The Partnered Podcast

Ecosystem Strategy with Nick Valluri

Episode Summary

Welcome to The Partnered Podcast Episode 074 with Nick Valluri, Head of Partnerships at Coda.

Episode Notes

Join host Adam Michalski as he interviews Nick Valluri, Head of Partnerships at Coda.

Adam and Nick discuss ecosystem best practices Nick has learned from his time at Box, Google, Zapier, and now at Coda. 

Topics Covered:

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Episode Transcription

Welcome to The Partnered Podcast, the podcast where we interview c-level enterprise partnership leaders from the world's best SaaS companies. The goal is to give you an inside view on how leading organizations drive the most partner sourced and influenced revenue out of channel sales, partnerships, and alliances.

The Partnered Podcast is brought to you by Partnership Leaders, the community where the best in partnerships, channel, and ecosystems come together to share knowledge, network, and grow their programs. Apply to join the conversation at 

We're also sponsored by Partnered, the leading tool for managing and measuring SaaS partnership sales. Partnered helps you make more revenue from your existing partnerships. If you're using Salesforce and Slack, check out to get started today!

Adam Michalski: Welcome back to The Partnered Podcast! Super pumped to have Nick Valluri on today, Head of Partnerships at Coda. And Nick, just to kick things off, can you tell us a little bit about your professional background and your path to Head of Partnerships at Coda? 

[00:01:14] Nick Valluri: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for having me, Adam, big fan of Partnered and the podcast.

A little bit about me. I have been in technology SAS pretty much. My entire career started at a tiny startup. Actually, my first job was partnerships, except I didn't know that it was partnerships at the time. It wasn't. The popular term that it is today. And over time I kind of really came to love the startup movements and kind of how things worked, how fast you could execute accountability that came with being in a startup.

But I also figured, like I should probably learn a bit more about how to do this at scale. And so started looking at a few midsize companies. I think Fox was around the series B. So I went over to box back in 2013, joined the customer success team. And I truly believe that. The formative experience in my career that set me on the path because I got to work with boxes, largest enterprise customers on digital transformation, how they were using all these proliferations of various staff tools that were coming out at the time.

And what I found in that was what I really liked was working with large clients like Disney. Fox and GE and seeing how they use box in conjunction with a bunch of other tools. Like it was the coolest thing to see how somebody said, I want box to be my content layer, and I want it to work with Adobe and I want it to work with slack and I want it to work with my email.

And so I started digging into integrations, working with those other teams and then somebody who you know, pretty well. I think Dan O'Leary reached out to me. You know, we were talking about what I want to do in my career. And he basically helped me clarify partnerships. That's what you like, that's what you're doing.

That's what you're excited by. And luckily at that time, there was an opening on the box business development team. So he came over to manage initially technology partners. And I've always said, The subset of technology partners I work with were security partners and definitely not the sexiest group of partners to work with, but certainly the best to cut your teeth on because they're super robust in like how they use your API APIs.

They have really strong partner sales motions. It's really a great place to kind of learn the ins and outs of, of technology partnerships and, and go to market partnerships and overtime. I did a bunch of different things there. I did our step, our referral program. I worked with some collaboration partners did some new contracts around content migration.

So really just got to work on a bunch of different projects. After that went over to Google cloud working on G suite partnerships at the time G suite, I think it's changed two or three times now, but it's Google workspace these days working on mostly reseller partnerships. And that was something that I felt was kind of a blind spot for me in at box was you know, a lot of referral partnerships, a lot of integration partnerships.

I kind of saw this trend that selling through the SAS ecosystem versus the traditional reseller model was really becoming very popular. And so I figured, you know, Google had this business doing a hundred million dollars of G suite resell through a set of technology partners like Shopify and Wix, and some of these kinds of more SMB focused.

Platforms. And so that was a really great experience. I mean Google cloud is is a machine and learning a ton about just operations and scale had company like that. But I also realized I like startups. I think that's kind of where my heart lies and you know, after a couple of years, Started to get the edge to go back to a smaller company, have a bit more impact.

And that's where I found Zapier. And I had used happier long ago as a customer success manager. You know, it was so awesome to be like, you want this integration, we don't have it. Well, here's Zapier. You can set up any integration that you want. And so Zapier was hiring Chris strategic alliances lead. I got to help build out partnerships with Google, with Microsoft, with Amazon.

