Stephanie Cox | Lumavate: No-Code and The Democratization of Tech
Jessica Stephenson (00:00):
So Stephanie, welcome to the circuit. So glad to have you with us today and congratulations to you and Lumavate on the recent 6 million raise that's wonderful news.
Stephanie Cox (01:15):
Thank you so much. We're really excited about what it means for the future of growth for the business. Great.
Jessica Stephenson (01:20):
So first off for those who may not be familiar with Lumavate, can you tell us a little bit about what you do and who your customers are?
Stephanie Cox (01:27):
Yeah, so Lumavate is a platform that enables business users. So really think anyone that can use a computer to be able to build apps without using any code. And so that means you don't need development resources. So oftentimes we usually work with marketers, um, people in HR or the sales organization that need to build really engaging digital experiences for their customers. And we work primarily with enterprise brands. So companies like Roche, Delta Faucet, and others you might be familiar with.
Jessica Stephenson (01:56):
Absolutely. So 2021 was a big year for you, at Lumavate, you were promoted to president and CEO and while many tech CEOs start out as founders, that wasn't necessarily your path. You started there as VP of sales and marketing. So can you tell us a little bit about your journey to the C-suite?
Stephanie Cox (02:15):
Yeah, so I was hired about five years ago, um, almost exactly to run marketing and that was my experience. I had always been in marketing for about 15 years at the time and had a close relationship with sales. And one of the things that happened ate was we were selling mobile apps to these brands and I had a decade of native mobile app experience. And so it became really natural for me to get involved in a lot of the sales opportunities because I was the type of person who I've been where our customers have been. I've been that person. I say I felt the war wins of launching a native mobile app. We do something a little bit different than that. And so as part of that experience, I start taking on more and more engagement in sales and then took over the sales team about two years into my journey there.
Stephanie Cox (03:02):
And it was funny at the time. I had never thought I'd wanna lead sales, right? Most marketers don't think about that as a path. And I remember our CEO at the time Mark Hill asking me after previous head of sales had left. He said, what do you think about running sales? And I was like, what, what do you mean? Right? It wasn't something that I really thought, you know, for me as like a career path. And I thought about that evening and I was like, no, I wanna do this. I I'm already doing this. And so that's kind of how that journey took happened. And then I tend to have this ability and I think, um, some, you might find it frustrating or annoying, but when I see a problem, I can't let it go. So I'm really polite. And if it's like not in my area of influence, I'll tell the person, but if they don't do something about it, I'm probably gonna go ahead and start fixing it.
Stephanie Cox (03:52):
And that's kind of what happened at Lumavate. I saw opportunities for us to improve our services. And so I was running sales and marketing. So I started becoming more involved in that. And then I took over the service organization and customer success. And then, you know, there were a lot of things tied to product, as well. And so in a lot of ways, you know, I started getting my hands on lots of areas of the business before I became president and then CEO. But I think part of it too, was I had never about becoming a CEO. Because like you mentioned, a lot of tech company CEOs are founders, right. And that wasn't my journey at Lumavate. And it wasn't until about like seven years ago, I had coffee and breakfast with someone at the company I was working with at the time.
Stephanie Cox (04:36):
And he said to me, he's like, look at the end of the conversation, "You know, you make a great CEO someday." And I was like, that's hilarious. Because that, wasn't what I thought of. And then from that moment on, it became something I did start thinking about. And I was really blessed with Mark Hill at the time he put a ton of mentorship, him and bill Godfrey both into helping me grow and prepare me for this role. And you know, there was a plan for how that would look and how I would take over the business. And we saw that come to fruition last year, which was really exciting to have that opportunity to lead the company and the faith that the board has on me that our customers have in me to take us to the next level.
Jessica Stephenson (05:18):
Did you plan for career and tech years ago?
Stephanie Cox (05:21):
No, I didn't. Um, I, I think a lot of times my career has been a combination of two things, hard work and luck, and I think sometimes people underestimate the luck aspect. So when I graduated, it was 2003 and back in the day, not everyone even had a website, right. Tech was still very early. There wasn't a ton of tech, as we would call it today, in Indiana. And so what happened is the first company I worked at was Walker information still Indianapolis based. And they did have a tech element to their company at the time back then. And so what was interesting is I kind of looked into that opportunity. I also lucked into the opportunity that at that point on every company had a website, social media was not something that existed really at the time. You know, I went to college before Facebook was
Jessica Stephenson (06:07):
Right. It was MySpace back then.
Stephanie Cox (06:09):
Jessica Stephenson (06:09):
Stephanie Cox (06:10):
Your top eight, right?
Jessica Stephenson (06:11):
So it was just very different and I was the young person. So what ended up happening was, well, you're go figure this out. And that's how I got started in digital. And I think what just really started to happen with my first like two opportunities is I worked at companies where their primary focus wasn't tech, but I worked on something related to it. And then that just kind of continued on in my career. But I'd love to tell you that it was like this really well-intentioned idea that I had, that I totally didn't. I kind of lucked into that opportunity and Indianapolis has been such a great place for so many different companies that do tech that have provided me with so many opportunities.
Jessica Stephenson (06:48):
Yeah. When you say, I would love to tell you happened a certain way, but I think it's more interesting that it didn't, and it makes it more attainable for so many other people too.
Stephanie Cox (06:56):
It really does. I think part of the challenge that tech has today is sometimes there's a perception of like, you have to look a certain way, have a certain resume to get into tech. And that's really, for me like a fallacy, because anyone can get into tech and we need to be better about making sure their opportunities for people of all different types of backgrounds to be part of the tech ecosystem.
Jessica Stephenson (07:17):
Absolutely more on ramps for all. I've heard you mention that when you take on a new role, you have a certain formula in mind to vet whether it's the right opportunity. I think it's the 30/70 rule. It is. Can you tell us more about that?
