February 7, 2019
New Podcast Series: Episode Four
Erik Bush, CEO of Demand Driven Technologies
(c) Trusted Counsel (Ashley) LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Speaker 1: It's time for In Process: Conversations about Business in the 21st Century with Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon. Presented by Trusted Counsel, a corporate and intellectual property law firm. For more information, visited trust-counsel.com. And now, with In Process, here are Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon.
John: Today we are continuing our series of “Pithy Conversations with CEOs” and we are fortunate enough to have Erik Bush of Demand Driven Technologies here with us.
Evelyn: I think this will be a really interesting chat, John, given that Erik spent lots of his work experience in a very, very large company and decided after retirement to go into a start up.
John: Yes, he's definitely seen a lot of different environments, so I'm very curious to hear his thoughts on working in a large corporation and then also a company that is fast-paced, moving and smaller and his different management styles in each. So just first a little bit about Demand Driven Technologies. It was founded in 2011. Demand Driven Technologies specializes in cloud-based supply chain software solutions. With over 80 enterprises, Demand Driven Technologies has a global presence and a deep channel partner network.
Erik, welcome to the show.
Erik: Thank you.
John: So I gave sort of the company overview, but I'd love to hear it from you.
Erik: Sure. Okay. Well, I think you got the first part right. We are a provider of cloud-based supply chain software. We've got clients around the world and we've been very fortunate to kind of catch the wave of a new movement out there, called Demand Driven MRP. It was introduced in 2011 and our company was the first to adopt that methodology into our replenishment solution and we've been able to kind of ride the wave that the Demand Driven Institute created by bringing these new concepts to the market to an area that hadn't seen any change in nearly 40 years.
MRP, or Material Requirements Planning as it's known, was invented back in the '70s, back at a time where my old employer, IBM, was introducing computers to work in a manufacturing market place. They found that with this MRP logic that they could really address the needs of manufacturers to plan their inventories, plan their materials in a time phase manner. Well, that logic is in all the ERP systems that are out there. It has not changed in 40 years, and yet the world we live in is dramatically-
Erik: ... different since that point in time. So this Demand Driven MRP concept was really about pacing our supplies to what's actually being consumed in a market, not being dependent on forecasts. As a result, we're giving clients just much, much better results. There was a little anecdote we found along the way with one of our clients, Michelin, who is in the tire business, obviously. If you got back to mid-70s, there were 10 tire sizes in the US market that made up 90% of the sales volume. By 2010, the top 10 sizes only made up 38% of the market.
Erik: And there are now 700 sizes available overall.
Erik: So if you're trying to run things in a forecast driven manner, which MRP requires, you can imagine how much easier it would've been back in the '70s than it is now. So clearly the world has changed for all the obvious reasons. This Demand Driven MRP movement has really taken the market by storm. We were the first to adopt the method and have had obviously the largest install base of clients and probably the big proof in the pudding for us is that it works. Clients get real value out of it and they find that they're far less dependent on things like Excel, which believe it or not a lot of the big companies around the world are still using as their inventory planning tool.
Erik: So that was really kind of the genesis of the company. We bootstrapped for several years before raising our first venture funding, but we really gained the support of a number of smaller consulting firms around the world that you mentioned, channel partners, who really led the sales effort for us while we tried to focus on making the technology as viable and as modern and SAS-oriented as you could get it to be.
John: Mm-hmm (affirmative). You had a really long career at IBM.
John: And a very successful career there. Can you tell us what you did there and then what inspired you to join Demand Driven Technologies?
Erik: Sure. I was fortunate. I had actually two careers with IBM. I had spent three years with the company before leaving to go out and pursue a music career, which obviously didn't last. And then I rehired in 1982, but during that time I was in administrative roles, I was in sales, I later moved into the consulting division when that was formed in the early '90s and really rode that tide as it started rising as the company really grew a large services business.
So it was exciting to be part of a very big, growing entity inside of IBM. At the same time, when we kind of got into the early 2000 decade or thereabouts, you could see that mass is starting to accumulate, harder and harder to grow. Anybody who's following IBM knows that they've really had a challenge over the last several years, ever since I left of course, growing the company, but the challenges in a large company, obviously the pros are you've got resource, you've got market recognition, you've got scale, all those things are wonderful things.
