Clate Mask, CEO & Co-Founder
Clate Mask, CEO & Co-Founder
Back when our software was just an idea, my co-founders Scott and Eric Martineau wanted me to join them, and I was really hesitant. I had a business and a law degree, along with a mountain of debt, and just wanted to have a paycheck I could rely on. But I ended up co-founding the company with them, and have had the most insane and rewarding entrepreneurial journey ever since. I’m so grateful for it. I also co-authored a New York Times bestseller, Conquer the Chaos.
Clate Mask, CEO & Co-founder
Perspective on The Future
When my co-founders and I first started the company, I had a different idea of what “innovation” is than I do today. Back then, I thought it was pretty much the same thing as invention, and the more disruptive the invention, the better. But I’ve learned along the way that real, sustainable innovation is actually far more about adaptation than it is about invention.
In fact, to create something that is enduring you have to frequently reinvent yourself. It’s one thing to create a disruptive product and build a company on that disruption. But it’s another thing to do it over multiple decades. That multiple decades kind of growth requires that you adjust to the market, time and time again. And for me with Infusionsoft, there was a learning curve to embracing that. The idea of pure invention tends to sound cooler, and adaptation just doesn’t. But being able to adapt and grow with your customer base over time is what keeps you relevant and keeps your market fit intact. So it’s incredibly necessary.
Where performance is measured, performance improves. Where performance is measured and reported, performance improves dramatically. Where performance is measured and reported publicly it improves exponentially.
Here’s one example. After we had raised about $19M in our Series A and B rounds, we had to make a pretty huge adjustment to our business model. It ended up causing our customer churn to spike, and everything else just went completely out of whack. So we had to go back to the drawing board and figure out how we could adjust our business and offerings in order to make it work with these new conditions. We also have had a partner-first strategy for quite some time but have had to make changes to that frequently in order to maintain its ability to be mutually rewarding for us and our partners.
And we have another very recent example that echoes this same concept, too. Almost two decades into the business, more than 200,000 users globally and $100 million/year in revenue, we decided to take a step back. We wanted to continue to innovate and expand to serve a new market in the small business community.
We spent a great deal of time and resources learning from our new customer base, and finding out what kind of product they actually needed. Then, we built it—and underwent a complete rebrand to reflect that we are ready to serve more of the small business community and to double down on our commitment to small businesses.
While we kept our existing product going strong, we rebranded from Infusionsoft to Keap in early 2019, and announced a new product that was shaped entirely based on feedback from the market and our customers. It was incredibly hard to make such a drastic change and begin serving two distinct segments of small businesses, but it was time to evolve. We owed that to ourselves, and our customers.
The other observation I had is that this adaptation I’m talking about hasn’t been limited to our software. Sure, we’ve improved our product over time to better meet the needs of small businesses, but it’s not just about releasing new software versions or product lines. True innovation takes place from the top down and side-to-side in every single department within a company.
You always hear that the only constant in life is change, and I’d add that innovation is what must immediately follow that change. Nothing can stay stagnant in business, or else it will die.
First, it’s home. Second, we felt there were advantages from a talent acquisition and cost of labor standpoint. As we’ve grown, we’ve embraced talent from all over the country, but we still love and appreciate having our home base – and the bulk of our team – here in Arizona.
The Future of Innovation
When I think of innovation, I believe you need a combination of a variety of talent, with entrepreneurs and engineers at the heart of it. From my perspective, Arizona is doing better with engineering training, but we have to improve our entrepreneurial training. We have great entrepreneurs who figure things out on their own, but we should improve the education they’re offered so we can better support them and further the innovation ecosystem.
Advice & Best Practices
Feast on positivity, because you’re going to get pounded with negativity every step of the way while you build your business. My biggest advice for entrepreneurs is to master the ‘game between your ears,’ and that comes down to eating positivity for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.