Stephanie Cox (07:32):
Yeah. So this happened probably about six or seven years into my career. What I found is I get bored really easy, in life I like to be challenged, and in my career, especially. And so I started noticing that I felt better and was more productive and happy in my career. If I could come in and do about 70% of the job and just kind of rock it and make quick ones, but there was about 30% that I had never done before because I like solving really hard complex problems. And so that's really been how I've looked at all career opportunities. So there have been ones I've turned down, especially, you know, years ago where they come and say, oh, you've done this before. You'd be so great. And I'm like, I'll be bored in like three months.
Jessica Stephenson (08:21):
Stephanie Cox (08:21):
That's not good for you. That's not good for me. I like hard things. And that's part of the reason why I came to Lumavate, you know, I had done mobile, I had done tech, I had done, you know, early-stage companies, but I had never done, you know, I'd never done VC fundraising. I had never been such an early employee in a business. And, or helped it scale or had been a part of an early company that started in the enterprise. Usually most tech companies start SMB mid-market and they work their way up. We did the opposite.
Jessica Stephenson (08:50):
Stephanie Cox (08:51):
So, that's what I tend to do. And I encourage a lot of other people to think about it that way, especially if they're kind of like A-type a personality and they find themselves getting bored in their career. If you find opportunities where you haven't done things before it gives you an... well, one it's scary, but I like that. But it also gives you an opportunity to learn and to be challenged. And that to me is what keeps the excitement going.
Jessica Stephenson (09:14):
Yeah. You mentioned VC fundraising, which is of course, top of mind right now. So any lessons learned since that's been in, you know, the recent 30% challenging part of your role and it's been new to you?
Stephanie Cox (09:26):
Yeah. I think the thing about it is I never would've guessed going into it is yes, your business plays a huge role in role in it, right. Your success that you've had, the customers that you've had, all the metrics, but when you're at a stage where we are, and we're still so early in our overall journey as a company, a lot of what they're investing in is you. And I think that is something that I didn't expect as much. Right. Cause I'm a data driven type of person. I'm also, I'm not a big fan of like self-promotion right. Some of that stuff makes me super uncomfortable. But in reality, what they're doing is you've proven that your business is successful. You've proven that you can do certain things. And now they're trying to understand, do you have the capacity to take it to the next level?
Stephanie Cox (10:20):
And that is really about me and my leadership. And I think that was probably the most surprising thing that no one really prepares you for. Is that while they look at the team, they're also trying to figure out, should they bet on you? Yeah. And that is like a combination of like thrilling and scary at the same time. But to me it was really fun to experience that. And it was also exciting to see, you know, everyone thinks about VC fundraising as you know, who is going to give us money. But it's a lot like a job interview and a lot of ways because they're trying to figure out if they wanna invest in you and you should be trying to figure out if you want them as an investor as well. And I think sometimes that's part is missed because what you don't realize is this person, typically your lead investor is gonna get a seat on your board and they're gonna be with you throughout that journey of growth.
Stephanie Cox (11:16):
So are they the right investor? Do they believe and have the same goals for your company that you have, right. And are they going to be pushing you in the path that you want to and challenging the way that will help the business grow or are they gonna be more focused on, you know, goals for them? And we were extremely blessed to find a lead investor and choose that lead investor that was, you know, very aligned with where we wanna go as a company, how big we wanna get as a company. And what's next for us?
Jessica Stephenson (11:44):
Any other criteria that you had in mind from your perspective of who is gonna be the right investor for you?
Stephanie Cox (11:50):
Yeah. I, the other big one was I wanted someone who would like shoot straight. So personality-wise, I'm pretty blunt. I would always... I'm like Midwest humble and really polite about it, but I'm very direct and I wanted, and I want a board that's very direct. I don't like people that sugarcoat stuff or they're are gonna tell like "rah rah" all the time, like that's important, but I also want people who are gonna challenge me. And so that was another big, a big piece of it is, you know, not only who's your lead investor, but who, if you do have a lead investor that has multiple people that could be on the board, who would be the person sitting on the board and what type of personality are they gonna bring to it? So we did spend a lot of time on that and that involves, you know, understanding what that dynamic of the board's gonna shift to what role do they play and is that experience that they have, is that what you need on the board that time. Right. And so I spent a lot of time thinking about that. Is, you know, what are the strengths of the current board? What experience would be helpful for us to go to the next stage and how do we make sure that the lead investor does align with that as well?
Jessica Stephenson (12:57):
So Lumavate was an early adopter of a completely remote workforce. Can you talk about the challenges of leading a remote team and maintaining a sense of culture even without a headquarters?
Stephanie Cox (13:08):
Yeah, so, you know, we did what most companies did in March of 2020. We all went home and were very blessed at the time because we were actually in the process of renegotiating our lease before COVID hit and the benefit to it right, was we kind of put that on pause and were able to actually, or at least ended in June and we made the decision. And I don't think at the time I would tell you, it was a hundred percent intentional to be forever. It was very much, and it was, you know, my suggestion, what if we went remote, we didn't renew our lease and we kind of see how this all shakes out. Because at the time I think we all thought it'd be like two weeks, maybe six weeks. And clearly it wasn't. So that was the initial intention.
Stephanie Cox (13:53):
And we did, I think, one of the things that was really important is once we made that decision, we actually picked a date in May. That was going to be our transition to a remote workforce at least temporarily. And the reason that was important is there's a difference between working from home in a crisis, which is what every, everyone happened in March to working from home and that because we no longer have an office and we don't plan to. And so that was a big distinction. And it was also a time where we made a bunch of decisions around like, how would we make sure the team is outfitted for what they need for longterm. And then from there, you know, it went so well for us in 2020, I didn't feel like we needed to go back to an office.
