Moving from Features and Function To Vision

Moving from Features and Function To Vision | Matthew Scullion | CEO Campfire Chat Podcast

When you ask Matthew Scullion, CEO and co-founder of Matillion, what his company’s vision statement is today, he’ll answer that it is “to make the world’s data useful.” However, when he co-founded the company in 2011, you would not have heard such a lofty answer.

Matthew and his team founded the company to create a solution for businesses to access cloud-based data analytics with a lower failure rate than typical projects. This practical goal generated results. They built solutions using already-existing software and made a dent in the market.

However, things shifted for Matillion when they pinpointed a problem they kept running into time and again: Data analytics only work if data is clean and usable, and most of the time, data is very, very messy.

In 2014, Matillion built its own ETL tool for the cloud. It found immediate product-market fit because the team made a product to solve a real problem they had faced repeatedly. But they could not reach market saturation because their marketing message didn’t quite sync up.

When selling to prospects, Matillioners were focused on the tech and features. But Matthew quickly realized it’s not specs that sell a platform. Instead, people buy outcomes. They make a purchase because the solution will change their life for the better.

This realization drove Matthew to rethink Matillion’s value proposition. It was no longer about offering specific technical prowess; it was about making data useful. That emotional hook resonated with executives who wanted to use data but struggled to get analytics programs off the ground.

Matthew highlights the vital learning here for aspiring entrepreneurs. Sometimes, folks hold back in starting a business because they think they need to develop the best product or solution before beginning. That idea of achieving perfection right out of the gate is a myth. Instead, if you can land in the zone with your first idea, then you can use data along the way to refine your idea until you hit the sweet spot.

To hear more about how data can help you assess your product-market fit and define your vision, tune into Matthew’s full episode above.

Episode Transcript

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Rob Ristagno: Welcome to the CEO Campfire Chat, recorded live in front of a studio audience of leading executives. I’m your host, Rob Ristagno. And today I have the privilege of introducing you to Matthew Scullion. He’s the founder and longtime CEO of Matillion and an incredible entrepreneur. So, welcome to the show, Matthew.

Matthew Scullion: Well, thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Rob Ristagno: Yeah. We can’t wait to hear what you have to say. You have a great vision for your company. We want to learn a lot more about how you got there. So let’s start, like we do every episode, with the game of five questions, because CEOs do not have time for 20. So the goal here is just to answer these questions as quickly as possible. Let’s try to get through them in a couple minutes. Sound good?

Matthew Scullion: Sounds great. I normally struggle with brevity, so I’m going to be digging deep on this occasion.

Rob Ristagno: Stretch goals, stretch goals. All right. Question number one. What is the 20 or 30 second elevator pitch for your company?

Matthew Scullion: Matillion is a software company and we are making the world’s data useful. To do that, we built a platform of data middleware tools that predominantly large enterprises, but also ambitious smaller companies use to load, transform, synchronize, and orchestrate data in the cloud. We work with companies like Snowflake, Databricks, AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud on their cloud data platforms. And by way of example, we were Snowflake’s Data Integration Partner of the Year this year.

Rob Ristagno: Congrats.

Matthew Scullion: And also Databricks’ Innovation Partner of the Year this year. We’re based in the UK and US. Originally founded in the UK. And I think that’s my 20 seconds, Rob.

Rob Ristagno: There you go. All right. And question number two. Who are your ideal customers?

Matthew Scullion: So, our ideal customers are organizations that want to innovate with data to better understand their customers, to improve their products, to streamline their business processes. Data is changing for the better every aspect of how we work, live, and play. So that’s really all organizations, but crucially it’s the ones where that’s a means to an end that’s something else, I think. Technology companies where 50% of the headcount knows how to do this in code, they can use our software. But where we really help is companies that develop drugs or provide financial services or deliver media or manufacture big machines where they absolutely need to use data, but only a small percentage of their workforce are data literate. And because of that, Matillion’s ideal customer profile is normally large enterprise customers.

Rob Ristagno: Gotcha. All right. Interesting point there. Number three, what is your value proposition to these companies that are enterprise grade, but don’t have a large percentage of their workforce being technology people?

Matthew Scullion: Yeah. So today data is the new commodity, right? As I mentioned before, improving for the better every aspect of how we work, live, and play. But before you can do any of that, you have to make data useful. You have to get it from where it’s buried and refine it into useful product, just like iron ore into steel. And you can do that like we used to do it in the iron age, manually and primitively in code. And to do that, you need those artisan iron ore refiners, or rather today, those data engineers. If we want to go faster, we need to get more people doing it and we need each of them to be more productive.

