In the bustling world of technology and entrepreneurship, the path from a Boston suburb to Silicon Valley is both fascinating and inspiring. Jody Shapiro, a seasoned tech entrepreneur, shares his journey of falling in love with coding at the age of 9.
Jody’s latest venture, Productiv, has attracted funding from top-tier investors like Accel, Atlassian Ventures, IVP, and Norwest Venture Partners.
In this episode, you will learn:
- Jody Shapiro’s early exposure to coding at the age of 9 ignited a passion that shaped his entire career in technology.
- From building blocks to Google and eventually founding Productiv, Jody’s career highlights strategic shifts from engineering to product management, reflecting his adaptability.
- Pursuing an MBA at Wharton marked a pivotal shift, transitioning from pure technology to a comprehensive understanding of business strategy and management.
- Nine years at Google exposed Jody to a culture that attracted top talent, encouraged big thinking, and embraced innovation, shaping his approach to leadership.
- The decision to leave Google and launch Productiv showcased Jody’s willingness to take calculated risks, emphasizing the importance of strategic intent in entrepreneurship.
- Productiv’s genesis involved a contrarian approach, validating market needs before diving into development, showcasing Jody’s commitment to solving real-world problems.
- Jody underscores the critical role of culture, from early experiences at startups to shaping Productiv’s values, emphasizing its impact on building high-performing teams and a cohesive community.
For a winning deck, see the commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400M (see it here).
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About Jody Shapiro:
Jody Shapiro is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer at Productiv, a company building a solution to help IT leaders unlock business value from their organization’s applications.
Prior to founding Productiv, Jody led Google’s enterprise marketing analytics platform, Google Analytics 360.
Also at Google, Jody led Product Management for Google TV Ads, where he was responsible for innovative audience-based advertising and attribution products.
Jody holds a Bachelor’s in Computer Engineering from the University of Massachusetts, a Master’s in Computer Science from Cornell University, and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business.
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Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:
Alejandro Cremades: Alright, hello everyone and welcome to the dealmakerr show. So today. We have a really amazing founder. You know we’re going to be talking about the good stuff that we like to hear the building scaling financing you know in in the case of of our founder today you know we’re going to be talking about. Fundraising process how to navigate you know, such a complex a process thinking about product market fit how in their case, you know they went about validating their idea how they came up with it and then also building the company culture and why it makes sense to start at the leadership team. So. Without further ado. Let’s welcome our guests today Jody Shapiro welcome to the show. Thanks.
Jody Shapiro: Thank you Very? Ah, very glad to be here.
Alejandro Cremades: So originally from the Boston area where you grew up so give us a walk through memory lane. How was life growing up there.
Jody Shapiro: I was ah I was very fortunate I grew up in in 1 of the suburbs of ah Boston a lot of technology there a lot of software and hardware innovation I got exposed to to programming and coding when I was 9 fell in love with it and and that’s so where my. My journey began. Although wanting always to be in Silicon Valley where there is so much more happening and eventually here we are.
Alejandro Cremades: So what could you into the whole world of computers because I mean obviously that’s what you ended up starting to for undergrad. So so what? what? what really developed you know made you develop that love for the world of computers and technology. Well.
Jody Shapiro: Yeah I was always I was always that kid that was interested in building things. Both building things and taking things apart to understand how they worked and there’s sort of a natural progression I think like a lot of love us shared experiences with. You know, building blocks and legos and all those kinds of things and there’s ah, another version of my life where maybe I become a mechanical engineer or something sort of engineering related. But once I Found. Computers and and software I was hooked and so I was very very fortunate to know at a young age that I was going to go down the technology path.
Alejandro Cremades: And they eventually you did a bunch of stints you know internships and and and you also work for some companies. You know you you were at. For example Microsoft or you did an internship but eventually it sounds like doing the and Nba you know was quite a pivotvoal moment for Youtube because that’s also the time where. You decided to ah pack the box as well and and ended up you know landing at Google so how was that how were those sequence of events like for you.