That was a really exciting time, because if you're in partnership, Zapier is like heaven. It's like, you know, the company doesn't really exist without partnerships. It's so cool to see, you know, the entire company rotate to words. How do you make partners successful? How do you make this something valuable that somebody can, you know, make a no-brainer decision, whether it's their product roadmap or a co-marketing investment, that Zapier's where they.

Make that investment. And honestly, I love that company. I love that team and I think I could have been there for a very long time, but I got this opportunity at Coda to do something I've always wanted to do, which is build a partnerships team. Like be the first partnerships higher which sometimes I question my judgements.

It's it's certainly been an adventure. But you know, right now, you know, I get to build out the ecosystem and build out every aspect of the, the different journey partner journeys and you know, build a team. And so I think. Is what got me excited to join Coda and, you know, get to kind of use the sum of all my experience, referral programs, reseller programs, service partners, integration partners, strategic alliances.

I do a little bit of everything here. I think each one of those experiences led to kind of where I am now and I lean on all of them almost daily. So that's kinda how I got here. I love it. Yeah. 

[00:06:00] Adam Michalski: And that is a great assortment of logo. So I feel like probably couldn't put it together a better one if you tried.

But first of all, I mean, I just some awesome questions that I want to dive into on some of the stuff that you just mentioned before we do. So though, can you just share with our listeners a little bit more about what Coda is and kind of how you structure the partner program 

[00:06:18] Nick Valluri: at Coda? Yeah, absolutely.

So Coda, we like to think of it as an all in one doc and only one doc for teams. It kind of combines things like. Spreadsheets and tables you know, the document, collaborative editing controls and formulas and all these things that go into docs. And we like to say that anyone can use Coda to build a doc as powerful as an app.

And so if you think about, you know, large teams, mostly, you know, tech companies, even outside of tech there, we kind of have this observation that the world runs on docs, more than apps and, you know, a great example, our CEO likes to get. There's this process. He was, he ran product engineering at YouTube.

And there was this process at YouTube where if somebody clicked like a report button, it ended up in a Google sheet somewhere that some ops team had to look at and triaged. And this is YouTube at the point where, you know, they had probably a billion plus users and viewers, and they're still using Google sheets to power these, these core processes.

And, you know, he's always said I'm proud of that because it means we're nimble. We can adapt, we can change the processes, but also. Kind of crazy that we use those types of tools at that scale. And they haven't changed that much as a surface area since, you know, the very earliest days of word processors and spreadsheets software.

And so Coda sole goal is to make it as easy as possible to start. We say like low floor to come in. It's a blank. A blinking cursor on a blank screen, but there's a really high ceiling to what you can do. You can build a CRM, you can build a project management tool. You can build I've. I've actually recently built in published what I call partnerships OSTP, which is how I manage my entire ecosystem of partners using Coda ranging from product briefs to a little CRM, to a project management tool.

And so the types of things you can build in Coda, there's really no limit to the ceiling. And so. With a product like that. Partnerships is kind of a double-edged sword in that anyone can be a partner, which means, you know, I have a huge surface area to go work with, but it's also really hard to prioritize and execute when you could almost work with anybody.

But I kind of think of our partner service areas. If you keep buckets, I think of strategic partner. Like Amazon slack zoom. These are partners that kind of help us get in front of a new user base. And so we go build on their platforms. We drive through their co-marketing engines. They obviously have much more reach than we do as a startup.

And so the investments we make that the hope will pay off is that we'll, we'll extend our reach. We have a service partner ecosystem. These are folks that are building businesses, actually selling consulting services on top of Coda. And I love that. Aspect of our partner ecosystem because I'm legitimately heard stories of people that quit a job to do Coda consulting full-time or people that have been able to hire people and, and create new jobs out of the success that they've had with Coda.

But for them, it's really about. What's the service potential with Coda and, you know, referring back to what I said about the ceiling being really high in what you can build the service potential is pretty much limited because you might engage with somebody to build a CRM. But then that turns into, I also want to run my performance management and Coda, and I also want to run my product roadmaps in Coda.

And so a good service partner can step a customer through. Of those phases and it's positioned really well to, you know, sit on a retainer model, recurring revenue. There's a ton of different ways that you can monetize as a service partner. Another partner bucket that emerged really fast in quite organically is like our partnerships with startups startup accelerators, incubators venture capital.