Stephanie Cox (14:39):
And as we started to hire, you know, there's talent all over this country. And while, you know, obviously a large portion of our team is based in Indiana or what you know was when we first got started, you know, we're now 55% Indiana base, 45% throughout North America, which is really exciting to me. Now, I think there's challenges. So for us, we have to rethink how we onboard people. And one like simple thing is what do you do normally our first day you take new team member and your team out to lunch. How do you do that? How do you handle different time zones? Because now we have people on the east coast and on the west coast, what time should your company meeting be? That's convenient for everyone. And so we spend a lot of time on figuring out like what onboarding should look like, not for remote work, but for remote work at ate, the, that would be indicative of our culture.
Stephanie Cox (15:33):
The other thing that we did is, and it's like little things. So we got DoorDash. So everyone gets a DoorDash credit every month and gets a free dash pass. And so things that you normally think about bringing in food for your team. So now we just give you a credit for you to use however you want. And there's been a lot of, for, that's been like one of the favorite benefits, in the year, which has been kind of fun to see. The other thing that we've done is we have a really, I would say almost like an obsession with the use of Slack and not in the ways that I think probably most people use it, which is a lot of DMs. So we really believe in working in full transparency. So we have an obscene amount of channels. There's a channel for literally everything and that's where everyone can be part of any channel they want to.
Stephanie Cox (16:22):
There's very few, I would say private channels, but we work in transparency. So if you wanna know what's going on with one of our customers, you just pop on their, our channel and you can see all conversations, anyone on the company has had about them. And what we're doing, which is, I think allows you to have that like water cooler effect, um, and get a sense of like the jet stream of what's happening in the business. The other thing that we've done and we rolled this out to the beginning of twenty, twenty two was we call it like weekly impact. So normally a lot of companies at our stage would do like a standup where everyone would like talk about what they're focused on. And let's be honest, like no one wants to be on a daily zoom call where like the whole company goes around and does that.
Stephanie Cox (17:03):
So what we do instead is we actually do is have everyone post on Mondays, what they're focused on for the week. And what's really cool about that is two things. One everyone in the company gets to see what everyone else is working on. And so you'll see conversations happen where they're like, oh, I didn't know you were doing this, I'm working on this. We should talk. Or, and the other thing is when you're not in the same physical location, sometimes it's hard to understand the progress you're making. Cause you see like your progress or you see your team's progress, but you don't have a bigger sense for how the whole is moving forward. And so that's been really cool to see. I actually did that. In our last weekly company meeting is I put up screenshots of everyone's weekly impact post in the previous week.
Stephanie Cox (17:47):
And I took a second to just recognize how much we're accomplishing. Sometimes when you're in the grind of building a business, it's hard to realize how much is being done. And so that's been, I think a really big... I was afraid... to be honest, I was afraid when we first rolled it out, cause I didn't want people to think it was like a big brother thing or we're trying to like understand what you're doing all day because I hire adults and I trust them to do their job. But it, what the hope was is for everyone to get this sense of like, holy crap, we have a lot going on and we're doing really amazing things. So that I think has been another really good piece. And then I think part of it is we have fun. So like a great example is there prior to, you know, the growth that we've had in the last like three or four months with the team, there was probably... there was like three of us that were big fans of Survivor.
Stephanie Cox (18:38):
And so like the three of us would chat about it, you know, on Thursdays after the Wednesday night episode. And now the team has grown. I jokingly mentioned that in the company meeting and then now there's like eight people going, what? You watch it too. And so now there's like a survivor fantasy league and there's like live chatting about it on slack at night as everyone's watching the episode. And it creates, I think that same type of relationship, but you do have to be intentional about it, right? You can sit in your home or wherever you work, if you do a work from anywhere policy and work and not talk to anyone all day and not engage right. That is still possible to do. But I think what we're trying to do is make sure there are lots of opportunities for you to not do that if you so choose to.
Jessica Stephenson (19:23):
So thinking about all of that, is there anything you, you wish you would've done differently now having your two years to reflect back on being fully remote?
Stephanie Cox (19:34):
I think I wish we would've made the decision to be fully remote permanently sooner. Because I think there was this weird stage where we we're probably gonna have an office where we might have an office and I know like we do didn't know and there were so many things in the world, like no one could predict, but I think the challenge for it was, is even though we had set that date, like where we transitioned to like being a remote company, it, there was still this well in the future, this could happen. And I think that is problematic for a couple of reasons. One, it creates uncertainty with its team around like, well, if I like working remotely, do I have to go back to an office? Is that something that they worry about? Um, it also is hard from a recruiting perspective, right?
Stephanie Cox (20:23):
Because are you going to make people go back or are you not, are you limited to Indiana if you're gonna have an office or are you not? So we made that decision really in early 2021. I wish I would've made it. We would've made it sooner because I think it would've really just solidified like what we were trying to do from a culture perspective. And it would've made it easier for the team to know like, no, this is, this is how working at Lumavate works. And I think it also, would've helped, you know, if there's some people that don't wanna work remote and that's not for them that they prefer an in office setting and I a hundred percent understand that and that is great for them. And I hope that they can find opportunity use like that for their career. And there's people that like hybrid, right. And you know, we intentionally made that decision to be a hundred percent remote moving forward. And I think we're, you know, when we recruit people, we're super transparent about that. Now that we that's a definite thing for us and we find people that want that type of lifestyle, which I think makes it, but it was harder during that in between stage where, you know, we could have hired people that maybe wanted to be remote, but also maybe wanted to be in the office and were creating a company of like mixed feelings.
Jessica Stephenson (21:38):
Yeah. That's a good way to put it. It's so important to be so upfront and even the job description with, you know, transparent language so that people can self-select out if it's not gonna be a great fit. Well, somewhat recently you revealed Lumavate's core values. Can you talk about their creation and the big reveal to the team?
