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Episode #51 Early Customers Who Get the Startup Mentality Are Essential to Success ft. Nikola Mijic (Founder, Matik)

In this unchurned conversation, Nikola Mijic, the Founder of Matik joins Josh Schachter. Both of them dive into how Nikola got into the world of CS, and his experience working at Linkedin and also discuss:

  • Using data-driven content can enable scaling
  • The role of core values in guiding operations and solving conflicts
  • Finding early customers who understand the startup mentality 

He also shares his personal experience as an immigrant and a big part of his becoming an entrepreneur.

You do have to focus on companies that have that startup mentality or understand it. ... that's where you really need to lean on your relationships. And then also one of the benefits that we have as startups is, yes, we're small, but you mean a lot more to us. You're going to get that white glove treatment from us, more so than maybe a larger player that's in the space. And so that's something that we really leaned on. That level of support that we gave our early customers would continue to do. I think it set us apart.

Listening to Unchurned will lower your churn and increase your conversions.

Josh Schachter [00:00:06]:

Hey everybody, and welcome to this episode of [Un]churned. I’m Josh Schaachtor, founder and CEO of UpdateAI and host of [Un]churned. And I’m here with Nick Mijic. Nick is the CEO and co founder of Matik. Prior to founding Maddok, Nick has worked in a variety of different roles in and around just helping out customer success teams. He worked at LinkedIn, and we’re going to talk about that as being a precursor to starting Maddok as part of his origin story. And he was early on, he was getting involved with customer success platforms. We’re going to talk about that as well. Nick, thank you so much for being on the program.

Nikola Mijic [00:00:39]:

Thank you for having me.

Josh Schachter [00:00:39]:

Josh, let’s start out. I actually don’t like to explain what the company does that my guests work at or have founded because I can never do it as well as they can themselves. So plug for us, explain for us what exactly is Maddox.

Nikola Mijic [00:00:56]:

Yeah, so basically at a high level, what we do is we help automate the creation of data driven content in PowerPoint and Google Slides, and primarily for we work a lot with customer success and sales teams. So think like, business reviews, renewal decks, business cases, benchmarking reports, anything where you’re having to go and pull a lot of data to tell a story to your customer or prospect. We want to go help and help you automate. So that’s kind of what we do at a high level.

Josh Schachter [00:01:26]:

So maybe like a quarterly business review would be a perfect use case.

Nikola Mijic [00:01:30]:

Yeah, quarterly business review, renewal decks. Right. One pagers monthly, one pagers adoption reviews, anything that where you’re having to go in and pull data on a consistent basis and go tell a story within a presentation. We want to go help you and automate, and our long term vision is to automate any type of a repetitive data driven piece of content. So content can be a document like a PowerPoint or Google Slide deck, but it could be an email, it could be a notification, it could be a video. Right. That’s also different containers for a narrative.

Josh Schachter [00:02:04]:

There’s such a theme across customer success platforms, hours included, of just pulling in data from various sources. It’s so powerful. We’re going to get back to Maddok later on. But you started in CS with another platform, another product that was out there early on. I’m fairly new in greenhorn to CS myself. I’ve only been in it for a couple of years. So tell me about your first CS product that you were part of.

Nikola Mijic [00:02:35]:

Yeah, so I joined a company, a small startup called Blue Nose Analytics, really long time ago. I think it’s been close to over ten years now. And they were in the customer success like platform space. So think like Gamesight, Tango, catalysts of the world, and joined as an individual contributor. And I was one of the first five employees of the company. And that was really my introduction into customer success. Prior to that, I had worked at another startup, but was mostly in Bi. So analytics, that was my background. And while at Blue Nose, I really had the opportunity to do a little bit of everything. I was kind of a jack of all trades, did onboarding, did product, did marketing, just really did anything and learned a lot about customer success since that was who we were selling to and who our users were.

Josh Schachter [00:03:25]:

What was your title? Do you remember? What was your actual I know you.

