Meet Drew Sechrist, the CEO & Co-Founder of Connect the Dots—a company that helps employees understand the full scope of their network. In this episode, he shares his tips from the lessons he learned while forging his own network within Salesforce and how it led him on the path to co-founding Connect the Dots.
Meet Drew Sechrist, the CEO & Co-Founder of Connect the Dots—a company that helps employees understand the full scope of their network. With that kind of experience, Drew understands the power of forging genuine connections more than anyone. In this episode, he shares his tips from the lessons he learned while forging his own network within Salesforce and how it led him on the path to co-founding Connect the Dots.
“Everybody in the company should help everybody in the company. It’s just good for all of us. If we can help our team sell better, recruit better, or build better relationships with partners: do it.”
*(1:29) - Ohana Origins: Meet Drew Sechrist
*(7:29) - What Does the Ohana mean to Drew?
*(10:27) - What’s Cooking: Drew’s Current Role at Connect the Dots
*(18:21) - Future Forecast: What’s in Store for the Salesforce ecosystem?
*(19:07) - Advice for Aspiring Salesforce professionals
*(20:09) - Lightning Round!
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Dan (Host) (01:29):
Welcome to Inside the Ohana. I'm Dan Darcy, chief customer officer at Qualified. And today I'm joined by my friend and longtime colleague, Drew Sechrist. Drew, how are you doing today?
Drew (Guest) (01:39):
Dan, I'm doing great. Thanks so much for having me on the show. Longtime listener, first time guest.
Dan (Host) (01:44):
I'm excited to have you. So I want to dive right into our first segment, Ohana Origins.
Dan (Host) (01:56):
Drew, how did you discover Salesforce and start your journey?
Drew (Guest) (01:59):
I was working for a small value added reseller, Avar in North Carolina, which is where I went to college. That company was implementing mid-market CRM solutions, like GoldMine and SalesLogix if you remember those. And the business intelligence tools like CA Crystal Info, which is now BusinessObjects, I believe. There was a Wall Street Journal article around that time about the new ASP industry that was developing. ASP was application service provider. Later, that turned into what we know today as SaaS or cloud computing. But in the early days they didn't know what to call it. They called it ASP.
Drew (Guest) (02:36):
And in it, Marc Benioff got a footnote in this article. It was a front page article in the Wall Street Journal, but if you went back to page A12 or whatever it was, at the bottom it talked about Marc Benioff leaving Oracle with some funding from Larry Ellison to start this thing called salesforce.com. And they were going to rewrite CRM software from the ground up for the internet. And like Amazon or Yahoo, I think were the examples in that article, if I recall correctly. And I read that and I was like, "Huh, this is a really fascinating idea."
Drew (Guest) (03:07):
So I actually cold emailed Marc. Basically I said, "Hey, could we resell salesforce.com?" And he said, "No, we're not going to have a reseller network, we're going to have a direct sales team." And I said, "Well, maybe we should talk about something else then, like you hiring me." And he said, "Fly out to San Francisco, let's talk." And so I flew out to San Francisco, Marc was there and went into Marc's office and he said, "Why are you here?" And I told him all the problems we were having with these mid-market CRM solutions that we were implementing. And I said, "I think this is genius. You get rid of all of the complexity of implementing this stuff and you just give everybody a web browser. And they go to it and they get access to the software they need, and you handle it in the background."
Drew (Guest) (03:50):
And frankly, in some ways I was like, "I could probably pitch this better than you right now, because I know all the problems that we're having with this." And he's like, "You're hired." And he got up and he opened the door, and Nancy Connery was there. I think she was employee number five. She was our head of HR. And he said, "Nancy, get Drew what he wants." And I was like, "What does that even mean? What do I want?" So I got hired on the spot and I flew back to North Carolina, packed up my stuff, and then drove across country and started with Salesforce.
Dan (Host) (04:21):
I love that story. So give me more of the details. What was that first job? What was your title, your initial impression?