Stephanie Cox (21:59):
So we had, um, you know, before I even started at Lumavate, there were core values and we had talked, you know, over the, in the last four or five years about updating them or refining them that they were never honestly super intentional with the company. There was never, you know, performance reviews. We never evaluated new hires based on core values or any of those things that I think most people would traditionally do at larger companies. And one of the things that I wanted to do, you know, really as taking over a CEO and with our 6 million raise and hiring new people on the executive team was to kind of like reset the company. We were building, not where we're headed as a company, but like who we are and what matters to us. Because I think one of the things that's important and you see this with other companies is when you do have a transition to the CEO level, there is part of who that person is that impacts the business.
Stephanie Cox (22:59):
And so I wanted to make sure the core values were reflective of the business I want to build. And so we spent a ton of time like obsessing over like every single word for... we have four of them, ... forlike two of them. And some came a little bit easier than others. So the first one is around like move fast, deliver results, which I think is, you know, probably the most expected one, right? We, we do need to move fast. We do need to deliver results. And you know, I think that was just what's expected of the team. It's also makes it clear to new hires, kind of like we, I tell only one speed it's like running and that is very appealing to a lot of people and some people it's not the next one was around being bold. And that was really about a couple of things.
Stephanie Cox (23:44):
I think sometimes when you're in this stage, you obsess about competitors or you obsess about like, should we do this? Should we not do this? And I'm a big believer in crazy ideas and being bold and pushing boundaries because if you're doing what everyone else is doing, that's table stakes. You're not innovating. You're not moving forward. So part of that was around really challenging the team to be more bold in their thinking, let's not do what we've always done, let's do something different. And then, you know, be amazing to work with. That's a pretty simple one, I think, but we have a little different spin on it and you know, we want all, everyone that works with us, customers, partners, vendors, et cetera, to love to work with our team. But more importantly, we wanna hire people that are amazing to work with. So I think all of us in our career, no matter where you've worked, what industry you've worked with, people who are not like the best people to work with.
Stephanie Cox (24:38):
So we have a no a-hole rule, like in our core value, it's the first sentence. And it was so fun. I remember when I wrote that and I sent that to the executive team, we started talking about it and they're like, do you want that on the website? I'm like, yeah, I do.
Jessica Stephenson (24:55):
Right. You're being bold.
Stephanie Cox (24:56):
I'm being bold. Right. Because in all honesty, like, I don't wanna say jerks because I mean, that's not what we mean. And I don't want those people here because in all honesty, we all, we've, every single person can tell a time where they've had, they've worked with someone like that. It's impacted the business. It's impacted their life. I don't want that. And I want a zero tolerance policy for it. So that was, I think, we did spend a lot of time on the wording of that kind of core value.
Stephanie Cox (25:24):
But the one we spent the most time on was the last one, which was probably the one that was the most important to me, which is around prioritizing your life. And we changed that probably like 40 times, because we were trying to figure out like what the, what the phrasing should be, because the gist of it was, and it was kind of like stem from a couple of situations that happened in 2021 to me personally. But I think just happens to everyone is when something happens in your life, there is an expectation that you react to it. Like everyone else would.
Stephanie Cox (25:59):
So a great example is my daughter had two brain surgeries in November and everyone was like, well, you need to take time off and you need to do this. Cause we stayed in the hospital between the two surgeries and you know what, for some people, that's exactly what they need to do for me. She's sleeping all day and like the room is dark and I'm gonna go crazy if I don't do something right. Like I'm gonna stress, I'm gonna worry. So like me responding to email or like doing like work is because like, that is how I cope with that situation. And then when she came home and we were no longer under the care of doctors. I took time off and took care of her.
Stephanie Cox (26:38):
But I think that's the thing that was important is that every single person in our company is at a different point in their life. They have different priorities. They handle stress in different ways. They handle life events in different ways. And I don't want anyone to feel like there is one way to handle it or that they have to handle it like I would. And that was really where that core value came from was I want everyone to be able to prioritize their life, how it makes sense for them, if you need to go on vacation and never check your email and completely disconnect. Awesome. I wish I could be you. I cannot because I am more stressed out if I don't check email throughout the week, because then I think about all the things that come like that I have to do when I get back.
Stephanie Cox (27:20):
And I, that's not for everyone. Like some people are like, oh, I could never do that. Oh, that's okay. I don't expect you to, but I don't want anyone to put how, you know, their views on how I should live my life on me. And I don't wanna do that to anyone else on the team. And so I think that was really the most important one is you get to decide how you prioritize your life, how you prioritize, what matters to you, the relationships that matter to you and just know that the whole team is gonna support. However you choose to do that.
Jessica Stephenson (27:52):
Yeah. The, I, I noticed you haven't said work life balance, but I like how you're talking about it, but at the same time, that could be an elusive idea in tech, especially. So how do you model it when it could manifest in so many different ways and has that been a struggle in the organization?
Stephanie Cox (28:08):
Yeah, it's a great question. I hate the phrase work life balance. I hate the phrase, work life integration, because if we're being really honest, it's so different for everyone. So for me, you know, there are times where gives more and there are times where like life gives more and there are times where like the two are super well blended in the weirdest of ways. So what I try and really model is number one, I tell this to the team, I, my work life, everything schedule is, is not what I expect from my team. So just because I'm a night owl, which is, I'm not a morning person, right? Like I'm not the person that gets up at 5:00 AM and does all the things, but I am the person that's up at midnight, um, because I'm emailing at midnight or I'm sending slack messages and thank goodness for the ability to send them and schedule them in the future.
Stephanie Cox (29:04):
Now, that does not mean that I expect you to respond if I'm editing a Google doc at 12 o'clock at night. That's because that's when I do sometimes my best work. That doesn't mean I expect you to do anything with it. So I, you know, I always tell people, you can work on the schedule that works for you. I can work on the schedule that works for me and I don't care that they're doing different. I think the other thing is I'm just really big on accountability. And so for me, if the team's doing what they need to do, I don't really worry too much about the rest of it. And I know that makes a lot of people really uncomfortable, especially when you're in a remote workforce and you can't see everyone, but I hire really talented people and I'm trusting that they can do their job and they don't need someone to oversee every aspect of it.