Jody Shapiro: Yeah, yeah, so um, it actually it kind of fits together in in a sense that um, ah I had always been fairly entrepreneurial and so at a young age was interested in the in the um. The building the technology side of things but was also interested in. Um what I would call you know nowadays. Um you know, economics or sort of you know business model kind of things and so I was interested in not just like how do things work mechanically or how things work logically but. How do things work in a business world and so I remember as a young kid um asking my asking my mother questions about you know who sets the price of things in ah in a supermarket. Why does you know cereal cost a certain certain amount and clearly there’s a system you know somebody was doing analysis and. Here’s how that worked or just understanding how how companies came to be and so that interest was always there for me and um in process of my career building just incredible products and seeing their success. But also you know seeing things that you would think would be amazing. Not always working out. And so there being elements of market timing or you know you could have the right product but not quite in the right market and so that really for me fueled um the interest. Um, you know to go back and do my Mba and I was fortunate I’d be part of ah Wharton the Mba program there and.
Jody Shapiro: It was just such a ah beautiful extension of being able to to understand pretty deeply business strategy business fundamentals and um and it was just a very very important in terms of my larger career journey moving from the engineering side. Into product management and then into general management.
Alejandro Cremades: Absolutely so then in Google you know you were there for close to 9 years what What were some of the lessons that you experienced because I mean before you were on smaller companies too. So what were some of the biggest takeaways you know from. Working out an organization like Google because there you also shifted and you were part of of different departments to different roles. Ah you ended up a big becoming there. The global head of Google Analytics Premium which is a and Google analytics 3 60 s I mean it’s us a pretty big role. So how was that the. For you and what were some of the lessons from such a well oiled and engineered operation like Google.
Jody Shapiro: Yeah, yeah, look I so I think I think um, when yourre environments where there’s you know, really smart people. Um great cultures. There’s the just phenomenal thing you know things to learn. Um, so both you to have take from it and you put back into it and. For me in the Google context. Um, there are 2 things that I think Google did extremely extremely. Well one was just attracting bright bright people some of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with were my Google colleagues and kind of building that flywheel where it was an environment that great people wanted to work. Could do their best work. Um working with you know, other brilliant colleagues but also a culture. Um, that was very very people-centric in terms of how do we not just attract the right people but you know motivate them. Um, you know, push them challenge them. And not just individually, but but collectively so there’s a lot of elements of of just the Google culture in terms of how the company operates the management of of Google um, a friend Lesblo Bach has written a book a fears back work rules that does a beautiful job of just encapsulating so many of those kinds of things. And when you bring kind of those 2 pieces together and add to it I think Larry Sergey get a lot of credit for this you often hear about moonshots really challenging people and a lot of first principles kind of thinking to you know, ask not just how do we make something a little bit better but like what would look like massively better.
Jody Shapiro: And to really find the assumptions the constraints that we all bake into things and break those down as you start asking questions like you know, like what what would we do? if we you know? for example, could go and take you know satellite imagery and that was accessible to anyone and that’s where you know Google maps kinds of things come from or. You know what? if we could photograph every you know from every street every building and you’d say well you start off thinking that’s impossible that would be you know I don’t know how we do it? Operationally, there’ll be so much data. But that thinking that says but what but what if that was from the constraint. What would that unlock use caseswise and so that. Again, this culture of encouraging think big think unconstrained do something amazing and Google just just consistently phenomena did a really great job of that and it was part of why for me I stayed for 9 years I had not intended to stay for 9 years Um, but just. Just what what an environment to be challenged and to grow in.
Alejandro Cremades: So then in your case you know, eventually in 2016 is where you know, really the the thought of of now you know launching your own thing. You know, becoming on entrepreneurs were what ended up you know, like pushing you into what became productive. So. What would you say were those events that needed to unfold for you to all of a sudden see yourself. You know with productive because I mean making that leap from such an amazing company like Google you know stable You know, job you know no risk full certainty to like. Everything or it’s uncertain I mean that’s not an easy transition.
