Fight Negative SaaS Security Stereotype: I mentioned this before but it’s worth repeating that while many enterprises are comfortable enough to adopt cloud infrastructure, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re 100% on board with SaaS apps yet. At CoreView, we proactively addressed this by gaining important security certifications — including SOC II — to help our clients understand we were committed to protecting their data and had the capability to do so.
As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SaaS”, I had the pleasure of interviewing David Mascarella.
David is the Co-Founder, Managing Director, and Chief Global Strategist of CoreView, a SaaS Management Platform company that helps businesses using Microsoft 365 secure, manage, and optimize their environment.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I’d be happy to. First, thank you very much for the opportunity to tell my story and offer some observations to your readers on the challenges and best practices for building a SaaS company.
CoreView, my current venture that I co-founded with Ivan Fioravanti, comes from our time as Microsoft system integrators. Ivan and I helped many enterprises implement and effectively manage their cloud environments and had built a solution that would eventually become our flagship SaaS Management Platform (SMP) solution. IT executives didn’t like Microsoft’s limited cloud toolset so we built a platform that would help them better understand their environment. Enabling businesses to better understand basic things like how many active licenses were in use, whether employees were downloading unauthorized apps, or whether they were GDPR-compliant was extremely important but not easily understood before SMPs. We realized that with our forward-thinking technology and the relationships we had forged with clients and Microsoft itself that we had a great opportunity ahead of us.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
I can’t pinpoint a single moment where one of us said “Eureka!” It came as more of a natural gravitation of our business to our customers’ pain points. When businesses, regardless of their size and industry, tell you that they’re struggling with the same five problems with the world’s largest productivity platform, it’s a good indication that there’s a gap in the market. We knew we had unique insights into enterprises’ cloud challenges, a powerful solution to these problems, a network of enterprise IT executives that were big believers in our technology, and a good relationship with Microsoft. We had all the pillars of a great business and just had to put it all into action.
We also knew that enterprises were going to migrate to cloud infrastructure. The benefits were undeniable and transformative. This seems silly to say today but, in the early 2000’s, the jury was still out on whether businesses thought that the cloud was worthwhile. Many IT and security professionals didn’t like the lack of control they’d have over their data, potential vendor lock-in, and security issues. We knew that these were just early symptoms of an emerging technology and positioned our company as valuable partners capable of helping businesses better manage, secure, and optimize their cloud initiatives.
There’s a common joke in the US about how the only people that became rich from the California Gold Rush were the people that sold picks and shovels to the prospectors. We applied that same concept to the digital age.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
There are always ups and downs to entrepreneurship but we never truly felt like the business was going to fail. All SaaS startups experience difficulty in gaining traction with enterprises when they first start out. Many senior-level executives at large businesses still operate with an assumption that SaaS apps’ security is suspect so it was important for us to commit resources to help alter that perception.
I’m not sure if it’s a ‘mistake,’ but one thing that I’d recommend to leaders of SaaS companies is to stay lean to grow the company faster. SaaS companies are global businesses by their nature. Once your app hits a major app marketplace, any IT administrator from all over the world can check it out. This creates both challenges and opportunities. The key to scaling a SaaS business is to only make hires when you absolutely need to. While it’s important to prevent employee burnout, it’s equally important to be mindful of your burn rate. This is especially true of businesses that are able to secure an investment from venture capitalists. Guard every last outgoing dollar and don’t be afraid to ask people to stretch themselves to help the organization get settled within the market.
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
CoreView is growing at a rapid rate in 2020. Our value proposition was in line with the needs of enterprises that were being forced to quickly implement work from home (WFH) environments this year. Enterprises widely adopted the Microsoft’s M365 cloud productivity platform but quickly realized that they didn’t have the tools or insights they needed to properly manage it because they were so concerned with getting employees online. More than ever, businesses need to understand the costs, vulnerabilities, and operational complexities associated with M365 and that’s where we provide tremendous value.
There are two major challenges that businesses face when they first migrate to M365. The first is that there are over a dozen different Admin Centers, all aimed at different applications and services. It’s too much for one administrator to know and master all these areas and it is cumbersome to jump in and out of different Admin Centers to manage all of Microsoft 365. Second, native M365 administration has too much complexity, too much scripting, a lack of automation, too little workflow and policy management, and no singular view and control center.