Drew (Guest) (04:29):
So I was employee number 36. I was hired as one of the account executives. And I think if I add it up correctly, I think I was probably the seventh account executive hired at that point. But a really interesting thing to note about that is we hadn't started selling the product yet. I don't think we even had our pricing figured out yet. We just had beta users that we were getting to use the product for free to give us feedback to figure out what we needed to do to make it really good for them. So yeah, my first role is account executive. My initial impressions were I am way out of my league here. These people are all pros. A lot of them had come from top companies in Silicon Valley. I felt incredibly outclassed and I thought, "There's no way I'm going to make it here. They're going to fire me when they figure out that I don't know what I'm doing."
Dan (Host) (05:15):
So Drew, I want you to brag because I mean there's so many stories that you have had success with Salesforce about. And what would you say is your biggest success to date that you're proud of thus far?
Drew (Guest) (05:30):
We created a lot of really successful customers and that always felt good, having a customer that really succeeded and then they get promoted as a result of having bet on us. And then they would also go tell a bunch of other people about us and then we would turn them into customers too. And that virtuous cycle, it's hard to pick out just one of those that I'd feel the most proud of. But I'll be honest with you, the thing I think I was most proud of is during my tenure there, when I left, I was the only person or the first person at that point who was both the number one individual contributor as an account executive and then later as number one sales manager globally. So yeah, I was proud about that.
Dan (Host) (06:07):
Now on the opposite side of the spectrum, what would you say is your biggest lesson learned?
Drew (Guest) (06:12):
I was promoted in the management really early. During the.com bubble, I did really well as an account executive. And then we were growing so fast we needed managers and I was thrown into a management role. And I did okay as a manager, but the way that I did that job the first time was I did the job for all of my direct reports. I did their job. So I just became super rep, running around, doing all the closing for everybody. And in the end it didn't scale. And I realized that in retrospect, these jobs are completely different. Being a really good individual contributor and being a really good sales manager are two very different things.
Drew (Guest) (06:52):
And I think you have to be a really good sales person. You have to know the individual responsibility really well and be able to execute it really well. But if you really want to be a great manager of people, then you need to develop a completely different skillset. And that is developing your people, coaching your people, helping them become amazing. I was too early in my career to really understand that we were just moving too fast. So I think that was probably my biggest lesson learned. So the next time around when I became a manager again years later, because I went back into an individual contributor role for years, I think I did a better job as a result of having learned that lesson the hard way.
Dan (Host) (07:29):
So I want to ask you about the meaning of Ohana. And I asked this of all my guests, because I feel like everyone describes it just a little bit differently. How would you describe the Ohana and what does it mean to you?
Drew (Guest) (07:40):
What I think of is, and this is really very personal for me, because when I got out to San Francisco in 1999, I don't think I knew anybody out here at all. At that point in my life, I'm not sure if I knew anybody west of the Mississippi. I was an East Coast kid. And very quickly my friends became the Ohana at Salesforce. And so a bunch of the early employees and were my good early friends and to this day, if I list my best friends on the planet, I'd say probably half of them are related to Salesforce. And I actually just flew back into San Francisco. I'm here for a couple of weeks, Dreamforce next week. And by the way, I live in Miami now as opposed to, I don't live in San Francisco now. When I touch down I'm like, "This feels like home." This feels like home. And it's really because of those friendships that I made over that decade, and then they've persisted in my life since then.
Dan (Host) (08:32):
And I love that because look, I'm obviously Mr. Social Guy here in the San Francisco area, and I'll just show up to a random friends party and there's Drew. And I'm like, "Drew, I didn't realize you're in town," but it doesn't feel like you've ever really moved away. So however you do it, Drew, I just say kudos to you because you are everywhere.
Drew (Guest) (08:55):
Airplanes. Airplanes make it seem that way. It's magic.
Dan (Host) (08:58):
Yeah, exactly. Before we get into our next segment, are there any special stories or Ohana moments that are a little behind the scenes that you would want to share from your time back at Salesforce?
Drew (Guest) (09:09):
Yeah, I mean there are all kinds of fun ones. One of our early friends, Tien Tzuo got married. He did that in Shanghai.