On the other hand, there's a lot of negatives to that, as the company grows, it needs to build organization, you start getting silos, people work in silos, you're running through management by objectives so they focus on what they care about, now you can't see the big picture and it's hard to get the team to work together. I have the deepest respect for all my colleagues at IBM and everything that we were able to accomplish, but at the same time, scale of itself has some inherent challenges with it.
John: Absolutely. After you retired from IBM, though, how did you link up with Demand Driven Technologies and how did you know this was the company you wanted to spend your time with?
Erik: Yes, when I retired, I thought someday I may do something entrepreneurial, 'cause I've always had that itch to go out and try my luck at that. But it just was kind of a circumstance, kind of a little bit of serendipity or whatever that a consultant that I had hired to work for our organization when I was at IBM, we were implementing some new concepts around the concept called Theory of Constraints. Anybody who's read the book The Goal in Business School would know what I'm talking about.
We were applying those concepts internally at IBM. The author of that whole body of work, a guy named Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt, actually was working with us, so I got the great chance to work with him, well known supply chain thought leader who passed away a few years ago. He led me to a guy named Chad Smith who was a consultant who had worked in his institute. Chad taught us the concepts, we applied them successfully in IBM.
So I retire, and this is 10 years after Chad and I had worked together. Lo and behold, his consulting company had started writing some software, realized that they were not going to be well-suited to be in a technology business, they're more business consultants.
John: Hard to develop, Yes.
Erik: And "Hey, would you think this might be an opportunity?" And this all happened after I retired. I knew the concepts would work, because we had applied them successfully inside of IBM. Oh, what the hell, you know? I just got fascinated with what it could bring to the market and the value it could create for clients, and that's kinda what was the genesis of the company. And Yes, it's been great since then.
Evelyn: So what were your expectations, though, going into it? Did you have any of them, of what you'd be doing specifically? Or what that was going to be like?
Erik: I knew it was going to be much like a [Greenfield 00:07:50]. Yes, we had some software assets. There was one gentleman who had been kind of the customer support person and he was the only guy that we had left at CMG, Constraints Management Group, my co-founders. So he and I started and one of their consultants joined the team, and that was DD Tech in the beginning.
So as you can imagine, you're doing virtually everything. Writing product specs, doing testing, going out selling, doing implementations, learning what this is all about, 'cause while I'd spent a lot of time with manufacturers and distributors in my IBM career, I was never really this close to some of the action. So I was learning an awful lot about that. I didn't really have any clear expectations, other than I knew it would work and it was so intriguing to see if we could get it to go and make it commercially viable.
I talked to some venture funds at the time, who were very polite, said, "This is all very interesting, Erik-
Evelyn: This may be a product, Yes.
Erik: ... you're selling into a very sticky area. Supply chain people aren't going to just jump from one lily pad to the next. So you've got a lot of evangelizing to do." Which, they were so accurate about that. But, they also said, "We absolutely believe there's an opportunity here, and you just are going to need to stick at it, and get to the point where there's market recognition and you can build some momentum out there in the market to move it forward."
Evelyn: So did you have the expectation that you would build it into a company as opposed to build a product?
Erik: Absolutely. Yes, no, they wanted to get out of the software business. This kind of filled my itch there to do something entrepreneurial. It was a space I knew, it was kind of built and founded on a lot of the Theory of Constraints principles, so there were a lot of ticking the box, I get this.
Evelyn: For interest and engagement and excitement.
Erik: It was very, very similar to what we had done with using those TOC concepts in IBM. We had called it Replenishment for Resource Management. How to gauge, where to move the consulting organization skills based on actual market usage. Not based on the partner's forecast, right?
Erik: So you think about the year of now, 2000, when we were doing this, right after Y2K ended, we're going into .com, the ERP is exploding, we had way too many skills in the wrong spot and not enough in the right. Obviously a very challenging transition to get through. We had really done a great job migrating our staff from one place to another through these principles. So in my heart, I knew it would work, I knew it was going to be a tough slog, and you know, like the VC said, they were absolutely dead on about that, in terms of the challenges we'd face.
John: Mm-hmm (affirmative). You did end up raising venture capital though.
