The Story Behind SGNL Raising $22M in 2 Years (Scott Kriz / SGNL)

By Jason Yeh
April 23, 2024
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Jason Yeh (host)
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The Story Behind SGNL Raising $22M in 2 Years (Scott Kriz / SGNL)

There's a quote from Abraham Lincoln that always really speaks to me: "Give me 6 hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first 4 sharpening my axe." It's become a mantra of sorts for me, especially when it comes to fundraising. I share it with all of the founders I work with because it encapsulates a fundamental truth: the preparation before the task is key. In my experience, the ease of a fundraising journey is directly proportional to the groundwork laid beforehand. Those lightning-fast fundraises? They're not just luck; they're the culmination of years, even decades, of relationship-building and experience. Take today's guest, Scott Kriz. As the co-founder and CEO of SGNL, he raised over $22M in less than 2 years, drawing on a decade of industry know-how. But this success wasn't overnight. Scott had already navigated the fundraising landscape with his previous venture, Bitium, where he secured $15M in VC funding before its acquisition by Google in 2017. Scott's journey underscores the importance of early struggles in paving the way for future triumphs. This episode is filled with knowledge, so make sure to listen till the very end!

Episode Transcript


Scott Kriz: And I think it's also realizing that once you become a venture backed company.

You're not working for investors and that's a very different dynamic. And, I like the dynamic. I think if you have the right investors, they act as good partners, but you have to recognize that they are your partners at that point and you do work for somebody. Um,

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening my ax. That's a quote attributed to good old Abe Lincoln. And it's one of my favorite quotes to share with founders that I work with because I think it applies to fundraising so perfectly. How smooth the fundraise goes, almost always is directly proportional to the work put in before the [00:01:00] fundraise.

The reality is that the fastest fundraisers were not months but years and sometimes even decades in the making.

For today's guest, it was ultimately the relationships and experiences that he had built up over the past 10 years. That allowed him to raise over $22 million for his company in just two years. That guest is Scott, Chris. Co-founder and CEO of signal.

This wasn't his first run at raising capital from venture firms though, back in 2012, Scott co founded Buildium. From a SAS company at which he ended up raising 15 million in venture capital for before selling to Google in 2017.

As this is the same with other seasoned founders.

I've talked to you on funded, struggling through his earliest fundraises set Scott up for success. When he went to build signal.

But before we get into the details of his most recent round, let's rewind it back to Scott's childhood, where he spent most of his nights, wondering how he could improve the world.

Scott Kriz: [00:02:00] Yeah. I grew up in a suburb outside of Boston and. I was a pretty quiet, quiet kid. Um, very driven. So like, like in the academics, I was always just like pushing myself really hard. but very introverted and I'm still actually really introverted. Although I guess you learn some skills on how to fake it along the way.

Uh, I remember some of my first memories are when I was, you know, um, maybe 10, 11 years old and my dad walking into my room at night with the lights still on at 11 o'clock. And I'm sitting there with a piece of paper, like writing things down and he would ask me like, what are you doing? And I was like, well, I, and it was like weird things like I would.

Take like a, a product. Um, and at the time I, one of the ones I remember was a toilet seat. I thought the toilet seat could be improved. And I was like, I think the toilet seat could have been improved. And I was just like, and my, my dad probably thought I was crazy. And so, you know, he would, he was a management consultant and he would kind of talk me through what I was thinking about, [00:03:00] and so it was this constant, like, um, focus on things that I thought were broken and how they could be fixed.

And it really was, there was no direction to it. It wasn't like. There wasn't a why. There was just like a, a underlying frustration of things that were broken and things that I would want to fix, and that like never stopped. It was like a different thing every day. And, um, like it, it, it did probably drive my, my parents a little bit crazy, but most of my time was spent, um, you know, academics.

I didn't have a ton of friends. Um, I had some close friends, but, yeah, just this constant like focus on. On problem solving. And I gravitated toward doing a lot of math and science in school. Um, and that led me to eventually getting my degree in engineering. And so, I guess that was kind of the start of like, well, I don't know what I want to do in life, but I know I like solving problems.

So what in the world am I going to do when I'm in school? And it was kind of a assumption that everyone would go to college at that point.

Jason Yeh: Yeah. So it's, it's one of [00:04:00] the type of stories that I hear a lot about. Founders and just having this insatiable curiosity and wanting to continue to iterate and fix things. Um, and it's probably a story you've told before about your back background, getting into startups. The additional layer that I'd, I'd be curious to hear about was what was your relationship with money?

Like, like, do you remember, um, Always wanting to ask for money or being comfortable asking for money because we'll talk a little bit about what that means when you go fundraise, but any, any sort of memories come to mind

Scott Kriz: Yeah, definitely not asking for money. I think it was more focused on earning money. So. Um, you know, very young age, I had a paper route like many others do. And it was kind of how fast can I expand that? I was very aware, like hyper aware, even as, even when I was, I think, 12, 13 years old of making sure that I was increasing the amount of money that I had.

So, you know, allowance and things like that, and getting money for mowing lawns, I'd always [00:05:00] save money. And so there, there's one, there's one time I remember that my parents brought me into a toy store and they gave. My brother and I both 5 and said, like, you can spend whatever you want. And the first thing we realized was like, you can't really buy much for 5, even in, even in the early eighties.

and then there was, you know, my brother did what most kids would do and he came back and he bought, you know, three small things and it came to like 4. 97 or something like that. And I came back with like one thing that was like 25 cents and my parents were like, well, you have, you know, you have 475 left.

And I said, yeah, I'm going to save that for later so I can get something better. And so mine was less about asking for money and more just the assumption that like, Money is something that you need and you need to preserve. And not sure where that came from, if it was paranoia or just the, you know, thought process of future versus current, but that was one that stuck out to me.

Jason Yeh: That's fascinating. And, um, that'll be an interesting thing maybe to touch on as we think about like what it means to want to ask [00:06:00] for money. And then spend money that, you know, you haven't earned yet and then try to make that into more money. Um, but where I, where I want to take this is in that background is really fascinating.

and I'd said this to you before. people probably don't realize some of your background, which is you're the founder and CEO of Signal, but previously. Uh, you were the founder and CEO of Bidium, a company that you raised multiple rounds of capital for, the company that actually was the backdrop for you and I meeting over 10 years ago at this point.