Matthew Scullion: So Matillion’s value prop is that we allow you to make data useful, refine iron ore into steel, but we make it easier. It’s a low-code, no-code, code-optional user experience, which means a far greater aperture of user personas can do it and each of them can go faster. And what that does is unblock that supply chain of useful data, ultimately accelerating dramatically your time to value on analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning use cases.

Rob Ristagno: A huge, huge opportunity/problem that needs to be addressed. Okay. A more fun question here. Number four, what is the best part of being CEO?

Matthew Scullion: Well, I feel incredibly privileged to be a CEO. For me, being CEO, entrepreneurialism in general, it’s about people and it’s about getting a team of awesome people aligned to a mission and how to deliver on that mission, and getting them working in an environment where they can do their best work. If you can get those people working in perfect symphony and with passion to complete on that goal and trusting each other, trusting that each other’s focused on the same shared goal, then that team can do anything. They can make a dent in the universe bigger than themselves. And for me, that’s the thing that’s most fun about being an entrepreneur and about being a CEO.

Rob Ristagno: All right. You’re doing great on time here. Number five, what one thing is going to make or break your next year?

Matthew Scullion: That’s an unfair question to a CEO. We’re always dealing with 101 different things. But if I had to get those all into a bucket, I would say it’s our own execution. The things that can cause headaches for a software company, is there a market? Do we have product-market fit in that market? Do we solve a problem that customers need solving and are willing to pay for? Do we have the capital to drive our business forward? And then finally our ability to execute, to scale our business as quickly as we can to meet that market need. Our market is the intersection of cloud and data. It’s pretty much the best market there’s ever been in B2B, tick. Product-market fit, super strong. Loads of data points I could share with you about that, tick. Capital, well, Matillion has been lucky to raise $250 million of venture capital so far in 2021. It’s only November, although I don’t think we’ll be doing another round.

Rob Ristagno: Come on. There’s still a few weeks left.

Matthew Scullion: We’re also quite a capital efficient business, tick. So the thing that’s left is our ability to execute as we scale our business to solve as quickly as we can this really big problem of making the world’s data useful.

Rob Ristagno: Excellent. I like that framework, market, product-market fit, capital, execution. I think that’s a very nice synthesis of what it takes to get a business off the ground and succeed. Great. Excellent. Well, thank you, Matthew. And what we’re going to talk about today in the interview is going from feature/function to vision, and we’ll touch a little bit on the link between culture and performance. So let’s start, I think there’s always a chicken and egg problem here where you have to have a vision to know what features and functions to build and they have to be beneficial to the customer, which it seems like an iterative process. But let’s just take a step way back into history and tell us how you came up for the idea for Matillion.

Matthew Scullion: Well, thank you for allowing me to indulge in that pleasant set of green-tinged memories, Rob. Matillion’s company color is green. Yeah. How do we get into it? Well, it’s a business with two parts to its history and a pivot in the middle. So Matillion was originally founded by myself and a couple of my wonderful co-founders Ed Thompson, Peter McCord all the way back in 2011. Now at that point, when I stood the business up and in a business plan I wrote in my back bedroom, which is where the first few weeks and months of work on Matillion were done, that business plan said we want to build a business that has its own IP, that has a recurring revenue model and that works at the intersection of cloud and data. And I wrote that in September, 2010 and it’s all absolutely true today. So there is some continuity between that.

Matthew Scullion: But what we actually started doing in January, 2011 when we set the business up isn’t what we do today. And that’s where we got the idea, in answer to your question. So in my previous career, I’d been working with data and starting to work with the cloud. And the thing that I’d noticed about data is everybody wants more of it, right? It had been in the top one, two or three position on Gartner’s CIO and CFO priorities for a number of years, but also the projects had a high failure rate. And so back in 2010, I thought I’m just getting into this cloud stuff. It’s really cool. Let’s use the cloud to deliver analytics solutions for businesses, with a much lower failure rate, enterprise quality analytics, but with our guaranteed project and a quick time to value. And that’s what we set Matillion up to do originally.

Matthew Scullion: It was kind of a managed analytics product, right? We’d go in and say, you want dashboards and reports, no problem. We’ll build it all for you and we’ll run it for you and you’ll have it up and running in six weeks. Behind the scenes though, we still needed to do all the same things that an enterprise would need to do today. You needed a visualization layer to see the data. You needed a data warehouse to put the data in and get it organized. And crucially, you needed a middleware layer of so-called ETL extract, transform the load layer to make the data useful.