Dan (Host) (09:14):
Who's now the CEO of Zuora. Yeah. Just want to-
Drew (Guest) (09:18):
The CEO of Zuora. He got married in Shanghai. And there were a number of us that flew out from the Ohana to be part of that. And it was super fun and the first time that I had seen China, and it was a result of that. I was just talking with my mom. As I was flying out here, I actually stopped and saw my parents. And she brought up that my friends Clarence and Na, she taught them both to swim. I remember that. And then she thinks that's actually when they started dating and now they're married and they've got two kids. And you know who they are. And-
Dan (Host) (09:49):
Well, Clarence though is still an executive vice president at Salesforce as well. And Na used to work at Salesforce a very long time ago. Yeah.
Drew (Guest) (09:58):
So my mom thinks that she's the matchmaker that made that happen. And the beautiful children are a result of all her hard work. So truly, these are the best friends that I have made over the years. A lot of them have come through this Ohana connection.
Dan (Host) (10:15):
Just in essence, Salesforce is really in a sense of family to you. I mean, it is really more that Ohana and the relationships that came along with all of that.
Drew (Guest) (10:26):
Dan (Host) (10:27):
Let's get into our next segment, What's Cooking?
Speaker 13 (10:31):
Hello, buddy. What's cooking?
Speaker 14 (10:32):
Let's both cook together.
Speaker 13 (10:36):
Get cooking. Cooking, cooking, cooking now. All right.
Dan (Host) (10:38):
So Drew, you're now the co-founder and CEO of Connect The Dots. I want you to talk about how you got to where you are now and what that journey's been like. And tell us a little bit about Connect The Dots.
Drew (Guest) (10:51):
Yeah, so I left Salesforce in 2010 primarily because I knew that I had a startup in me. I knew I wanted to do something. And specifically, it was a startup called Kuzu, which was ill-fated. But nonetheless, it was a great startup experience and that I learned a lot. I took some time off to think about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I lived in Europe for a while. I lived primarily based out of Barcelona, traveled a bunch, picked up some hobbies, did some deep thinking about what I wanted to do next. What I decided eventually was I want to go back to the States and work for another technology company in a chief revenue officer role. I thought that would be a good fit for me, taking something that was early stage with a really radical idea and then helping grow that into its market opportunity.
Drew (Guest) (11:35):
I did that with a company called Rocket Trip in New York for a year. Long story short, it was a really interesting idea, a pretty radical idea, Rocket Trip. Basically it was pay your employees to spend less money when they're traveling. It's really clever concept. But unfortunately, it's a clever idea, but it was very hard to make it work really well. We never got to product market fit, which for those of you who are maybe not familiar with that term, that basically means never quite had the right product that the market was ready to buy. So I did it for a year and left. And unfortunately, I had a disappointing outcome with that company. But there was a good lesson in that as well, which is don't fool yourself about product market fit if you're starting a company.
Drew (Guest) (12:16):
When I was thinking about what to do next, I looked at a number of things that were happening in the technology market. One is that AI was starting to make sense of previously unstructured data in ways that was becoming pretty amazing. Another thing I noticed was, wow, we've all been piling up lots of email for the last several decades and we don't really do much with it other than we send the emails back and forth and then we forget that it's there. But we archive those emails and those emails pile up in our email accounts, and they actually represent a history of all of our relationships with all those people over time. And it's a completely untapped resource that we could tap into.
Drew (Guest) (12:57):
And so I realized that with this untapped resource and with ai, we could put those two things together and analyze all the email history that anybody has ever had with all the people in their lives. And in doing that, we could pull out all those people, all those human beings you've communicated with, and then let you see who they are, how well you know them, where they are today, where they're working today, what title they've got today, what company they work at. And then further, I had this insight that we could make essentially a network of people who all do this and share visibility to their networks with each other.
Drew (Guest) (13:36):
So because I know you, Dan, you can see my network and I can see yours, if you'd like to opt into it. And that's exactly what we built. So we founded this company about three and a half years ago. It's called Connect The Dots. You can find email@example.com. And the concept is exactly that. You connect all of your email accounts to it. We analyze all of the header data in all the emails that you've ever sent or received in your life, and then we present to you this beautiful, consolidated view organized of all the people that you've ever communicated with. And then you can share that visibility with your friends, your coworkers, any of your extended network to figure out who actually knows who. Leverage that for warm introductions into the right people that you want to get to, and also just better understand the people in your life that you've got right now.
