Interview with Joe Moriarty, CEO of Raven360
Tell Us About Your Journey
My personal journey started out of college, I didn’t know what I was going to do and found myself in a startup software company. The CEO of the business said to me, “Joe, you don’t know anything about software, you don’t know anything about business, but I’ll hire you for two weeks and if I think you can learn, I will give you a job.”
So I hustled for two weeks and made coffee and did whatever I could possibly do to make a good impression, and luckily he hired me. That’s how I got into software. I got in the software world and fell in love with startups and growing companies and quickly found my niche was always on the sales and marketing and go-to-market side of the business. And I’ve been doing it ever since. I’ve been doing it for 25 years and still love it, still doing it, and growing now Raven360, where I’m one of the founders and CEO.
What Is The History of Raven360?
Well, we started the business, my co-founder, Vasu (Ramanathan) and I, to solve a very specific problem with a local company, a big local company here, EMC, who’s now part of Dell Technologies. They needed to make a transition from face-to-face in-person learning to a digital experience, a whole digital academy experience.
So we built Raven360 to create an academy experience or a branded university experience, where their customers, their partners, or even their internal employees could go and learn about the EMC and the Dell Technology products, how to use them, how to have a great experience using them, how to get the most value out of using them.
We started the business kind of small and we have grown it ever since. And we are totally focused, still, on building digital learning academies for product companies.
What Are Some Inspirations That Motivate You?
I have the saying that I use a lot with our whole team, and I think it was actually Pat Riley, the basketball coach, who said one time, “There’s only two things you can control in life, it’s your attitude and your effort.”
I always go back to that as a foundational piece of motivation for me, because if you have a positive attitude, people are going to want to work with you, people want to be around you. And you can control that, you can control how you’re interacting with people. And the second thing you control is your effort. It’s just how hard you want to work, how hard you want to push, that’s on you.
Everything else is pretty much out of your control. I always focus on those two things and real foundational motivation for me. And the other one I always think about is that, you put a hula hoop around yourself, you can control everything inside that hula hoop, everything outside of it is out of your control. So I just keep it simple, keep it real easy, and that’s how I try to keep myself moving forward.
What Challenges Have You Faced?
We’ve learned everything the hard way, I would say. We’ve had a lot of challenges. When you’re building software and you work with some really big customers, we have some amazing customers: Dell Technologies, UIPath, Confluent, AWS, we do business with. So we work with some really big influential software product companies and one of the things we had to learn was, we had a vision for building our digital learning academies. We knew that when you give someone, a customer, a great experience learning to use a product, they become a lifelong user of that product.
We knew that, but what happens a lot of times when you’re an early stage company, specifically an early stage software company, you get a lot of inbound information. You get a lot of people telling you what you should be doing and that can come from customers, can come from your board, it can come from advisors, and we probably listened a little too much at times. That can be dangerous, because you start to build stuff that might work for one customer, but maybe not apply to everybody else. I think we went a little bit too broad and got away from our vision at times of what we knew was going to be successful. I think that that’s important is taking a lot of information, but if you stick to your core beliefs and what you think is your company, you’ll be fine. But you got to learn, I had to learn that the hard way.
What Advice Can You Offer To Other Entrepreneurs?
If you believe in your company or the service you’re providing, you’ll have conviction, I think it’s really important. Staying really focused on the problem that you’re solving, staying really focused on the solution you’re building and not taking too much external advice, or hearing too much of the noise.
I think there’s a lot of noise out there, and there’s a lot of things even on Twitter or LinkedIn or social media about a how great everyone else is doing, and you can get wrapped up in that. You can get really wrapped up in, “Oh, my gosh, why are we not doing better? Why haven’t we raised enough money? Why aren’t we seeing the success that everyone else is doing.” You have to just stay really focused on the problem you’re solving, your customers. Listen to your customers, they are the most important thing you have. And if you listen to your customers and you treat them well and you solve their problems and you provide value, that’s it. That’s what you focus on, that’s how you become a company that they love and that they rely on. That’s how you build your business, it’s just laser focus on your customers, and making them really happy. You’re going to do great.
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Where Do You See Raven360 in 3-5 Years?
I see Raven360 in three to five years as the leader in the marketplace of providing branded digital academies to some of the biggest and best product companies in the world. We’ve always taught customers how to use products and when that customer uses a product really well, they become a big fan of the product, they become an evangelist, they become a lifelong user of the product. But what’s happened recently is we actually use the word academy and we put it on our customers’ websites, and people, for whatever reason, click it.
It’s curiosity. think they see that word academy as a place of learning, a safe place of learning. And so what has happened is people are now going to these academies to learn about products before they buy it. Nobody wants to talk to a salesperson anymore. They want to talk, once they’ve done 85-80% of their research, and the academy actually provides this amazing learning environment to teach them about a product, before they make the purchase decision, or it leads them down the road to where they’re ready, and it provides value. It provides learning.
So if someone’s getting something positive out of it, they’re learning about the product before they talk to a salesperson, and then they might get to the point where they’re just ready to buy. They say, wow, this company’s taught me a bunch of valuable stuff and I want to work with them. It solves my problem. It’s going to help my career. So we actually now believe every product company should have an academy. They should have it on their public website. They should let people go in and learn about them, and Raven360 powers that entire experience, and I think we will be the leader in the space.
What Value Has Gesmer Updegrove Provided To Raven360?
Gesmer Updegrove has been great. As you fundraise and as you go through term sheet, as you go through just the closing process, there’s a lot of work, and these guys have been awesome. They get it done, super diligent, detail-oriented, and what I really like about Gesmer Updegrove is they also provide some business value. They’ve seen a lot more than I’ve ever seen or probably will see. So they just they bring a ton of experience, a ton of business acumen. They’re able to guide you and make sure you don’t get in trouble, and they’re just very helpful, like super helpful attorneys.
Why Go With Gesmer?
I go with Gesmer because they’re trustworthy, they’re super responsive, really diligent, detail-oriented folks and I like working with them. I like them as people and they do provide a heck of a good service for us in an area that we’re not experts, so we love working with them.
I go with Gesmer because I’ve had a great experience with the attorneys I’ve worked with, and that includes those who aren’t actually providing legal services. Having somebody who can literally just call me up, and does, and ask me, “What’s going on this week? You need anything? Anything I can help with?” Without any expectation, it’s not a legal consultation. That is what I found to be the perhaps most unique thing that’s pulled me to say, you’ve got to go with Gesmer, just for that. Just for the fact that whether or not you use them, they’ll still sit there and reach out to you periodically say, “Hey, what can we do? Where can we help you?”
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