If, as the old maxim suggests, “life” is what happens to us while we are busy making other plans, Adil Syed’s other plans most likely did not include Snap Inc—or at least they didn’t when he first headed east to attend business school.
Having spent the previous 3 years at Redpoint Ventures helping to raise capital for such tech gladiators as Stripe and Zendesk and 5 more at Goldman Sachs as a financial analyst, Syed was ready to have a typical business school experience in which he’d spend his days going to class and nights attending gatherings with classmates.Read More
Sure enough, this was how Year 1 of Syed’s business school experience unfolded. It was during his second year, that he stepped into a role that would arguably become the most consequential of his finance career.
“I was the first summer intern at Snapchat, which at the time had only about 100 or so engineers and appeared to me to be such unique place that eventually I decided to join them full-time,” recalls Syed, who notes that the opportunity to work for the Venice, California-based company was worth all of the complications that it brought.
“My second year of business school consisted of me working full-time in Venice while flying back and forth to complete my classes and graduate as best I could,” reports Syed, whose professional life suddenly faced a challenge unlike any that it had yet encountered.
“We had a billion dollars of venture funding in the bank,” he remembers, “and the app was growing like we had never seen before. Yet there was no real business model. There was no financial rigor. There was no forecast to tell us how to sell and monetize the app.” Over the next several years, Syed would serve in a series of finance, strategy, and operations roles at the company.
Less than 2 years after his arrival at the company, Snap went public and increased its market value by nearly $9 billion on its first day of trading. More than 200 million shares—the entire size of the offering—changed hands over the course of the day making the Snap IPO a big day on the tech industry’s calendar of Wall Street milestones.
The historic IPO would fall roughly midway into Syed’s Snap career chapter and provide set of experiences that Syed says offered as many finance leadership lessons after the IPO as he had learned before. “This was a start-up that went from 100 employees in 2015 to 3,000-plus by 2019—It challenged my perspective on how to grow and scale systems, processes, and people,” he points out.
“Ultimately, performance has to be coached, managed, and mentored, and there has to be a partnership,” observes Syed, who believes that while he originally performed poorly as a finance partner, along the way he learned how partnership depends on finance becoming part of the “operating fabric” of the business.
Concludes Syed: “I learned that the hard way. I probably failed more than I succeeded at first, but then hopefully I finally got it right.” –Jack Sweeney
Made Possible By
CFOTL: Tell us about Rippling … what does this company do, and what are its offerings today?
Syed: Rippling is really the first piece of software that allows companies to manage their HR, IT, and finance stack all in one place. Whether it’s payroll, benefits, expenses, devices, and/or the business applications that companies and employees use, all of it is brought into a single, unified tool that we call a “workforce” platform. Another way to put it would be to describe as an employee management platform that puts everything that you need to know about the employee at the center point, with all of the other applications that we’re talking about connecting into it. This is really the business in a nutshell.Read More
At this point, given the macroeconomic climate and everything that’s happening, one of the key areas that we are spending a lot of time thinking about is operational leverage. We’re double-clicking on every aspect of our business and trying to get to the root inputs and outputs that are driving marketing, sales, the customer experience, and teams like implementation, support, and so on. We’re really working hard to understand the levers that we have available to enable us to hit our goals, and and then we’re planning around these metrics and measuring them in a rigorous way—which is how you manage a business to a successful outcome.
Right now, having discipline around operational leverage and finding it across every aspect of the business is critical. You don’t want to wait too long to start seeking operational leverage, especially at a high-growth company, because otherwise the outcome is going to be pretty dismal. This is no doubt where we’re spending a lot of our time and energy these days.
“The rocketship is actually a rollercoaster. If a rocketship has a perfectly planned flight path with thousands of simulations, then being part of a high-growth startup is more like a coin operated rollercoaster ride. Only hire people that will embrace the ups/downs and can spike during periods of heightened pressure!” -Adil Syed, CFO, Rippling
Rippling | www.rippling.com | San Francisco, CA