Matthew Scullion: We ran that business for 2011 through 2014. And each of those components we bought off the shelf, right? We bought visualization, data warehouse, ETL layer. We wrote a bit of our own software to stitch it together, but the biggest time consuming bit of an analytics project is making the data useful. And that’s still true today. 70% of an AI or ML project isn’t doing AI and ML. It’s getting the data organized and useful, so to give it to the person that’s going to do the AI and ML. That’s true today, it was true back then and we were finding that. And we were using commercial off the shelf tools to do ETL. Those tools were great, but they weren’t built for the cloud, and that was slowing us down. So in 2014, I mean, we were a small company. We were like 10 and 15 people. We literally Googled “ETL tool for the cloud.” And basically, none of the results that came back were proper ETL tools for the cloud.

Rob Ristagno: Yeah.

Matthew Scullion: And we knew a lot about what was needed because we’d been doing it last three or four years. And therefore, we decided to build our own product. Fast-forward a year, that product worked. It worked really well. And we thought maybe some other people in the world have this problem. And that’s where the Matillion that everyone knows today came from. And I think the learnings from that are we got ourselves in the right zone and then dialed in on where the problem really was. And that’s kind of how the product came to market.

Rob Ristagno: Excellent. So tell us then a little bit about how you, I’ll say went up from a very specific problem, very specific feature set and product to solve that problem to a grander vision now about making data usable. Tell us a little bit about how you went on that journey.

Matthew Scullion: So the really good thing about launching a product in the way that we did it is it definitely solved a problem, right? We had immediate, pretty deep product-market fit because we’d had the problem. And at that particular point in history, cloud data warehousing was new. We built dozens and dozens of customer cloud data warehouses. So we knew this problem as well as probably any other team in the world at that particular moment in history, and then we solved the problem for ourselves. We understood it really well and we solved it. And that meant that the product worked really well straight out the box. And customers have always given us that feedback.

Matthew Scullion: The downside of it was that no product management, product marketing, management consultant-style skillset had ever sat down and said, this is the big problem we’re trying to solve in the world. We came to it through pain. We’re like, we’ve got these symptoms. Let’s go and fix these symptoms. But what does that mean in the bigger context of what we’re trying to do? So we trundled on like that for a number of years. And what you found was we have brilliant technology and our messaging around that, our marketing story to the world wasn’t quite as good. And we could never quite figure out why. And people would be like, “Well, tell us what makes your product different.” And we’d start describing technical features of it.

Rob Ristagno: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Matthew Scullion: But companies buy outcomes. They buy faster time to value.

Rob Ristagno: Yeah.

Matthew Scullion: They buy, I want to do analytics and this allows me to do it. They buy on resource constraint. You can fix that by making more people able to participate and each of them more productive. But we didn’t used to say that. We used to say, oh, we have a pure ELT architecture. And that’s why it runs a hundred times faster than the old tools. Features and functions rather than business benefits and mission. Now over time, first of all, you start to notice that. People start to say, “Yeah, but I don’t get it.” And you start to try and iterate on ideas.

Rob Ristagno: Yeah.

Matthew Scullion: The second thing is you start to notice trends in your data. So by the time we were at say $10 or $20 million of ARR, we were noticing that most of it was coming from large businesses. And that’s unusual in a software startup. Normally it’s easier to sell to little businesses.

Rob Ristagno: Yeah.

Matthew Scullion: How was it that we being so successful selling to Fortune 500, Global 8,000 customers? Well, we’d been inspired to solve this problem by using the previous generation of tools, noticing that they were really good, but not built for the cloud. That previous generation of tools were enterprise tools. So we’d been inspired to build an enterprise product, but it was only when we saw it in the data that we started to figure it out.

Rob Ristagno: Ah, I see.

Matthew Scullion: So then after a few years, you start to, it’s like going through your teens and hitting your early twenties. You realize what you are. You start to understand and know yourself, and then you can elevate your messaging. And then there comes a tipping point where you realize that’s actually solving a big problem. And I think once you hit that point, that’s very powerful externally, because you can explain it to customers or on wonderful calls like this, Rob, but it’s also very powerful internally. You asked me earlier what the best thing about being a CEO is. The best thing is about getting a team of brilliant people aligned in a great culture, focused on a shared goal, because then they can make a dent in the universe bigger than themselves. But they have to know what the goal is, right?

