Adam Broadway is one of the initial visionaries that created the Business Catalyst platform. His insights into the history of the product and vision for the future are a must-see.
Brent: Hey, this is Brent Weaver from BC Gurus and HotPress Web. I'm here with Adam Broadway. He's one of the original guys from Business Catalyst. We're just at the Adobe San Francisco offices, chatting a little bit of BC, the past, present and future.
So Adam, what is your position with Business Catalyst? Your official title?
Adam: My official title is Product Evangelist. My mandate has been firstly to spread the word of Business Catalyst internally, within Adobe. So not as much external connection with partners in the 18 months that I've previously had before the acquisition.
It's been a lot of meeting different folk within the organization, and looking at ways that other business units within Adobe might help us, or we could possibly help them by providing extra services to their client base that might complement. Of course, doing the webinars, partner education, "Getting Started" series that we do each week, other webinars that might be more advanced around web apps.
Brent: I think you have a Product Evangelist blog out there. You've been reaching out to some partners and doing that kind of stuff. If you are an existing Business Catalyst partner, you might have seen the Adam Broadway name. You're pretty active on Twitter.
Adam: Yes. I'm starting to invigorate the BCEvangelists.businesscatalyst.com site with a lot more content, connecting with partners. So definitely reach out to me if you'd like to include your own BC partner learnings, to share with the community. We've had yourself, Brent, interview the SimpleFlame guys.
Not just around technology. I think that's one of the things I'm really starting to focus less on, is the tech, and more around what are the business strategies that help a Business Catalyst partner be more successful? That's how to sell effectively, not just features, features, features all the time.
Brent: I mean, the features are great, and it's nice to have a product that meshes well with the clients. But cracking that nut of expanding your business, getting more clients, attracting more business is something that I think every single partner out there is interested in, even from the most experienced to the brand new ones.
Adam: We've always recognized that early days, when Business Catalyst was born. We recognized that just providing the technology platform, which incorporated all these wonderful tools all in one wasn't enough. We had to educate designers on how to sell, and what is your unique selling proposition that you go to market with?
Those Business Catalyst partners, just because you are a BC partner and you use this platform doesn't necessarily mean that, when you're competing with other Business Catalyst partners, for example, doesn't necessarily mean that you're on a level playing field. You need to have your own uniqueness blended in with every proposal and the things you do.
We're definitely trying to tap into that business strategy aspect. Some of the initiatives that we're playing out over the coming months and years will be to really ramp up on that. Partner Connect, for example, is a way that we'll be connecting small business owners, educating them, on online businesses, not websites. That mantra that we are always beating about. Then connect them with partners. All around, the business benefits. It's not about the features.
Brent: That's interesting. Some partner questions came in on, what is Adobe doing to educate the small business owner? When you go to the Business Catalyst website, it's very focused on the web design, web developer. Creating some additional materials that maybe channels those leads into the partner community?
Adam: Definitely, and we recognize that. We recognize these two-fold parts. It's a two-part problem. Educating the SBO or the SME, the small business owner, small medium enterprise, about online businesses and how they should be rethinking the way they look at their website.
Websites are dead. What's your primary goal for your business? What about a phased approach to projects? Don't have features for the sake of features. Educating them in that way, but also providing that material for our partners to use in their own sales process.
We believe, yes, invigorating small business market will help drive leads to our partners through the Partner Connect program, but also giving that same collateral white label through our partner community to be able to leverage in their own day-to-day business dealings.
Brent: You've had a long history with Business Catalyst. You've been there from essentially the beginning, or before it even started. That's something that came from you, and you and Bardia.
Adam: BC, yeah.
Brent: Yes. I'm interested, if you could just share a little bit of that background. I think some partners maybe get bits and pieces of the story, but it's an interesting story from just a tech start-up, and now we're here in this big building in San Francisco that's owned by Adobe. That story is very interesting.
Adam: It's a great story that, even back home in Australia, not a lot of people are really aware of the significance of the acquisition of Business Catalyst by Adobe. It didn't get much press. But the background story is that I was working with local government organizations and the vehicle industry back home, building some software and knowledge management tools.