Um, but you ended up running that for about five years, I think, and having a successful outcome selling to micros, uh, sorry, Google, um, before getting into this next startup. And, um, You know, a lot of that background means that you were able to go around the block and see how the dynamics of fundraising from the founder seat works.

I'm sure you made tons of mistakes and learned from those and iterated on your [00:07:00] approach over the multiple rounds at your previous company. Um, and then you've done some angel investings. I think probably having an exit allows you to do a little bit more of that. So you start thinking like an investor.

So coming into this new round, this is the story that we want to hear and how Somebody that has experience, knowledge, network, what fundraising looks like to them. So where I want to accelerate us to is, Basically the beginning of Signal and ask you a little bit about when you were getting started on the company.

It's less about the company itself, but I'm very curious if you knew that when you got into this, that you were going to start a venture backed company, that you were going to need to raise outside capital, or did you have a different thought now that you had maybe one venture backed exit under your belts?

You know, you had some money to play with. Um, tell me a little bit about how you thought about capitalizing it.

Scott Kriz: Yeah. Um, it's a good question. [00:08:00] And I think a lot of people assume that you start a company and what you do is you just go out and raise money. And like, that's the thing to do. And I think certainly that was the case a few years ago before the economy changed a little bit and, you know, started, people started to be a little bit more careful with.

Or, or unable to raise money because it was hard to convince a venture capital company to part with cash. so I always looked at venture as like, you should ask yourself, do you need, do you need the money? And we, and we thought about that and you can always, you know, bootstrap. You can probably do something that some entrepreneurs do is just back at themselves and own the whole thing.

I don't think there's a right answer. but I, the way I thought about it was. This, this company signal is my last company. Like I have no interest in, you know, building a company, selling and moving on to the next. Um, not that that's a bad thing to do. We did it before and it was, you know, it made everyone happy and investors happy, employees happy.

But, I looked at it as, okay, if we want to [00:09:00] really change an industry and that's what we were going after. In this case, it was the authorization industry and enterprise with all the problems you see about breaches. We thought that there was a better way. We had just come off the tail end of four years at Google and working on problems at Alphabet that were very in line with solving this problem.

And so we felt like we had a solution. At that point, it was thinking about, well, what milestones do you need to get to being a company that's going to be successful and large, and you can look at companies like Qualtrics who figure out that they can kind of. For the most part, bootstrap or race and friends and family money.

And their series a is essentially just founder liquidity at that point. And you kind of you do the backward looking and say, if you need to get to a certain milestone, how do you get to it and does it require capital to get there? And for us in the industry that we're in and the competitors that we have, which, you know, are some of the largest companies on, on the planet, um, we felt that one of the things that we needed to have in order to achieve our goals was to get the right team.

And to have the right [00:10:00] people is not cheap. You have to pay them somewhere around market. You have to give them high upside on a potential exit, whether that's going public or an acquisition. They understand these dynamics. So for us, raising capital for the new company was about how do we get to the next milestone?

And that's actually how we came up with the amount that we went to raise. Um, I think a lot of, you know, the last company, Bitium, that we did, We didn't really know what we were doing, and, and I think we know a little bit more of what we're doing now, but Um, at the time that was, let's raise a million dollars because that'll enable us to hire some people and do some things.

Uh, this

Jason Yeh: Very finger in the air,

Scott Kriz: very finger in the air. And a lot of it is, right? Like, even if you do the math and the calculation, you're still putting a factor of safety on it. You're still guessing on assumptions. But you have a little more experience to be able to give a rational answer to like, this is how much money we're raising.

We think it should last us between two and three years. This is the team we want to build and the milestones that we [00:11:00] want to hit. And if we do hit those milestones, that puts us in a good position to raise a future round. And I think it's also realizing that once you become a venture backed company.

You're not working for investors and that's a very different dynamic. And, um, I like the dynamic. I think if you have the right investors, they act as good partners, but you have to recognize that they are your partners at that point and you do work for somebody. Um,  

Jason Yeh: Well, Scott, I'm going to pause you there because you have a very measured way of thinking about how you're starting this company. And it's, it's very, it's very clear, right? Um, It doesn't have the frenetic energy that I encounter a lot with first time founders where they're, you know, you can feel the uncertainty around some of the things that they're trying to get done.

And it's because they don't know, they haven't seen it before. Uh, but because you're so measured and clear about things, you kind of glazed over, A couple of really, really important points that I want to make sure we underline, and I'll ask you some clarifying questions, but [00:12:00] this idea that the capital that you raise should be tied to a milestone or something that you need to accomplish, as opposed to some amorphous bucket that you can access when you need is super important.

We don't see that enough within first time founders because, you know, I think they're just unsure of what they can get done, but you had a better sense for, for what you would get done. And, um, this idea that like, you really should be able to do as much as you can without taking the next round of capital or your first round of capital.

Um, and so many people just feel like, oh, I can't do anything without capital, but like, there is so much you can get done. For you guys, You know, you think about this being your last company, as in your magnum opus, building the biggest thing that you can, I think is, is probably how you think about it. Um, when you thought about what could get done before you went to talk to investors, um, what was that?

What, how far along did [00:13:00] you get? Did you find your initial core team or was it like, look, I know I need to start hiring today and, um, if people will back me to do that, that's what I'm going to do.

Scott Kriz: yeah, I'm October 5th was my last day at Google and my co founders last day at Google, October 6th, we incorporated our company. We had our round closed by Thanksgiving. Um, there were two, there were two of us in a PowerPoint and, and that was it. Um,

Jason Yeh: Okay. That's awesome. So instead of yada, yada, yada ing over that, because a lot of people will see things like that and be like, Oh, like, well, could I do that? Or how could I do that? How, how does that happen? Tell us a little bit about the, The investors that you reached out to or, or how those initial conversations went, had they been talking to you for your last year at Google to be like, Scott, what are you going to do next?

Or had you been, you know, talking to your buddies in the VC ecosystem being like, I'm going to do this. Or was it really, which I don't think it was, but was [00:14:00] it day at day after leaving Google, you call a couple of people that you don't know and pitch them and the pitch is just so amazing that they, they decide to do it.

Now, where on that spectrum was it?

