of genius”) and areas of weakness are already established which opens the lane for accelerated, upward momentum.
Life as an entrepreneur is a grind — that’s no secret. Founders looking to surround themselves, and their vision, with the best chances for success, ultimately have to surround themselves with true partners who lean in for both the good and the bad.
Want to hear more about how Godard consistently brings the best investors to the table? Interested in a peek inside G2’s rapid success, including some of Godard’s biggest lessons along the way? I can’t encourage you enough to give the 20-minute episode a quick listen here.
Originally published at cmovc.com on June 4, 2019.