Stephanie Cox (29:55):
And sometimes that means it's during like a normal, like Workday hours. And sometimes that means they had a take care of their kid and now they're up late doing stuff. I'm okay with, with all of that. I think the thing that can be hard is around time off. Um, and I think that's the biggest challenge, especially the last two years that, you know, we've really tried to figure out how, not just model the right behavior, but also put in guardrails to help people with that. So, and I'm the worst example. I didn't take time off in 2020. Like I had well intentions to, I couldn't go anywhere. I couldn't. So I just didn't end up taking really much time off and neither did our head of engineering at the time. And you know, in 2021, we both said like at the beginning of the year, we're no, we're gonna take time off this year. We're gonna do this. And we were slightly better.
Jessica Stephenson (30:54):
You had accountability partnership.
Stephanie Cox (30:56):
We did have an accountability partnership because, and then like... what we realized like partially through the year was what... we never said this, but there was some people were great about taking time off, like they would in a normal year. And there were other people who weren't and you know, the two of us actually had this conversation around. Like, I, even though we're not saying it, if we're not doing it, other people who maybe are like, who would be less inclined to do it just naturally given like the world situations, are they not doing it too? And so part of, you know, really what we did at the beginning of this year is we rolled out. We have unlimited PTO. We rolled out a minimum PTO policy and it, it was funny because like, it kind of, it's hilarious for a couple reasons.
Stephanie Cox (31:48):
One, like, I've never thought I'd have to tell people like a minimum amount of time to take off. So that was like interesting to figure, like to realize, like I had to do that, but then two, it was really interesting, like the team's reaction about it, we've always had unlimited PTO. And we also close between Christmas and New Year's for like winter holiday. And I was told, you know, I said, okay, so we have unlimited PTO, but we're gonna roll out a minimum PTO policy. And there are people who are like, why are you doing this? Like, we don't, I don't need that. And here are other people are like, oh right. Because they like to work. But we started, I would say conservatively, um, with everyone has to take at least two weeks off. And that does not include like company holidays or company time off.
Stephanie Cox (32:36):
And I told everyone, you know, at our kickoff, I said, I hope all of you take more time than that. I said, but if you don't take off two weeks, like your boss is gonna talk to you about it, right. Because we want you to have time to completely decompress from Lumavate. And then I said to everyone, I said, so in full accountability, all of you know is horrible at this last year. Um, so here's what I already have planned the time I might be taking off. So please, all of you hold me accountable to it. And I think that also helps being really transparent because for me, I struggle with it. Um, which means I know that other people struggle with it too. And I know there's a ton of people that like, don't struggle with it all, and I wish I could be you.
Stephanie Cox (33:18):
So I think also being really transparent and vulnerable about this is hard for me too. Or like, sometimes I love what I do. I know everyone, you know, is like, well, you need time to decompress. If you have a job that you love, like I get to paid to do my hobby. It's pretty fricking cool. So I love doing it. And I don't think of it as work. And I know there's other people on our team in a similar kind of space and, you know, I'm like, come along with me, we're gonna do it this year. It's gonna be fine. So it's, we'll see how it goes. But yeah, it's, I think a new journey for all of us as we just get better at not just like work, all the things related to work life. Also just being intentional about like, you know, time for self-care and like decompressing from constantly running.
Jessica Stephenson (34:09):
Yeah. And it's so important coming out of the pandemic where there's so many, you know, just in general mental health concerns in corporate life, that kind of thing. You've held a variety of marketing roles over the years, including at ExactTarget the year it was acquired by Salesforce, you know, looking back, how do you think the needs of marketers have evolved over the years?
Stephanie Cox (34:31):
Oh gosh. So many ways. And I think they evolved like almost every single day right now, which is kind of crazy. So, you know, back then, especially if you were a marketer in the B2B space, there was kind, there was a playbook. We used to talk about this, right? Like there's a playbook for B2B marketing. And there was also a playbook for B2C marketing and everyone kind of did the same types of things. And it worked. I think the challenge now is the world has changed. And what I mean by that is, you know, before everyone used to talk about what we're marketing into a business where I'm marketing to these personas out of business. Well, that was before Netflix, right. That was before Amazon was really huge. Now I can get everything in two days. Now I can watch shows on demand. I could try Netflix out and pay for it without ever talking to someone that whole concept have has just shifted everything about marketing.
Stephanie Cox (35:23):
Right? So this idea of, you know, Netflix shows me the shows that it recommends for me. And it's highly, it's like eerily personalized. I'm like, what do thinks I will like, which is also kind of funny too, because I think there's probably a whole generation of people going, like, I hope no one can ever see my Netflix recommendations and what I watch at night, for all the like weird documentaries and like things. But what's cool about it is it requires a level of creativity that I think didn't exist before, especially like in the B2B world, right before you would do like events and you would have outbound calls and direct mail and webinars. And like, all those things still have a place today. But today everyone is doing all of those things. And so you have to do the things that they're not doing or do it in a way that's totally different and you need to stop marketing the companies and start marketing the people.
Stephanie Cox (36:11):
And so I'm always really challenging, like our customers and our own team, like yes, we or B2B, but in reality, like we're marketing to people who have consumer expectations and yes, you may not be like our ICP personally, but you are a person. Would you react to this? Cause if you wouldn't react to this, why do you think someone else would as a consumer? And so I think that is a big thing. And I think the other thing is consumers, just their expectations have drastically changed in terms of personalization, right? Like I love when companies talk about personalization, they send me an email and they're like, hey Stephanie, I'm like, that's not personalization. That's my name. Right? Personalization is when every touch point in my customer journey with you is a hundred percent dynamic to what you know about me, because I know you have all this uber creepy data about me.