Erik: Eventually, yes we did.
John: Yes. You've been quite good at that as well-
Erik: Once I figured it out.
John: You got quite effective.
John: What the thought process of going into that?
Erik: After the first forays and we realized we're too early stage here to go out and raise money, we focused on just bootstrapping and taking all of the profits that we could generate from the software and plowing them back into the technology, 'cause the biggest thing we needed to do was really get it to SAS, in the cloud, modern browser-based application, and a more robust security perimeter and things like that.
Because we had that as our primary goal, we said, "We're going to sell through the channel partners, that way we don't have to pay for building a direct sales force," and that would have been a really bad move to make. What happened then is over the ensuing four to five years, we were growing at a good rate, but you could also see now that other solution providers were entering the market on this DD MRP. I did not want to be the founder who didn't act quickly enough. We also, as our client base grew, the mountain of their expectations in terms of features and functions that we needed to add grew with it.
If you're in the software business, you know you're never out of things to do. So we realized that, "Yes, we better start raising money." So in early '17, we raised a small, convertible note round to help kind of prime the pump. Started trying to raise money, ran into some dead ends, did not have the messaging right, really didn't understand well enough investor expectations and it was just really through a lot of good fortune that we were able to make some connections with people.
And this is probably one of the most, to me, profound aspects of being in a start up here in Atlanta that I'd never really felt with IBM. I was flying all over the world and I never really knew people because I actually worked out of my house for a good number of years, even though I had a large organization. We started meeting people. I met a guy, a young man, named Brad [Michler 00:12:29] at the Emory University Raise Forum, it's a funding kind of exercise. He had supply chain experience with Carter's OshKosh here in town and was intrigued with what we were doing, so he called me up last spring and said, "Hey, do you have an opportunity?" I said, "Well, I can't really afford much, but bring you on as an intern for awhile and we'll see where it goes."
He's a phenomenal resource on our team and he led me to meet a guy named Mike [Parum 00:12:56] who's well known in Atlanta here as somebody who really helped facilitate growing companies and things like that. Mike, with all of his connections, led us to most ventures. Within a couple weeks of making our pitch to them, we had a term sheet.
John: But it was a long process before that. [crosstalk 00:13:16]
Erik: But the stubbing the toes and the knocking your ... You know, just realizing, "My goodness, are we ever going to get there?" Was really challenging and frustrating, but you know, I'm kind of one of these guys, if I've got an objective in mind, I'm going to try to find a way to get there.
Erik: It was really through the good fortune of making those connections that we were able to get to that first round of funding.
John: Yes, it's always so funny to me how much serendipity plays into it, but also, I mean, it's sort of the classic 'you make your own luck' right? You have to go through everything to get that opportunity and then it might happen.
Erik: And I think persistence is a lot of things. They talk about it's 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. I do think that that plays a big role of any, trying to make a success out of anything.
John: Clearly. One of the things I've been curious about is you all have attracted a lot of large corporate ... Some very prominent clients that I think most people would know of. It's an area where a lot of people are hesitate to disrupt. I mean, switching costs on software, especially on something important as supply chain is, for a big organization, can be quite risky. It's very sticky. You have to move out some players and convince people to do, as you say, get off their Excel sheets or stop the way they're doing it.
John: How do you go into that? What's your angle or your pitch going in?
Erik: I'd say probably first thing is that the clients are aware that there is a problem. Right?
John: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Erik: If you look at the US statistics, manufacturing inventory turnover rates have really not changed in the two primary decades of the ERP deployment. If you go from 1990 to 2000 and then to 2010, our inventory turnovers are roughly flat. Now, there's a lot of companies out there who started down their SAP journey or whatever and "We're going to re-engineer our business around this new software, blah, blah, blah." And yet, when you look at the key operating statistics, which in inventory, it's about turnover rates and things like that and in service levels, are we filling orders on time? A lot of people pretty frustrated.
Erik: They acknowledge that there's an issue. The thing that we have to do is help them see that there is a better way that's around this Demand Driven MRP concept that I mentioned. So the way we do that is through a lot of education, using the education that's available on the market, but also by showing customers through simulations we do of their own data, "Here's how this would be different." And once they start to realize that, "Hey, we can pace to actual demand in a market and we're not going to run out of materials, we're going to actually improve our service levels or our fill rates," then they start to warm up.