Jody Shapiro: it’s it’s true um so I think in many many ways as you say Google provides so many resources so much just incredible structure. Um, so many opportunities for greatness and at the same time It’s still a large organization. So Google Analytics about 70% of all websites running Google Analytics we really you know had this scale you talk about having you know a pulse on on the web where by and large every marketer uses Google Analytics and um and as amazing as that as that is to work on sort of a global scale or industry scale product I was really interested to go build one of those and to say how do I take all the knowledge the experiences that I’ve that I’ve had in my career that I’ve had at Google and kind of go say let’s go build. Something you know of of equal ah equal scale equal opportunity and so I thought for you know for quite some time about which company I was going to go start I explored a bunch of different ideas and and the idea for productive um actually came together fairly quickly and um. You know and kind of said here we go locked in and started the company.
Alejandro Cremades: So then how was that process of you know the idea you know validating you know the idea making sure that it made sense before obviously now you had the framework and the structure of having played out of having been at a place like Google for 9 years so you knew you know how to how to go about. You know this kind of like structure and framework so walk us through what you needed to do in order to really bring something to market that you knew had lix.
Jody Shapiro: Yeah, So I think um, ah this is something that I that I really take to heart is um I think the flip side of environments that are incredibly you know entrepreneurial and and encourage risk-taking and certainly. You know Silicon Valley is just ah as a you know innovation hub entrepreneurial hub not the only one in the world. Um, the really great thing is there’s all kinds of people who have ideas of ah you know imagine a world where.dotdot and that’s very inspiring and get excited about things. But. But kind of what often goes hand-to-hand with that is a focus on a technology looking for looking for a solution to apply it to and sometimes that works well and you know think you get lucky I think it’s really important to actually do it the other way around. Go look for a market. Go look for a pain point that is not being well solved and you can in that Realm Validate. How big is this Problem. How common is this Problem. How people tried to solve it and you really have to be somewhat rigorous about the market research to really Understand. Um. I Took a very Contrarian approach. Um and and thought about it as ah as if I were an investor not just as a founder and so you know asking The questions is much excited about something but also trying to understand you know has anybody else tried to solve this if they’ve been you know, unsuccessful, Why? So um.
Jody Shapiro: Is there something that’s changed and really again, a very objective critical eye on it and through that process the idea refines you keep validating you keep getting more and more due diligence and that’s what ultimately gave me the confidence to say there is a market here. There is an opportunity I can answer these questions about you know why hasn’t this been Solved. Can validate that there are people you know, willing to willing to invest with you as design partners willing to invest as early customers and I Just think that’s a far far better way to bring a new product to market a new company to market than to start, you know off with a I have a solution I’m looking for a problem.
Alejandro Cremades: So I guess now you know with productive for the people that are listening to get it. What ended up being the business model. How do you guys make money.
Jody Shapiro: Yeah, so we’re we’re an enterprise enterprise software platform. So it’s ah it’s a saas business model. Um, we wind up. We wind up focusing on on the kinds of problems that medium and large organizations have and. Um, you could think about it. You know our our sort of um, our commercial model is very similar to you know how you would go and you know buy um you know whether it’s salesforce or any of these other enterprise saas tools and um and so there are you know there’s there’s real money that’s being allocated. Um, meaning you know our our deal sizes I mean these are these are deals in the you know tens of thousands of dollars per year hundreds of thousands um you know and higher and so there’s a real thought process that a buyer goes through in terms of selecting you know selecting a vendor. Um, you know. Articulate in the problem being clear and how they’re going to realize value and so you could think of this as classic enterprise go-to-market motion.
Alejandro Cremades: So also you know in this regard for the business. How have you guys gone about the fundraising journey and I guess before even that how much capital have you guys raised to date.
Jody Shapiro: Yes, we’ve raised $73000000 to date across 3 funding rounds. So the history is that company got started. We raised a series a from excel and then we wound up brazing our series b from nor west. And then eventually a series c from ivp.
