Setting up in London #7 – Stuart Wilson – Alteryx
Stu is SVP, EMEA Sales at Alteryx and is responsible for revenue across Europe, Middle East and Africa. Stu joined Alteryx in 2014 as the first employee on the ground in Europe. Prior to that, he worked in the IT security space building new teams in new markets, and also worked as a stockbroker in the City. Having lived in the city since 2003, Stu considers himself a Londoner.
We caught up to chat about his GM journey.
How did you find your GM opportunity? What was your hiring story?
I joined in January 2014 as the first employee in Europe. I’ve been in the UK since 2003 after arriving here from Canada with the intention to stay one year. I’m still here 14 years later!
I helped another software company start their European operations and another build new sales teams, then went back to school to do an MBA in 2009. Post MBA I went into finance as a stockbroker in London for 4 years.
However it wasn’t quite for me, and I was looking for a way to get back into software. As a stockbroker I was a big user of data, and felt the growing buzz over the data industry. A friend introduced me to Alteryx, just at the stage they were exploring London ahead of a major investment. A perfect match and perfect timing.
Why did the company choose to set up in London?
I was based here, so there was a people vs needs match, but the company also wanted to go somewhere with low barriers to entry in language and business culture. London was the best place to land and learn. We focused almost exclusively on London in the early days.
If I was doing again I would definitely choose London. The access to potential customers is unbeatable, and the city has the deepest talent pool in Europe.
Each company has a slightly different job description for their GM. Are you based in the Sales organization, Marketing or other?
I’m in the Sales org and I report to the CRO. We now have 60 people in London, mostly in the Sales side of the organisation, but also have people in marketing and support functions.
Did your organization have a European strategy mapped out for you to execute or did you have to create one? How did you go about doing that?
Initially, it was to take the US model and make a carbon copy in the UK. That worked for a lot of prospects, but not everyone. As we have matured we have tailored our approach to the market, making it more UK centric. There are more similarities than differences in the US & UK markets. We have had to customise more for the German and French markets.
Understanding the sales & cultural nuances is the main thing, and we hire local sales people to cater for that.
How did you go about setting up in London?
The majority are local hires, and some employees have come over from the US on secondment to gain experience wtih selling in Europe as part of their career development.
The culture is outstanding, and building that is one of my proudest achievements. It’s a balance of growing really fast and being super aggressive in the market, but at the same time we want the office to be fun, inclusive, and we want people to want to be here. It can be difficult to achieve that in a sales culture sometimes and I feel we have done a good job of hiring people that fit that approach.
Being an early hire you have so many plates to spin – how do you prioritise tasks? Revenue growth is my number one obligation to the business, but I don’t manage many individual deals anymore, so my role now is more about coaching my team and talking through strategy and ideas on how to approach deals and build pipeline – the building blocks to get to your number. We are growing so I also spend a lot of time recruiting.
Basically, if I find the right people and create the right culture for people to thrive in, a lot of the rest takes care of itself.
We hear a lot about the ‘tech community’ in London – what was your experience of it?
There is definitely a lot of buzz about technology here. Our new office is near the Old Street roundabout and you can feel the growth and vibe of the community when you’re here. A lot of our customers and partners are tech focused businesses and they run a lot of events that we attend.
I think there is still work to do to get leaders together. London is different to Silicon Valley because it’s not all about tech. London is also a major player in other industries like finance, advertising, fashion, etc.
How do you manage communication with HQ?
The responsibility is on me to make that work. You have to make a concerted effort to do that yourself. My colleagues in the US have been really good with realising that people need sleep!
It’s a regular routine to do a day in the office, go home, get some food, take care of family, then get back online. There’s lots of email, we use Salesforce Chatter, and our forecast calls are at 7am PST to accommodate us. I go to the US at least once a quarter.
How are you managed by HQ, how are you measured?
We have created trust mostly by achieving revenue objectives and building credibility. There is a commitment to not stray too far from the US model as that scales and it works. I have autonomy to make decisions that are best for the EMEA business. Most of this is ‘tweaks’ around the edges. For example, our team structure is slightly different, as is how we work with the channel. We have a localised product and website in French and German, and we have a team in Munich as well as plans to add a team in France.
The localisation effort is shared across the US and local teams, with some agency support, and we’ve hired native speakers in London to service other markets. We use data about customer growth, lead flow and general economic trends to determine when we move into another market.
What has been the hardest challenge to solve?
The biggest challenge is hiring fast enough with consistent quality. Being a public company has helped with awareness and the quality of candidates, but there is still an element of selling the company to candidates. We work very hard to find great people and then hire from their professional networks. It’s been a challenge but we’ve built a great team.
By the way, we are hiring now so check out our careers page for details.
What would you do differently if you could start over?
Well, I’ve definitely made a few mistakes along the way so it’s hard to narrow it down to just one thing! I think the biggest thing would be to be more focussed on who we were selling to. We were stretched very thin in the early days.
What one or two things really moved the needle for you?
We got our first big customer win in September 2014. We started working on that deal in February and we put in so much work to prove the value of the product and convince the customer that we would be a good company to work with. That win proved we were here to stay and we had a repeatable process. It also helped to give us credibility with HQ and gave us a great customer reference.
The second would be last year when we did our first customer conference called Inspire. It was the first one in Europe and we had 400 people attend. The buzz and the number of customers we had made it feel like we really had arrived. It was a really monumental thing.