I was sick of doing that and went out and looked for a company that I could rebrand their technology and effectively leverage that.
Brent: Obviously, you see the rebranding of BC, and that's really the core of the business model is this idea of white labeling somebody else's stuff.
Adam: It was definitely part of our foundation. We had that in our DNA, the ability to leverage our channels by giving them the smarts that they could build their brand on top of. I wanted to leverage somebody else's smarts to build my brand on top of.
I went out and Googled, and Bardia Housman's name came up. It was from that first contact with Bardia that I came across his company Monkey, which was doing some interesting things with expertise, identification with the Internet, something that I was looking to do.
After a couple of, not waters, but beers, we decided let's pool our resources.
Brent: Your company at the time, just to make the animal comparison.
Adam: Ribbit Software was my business, and Monkey was Bardia's. We came up with those separately, but there was that animal attraction.
Brent: Monkeys and frogs, yes.
Adam: From there, Business Catalyst was born. We joined forces and within three months, we had the first working prototype of Business Catalyst with paying customers within three months. It was January 2004 that we actually launched, and we met up and we'd done our preliminaries and background checks on each other, who could skull the most beers in the shortest amount of time.
There was an affinity as well. It was about our skills that complemented each other, our drive, our entrepreneurial drive, as well as a common vision. It was just shoulder to shoulder, head down, focused, 24/7 building the company from scratch in Milsons Point in Sydney. So we've come a long way.
Brent: The product, I think, from you and Bardia's vision to now, it's incorporated into this multi-billion dollar company. What is the next step for Business Catalyst?
Adam: Do you know something I don't about our revenues? That's good revenues, Alexander.
Brent: I mean, not BC, but Adobe is a billion.
Adam: Okay, sorry. I get your point. We're almost there. So the transition?
Brent: Yes. Like what is the grand vision for Business Catalyst? Why is it in Adobe's hands now, and how is that going to be playing out over the next couple of years?
Adam: Well, I think one of the attractions that Adobe saw in us was the fact that we're going after the same type of audience - web designers, web pros, people in the web space - but also that we had built a business on software as a service, and not the traditional shrink-wrapped approach to selling software. So that was the other thing, and the fact that we had revenues, we'd had a proven business model. There are a number of factors. The team, definitely. We've built up an amazing team, most of which are still part of the Adobe Corporation that's come over from BC.
We have a really great team, a great business model. We're focused on the same customer base. We complemented with the extension into Dreamweaver, so there was that bridge. We bridged the gap already with Triangle. Triangle being the third tool in the designer's toolkit, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Business Catalyst, and that plug-in inside Dreamweaver completed that toolkit for them.
All of those things came together with the fact that we're also out in the same places that Adobe were at. We're going to an event apart, future web acts, future web design. We sponsored MAX one year, and were really on the radar by then.
The vision for the future is that they've virtually kept us intact. There hasn't been a dismantling of the business. There's been certainly a cultural change in the way that Business Catalyst now operates, and you need to when you're inside a large organization.
That's taken longer than everybody expected. There have been infrastructure issues, as you know, with the changing of the guard on the data centers, which are all now completely switched over to the Adobe infrastructure.
It's been in the last few months since that happened, when we shut down that last data center, that the engineering team's been able to really focus on getting the nitty-gritty of day-to- day features released, addressing the needs and concerns of partners and their customers in getting the features out.
That's Adobe's drive, is to continually hand over to our Business Catalyst partners the tools they need to succeed, to be able to build online businesses, to address the needs of the small business owner by enhancing and making the contact management side of things and that workflow around managing human interactions through their online business, make that more seamless, reporting and all those things. But also on the other hand, with the creative tools suite, beefing up some of the Dreamweaver integration.
There's no slow down now in that respect, and it's been awesome that Adobe has recognized that on its own, Business Catalyst has stood the test of time. Now that the baton's been passed from Bardia's leadership to Alexander, Alexander's now picking that up and running ahead with it, with the team growing in that development focus now in the coming months.