Dan (Host) (14:21):
I mean, that's really powerful, Drew, just to hear that concept alone, because just through the years of working relationships that you've had with a lot of people, I'm sure that is a huge untapped resource that could be a benefit for other folks at your company trying to do things that they're trying to accomplish with their customers or prospects, for example.
Drew (Guest) (14:44):
Yeah. The origin of this idea really goes back to those early days at Salesforce when I realized I don't have any network whatsoever, but I can tap into my colleagues around me who have great networks. And then I can leverage that. I can leverage their networks to get into the right people at the right companies that we want to sell to. And that's how we did it. I mean, it was incredibly successful when we did that over and over and over again. The problem was the first part of figuring out who do we know? That that was the hard part. But once we knew that we knew somebody, then we could leverage that relationship. And it really changed the game for us.
Dan (Host) (15:19):
And to your point around not having a network, I mean, you have built your own network from the ground up, and that's something I know you're extremely proud of and are more than happy to tap into when that a solution is going to be even better for them.
Drew (Guest) (15:33):
I love to find the path in somewhere, and I love to help somebody. I probably overdo it sometimes when I find out that somebody's trying to solve a problem in their lives. And I'm like, "Oh, I know the right person for you to talk to." And maybe I overdo that sometimes, but I'm always thinking, how can I help this person find the right person that's going to help them solve their problem? And I think that there are a lot of us out there on the planet.
Dan (Host) (15:57):
And that's just a testament to who you are, because you were brought into someone's network and you were lifted up. And therefore, you want to pay it forward by lifting others up as well.
Drew (Guest) (16:07):
That came top down at Salesforce. There are a lot of companies out there that don't behave like that. And Marc absolutely set the tone for all of us. And I've been surprised. This is so obvious. Everybody in the company should help everybody in the company. It's just good for all of us. If we can help our team sell better or recruit better or build better relationships with partners, if anybody in the company can help out, do. Marc instilled that in the ethos of the company from the very beginning. But I've been surprised that when I look around the world over the last two decades, and I see a lot of companies that they don't behave like that. That's not every company in the world and that culture comes from the top. Marc did just a really amazing job of that. And that permeates all of the Ohana.
Dan (Host) (16:54):
So Drew, what challenges are you seeing now at Connect The Dots? And how are you applying what you learned from Salesforce to these challenges?
Drew (Guest) (17:01):
From my personal experience in the very early days of Salesforce, where I was the seventh account executive hired in and we weren't selling a product yet. Now this was 1999. They were crazy days. So companies did crazy things like that, like hire a bunch of account executives before you're even selling a product. So these days are a little bit different. But what I learned from that is you want to get a bunch of users on your product banging on it night and day, banging on it hard, telling you what they love and what they hate about it and what they need to see different for that to be a really powerful product for them. So the more, the better. The more input you can get, the better. And we've definitely applied that in our approach to the connected app.
Drew (Guest) (17:44):
So we've got a lot of companies that are banging on it right now and we're hearing all the stuff that they love and all the stuff that they hate about it, and that's helping us make a better product faster.
Dan (Host) (17:52):
So Drew, what is next for Connect The Dots, and how are you shaping the future?
Drew (Guest) (17:56):
We love all of the early adopter users out there that find that to be a really compelling thing for them. They want to leverage their networks better. So I would say come to our website, ctd.ai and you can click join the wait list and we'll let you in as soon as we can. Or you can email me directly, firstname.lastname@example.org and I can send you a code that will get you past the wait list. You can skip it and get your account set up immediately.
Dan (Host) (18:21):
You heard it here first, everyone. Email Drew and you can get into this selfie program, which is pretty exciting. So Drew, I want to get into our final segment, The Future Forecast.
Speaker 15 (18:31):
So where are we headed?
Speaker 16 (18:35):
Where the forecast predicts the future.
