Interview with Steven Benson
is a San Francisco based software company that enables field sales teams to manage their territory by combining Google Maps, data from their CRM, route optimization, schedule planning, and lead generation.
Hello Steven, could you please introduce Badger Maps, Inc. and what initially inspired you to found the company? Was it an idea you'd had for a while, or was there an inciting incident that led to your founding Badger Maps?
I started Badger Maps in 2012 because I was frustrated by having a problem that no one was solving when I was working in field sales. I knew a lot of people who had the same problem and I believed that it could be solved with software. My whole career had been spent in field sales and I understood the challenges faced by field salespeople firsthand. Also, from working on the Google Maps team, I knew how powerful mobile mapping could be and I had experience with the types of solutions and apps that mobile platforms like Android and IOS were enabling. I knew that I could improve my performance at my job as a field sales rep if I could combine my customer data with a mapping system and a routing system on a mobile device. I could envision a solution that could schedule and plan my time in the field more efficiently and I knew there was a big market of other sales reps that this could help too. The problem of combining a map, a routing algorithm, a calendar and a salesperson's customer data has actually been a problem for hundreds of years as long as there have been salespeople around the world really. But the reason it hadn't been solved before was that you needed a computer do the mapping, it's too complex for a human mind to do. You needed a computer to the calendaring, you needed fast internet connectivity to a mobile device, the ability for a computer to interact with a sales person's customer database and the mobile device also had to be powerful enough to serve as a platform to do all of this in real time. In 2011, all these things were coming together and I was uniquely positioned to solve all these problems for field salespeople, given my background in sales and working on the Google Maps team, and working closely with these mobile platforms.
What are some recent technical innovations that have influenced your work with Badger Maps? How have technologies like blockchain and cloud infrastructures changed the company's operations?
For starters, if we didn't have mobile platforms like the iPhone and Android delivering the software in the field to a field sales rep we wouldn't have a solution. Without cloud computing, we're using AWS, we wouldn't be able to deliver the service that anywhere near our current price point of $35 per sales rep per month. It would probably have to be closer to $150 a month if I was running my own data centres. At that price point, I wouldn't be able to sell enough software to have a sustainable business model. Another key trend that has influenced Badger Maps is the evolving CRM landscape. That is centralized companies customer data and therefore effectively made it pretty easy for software companies like ours, to build solutions on top of the CRM and add more value for the customer that they're getting from the CRM. Businesses often use other software with their CRM to customize the experience and get more specific value ads and using specific applications and add-ons to get a solution that's really a custom fit for their business model. Depending on a variety of factors such as your industry, how you go to market, the size of your team, the complexity of your business model, CRMs and different add-ons, using a combination would make the whole experience better for you and your sales team. It would also be a better fit for the way you specifically go to market and your strategies and your unique needs. That's really how these trends have impacted Badger Maps because that's where we come in with a way to enhance your CRM and make it really relevant, and drive usage within organizations that have outside sales teams, because we can provide that customised add-on solution for their specific needs.
How did your time working as a Regional Sales Manager for Google influence your decision to found Badger Maps? What are the main skills you took from your time with the company?
My experiences at Google as a regional sales manager were super influential for me in my decision to found Badger. This is because I was experiencing the problems that I started Badger to solve firsthand when I was a field salesperson. I also learned how to run a SaaS business because I was working on Google Enterprise Software team when it was a pretty new business. It was basically a startup within Google at that point, today their enterprise team is obviously a huge business but, at that time I learned a ton of the skills around working with all the fantastic people on that team, the marketing team, the sales team, the product management team, the sales leadership. All these people were really influential to me and played a pretty big role in my development in business. The most important skills I probably took from Google though, were learning how to bring a new product to market. I worked with bringing Gmail and Google Apps to market when they were really brand new and I worked on bringing the Google Maps API into new markets and doing new things with it. Learning how to develop customers and being out in a new market for a product that didn't exist before, were absolutely crucial skills for me to have at Badger, as I did the customer and the product development and took the product to market from both marketing and sales perspective when we were just getting started. A final key skill set was around how to build and run a great company that people really want to work for. I was able to lift a ton of ideas on how Google created their fantastic culture and then I was able to use them here at Badger Maps to make it a place that people genuinely enjoy working at.
What has been the feedback from Badger Map's customers and client base? How does the company measure feed and input from its users?
I honestly don't think it's possible to have a successful startup without listening really carefully to the feedback that your customers and prospects give you. Then taking action on that feedback. At Badger Maps we highly value our customers' feedback and have several ways to collect their insights and suggestions on a regular basis. We ask them through our app and via email, and we regularly send out surveys and those things really help us figure out which new features to implement and what order we need to prioritise things in. Also, the customer success and sales teams have processes in place to provide customer feedback directly to the product team at Badger. You have to be able to collect that feedback with no filters. It's important that those teams, the sales team, and the customer success team, feel empowered and see their feedback really being put into action on the engineering side. Weird and maybe a little bit crazy thing that I did partially to gather feedback from customers, was that I took a road trip earlier this year and visited over a hundred of our biggest customers in person. I drove across the US. It took about two months and the whole time I was meeting with field sales teams that use Badger. It was a great way to connect with our users on a deeper level and get their feedback on the product. The whole time I was able to provide thoughts and feedback to the product and engineering teams that I was gathering from the field. I guess it's also worth mentioning that when we gather feedback from customers, we quantify how helpful it would be and the way we measure that is how would it help us to get the deal or would it not. Then we measure how big that deal would be. This keeps the engineers focused on the types of problems that are holding the sales team back.
What's next for Badger Maps, Inc., as well as your own career? Where do you see the company in five years?
What's next is that we want Badger Maps to become the best technology for outside sales teams to use to be successful. We've done a great job of solving the problems that we set out to solve, and now we want to solve more and more field sales people's problems. We want to help them be more successful and make their jobs easier. The company is growing nicely at this point. Hopefully, in five years we'll have been able to take the company public or be bringing in the kind of revenue at a rate that we can accomplish our goals without an external shot of capital. In terms of my own career, I don't really think about what I would do if a hurricane washed Badger away tomorrow or if I wasn't running it for whatever reason. I tend to keep my thoughts in the present and I don't really sit around and be anxious about the future. I have to figure that out when the time comes really. I would need to start another company or I'd run a company that was already going who needed a leader that has my kind of skill set. But my plan is to keep working on Badger Maps and making it the best company that I can and working with this team to accomplish all that we can do, and helping as many outside sales people that we can, to be more successful.