Alejandro Cremades: And then when it comes to the fundraising process and navigating you know the process and and even even even bigger than that navigating all the different financing cycles that you’ve done. What have you learned.
Jody Shapiro: Um, yeah.
Alejandro Cremades: And what can you share with the audience that we have right now listening that perhaps are behind the trenches and thinking about also you know having a very effective and streamlined process.
Jody Shapiro: Yeah, absolutely. So Um I think the I think the most important thing that you’ve always got to remember is that you know financing fundraising um is itself not the goal. It’s It’s an enabler right? It’s somebody who is Agreeing. With the larger vision that you’ve got somebody who’s agreeing with you know the strategic direction and is buying a piece of the of the company in terms of that future outcome. So um, sometimes I think people get a little bit too caught up in my goal is fundraising or my goal is to maximize evaluation or maximize some other metric or. You know I Just want to be able to say that So-andso So is an investor in my company. You really got to come back and remember that they are their partners with you in terms of of they are aligned but you’ve got to get you’ve got to get the you know pick the market Correctly, you’ve got to build the business strategy the product strategy the pricing strategy every element of these kinds of things. And so therefore it’s really important who are you bringing on that journey and in good Scenarios. You’ve got an incredible set of Investors. You have a very powerful board that is able to help you right? augment could be other perspectives could be experience. It could be help with you know. Recruiting could be helped with fundraising any number of things and that’s really what is is so important because you know after the fundraising process is done. You know the term sheets are all signed the you know money is in the bank. The cap table is updated Now we get to work and now the question is the investor.
Jody Shapiro: You know the first one you bring on the second the third they’re part of this journey with you and built on that company and it’s so so important to think about who is that individual. What do they bring to the table. What is the chemistry that you have with them can you work with them can you partner with them and I’ve seen people make mistakes where they can optimize for you know some other criteria and then things get really hard. Um and conversely my approach consistently was I want to work with the best people as ah as the investors and getting to know those investors not just at time of fundraising. But well in advance right? So without the without the crucible of of we’re in a fundraising process you start building those relationships earlier you start to understand you know how? well do we work together. Do they really understand your business. Do they have good input perspective and so that was pretty critical for me through through each of my funding rounds was building those relationships early. Um, and then the fundraising processes wound up going. Not only smoothly. But um, we’re far more insightful in terms of what makes sense as we put together around.
Alejandro Cremades: Now Once you’ve land the investors then it becomes you know more the relationship the dynamics you know of corporate governance and and the board as Well. What have you. Taken out, you know away from from this experience too because I mean you have very sophisticated investors. Um, you know Venture Capital Firm. So What are those dynamics like to make sure that you have a healthy you know, ah relationship with board members and that the dynamics you know are very much aligned and and and and and. And for the good of the company too.
Jody Shapiro: That’s right, That’s right? Yeah, so it it kind of goes back to this core of you know, like why are they interested in investing in the company. What you know what is their thesis. Um, and how much of that aligns to how you’re thinking about things. At the same time to be open to those other experiences. So What’s looked like for me is that each of these funding grounds as I added a new board member I was just Overjoyed. Um, really experience people.
Jody Shapiro: Who have good business acumen who have seen a number of other companies on their Journeys and so to be thought partners um to really be um, you know roll up the sleeves kind of like I ask for help they’re there. They’ll challenge. They’ll challenge thinking. They’ll challenge. Um. Ah, decisions in a constructive way where we’ve really built a very powerful relationship where the trust goes in both directions and I think in in any organization in any relationship trust is at the is at the foundational level and so when it’s there. Um, better ideas come right? And so. Could be hey we’re thinking about going into a new Market Segment. You know they have a perspective on that. Um, what might it look like how should we think about that. What are some of the things to be careful of and. You’ve got a board with multiple investors they each bring their own experiences their own. You know, perspectives to date and you get you get a more richly textured conversation discussion and if you’ve got a good board that winds up being um, a cumulative thing like together. There’s this,. There’s this. Ah. Greatness. There’s this fabric of how are we? Um, yeah, how are we building this company for the long run other situations right? if people are not really thinking about how do you build your board. You can wind up with dysfunction right? somebody who’s very you know risk averse for somebody who’s very risk seeking somebody who’s like you know I think we should go.