Scott Kriz: yeah, uh, it was very much a relationship driven raise. And I think, um, and I, I should say like, there's an important distinction between the way that we did this and the way that we did our raise at Vidium, which was a lot more, you know, that was, we had been a part of other companies, but that was the first one that we had wanted to raise venture straight out of the gate.

Um, Just to take a kind of sidetrack when we did that, we actually had a group of people that we had working for us that were developers that we were contracting out to do jobs in order to pay for their salaries and spending a portion of the time developing our MVP product. And so, you know, that was a stressful time and I was doing consulting work, but to get to the point where we could even have a credible conversation.

With any investor whatsoever. And these were mostly [00:15:00] angels, you know, it took, it took time and effort and, and grind to even get there. And so it wasn't just that we had an idea. Um, I think, you know, coming out of Google or any large company, when you came through acquisition, you have a unfair advantage.

And so I want to recognize that, like, first of all, the acquisition that we had to Google, Um, yes, it was strategic. Yes, it was a successful investment or acquisition from every angle, including from their angle, but there's also luck and timing involved. So I don't want to like, this isn't like there's an entrepreneur that knows exactly what they're doing and everything works out the way that it should.

It's just, there's, there's a lot, anyone that I think doesn't admit that luck and timing doesn't factor into an exit, um, is just lying to themselves. With, with few exceptions, with few exceptions. Yeah,

Jason Yeh: point of view and sharing that and the humility and you being humble is, is nice to see, but I think you're also underplaying a lot of the stuff that you were able to do. [00:16:00] And I'll also say like, look, the, you said you, you grinded and you were working really hard trying to get that MVP, getting the money to do it at Bidium, your first company.

And then your second company, you go, you know, October 6th, start talking to people. You're closed by the middle of November. And um, based on reports, it was a cool 12 million out the gate. Now it can be annoying to say here, like, Oh my God, Scott, cause like he did it in a month. He raised 12 million in his first round.

He did it in six weeks, four weeks or whatever it was. But I like to think about it and, and the thing that I want other people to. Consider is I would call that not six weeks, but like 10 years plus six weeks. Right. Like all the stuff that you did for 10

Scott Kriz: that's, that's exactly right. I think that's the right way to look at it. It's, you know, it's like when you hear someone's an overnight success, like. You know, there's articles about Zuckerberg when Facebook went public that say Zuckerberg, the [00:17:00] overnight, you know, Silicon Valley said like, it was, you know, a decade plus of hard work.

And, you know, I think that's true in any industry and not only, not, not only venture backed businesses, but certainly you're right. And it was a lot of time. I, I only bring up the, the, the piece with luck, um, as identifying also coming out of an acquisition and working at a large company. You have a, you have a more perceived value for two reasons.

One, there's an assumption that you're smarter and more capable to, no matter what happened, you did go through the process. So there's something there and there's evidence the investors to your question that we talked to, We're actually some of the investors that we had, been turned down by in the past, but that we were always in touch with us and we're always valuable and giving us advice and happy to spend time.

And in this case, it was a partner named Greg Sands from Costanoa Ventures. Um, he, he was a [00:18:00] original, one of the original Netscape. team he actually came up with the Netscape name, which is, which is kind of funny. Um, so product marketing and product, but when we talked to him, it was very much a conversation about what we were trying to accomplish and the steps that we would take there.

It wasn't like, Hey, we have a pitch deck and we're going to raise this amount of money. And at the time this was, you know, also a lucky time to start a business. Cause it was late 2021 when. Venture was a little less disciplined than it had been in the past. And so we had other interest from even more well known funds for larger raises at larger valuations.

And it didn't make sense to us. Um, we looked at kind of, well, what do we need to get to the milestone? What's the factor of safety? We had the conversation with a few of the investors and I think Greg and Costano was very much aligned with that way of thinking. And so, um, yes, many years in the making, we had known Greg for over a decade.

And so, [00:19:00] uh, it was a very nice first conversation. And it might not have gone anywhere if he wasn't interested in what we were doing or how we were thinking about it. But it ended up going in a great direction. There were other investors too, that we wanted to bring in from the past. Um, and you know, some of them we were at too high of a valuation without having anything, but I still called, uh, the ones that were early in value add for us and just let them know, I said, Hey, I know this might be out of, out of your range, but I just wanted to make you aware that there's room for you if you're interested.

And, you know, for the ones that, that clearly was out of their range, more of the kind of seed focused funds, they said, man, that's crazy. That's really high valuation. And I said, I, I understand what you're saying. I understand your model. And to your point, having a little bit of the experience on the investor side helped with having those conversations where it's just a natural conversation over coffee, right?

It's not like some stressful situation.

Jason Yeh: Yeah. So let me, let me just call out a couple of things here. It's, um, in this approach to [00:20:00] fundraising. In the back of your head, you know you're going to go raise capital, but you're able to call some people that have followed you, that know you, and just start having a conversation about what you're thinking about.

Um, and it's that level of like cool confidence around, you know, what you're doing that gets someone like, uh. Costano Ventures to be like, we should do a deal here. Like, let's, let's talk about what a deal would look like as opposed to you needing to run some kind of intense process. And that's like a cool place to be.

Um, you, you mentioned something that I think it would be good to get your take on and then I'll, I'll give you some, some more hardball questions. Cause I think you're, you're game for stuff like that. Um, you, you mentioned that, In the fundraising process, you're going through these things. You actually started getting higher valuation opportunities, higher amounts of capital offered to you at greater and greater valuations.

Um, but you said it didn't make sense to you. [00:21:00] Can you articulate that a little bit more? Like how, how do you think, how were you thinking about that? And What was your decision matrix to be like? Well, you know, 12 versus 15 or 20 that people were offering it, and why did that not make sense to you?

Scott Kriz: Yeah. Um, Certainly we, we, yeah, we did analysis of what's the team we need to hire, what do we pay them and how long do they need to work before we get to meaningful milestones. So no matter what, we didn't feel like we should significantly overcapitalize the company. I think, you know, from my perspective, companies die for one reason and that's they run out of money and that can be a number of forms that could be, they can't raise money.

It could be, they can't get customers. Or retain those customers. There's other, I think, obscure examples of like something really going weird and wrong, but it all leads to running out of money. And that's, and so having that a little bit of buffer, I think is important. And, um, for turning down the higher valuations, I think, I think of venture as a [00:22:00] true partnership, if you find the right partner, especially at early stages.