Nikola Mijic [00:03:28]:

Were kind of doing a little bit everything. My offer, I think the actual title was like a marketing analyst, but I didn’t do any honestly, probably that was the least amount of what I did. Most of the stuff that I did was onboarding and product. So by the time I left, I helped with all of our onboarding efforts as well as roadmap for our product.

Josh Schachter [00:03:47]:

Customer Centric Guy could have been your title. So what was Blue Nose trying to do? You mentioned some of the other companies out there along the same realm, but specifically, what was Blue Nose trying to do?

Nikola Mijic [00:04:00]:

What was the product? So I think at the time, customer success was just starting out. Customer success has existed for a long time, but I think in terms of applying software to the process, it was starting to emerge at that point. So our goal as a company was to be able to provide software to customer success managers to make their lives a lot easier. So everything from how do I see how my book of business is trending? Red, yellow, green. So health scores to playbooks. What are the tasks that I need to be doing in a renewal versus an onboarding versus adoption? The different stages in the customer journey. So our entire aim was around supporting customer success and making their lives easier for their day to day.

Josh Schachter [00:04:45]:

Do you remember if they differentiated it in any way? I know this was a while ago, but the reason I ask is because I see a lot of the customer success platforms that are out there and they’re effective, but I struggle myself to kind of understand the differentiation. Do you know what Blue Nose was doing that they felt was like their niche?

Nikola Mijic [00:05:02]:

Yeah. So I think health scores were one of the things that was really popular because if you think about it from a leadership standpoint, board members were going to CEOs and saying, hey, what is the health of your guys’customer base? Right? And so being able to illustrate here’s my red, yellow, green and how that’s trending over time was something that was really garnering a lot of interest within the market. And that’s what Blue Nose was trying to focus on initially was how do we pull in all of your usage data? That’s maybe coming from a variety of data sources, your CRM data and pull that all into Blue Nose. And then we would spit out some sort of a predictive score that would tell you, like, hey, here are the accounts that are most likely to churn. Here are the accounts that are healthy. That was what they initially went to market with for differentiation. Awesome.

Josh Schachter [00:05:52]:

So I’m interested in just the history of CS products, right, and the origin of it. But we’re starting to get into the territory. That’s reminding me of an interview I conducted 15 years ago in my first startup, where it was actually an ice hockey social media news outlet. And I was interviewing an NHL player, and I kept on asking him about his college career because I was such a big fan of the University of Michigan where he played. And at one point, he’s like, Dude, you know, I’m playing in the NHL now, so we’re going to move forward now. Nick we’re. No more blue nose. Then you went and you worked at LinkedIn and tell us a little bit about what you were doing at LinkedIn, but also as a segue here into how that impacted your view of things and was a catalyst, no pun intended, to starting Maddok.

Nikola Mijic [00:06:36]:

Totally, yeah. So I think working at a startup is obviously very hard work. You’re working long hours, and LinkedIn actually got to know LinkedIn through Bluenose. They were one of our like they piloted our product. And at that point, I was like, hey, I think I need a little bit of stability in my life. I’ve been working long hours and ended up joining a team called Insights, which we basically built out internal products and internal narratives for our sales and customer success team. So our job was to help make sense of LinkedIn data for our sales teams to go to market and really learned a lot about how to use data and the impact of data in the go to market motion. So things, as you mentioned before, like quarterly business reviews or even pitch decks, like LinkedIn was very data driven. So our pitch decks were very data heavy and personalized to the prospect that we were pitching to. So if you’re pitching Sales Navigator or Recruiter, right, we would share a lot of data in those pitches. And what I found was that when you did incorporate data driven content and you shared that with your prospects and customers, it led to better business outcomes. So if I was showing value and adoption of how you’re using Sales Navigator and how that usage translates to value and ROI, there was better renewal rates, there was better adoption. Right. We just had better business outcomes across the board. And so there was an internal tool at the company that automated that presentation building process, which is, just to give you a little bit of context, you’d have a template that usually product marketing or enablement puts together. Let’s say it is a business review, right. And you’d go and make a copy of that template, and then the instructions in there that would say, hey, Josh, go to Tableau to get this chart. Go to the CRM and get this data point. Go to Nick. Nick will pull this data for you, give it to you in Excel, you do some magic, and then you put it into the presentation. Right? So very tedious, time consuming. But when we saw Reps do it, it had a big impact, especially when they were sharing those insights with our customers and prospects. So there was a tool that already existed that automated that process. I had the chance to rebuild it, and it really kind of got me thinking, hey, I think that there’s something here. This was something when I was at Blue Nose, a lot of our customers were saying, hey, we do these business reviews. They’re pain in the butt to put together. It’d be great if there’s like a one click button that just pulled in all the data and spit out a PowerPoint deck or a Google slide deck. And that’s where I was like, hey, I think there is an opportunity here. I’ve always wanted to start a company. You never know when the right time is. My background. I’m a refugee. I came from war tour Yugoslavia and have been in the States for a while. So I’ve always wanted to start. I think the American dream is to start your own company. And at that point, I was like, okay, if I don’t do this now, I feel like I’m never going to do it. And I met my co founder through a mutual friend who was an early engineer at Box, and him and I kind of started to noodle on the idea, talked to our network to see if this was a problem that was worth solving for. And the feedback was great. Him and I really hit it off. And at that point, it was like, let’s do this. Let’s quit our jobs and do this full time.