Rob Ristagno: Yeah.

Matthew Scullion: They have to know what the mission is. And it took us a while to dial in on that, but then you realize, oh wow. Actually, we’re solving a big problem. And suddenly everyone’s that little bit more passionate about it.

Rob Ristagno: Wow. But I think what I’m hearing there is you can’t just sit in your bedroom or garage or wherever you’re starting up, come up with a vision and go from there. It’s a little bit back and forth. You have to collect the data to see, hey, here’s some ideas. Let’s go try some stuff. Let’s learn from them, look at the results, look at the data. Who’s buying? Who’s not? And then eventually you solve your way into this grander vision.

Matthew Scullion: So actually, I’m not saying that exclusively. I’m saying that’s what we did.

Rob Ristagno: Ah, okay.

Matthew Scullion: I actually think you can. And a lot of companies do start off with the big vision and then work out from there. But I think the thing that’s common about those two things is the product-market fit, it’s a manufacturing process, right?

Rob Ristagno: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Matthew Scullion: And a lot of early stage entrepreneurs, I think or proto-entrepreneurs get wrapped in knots around this. They sit there at home thinking, I’ve got to have the best idea. I’ve got to have the best idea. Well, actually you don’t. And by the way, you’re not going to either, right?

Rob Ristagno: Yeah. Yeah.

Matthew Scullion: You’ve got to land yourself in the zone and then keep turning the handle. And the old adage, it’s 90% perspiration, 10% inspiration, it’s bang on apart from it’s probably more like 99, 1%.

Matthew Scullion: And if you think about Matillion, we landed ourselves in the zone. We knew we wanted to be the intersection of data and cloud because that was the bit that we knew about, and it was a big area in the way there was big problems to solve. And then we just kept turning the handle until we got product-market fit. And in our case, that led us to understand who we were as we went through our teens into our twenties and get the big vision.

Rob Ristagno: Yeah.

Matthew Scullion: But I think you can start off with the vision. And plenty of companies do that as well.

Rob Ristagno: Gotcha. Okay. That makes sense. So you could start top down or go bottom up, but I think the point is it’s a little bit of, like you said, it’s a manufacturing process to get product market fit and-

Matthew Scullion: I think so, yeah.

Rob Ristagno: And takes some experimentation and time. How do you know you have product-market fit? What’s your benchmark?

Matthew Scullion: So the CEO pro, but not that helpful, answer is to say remember, it’s not a one-way gate. It’s an analog scale and you can have it better than you had it before. You can also lose it from that point. So it’s something that it’s very wise to be productively paranoid about at all times. But how do you know what data shows you in good shape? I think the three easy to think about data points that would come top of mind for me straight away would first of all be net retention. Net retention is if you win 10 customers in month one, what are those 10 customers spending with you in month 13? And so two of the 10 could have left. They could have churned. Four of the 10 could be flat on the last year, but the other four could be up.

Matthew Scullion: So what’s the compound effect of that? If that number is north of say 110, 120%, that’s a really good sign you’ve got product-market fit because customers, once they found you like you and spend more in general over time. The second one would be sales efficiency or some proxy to it, right? How easy or hard is it for you to sell stuff? Because if it’s really, really, really difficult, then maybe you’re just not solving a problem that they want solving.

Rob Ristagno: Yeah.

Matthew Scullion: And you can work that out in a business with a bit of momentum by looking at how much do I spend on sales compared to how much recurring revenue do I add? If I spend a million on sales, get a million back in recurring revenue, that’s a sales efficiency of one. That would be very, very good. Anything between 0.6 and one, so spend a million to get $600,000 to a million back in recurring revenue. You find north of one, you’ve probably been too cautious, less than 0.6 you’ve possibly got a product-market fit or a sales motion problem. And then the final set of data I’d look at would be under an umbrella term I call voice of market. So this is things like reviews, NPS scores, analyst feedback, and just ring your customers up and ask what they think. So yeah.

Rob Ristagno: One thing we hear from a lot of our guests is people are not spending enough time or energy on this third point here, the voice of the market. Do you see that with other companies that you interact with?