Jody Shapiro: You know s and B into the market somebody else I know I think we should go large enterprise into the market and you know and these things become very difficult if you’re not able to communicate and collaborate and and decide things.
Alejandro Cremades: So obviously this needs to align too with culture and culture starts at the leadership team to make sure that everyone too is dancing the same song with the same moves now I’m with the same values. So how have you guys gone about that.
Jody Shapiro: Yeah, so I think that this um this element of culture really ah for me personally hit home in in two ways. Um so one um, worked in in you know, multiple large organizations before. Um, one things I really loved about some of the startup experiences in my past was just the collaborativeness like where small group of people intentionally coming together to do something day-to-day startups are really really hard. There are there are far easier jobs that you know pay much better. Have you know much less risk on them. So like you really have to be somebody who’s seeking out a startup and then when you’re there to be able to come together and and just work really well together and something that is is so important in terms of just you know cultures of ah of high-performing teams. The other element for me was the Google experience and just seeing the strength and power of that culture in terms of of self-reinforcing you know the good things um, creating the environment for greatness and so when coming and starting productive um of two cofounders. So we talked about I had had experience at at Google. 1 of my other cofounders had quite a number of years at at Linkedin another company with a great culture other cofounder experiences at at Microsoft and Amazon Ebay and these are all great.
Jody Shapiro: Companies in their own right? and yet their cultures are very different and so one things that we did before we hired anybody was we’ve really spent some quality time saying what do we want our culture to be what are our values. Um, and to figure that out early. And you know have the debate when is just the 3 of us so that as we started to hire as we started to build our norms. Um, it was consistent right? that there that there were these pillars. In fact, if you if you were to walk through our Palo Alto office um these values are prominently displayed all around. They’re on our you know on our website as well. Um, and it becomes these kinds of things where you can um, short circuitrcuit through a debate or or difficult decision when it’s kind of clear. What is the value that’s at play and are we in alignment with it or we in conflict with it. So. Building culture being super super important I thought about that in the in the world of building the leadership team I thought about that in the context of of hiring people in the context of like how do we as a company make decisions. How do we? How do we? you know, move together and it also extends you know from the fundraising standpoint. You want investors again who are going to bring something new to the table but that are also culturally compatible with the company.
Alejandro Cremades: So then so then for this too I mean if you were to you know we’re thinking about the vision too because I mean you rally obviously the employees and and the investors too are on the Vision. So if you were to go to sleep tonight and you wake up in a world where the vision of productive is fully realized. What does that world look like.
Jody Shapiro: Yeah, so um, you know I think about that in in kind of a couple of lenses. Um, you know one lens is is a business lens of just success of the company meaning. Um we have ah we have established ourselves. As one of those massive platform companies that you know every organization relies upon in terms terms of being able to do their work. So um, what I mean by that is if you go if you were to go to? Um, you know any chief revenue officer. And say to them. We’re going to take away salesforce they would say you can’t do that like this is the system by which we we operate off of that we collaborate on this is like how we understand the core revenue function of the business. If you’ were to go to the engineering organization. So we’re going to take away github they’d say you can’t do that. This is how we collaborate this is how we work together right? Each of these functional areas has these core systems and it’s one of those things like you know every company that has a sales team has a need for you know crm type of software. Productive. We’re really tackling this larger problem that all these organizations have a huge number of saas applications in each one of them. So it’s just under 400 applications ah in a given organization some of our larger customers have thousands of saas applications.