Stephanie Cox (37:00):
And I think that's something that most companies aren't doing well today because they don't have the data or, you know, especially if they were more B2B to C and they're selling in a big box stores like Target, Lowe's, Home Depot, they don't even own their customer data, let alone have the ability to create those personal relationships. And that is, I think, where marketing is headed and it's also going to unleash a crazy amount of creativity options that I'm excited to see. But I also feel like companies are the most unprepared for the old way of doing marketing doesn't work anymore. And I think that is my most exciting thing for me, but also the most concerning for me as well, because there's so many brands that don't realize it yet.
Jessica Stephenson (37:47):
Well, that's a good segue into my next question. So while no-code app development has many use cases, Lumavate's focus is to be the platform where marketers build apps. Can you elaborate on why know code is specifically appealing to marketers and why that might be the way of the future?
Stephanie Cox (38:04):
Yeah, so, you know, I think part of it, if you look at marketers and how we build apps, websites, digital experiences, it really falls into three buckets. One, I go to my it team and it team and ask them to do it. And if we're being really honest, they don't want to do it. Don't wanna build my website. They don't care about my hex code.
Jessica Stephenson (38:22):
They don't have time for it.
Stephanie Cox (38:23):
They don't have time for it. Right? Like they're trying to keep like the critical systems of the business up and running. And so you get put on like what I call like the IT waitlist, which is like months of waiting until you get it. And then months of waiting to get updates. The second bucket is you, some companies have this where they'll have like their own dev resources within marketing and they can move a little bit faster. And then the third bucket is you go out externally. And I think that's where probably most of marketing is I go to an agency, I go to a third party dev shop. It still has time constraints. It still takes me time because they're typically writing custom code to build whatever I need. And it's time intensive. It's costly. And every time I need a change, I'm going back to one of those three buckets to do it.
Stephanie Cox (39:12):
There has to be a better way. Right. It's kind of like you think about email marketing back in the day when I started with email marketing, you actually would like hard code every email that you sent out, right? And now we have WYSIWYGs that allow you to design really cool things. Why can't we do that for everything else? And so to me, we need to move faster than traditional development allows. Now that doesn't mean that there's not still a reason for developers, which I can talk about in a second. But it means that like the use cases you have as a marketer, don't need to be done that way. And that's where like this benefit of no-code really comes in. I think the challenge is it sounds a little crazy. And what I mean by that is when you tell someone, okay, yes, you can build an enterprise-grade application that is cheaper than any other, other options you've ever done.
Stephanie Cox (40:03):
It's faster. And you can do it. Like the first reaction you hear from people is like, that's like, what's the catch?
Jessica Stephenson (40:11):
Is that snake oil?
Stephanie Cox (40:12):
Right? Like that sounds crazy. And I, honest, times when I tell people that I'm like, I, you think that sounds crazy right? But I've been, you and we are building a business to fix the problem that I know you have. And, you know, once they get in, especially using Lumavate, like they see that. And that's where like the explosion of growth, I think within what's possible with our platform and that customer starts to happen. But it is kind of crazy to think, what are you saying? Like something that used to take me six to nine months that used to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars I can do in a couple hours. Like, well, it can't, it clearly can't be as highly designed or as customized to what I need.
Stephanie Cox (40:52):
I'm like, no, it actually can. So I think that is exciting to marketers and they always start, and this is what we've seen. They always start with like one use case. Well, let me like test it out right. To make sure like it's not smoke mirrors. And then they're like, oh, that, that was real fast. Like, I can, I can do this. And like I know, and that's where, you know, you start to see that acceleration, which is really cool now, you know, sometimes when people hear no-code, one of the things that they think is, okay, so you're saying like, we don't need developers and I'm like, no, I need developers. Right. I need developers to build all of this functionality. We like to think of it as Legos and different shapes and sizes and colors that you can assemble together.
Stephanie Cox (41:34):
I need developers to build those and expose all the properties. So you can customize 'em to your heart's content. But you don't need developers to do that. And I think it just really starts to flip, you know, what we have developers focus on. And if we have more developers focusing on things that are reusable, not just for ones market, for hundreds of customers across just the world, that would be a really, a really impactful thing to really business today. I think the other part around no-code is it's a democratization of tech as well. So even some of the platforms that exist today that are maybe like low-code or no-code, sometimes they're actually hard to use or you have to ha understand like kind of programming logic while you don't have to write code, you kind of need to understand it or understand like data flows to really use it.
Stephanie Cox (42:28):
And what I tell people is I want to be the place where everyone builds apps. If you can use the internet, why can't you build an enterprise-grade app? And that's what we're, that's the goal and the mission that we have, and that to me is exciting. And I think it's also, you know, where the future of no-codes headed. There's a huge gap between the number of developers that graduate with, or go through development bootcamps, and the number of open positions just in the US alone. And so we've gotta do something to fix that and still allow businesses to do with the speed that consumers demand.
Jessica Stephenson (43:06):
Great. And you have certain industries that you've, you know, aggregated a number of clients. I think life sciences and healthcare. Are you seeing other industries kind of coming along more quickly than others and being more innovative with maybe the wayfinding apps or some of the other apps that they're developing with your platform?
Stephanie Cox (43:24):
Yeah, it's interesting, you know, for us, we have customers across almost every industry, but I would tell you like the three that really seem to latch on to Lumavate and it explode with their usage is consumer package goods, healthcare, life sciences, and the manufacturing and for very different reasons. And I think that's, what's kind of interesting, you know, when you're in a horizontal platform and you can do everything, it's extremely great for long-term growth, but it also is really challenging cuz you can do literally anything. So let's take a look at Roche. They're a customer of ours. We power their internal communications. So every employee at Roche has an app on their phone powered by ate. That gives them a hundred percent personalized news feed. We also do... they use our platform for ABM campaign apps. They also are using our platform for their field service organization for employee productivity.
