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Fireside chat with David Apple, Chief Revenue Officer at Zingtree

Who is David Apple?

That’s a profound question!  I suppose I should start by saying that I’m first and foremost a husband, a father, a son, a brother, and a friend. 
I grew up in France, and went to University in the US where I studied Mechanical Engineering.  I started my career working as a Mechanical Engineer designing “green” buildings for about 8 years.  I founded two small businesses in Telecom and in Engineering Consulting.  After my MBA I pivoted into tech.  In my tech career I’ve worked for 4 early-stage start-ups.  I joined each one when there were fewer than 20 employees – one start-up didn’t work out, but I got lucky with the other three which are considered to be “hyper-growth”.  My roles evolved from Implementations, to Sales, to Customer Success, to running the entire go-to-market function.
Outside of work I make sure to carve out quality time with family and friends.  I enjoy sports, poker, chess, video games, good food, stand-up comedy, a good movie, and going to the theatre.

Tell us more about your role in Zingtree?

As Zingtree’s Chief Revenue Officer I am in charge of growing our company’s revenue.  The functions that report into me are Sales, Partnerships, Customer Success, Customer Support, and Marketing.

What is the most difficult part of your job? But the most rewarding one?

Building a great team is the most challenging, the most rewarding, and the most important part of my job. 
It is challenging to interview many people in order to identify the best candidates and convince them to join our team.  It’s also challenging to invest the time and energy required to build a great culture.  As tempting as it may be, it’s also important not to cut any corners when building a great team (e.g. doing fewer interviews, or not carving out time for team-building) as we’d end up with a “good enough” team rather than a “great” team. 
Building and scaling a great team is what I find most rewarding about my role.  Once I’ve left a company, what I feel most proud of is not the impact I had on our revenue growth, but rather the culture we fostered in the teams I built, and how I helped individuals on the team grow – both personally and professionally.

Is there anything that you would change about your professional path?

If I could go back in time, I would have probably studied Software Engineering rather than Mechanical Engineering 20 years ago.  That said, I did enjoy my “first career” as a Mechanical Engineering learning all about sustainable design and renewal energy, so I can’t complain.

What’s your key strategy for the development of your company?

Beside building a great team, the second most important aspect of growing our business is the theme of “focus”.  Zingtree and the two previous start-ups I worked for (Typeform and Notion) are all considered to be “horizontal” tools.  For example: Zingtree’s decision trees can be used “horizontally” for many different use cases – our customers range from GettyImages to SpaceX to Peloton.  This breadth of use cases presents both an opportunity and a risk.  The opportunity is that our addressable market is huge, since every company in the world is a potential customer.  The risk is that if we try to be everything to everyone, we could end up not being particularly valuable to anyone.  Focusing on one use case at a time will make us very valuable to customers who want to use Zingtree for that specific use case, and this will be the key to our long-term sustainable growth.

What do you think about the next period of time, keeping in mind the pandemic and the new business climate? How will your industry be affected?

The pandemic has driven businesses to invest in their digital presence, which has largely been good for SaaS companies (with obvious exceptions in the travel industry, and others).  Zingtree is particularly valuable to companies offering digital customer support (via phone, email, and/or via a self-serve knowledge base).  As such, the pandemic has made Zingtree even more valuable to our customers, and we believe that this trend will continue, even when the pandemic becomes a distant memory.

Please name a few technologies which have the greatest impact on your business.

The tools we use most at Zingtree are: Zingtree, Notion, Hubspot, and Salesforce.

What books do you have on your nightstand?

I recently finished “How will you Measure your life” by Clayton Christensen and “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown.  I’m planning on reading “The Art of Power” next by Thich Nhat Hanh.

Because of the current economic climate our publication has started a series of discussions with professional individuals meant to engage our readers with relevant companies and their representatives in order to discuss their involvement, what challenges they have had in the past and what they are looking forward to in the future. This sequence aims to present a series of experiences, recent developments, changes and downsides in terms of their business areas, as well as their goals, values, career history, the high-impact success outcomes and achievements.

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