Elevator Pitch is a regular feature on Lifehacker where we profile startups and new companies and pick their brains for entrepreneurial advice. This week, we’re talking with Sam Chandler, founder and CEO of digital workflow manager Nitro.
In 128 words or less, explain your business idea
Nitro is changing the way the world works with documents. We make businesses more efficient through seamless, standardised digital workflows, more secure and sustainable by eliminating paper-based processes, and ultimately, more productive by empowering everyone in an organisation to edit, share, sign, approve, track, and collaborate on documents—which results in significant cost and time savings.
Australian-founded, Nitro is headquartered in downtown San Francisco with offices in Melbourne and Dublin. With over 650,000 customers worldwide, our award-winning document productivity solutions are now used every month by millions of people in almost 200 countries.
What strategies are you using to grow and finance your idea?
Nitro has always had a strong focus on growth through recruiting and developing talented people, which is what drew our business to Silicon Valley in 2009 to tap the world’s biggest tech talent pool. Key to this was the replacement of old-school HR with what we call Employee Experience (EX), a team whose sole responsibility is to create a place where the best in the world can come and do their very best work.
Growth at Nitro is driven primarily by investing in people who can build software that delights our customers, and the marketing, sales and service teams that help to solve customer problems and deliver on the ambitions that we have for those customers.
From a financing strategy point of view, we’re backed by some of the world’s best VCs, like Battery Ventures, and we’ve raised more than US$35M.
What’s the biggest challenge facing your business?
It’s always talent. It’s clichéd but it’s true. Finding the top 1 or 2% of talent that is truly the best in their field is super challenging. If you genuinely set your hiring bar extremely high – and many companies talk the talk but don’t walk the walk – hiring is incredibly painful. We had nearly 9,000 applicants last year and hired less than 1% of them.
How do you differentiate your business from your competitors?
CIOs choose Nitro because we’re a true partner that can help them accelerate digital transformation. Our solutions solve the most common document productivity challenges while delivering measurable and meaningful ROI. We provide a customer success and service experience that is unmatched and a real value differentiator for our customers. And our roadmap is incredibly exciting – we’re a partner for the next 10 years, not just the next quarter. On top of that, I would say we’re just good people – which is less common than you might think in enterprise software – and that is something a lot of our customers talk about!
What one phone, tablet or PC application could you not live without?
Evernote. But the product quality has diminished so significantly, and there has been so little innovation in recent years, that it pains me to say that. I keep threatening to switch to Microsoft OneNote but chicken out at the last minute!
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
There is no single piece of advice that is worth more than all others. And advice generally, you want to take with a grain of salt. Lots of people have opinions but few are really qualified to give them. The only advice I would give other aspiring entrepreneurs is to read, read and read some more, and learn how to ask good questions and listen. You need a quantity of information to find the quality amongst it, and the rest is trial and error. Never stop learning.
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