We have been speaking with Hoang Vuong for little more than a minute when he mentions the CFO mentor whom he credits with having influenced his early career decisions.
“Hey, what do you really want to do when you grow up?” was the question that Vuong remembers being asked by the CFO, who had gotten to know Vuong personally while the young techie had served as an IT troubleshooter for his company’s ambitious SAP implementation.Read More
Fast-forward a few years, and the same CFO introduces Vuong to the management of an early-stage Internet search firm in the travel space, known as SideStep. Vuong joins the young company and subsequently focuses his troubleshooting skills on the firm’s mounting growth obstacles.
“I had started reading a bunch of blogs where I began learning about this little company called Google and the interesting things that they did,” recalls Vuong, who says that he quickly began to grasp how Google offerings could help SideStep to address some of its nagging growth challenges.
In fact, Vuong was so convinced that Google offerings would unlock new growth for SideStep that he ignored the doubts being flung about by his management peers, negotiated a contract with Google’s bus dev team, and presented it to SideStep’s CEO.
Vuong says that the CEO responded by asking: “Are you so sure about this decision that you would risk your career on it?” At the time, Vuong says, he felt that careerwise he had little to lose—and besides, the Google offerings were pretty impressive.
“Google was just getting started, so at the time they would provide search results on the portals of other companies and do a rev share,” explains Vuong, who says that SideStep’s monthly revenues quickly ballooned from $50,000 to $1 million.
Having successfully addressed one of SideStep’s most formidable growth hurdles, Vuong saw his responsibilities at SideStep grow over time to include sales, online marketing, operations, and, of course, finance—where he served in the first of his several CFO roles. –Jack Sweeney
CFOTL: Tell us about Amplitude. What does it do, and what are its offerings?
Vuong: We’re #1 today in product analytics, but what does this really mean? We basically help teams that are building digital products, whether for mobile or the Web. We want to make sure that these teams have the analytics required to build a better product.
Let’s take an example like Peloton. They want to revolutionize fitness and take it beyond what it is in a store or in person, and even beyond what is available online.Read More
How do they build that better product? It’s not enough to just know how many clicks or how many visits you get or what a customer did from the time they visited to the time when they signed up. Why did they do it? Why did they engage? Why did they stay? Why did they join? There are some really great examples of them building out their leaderboard and figuring out what functionality really was needed.
That’s what Amplitude does. Amplitude allows you to understand your user behavior better so that you can actually build better products.
CFOTL: What were you priorities as you entered the CFO office?
Vuong: We’re a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company and were already over $50 million in recurring revenue when I joined.
Looking back, we can see that Amplitude has had an amazing journey in its first few years, but it had hit a little bit of a bump in the road during one quarter, so they were trying to figure out what was really going on. The finance team was accustomed to reporting what had happened during any quarter.
But I really wanted us to get a lot more actively engaged with the other functions, whether in sales or marketing or product, to figure out really what we could actually do. How do we shape the business? How do we make it grow even faster? What are the actual problems? This was really kind of almost a change in mentality in terms of getting more involved with the go-to-market team to really figure out some of our challenges. This was probably my first priority.
Like I said, we were over $50 million in revenue, but probably like a lot of companies, our entire management was done on Google Docs, which I knew wasn’t something that we were going to be able to scale. I had a lot of processes and systems that we needed to do to build that out, and this was my second priority.
Third, we obviously needed to continue to build out the organization and team, because at the time we really had only two people on the FP&A team. The accounting team was actually pretty solid, but we also needed to build out our business operations and business applications team.
Value Quote: “As a Software-as-a-Service business, we tend to look at how much recurring revenue is growing. What’s the retention rate of customers? And so forth. But we also like to ask about the actual definitions of the metrics. Then we validate the definitions and really pressure-test them.” jb
Amplitude | www.amplitude.com | HQ: San Francisco, CA