'cause Coda does so well with things like product roadmap strategy, and because we're constantly publishing templates and docs that can be used to, you know, everything from like manage your cap table to hiring and recruiting to, you know, you're finding your product market fit. We're really popular with early stage startups.

And so going through, you know, YC or going through some of our strongest investors who have you know, large portfolios or. Even communities like maker pad and on-deck to not only offer Coda at a discount, but also provide some guidance in how they can get started. And so that's emerged as a fantastic acquisition channel for us.

And then finally just the ecosystem partners who, you know, I spend most of my time with these days as we're launching some stuff that we'll get into later. And that's anybody who has, you know, some kind of integration to build with Coda and that could be. A strategic partner that could be a service partner.

It could be an accelerator. It could be any of those. Like it kind of overlaps across a bunch of different areas. There's a unique set of motions. We go through with those partners that is really exciting, ranging from like a gallery marketplace type listing to indoc in product promotion, to some of the co-marketing that we do.

But those are kind of my, my my buckets of partnerships. And of course there's like the random stuff that comes up in partnerships. We're kind of a catchall position as you know. And so it may be something like. Hey, this influencer wants to launch something with Coda or, you know, this this like product school, for example, they're doing a bunch of courses.

Could we do a partnership with them where the templates that they build for product managers are encoded. So a bunch of like random one-off cool stuff that I get to work on as well. I love it 

[00:11:24] Adam Michalski: sounds like you have a lot of free time on your hands. No jokes aside. How, how large is the partnership 

[00:11:31] Nick Valluri: team? Right now, the team is three, but we are growing.

And, and we are hiring for a strategic partnerships person and, and You know, if you're like me, you might be wondering what strategic actually means. And the answer is whatever the job to be done is that day. I think I've done a lot of reflection and hiring and I've often thought, should I map one person to each of those buckets that has like a long track record.

But what I've learned in my first year here at Coda in kind of like this real startup mindset of building. Like, I think generalists will be better at this space. Somebody who can context, switch and maybe work with a service partner one day, but then go scope. What a partnership could look like with AWS.

That's the type of skillset. It's hard to find for sure. And, and you know, but it's out there. I've seen many people that have done it really well. And I think over time we'll grow and we'll need those people who have like a specialization in consulting partners or a specialization in alliances with AWS and Microsoft.

But right now the generalist is really where we're looking. So definitely hiring will include the way to get in touch with me and in the notes here. But if anybody's listed. Once I work on that kind of stuff and gets excited by it. Like I do. I'm definitely like. 100%. 

[00:12:44] Adam Michalski: Yeah. Like Nick mentioned, we'll make sure if you want to get in touch with Nick, you can check out the show notes.

If you think you fit that description, but definitely an awesome partner program and a lot of experience. And also the added benefit of being able to work alongside Nick, which is a, is a, is a good 

[00:12:58] Nick Valluri: benefit. The some, some might say you could also argue it's a, it's a detract the tracks from the army.

[00:13:06] Adam Michalski: I love it. Awesome. And so one thing that you actually touched on in your introduction that I wanted to just loop around to you real quick, before we jump into some of these questions. The, you mentioned a while you were at Google, the SAS ecosystem versus like the reseller type of ecosystem. Can you just elaborate on that a little bit?

And I, and the reason why I ask is that a lot of folks who are listening are SAS professionals. You know, they work at SAS companies and you know, they may benefit from kind of your thinking around the core differences between how some of these modern SAS ecosystems are getting built versus like a more legacy type of reseller.

[00:13:40] Nick Valluri: Yeah, absolutely. I think there's certainly value in legacy reseller programs like inbox. The channel distribution engine was very good for us and partners like CDW and Shi were fantastic to work with. And we're able to like build customer relationships that we couldn't add a scale that we couldn't.

And so I think there's value in that for sure. But what I found, especially at a company like the stage of, of Coda or Zapier, and particularly if you focus on SMB is that there is. Sort of shift to being able to find distribution opportunities through the SAS ecosystem versus somebody who's. If you're a reseller, they don't really have their own products.

They're not necessarily like even an MSP that's packaging, a bunch of products and shipping them there. They're purely a reseller versus let's take that Google example of what I worked on at that team. It was actually reselling G suite through, let's say Wix, right? A site builder. You can manage some of your e-commerce.

