PriceSpider helps leading consumer brands discover precisely what, where, when and how people purchase.
The consumer path to purchase has never been more complex as e-commerce has transformed the way in which consumers shop. For consumer brands, gaining a clear picture of exactly what’s happening across multiple touchpoints along the consumer’s retail journey is difficult. But without this picture, converting more browsers into buyers is a significant challenge.
PriceSpider is the world’s leading consumer conversion and brand integrity software platform, connecting the dots between brands, retailers, and shoppers to provide the information they need to take action. PriceSpider’s proprietary “spidering” technology collects immense data sets from thousands of e-commerce sites worldwide—data the company uses to give shoppers easier access to products and brand manufacturers an optimized path to increased sales.
Q&A with the Co-Founder
What was the biggest result of your partnership with Frontier?On an operational level, being able to holistically look at our KPIs delivered real value. It meant we could view the health of the business and be confident we were seeing what really mattered.
The other thing was being able to consider and actually execute on an acquisition. Looking back, that was probably the biggest value.
What did you expect when you first began considering growth equity—and how did the reality compare?This was our first rodeo. So, we had only the expectations that were set by our peers and others who had gone through it.
Our basic understanding turned out to be true. But what we really learned going through the process was how differently money at particular stages of growth behaves. So early investment from a VC comes with completely different expectations of return and performance than that of late-stage growth equity.
The firms are different. The focus is different. The engagement is different. That's where I would say I was most naïve about the differentiators. It would have been fantastic to know this going in and not have to learn it on the fly.
Ultimately, we decided that late-stage growth equity investment partners were our sweet spot and where we wanted to focus.
What made Frontier standout when you went through the process?The thing that stood out for me right off the bat was that they were extremely genuine. They were knowledgeable about our industry. They were well-read and had done their homework.
Frontier did what they said they would and built trust over time. That’s important because when it comes time to make the decision, trust becomes the number one factor.
Everything on paper is quantifiable, and you can compare options. But trust is subjective and makes all the difference in the end. If you have multiple offers and they're all right on top of each other, valuing similarly, which is likely to be the case, the decision is going to jump over to those more subjective things.
That's really where Frontier shined.
What would you advise other businesses in a similar situation to focus on in finding the right growth equity partner?I’d say do a little soul searching about what you want and, at the same time, try to understand what the investor wants too. Not all investors want to come in and let their money ride for a decade or longer. If that's something you're looking for, say it.
Be prepared to answer questions about what you want and not be shy, embarrassed, or hesitant about it. If you want investment to capitalize on a market opportunity to triple the size of the company in a year and then exit, say it—otherwise you're not going to find the right partner.
You want a potential partner to hear your genuine desires for your company and align with them and still be interested. You actually want to scare off ones that don't align with you.
What were the main business challenges that partnering with Frontier helped you address?Frontier really helped us formalize certain aspects of our business to be able to take advantage of the market opportunity we have.
When we started out with them we didn't have a CFO. So the fact that they had a former CFO on staff was really valuable. He acted as an interim CFO to plug that gap while we recruited a finance leader.
It was the same scenario for sales. Frontier could easily bring in a sales leader with a proven track record to help us get organized and make key operational decisions.
That help—across multiple disciplines at different stages—has been fantastic.
Operationally, what were the key levers of your growth after becoming a portfolio company?Frontier brought a huge wealth of information and knowledge about how SaaS tech companies perform and grow. They understand the leading indicators and metrics to watch—recurring revenue, customer acquisition costs, lifetime value, and all of the metric-driven ratios.
They helped us understand what these meant for the health of the business and the impact each could have on our growth. Having a KPI dashboard that we could look at on a regular basis gave us an extreme level of confidence that, if something started to slip, we’d know sooner rather than later.
An acquisition is something many companies never go through. What was the process like?An opportunity presented itself to engage with the market leader in an ancillary space. Being able to purchase a sizable company and tuck it into our organization inside the first year of Frontier's investment was huge. There's absolutely no way that would have happened had it not been for Frontier. We would have had to pass. We probably wouldn’t have even known about the opportunity.
It was an education for me. The acquisition was a lot of work even though we were prepped for it.
Having never gone through one before, if we hadn’t had Frontier’s knowledge and help, I can't even imagine the workload—all the due diligence, the exhaustive research, and then everything post-acquisition. As with any big change, there was a great deal of integration work that needed to get done.
Frontier was always there to lend a hand or bring expertise in order to move things along. So it was exciting and exhausting, but positive all around.
What would you say is the key to hiring great people into the business?It’s really about culture. I can't learn that lesson enough times and I'm probably going to learn it a few times more. But the right person on paper isn't always the right person in person.
Paper gets the candidate in the door. It's the person, personality, and the culture fit that should get them the job.
It's hard when it's so unquantifiable. A lot of times you're going on gut, but I don't think you can give enough weight to the culture and value fit during the hiring process.
Culture is just as important when you think about acquisitions. You have to take the whole process of merging your values very seriously. You need to take time and be considerate of the existing cultures of the two companies you’re merging. It’s what enables you to align around a new course and a new set of core values.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were a startup about growing a software business?If I’d started PriceSpider with the knowledge of what truly matters in a SaaS business and had the foresight to size the market earlier, I think it would have saved me a lot of time.
We wouldn’t have meandered as much in the early years going after the consumer market and trying to build a business-to-consumer solution. We wouldn't have spent time going after the retail space when they weren't necessarily ready for our offering. We would have figured out that we needed to focus on brands a little earlier.
We would also have figured out what truly makes a healthy company earlier. As Frontier showed us, there is a key set of KPIs that mean the world to the health of a SaaS—customer acquisition costs, lifetime value, recurring revenue. It's the lifeblood. It's the heartbeat of the business.
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