But, when we started especially, even now, most companies that we start up with didn't enter the year saying, "Oh, we're going to buy this kind of software this year." So you have to wait for budget cycles to come through and you have to build organizational support. The way we do that is through then pilots after we've done simulations, proof of concepts. Once they get enough validation, and now what's really helping us grow is that the companies that were in that early adopter phase have now said, "Yes, this works."
And like we signed with Michelin to roll out to 70 of their plants, which is a huge contract, obviously. There's a Coca-Cola bottler, the other side of the Atlantic, that we're going to be signing with this month to roll out to 10 countries. So what you're seeing is that, like the VC said, in early days, this is a lot of early adopter, one-on-one, man-on-man combat to win some market share. People now have seen the value and the market's starting to get closer to that emerging mass market phase.
Evelyn: Start looking for you rather than you having to look for them. A little bit.
Erik: I wish it was a little bit more a looking for us, Evelyn, [crosstalk 00:17:05] but Yes, more of that, certainly. Certainly.
John: What do you say to the people that go, "Well, Erik, I've heard it all before. I've seen a million solutions come through here, or there's been a whole lines of consultants that have come to the company saying they can fix the problem." I mean, you must encounter that quite a bit.
Erik: Yes, I think the way we do it is through facts. Right?
Erik: If you can show people objectively, "Here's how it will work." Then you've got a fighting chance. If you can't get them to that point, then fine, "Good luck, I wish you well." We see great statistics, if we can get to the simulation stage, then there's a high propensity of those clients to go to a proposal, and a very high percentage of them will at least get a pilot project.
We also are very careful not to sell this like a silver bullet because everybody would know that that's not the case. That doesn't exist today. It's used in appropriate measure within an organization around strategic items and things like that. If they see it as part of the portfolio, then they recognize, "This is part of the toolkit I need to move forward." Properly applied, the results speak for themselves. Client after client after client getting such good improvements in inventory levels, service levels, shorter lead times, things like that.
John: One of the things I really like about Demand Driven Tech is actually you all solve a real world problem. You raise money to actually solve a real problem. We see a lot of companies that raise money, but they're more of providing a solution that maybe people would want, or-
Evelyn: Well, sometimes a technologist will actually develop something because that person thinks, "Yes, this is really going to be great," without knowing that there's ever a customer that would actually buy it.
Erik: Yes, and I think that the key ... Obviously we take a lot of pride in delivering value. I mean, even through my IBM career, that's the thing I learned first in sales when I started back in Cincinnati was we have to solve problems for people. If you solve problems for people, the selling gets way easier. I mean, I actually had a client walk out of the office on me who was frustrated that I wasn't adding value to his day. I sat there for 20 minutes and his secretary finally walks in, he goes, "Jim's not coming back in."
And I walked back- [crosstalk 00:19:23] No, this is a true story. This is one of those moments in your life-
Evelyn: Those big learning experiences.
Erik: ... where you realize, "I think I'm going to go back and get fired." And I realized I wasn't helping him, and it just changed my whole mindset about how to approach companies and customers. There's problems everywhere to be solved, just focus on those, right?
John: How is the experience different of going into an organization with IBM versus a company that doesn't have the same brand recognition, but which is a lot more passionate, probably, about the issues?
Erik: Obviously with IBM, you have so much credibility, especially when I was coming up through sales and the like, this is the late '70s, early '80s, I mean, the market was there for IBM. So there was a lot of credibility. As time wore on, that credibility got diminished somewhat because competitors entered the market. IBM didn't adapt as well as it could have in the story change, but I think the core values of trying to service clients and all that really was still very, very important and I think that's an important dimension that I've tried to carry into DD Tech is to make sure we solve problems for people.
If we do that well, then we're going to win our share of the business that's out there. At the same time, I'm not trying to bring bureaucracy, I'm trying to just instill the right value system in the company to help us really make sure we've got a right compass heading in terms of what's important-
Evelyn: That you're a customer driven organization.
Erik: Absolutely, Yes.