You can manage your mail. Automation. And so there's a really natural fit there where somebody needed a business email and, and, you know, some productivity tools to support. And so I think if you can find those opportunities where your solutions are really complimentary there's a huge opportunity to.

Actually resell through those ecosystems and, and, and achieve that distribution at scale. And I think there's a lot, it's a huge investment, right? Like you have to build the tool and you have to build a reseller API. You have to have the support in place for, you know that broader ecosystem of partners that you're building, where the questions may be about net 90 billing, or the questions may be about like provisioning a new account, and you have to be able to answer each of them.

So it's a big investment, but if you're able to make that impact. At scale, it's really impactful. And you know, I am skeptical by nature. And I think, you know, at box Zapier Dakota, like I often get pulled into conversations around somebody that's trying to do like a best of breed, SAS bundle to compete with the giants.

Right. And like, we've all heard it. We've all seen partners tried to launch it to varying degrees of success. And I think the reason is pretty obvious. Like you can achieve the same economies of scale as like Microsoft, you know, if you're saying. A license enterprise licenses, Microsoft, and they throw in one drive for free and teams for free alongside your hazard spend versus, you know, paying individually for box and slack and your Azure spend, it's going to be hard to compete, but there are definitely solutions like that.

You know, e-commerce website building plus Google workspace, or maybe it's something like, you know, Shopify and your SMS marketing or it's something. You know, a mural or a Miro and a collaboration tool like slack, where there's a really natural fit between those two products. And I think that's where reseller opportunities lie in the sassy ecosystem.

And so figuring out the contracting and the reseller API APIs and all that stuff is, is a challenge for sure. But if you have that fit I think it's a really strict. Potential reseller channel, particularly for startups and those that are like in the SMB space that don't necessarily have the ability to support going out and working with like a CDW or an Shi.

And what I learned at Google was that if you invest properly in the tooling to support that ecosystem and you find that product market fit, then. The job almost becomes more about marketing than the partnership itself. It becomes about how do you tell that story? How do you drive acquisition? How do you get in front of users with that joint solution?

And to me, that's, that's, you know, a more solvable problem than how do you create a bundle out of thin air that, you know, competes with Microsoft. 

[00:17:15] Adam Michalski: Yeah, this, this point is pretty interesting. I feel like we could spend an entire podcast talking about this, but unfortunately we only have a set amount of time.

The other question that I had too is, as you were talking about, you know, your, the way in which you're constructing, you know, the, the partner program partner ecosystem at co. It's a fairly robust program for, I think like the life cycle or the life cycle stage of the company that you guys are at right now, as you took on the role of head of partnerships, like how did you prioritize, you know all the different kind of partnerships that you wanted to build and you know, and, and in which order, and what were the factors that, that you were thinking of as you were going through that.

[00:17:50] Nick Valluri: Yeah, it's a great question. And, you know, for starters, I think when I was interviewing for the role, part of that exercise was to define those buckets that I shared with you earlier, like service partners, alliances, things like that and prioritize them. And so I went through and I did that and I have like a bunch of things.

You know metrics that I look at and things that I think about, like, you know, will this expand our reach? How does this map to our larger goals, if it's evaluating a different Alliance, what's the brand of the partner that we're associating with? Is there a integration fit that makes a ton of sense?

Like there's a bunch of different things we think about, you know, obviously revenue is a big factor. I went through and defined all that. And then after the three months in the role, I kind of crumbled that up and threw it out because what I learned is like, you know, we all, we talk a lot about 30, 60, 90 plans.

And I think the value in the first phase of those plans, You know, for me, it's like the first 30 days just learning the product, like learn what your product is, learn the ins and outs of it learn the different teams and the cadence of the company. In the 60 days, you're really talking to partners and you're out there working with, you know, existing partners, net new partners, partners that have walked away from opportunities in the past, trying to engage with anyone and everyone that you can.

And then the 90 days is formulating a plan based on, you know, what you, what you learned and what you heard. And I think. That was incredibly impactful for me because I learned a ton. I learned, you know, service partners to me were kind of like a back burner thing until I talked to somebody who quit their job and learned a bit more about what they were building and what type of support they would need for the the ecosystem of integration partners, what a huge demand there was for people to actually be able to build their own integrations and, and what that would look like.