Stephanie Cox (44:17):
And then let's flip to Delta Faucet uses us for their price book with their dealers and distributors, totally different use cases. Sometimes even within the same company and you mentioned wayfinding, so at IU Health with Riley Children's Hospital, we do navigate Riley that's powered by our platform. They also use us for patient tracker, which tells you where your loved one is in surgery, completely different use cases, different audiences sometimes. And I think it shows you the power of what's possible with our platform. But I will tell you, you know, the companies that, and really the people within the companies that tend to grab on to Lumavate so quickly because we are early, right? We're early in the no-code movement. We're early with this belief that marketers can build apps and really anyone outside of it can do it and they can do it in an easy way for the enterprise are people who are used to pushing boundaries.
Stephanie Cox (45:12):
They don't wanna do things the way that everyone else used to do them. They don't believe that that worked. They don't have time to wait. We hear that a lot. You know, I always joke that if you ask a marketer when they need something, they always say yesterday, we're what makes yesterday happen. And I think that is why those industries tend to latch onto us the most. They also tend to engage with consumers the most. So if you think healthcare, life sciences, right, everyone goes and sees a doctor. People go to hospitals every single day, consumer package goods, chances are right. You've probably been in target in the month of March. So there's lots of things that you're doing on where you're interacting with those brands, where they can create those engaging digital experiences and they need to do it fast and quickly.
Jessica Stephenson (45:58):
All right. Sounds like the sky's the limit. One of the ways Lumavate has reached marketers is with your own 100+ episode podcast, Real Marketers. Can you walk me through what led to the creation of that platform in 2018? And how it's been a tool for you and Lumavate to find customers?
Stephanie Cox (46:15):
Yeah. So back in 2018, I get introduced to someone and her name is Rachel [Downey] and she runs Share Your Genius, which back at the time was really helping B2B companies launch podcast. I did not meet her in that context. I met her because someone thought we would hit it off as friends. And we started talking and it was like talking about our kids' life. And at the end, I was like, oh, by the way, what do you do? And she told, she was like, well, I help companies launch B2B podcast. And it was like, tell me more. Cause like at the time my understanding of podcasts was like true crime podcasts, right back then there wasn't a ton of B2B podcasts out there. And she started telling me about it. I was like, okay, we need to like, schedule like a non, like, get to know you. But like, I get to know you about your business conversation.
Stephanie Cox (47:05):
So we did that and I quickly was like, why not? Let's try it. Let's see what happens. And I remember working with her and she was how figure out our show flow, what our concept of our show should be about who should be the host. And she's like, well, you should do it. And I was like, I mean, should I? She's like, no, you should. And I was like, I have no idea how to do this. She's like, it'll be fine. I'll teach you. And what's been cool about it from that moment on, and I would've had no idea how to launch a show without her and her team is we really put down like roots and I would say like stakes in the ground around what was important to us. So some people today use the podcast and they'll go after like their prospects.
Stephanie Cox (47:47):
They create a list of, of accounts they wanna go after and they try and get those people to speak on their podcast to create the sales opportunity. I was super adamant that I didn't wanna do that. And I didn't want to like generate leads from it. I didn't wanna calculate the ROI of the podcast because it was a brand play to me. What I wanted to use it for was the ability you to go, how can I align, align Lumavate's brand with these other huge brands? Because there's an assumption when you say Lumavate and the CMO of MGM resorts, people assume that you work together. Even though we never say that, even though we never did, it creates an assumption of... and elevates your brand. And I think that's a really, a great way to do that when you're young. And so that's where the show started.
Stephanie Cox (48:35):
And I never would've guessed that we'd get to a hundred episodes. We'd be almost four years into it, but it's been a fun journey. And it's been kind of cool because we do now take these breaks. So we'll, cause now seasons are really popular in podcasts, which weren't back when we first started. So we'll take a break and then we'll launch a new season and I will get these messages on LinkedIn that people go, oh my goodness, like, is this show done? Like, what's going on? Like when are you coming back? And I'm like, like in a couple months
Jessica Stephenson (49:05):
You have cliffhanger, season finale,
Stephanie Cox (49:06):
But no, like we're not like there's not, it's not like the end of like a season where, you know, there's a big cliffhanger. And I usually say like, oh, we'll be back with season three, you know, in a few months. They're like, but, but when, which has been kind of fun to see, and it's also been really cool for me personally, because I find I learn. So when you have guests on it, you have the right type of your host should be learning to those are the best conversations because when I'm engaged and I'm learning something new, I'm asking questions in a different way than if I'm just interviewing you because now I'm like wanting to pick at it and wanting to understand how I can do it. And if I, if my, if our audience is similar leaders like myself, they likely have the same questions. So I think that's another benefit that no one talks about is that you get to learn a ton from your podcast as well.
Jessica Stephenson (49:58):
Well, just another example, I've been being bold in a new format, you know. Taking a step back just prior to joining Lumavate, you were with Project Lead the Way a STEM nonprofit, you know, what has drawn you towards these organizations that are removing barriers in software development? We're seeing a theme.
Stephanie Cox (50:16):
Yeah. There is a theme. I think part of it is because, you know, for me, I want everyone to know that anything is possible in their career. And I think it goes back to, you know, I was the first person in my family go to college. I didn't have, you know, there, wasn't kind of like a path for me. I had to create it. And a lot of what I saw were people that have previously been in roles. So when I started out my career, you know, I thought my ultimate goal was to become a CMO. I didn't realize I could be a CEO cause I didn't see a lot of other female CEOs out there. And no one I knew was one. And so part of what I think my passion is, is around breaking down barriers around like what it looks like or what you have to look like on paper in order to have a certain type of career.
