Corinne Riley joined Greylock nine months ago — and hit the ground running.
Corinne has played a vital role in helping Greylock find our next wave of great B2B investments. She has already been critical to Greylock’s investments in Postscript, a SMS commerce tool for Shopify merchants, and Common Room, a platform that helps companies deepen their relationships with their communities.
With an eye on the themes I’ve personally been most excited about (new school SaaS, arming the builders, and the future of work), Corinne also has been diving into commerce infrastructure, customer engagement, and fintech products that help businesses grow.
Corinne’s value as a thought partner to me and our entire investment team was immediate. She has a great instinct for trends and technology with potential impact. She interviewed at Greylock with a thesis on SMS commerce, which is an area where my partner Mike Duboe and I were already hunting. Recently, she began publicly sharing her thoughts about Community-Led Growth, articulating the growing need we’ve seen for tools that enable companies to better serve their increasingly-online and increasingly-fragmented (but also increasingly powerful) user communities. Her work contributed to our investment in Common Room two months later.
Outside of looking for the next great B2B SaaS founders, Corinne is spending time in fintech, the API economy, and Robotic Process Automation (RPA). On the company-building front, Corinne serves as a resource to entrepreneurs developing their strategy around community-led growth. She provides keen analytical skills to our companies, with on-the-ground support ranging from customer segmentation and TAM analysis to SaaS metrics. Finally, Greylock is a network as much as a partnership, and she helps companies leverage Greylock’s broad and deep network of customers, recruits and advisors.
Originally from a small coastal town in Italy, Corinne has done tours of duty at startups in Paris and Bangladesh. Most recently, she worked at Morgan Stanley with the Zoom and Uber teams on their IPOs, and with Palantir on their Direct Listing. These franchise companies innovated not only in product, but also in business model; they are creative pioneers in product-led growth, marketplaces and technology-enabled services. Corinne’s deep understanding of — and storytelling for — these companies is an incredible asset to the next generation of entrepreneurs. We were impressed with Corinne’s growth mindset, commercial instinct, passion for technology, analytical rigor, work ethic and strongest recommendations from people we have great respect for, such as Eric Yuan, founder/CEO of Zoom, and Michael Grimes, legendary tech banker.
We aspire to be the best early stage venture investors in the business, but also to achieve that the right way. Corinne is our type of investor: competitive and committed to high performance, but always team-oriented, founder-first and committed to intellectual honesty.
Greylock’s editorial team caught up with Corinne to hear more from her about where she’s focused and what challenges she is looking to tackle through tech investing. Read more:
Q & A with Corinne Riley
Greylock: Working at Greylock has been your first foray into venture investing. Given the breadth of the SaaS landscape, how have you identified specific areas of interest?
Corinne Riley: SaaS is an extraordinary business shift, to value-as-a-service that is increasingly accessible to all kinds of customers, and that breadth really attracted me. Both PostScript and Common Room fit into my wider interest in products that help companies grow their businesses. The movement to restructure every business around its customers with digitally native, data-driven and intelligent experiences is just beginning.
Q: Where do you think the opportunities exist in this emerging tech market?
CR: I’m looking at opportunities through the lens of the entire customer-facing stack – which is currently siloed into areas like sales, marketing, support, products analytics and user engagement – and how all these different personas might work better together.
More specifically, I’m spending a lot of time focusing on the customer-facing side of B2B SaaS and how product analytics could be integrated into the development process. Communication between people and tools is cumbersome, which does not put companies in a position to optimize each decision with customer data in mind.
“Customer experience is so important because it involves every way in which a customer interacts with a company and product. Every part of the customer-facing stack of a company needs to reflect their understanding of the customer.”
Q: There are already many products available across the stack to improve workflows, metrics, sales, engagement – you name it. How are these existing tools not also improving the customer experience?
CR: While there are considerable players in each of the markets across the stack (RevOps, Marketing Ops, etc), right now, many of these tools do their jobs (workflows for the related personas) in a siloed way.
Our thesis is that looking at it as a loop – or what I call the “NextGen Customer Experience Wheel” – is ripe for improvement. The opportunity I’m excited about is connecting products all the way to sales through a customer-centric lens.
Q: How has this loop been overlooked?
CR: Historically, great customer experience meant having a great customer support team, brand marketing, and occasional NPS surveys. But today, the rate at which software is now developed, deployed and sold, allows companies to put the customer at the center of every team’s attention. Companies have an opportunity to continuously ingest product feedback and buyer input, and strategically use that to improve every part of the GTM process.
Q: What does this look like in practice?
CR: Every team needs to be able to learn about the customer every step of the way, collect engagement data from them, and most importantly make that data usable on a cross-functional basis.
Let’s say you start with an MVP product, you market and sell to your first customers, they engage with customer success and support, where their questions and feedback are tracked, responded to, and common bugs are sent to the product teams.
At the same time you are tracking user engagement and product analytics – better understanding how they use your tools, how to move them ‘down the funnel’ and get them to maximize the value of your product.
Through this process the product teams receive real-time feedback, and ideate on the next set of features. The roadmapping process is shared with success and sales teams, who are able to sell the idea of these future products in real time sales negotiations, as opposed to selling false promises or underselling near value.
Throughout this process user research is being conducted both proactively and retrospectively, sharing feedback with product teams.
Once the customer-driven product updates are finished, they get fed back into the marketing machine, giving the sales team new materials to go to market with.
Q: At a high level, what can be done to make the customer experience loop more agile?
CR: First off, we need to de-silo categories. There is valuable data sitting in each individual category of sales, marketing, success, and support, but it is not enriching the adjacent categories.
Second, we need to tie them all to revenue. I believe there is a real opportunity for a product that consolidates all categories and streamlines the workflow into revenue-generating categories. This is in opposition to the current setup where success is focused on avoiding churn, support is avoiding expenses, etc.
At the core, data problems pose the primary challenge in tying these all together. We need user-friendly data platforms, and we need to collect better data. For example, email-based user research is still the most common tool, and yet open rates are low and completion rates are even lower.
Q: Do you see any new tools that are starting to propel this cycle forward?
CR: We are starting to see modern data tools like Segment, Census and Headsup which sync customer data into revenue-facing applications. In parallel, there are increasingly GTM-enabling workflow tools like Funnel IQ, EndGame and Openprise, and I am eager to figure out what we can build to include the product iteration side of the process as well. Historically when you think about customer facing tools, you think about S&M, customer support, customer success all operating independently. Ideally now we have a seamlessly connected process that iterates on customer feedback, feeding growth, product ideation, while making the sales process effortless.