And so, you know, In general, I had an idea of what priorities were, but until I actually talked to a bunch of partners from each of those, I didn't really have a accurate sense of how to prioritize them. And so what really shifted my thinking was there's a book by Jeffrey Parker called platform revolution.

And it's about the fact that there's two types of businesses. There's a pipeline business where you are building everything in the customer journey. You are building every piece of value in the. For customers. And then there are platform businesses where you set up the platform and the community actually adds the value on.

Right. And I think Coda is in the midst of a shift from a pipeline to a platform business, and the value that customers are getting as a result of. What the community is contributing equally or more so than what Coda is contributing. So, you know, like building a car is a classic pipeline business, but think of platform companies like, you know, Uber and Etsy and Airbnb, where there's a community adding value in the chain.

And so when we started to frame our thinking around, we want to be a platform company that really helped crystallize my priorities. It was like, okay, who, who is my community? Who's going to add value along the chain here. And as I started thinking of. It was not just like B2B, ISV partnerships. Like those are always going to be important.

And it was not just big agencies. There was individuals in the community who were turning out Coda docs left and right, and got interested in billing. Integrations that might support their docs better. It was it was communities like on-deck and make your pad that, that we're adding courses or specializations in, in Coda that could help people learn and become better builders.

And so, you know, that thinking really helped me go through and prioritize the list. And so I look for opportunities where they're part of our community, they're adding value for customers, and it's something that. Is really scalable something that I can rinse and repeat and something that I can grow.

And so that's actually what led us to really prioritize what we call the PAX ecosystem. And packs in Coda are like, if you think of all the building blocks in Coda, right? There's the, the tables within a doc, there is formulas that let you calculate values. There are buttons that let you take actions PAX, essentially take those building blocks and allow you to.

Map them to a third party and map them to another API method to another solution. So we have built in launched a bunch of packs in the early days of Coda, Gmail, slack get lab JIRA, like all these tools, that map to different use cases, but we've always had a dream that we could open that up to the ecosystem.

And so talking to potential partners ranging from the service partners who needed to build custom solutions to ISV that wanted an easier way to work with Coda. We found that, you know, the more we can lean in and enable somebody to build upon our building blocks, the more we'll be able to take that step towards a platform company.

So that became number one with a bullet launch, the ecosystem launch, the SDKs, recruit partners, support them through the journey, and then everything else kind of fell into place after that. Like what will ultimately feed into that goal of turning Coda into a platform? And so you kind of. We're fond of this idea of the Igon question, right?

Like the qu the question that if you answer it, you'll have the answer to all other questions. And for us, it became what turns quota from a, a pipeline company into a platform and the ecosystem and the pack studio that PAC SDK is what kind of gave us that insight that we now are able to take to every situation and say, is this a step towards a plat?

[00:23:13] Adam Michalski: I think that's pretty fascinating. Yeah. And for Coda, it makes a lot of sense. Do you think that, that I'm just thinking as you were talking is like, People use the term platform very loosely, you know, but in the way in which you described it I think it's pretty concrete in terms of like the explanation should every business strive to become a platform business in the world of an oven ecosystem, you know?

Or do you think that it's really more about specific businesses? That's like, that was the question that I had in my mind, as you were talking through. 

[00:23:45] Nick Valluri: Yeah, it's a great question. And honestly, I think, no, not everyone is a platform business. And I went into this conversation with an open mind that maybe Coda is not the platform business that we want it to be.

But in talking to potential partners and current partners, it became clear that there was the potential there and it wasn't just us that site. And I think it has to do with Coda's use case, right? Like if you think about like the all-in-one doc and you know, our broader mission of anybody being, being able to.

Create a doc that's as powerful as an app. Like just taking an average scenario, right? Like you're in a meeting and you jot down notes and then, you know, post meeting, you might want to turn that into it, to do list of things that you do. You may want to pull it into third party tools. And right now there's so many artificial divides along that journey.

But if Coda achieves this vision of becoming a platform company, we break down those silos and they don't really need to exist anymore. And it's really like, it's not a goal that we just want to play. Nice. Which I think has been kind of like the mantra. Integrations and partnerships for a long time. It's that, you know, in general, we're headed to this world where there's like all in one solutions and the more we can break down those divides the better and the ecosystem and the platform play enables us to really bring down those walls.