Matthew Scullion: I sometimes, with Matillion, feel a little bit like the British tennis player, Andy Murray must occasionally feel. Andy Murray’s pretty good at tennis. He was just pretty stupid to be born in the same generation as Rafael Nadal. So we’re pretty good at tennis, but we hang around with loads of people that are just as good, one or two of them even better. My friends are Snowflake and Databricks and AWS. And so these are very high performing companies. And therefore, they’re all perfectly sensibly very paranoid about voice of market and listening to their customers, and having amazing telemetry to tell them that they’re in zone as we try to as well. So the straight answer to your question, Rob is a lot of our contemporaries are rightly obsessed about this stuff, but I don’t think you can do too little.

Rob Ristagno: Gotcha. Okay. Great. Another thing that you’ve mentioned to me in the past, which I found interesting was this framework you have for thinking through culture and performance. Do you mind sharing that with the audience?

Matthew Scullion: Yeah, of course. So culture in the case of Matillion at least is certainly a big part of the magic source of what makes our company work, and so far be successful. I often say to the team and to anyone else who will listen, the team have to, I suppose. I often say the most important thing in Matillion is the team. And that could be not what you’d expect to hear from someone with my particular role as CEO. You might expect me to say the most important thing is the customers and don’t get me wrong. The customers are the only reason that we exist and we are there to make their lives better. That’s like the sole raison d’etre of our business. But the reason I say the team’s the most important thing is it’s the team that builds the products that the customers get value from. It’s the team that finds and delights the customers. It’s the team that looks after the go-to-market professionals and the R&D professionals doing those things.

Matthew Scullion: The team’s the most important thing. If the team is rubbish or out of the zone, then the customer would get a bad outcome.

Rob Ristagno: Yeah.

Matthew Scullion: Now the team lives in a culture, and the culture of Matillion is underpinned by six values that all Matillioners hold precious. And so for us, you can see therefore why culture and the values that underpin it are so important. It’s the environment in which the most of important thing–our team–lives, prospers, and succeeds. However, I think there are three ways to build a business. And this isn’t out of our Harvard textbook, I’m afraid. Maybe it will be one day, Rob.

Rob Ristagno: All right. One day.

Matthew Scullion: But I think there’s three ways to build a business. I think there’s a culture only way, I think there’s a performance only way, and I think there’s a culture and performance way. And of the three, I think two work. I think the culture and performance one works. And sadly, I think the performance on its own one works. I don’t think the culture on its own one works. And this is from a person that geeks out 100% on culture. I think it’s the magic source that makes up work. So yeah, three ways to build a business, culture only, performance only, culture and performance. Two of them work.

Rob Ristagno: Tell us a little more about why you think or see that culture only organizations don’t work out?

Matthew Scullion: So, let’s talk about why we can get comfortable that performance only works.

Rob Ristagno: Okay.

Matthew Scullion: Because that answer is just data led. There are companies that it’s easy to validate that they don’t have culture first cultures, and they have very strong performance first cultures. And there’s lots of these whose names I’m not going to say in a public forum, but I’m sure you can think of at least two or three examples. And some of those companies have got pretty shiny looking skyscrapers.

Rob Ristagno: Yeah.

Matthew Scullion: I mean, they’ve done all right. You can run it performance only. Why culture only in my opinion doesn’t work is if you are only optimizing to culture, you don’t do some things that are essential to being successful. Top of the list I would say would be the concept of right person, right seat, right time.

Rob Ristagno: Okay.

Matthew Scullion: And so, as organizations grow, their needs change. And a classic example would be a finance leader. And I only pick on finance because it’s just incontroversial and obvious in finance, but the same actually applies for all roles across the business. Now a Wall Street CFO is I guess what a NASDAQ or NYSE public company needs. And that is a particular skillset and it’s very valuable, and those people are very talented and experienced and that’s all great.

Matthew Scullion: That person would not be much use to a five person startup. Someone’s going to turn around and say, “Hey, could you just key the invoices? And then could you just pay the expenses to Bob? And by the way, can you have a look over this legal contract? And also you’re basically head of HR as well, so can you just deal with this discipline in grievance thing personally?” A Wall Street CFO wouldn’t know where to start. Flip side, the person that does know how to do those things, that kind of Swiss Army Knife finance person that all startups need pretty soon, that person is probably not qualified to run a $20 billion publicly listed company and brief investors at the quarterly training updates. That’s hopefully really obvious to all of us.

