Stride: The Early Sales Decisions

By Michael Speiser, Amadeus Orleans
2018 | Case No. E647 | Length 14 pgs.

Stride was founded in April 2016 and offered a software that gathered data from disparate sources and organized such data in one platform with a simple interface, with the goal of enabling marketing teams to more easily develop and launch personalized marketing campaigns. Elise Bergeron, the start-up’s cofounder and Chief Operating Officer, had been confronted with multiple difficult decisions since the early days of the company. Some of the most pivotal of those decisions involved the sales aspect of the business.

First, she and her cofounders needed to figure out what should be the company’s target market. One potential approach involved evaluating the benefits and challenges presented by small, mid-sized and large. It was not uncommon for start-ups to first focus on small customers and gradually seek larger ones, as it expanded its product’s feature sets, but Bergeron and her cofounders were not sure such approach would be the best for Stride. Alternatively, they could choose based on a use case standpoint: marketing teams in B2B and B2C companies had different needs for the product – should Stride focus on one or the other as its target market? Bergeron was not convinced.

<0>Second, Stride’s leadership needed to define its sales model. At the product’s price point, direct sales seemed to be a necessity. But how about the indirect channels? Bergeron was doubtful about the benefits of relying on third party platforms – such as Salesforce – or system integrators at such an early stage of the start-up’s journey. The answer was not obvious, however.

As of the second half of 2017, Stride’s sales cycle had finally developed some patterns and its cofounders felt increasingly confident about their sales choices. Unexpectedly, however, an opportunity that could take the incipient business to the next level appeared. But it involved complex negotiations and high levels of uncertainty; it also had the potential to initiate a chain reaction affecting Stride’s entire sales organization. Was it really a unique opportunity or just a time-killing shiny object? Bergeron had to decide, once again.

Learning Objective

The teaching objective of the case is to give students an overview of aspects related to building and managing professional sales organizations and the early decisions of start-up founders.
This material is available for download by current Stanford GSB students, faculty, and staff, as well as Stanford GSB alumni. For inquires, contact the Case Writing Office. Download