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Episode Summary

Today, our guest on The PARTNERNOMICS Show is Bob Moore, Co-Founder & CEO at Crossbeam, a collaborative data platform that helps companies build more valuable partnerships by discovering which customers and leads they have in common. Moore previously co-founded Stitch (Acquired by Talend in 2018) and RJMetrics (acquired by Adobe by way of Magento Commerce in 2016).


Topics Covered

  • Privacy: Are corporate data privacy concerns a barrier to account mapping solutions such as crossbeam?
  • Degrees: Will we see a world that includes “professional certifications” that replace college degrees at some point?
    • The pace of business is accelerating and Universities are lagging.
    • Get a Marketing Degree today. Students are better teachers…
  • Organization Structure: Should the “partnering team” report to the Sales Lead or another executive?
    • Most sales leaders are zero-sum, transactional thinkers. Don’t understand partnering.
    • Sales = hunter; Partnering Professionals are General Managers
  • Attrition: More than half of partnership professionals switched companies in 2021. Why and will this continue?
    • Hiring executives have no way to validate a candidate’s knowledge.
    • The labor pool of partnering professionals was tapped out years ago.
    • How to grow the crop of future professionals.

Mr. Bob Moore. Good to see you, sir.

How are things going today? 

I am doing great. It’s great to talk to you again. 

Hey, so thanks for agreeing to be a contributor on the Partnernomics show. I’m looking forward to having you share your insights with us. Bob, for those folks that might not know much about crossbeam or you or your background, I’d love for you to just to take a couple of minutes and share with the audience.

I co-founded this business back in 2018 with my partner Buck Ryan and he and I had worked together on some previous companies in the data analytics space. So I was the co-founder CEO of a business called RJ metrics. And then after that co-founded a company called stitch data.

And both of those companies were allowed to nerdier than crossbeam was, we were way more kind of in the weeds of data science and data infrastructure. We did run into this problem. That was just kind of eyeopening for us, which was anytime we wanted to collaborate with other businesses that were outside of our company lines, it was almost impossible to do so in a data-driven way even answering really simple questions, like how many customers do we have in common with our partners or you know, our, our sales reps trying to sell to any of the same companies that their sales reps are trying to sell to.

It was kind of. A blank stares and data compliance problems and data quality problems. And, you know, the, the best solution anyone can come up with was emailing a bunch of, out of base spreadsheets around it and, you know, kind of crossing your fingers and hoping it worked. And it just seemed antiquated.

It seems so different than how. Sales and marketing and customer success and financing people and everything else had become in the latest wave of SAS applications. So yeah, the vision for customer after we, so we sold Artemetrix to Magento it’s part of Adobe. Now we sold stitch to talent and part of the vision for crossing was.

What if we can actually use the tools of the modern data stack and leverage the maturity of the API economy and just build something completely new, that’s never been done before. And that new thing is crossbeam and it basically functions almost like an escrow service for data that sits in between companies that are partnering with each other and provides the secure, compliant third-party environment, where you can both connect to your system of record, whether it’s Salesforce or HubSpot or a data warehouse, or a Google sheet or anything.

And we take care of everything. That’s hard. We ingest the data, we standardize it and transform it. We keep it up to date. We have an also matching algorithm that can figure out where things overlap. And then we give you all of these tools and applications that allow you to consume the results downstream, whether that’s just using our report builder in our own UI or pushing it back into Salesforce or any of the dozens of tools that exist in our partner cloud ecosystem.

So I’m really just trying to, you know, bring the partnerships uniform. Up to parody and beyond with the rest of the tech stack. That’s that’s affected go-to market in the last 10 years. Yeah, man, you guys are, you guys are doing such an awesome job. Not a ton of our clients are using your solution and manage has really transformed, revolutionized the way that they do business, man.

So keep up the awesome work. Thank you. Thank you. We just hit a big milestone. We just crossed 7,000 companies which is kind of mind blowing. And I think we have something. 300 of the SAS, 1000 are on there and got several dozen publicly traded companies. Now it’s for awhile it felt like we were kind of pushing a Boulder up a hill.