Evelyn: And keep that cultural view. So then, are you doing direct sales now, too, or you're just focusing still on channel partners?
Erik: Absolutely. This is a major piece of the play that emerged with the funding, is that we also saw that we needed to start driving our own sales agenda. So we brought on a young man named [Sean 00:21:11] Banks this year, obviously, supported by the funding that we raised, who had experience with SalesForce and QA Symphony and some other tech start ups and has really immediately, within the first three months of being on board, has brought a new dimension, so our pipeline of direct sales is growing at a rapid rate. We have a version of our software that runs Native in NetSuite which is a well-known ERP system, so we're focused on that market, plus kind of mid-market side from a direct sales standpoint and we think there's an awful lot of opportunity out there.
Easier to get to, too, because the decision cycles are much, much quicker than in the big, big companies.
John: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So what is the corporate culture like at Demand Driven?
Erik: I think it's really, really healthy. There's a very good buzz in the team. We are, I think, very casual, but at the same time, the whole team is very focused and driven to what we're trying to accomplish. I think people see that there's a bigger purpose to what we're doing. It's not just about having a tech startup and trying to make money that way, it's that we're helping solve real problems for companies, and I think there's a sense of pride that you can get out of taking that kind of mindset into what you do every day.
And you know, as you would imagine, there's a lot of challenges in a startup, you have to be very adapt at broken field running and figuring out things on the fly and the key adage or phrase that we've been using, you hear it on the floor every day, is "It's just that easy." We have no idea how we're going to fix it yet, but we're going to keep thinking that it's just that easy, 'cause if we break these challenges up the right way, we'll figure out the solutions for then, right?
John: Yes. So what is your management style? Are you hands on? Are you let people run free?
Erik: I'm a little dictator. No, I think the biggest thing that's so unique about small companies is that it's all about growth, right? And growth in itself is a wonderful thing, but at the same time, it's an incredible challenge. I went from, when Brad came on last year, of doing all this stuff and then trying to carve things off to give to Brad. And now he's tapped out, way too busy, we need him to start carving off things and giving them to his staff. And so growth is all about pushing down, down, down. You know, what can I delegate? How can I get people at the lower levels of the organization, we're a very lean organization, not a very large structure at all, to delegate and leverage? Because that's how you can grow the business.
To me the greatest metaphor is if you watch a skyscraper going up, there's a crane at the top that they use to bring all the construction materials up to the top floor. Then it keeps going up as the building grows. How do they do that? I'm sure there's a Discovery Channel episode that will show you how they do that, but it's a good visualization of as we, the leadership team, continue to try to grow the business, we have to keep building structure underneath us, right? And so the main things I look for in guys like Brad and Sean was people who were very adept at dealing with unstructured environments, who had this all figured out, it's just that easy kind of spirit to them.
If we can then bring that to the next wave of folks and then the next wave of folks, then we've got the right scaffolding to let the company grow. Where you have to push down. Which means inherently, if you're a leader, probably next year, you're going to carve off a big chunk of what you've been managing and giving it to somebody else. Try to do that at IBM.
Erik: You know, I've got my organization, right? At that's part of one of the challenges you run into. People have their principalities and-
Evelyn: Right, their job security sits in their control.
Erik: "This is my space." Yes. And so trying to really infuse that kind of, "This is how we build the scaffolding to grow the company."
John: Yes, that's great.
Evelyn: It's excellent you've got that differing perspective, actually. You learned the one and then now you've kind of got the freedom to be able to use the good things- [crosstalk 00:25:19]
Erik: Actually, I got a great lesson in this in the tail end of my career. I was responsible for building out our global delivery organization and this was software maintenance and development resources in India, China, places all over the world. You know, developing countries. And we were able to grow that team from in the 10,000 range to five times that size in about four or five years.
Erik: And one of the interesting things I learned about that was what it means from a leadership standpoint. If you think about that time span and how fast the organization's growing, if the normal manager needs three to five years to mature to being a middle manager, and another three to five to being an executive leader or something like that, the organization's growing too fast. And you can't just bring in those people from the outside, 'cause they won't know your culture, how you operate, things like that. So it really kind of led us to develop some leadership development programs to really think about this as a constraint that we had to overcome to enable the growth.