Josh Schachter [00:09:47]:

You took the plunge.

Nikola Mijic [00:09:48]:

Yeah, exactly.

Josh Schachter [00:09:53]:

So with Maddok, that was the origin of it. When you are selling Maddok, what’s the primary outcome that you’re selling? Because I heard a couple of things there. I heard that there’s just better outcomes with the customer, which probably means that it converts to higher retention or upsell. But I also heard time savings, too, that it would take them a lot of time. It would take you a lot of time to scrap together the presentations. Is there one key golden bullet that you’re trying to solve within that, or is it just all things?

Nikola Mijic [00:10:28]:

I think we like to focus. I think one, productivity is a big one. Right. And I think you mentioned the time. So if it takes me an hour or two to go and put together a business review, if I can now do that within a few minutes, that’s a huge efficiency lever. Right. The second that I see even more so now is this notion of account coverage. I know that doing a business review or doing a renewal deck or doing an onboarding deck is very, very fruitful for those business outcomes. But because it takes so long to do, I’m picking and choosing which customers get those assets. And so how can I go from generating a business review for 50% of my account base? Why should I not be able to go and do it for all of my accounts, especially if I know that it’s going to have a big impact? So account coverage is another one that we really, really try to focus in on. And then I would say the third is just around scale, right? Like, data driven content is one of those things where it’s just like software. You’re constantly iterating on your templates and your narratives. And I’ve always supported sales and customer success, so I was always putting together those narratives. I was never on the front lines. And so we also want to be able to give those teams like CS Ops, sales Ops, revenue Operations, the ability to easily onboard and maintain these templates with the field. Right? So how do you add new data points, new insights? How do you get feedback from the field? So if you’re a CSM and you’re going and doing the QBR, and you’re like, hey, Nick, I love slides four and five, but slides six and seven, I don’t use as much. I combine them into one. I found that this metric really resonates with the customer. If you do it for one and we scale it, how can we then make it available to everybody else? And so we also want to enable that scale component for those teams.

Josh Schachter [00:12:16]:

I want to talk more about Maddox because I want to talk about not just the origin story, but the early days. You’ve been around for a little over four years because you guys have grown really impressively. I think it’s really cool the product market fit that you’ve demonstrated in that time. Before we continue with Maddox, though, I want to take a little interlude here. And you mentioned Yugoslavia.

Nikola Mijic [00:12:39]:

You were born in Bosnia.

Josh Schachter [00:12:41]:

You were a refugee. Tell us a little bit of that story, because that feels like something that really would have shaped you and your adult life and your career and entrepreneurial itch perhaps tell us a little bit. First of all, this podcast caters mainly to Americans, and our geography is just not up to par in our sense of world affairs. So tell us what the war was about, how you were impact and then at that time and then the indelible impact that it’s had on you and where you are today in your career and your mindset.