At later stages, it becomes more transactional and more of kind of shopping commodities from a PE perspective. But I think early on, it's about finding that right partner that is willing to look at things correctly. I think one of the worst things I've seen is first time founders, mostly first time founders, trying to maximize their value straight out of the gate.

And it ends up in a weird situation a lot of the time where They have strange terms coming in later on future rounds. They're unable to raise money. They have to do down rounds. They have to recapitalize. Like it just gets messy. And I think, um, it's hard enough to run a business and try to grow a business to introduce even more complexity on things that are just unnecessary.

Seems to just add stress for no reason. So we didn't want to go down that route. and we want to make sure that, you know, early investors also have the biggest outcome in a good situation. And we've always kind of just seen it that way. They're taking the most risk. [00:23:00] And so that was part of the calculus as well.

Jason Yeh: Got it. So, um, not all about the, the headline number. It's like the PE people that you're working with. Having a good relationship there. Also, making sure that even if you are able to raise a lot of money in your first round. At higher valuations, like you want the eventual multiple for your, uh, initial investors to mean something like you want everyone to win around the table.

That all makes sense. Um, here's another take on what you did. And I'm curious to hear how you think about this. Uh, I was actually going back and forth with an investor friend of mine who's been on the podcast before Julia Lipton. Um, and this was actually on Twitter. So she was talking a little bit about overcapitalization at the earliest rounds.

So while you did raise less than you could have at lower valuations than were offered to you, you still did raise 12 million on a, on a PowerPoint presentation. [00:24:00] And, um, It's a, it's a very different way of approaching your first build out, um, your, your initial steps within a company. Um, a lot of people think about like validating product market fit, you know, get building the product, validating product market fit, then investing money to scale that product.

Um, when you think about Taking in 12 million right away. Like how did you, how do you earmark 12 million for yourself? Like, is that what you need to build the product? Or is that like how you're going to build the product then scale it? I'm just curious how you think about a big round, like 12 in the beginning.

I really liked the point that Scott made about finding the right partnerships early on, rather than trying to maximize value and shoot for the highest valuation. . This can be hard to understand for less experienced founders. But it's a common refrain for founders who have been around the block.

When we get back from the break. We get to hear why [00:25:00] Scott chose raising $12 million for his seed round. And why you decided to raise a strategic round after.

Like many of you, my last venture backed startup was a SaaS business. In that company early on, we had the opportunity to sell into a large enterprise, but ran into some walls when they asked us if we were SOC2 certified. Not only were we not certified, We also found out that it would take our small team a ton of time to get that done.

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Scott Kriz: Yeah. I mean, I think, you know, 12 is big relative to a lot of companies, but I'd say it's also small relative to other companies. And the reason I say that is there are certain things like enterprise software where we're selling completely to the enterprise. That if you look at historically what it takes to go to market, there's, SMB and build your way up with an MVP like Salesforce did.

Um, but I think, Or you go for enterprise straight out of the gate, which means you need a buffer of time to build something that's suitable and enterprise ready. So, you know, I actually think of it as very capital efficient to get to that goal of being able to sell to an enterprise. Um, so it becomes, again, it [00:27:00] becomes more of what, what in the formula is necessary to get you where you need to go.

So I'd also add that MVP concepts of MVP concepts of product like growth, they're very different concepts in enterprise. Um, MVP is, you know, minimal means a lot to an enterprise and they won't do business until you can get to a certain point. And I can talk about some problems we encountered with that a little later too.

As far as product led growth, product led growth in enterprise, from my perspective, is really product marketing. Like you might sign a contract where the customer's never even seen the product. So, you know, how do you think about that? And what does it mean to grow that customer? Is it, is it documentation on doing deployments?

Is it best practices on configuration? So it's a very different game. So. I think, you know, to say 12 million is a big round. I actually think it's a super capital efficient way to raise money for an enterprise offering. That's going to take you two plus years to even get it out of the gate and in the hands and operating inside of a [00:28:00] customer environment.


Jason Yeh: Love that. And that is a good transition to really what we wanted to talk about, which was your most recent round. The most recent round, uh, at least was listed on, on Crunchbase at, um, let's see, the December of 2023, I don't know announcement dates versus when that round was actually done. There's always some sort of buffer.

Um, but let's say it was only a couple of weeks, like. That's essentially a year after you announced the round. Your first round of capital. And what you just talked about was the fact that it takes a long time to build the product that you need to sell. And, you know, sales cycles for enterprise companies are what?

Six to 18 months sometimes, depending on how big of, uh, an installation we're talking about. And so I wonder if we can zoom in to whatever point in time in 2023, [00:29:00] you start thinking to yourself, we had, we raised 12 million, but we should probably raise more like this is fascinating to me, just even looking at reading the tea leaves of, of Crunchbase.

I'm like, Oh, what was going on to make this happen?

Scott Kriz: It's hard to, it's hard to tell without talking to the people involved. That's for sure. Um, so it had been, it had been, you know, closer to two years because. We closed the round in 2021. We didn't announce it for a

Jason Yeh: Oh, okay. Got

Scott Kriz: And frankly, we didn't really see a reason to announce a race. Like our,

Jason Yeh: I just read those and I kind of assumed that October announcement it was. 30 days after you closed. And I was like, why would Scott do that? You know? Okay. So this makes much more sense.

Scott Kriz: yeah. So we, uh, we close, we closed the round and then announce it. We didn't really see the value of like, you know, what do we really need to be in tech crunch? Like what's the purpose? And for us, the whole point of that phase of the company was milestone based and it wasn't to generate customers. It was to get some early proof [00:30:00] of concept interest, but it was more for recruiting and building a team.

So the reason though, to your question, the reason that we raised another round, um, was really for strategic purposes. And I think when we started to go to market with proof of concepts and go into them with large companies that, you know, when I say large company, I mean over 100, 000 employees and we've had a few of those.

Um, we started to get some questions around stability of the company, which is not uncommon. In the form of, uh, you know, how do we know you're going to be around in five years if we're going to be spending six, seven figures on the annual contracts, which is our price point. And there's really no good answer if you're going to be honest with the customer, the answer is, well, you don't.

