Back in February, Leanplum, which currently has a team of about 60 engineers and product managers in Sofia, announced that it had received a new investment of $27 million. And, maybe just as importantly, the company appointed a new CEO, George Garrick. He arrived with 20 years of executive experience in Silicon Valley, having led five enterprises to an exit. Meanwhile, Bulgarian co-founder and now former CEO Momchil Kyurkchiev transitioned to the role of a Chief Product Officer.
This news brought many questions – what will change for Leanplum, are they heading for an exit any time soon, what does it all mean for the product development office in Bulgaria. Recently, we had the opportunity to discuss all this with George himself.
Trending Topics: Hi George, how are you doing? What’s it like running Leanplum from home?
George Garrick: We’ve been doing lots of conferencing and given the situation adapted fairly well. Most of our clients are in businesses that are benefiting from the ‘stay-at-home’ and the lack of travel. Businesses like streaming media, home delivery, gaming. So, despite all the challenges around us, we have been fortunate enough to continue operating, I am going to say, fairly normally but I mean that only with respect to our operating plan. We are obviously being conservative, making sure we are accumulating reserves in the event of a worst-case scenario. We have not had to make any severe moves or do any layoffs.
As you know, roughly half of our company is based in Sofia. That’s almost all of our product development and engineering folks. We have a few of them in the US but Sofia continues to be our technical headquarters, where all of our product roadmap and technical engineering development are based.
Can you share the story of how you became the CEO of Leanplum?
I’ve worked in Silicon Valley for the last 20 years. Generally, I work with companies in the growth stage that are transitioning from a very product-driven earlier stage company to a company that needs to scale and get into a phase where you’re aiming to become a 100 million dollar company. And, it takes different things, different skill sets, a different management style – to go from 20 or 30 million dollar company to a 100 million dollar company one can compare it to going from zero to 20 or 30 million.
Over the last 20 years or so I’ve gotten to know a lot of the VCs in Silicon Valley. That includes a couple of people that are on Leanplum’s board. Late last year, the board realized it’s time to readjust the company to prepare for growth and for scaling, I got a call from one of those board members – I had the chance to meet with him, hear about Leanplum, spend a few hours with our founder Momchil. We had a similar vision on what the company needed and what the opportunities were and we felt that we made a good connection. One thing led to another – in November I joined the company and I’ve been a CEO since then and Momchil has taken over as a Chief Product Officer.
Is Leanplum going to pursue an exit any time soon? What needs to happen before the company is ready for such a move?
We don’t have any plans at the moment to pursue an exit. It’s not something we are currently aiming for. I would say that with the latest fundraising our goal is to become self-sufficient and have a surplus of cash by the end of the year. At that point, we will be in a position to reevaluate how we want to go forward. Our options are always some type of an exit but at the moment we don’t have any predetermined path other than to stay on course, to do the best we can, given these circumstances, and by the end of the year the board will decide what makes sense going forward.
I would say that the most likely scenario for us will be to raise some additional money for an even more aggressive expansion by adding more people and opening up in more locations. Because I believe that the services we provide and the concept of customer engagement will become more and more important over the next couple of years – as companies realize how much the mobile device and the website have become the primary touchpoint with their customer. And, at the same time realize they can do many things to use these touchpoints more effectively and to develop customer loyalty.
What strategic changes did you implement since you became a CEO of Leanplum and why?
Nothing really significant. There was a lot of excitement and a lot of success leading up to the current time. And it’s easy to be tempted to try to do too many different things and accommodate many different types of client requests rather than to stay focused. So, we made a few changes to improve our focus. It’s better to do fewer things and do them really well than do too many things and realize you’re not able to do them as well as you’d like to.
We were also growing so quickly that we may be lost some of the communications within the company and between departments. So, we created cross-functional groups to increase collaboration and involve more departments in different stages of planning, for instance on the product roadmap.
For the most part, we continued on the course we had been on but on a larger scale.
Can you elaborate on the future role of Leanplum’s office in Bulgaria?
As I said, Sofia will continue to be our technical headquarters. The quality of engineering there is very very high. The culture is terrific. I enjoy visiting the city, I’ve been fortunate to visit twice before the travel restrictions set in.
So, as Leanplum grows, we will surely expect that office to grow as well and continue to be our technical base of operations.