Matthew Scullion: So once you realize that you realize, well, there isn’t one state change in that journey from a $100,000 of recurring revenue to $10 billion in recurring revenue where, and all the time it was the startup person or the Wall Street person. It’s a continuum. And as a CEO, you’ve got to be looking the whole time at all levels across the business, whether the right people are in the right seats at the right time. And this doesn’t mean necessarily that people will have to leave the business, be recruited into the business, be promoted, be demoted, whatever. You just have to be really focused at the right people in the right seat at the right time. And people can learn at an accelerated rate and also be coached, but sometimes you just need new skills, right?

Rob Ristagno: Yeah.

Matthew Scullion: You just need that playbook that you don’t have inside the business. And if you don’t do it, you let that person down because they suddenly get out of the zone on being able to do their job. And we’ve all been in that situation. It’s horrible. But you also let all of their colleagues down and they start to think, oh, the business isn’t doing the right things because the person responsible for X, Y, and Z, they don’t know what we need to do in the next stage of our journey.

Matthew Scullion: But a culture only environment, you’d be like, oh God, I really don’t want to get that person out of the zone. I really don’t want to say, “Hey, you’ve done an amazing job one through 10 of ARR, but I now need to bring someone else in to take us 10 through 25. And we’re going to really look after you and hopefully use you for something else brilliant in the business. And hopefully you’re going to learn loads of new things from the new person coming in, but you can shy away from that.” Now, in the performance only world you just go, huh, don’t care about that. Shoot that person, bring the next person in, blah, blah, blah. And that does work. It’s not how I want to do it. And it has some downsides to it as well. Also makes I think for a not wonderful place to work and you don’t want fear and people being stressed and all that sort of stuff.

Rob Ristagno: Right.

Matthew Scullion: The magic is you can have both. You can be culture and high performance. So that would be one big example of how you do culture and performance and why it’s important or not.

Rob Ristagno: Yeah. That example makes it very clear. All right. Let’s open it up to questions from the audience. What do we want to know from Matthew?

Audience Member: I’d like to know how you go about building this culture that works for you? So it’s easy to talk about it and really hard to do. I’d love to just get your thoughts on that.

Matthew Scullion: Well, thanks for the great question, Brent. You’re definitely right inside the zone of my favorite subjects. And of course, I’ll start off by saying that first of all, like product market fit earlier, I think it’s a continuum. You should never say that’s done and then move on. And secondly, I know what we’ve done at Matillion, what’s worked and hasn’t worked for us. I’m sure there are 101 other and probably even better ways to do it, but what I’ve seen in Matillion and how we’ve over time built and gradually even further improved our culture, sir, on day one of the business actually, it was the first thing I did on the first morning of the business. 10:00 AM, January 20th, I think 2011. It’s this cold gray day in Manchester, Brent. And the very first thing I did actually is make a cup of tea because I’m British.

Audience Member: Oh. Yeah, of course.

Matthew Scullion: But the second thing I did was write down some values. And the values were a little bit of a reflection of me or possibly even a higher bar than that, which is a reflection of the me I wanted to be in work. And I wrote them down so I could hold myself accountable to them.

Audience Member: Yeah.

Matthew Scullion: But it was also because I wanted to make a dent in the universe bigger than myself, but I also wanted to do it in the right way. I wanted it to be a beautiful thing that could be proud of. And I thought if I write down on the very first day, the standards that I think will help us do that, then it’ll be really easy for me to hold myself and all future Matillioners to account to those values and standards. So values, I think for us was the foundation stone.

Matthew Scullion: The second thing is then live them, because what I know can happen is that you print the values out and you stick it on the back of the lavatory door and you occasionally pay lip service to it, but you don’t really live it. So what you’ve really got to do is actually live it. And I can remember in the early days of Matillion, we have a value called customer obsession and then it’s got some information underneath. You get someone on the phones to a customer, it’d be a tough call. And they’d put the phone down and say, “Oh, that customer is an…” insert generic, not that bad swear word. They’d say something nasty about the customer. And I’d go over, this is when the company was small. I’d go over and say, “Look, I understand that was a stressful call, but we just don’t ever say nasty things about customers here.” I’m like, “If you really need to vent use this phrase: ‘Our customers are valued, but challenging.’ This is a valued but challenging customer, but you just can’t call that guy an asshole because that starts to erode our culture.”