And further, like you could ask that question of a series C company and they would probably answer the same if they were being honest. Um, but granted earlier is riskier. And so we thought about it and we said, well, how do we, how do we have more stability in the market? Um, Perception, but also reality. And we also thought about it as like, who could help [00:31:00] us actually get to market with customer bases that are consistent with who our ICP is.

Um, and so, uh, we got introduced to Cisco and they, you know, were a potential customer also at the time. And, um, they looked at us and said that this fits really nicely in with how we think about authorization. Uh, and not to get into their strategy details, because I think it was more about we've been looking for a company that's pursuing this solution set and Signal seems to be in line with that.

We got to know their product teams a little bit, um, and that, that actually got me thinking about, well, if we're going to do a strategic round, um, It doesn't, it never hurts to put more gas in the tank. Like that's not, maybe, maybe we don't have to think about raising our next round for a little bit longer and maybe we can get a little bit more of our milestones accomplished when it comes to go to market.

And that's when we, uh, got introduced to the folks at Microsoft. M12 is their venture fund. [00:32:00] And. The clarity at which they saw what we were doing, and how it fit in with their portfolio without being competitive with the Microsoft portfolio, uh, was, was amazing. Uh, there's, and interestingly enough, the, the partner, Todd was a, we used to work Corp Dev at Cisco, um, when they acquired Duo, which is their, Trust, um, arm at, at Cisco, he understood the space like tremendously well and really got behind it.

And so, um, we were very selective and we invited a few into the round. And luckily, with, with one exception, uh, who felt that we were too competitive, we got, enough interest to say, well, let's put together, and it was a little bit arbitrary on saying it was 10 million round, but we felt like that was a good number so that.

You know, again, fill up the gas tank a little bit, um, but also give enough incentive to the teams at both Microsoft and Cisco to actually put in effort. And I, I can say after, you know, interacting with them for a few months now, uh, both, both [00:33:00] companies independently and very, in very different styles are extremely valuable.

And so, uh, and again, reaching out to these companies to get the fundraise done and to even approach the topic was done through network developed over the last 20 years. So it wasn't, you know, it was just kind of, um, like you said, it was, it was not like, Oh, you just pick up the phone and call it was like, Oh, you know, I knew this person for a long time.

Or. Uh, they've invested in six of my friends companies over the last decade. Like they'd be willing to get to take a call and get the right people on that call.

Jason Yeh: Right. So like we said, at the start of this conversation. Very different tenor to the fundraise, um, the fundraise motions that you had to run both for the first round and then this more opportunistic strategic round. were there any challenging times to it? Like the way you tell it makes it feel extremely lightweight.

And the answer could be like, yeah, this time [00:34:00] around I like had no challenges, but I wanted to dig a little bit deeper and see if there's anything either like internal struggles or, you know, personalities that you had to run into. Like what were some of the worst parts about this?

Scott Kriz: Yeah. Um, I mean, for the group, the folks that we have around the table today, the investors across the board, um, have all been great. So yeah, yeah. It turned out in a great spot. Um, certainly stressful always to raise money. I mean, you're, you know, when you're presenting to a group of 30 plus people at Microsoft, which is what we did.

And, and because of the nature of post COVID, most of them are not physically in the room with you. Um, it's a little nerve wracking. Like you can't really get that feedback of like what's happening. but you know, I always took the approach of like, it's a partnership and it was a partnership, it's going to benefit everybody.

And so if you see it through that lens, I think you don't worry so much. If like you get turned down because it's a mutual thing, right? It's like, [00:35:00] it would be like, you know, marrying the wrong person. Like nobody wants that. Yeah. And so, um, so, so I think that's kind of the, the lens, but to your question on like, yeah, there were some, there were some prickly people around, you know, when, when this was a seed round of 12 million and possibly more, um, there were some pointy elbows and you got to see some personality, which I frankly thought was surprising.

Um, we, one of the things I did when we raised that seed round is I asked for introductions to potential customers. And my thought process was twofold. One. If I get put in touch with potential customers that would bring revenue eventually, that's selfishly great for us in the company, even if we don't get that investor, but on the other hand, from the investor seat, it gives them an ability to talk to someone that would be a buyer and maybe they're going to tell, yeah, maybe they say something terrible about us or great about us, I don't know behind, you know, closed doors away from me, but at least it gave them that level of transparency.

And also it gave them the confidence that I'm willing to put that on the line and say like, yeah, like we [00:36:00] invite someone in to have the conversation. And so we did get some potential customers. Um, we actually eventually got one of those early, um, advocates, uh, that turned out to be an advocate as an advisor, uh, Joe Sullivan.

He's, he was the CISO of, of Uber and Facebook and CloudFlare at the time. Uh, amazing guy, but there was one, uh, in particular, I'm not going to name the fund, but, there was one investor early on that really wanted to do the deal and it was someone I knew from, from LA, from raising money in the past. And he was at a different fund.

And I thought he was a really nice guy. And everyone that I talked to that taken money, you know, confirmed, like really easy to work with, introduced me to some people that were potential customers, the introductions were okay, but I was tremendously grateful for him making those introductions to potential customers, but they weren't great.

They weren't the exact right buyer. and that's not, you know, I still thought that was a very positive thing at the end of the day, because of the long term relationship with Greg and we decided to go that direction. And when I let, when I let this person [00:37:00] know, I was shocked at the response. It was like, it was, uh, I was lectured on what a CEO can and cannot do.

Like I could take, don't I know that I can take money from them also. And I said, of course I know that. Like, you know, I've done this before. I can take money from whoever I want or not. And it came in and it got really uncomfortable. And I was on speakerphone because I use speakerphone a lot because I'm using my hands and my wife was like walking through the room and afterwards she's like, who was that?

And I said, it was this, you know, she goes, well, it's a good thing you didn't take money from them. I said, I know. And, um, and so there, there are those weird situations. Um, Where even looking back, like I can't rationally figure out why that person would do that because it doesn't help them in the long run either.


Jason Yeh: Very much not so.