Nikola Mijic [00:13:18]:

Yeah. Back in the early 90s, Yugoslavia was a country in Europe. And today, Yugoslavia has broken out into Croatia, serbia. Bosnia. It broke up into a bunch of independent countries. And so the war was a civil war that broke out in the early ninety s. And I was born in Sarajeva, which that was a big battleground. And so at the time my mom and dad war broke out, there was no future. I have a twin brother, an older brother, and so my mom and dad at that time were like, hey, we got to get out of here. And so we ended up fleeing to Hungary. We were there for about a year and a half and then ended up making our way to Germany and we were there for about four and a half years. And so we wanted to stay in Germany, but there was a lot of refugees that were coming up from Yugoslavia and we couldn’t get permanent status, we couldn’t get citizenship. And so at that point we applied to Australia, Canada, the US. We got accepted to the US. And my mom and dad made the decision to pack everything up not for the third time now and go to the US. So I was young at the time, but you definitely see the struggle that your parents go through. And one of the things that as I talk to people who aspire to become entrepreneurs and take that plunge that we talked about earlier is I always ask, what is your why? Why are you doing this? And to me, my why is it is my parents. Right? Like, I saw a lot of the stuff that they went through and this was kind of a sign for me to be able to show them, like, hey, I wouldn’t have this opportunity if it wasn’t for the sacrifice that you guys made in moving us to the US. So that was my big why was my parents. And then the second was I didn’t want to have that regret later on in life to be like, I wish I would have started something. Right? I wish I would have taken the plunge and just given it a go. But I do think it’s really important for you to have that. There is no right or wrong answer. I’m sure your why is different than my why, but that doesn’t make it better or worse. You just got to have an answer because it does. When things do get tough, you lean on that why. Right? So when things get tough for me, I think about my mom and dad. I think about what they had to persevere through and it helps me persevere through the challenges of running a startup. Right? Yeah.

Josh Schachter [00:15:43]:

No, that’s great. As you’re telling the story, I’m also I’m thinking about like, what’s my why? Josh, like, what’s your why? It’s not as profound as Nick’s, as something that I’ll have to reflect and dig deep on, other than the fact that I just love building shit, which is probably a why for a lot.

Nikola Mijic [00:15:58]:

Of there’s no right or wrong, right? Like, it could be money, it could be, hey, I don’t want to have a boss and I want to be able to build something from the ground up. There is no right or wrong answer, but I do think it’s important to know what that is because it does get you through the good and the bad, right? Yeah.

Josh Schachter [00:16:18]:

Legos. That’s my why it all started with building Legos. So now with Maddox, you guys have been around since 2019. You’ve raised 23 million from tier one VCs. There’s some really prominent names out there in Silicon Valley, the Bay Area, and I don’t know your numbers, but presumably you’re commercialized. You’ve undergone some rapid growth. How has this it feels to me, looking on the outside, but also being an entrepreneur, that you’ve had a magic wand. Maybe looks can be deceiving. I know there’s lots of undulations in any startup, but what do you think has been I mean, has it been a magic wand? I guess the first question and then what has been the key to your success?

Nikola Mijic [00:17:02]:

Well, so I don’t think it has been a magic wand. I feel like starting a company over the past four years, if you think about all that’s happened right from the Pandemic to the war in Ukraine, there’s just been a lot that’s happened in society that’s affected business and macroeconomic environment. But I think one of the reasons why we’ve had success is both Zach and I are very product centric. I don’t have a sales background. That’s not my forte. And we really, really focused on solving a problem and not a problem that we think is cool, but hopefully a problem that others find really of value. Right. So that was the big thing.

Josh Schachter [00:17:40]:

That not cool, by the way. Not cool. Right? Like, cool is the worst word than any entrepreneur can hear. Your product’s really cool. Oh, fuck that. I don’t want it to be cool.