Brent: You've seen it from two people in an office to this big thing. Are you happy with how that dream has turned out?
Adam: I have to say that it's a little bit surreal. In the process of building a business, you don't rest. Every entrepreneur knows that, unfortunately, and people talk about work/life balance, I haven't experienced it. It's always been, unfortunately for my family, business first.
When that phone beeps and there's an issue, it's hang on, kids. Daddy's just got to do this. It's surreal now that I'm actually within a work environment where I can smell the roses. So I would say that it's been amazing just from the perspective that I can now relax a little bit and enjoy the moment.
Brent: Yes. We just had to relocate. The sun in the skylights was starting to bake Adam; he was starting to glow.
Adam: Don't have much protection up here anymore, so . . .
Brent: We didn't bring our sunscreen.
So yes, you're talking about work-life balance. You guys now, you have this opportunity to not only enjoy your spare time, but enjoy the product a little bit more. One of the things we were talking about last night was, you guys have set up response teams, and there are people that are now in the position to respond when there is issues in the middle of the night, off- hour type stuff.
I think some of the stories I heard on the critical response types of things you guys would have to do back in the day would be, you're at a ski resort, somebody's got to run down and get on their laptop if something's happening. Or you're at dinner or whatever and the cell phone rings and you've got to leave and take care of that stuff.
That, to me, over the last three years, a website would go down and we'd start immediately complaining. But there were actually things you guys had to do.
Adam: Yes. We were proactive in that we were looking at how we could expand the data centers, so we were doing those normal growth initiatives, spending money on hardware. Then we grew more data centers, and we would have automation around the monitoring of those.
But then towards when the acquisition occurred, there's a period of time where you can't spend all your money and you can't put more staff on. During that time, we had some issues as partners know. But now with our response teams, we've got a cast of thousands. Not quite that many, but we've got dedicated teams that all they do is eat, breathe, sleep, dream about that task to make sure that things don't go down.
The quality assurance side of the business, in making sure the code before it gets released is checked to the nth degree. Even scripts that automate all of that. There's so many new things we've been able to leverage inside the Adobe machine to be pro- active and fast response. It's made a huge difference.
The new data centers are all auto-scaling. There's some pretty clever people behind the scenes making sure that we're built for massive scale.
Brent: I think with our own business, looking at vertical channels, looking at these different ways that we can scale up our company, it's nice to know that as you add more sites you're not really worrying about that part of our own business. We can scale how many sites we have to the nth degree.
I think the other day, I was working on a project with Collin where we duplicated 1,600 websites using the new API. That's cool. That kind of stuff, I think, excites partners and gets them motivated to be getting on the platform, to make more money, to grow their businesses. To know that you guys are set up to scale is great.
Is there anything else you want to tell the partner community, now that you have their undivided attention?
Adam: Well, we're certainly dedicated to helping our partners' businesses grow. You can be rest assured that over the coming months, there's going to be some exciting new features but also initiatives around our mentoring program that we're looking to build with some of our premium partners.
Also, the generation of leads to go out to our partner community. Other things in the pipeline are more initiatives around our multilingual side of things, so for those of you who are dealing in various language areas, we're going to be addressing that as well.
There are just so many new things that are being driven. I can't tell you them all now. Suffice it to say that Partner Connect and the partner mentoring program are two things that are high on our list to make sure that we can get out to you.
Brent: Very cool. You've got a Twitter account people can follow. I will put the link to that in our post here. You've got the BC Evangelist blog that I'll put a link to. A lot of partner interviews that you've done, uncut there, some of them end up in the BC blog, but you can check out a lot of that stuff on the BC Evangelist site.
Definitely thank you for joining us today, Adam. It's been a pleasure.
Adam: Thank you, Brent. Great to have you.
Brent: Stay tuned to BCGurus.com for additional Adobe interviews and other partner interviews. Stay tuned for more. Thanks.