Scott Kriz: and it's a very known fund with like, you know, a very large fund and it's a partner. So it was, I think just a little bit of, um, you know, bruised ego. Um, I think there was, I think they felt like there was an expectation I set that they were going to be [00:38:00] the go to for us,

Jason Yeh: Yeah. You're like, come on, Scott. Reciprocity. We made two intros for

Scott Kriz: Yeah. And you know, I, I, I tend to like, I'm, I'm pretty forgiving. I tend to think like. Maybe that was a bad point in that person's journey at that company. Maybe they were trying to, maybe they had done some internal promising that the deal is, I don't know. And I, you know, I'll take the, I'll take the assumption that it just, you know, it was a misalignment in communication, but certainly you run into these things and, um, you know, luckily if you've been through it a little bit, or you have people that have been through fundraising before.

You'll hear other similar stories, maybe not about the same person, but, you know, it happens and it's unfortunate, but, uh, you kind of have to have thick skin on that stuff and, and stick to your guns and remember that this is why it's so important to be selective about the people you raise money from, because if that's the true colors that came out in that instant.

Imagine what happens when things actually get hard and things aren't going [00:39:00] well.

Jason Yeh: which, you know, every company, even high flying ones like Signal go through. Um, I don't want to, I don't want to leave you, you know, mulling over the negative interactions. I kind of want to ask you, I love asking that last, this last feeling of like, you know, you raised 12, you added another 10, um, especially when you added that strategic round and got other big players involved. do you remember when it was all coming together and you're like, wow, we're going to add another 10 million, maybe more, and another couple of really, really powerful players on our cap table, supporting us on this journey. What was the initial feeling like afterwards? You remember where you were? Like, do you remember what like, um, really put the stamp on the deal that it was going to happen?


Scott Kriz: don't really have like a memory. I don't like a specific moment where I was, you know, and I think to this day, it's, you know, all of it still sinks in over time. It's like, [00:40:00] wow, we have this company. But I think some of the more important things I think about is, you know, we have 25 full time people that are some of the most amazing people that I've ever encountered in my career.

And so I tend to focus more on that. Um, we're not, it's very hard to get me to celebrate anything that has to do with. fundraising, I think, uh, but to your, to your point on the credibility side, I think it's, you know, having Cisco, Microsoft, and then the original investors of Costa, NOAA, et cetera, involved, um, that to me is good validation.

I, I, I actually tend to think of it more as pressure than as something to celebrate because I think. Like, okay, wow, there's something, not only validated by what we're seeing in the market, but validated by people that really understand the go to market side and how to build large businesses.

Like we got to make this work. And so, you know, I think one of the companies we have, one of the all hands we had right after the raise, when we were telling people that, you know, we had just finished the raise. It was like, well, does [00:41:00] this like, what does this change about how we're thinking about headcount?

And, you know, and that comes from a lot of places of like, you know, we need more people on my team to. But the answer was like, we're not really changing anything, because we have the right team, but what we will think about is as we do onboard more customers, we're going to think about how do we augment the team to support that and how do we bring on more, you know, folks that are focused on site reliability or DevOps.

And, I wasn't sure how that was going to be received, but I think it was really well received by the company because. It's the responsible thing to do. And it's the, actually the logical thing to do is to not just say we raised money and let's, let's grow as fast as possible. We do want to grow as fast as possible, but we want to hit it in the right orders that we don't misstep.

So I don't know that we ever really celebrated. I think. There was never that exhale moment. Um, you know, I, I always with any of these milestones, I always think like, okay, what's next, like, what's the next step in this, in this journey versus like, that was [00:42:00] awesome because it's important to keep the gas tank full.

It, it removes some level of anxiety and stress, but it doesn't, you know, the reason you fill the gas tank is because you have a long journey in front of you. And so that's where I tend to focus is like, what does that journey look like? And what do we need to do and, and try to, I think a lot of this is, especially in enterprise software is creating urgency where it does not exist because there's never a deadline, right?

There's, and there's always a deadline, but it's always self imposed. And so, so yeah, not ton of celebrating, but definitely, it definitely feels good to have the, you know, to have that type of support and to have more specifically, like such great people behind it. Um, and to your original point, like you can save yourself so much time on making mistakes because.

If you talk to people that have made more mistakes, like that's where you get your value and hopefully you don't make the same ones and maybe you make it half the way.

Jason Yeh: Scott, um, I think part of the reason you're so successful is that you keep looking forward and keep going and keep going. But I do hope [00:43:00] you and your co founder have a chance to, you know, reflect on the milestones along the way and the accomplishments up to this point, because it has been very cool to watch.

Um, the last question I have is, You are on one end of the spectrum. The other, other end of the spectrum from where a lot of our guests are, but I want to go even further and say that I noticed that you do a decent amount of angel investing. Um, I think By being part of the LA ecosystem and SF and Google, you get to see some of the earliest stage companies, um, talented people who are just about to start companies.

Um, any ones that you want to mention, like individuals or companies that are just getting started that you're excited about?

Scott Kriz: I mean, I'm, I'm excited about every single one of my investments. I wouldn't have done an investment unless I was really excited about it. like one of the original investments I, I did was actually before we started Bidium, I think it was 2010. And I wanted to understand the dynamic of what does it feel like to have your money [00:44:00] into something?

I didn't have very much money. So it was like, it was a. Disproportionately high check to what I had available, but, um, it's very small check. And, uh, that was company called ID me. And at the time it was something very different and, you know, they are cranking and I don't have the like insight in, I don't know if like observer rights or anything, but if I had to guess, I think it's one of those companies that's going to go public in the next couple of years.


Jason Yeh: Your very first investment. Oh

Scott Kriz: first, yeah. And, and so, but, but I've had everything. I, I'll share, you know, one of them that you probably know was, it was, was Pipe with Harry Hurst. Um, so I was in on the first round of that, which was an, a great outcome, even selling in secondary, like, um, within 18 months and it still continues to keep going.

Uh, I've had other investments that closed down early and return partial money to investors. I think that's the worst. I'd rather not get money back because I feel like. That means that someone wasn't willing to pivot in the right direction. But I understand like there, it takes a certain amount of, I don't [00:45:00] know, um, confidence in your decision to say like, this is not working.

And, and so I really think highly of that person, but you know, I, I don't love those types of scenarios. Uh, there's a few companies that I, I really, uh, love because I think the spaces are hot. and so, uh, privacy dynamics is one, and that one is focused on synthetic data. And so I think there is.

