Episode 19 - Kurt Muehmel - Selling Dataiku
Kurt joined Dataiku in 2015 following a varied career, including a stint in consulting
Wanted to move into tech; started as sales for North America, based in Paris
Now manages EMEA team outside of France and the UK
Dataiku had cultural hiccups along the way, but quickly addressed them
The company’s founders, data scientists by training, built their team in a way that reflected how they wanted companies to treat them as clients
Successful without engaging in end of quarter/year discount pressure. New sales members trained not to follow the common discount schedule
Very customer-oriented, and focused on building value for clients
For Dataiku, raising funds is not the end game, but rather a necessary step along the way
To get a great sales job at a fast-moving, cool startup requires a traditional sales background with lots of experience in a particular sector, plus a massive Rolodex of contacts in that market-- Right? Not at Dataiku. American transplant Kurt Muehmel didn’t have that cookie-cutter background, and Dataiku’s founders considered him a better candidate for it.
For all of startups’ talk about an “outside the box” approach to problem-solving, the reality in many cases is very, very traditional and risk averse. Not so with the founders of Dataiku, who are more interested in building out a team with the right kind of culture. Kurt appreciated this, as he sought a tech startup job that would value his own non-traditional background.
The company’s founders have quite a unique attitude: forget about the rah-rah! bells and yelling in the office after a sale, or the high-pressure “always be closing” nonsense. The founders were once on the client side, and have insisted that their team treat prospects the way they would have liked to be treated.
The consistent theme is a focus on delivering value to customers and helping them to tackle their data issues. The traditional (and generally miserable) habit of ramping up pressure on both the sales team and prospects to offer end-of-quarter or end-of-year discounts is not part of the formula at Dataiku. The industry is used to it and many people in sales and purchasing have been trained to have this approach, despite the often negative effect of making everyone miserable and leaving money on the table.
Equally interesting is the Dataiku founders’ attitude toward their fundraising success. When people talked about having a party after closing their latest round, the founders of the company made it clear that while fundraising is an important and often critical part of success for many startups, it’s not the final objective. Building customer value is, and always should be, the goal.
There are a lot more great stories in this episode, which give you a glimpse into what it’s like to really work with an “out of the box” mentality. Just because some high-profile experts identify a way that things are “supposed to be done”, this doesn’t mean that there’s only one way. It’s refreshing to hear a startup steadfastly pursuing their own path and using a model that works for them and their customers, which is what being a startupper is all about.