By: Amy Konary, VP of Customer Business Innovation at Zuora
I will start off by saying that I love subscription and business in the same way that I love hot fudge and ice cream. It just makes sense to me that the two should be together. How did I get this way? The story of why I joined Zuora started in 1996.
Fresh out of university, I was working as the concierge at a seaside resort when I saw a help-wanted ad in the Cape Cod Times from a local software company. I loved coding as a kid (LOAD “*”,8,1) though I didn’t really know that was what it was, and it did not occur to me that you could have a career in software before seeing that ad.
The company developed mid-market ERP software for the AS/400. I loved the fast-paced, entrepreneurial environment, and the opportunity to have a meaningful impact. In under a year, I had moved from being the front desk receptionist to writing white papers for the CEO and working with the CFO on M&A. I was hooked on software, but craved industry perspective. I recall meeting with IDC analysts in our Waltham office and attending Gartner Symposium in Orlando. I didn’t really understand what industry analysts did, but they certainly seemed to have perspective. A few months later, in 1998, I joined IDC.
I figured I would stay for a few years, learn how the software business worked, and then go back into industry. Being an analyst opens the doors to candid conversations with some of the smartest and most creative people in the world. IDC needed someone to look at the Application Service Provider (ASP) market and I took that on. ASPs hosted traditional software for customers who licensed the software separately and paid an annual fee for the managed services. ASPs quickly faded, but the idea that business software didn’t have to run on-premises made it easier for the next big thing.
In 1999, I started meeting with companies that didn’t fit IDC’s definition of software — or services. Not only did these companies host and run the software for you, they also embraced a completely different business model. The Subscription. I started tracking Salesforce.com, Netledger, and others like them outside of our regular software industry database. Though they were pretty insignificant compared to the giants of software in those days, I knew that they were important. We initially called the market Software OnDemand. Eventually, I changed the name to Software as a Service, and produced the industry’s first forecast for this market in 2002.
Back then, many people thought it was crazy that anyone would pay a subscription for software that would run their business. Software was viewed as a product, and if you subscribed you wouldn’t “own it” anymore. Based on the work that I was doing with early SaaS companies, and with traditional software firms that were migrating to SaaS models, the most difficult thing about SaaS wasn’t the technology — it was the business. In 2004, I launched a practice to help companies build and run their SaaS businesses, and I led that until I left IDC last month.
Through that work, I met Tien Tzuo and his new company, Zuora. I had met with Tien when he was at Salesforce.com, and I was very excited to see what he was building. Whenever I had the chance to meet with Tien, I found myself vigorously nodding in agreement with almost everything that he said. He never had to convince me of the benefits of subscription or the reasons for the shift — I too was seeing these same things first hand. Zuora’s customers were my customers. While Zuora was addressing those issues with technology and thought leadership, I was working with the same companies on go-to-market and organizational change.
Over the years, I have had opportunities to leave IDC for industry roles, but the timing wasn’t right. I knew that when I did leave I would go back into industry, that I am happiest when I am building relationships with customers, and that I love subscription models. Once I came to that realization, all it took was a trip to San Francisco for Zuora Subscribed in June 2017 and I knew exactly what I was going to do next. I was going to figure out how to go to work for Zuora.
And, here I am. Working directly with customers, helping Zuora to strengthen and expand its relationships, and immersed in subscription businesses. I am part of an amazing organization full of people that I cannot wait to get to know better, and with a company that is at an incredibly exciting stage in it’s evolution. For years, I have been advising my clients that successful business model change requires a technology platform like Zuora to support it. Now, I am advising Zuora customers that successful technology change requires business model evolution. Saying that this is my dream job is not an exaggeration.
This brings me back to ice cream. Hot fudge doesn’t work in every situation. For example, if you insist on having an ice cream cone, hot fudge isn’t the best thing. There are times when subscription is absolutely the right approach, and other times it isn’t and you end up with hot fudge all over you. But when subscription is right, and in my experience there are so many times when it is, your customers will be so much happier and stickier as a result.