left arrow
Back

Meet Peter Reinhardt, CEO of Segment

May 12, 2016
Hexa

Prior to starting Segment, Peter was a Research Assistant at the Naval Postgraduate School, where he wrote and designed flight software for…

Prior to starting Segment, Peter was a Research Assistant at the Naval Postgraduate School, where he wrote and designed flight software for the NPS-SCAT Cubesat, a platform which tests solar cells while they’re in orbit. Whether it’s thorium reactors, online education, or space travel, Peter enjoys nothing more than diving deep into a new field of study.

Segment puts customer data to work with a single integration. Thousands of businesses and hundreds of partners have standardized on Segment’s customer data platform because of its elegant APIs, which connect the richest variety of web, mobile and third-party data sources.

Here’re his answers to our questions:

How did you fall into SaaS?

I was studying aerospace engineering in college, but my roommates and best friends were both computer science majors. We really wanted to work together on building a business, so we started on hacking on things in our dorm on weekends and over MIT’s “Independent Activity Period” in January 2011. We got deeper and deeper into it, and more excited about it, and ended up being part of Y Combinator’s Summer 2011 class of startups. So I definitely fell backwards into it!

What did you find in SaaS that you didn’t expect at first sight?

I was surprised to discover: (1) how much valuable learning about SaaS is available online (e.g. check out SaaStr), and yet (2) how much cultural knowledge and experience has been built up in Silicon Valley about how to build SaaS businesses… the network of advisors, founders, executives and experts here is irreplaceable.

What’s the story of the first customer you succeeded to convert?

Our first customer, back in 2013, was TheKnot.com, the wedding website. Our champion there, Jon, had started using Segment on some smaller mobile apps that they were experimenting with, and he loved the product. We had numerous phone conversations, and a really loose/slow sales process (I was a terrible sales rep!). As Jon started pushing Segment into more and more products, their data volume was getting pretty substantial. So he called me up to negotiate a contract. Since it was our first significant contract, I did a terrible job negotiating and they got a fantastic deal. Good for Jon!

What makes a successful SaaS entrepreneur?

Finding product market fit is extremely difficult (here’s the Segment story). I think being a successful founder requires a really high aptitude for facing reality head on and just dealing with it, quickly. If you don’t, you end up wasting a bunch of time on things that don’t matter… things that you like doing, instead of what actually needs to get done. Andreas Klinger wrote a great post about this.

SaaS is often qualified as unsexy. What’s your response to that?

Most businesses aren’t sexy. You probably shouldn’t be starting a business if you’re concerned about sexiness.

What would be your #1 top advice for entrepreneurs launching a SaaS company?

Don’t lie to yourself about how much people like your product. If they love it, they’ll tell you. If they’re not telling you, really question whether you understand their needs. You can’t pretend your way out of it, just face it head on.

Check out recent thoughts on whatever Peter’s learned lately at rein.pk.