Jody Shapiro: The original thesis of the company was observing that these portfolios were getting larger and larger and larger and spend a number of applications in the fact that everybody in the company is buying software renewing software and so this real question of like what are we getting value out of what do we need. What makes sense for us because you know organically everybody so deciding for themselves doesn’t work. It has risk problems that has ah spend in efficiency problems you needed data for this, you needed workflows to to make decisions of like what is actually delivering value for us. Application by application but also sets of applications and that’s the kind of problem that if you think about as an organization you’re going to have a continuing a growing set of all these software. We’ve got to be in a situation where we understand who’s using what? how are they using it. Which features are being used. What are we paying for have we overpurchasd Underpurchasd how do we realize value with all of it and so the long term looks like every company is using productive to manage all of the software of the spend in the organization. they’re relying on us for all of these workflows they’re relying on our data. Um, there’s Ai functionality that also helps in terms of understanding what you ask questions of all these kinds of things so that’s on the business side of it but also on the people side of it I’m very proud of the team that we have I’m very proud of the culture that we’ve built and where we’re going.
Jody Shapiro: And I Really think that there’s something where you know being able to look back and say what’s happened to all the people that have been part of our larger community. So The employees within the company in terms of being exposed to being challenged and exposed to new skill development career growth. Those kinds of things. But also the community of all the customers all the partners right? have we been effective in making all those people’s lives better and if we wind up, you know, being successful at all 3 of those things I’ll be pretty proud.
Alejandro Cremades: That’s amazing now I want to talk about the past but doing so with a lens of reflection. So let’s say you know I’m able to bring you back in time you know maybe to that moment you know back in 2016 where you were thinking about there at your desk in Google. But a world where you could bring a company of your own to life and let’s say you have the opportunity of sitting down next to that Jody maybe in in the cafeteria where you get all the free snacks and and basically you’re able to give that younger Jody one piece of advice before launching a business.
Jody Shapiro: Yeah.
Alejandro Cremades: Why would that be and why given what you know now.
Jody Shapiro: Um, yeah I think um I think the piece of advice would be um and ah and and this is you know both very direct terms of my experience but also it’s advice that I that I think is relevant for for you know for anybody kind of embarking on something big is your opportunity cost. Is really high as an individual so you know, um, the way the way you know I operate I think a lot of other people yourself included do is we work really hard at things we push we kind of give everything we’ve got and so given how hard you’re going to work at something you really want to be something that you feel like you can be successful at. And because you’re going to be giving everything you’ve got There’s a high opportunity opportunity cost because you’re not doing other kinds of things and so even though I’d been thinking for a period of time at Google about going starting a company and you know that said that next chapter I was very thoughtful about the opportunity cost. You know am I ready to leave Google have I you know finished what I set up to achieve when I go start a company which company am I going to go start which problem area and um and to really again, kind of challenge to say in my case, the intent was to go build something massive. Which means it’s going to take at least 10 years to go do so what do I need to believe not just hope for. But what do I need to believe and how have I validated it such that I’m going to place that level of investment. This is the thing I’m going to go spend the next ten plus years doing and.
Jody Shapiro: So Don’t think it’s easy to so jump over that right? We get excited about technology I think in you know, current current times. There’s a lot of really interesting things happening with artificial intelligence and generator Ai and there’s no, ah, there’s no conversation short of those kinds of topics. And there’s going to be some incredible companies that are built but success looks like slow down and really right? So do the homework. Do the research, get that level of conviction. Um, and you know act with act with intent and you know strategic thinking. Versus from a fomo mentality of you know, like you know I’ve got to get in here I’ve got to go do something because the throwing spaghetti at the wall of product ideas. Ah Go-to-market ideas is a pretty low hit rate doesn’t say it never happens but I will always bet on somebody who’s who’s really being thoughtful about what are those next. Not just move but moves plural and you know that would be that would be my advice. Um, you know bet but bet strategically.
Alejandro Cremades: I love it. So Jody for the people that are listening that will love to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do so.
Jody Shapiro: Best way is on is on Linkedin you can find me you can find me there there’s not not too many Jodi Shapiros and I will try to respond.
Alejandro Cremades: Incredible Jodi. Well thank you so much for being on the deal maker show today. It has been an honor to have you with us.
Jody Shapiro: It’s been an honor to be here. Thank you.
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