So I was very fortunate to have that experience because it really taught me a lot about the issues that we're dealing with at DD Tech now.
John: Yes. So what are some of the KPIs that you look at for the company? When you're trying to see what the health is, where things are going, what's on your radar?
Erik: Sure. I think about it in really three basic dimensions. From a selling standpoint, we look at our pipeline. What's the pipeline of opportunities? That's pretty basic. Then we look at bookings. What contracts have we signed? There's a delay between when we sign contracts and when the revenue comes in because of the implementation timelines and things like that. And then the third aspect of sales would be annual recurring revenue, 'cause that's really the barometer that the investors are looking at the most [inaudible 00:27:07]. Is the ARR growing at a good rate and how are we proceeding on that front?
From the product to software standpoint, there's two dimensions to that. One is software development and how are we doing at hitting our roadmap and our milestones? We've made great progress on this in the past six months, but before that, very, very difficult. We were only a two or three person software team, so constantly getting interrupted with things and whatnot. And the other side of the software front is the operations, as a SAS company now, we're running these systems for roughly 80 companies around the world. We're running a big virtual data center. We use Microsoft's Azure platform as our hosting environment 'cause they've got great scalability and security.
There was a whole learning curve to really knowing how to optimize that. And then obviously, to the client side of that, the most critical thing is are we hitting our SLA targets? Are we hitting extremely high availability? How many ninths to the right of the decimal point and all that and we've had great success with that. No real major down times or things like that. So that's KPIs from that space would be release schedules and our service level agreement metrics. And then financially, it's cash. You know, are we bringing the cash in and at accelerating rates so that we can really scale the company as much, still maintaining that bootstrapping mindset and being very diligent in our use of invested capital, in respect to the investors and the commitments they've made and trying to obviously leverage our own equity in the process as well.
John: So do you do strategic planning at all? I mean, do you sit down-
Erik: Not the way we did at IBM. [crosstalk 00:28:49]
Evelyn: Every day.
Erik: It's about an hour long conversation. No. Versus weeks. We had a very good episode around this. Good question, John, because we had the good fortune of presenting at Venture Atlanta, which is a prominent US Southeast Venture Conference and as a presenting company we were there and got great contacts out of it, but one of the key things that happened at Venture Atlanta this year was that they had Zach Nelson, who is the CEO of NetSuite, or former CEO and saw it grow from roughly a million to several hundred million in revenue and it was, I think, the largest SAS company exit ever on record.
He had some remarks, telling the story about how their evolution was, but the one thing that I really caught on was he talked about the must do. In their culture, they really had this must do mindset. What are your must dos? And why do I bring that up? Well, because there's no shortage of things for us to do as a leadership team, and it's really about picking those critical success factors that you absolutely have to do well to be able to get to the next milestone, the next point on your journey. And I could feel at times that we were starting to get ... Chasing too many priorities.
Evelyn: Lost in the, Yes.
Erik: Exactly. So in setting up our plan that we've presented to the board in December, I asked each member of the team after setting up the global must dos for the company to kind of carve out what are the things that they need to do. We're going to keep referring back to these each month as kind of a balancing point to make sure that we're not getting lost in all of the minutiae of things that need to be done and trying to stay focused on those critical dimensions.
It's a lighter weight strategy process. It's one that we'll come back to probably in a more formal way as we go forward, but it touched all parts of the organization. Software priorities, sales and marketing, channel development, finance and operations, things like that.
Evelyn: So have any 20/20 hindsight you'd like to talk about? You wish you'd known that maybe you would've done differently or if you'd known maybe you wouldn't have done it at all?
Erik: There's a very important one, Evelyn, that I still refer back to this, is I think it was about a year and a half, two years ago, I read a book by a guy named Geoffrey Moore called Crossing the Chasm. It's about technology adoption.
Evelyn: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yes.
Erik: And it's an incredibly useful piece of work because it really talks about the difference between the early adopter stage of the market and then the mass market.
Erik: The whole thesis here is that it's not a continuum, that there's a chasm. And if you don't recognize that chasm, it's gonna be fatal.
Evelyn: You'll never cross it.