But I think now we’re starting to think about like, let’s use the fact that we’ve got this awesome network to create a whole lot of value for a whole lot of people. So it’s exciting. That’s awesome, man. It’s awesome. All right, man, we’re ready to jump in and start firing up some questions. Let’s do it. All right, man.

So let me get to get the clock ready to go here in just a second. Privacy. You know, I came from the world of mobile, came from the world of telecom and man, it was all about privacy, privacy data and all this sort of stuff. And I know it’s only gotten more important as the years continue to evolve, but I want to ask you, so are, is a corporate data policy concerns.

Is that a barrier to account mapping software, similar to what across being. Yeah, I, this is such an important question because the the answer ends up solving for a lot more stuff than just like what sits in a privacy policy, right? Like, there’s this really natural extension. You can start asking privacy questions and very quickly you get into.

Questions about GDPR and CCPA and kind of the compliance aspects of that privacy world. Then you get even further and you get into more fundamental questions about your business, which is just like, how do you think about trust and how has that trust defined and how do you verify and maintain that trust?

You know, whether it’s a legal question or just an operational, like how do you want to do business question? You know, one of the things that so to answer your question directly, right? A hundred percent. Yes. Like people’s corporate private data privacy concerns in and around data are very much at the front of many of the conversations that we have with companies.

But what’s really important to remember is that really what we’re doing here is creating. A level of standardization control and transparency around who can see what and under what circumstances. And there are a lot of inputs to how that stuff gets governed in a lot of businesses. Things like personally identifiable information is completely off limits.

One of the cool things about crossbeam is you can kind of turn these dials and say, look for this particular company. There’s going to be absolutely no PII whatsoever. Right? We’re only going to share information at the business level for another company where we have a different style of partnership agreement and maybe different governing law.

We’re going to share a little bit more, but it’s going to fall under this fair use provision of our partner agreement. You know, different companies have different styles around how they approach. The importance is that people who own their data continue to own their data. This is not a marketplace where you’re going and selling people’s data.

It’s not a co-op where you just, everybody throws it in a big pile and you get some kind of aggregated thing out, every single iota of data that could share with another party, the person sharing it has complete control over how it gets shared and complete transparency over what is set up and configure.

And because of that, What this allows companies to do is to go from this kind of shadow. It spreadsheets are being emailed around. There’s not a lot of visibility and control around how data might be leaking out of their organization to a place where they can actually centralize it, control it, and apply their own governance around it.

So I probably this thing that in a first conversation might cause it’s got the word data sharing close to it, right? It might sound like a scary thing, actually ends up having the opposite effect and we get a lot of legal and security and compliance teams that love this stuff because. It is providing them with a governance layer around how partner collaboration actually.

Well seems like, are you have to correct me if I’m wrong here, but almost seems like you know, using your credit card back in 2000 you know, online it’s was like, oh my God, you know, I’m scared to death to put my credit card online because there’s, you know, some, some bad people on the other side and you’re just scared to death of it.

And now, I mean, how many trillions of dollars get a, you know, flow flow across the, the wires and the, in the glass and the fiber each day. Do you see that kind of being a similar thing as it comes to. Companies and corporate policies adopting, you know, more, just being more open-minded I guess it’s almost, it’s going to become a necessity, right?

It won’t even really become a question, become more of a necessity to, to share information with with partners in order to collaborate more effectively. Right. What’s been great to see here is that like this. Less a revolution and more, just a realization of what has already been in place. Like it’s exceedingly rare, like exceptionally rare that we have clients that actually need to make edits to their, you know, their privacy policy or their data processing addendum, or their partner agreements in order to get comfortable using crossbeam.

Because if you look at how those things are structured from day one, by default, in terms of just general best practices, typically. There are ways that if the appropriate controls are applied and the appropriate agreements exist with partners, then all of the collaboration that we’re talking about here fits within the confines of those existing agreements and those existing understandings that that folks have with their customers and their users.

