“To plan or not to plan?” is not really the question when it comes to a business.
Every company wants to plan, but planning is a painful and time consuming process – and often the plans are inaccurate, frequently with dire consequence. Missed sales forecasts and earnings, missed product launches and missed hiring plans are just a few of the misses of poor or ineffective planning. Not to mention the agony of the people toiling away in finance and planning departments and countless hours lost to mind numbing and tedious processes. In the age of the cloud and software transforming every industry and function it is time that this problem is addressed for every company not just the largest in the world.
The entrepreneur obsessed with the planning problem
At Mayfield, we have been pondering this problem for several years and have been looking for an entrepreneur who had a vision to solve this problem. We found our answer when we met Christina Ross, founder & CEO of Cube and her co-founder & CTO, Josh Holat in the middle of the pandemic last summer. Christina is a life long self-proclaimed finance geek and has made it her mission to elevate the role of the CFO and finance to be a strategic driver of business. As a matter of fact, growing up her favorite toy was a cash register! No surprise she is obsessed with helping companies make better resource allocation decisions to make businesses more efficient and drive innovation.
Christina had experienced the problem of planning at large companies and startups and had seen the promise yet severe limitations of planning software known as EPM (Enterprise Performance Management). These modeling engines run in the cloud and help businesses reconcile their finances between budgeted and actual performance and plan for future scenarios. As an FP&A (financial planning & analysis) expert at GE and at Deloitte she saw the power of these systems but also how expensive, time consuming to implement and difficult they were to learn. As head of finance at startups such as Rent the Runway and Criteo’s US division, she realized that everything on the market was hopeless for most companies that are not large and sophisticated. Most importantly no one liked using these systems.
Meet the user where they are with what they need
One thing Christina observed was that regardless of the environment, finance and planning people love using spreadsheets, despite their inherent limitations. They are easy to use and set up, very flexible and easy to collaborate with. Pretty much every business user knows their way around a spreadsheet and there are 100s of millions of such people. The limitation of spreadsheets is their flexibility makes them error prone, they are slow and lack the complex modeling capabilities most businesses need.
Chrstina had the core insight of combining the flexibility and ubiquity of the spreadsheet with the power of a cloud based modeling software. Take the best of both worlds and leave the worst of them behind. Voila! A system that was easy to implement, with data integrated from systems such as CRM, ERP and HR, fast, flexible and easy to learn and a delight to use.
Taking the bold step from CFO to Entrepreneur and CEO
Christina started validating the idea by talking to her fellow CFOs. Encouraged by the similar stories and pains she heard, she decided to make the bold move, as a mother of two year old twins, to quit her job and take the plunge to become an entrepreneur. Before she brought on Josh Holat as her co-founder & CTO, Christina learned to use Invision and validated her mock designs with potential customers. She got commitment for her first paid customer before a line of code was written. In seeking out her co-founder, Christina recalls, Josh not only got the vision but came back with an elegant design and approach to implement the foundation of the technology and the product. Josh was fascinated with not just the technical challenge, but also the uniqueness of the opportunity to have a real impact on businesses and in his words “not just another app.” After participating in Techstars NY, Chrstina brought on board prominent Angels who had invested in or were part of cloud EPM leaders such as Anaplan and Planful in the past.
Partnering with Christina and Josh to build Cube as The System of Intelligence and Engagement for Finance
At Mayfield, our familiarity with the market goes back to our shared tribal knowledge to the first generation EPM companies such as Arbor Software/Hyperion (now part of Oracle), which was a Mayfield investment made in the 90s. But it is the front row view we had with the movement Marketo created by elevating the role of the CMO and digital marketing; and how Outreach has created and is leading the sales engagement movement by empowering salespeople with an AI driven platform that is very much the inspiration. A finance system of intelligence and engagement would empower the CFO and finance people to serve a key strategic role in helping every department and line of businesses perform at their highest potential. Cube has the potential to reinvent the planning category and bring it to 100s of thousands of businesses in the world up from the current market of a few thousand companies. We believe this is a 100X opportunity.
We were introduced to Christina by our friend and longtime collaborator, Brett Queener, of Bonfire Ventures, who had just led the seed round of the Company in May 2020 along with Leyla Seka of Operator Collective. From the very first zoom meeting with Christina we felt we were meeting a special entrepreneur and our prepared mind was blown away by her deep understanding of the problem, insight and vision for the market. As we learned about her values and the importance of the “Why Cube matters and needs to exist as a Company,” the more we felt compelled to find a way to partner with Christina and the team.
We got to know each other over a summer of zoom which culminated in us flying to meet with Christina (who drove up from NYC) and Josh in Boston navigating all the various quarantine rules and restrictions. Despite the uncharted waters of doing investments during COVID we have remained committed to meeting entrepreneurs safely in person. At Mayfield, our People First approach to partnering with entrepreneurs comes with deep conviction and a commitment to help with company building over the long haul. Hence it was important to spend the time to get to know Christina and Josh and we welcomed their approach of them getting to know us deeply as well. We appreciate their desire to partner with us given entrepreneurs have many choices for venture partners.
It is early but very promising for Cube as they have quadrupled their customer base since launching the product in early 2020 with dozens of businesses of varying sizes and industries. The Company is marching rapidly towards achieving strong PMF (product market fit) with very high win rates, evidencing strong pent up need in the market looking for a solution that works. And COVID was a reminder of how uncertain the world is, underscoring the need for planning as a constant activity for every business.
To all the finance folks and planners out there, in the words of Maya Angelou “Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.”
We are thrilled to partner with Christina, Josh and the team at Cube. Welcome to the Mayfield family.