Posted on
January 11, 2024

How to understand what customers really want

Matthew Busel
How to understand what customers really want

Meet startup founder Matthew Busel. Before the team ever wrote a single line of code, they met with hundreds of operators to understand what problems they were experiencing. And that's how Whalesync was born. Matthew also shares how they are approaching growth as a small startup, and how he is dealing with the challenges of startup life.

What is your company doing and what was the pivotal moment that led to the creation of your business?

Whalesync is the automation tool for mission-critical CRM data. Think Zapier, but for handling your most important, complex workflows like data syncing in and out of Salesforce.

Before we wrote a single line of code, we met with hundreds of operators to understand what tools they were using and what problems they had. After about a dozen calls, a pattern emerged - everyone had that one “15-step Zap” that was just trying to sync data between their tools. After a point, this became so common in our calls that we knew there had to be a better way.

Ultimately, we love Zapier (we’re customers!), but it’s just not designed for use cases like data syncing, bulk transfers, or areas where you need high visibility into your data. Whalesync handles these use cases by combining automations with a central database so you can create a source of truth for your most important data.

How do you identify and prioritize new growth channels?

For the first 18 months of the business, we focused almost entirely on the product and grew mainly by word of mouth. This was helpful in ensuring that we built something our users actually found valuable before investing too much in growth.

Today, it’s obviously super important that we prioritize the right channels in order to reach our revenue goals. We work backward from our users and our strategy to pick channels that make sense. Ultimately, we need to meet our ICP where they are.

One mantra we repeat often is “do less but better” and we see that directly apply to picking growth channels. Rather than trying to do 5 different channels at once, we choose to focus on just 1 and makes sure we do it right before moving on to others.

Which tech tools, software, apps, etc. do you use religiously in your business?

As a data syncing tool, we have strong opinions on the software we use 🙂. We detail our full stack here but some of our favorites include:

  • Gather - virtual office
  • Notion - wiki
  • Slack - chat
  • Linear - project management

What is that one opportunity that had a significant impact on your company's growth or direction?

Going through YC significantly altered the direction of the company. The advice our partners gave us both during the batch and afterward has been invaluable. Being part of the YC network has enabled us to raise funding, recruit, and connect with the people we need

What are some of the challenges you’ve come face to face with on your entrepreneurial journey? How did you overcome them?

Building a startup is just a series of challenges and the job is figuring out how to get through each one. First, we needed to build an MVP, then raise funding, then build a team, then reach customers, then find PMF, etc.

Any challenge we’ve faced, we’ve tackled by seeking out best practices and advice but then mostly by doing. There really hasn’t been a substitute for trying and learning on the job.

How many hours per week do you work on average?

My typical day starts at 7 where I’ll work until the coffee wears off and then go for a run. I’ll work through the rest of the day until dinner and then typically grab an extra hour before bed.

All-in-all, it might be around 60 hours per week at a desk, but as a founder, it’s not quite black and white as my head is thinking about the business closer to 24/7. It feels like I’m always working but never working because building this startup is what I enjoy doing.

Rapid fire questions

Favorite morning ritual  ☕

Every morning I make coffee for myself and my partner, then sit down with my laptop to do whatever is #1 on my to-do list.

Favorite book/s 📕

Build by Tony Fadell. A fun read hearing his stories, but packed with actionable advice.

Your leadership style in one word 💼


Cats or dogs?

Dogs! Eli was my first and about to get a second named Archie.

Mountains or beach?

Love mountains as well but I’ll go with beach. Some good sun and a good book is a great day.

Morning person or night owl?

Morning person for sure. Waking up with coffee and my laptop = bliss.

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