So again, it’s every, every company kind of has to come at this with their own view and make their own assessment. What’s been really encouraging to us is that, you know, this this hasn’t been something where it feels like a wall we need to climb or a thing we need to sidestep. We’ve just got a head on right into it.

And said, look, this. Yes. Please bring, bring your legal team or your compliance team into the conversation early, because what we ended up realizing is you know, the, the before times and the after times of using crossbeam people are always in a way better position from a trust and compliance standpoint afterwards, because again, they’re putting the control back in the hands of, of their own compliance.

Alright, so fire question number two. Yeah, I’m going to question, this is what I got. I got one for me. All right, let’s hear it. So I know you you know, you’re a big thinker on this. You talk about it a lot. Professional certifications versus college degrees. And as we view more and more, you know, even at a cross me here, right?

Like we’ve, we’ve stripped away requirements around college degrees from, from most, if not all of our positions at this point, I think we take. A much closer look at recent experience and kind of those proof points. And I’m wondering, do you think we’re going to see a world where these professional certifications ended up just replacing college degrees wholesale at some point in the future?

It’s such a, it’s such an interesting question. Short answer is yes, I think so. You like, whenever I think back to, I mean, what universities provide a kind of. Third party, objective stamp of rigor. And I think as soon as we get the private sector where, where we kind of stand up and we agree that there is some sort of a body that can validate the rigor of different certifications or different experiences, we’ll definitely see that, you know, I think just the pace of business, the pace of education.

Pace of learning universities. Aren’t really designed in my humble opinion to be able to keep up with that. Imagine coming out of college today with a marketing. I can almost guarantee you, the students can teach the professors more about marketing than the professors can. You know, I wholeheartedly believe this I’ve been an adjunct for 23 years at four different universities.

I understand that. I see what, at least in the business side, what business students are taught and I’ve also seen and lived in the world of professional development with professional certifications and see the. Just the, the intense education that goes into those different programs and, and my opinion.

There’s, there’s not really a lot of comparison. Yeah. That’s an interesting point. I used to talk a lot about this idea that, you know, I went to school, I got it. I got an engineering degree and. Which as an engineer for a little while, but I always say that the thing that came out of my college experience was not what I learned, but how I learned how to learn right.

Like the, you mentioned that the rigor part, right? It’s a combination of work ethic. And also like when to work smart versus when to work hard and how to work in a group setting. And I do think it’s all those skills that have kind of. Refined over the years of working in professional environments and kind of getting acclimated to, to those spots.

And like, I can’t tell you the last time that I did a differential equation, right. It was probably it was probably in college in my junior senior year, but you know, something about going through this. Experience has, has left this Delma mark on, on the way in which I just work and think about getting things done.

So yeah, if you can replicate that in other environments you know, going into a quarter million dollars worth of debt when you’re 22 years old, might, might not always be the best trade off there, but yeah. Time will tell. Well, I’m certainly not saying that there is no use for a college degree, right?

Daughter, I may, I just sent her off to college and I think there’s absolute, you know, there’s, there’s value in that, but man, there’s, there’s a lot of education. I think there’s a lot of education that happens the day somebody graduates and then they join corporate America that joined an organization that joined a not for profit.

They kind of joined the real world. That’s really where the learning curve gets, gets pretty steep. And I think. Educators, more formal educators need to do a better job of preparing and kind of bridging that gap and getting folks the education that they need to be successful. All right, we’re ready to fire onto the next question.

Got one for you. I’d definitely like to get get your take on this one. That is, should the partnering team report to the sales leader? Or to another executive. So I had a chance to sit down. I think it was last week. You guys read readout from crossbeam ton of awesome insights in there. Definitely recommend people check that out, but I know this is a topic that you guys hit there.

So I’d love to get your, your take on this. As far as like reporting an org structure. Yeah, totally. So we did the thing you’re talking about as the state of the partner ecosystem and rapport, which we just released. It’s free. If you Google it or head of the resources, part of the crossbeam site, you can download it.