Nikola Mijic [00:17:50]:

Yeah. We spent a lot of time, even to this day, right. We don’t take it for granted, talking to customers, talking to end users. And I think that’s led to a lot of success because we’re focusing on things and dedicating resources to things that we really think are solving a big problem. And then I think the other is you do as you grow, it’s not just you and your co founder. You got to build the right team and you’re going to make some right calls. You’re not going to make some right calls. But I always say behind any technology is people. And that’s what makes a company, is the people. It’s not necessarily the technology. So hiring has also been a big part of it too, is making sure that we get the right people at the company that share the same core values. And that’s actually probably a good segue. I will say that one thing that as I chat with other founders or people that want to get into startups, especially if they do have a co founder. I know it sounds really cheesy, but one of the first things that Zach and I did was instead of writing any code, we got together and we wrote down how we want to run this company from a value standpoint because him and I had never worked together before. So what’s important to you? What’s important to me, and we kind of distilled it down to four core values. And it was the way that we operated. If we had conflict, we’d always lean on those core values. And I think that goes such a long way because I think a lot of people want to go straight into building, straight into solving. But that’s easy. It’s like, well, what if there’s conflict? What if there is something that goes bad? How are you going to rectify that? And I think the core values go a long way. So I would say that’s another thing that we did really early on that I think has led to a lot of success down the road.

Josh Schachter [00:19:29]:

Do you remember what the core do you know off the top of your head?

Nikola Mijic [00:19:32]:

Core values? We have four core values. One is trust. We believe that trust is the foundation of any relationship, personal or professional. You need to be able to trust me. I need to be able to trust you. Second is compassion. Like I said, we come from different backgrounds. It doesn’t mean that my background is better or Zach’s is better, but we do have a different perspective and we need to be able to have that. So having that compassion and if we disagree on something, if like, well, let me try to understand why Josh thinks the way he did. Maybe at a prior company, he was trying to solve a very similar problem and they learned from that. So let me try to dig into that. Or maybe he just had a bad weekend. Something happened over the weekend in his personal life that I had no idea. Right. So compassion is one, quality is the third. And it kind of sounds a little ironic in the startup sense. You want to build fast. Right. But there needs to be a certain level of quality. And then the fourth is being customer first. Right. That entails every decision that we make. We always think about our prospects and customers. And if it compromises that trust with our prospects and customers, then the answer is no, we shouldn’t do it. We look at our core values as, like I said, the framework in which we operate. We look at them every single year and they’re not set in stone. If we think that there’s things that we need to add, then we’ll do that. But it’s the framework that we’ve used to date.

Josh Schachter [00:20:54]:

Yeah, that’s a good point. Values are meant to be dynamic. You said that you didn’t start out as a salesperson. I mean, every founder finds their way into sales right. No matter what. But you were telling me prior, we were prepping for this conversation. It doesn’t sound like, at least initially, like your sales approach. Not approach, but your sales paradigm, let’s say, was that simple because you weren’t selling to PLG based. Just sell to a small team leader that has a specific pain and, okay, I’ll sign up and I’ll try it out. You were asking companies for lots of data, important, secure data. What was your pitch? What were you doing in the early days to get those first, say, 510 customers?

Nikola Mijic [00:21:47]:

Yeah. So I think you do have to find the right early customers. What I mean by that is they know that, hey, you’re a startup, there’s probably going to be bugs in your software. You’re growing, you’re learning, you’re iterating really quickly. And that’s not for everybody. Right. So I think sometimes you do have to focus on companies that have that startup mentality or understand it. Right. That’s one. The other. We did invest in security very early on. So because we were talking to larger companies, mid market enterprise, we had to get sock two, type one, sock two, type two single sign on things that were kind of checkboxes in their procurement process to help them feel comfortable in using our product. And we don’t ingest data. So just to be very clear, you’re not sending all of your usage data to Maddox and we’re storing it. Right. In order for it to work, we just go to your infrastructure. Exactly. We’re going to your infrastructure and then inserting the data natively into your Google Slide presentation that’s stored on your Google Drive, I think are some of the things that we did early on that really, really helped. And it’s a slog. It’s not easy. Right. People will ask you, well, how are you going to be around in six months? We’re going to make this investment. How do we know it’s going to work? And I think that’s where you really need to lean on your relationships. And then also one of the benefits that we have as startups is, yes, we’re small, but you mean a lot more to us. You’re going to get that white glove treatment from us, more so than maybe a larger player that’s in the space. And so that’s something that we really leaned on. That level of support that we gave our early customers would continue to do. I think it set us apart.