Matthew Scullion: When you’re telling 15 people, you can personally police that and, crucially of course, make sure you do it yourself. But then as you get a bit bigger and this is the next part of the cookbook of things, Brent is you then have to start building the scaffolding and processes in place to do that at scale. So at Matillion for instance, we train people on the values. In fact, I personally run a workshop for all new starters. We’ve had over 250 of those this year. They all get a 90 minute session with me on the values. And we’re upgrading in that again to be a week long induction next year. We interview against it. They’re used in all our QDDs. They’re common nomenclature in our language, just because we just keep living them really. So I’d say it’s values, it’s authenticity, and then it’s scaffolding, scaffolding being the processes to keep it and preserve it at scale.

Matthew Scullion: Does that answer question, Brent?

Audience Member: Yeah. And then I’m curious to know how in a culture where you really focus on the people and helping them get better and living up to those values, how do you deal then with the employees that just aren’t living up to that?

Matthew Scullion: Yeah. Ultimately, pretty quickly. So the first one is we try not to hire those people.

Audience Member: Yeah.

Matthew Scullion: And so our values are built into our recruitment process, and our talent acquisition team are super attuned into trying to find people that are going to be able to prosper inside the guardrails of our six values and weeding out the ones that aren’t. But of course, occasionally we do get that wrong and that’s how we see it as well. There’s no sort of natural law that says it’s a good thing to live Matillion’s values and a bad thing not to, it’s just a Matillion thing, that. So you have a person that resonates wonderfully in another company, just not within our values.

Matthew Scullion: But a phrase we like to use here, Brent quite a bit is in Matillion we celebrate diversity of all types, whether it’s gender or ethnicity or sexuality or age or neurodiversity or access to career pathway. Whatever type of diversity it is, we love that. We celebrate it and we look for it because that rich tapestry of humanity makes the boat go faster, with one exception. And the one exception is we do not celebrate nor tolerate diversity from the ability to live inside of our six values.

Matthew Scullion: So if someone isn’t, we first coach pretty instantly and say, “Hey, Brent. You’re not living inside our six values. You should think about doing that pretty quick and here’s how you should do it.” And then the second one is curate, which in the case of not living the values means agreeing to leave the business. And going back to my sorts of values, authenticity, scaffolding framework, I think that one is the authenticity bit. You’ve got to do it. And I can remember lots of times when it’s been extremely inconvenient for me to part company with a particular Matillioner because they’ve not been living the values. But I know that if I don’t make that decision, as soon as I can authentically say, yeah, I know that person’s not living in the values and yet I’m choosing to let them stay because I need their functional skills, as soon as I do that, I’ve just lost the trust of all 400 Matillioners as protector and chief of the values. So yeah. Does that answer the question?

Audience Member: Yeah. Very helpful. Thank you

Rob Ristagno: Protector and chief, I like that. Any other questions from the audience?

Nora: Hey, Matthew.

Matthew Scullion: Hi, Nora.

Nora: So I hear you talking about your internal culture. And then I also was stalking you online and trying to understand how your company helps your clients. So it’s not just that you’re giving them access to lots of blended data, you’re also, it sounds like you’re trying to give them a culturally advanced approach to this blended culture and performance approach that you have. Or is that more about your internal leadership style? I’m just trying to understand.

Matthew Scullion: Good question. Let me have a run at it, Nora, see if I get it right. Is our internal culture relevant to the outside world? If I take that bit of the question, I’d say the answer is absolutely. So Matillion has six values. Value number one is confidence without arrogance. And I always think it’s value one and value six that really define the feel of the Matillion. Value six, by the way, is we care. We care about Matillioners, their families, and the society in which we operate. And those two, the first and the last value, they give the feel to Matillion.

Matthew Scullion: When I’m doing my values enablement workshop with new Matillioners, and occasionally we get tenured ones popping in for a top up, which I always really enjoy. I always say, “Hey, confidence without arrogance.” I was like, “Why is this important?” I said, “Well, first of all, I think it’s who we are. That’s how I try to be.” So tell me if I come across as arrogance at any point, because I’ll be mortified, but will correct it.

Matthew Scullion: I say, “Look, it’s really important for us to be confident because we’re trying to solve a big problem and we’re trying to make a dent in the universe bigger than ourselves. And you don’t get that by being shy. We’ve got to be confident, but we don’t like being arrogant. And there’s two big reasons for that. And reason number one is we’re a high growth business. The business completely transforms itself every couple of quarters, certainly every year. Therefore, we all have to learn at an accelerated rate and arrogance stops you learning. But the second reason is arrogance is really unattractive. Basically, people don’t really like arrogant people.” And so because we have a whole team of people that I think really embody confidence without arrogance, in general, I hope and hear that people like working with Matillion. And that’s partners and customers, and that in turn has a business benefit.

