Software has been around for a long time, and in many different forms. On the waves of cloud adoption and digital transformation, it’s more important than ever for companies to make technology accessible to their employees. Tray.io users in any department can use its automation platform to transform fragmented processes into powerful business outcomes.
I sat down recently with Tray co-founder and CEO Rich Waldron on “Founder Real Talk” to chat about his company’s latest $40 million Series C extension, product and growth plans, and more. You can listen here, and below is an excerpt of our conversation. Rich also appeared on the podcast back in 2019, and you can listen to that episode here.
This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Listen to this episode:
Glenn: It’s been awhile—looking back, contrast Tray in 2019 and how the company has evolved since then. Catch us up.
Rich: Well, I’m delighted to say that we’re working on the same problem at least. Back in 2019, we had a perspective that the world was continuing to push toward the cloud. I don’t think we were rocket scientists for having that view. But the part that was interesting to us is that the challenges that would be felt by businesses would be within the line of business teams. All these folks buying more and more software, handling more and more data in real time, sort of independent of IT.
Our original vision and our view was that building a platform that enables these teams would be not only extremely useful, but critical for businesses to scale. Given the way that we saw the world back then and, you know, as we think through what’s happened since that time, the world did completely flip on its head.
The perspective that we held got accelerated very fast. Every company that was thinking about how they better integrate their stack, or how might they make better use of their data, suddenly had a cataclysmic event where they had to solve this problem almost instantaneously.
As a company, we had to grow up very fast. Our technology needed to scale extremely quickly. We saw just this explosion of users trying to tackle all these problems that they hadn’t gotten to before, as well as vendors trying to figure out how to navigate this new market, because the demands on them and what they supported natively out of the box changed very quickly as well. It seems like a very long time ago, and I’m really, really pleased with how companies have evolved, and how we’ve weathered quite a few of these storms as a group.
Glenn: I’m pretty sure we didn’t predict a global pandemic back in the 2019 episode, but you guys were super well-positioned for it. You know, low-code no-code wasn’t a familiar term back then, but now it seems like every company or almost every software vendor we talk to claims to be low-code no code. Automation is also a word you hear more and more nowadays. Tell us a little bit more about what sets Tray apart from a product and solution standpoint. How is Tray differentiating in the market?
Rich: You’re right, low-code no-code has become an almost default term for everything these days. And in the same vein, I think automation has really come to the fore as well. From Tray’s perspective, we were born out of the frustration that in the applications we use every day, all of the data was inaccessible unless we had a computer science degree, and the tools that were available existed from a different data center era where the real-time nature wasn’t as big a challenge.
Because we saw that so many services were starting to be delivered by the cloud, we realized that the solutions were going to require a real-time nature to them. As we built our product, the priority was for users to have an amazing experience, that it should be accessible to a much broader segment of the market. It should be that anyone in any department can have access to benefit from the workflows that are created, or actually create it themselves. This flies in the face of the legacy iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service) technology that would require an engineering team to build it, deploy it, manage it, and maintain it on an ongoing basis. And then you’d have the added insult of needing a third party to come along and maintain this thing for you on an ongoing basis. For us, having that initial experience was really critical.
The second piece was that legacy vendors weren’t built for the kind of loads that we see today. At any given time, somebody can turn on a solution, which has access to a much broader audience. In response, we built scalability, resilience, and security into our platform. I think that’s the thing that really makes us stand out. Our customers and prospects are experiencing the power of automation during the sales process. It doesn’t take six months to implement this stuff and get value from it. We expect customers to be getting ROI from the day they sign their contract, because they’re already up to speed.
Glenn: That’s awesome. Delivering value from Day One and riding the waves of cloud adoption and digital transformation seems to be like you’ve put Tray right in the middle of the perfect storm. How do you assess the market opportunity?
Rich: It’s an enormous market; Gartner predicts that it’ll be a trillion-dollar market by 2025. Every analyst under the sun is holding their own perspective as to what automation or hyper-automation is bringing to the world. The view that we have is that to be a major player in any big market. You need to be able to find a series of repeatable ways that allow you to get into the right veins to scale as an organization.
For us, we see that there is a huge opportunity that many vendors are not positioned to be able to take advantage of. We know there’s a huge technology moat to build, and we’ve taken an approach whereby we focus on solutions that get our customers up quickly. We’ve seen the kind of mid-market and enterprise customers adopting these at scale. They liaise closely amongst departments within their businesses, and that becomes the way in which we get the second or third order effects.