Dan (Host) (18:41):
What do you envision as the future of the Salesforce ecosystem?
Drew (Guest) (18:44):
The interesting challenge is going to be how do you grow at this scale? What are the next problems that you can solve? What are the next markets that you can go tackle? My honest answer on this is I'd bet on Marc, having watched him up close for a decade and then watched him from a bit more distance for the subsequent decade or so. I think he'll figure it out, but I don't know where they go. And they're so huge now.
Dan (Host) (19:07):
What advice do you have for any aspiring individuals looking to come into this Salesforce ecosystem or just get to know a little bit more about Salesforce in general?
Drew (Guest) (19:17):
Well, first and foremost, tune into Inside the Ohana. You'll get all the good old insider stories. I think another thing that I would say is, this is completely self-serving, but hey, I'm on your podcast, set up a Connect The Dots account. And then see who the people are that you can get introductions to at Salesforce in the Salesforce ecosystem, and then reach out to them. They tend to be very friendly people. And if you reach out with a legitimate request for insight about how you know could become involved in the Salesforce ecosystem, I think a lot of people are really willing to spend a little bit of time with you and help you.
Dan (Host) (19:51):
So true. And it goes back to what we were talking about earlier with the connector language. You know how a connector really wants to bring you in, lift you up, and connect to other peoples? I feel like somehow the value of just that connector relationship exists within the Trailblazer ecosystem.
Dan (Host) (20:09):
Before letting you go, let's have fun with a quick lightning round. You ready for this?
Drew (Guest) (20:14):
Speaker 17 (20:15):
Cue the lightning.
Speaker 18 (20:16):
You mean lightning?
Speaker 19 (20:17):
Lightning. Lightning fast.
Dan (Host) (20:23):
Favorite Salesforce product?
Drew (Guest) (20:24):
Dan (Host) (20:25):
Of course. That was quick. Yeah, it was awesome. Favorite Salesforce character?
Drew (Guest) (20:31):
Well, when I was there, I think Sassy was the only one that existed. So everybody else is new. So I'm a Salesforce Classic guy and I'm a Sassy guy.
Dan (Host) (20:39):
You're an OG. Love it. Favorite brand of anything besides Salesforce?
Drew (Guest) (20:44):
Oh, great question. I am in love with my ear plugs. They're just real simple, basic earplugs. They're Hearos NRR 33 ear plugs. Don't get the NRR 32. They don't work. But the 33s are great.
Dan (Host) (20:58):
There you go. Secret skill not on the resume?
Drew (Guest) (21:02):
I can say a tongue twister in Serbian that many Serbs can't.
Dan (Host) (21:06):
Please go for it right now. I want to hear it.
Drew (Guest) (21:09):
[foreign language 00:21:09]
Dan (Host) (21:09):
And what does that mean?
Drew (Guest) (21:16):
Well, I can say it. I'm not sure that I know exactly. It means something along the lines of four black birds sitting on a stump chirping.
Dan (Host) (21:26):
Okay, good. For any Serbians out there, please write us in. That'd be great.
Drew (Guest) (21:30):
Yeah, Tell me if I did a good job.
Dan (Host) (21:31):
Yeah. You just won front row seat tickets to your dream event. Drew, what is it?
Drew (Guest) (21:37):
Oh, man. Well, I'll stick with the Serbian theme since I spent a lot of time over there now. I'll say to a Red Star versus Partizan soccer match. Those are the two big soccer teams.
Dan (Host) (21:47):
That's awesome. Drew, this has been so much fun. It's great to see you. But before I let you go, will you let the listeners know where they can find you? I know you talked about it a little earlier, but anything else you'd like to plug?
Drew (Guest) (21:59):
You can find me at email@example.com. That's my email address. And I love email, so feel free to send me an email if I can be of any help. And our website is obviously ctd.ai.
Dan (Host) (22:10):
Awesome, Drew. Well, thank you so much again for your time, and I'll see you at Dreamforce.
Drew (Guest) (22:14):
Look forward to seeing you, Dan. Thanks. A lot of fun.
Speaker 5 (22:17):
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