Matthew Scullion: Now, it would be really mercenary of me to say the only reason that we don’t like being arrogant is to help ARR grow. It’s not that way round, but I do think it’s the case that it helps the boat go faster that we have a culture. And I’ve talked about confidence with our arrogance there, but there’s there’s do business with integrity. We treat our customers right, our partners right, our suppliers right, our people right. We treat other people how we like to be treated ourselves, customer obsession, bias for action. These are all things that our customers, partners, suppliers, ecosystem members feel the benefit of. So that’s an internal culture that has an external effect.

Matthew Scullion: To your point about how are we trying to influence the other company’s culture through our products? I mean, I am confident. I’m also, I think cognizant of the fact that we’re probably not necessarily doing that for our customers. There are companies that can do that, but we don’t say, “Hey, we’re going to come in and change your culture.” We make software products and they can use them within reason, I guess, to how they like.

Matthew Scullion: I think maybe the thing you were drilling in on, Nora is that data engineering has normally been the purview of highly skilled coders. And our technology allows a broader aperture of people to get involved, which means people closer to the business can innovate with data, more of them. And in a large business where the number of data engineers as a percentage of headcount is very, very low, like 0.0001% or something, there’s a cultural ramification that more people can get in the pass rush because of our software. So that might have been the point that you were picking up there. And that’d be my thoughts on that.

Rob Ristagno: All right. So let’s move on to our third and final segment of the episode and it’s time for Campfire Games. Are you ready, Matthew?

Matthew Scullion: I am. I’m excited.

Rob Ristagno: All right. So it’s a little bit of a Family Feud-type of situation here. There’s a company out there called BI Survey, Business Intelligence Survey. And they did a research study and asked the question, what problems do you see when using big data analytics and technologies? So can you name for us at least three of the top problems that they uncovered in their research?

Matthew Scullion: I get it. We call that show Family Fortunes in the UK.

Rob Ristagno: Oh, okay. All right. I should have looked that up beforehand.

Matthew Scullion: I’m glad that I got on page.

Rob Ristagno: It’s much more polite, Family Fortune.

Matthew Scullion: This is in the language that they answered as well, is it? So what are the three big problems with using analytics data? I’d say, I hope in or near at the top would be what we’d call making the data useful, which is sort of finding it, joining it together, refining it.

Rob Ristagno: I would say that’s number one, but technically it was inadequate analytical know-how. So that’s effectively, how you make it useful.

Matthew Scullion: And then I’ll probably say something around permissions and security would be likely to be in there, data governance, permissions.

Rob Ristagno: That is in there. I was surprised it was number four. I thought that would be higher, but it did make the survey.

Matthew Scullion: And then, well, just tell me what the first one was written out again. Say that again?

Rob Ristagno: Inadequate analytical know-how.

Matthew Scullion: Okay. And then I’d say quality and/or quality and timeliness of data.

Rob Ristagno: I’m trying to see if I could massage that one into one these.

Matthew Scullion: You’ve got a point. You can’t. It’s all right, Rob. I’m sorry. You can say [crosstalk 00:39:10]. How about time to value? You know the projects [crosstalk 00:39:14]

Rob Ristagno: Yes. There you go. That was number five, cost or lack of a compelling business case. So there you go.

Matthew Scullion: Okay.

Rob Ristagno: You got it. You won the big prize.

Matthew Scullion: Yeah. I think I had a particularly generous host.

Rob Ristagno: The other ones that made the top of the list were inadequate technical know-how, so not enough data scientists. And then, oh, actually this one I would give you credit for this one, technical problems. Maybe that’s your data quality issue. We’ll give you credit for that one.

Matthew Scullion: Got it.

Rob Ristagno: But thank you so much, Matthew. This was so exciting. If people want to learn more about you, about Matillion, about some of your other thoughts, where should they go?

Matthew Scullion: So you can go to, where you can find all about our wonderful company. We’re super active on all the normal social media channels, LinkedIn, Twitter, et al. And if anyone wants to speak to me, you can find me on LinkedIn, Matthew Scullion. I always love to talk about making the world’s data useful and business building.

Rob Ristagno: Excellent. Thanks so much, Matthew.

Matthew Scullion: Thanks a lot, Rob. It’s been great fun.

Rob Ristagno: That’ll wrap up this episode of The CEO Campfire Chat. I’m Rob Ristagno. For prior episodes, bonus content and more, visit us See you next time or around the fire.

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