We radically simplify administration while adding automated workflows to help enterprises eliminate unexpected costs, mitigating risk, and driving employee adoption of new cloud apps. CoreView also lets IT leaders to create custom reports to monitor usage adoption trends for different workloads. These insights provide valuable information about the collaboration and communication methods within the organization and enable it to organize targeted campaigns to reach their adoption goals.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
The funniest mistake that come to my mind is when we first started to localize CoreView’s interface with multiple languages. We decided to leverage a free online translation service rather than spending money on a professional to help us. As they say, “You get what you pay for” and we quickly realized our error when we saw some interesting translations come in. For instance, terms like “license pool” are common in English but in Italian and other languages it translates to “license swimming pool.”
The big lesson we learned, however, was that we shouldn’t over commit ourselves in terms of our platform’s features. It’s tempting to try to offer a comprehensive solution to enterprises but we found that we succeeded most when we were focused on what we did really well rather than trying to stretch ourselves to fit an RFP. Customer experience is crucial for SaaS companies and should be the obsession of any CEO or product manager.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What makes CoreView stand out from its competitors and other SaaS apps in general is the simplicity of our value proposition to enterprises. Many SaaS executives fall into the trap of focusing too much on the technological innovation of their solution and not on the benefits its customers will receive. This is especially true of startups with technical founders.
At CoreView, we’ve been able to keep things simple and communicate to our sales prospects in KPIs they understand and value. For example, our SMP highlights businesses that:
- Can save millions of dollars by reallocating or eliminating inactive M365 licenses
- Help IT admins save significant time through automated workflows
- Identify employees that are engaging in risky behaviors such as sharing sensitive information externally
These are use cases that our sales prospects both understand and have a line item in their budget to allocate towards. Communicating key benefits and differentiators in relatable language is a vital part of separating a SaaS app from its competitors.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful app or a SaaS? Please share a story or an example for each.
I’m proud to have been part of a team that has grown to hundreds of enterprises, representing more than 5 million end users under management. The five most important things business leaders should know about growing a SaaS business are:
- Fight Negative SaaS Security Stereotype: I mentioned this before but it’s worth repeating that while many enterprises are comfortable enough to adopt cloud infrastructure, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re 100% on board with SaaS apps yet. At CoreView, we proactively addressed this by gaining important security certifications — including SOC II — to help our clients understand we were committed to protecting their data and had the capability to do so.
- Eat the SaaS Dog Food: The best SaaS companies in the world are typically cloud-native for their own operations. All of the benefits you’re touting to sales prospects apply to growing your own business. It’s easy to scale the IT environment to support both internal needs as well as a growing customer base.
- Don’t Scale Until You Have Good Market Fit: The positive and negative aspect of having a SaaS app is that it automatically makes you a global company. While it’s tempting to try and use this stage to grow as quickly as possible, it’s important to work closely with customers to work out all the kinks with your solution and ensure it really is capable of solving important problems for its target market. SaaS businesses must have a single value proposition that will appeal to the global market and that is impossible unless a product has been implemented, tested, and improved with real-world customers.
- Don’t Worry About Google, AWS, and Microsoft: In our discussions with industry analysts, a question we often hear is whether we’re afraid that Microsoft will decide to roll out their own SMP. It should be on any business leader’s mind whose business is reliant on one of the major cloud ecosystems. However, in my experience, I’ve always found that these industry giants are happy to have smaller vendors enrich their solution’s functionality. Though these businesses are massive, they have their own priorities that they need to execute. We help M365 customers overcome some of their biggest challenges so we actually make their cloud productivity platform stickier. It never hurts to ride the coattails of some of the biggest enterprise software companies in the world.
- Microsoft is Your Friend: In fact, I’d double down on this and say Microsoft has been integral to CoreView’s success. We are a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner and are regularly promoted by the company as helping businesses manage their M365 environment. We’ve always treated them like they’re our favorite customer and they’ve been great to work with.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
People can connect with me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-mascarella-b71847/
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!