Stephanie Cox (51:06):
And what of the things I loved about Project Lead the Way is I'm super passionate about education, cause I think education is the most critical thing for everything is being able to work, you know, closely with schools and see kids, you know, even my own children learn how to do things they never thought they would do. And to do that at an early age, I mean there are kids today in elementary school that are built that are writing code, which is completely crazy to think about that that's possible. And to me that has been a really was a really great portion of my career journey is being able to combine what I love, which is education, breaking down barriers also with what I think I'm good at, which is, you know, it's digital marketing.
Jessica Stephenson (51:49):
Yeah. So how are you carying forward the theme of encouraging mentoring in your own organization with your own team?
Stephanie Cox (51:55):
Yeah, so I think it's a couple things. Um, so one, I always tell the team, my schedule will always look like a hot mess. I know that I always will have lots of meetings on it, but the most important thing for me is all of you. So you can ask me any question and as long as I legally can tell you the answer I will. Because that's the benefit too, of working in a smaller organization is you do get to learn more. You do get to have your hands in different areas and you should benefit from that. You should take advantage of it. I think the other thing as well is, you know, we invest in professional development for each of our team members and we work with them to figure out what that looks like. We also do educational sessions every other week on a variety of topics.
Stephanie Cox (52:35):
And then the other way I'm doing it, which is kind of related to Lumavate, but also just like personally. And I probably will regret this at some point, but I don't say no to anyone that asks me to be their mentor. And at some point I know that will be too much. I have been blessed by some incredible mentors in my career and I really believe in paying it forward. And so I wanna do that, especially for other women and especially for people who have non-traditional backgrounds, right. I think especially in tech, you know, we will think about like an SDR role, most tech companies, if they're gonna go hire SDRs, they're gonna go look at college grads that were athletes and don't get me wrong. They do make fantastic SDRs, but you know who else also makes a fantastic SDR and AEs eventually? Teachers who wanna get out of teaching.
Stephanie Cox (53:21):
Do you know why? Because they're really great at getting people's attention. They're great at, you know, organizing a classroom and kind of herding a class, which is very similar, like in a sales process, sometimes you gotta get everyone aligned, everyone focused on the same thing, it'll work towards a goal. The other thing is car salesmen. They're very used to being able to hustle and being told no a lot. And you know, dealing with people who aren't always the most pleasant, which oftentimes is the role like an SDR plays. So I also wanna challenge the norms of what you need to look like on paper in order to get a certain type of role and instead hire for the, what type of personality traits do you need in order to use roles successfully. Maybe you've never done this exact thing I'm asking you to do, but you've done in the exact industry, right? But you've done everything that shows me that you can do this role and you can be successful. And most importantly, you have the drive to do that. I can't teach drive. I can't teach being humble. I can't teach being to work with, I can teach you how to do the job though. So I try and look for those types of things and don't exclude anyone because they don't look traditional on paper, what someone would expect for role,
Jessica Stephenson (54:35):
You know, we'll finish things up with something that you said to me recently that really resonated. And it's that your career started to really take off once you stopped asking permission for everything. Talk to me about that mentality pivot.
Stephanie Cox (54:48):
Yeah. So I grew up in the Midwest, I'm a woman. So I grew up like I'm to be, we're polite, not too, you know, speak out of turn too much. And that's who I was the first, like six or seven years of my career. And I expected that like I would do great work and people would just notice it and good things would happen. I was at a company and I had been there probably about a year. And I had been talking about this problem in this one area for like six months. Like we'd had so many meetings about it. I had given so many suggestions and then we were sitting in yet another meeting about it. Cause nothing had happened. And someone in the meeting like verbatim said exactly what I had been saying for like months. And everyone goes "that's a fantastic idea."
Stephanie Cox (55:36):
And I was like, am I like, do I not use words? Like I was very confused and I went home and I was so angry and I was telling my husband, I was like venting to him about it. And he was just like, well, why didn't you say that? Why didn't you come back? And I'm like, well, cause I, you don't... I don't do that. He's like, what if you did? And from that moment on, I decided I was done holding back. I was done asking for permission to do my job because oftentimes when you're younger in your career, you think you have to like get your boss's permission or someone else's permission to do the work. Well, can you check this over? I'm gonna do this. What do you think and why chances are, I probably know more, because I'm in a day-to-day than the person managing me might be, why do I have to keep waiting?
Stephanie Cox (56:28):
And so I decided to stop. I stopped asking for permission. I started doing my job and when I saw problems, I just started... I would politely like point them out to the person that was over them. I would wait like patiently and for me patience is like maybe two days and then I would just start doing it. And at first when I did it, I was like, oh, I'm gonna get... I was like kind of nervous. Like I'm gonna get in trouble. And then I realized I do great work, no one yells at you and tells you to knock it off. When you do great work, instead you get more opportunities. And so from that moment on, I just stopped asking for permission to do my job or to do what I thought was the, and I started believing that I knew what was best and that's why I was hired. And then we kind of grew from there. And I think that's a mentality that I've had. And it's why I've been successful is because I don't wait for someone to tell me I can do something. I wait for them to tell me to knock it off. And I haven't been told to knock it off yet.
Jessica Stephenson (57:23):
Well, thanks so much for your time with us today, Stephanie, and I really appreciate all your comments, your candor. And I think that you're making it so much easier for a lot of other people to be it because they're able to see it in you.
Stephanie Cox (57:36):
Thank you so much.
Jessica Stephenson (57:36):
Thank you so much for joining us on The Circuit.
In this episode, we talk to Stephanie Cox, CEO of Lumavate, a no-code mobile app platform for marketers. Stephanie shares her journey in becoming a tech leader, the challenges of leading a fully remote team, and talks about Lumavate’s recent successes with a $6 million raise and hitting the 100th episode of the Real Marketers Podcast.