Josh Schachter [00:23:33]:

And your ultimate buyer is who? It’s a chief revenue officer. Chief Customer Officer.

Nikola Mijic [00:23:40]:

Yeah. I would say it’s our ICP’s, customer success and sales. So depending on that persona, it’s usually chief customer officer. We’re seeing CROs, obviously. They own both sales and customer success. So that’s also another persona that we’re selling quite a bit into. And then just given the macroeconomic landscape, CFOs now are obviously a big player within the buying committee, especially with Net new software spend.

Josh Schachter [00:24:10]:

Yeah, I was going to ask about that. We’re recording this in the middle of 2023, and all the talk this year has been about how that’s impacted people’s purchasing power and the buying cycles. What have you seen? Your ICP are the heads of CS, the heads of revenue? What’s the deal with their reaction and the patterns you’ve seen with them?

Nikola Mijic [00:24:31]:

I think a common theme right now that we’re seeing is you got to do more with less. I think that’s obvious. Like, everyone is talking about that specifically in customer success, where you’re not able to hire as many folks. Right. And so you do have to be able to do more with less. I think the other in regards to customer success, particularly the whole concept of digital CS, I think is really prevalent right now in the space. And that goes back to, I think one of the core values or value props that we’re trying to really hone in on is the account coverage. If I’ve got this massive long tail of accounts or, hey, I’ve got less CSMS, their books of businesses are much, much bigger. How can I make sure that they can create data driven content for all of their accounts without having to invest in bodies? So we’re seeing that quite a bit. And I think the other is just this whole notion of value realization. You have to be able to prove value. And I would say in 2021 and 2020 is like a nice to have now. It’s like at the forefront. CFOs are not going to sign off on anything unless there is true value that’s going to be realized and it ties to some sort of objective that the company has. Right, so not just the Cs.org or the sales.org, but hey, how does this help us accomplish our high level objectives as a company? So those are probably the three things that we’ve seen quite a bit.

Josh Schachter [00:25:51]:

Nick, I want to close off the conversation talking about. I’ve actually been waiting for a founder to talk to on the show to do this with them. So you’re my guinea pig here. I have in front of me the Y Combinator Pocket Guide to Essential Advice for Founders.

Nikola Mijic [00:26:09]:


Josh Schachter [00:26:09]:

And it’s like a Ten Commandments, only it’s about 20 of them of just verbatims and axioms of what to do as a founder. So I want to read off a few of these, and I want you to tell me which one resonates the most with you and why.

Nikola Mijic [00:26:25]:


Josh Schachter [00:26:26]:

Launch now. Do things that don’t scale. Find the 90 to ten solution. I don’t know.

Nikola Mijic [00:26:34]:

That one’s weird.

Josh Schachter [00:26:36]:

Launch now. Do things that don’t scale. Find ten to 100 customers who love your product. Be nice, or at least don’t be a jerk. And the last one is, get sleep and exercise. Take care of yourself. Which one stands out to you? Having done this for the past four years?

Nikola Mijic [00:26:52]:

Yeah, I would. Say, the one with the ten to 100 customers that really love your product. And I think, again, going back to what we talked about earlier, I think you have to be picky. You have to pick and choose who you want to partner with early on. I know that sounds a little bit counterintuitive, but you only have a certain amount of resources at your disposal and so really, picking who your customers are, how they find value, and not focusing on customers that are just going to give you arr, but are actually going to be great customers post purchase, I think is a big one. Right. Especially as you do find product market fit. So I would say that’s probably one that resonates. Maybe another one I think is a bonus that that last one I should probably do a better job of taking care of yourself, exercising. It is a long, long journey, and I do think that that’s really, really important, something that I’m still working on and trying to get better at.

Josh Schachter [00:27:47]:

I think all of us founders are working on that. Nick, Meech, thank you so much. Wishing you and Maddok the very best of luck.

Nikola Mijic:

Awesome. Josh, thank you for having me. I really enjoyed the conversation.