The One Thing From A $200 Million Exit & Why It’s Critical For Your Venture

fintech growth sales scaleups Nov 13, 2020

I was listening to Shola Akinlade, Co-Founder of PayStack, a Nigerian-based Fintech / payments company which was recently acquired by Stripe for $200 Million.

As always it was a great interview by Andrew Warner of Mixergy and I highly recommend you listen to the interview with Shola and subscribe to the Mixergy podcast (links below).

Many things were super-impressive from Shola’s story but the one thing that stood out for me was Shola saying….

“I spoke to the first 300 customers of PayStack”

Reflecting on my own experience and of the founders I advise, when seeking growth we often think the answers exist on the outside (external).

For example …

  • We look at what the competition is doing so we have feature parity in our product (and product roadmaps); or

  • We hunt to acquire new logos to add to our customer list; or

  • We consider changing our marketing or PR strategy or service providers and so on.

While all of these and many other ‘external’ strategies and tactics have their place, they should be put into action after we spend adequate time and attention looking ‘inside’ and specifically ‘inside existing customers’.


Existing (paying) customers are the most validated as they have parted with money and have had to put up with the pain and pleasure of our product or service. It’s a form of ‘following the money trail’ to figure out where our growth is likely to come from.

Spending time with existing customers usually leads to:

  • Validated ideas for our product or service roadmap;

  • Opportunities to sell more into the existing account and reduce risk of churn;

  • Develop deeper insights and understanding of what our ‘ideal customer’ and ‘ideal sale’ looks like.

Further it gives us a head start on the nuances and subtleties that can create break-throughs in our sales and marketing strategies and tactics.


What we’re trying to learn (uncover) from these ‘looking inside existing customer accounts’ exercises are elements of the following:

  • Personas - Who are all the personas influencing or impacted by our product or service (Beneficiary, User, Economic Buyer, Supporters, Detractors)? How has this changed over time? what’s it likely to look like a year from now?

  • Use Cases - How they are using our product or service? How often and for how long?

  • Business Impact - Ultimately what greater business impact is our product or service enabling?

  • Workarounds - What workarounds have they had to implement because our product or service does not fully meet their needs?


A combination of the following has worked for me in the past (and I use it today with the founders I’m working with):

  • Quarterly Strategy Planning sessions - pre-book a couple of hours with your customer (with multiple members of their team) and when available followed by team lunch or dinner (you build better connections and discover even more in a social setting).

    In these sessions we are trying to help them unpack their strategy and roadmap to us and along the way we are trying to understand how we fit (can fit) into the picture.

  • Customer Surveys - always more powerful and better chance of completion when it is sent by the founder (or followed up by the founder).

    Also useful to send surveys to multiple different ‘personas’ in the one customer account because depending on their role (user vs economic buyer vs beneficiary) we will get a different nuance.

  • Scheduled Monthly or Quarterly One-on-One Check-ins

  • Calls in response to support tickets / emails being received

  • Ad-hoc calls

Now What?

  1. Use inspiration from the above to design your approach to ‘looking inside existing customers’, don’t overthink it, get the conversation going.

  2. If you enjoyed this article share it with another founder.

  3. Subscribe to The GrowthQ Podcast for more insights on how tech founders are building high-growth businesses.

  4. Check out Shola Akinlade's interview on Mixergy with Andrew Warner.

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