Erik: Right. And the chasm is because the mass market buys on different buying principles than the early adopters do. And what that means is that you'd better finish out and get rid of technical inelegance. You've got to make a whole product, as he talks about. And more than anything, you need to focus on target markets, because you're never going to prove this to everybody until you prove it to somebody, some smaller population in real depth.
Erik: And so we've used that kind of thinking to start really pivoting a bit. We're still going to take any business that comes our way, but from an outbound marketing standpoint, it's really about some key industry segments like consumer goods, I mentioned the Coca-Cola bottler that we're starting up with; Michelin's kind of in that space even though it's a different flavor consumer goods and then a couple key ERP platforms where we can really build out, further integrate our solution in those environments.
So by following those strategies, had we started that earlier, John, I think we probably would've, or Evelyn, sorry, we probably would've been some steps ahead of where we're at right now. You gotta read the book. I've read it several times. [crosstalk 00:32:38] But I think that's probably the biggest hindsight thing I would've caught on to.
And then probably the second one would've been probably a year earlier we were probably getting to a point where we could've raised funding and that would've helped us a lot. I think all of those are great lessons to have learned at the same time, in terms of informing how we go forward from here and-
Evelyn: Absolutely, I mean, as long as you take that knowledge and you execute it going forward, right?
Erik: Yes, it's all about recognizing that you don't know what you don't know. And if you're afraid to learn those things, then you're never going to get out of the trap, so we really try to be very ... bring a dose of humility to all this and recognize those things that we need to do better and I think that's really starting to work to our advantage now.
Evelyn: Are there any really great surprises that you've had in doing DD Tech that-
Erik: One is as we started building the global client base, it started feeling like a very tiny little IBM. 'Cause I'm flying all over the world to meet with clients in Australia and Africa and you know, places like that. But that was kind of surprising. I didn't see that coming. The other thing was the buzz I would get out of being an entrepreneur. Probably the one moment in my career that really stands out is, this was December of 2017, I am flying out on the 7th to meet with my software team. You know, I land in Seattle that morning after a five hour flight and I open up my phone and I look at all these emails and here's all these funding notices and commitments coming in from our investors.
Oh my god, the buzz that gave me was something I'll always remember.
Evelyn: Pretty high.
Erik: Oh my gosh.
John: That was a great moment, so-
Erik: Well, and I appreciate all the help you guys provided us along the way.
John: Well, you guys are doing all the hard work.
Evelyn: Yes, exactly.
John: It's been fun, and I gotta say, Erik is the hardest working CEO out there. Every time I talk to Erik on the phone, I have to start with, "So, where are you?" Because-
Evelyn: Come on, John, he's working a 28 hour day, what do you expect?
John: Yes, he's everywhere. He's in Seattle one day, South Africa the next day. He's traveling the world making sales on this, I guess it is a global need for this software.
Evelyn: Making it look so glamorous, Erik.
Erik: Oh Yes. Quite glamorous to go flying coach on a 15 hour flight to South Africa. It's delightful.
John: Yes, exactly. Well, Erik, it's been a pleasure. This has been very insightful, we've really enjoyed it.
Erik: I appreciate the time.
John: If people want to learn more about Demand Driven Technologies, where should they go?
Erik: Well, one thing is they could come visit us. They can find the information on our website, we have our first America's User Conference coming up in May down in Miami and if they're in Europe, we have our second European User Conference coming up in Bilbao, Spain at the end of March.
Erik: So that would be one way to learn more. Obviously there's a good bit of information on our website. We've got webinars. We've got one coming up on consumer goods, actually talking back on our industry strategies, later this month with Chad Smith. Yes, just reach out. We'd love to hear from you and see if we can't help out.
John: And what's the website?
Erik: It's a long one. We couldn't get the ddtech.com URL, unfortunately. Give us a couple more years, we'll try to work that out.
John: All right, well, thank you, Erik. It's been a pleasure.
Evelyn: Thanks, Erik. This was great.
Erik: Thanks, folks. Really appreciate it.
Speaker 1: This has been In Process: Conversations about Business in the 21st Century with Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon. Presented by Trusted Counsel, a corporate and intellectual property law firm. Are you interested in being a guest on our show? Email our show producers at email@example.com. For more information on Trusted Counsel, please visit trusted-counsel.com.