The other thing is that we work very closely with other vendors, because they’re also under a great deal of strain. Their customer base is making a lot of noise about the integrations they expect these vendors to support out of the box. It becomes a pretty critical part of vendors’ ability to grow their own customer base, but also retain customers who start looking at other vendors when those integrations don’t exist at the time. Given that we’ve built so much of this technology under our platform, we allow vendors that we work with to harness that via our API, and they can build and stand up their own native integrations. We attack both ends of the market, from the perspective of how do I build solutions within teams that I can maintain myself and make my life easier, as well as enabling vendors to build a better native integration experience themselves. We feel that we’ve got two hands firmly wrapped around a really big opportunity.
Glenn: Given the macro environment we’re living through right now, not many companies have been able to raise fresh equity capital. Tray is announcing $40 million in new money from new and existing investors, a testament to the success you guys are having. What do you think? How is the environment different this time around in raising money?
Rich: It’s a completely different environment. Ultimately, this is a time where fundamentals have come right back, front and center. I think for most businesses, we’ve been in an amazing growth period where we’ve seen demand of the scale, and the cost of capital being extremely low. That’s played itself into company software budgets and this growth-at-all-costs mentality. But suddenly, we’re back to the good old-fashioned things that drive a business that you need to have in order to become a world-class scaled operation. The things that were beneficial to Tray certainly helped us in this environment.
- First, the market that we’re in is unquestionably large.
- Second, the value of our technology. Our tech has been helping to consolidate, helping customers grow during a time when the purse strings have been tightened.
- Lastly, not getting ahead of yourself, and making some of those investments before they paid off…
I think on all three fronts, those are the things that put Tray in a strong position.
This is also a time where who you raised money from in the past makes a pretty big difference. The venture market changed significantly over the last two years. We saw a whole bunch of new entrants. With GGV, it’s been a long-standing relationship; we’re sitting here talking about GGV’s multiple participations in Tray’s journey. Being on that path together and making those decisions early, thinking about who you’re going to go into business with—that shows up at times like this. For us going out and raising capital, we were fortunate enough to get a new great outside investor, but all of our existing investors also participated. When that happens, it sends the right signal to the market and it puts you in a great stead as a business overall.
Glenn: I didn’t pay him to say that, folks. That was not rehearsed. Thank you, Rich. So, what are your plans now with the newest investment? What comes next?
Rich: We will forever be on a product development journey. The moment that you stop innovating is the moment the music stops, and the market catches up with you. Continuing to invest heavily in R&D and continuing to ensure that we’ve got the right suite of low-code tools to support all the challenges that our customers face today is critical to our path forward, especially to larger enterprises. They’re also facing significant challenges in how they scale their own cloud environments. We’re looking at how we can continue to offer more strings to our bow to help those organizations scale quickly and not get caught in that sort of innovation death spiral. Secondarily, we’re really focused on the go-to-market execution and better packaging of our solutions. That’s something that’s top of mind for us.
We will forever be on a product development journey. The moment that you stop innovating is the moment the music stops, and the market catches up with you.
Glenn: You’ve kind of touched on my last question a little bit. What is the Rich of three years from now going to be saying about Tray, about where you’ve gone and where you’re going?
Rich: When we spoke back in 2019, we had a vision for the way that we hoped the world would go, and where we saw opportunity. We were beginning to see our product in the hands of customers who were talking about getting on an automation journey or starting to launch a few workflows between departments. Today, that’s front and center in every conversation. “Automation and Integration” is a slide in every board meeting that is happening across the technology sector right now.
As I look ahead at the areas that I’m most excited about, it’s continuing to drive a wrecking ball through the iPaaS market. We desperately want to save the market from legacy iPaaS. We want to get companies off these solutions that take them forever to get anything set up. In buying cloud solutions, the benefits that you get from instant access and scalability out of the box are significant. Seeing and hearing our customers talking about us in the market as an important integrator and ecosystem generator—those are the things that get me the most excited. We hear stories every day about people that achieve things that they didn’t think they could because they didn’t think they had the skill sets. I’m thrilled to be bringing that to life for our customers. We wouldn’t be here without them. I can’t wait to see where this company gets to.
Listen to the full podcast episode on Founder Real Talk here.