But there are other cases where, you know, you want to own every aspect of the value chain because of the type of service that you're delivering. Like, you know, if I think about like, The example I gave of like a car company. I, I don't really see the value in like, you know, somebody building the chassis and then somebody building a week, like, you know, somebody building the engine it's like most automakers bring that in-house or own the whole value chain.

But I think in general, if you take that example to software there are companies that just want to be the all-in-one solution and self-contained, and. That can work really well, depending on your use case. In general, like everyone probably needs an API in some form to connect with their product.

Like I think at this point it's become kind of table stakes, but do you need to be a platform that, you know, you have all these different tools for somebody to contribute value, whether that's services, solutions integrations? No, I don't think so. I think. A great example I think of is a personal CRM that I've started using called clay.

And it's like, basically it pulls in it ingests like a ton of different data. Like you know, from your email, from LinkedIn, from Twitter, who do you engage with? And it was actually really cool. I signed up and it gave me like a map of like, who are my closest connections. And it was like my manager, my wife some people in my family.

People I'd worked with really closely in the past. And I think about a tool like that, that doesn't really need to be a platform like it's ingesting a bunch of data, but like there's no real need for somebody to come in and add value there. Nobody needs to, you know, build a tool that adds reporting to clay or build a, you know, a solution that deploys clay for other people.

So I think there is a world where somebody can own the end-to-end value chain and even then they still need to be able to like ingest other tools, but they don't necessarily need to be. Platform. 

[00:26:47] Adam Michalski: Very interesting. And one of the things too, that you touched on there and something that you and I spoke about previously was, you know I believe Coda started off as API only and has essence become more SDK focused?

Can you talk a little bit about that transition and like the ramifications of that? 

[00:27:01] Nick Valluri: Yeah, absolutely. So for those who don't know, like API application programming interface, it's pretty straightforward. It's just a way to interact with. From another application essentially, and an SDK or software development kit on the other hand is a set of tools and potentially even applications that you might need to build software.

And the way I've always positioned it is an API. It's kind of like you're at the grocery store and the full everything is an option for whatever you're going to make tonight. And you're just kind of like, what do I do? I'll go to different aisles. I'll pick what I need. Whereas an SDK. The hello, fresh meal kit delivered to your door.

Plus all the cooking. I was literally about to say 

[00:27:45] Adam Michalski: hello, fresh 

[00:27:45] Nick Valluri: as. Yeah. That's exactly it. Right? Like, but plus all the utensils you need. So here's your skillet, here's your like measuring PA here's your measuring cup, all that stuff. It's kind of bundling all that up for you. And an SDK can include an API, right?

Like it's not, they're not mutually exclusive, but the SDK just kind of puts all the tools together in a bundle to build software. Given that shift, like the API was used. Like we have, you know, iPads services like Zapier and others where those integrations are built on the API. We have customers running scripts to provision accounts or audit what's happening through a tool like a Splunk or something similar.

But with the SDK, I think we've rapidly expanded the potential partners in our ecosystem. Right? Like. You know, one of the things that's, I think absolutely revolutionary about our approach to the STK is it's a browser based editor. So the same way you log in and you can like open a doc, you can log in and open a pack or an integration, or you know a a formula or whatever it is that you're billing.

And you can edit it. You can deploy it and test it in a doc. You can share it with other people. We've kind of taken the whole concept of an integration and turned it on, turn it on its head. So you don't need to have your own like CLL. To go in and edit the code. You don't need to like upload a manifest.

There's nothing like that. You just do it all from your browser and you publish it. And so, you know, someone like me, I've never written a line of code in my life. I was able to get a pack up and running in the matter of like a day with some help. In shifting to this SDK model and shifting to this web based experience, our vision is that anybody can make a pack.

Anybody can build these things. And we've long targeted makers. Like our pricing model is called maker pricing at our event. A couple of weeks ago, we launched something called the maker fund, which is a million dollar fund that people can apply to, to build docks or packs in Coda. If they have a really great idea, we've always resonated with that idea of a maker.

And we've always felt like, you know, Extensibility framework was the one piece that was missing. And so with the shift to the SDK, So many more people can be a partner now. And that's really exciting for me in partnerships because I love working with SAS companies, but I also get really excited about working with, you know, just makers, like people you find on Twitter that build really cool solutions or, you know, something on product hunt.