Especially with everything that's going on and they do a specific thing in synthetic data. Synthetic data is a broad area, but with everything that's going on with AI and being able to create models, you need, you need underlying data. And sometimes that data is not available. So that, that's super exciting to me.

Um, one of my good friends started a company called Outrider, um, in 2016. And, uh, they do, they effectively do the logistics of how trucks move around trucking yards and do it without people with, um, fully automated. And so, you know, they went on from their seed round [00:46:00] to, I think, Coke industries was their last investors.

And they're going to, I think, go GA this year with a lot of large, um, large customers. So those are the types of things I think are really just, but more than anything, the, the reason I'm interested in these is that. And the way I look at startups that I'm passionate about really comes down to the people and the idea and nothing else.

It's like, do I think, do I like the entrepreneur as a person? Do I like, you know, am I aligned with them from a values perspective? Are they passionate about what they're doing? And is the space of a big opportunity? And like, if those two things line up, you know, I don't know what I'm doing in investing.

I'm, I'm not, I was never a venture guy like you were, but, those two pieces of the formula are enough for me. And. The other side is, being used for due diligence. I get a lot of inbound of convincing people which fund they should go with or assessing. I can kind of, you know, look at the best of those and hopefully convince them squeeze a check in.

Jason Yeh: in

Scott Kriz: for me as well.

Jason Yeh: Love that. Well, Scott, [00:47:00] uh, I really appreciate the time, man. Very fun to see how this journey has gone. Uh, I guess you're going to year three now, right? Of the whole thing. You still having fun?

Scott Kriz: Yeah. I mean, every day is more fun. Um, yeah, I think more than anything, like if, For my personality, if I'm solving hard problems and I'm doing it with great people, like, I don't know what more you can ask for in a career. Um, it just, you know, and if you accomplish things, you do it with great people around you.

I just think that's the best case scenario. So, uh, you know, hopefully things continue to go as well as they're going right now. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us. It's going to be, these things take time, right? Like three years. I think of that and that seems like the first step in a, in a mile walk.

So, so I really appreciate you having me. This has been really fun.

That was my conversation with Scott, Chris co-founder and CEO of signal. A modern enterprise authorization software changing the way companies go about data privacy.

I hope this episode helped you gain a new perspective around venture [00:48:00] capital and what it takes to scale your company.

After the break, I'll be talking to my producer page to get her take on the interview and see whether or not it sparked any questions.

Jason_Yeh: is it my turn to start? How are you, Paige?

Paige_Randall: [00:49:00] I, we're just going to call it your turn. Um, I'm doing well. How about you?

Jason_Yeh: Good, good. Um, I'm excited to talk about this one. Uh, I've actually known Scott personally for a long time and it's funny because we get a chance to engage with each other on social media, like needling each other and leaving funny comments. People don't really know that we know each other, uh, but it was great to have him on the podcast.

We didn't mention that during the interview, but I'm just dropping it here.

Paige_Randall: Yeah, no, he seemed like my, the first word that, that came to my mind when I was listening to this conversation was he's very eloquent. Like he's very well spoken and another amazing example, which we see all the time on this podcast of this archetype founder of like calm confidence.

Like there's just something very trustworthy about him.

Like when he's speaking, I could see myself as an investor being like, If this man says he's gonna do X, I [00:50:00] believe him. And honestly, I wanted to ask you, because you have known him for a while, was that like your first impression of Scott? Is that what kind of drawn you to him? I'm curious of your first, first thoughts around that.

Jason_Yeh: It's funny that you call that out. I feel like he hasn't changed in 10 years. I, I literally, he might've been the very first pitch that I ever took as a venture capitalist. And I actually recommended we did the deal, um, way back in the deal, way, way back in the day. But, um, yeah, you know, I feel like he's always had this like very, Zen, like calm way of, of, of talking, um, that sort of makes you feel comfortable. It's very different from a lot of the sort of nervous, frenetic energy that you'll get,

uh, some first time founders, but certainly after, you know, over a decade of, of startup founder experience, uh, a big exit, uh, leading big teams, he is now like fully in that mode. Like he's only going to say something if, you [00:51:00] know, He knows it's great.

It almost feels like, and he's only going to do something if he knows it's great. And he's only going to start a company if he knows it's going to be great. So it's like, it's kind of a investor's dream to, to find a founder like that.

Paige_Randall: Exactly. And that kind of gets me, moves me into the discussion I wanted to get into with you is that there seems to be this reoccurring theme in this podcast or maybe just, you know, Yeah, mainly in this podcast of a lot of successful rounds that we've seen and heard here are always touching on this idea of like looping back to investors that have passed on them before and weird things coming up that they didn't expect.

Like, um, for this episode, he actually mentioned, which I found it extremely interesting that he knew Greg, um, from Costano Ventures for over a decade and he had passed on him early on. And they had kept this relationship going for a decade and he would go to Greg, like [00:52:00] Greg would give him advice and would give him commentary and would, would talk to him.

And I just wanted to ask you, is that a common practice? Cause I know there's this idea of keeping the conversation going. An investor never wants to miss out on a deal.

Jason_Yeh: Yeah, no, for sure. I mean, I think hearing some of these backstories and people that have long careers and where the relationship started, that ended up becoming an investor relationship, you know, in the future, Is something great for younger first time founders to hear about? Because I think there's this like nervous anxiety about wanting to, to move forward very quickly and, and not, not, um, respecting the compounding nature of time, you know, not respecting the fact that some of these most valuable relationships, you Take a long time. And, that is a disadvantage that you might have being new to the industry, being younger, being less experienced. Um, but I just like the fact that we tell these stories because [00:53:00] a lot of people will maybe see the headlines of someone like a Scott Criz raising 22 million in less than two years and be like, Oh gosh, I can't believe this. White guy could do it. Or like, you know, this dude could do it.

Or, you know, this guy's just so lucky. But it really comes, you know, down to his building relationships for over a decade and then proving along the way that he is the guy that will only say he's going to do something if he's actually going to do it. And so, and then the other thing I'd say is a lot of times people will Meet a founder and just feel like this is a really special founder. I'm not sure if

this is the company that's going to be his thing, or this is going to be the win. And so sometimes people will be like, I want to, but I'm going to invest in this. Today, knowing that this one might fail or might not be the massive outcome, because it'll set me up and create a good relationship for me to do his next one. Greg, on the other hand, [00:54:00] did pass on a good deal with Bidium, I assume, and Maintain that relationship. And, you know, probably nearly a decade later has the opportunity because he's been keeping up with Scott and gets to do a deal on his newest company.