It’s this big, almost a hundred page long report based on a huge survey that we do have of hundreds and hundreds of partner professionals every year. And one of the things we talked about is org structure and org chart. And we do see this continuing trend where. The most common place that partner teams report into is the sales or the revenue organization.

And in second place is the CEO’s office. And then you start to get into marketing and product and the rest of kind of the long tail there. You know, I think this is, this is representative of a bigger trend that actually gets me excited. This convergence of the idea of tech partnerships and channel partnerships.

So, you know, when you talk about channel partnerships, historically, you’re talking about partnering with other companies that are going to help you build a market there they’re selling a reselling your product or delivering services that help get your product implemented or supported you know, their affiliates, or generally they’re not.

That’s right. And when you’re doing that kind of collaboration, super, super logical, that that piece of the partnerships worked with rolling to sales. It’s like it’s directly created the sales, the work that gets done there we’ll move the sales numbers forward. This whole other arm of partnerships that has emerged in the last call it 15 years as the API economy has, has shown up.

And you know, there’s this opportunity for deeper technical integrations between products that don’t require multi-million dollar investments or joint ventures has created the world of tech partnerships. And this is if you don’t parlance, this is ISV partnerships, right? This is a tech company and another tech company, not a channel.

Teaming up to do something collaborative that we’re one plus one equals three in that world, in the original days, a lot of those organizations report into product because there was a lot that was going on there related to actual engineering or product development, many reported into marketing, because it was viewed as something that.

Do a lot more to attract people to the top of the funnel because it would be about awareness and compatibility with these other audiences. But as the tech partnership world has gotten more and more mature and tools like crossbeam, who kind of helped us with this along the motions that exist between.

Tech partners to help go to market together. Just start to look more and more and more like channel partnerships do from a measurement, from an attribution, from a how the sales reps and teams are involved in front of me for how much it’s a force multiplier for the entire revenue stack. So I think what is happening here is we’re seeing a lot of these tech partner organizations get pooled into a larger partnerships umbrella, and then umbrella tending to report into the sales organization over the long.

’cause even tech partnerships are a revenue driver and a force multiplier for co-selling cross selling a account mapping, collaborative account building and things like that. So it’s exciting to us and we see the data it’s it’s happening in real time. Yeah. It’s it’s interesting how you, like, whenever people say like the partnering team, because I see there’s, there’s lots of different functions of, of partnering.

And as you mentioned, there’s lots of different places and lots of different ways that, that, that it plays in there. But I think one of the, I guess the concerns or landmines that we actually commonly see is whenever a partnering group. Reports into, or they’re led by somebody that’s highly transactional.

They’re trying to knock down this quote on a month by month basis. If they’re not given the latitude to work their long-term plans, because partnering, especially when you’re talking about more of the product or solutions type, where you’re building solutions, that aren’t going to be sold next month, they’re actually going to be sold next year at some, you know, in some organizations Those those groups and teams need to be led by leaders that are more long-term focused as opposed to the short-term focus, because then the folks never get the time to, to work.

On the long time. You’re always working on the new. Yeah. And I think that this is where great leaders tend to have these entrepreneurial tendencies, because I would even put the bar higher than that. I’d say it’s, it’s not the short-term or long-term, it’s the ability to context switch between the two constantly cause really an amazing partnership leader will be effective.

Creating the evidence around partner attribution. And what was the influence that a partner ecosystem had on sales in the last quarter or the quarter coming up and being able to kind of be there in the weeds and speak the language of the people who are motivated by that quarterly quota attainment and kind of the driving force of the cadence of the business that drives.

But also not lose sight of the idea that you’re constantly playing for that outcome. That’s going to be two years from now. And the idea that as much as hitting your sales goals feels hard. Now they’re going to be doubled next year. And you need to kind of tee these things up a year in advance. So this is a hallmark of great entrepreneurs and founders is their ability to do both of those things at once and kind of play the zoom in zoom out game, and almost just run this optimization problem.