You see that got up, voted a ton and is actually like something that somebody built that's powered by, you know, air table in the backend and web flow in the front end, like in general, that whole space. Created a whole new generation of makers. And I think those are the type of people that we can now go partner with as a result of, of shifting to possess CK model and from a, you know, go to market perspective.

That's really powerful because one, we can recruit partners much more easily by one saying it's easy to do two there's a very well thought out framework. Like if you think about integrating. That's hours of product and partnerships, time and scope what the integration could look like. It's not always clear.

There's maybe 10 different ways you can integrate with a product like Microsoft teams. But with Coda, we say, here are the rails. We have, you know, the tables, you can sync data from another product, into a table. You can have a button that takes an action. You can write a formula. And so. There's less burden on teams to go build integrations.

And then for customers, it's super powerful because you can build your own integrations. You can like, you know, we work with a lot of tech companies and they have the resources. They have people that know JavaScript they want, they have, you know, I think one of our customers even has what they call a citizen developer team and their job is to like, build.

Solutions internally. And they're not full-time developers or engineers, but they, you know, use tools like air table and Zapier and, and, and Coda to, to build solutions. And so being able to, to work with customers there, I think what I was surprised by was how well the message I knew would resonate with our community.

I knew it would resonate with like ISB partners, service partners, but how else resonated with customers? I think half the conversations that. About the SDK or how customers can use it to build the integration that we don't have today, or sometimes they want to integrate an internal service. That's not really publicly exposed anywhere.

And I just think that's a super cool example where your customer is actually part of the, the value chain of the planet. 

[00:32:11] Adam Michalski: Very cool. Very cool. And what I mean, it's a good transition into one of my last two questions is what's what's the next, I mean, where do you see the future, you know partnerships heading and that could be at Coda at, you know, more broadly and just the ecosystem in general?


[00:32:25] Nick Valluri: both. Yeah. A few trends that like, I feel have jumped out at me, especially over the last year as I've been leading partnerships at Coda. There's less, there's less separation between product partnerships and go to market partnerships. I think early in my career, I always thought you have to do one or the other right.

Like box. I was product partnerships, Google. I was go to market partnerships and, you know, I had a preference for product partnerships at the time, just because I love like getting into the weeds around use cases and integrations. But when I joined Zapier, You know, thought I'd be really focused on product partnerships, but actually spend a lot of time thinking through, go to market with large partners like Microsoft and Google.

I found that actually like the go-to market side of things, co-selling co-marketing you know, how you do that was increasingly important and the lines were blurring more and more. And you know, we're in this world where you don't, you can't just build an integration to build an integration anymore.

Like you have to. You know, is this complimentary? Does this expose us to a new audience? Does this drive revenue and does this unblocked deals for our sales team and the tooling to do that and, you know, partnering included, but there's just a ton more out there for partnerships teams to actually connect the dots on things like.

I want product board to incorporate all the accounts that are requesting this feature so that we can map the amount of contract value. We might unlock by shipping this sooner in Q4, right? Like that level of. Connection and data and you know, tooling in place to really think through how product partnerships and go to market partnerships can work together is something that wasn't there before.

I always felt like they were pretty defined, swim lanes early on, but as companies have become more open to partnerships and customers have come to have an increasing appetite to. Have their solutions integrated and also have a preference for companies that work well together when they're evaluating their staff.

It's become more important. Another thing that I've learned is that, you know, KPIs are kind of table stakes at this point. Like if you have an API, that's fantastic. But I think. It's certainly not the end all be all. And I think early in my career, in a box in particular, sometimes it felt like we were thinking that way, where, you know, we had an API it's there, like, you know, go do what you want with it.

And if a customer reached out about an integration, here's the docs. If a partner reached out where's the ducks. Yeah. That was kind of it. And it worked to a degree because box had a strong enterprise sales motion and partners wanted to be a part of. But now I feel like it's shifted to what else can you provide as a part of that experience?

Like I think about the Google workspace ad-on framework, right? That is not just an API. That is an extensibility platform that anybody can plug into. And Google has given you some guide rails on, you know, how you might show up alongside a Gmail message or how you can embed a zoom link within a calendar.

Like those frameworks for integrations for partnerships are becoming increasingly important. The SDK play that we're making. I think seeing that more and more, I'm talking to a lot of partners that, you know, have gone API first and are now shifting to like a package instead of tools. And also, you know, some partners are going the next step, like bubble is one of my favorite companies in this space, because one, they have a list of hundreds of integrations already to.