So, um, very, very common to see, very common to see, especially for venture capitalists that have long horizons, long understandings of, of how that game works and how it needs to be played over many, many years.

Paige_Randall: Oh my god, the patience that is required is insane. But it just compounds and builds up and, you know, leads to, that is a good point that you make. People will see that and be like, Oh, what a quick, easy fundraise. But something you always say is, the best fundraisers are years and years in the making and the relationships you've built and the connections.

And it just seems like a common theme. And that's why I always, Seem to bring it up in the debriefs. 'cause I feel like it's a good reminder that like patience, like patience is, is kind of required in this, in this game,

Jason_Yeh: [00:55:00] Yeah, and I think for people who are just getting started, one of the things to kind of feel like you're putting your efforts. your efforts aren't going to waste if you're meeting this guy or this investor or whatever, and maybe they won't invest in my round that I'm, what I'm raising right now is that this is a multi round game, you know, your career as a founder, if you're into this, if you love this. will span many, many, many years and multiple companies. And so maybe not for this one, maybe not for the next one, but at

some point, like these relationships matter. And so, uh, get started as soon as you can is, is probably the bigger takeaway.

Paige_Randall: Yeah. And I mean, he had a, I had a bunch of great takeaways from this episode. Another thing I really enjoyed that Scott touched on was how, like, How founders. early on, try to overshoot their value. Um, with like valuations and things like that.

And he was kind of talking about how [00:56:00] the focus should really be on choosing the right partner off the bat. And I kind of wanted to hear your thoughts on. How, your own opinion of how early stage founders should go about deciding their valuation, like if that, um, if it means that you might not have a good partnership if you choose the highest valuation, which is something that Scott passed on himself and he chose the right partner.

Jason_Yeh: Yeah. I mean, I think The thing to, to, to like call out is that that that very wise approach of choosing the best founder rather than the best valuation is not the most obvious thing for a first time founder to, to follow. Um, because you, you do realize that, Even at an, at your earliest, um, days running companies and running startups, you do realize that equity is value. And you do realize that you should be, you know, scribing some sort of dollar amounts of what you're doing. So the, the more [00:57:00] that you give away, the more money you give away, the more ownership you give away. And that going valuation, um, helps you retain, um, Ownership. So that's one thing. And then the other challenging thing, the other thing that makes it challenging, challenging to follow that sort of wise advice is that there is a lot of ego associated with startups.

A lot of the time, it's like, I want to be able to show everyone that I raised at a high valuation. I want that validation. I want to be able to share that with the world. Um, but there are many reasons outside of the picking the perfect partner, that high valuations aren't always the best thing. Um, You know, we talk about this in, in different episodes.

We talk about this in the back channel, but the idea that a high valuation in today's round may set you up for a very difficult fundraising in future rounds. So that's one thing we talk about, but when it comes to just focusing in on what Scott said about a great partner, um, the thing to note is that. If you're running a venture [00:58:00] backed startup, it is a 10 year journey, right? A lot, a lot of venture capitalists, when they say like, we're investing in this company at the earliest stages, it's like, we expect not to be able to see liquidity, a sale for eight to 10 years, and so. You really have to think about the long game here.

You really have to think about, is this someone that I want to spend a lot of time with? Is this someone that I'm going to trust and feel good enough to, to, to pick up the phone, call them when something's going wrong? Is this someone that I trust to have my best interests at heart? And those are really important things. and worth the trade off of, you know, percentage points in order to, to actually get. So, um, hard for someone who hasn't ever done it before to understand what it could mean to have a bad partner, but for founders.

Paige_Randall: Yeah, sometimes you gotta learn it the hard

Jason_Yeh: Yeah, exactly. And I, I'm sure Scott has run into some, you know, not maybe not as major investors, but he's probably had some investors along the way He rather [00:59:00] weren't on his cap table. And so when he has that experience, he can go into his new company being like, for sure. My major investor, like my big lead, the person that is going to spend tons of time with me for sure. I'm going to trade off percentage points in order to get. Investor that I feel very, very comfortable with.

Paige_Randall: Yeah, yeah, I, I think it's, it's one of those things where, like, you want to listen to someone that's been down that road, but you also have that itch to try, you know, go for it. Like, get the high evaluation and F

Jason_Yeh: the reality, you know, what the reality is, I know because of what we do is so much of what we do is share advice. I know how hard advice is to follow because. I was once a first time founder that got all the right advice and didn't follow a lot of the advice because it's so easy to be like, okay, I get it.

I totally hear what Scott is saying. I hear what Jason and [01:00:00] Paige I get it. And I understand why that could be the right path and why going for the highest valuation, but not the perfect partner, why that could be bad for most people. But maybe I'm the exception. You know, like everyone's like, I think I'm the exception.

Yeah. I should take the highest valuation. I think I can manage the relationship with a VC where I'm not sure about it. It's not going to be bad for me. Everyone thinks that they could be the exception to the rule.

Paige_Randall: Yeah, I think maybe the, the best part about, or maybe the, the goal that we kind of have for this podcast is to give founders a bunch of opportunities to listen to a wide variety of stories, seasoned vets, you know, not so seasoned vets, like people who just raised their first round and just. have that help them expand their perspective and, and still make their own decisions.

But that's, that's the best part about this podcast. At least we're giving them a bunch of stories and advice and knowledge and then they can decide to

Jason_Yeh: One million percent. You [01:01:00] know, my insight into teaching and advice and coaching is that like, because, because I got so much advice that I didn't follow, I realized that sometimes You just need to hear the advice in the particular way using very specific words and it has to come from a voice that certainly like resonates with you in some weird way.

And so we don't know what delivery is going to be most effective for the people that are listening to it. And so that's why we talk to different people over and over again and they say very similar things with slightly different, you know, but if the one way that Scott described it is a little bit better than the way I described it. Awesome. We did our job with this podcast.

Paige_Randall: That's the debrief.

Jason_Yeh: That is the debrief. Boom.


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