You make sure you’re never too much in a local maximum, whether it’s short-term or long-term and you’re kind of playing for the big game. So yeah, I mean, we’re, we’re seeing it’s not super common yet, but we are starting to see this title of like chief partnerships officer or even chief ecosystems officer, which I don’t love the co-op acronym, but I’ll tell you.

And those things exist exactly for that reason. Right. It’s folks that report directly to the CEO that can kind of abstract away from the time-oriented constraints and these other groups inside of business. And that’s not a normal. Oh, yeah. It’s it’s, it’s definitely one where you got to speaking of, you know, professional experience outstripping, what you can learn in a classroom.

That’s that’s a big one. But Hey, speaking of the state of the partner ecosystem rapport, we had a data point in there. I wanted to ask you about, which is one of the things we found that was just jaw dropping was. More than half of the people that we surveyed which is a pretty big like representative group switched companies in 2021.

Like, you know, we talked about the great resignation and we talk about all of these things in a more macro level, but more than half of partner professionals switching jobs in that single year, I just wanted to get your, get your take on that, you know, do we think that’s a trend that’s here to stay or is there something special about what just went on in the last year in this.

Yeah, man. It’ll really be interesting to see how this plays out over the next several years. You know, I think there’s a lot of different things that that are playing in here. One of those just being, I think the labor pool for seasoned partnering professionals was tapped out years ago. We’re seeing a significant ramp of new partnership teams being stood up.

Additional new partnerships. I think IDC even said something like 50% year over year increasing the quantity of business to business partnerships that are being formed. That is my well, we saw this, actually. I don’t think we’ve shared this publicly, but we saw this in our own data. I think our network.

Grew, I think it was by somewhere between four and five X in 2021, in terms of like the number of companies in the network, the number of partnerships on the network grew between eight and nine X. So, you know, not only were there all these additional companies coming on the density of the network, but the average number of partnerships per company on the network just absolutely exploded even relative to the, the growth of the network itself.

So we’re seeing that play out as well. This knit in the ecosystem. Yeah, I think, you know, some of the things that we’re going to solve for number one, I mean kind of just reminds me of like professional sports. You know what I mean? Our company’s outbidding for the great quarterback, you know, or the strong pitcher.

And I think, you know, we, we see some of that now, but more importantly, what needs to happen is how do we build the farms? I mean, how do companies, organizations, how do they build build some bench strength around partnerships? Cause it’s not as easy as grabbing somebody and saying, Hey, you’re, you’re now a partnering professional.

It’s all about relationships and providing value to others and you’re anointed and go forth. There’s there’s high attrition because there’s high failure. For a lot of reasons. But I think we’ve got some, some work to do in this area, but there’s no doubt. There’s a massive amount of opportunity here for professional.

Yeah, it’s a, I think it’s, it’s a confluence of things, right? It’s, it’s, it’s everything that you say about the supply and demand characteristics and you know, that potentially allowing people to pop their heads up and see new opportunities. I do think this new wave of technology that supports people in partnership roles is kind of creating a different ROI story for companies around how they can invest in partnerships, which furthers the supply to make a difference because there’s more demand.

And then frankly, the macro environment where funding got super hot in 2021. And in a lot of companies, you know, the conventional wisdom is that partnerships is a little bit of a luxury area that you can embark upon if things are really going well. And if every company on the planet has a hundred million dollars in the bank, they all feel like they’re doing really well.

And they feel like. This could be a potential area of leverage that, that we should make sure we don’t pass up on. So you combine all that with the work, from home revolution that’s happening. And folks kind of being aware that their options are, are bigger than ever and changes in compensation.

Having people pop their heads up and say, Hey, I think I could make more elsewhere. It just becomes a perfect storm. I don’t think we’ll ever see a number of this high again in terms of like number of people switching in one year I’d expect to see some stabilization, but you know, this, this space, like you say, there is something to you know, people not sticking around for the longest amount of time because it’s so, so dynamic.

Awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time. Thanks for sharing the insights. And man, I look forward to jumping on the next show with you. Cool. Good deal. Yeah. Great to catch up. Always a pleasure and thanks for your time. Keep up the good work.