Anyone can build an integration. So if you go to bubble and you know, you want to integrate something that's not there and let's say like the Yelp, right? You can use their API Explorer, you enter, you know, your authentication, mech mechanism, and a few of the end points you want to hit and bubble does it work for you?

And now you have a connector in place and what's really cool is then you can publish that connector and the community can use it. So like, are you investing in that level of tooling? I think that's going to be the difference between the company. Are trying to make the shift from pipeline to platform.

The ones that will be successful are the ones that are going to provide that tooling alongside that API APIs. And the last thing I'll say, which I've touched on, but you know, repetition never spelled the prayer is that partners are not just big agencies and ASVs anymore. Like, I think if you think about companies that have been super successful like Figma, for example, in building a, an ecosystem it's because.

They have designers that are shipping plugins, just because that's like what they designers needed to do, what they wanted in Figma and Figma made it really easy for them to do and publish and for other designers to use. Like, if you think your customers can be partners, your power users can be partners, your community can be partners.

And, and if you think that way, it drastically changes how you might approach partnerships in general. Right? Because you're not just like, here's an NDA, let's go roadmaps. Do the dance of who builds an integration and then co-market it through like webinars and stuff. Like, it totally changes when your community is doing the work.

When you're enabling an individual. Who's like, yeah, I'm spending a few hours on this because it's a passion project, but it's not my life. And it's not the only thing. And so how you reach that user. And that's why we launched something like the maker fund to help somebody take that leap because we know that potential is out there.

So I think that idea that like, You know, for us, anyone can be a maker, but for me that means anyone can be a partner. And I think that applies more and more to the ecosystems we're seeing become successful. I love that. 

[00:37:45] Adam Michalski: Yeah. I think it really stems from, you know, giving put the partner as partners in the front seat, you know, like giving them like you know, they're you think about them in every single interaction as the entire company, like progresses forward and making sure that everything, you know, like they're, they're kind of along for the ride.

And have actually like a first-class experience along the entire way. So yeah, that's super fascinating on that front. I guess the only last question that I have for you is if anybody's looking to either build on top of Coda or partner with Coda in any way, shape or form, how should they get in touch?

[00:38:15] Nick Valluri: Yeah. The best way to do it is reach out to A bunch of us are on there and to your point, which I think is a nice way to wrap this up. The biggest trend I see is like how important partnerships is at companies, right? Like I'm on the leadership team here because partnerships are super important.

You have, you know, even the creation of like chief partnerships officer that I've seen a few times now, and in general, people are leaning in and understanding the importance of partnerships more than ever. I think, you know, early in my career, I spent a lot of time on like, why do partners matter? Right?

Like, why should we, we could do this ourselves. We can build our own products. We could sell our own. We can support our own product and, you know, yeah. Maybe partners may give us some scale that we can reach, but it won't be as good. Whereas now the shift is how do we get more partners? Like, how do we unlock.

In the value chain, how do we open up more of our process to be able to be disrupted by partners? And I love that. Like, I think, you know, it's, it could have happened earlier for sure, but the fact that, you know, almost every company has startups from startup to huge companies has this big investment in the partnerships team that partners are getting hired earlier and earlier.

And the partnerships people are getting hired earlier and earlier in the startup journey. And so for us, Like, I want to say like people from every function or on this partners at Coda IO, alias, because everyone wants to see what types of conversations we're having, where people can contribute to making partners successful.

So yeah, definitely reach out to Lots of folks will see it. I will take a look as well, and we'll find, you know, the best way for us to partner together, but we've got a lot going then. I think it would be interesting to everyone from ISB to service partners, to somebody who just.

Likes to build cool stuff in once a an outlet. 

[00:40:03] Adam Michalski: Fantastic. And for our listeners, I'll link out to that in our show notes. But but yeah, I couldn't agree more. I think, I think we're starting to see the elevation of the partnership roles pretty universally. And it wouldn't happen without awesome folks.

Like you, you know, sharing your best practices and all the knowledge that you have. So on behalf of us, but also the entire partnership community. Thanks so much for joining man. I really. 

[00:40:22] Nick Valluri: Likewise. Thanks for having me, Adam. Of course, man, I'll talk to you soon.

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