Episode 10 Founder's Journey: Tyler Gaffney, CEO of ZenHub

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In this week’s episode of the From Vendorship to Partnership podcast, Ross talks to Tyler Gaffney, CEO of ZenHub.

Tyler has spent more than a decade in and around startups, including running a consultancy to help early stage businesses figure out how to go to market. One of his clients was Axiom Zen, which had started ZenHub as an internal tool initially, but it ended up gaining a lot of organic traction and became its own business. Tyler was drawn to ZenHub’s exciting growth and leadership team, and was invited to join full-time as CEO about three years ago.

Listen to the full episode to hear about Tyler’s learnings from leading ZenHub and his advice to other founders, including:

  • How product market fit evolves over time
  • Not falling into the trap of what you know best
  • Being willing to ask the tough questions

Listen on your favorite podcast platforms: Spotify, Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts.

3 Tips for Early Stage Founders from Tyler Gaffney, CEO of ZenHub

1. Product market fit isn’t a one-time win: it evolves

A mistake that many founding teams make, Tyler says, is assuming that once you achieve product market fit, you have it forever.

“Product market fit is an ever changing, ever evolving thing,” said Tyler. “You can have it one day, but then the market changes and it might be different, or gone.”

ZenHub had a thousand customers when Tyler joined, and by most definitions had achieved product market fit. But he noticed that certain areas of the business were slowing, and customer surveys were returning less satisfied results. Over time, the market and the platforms that ZenHub worked with evolved, so ZenHub also had to change to keep up.

“Never take product market fit for granted,” Tyler said. “Some companies ignore the changes and start to decline, so it’s always something I’m watching and questioning.”

2. Don’t fall into the trap of what you know and ignore other options

Everyone is comfortable with what they know best and what they’re good at, but sometimes, sticking with what you know can blind you to the best solution.

When Tyler joined ZenHub, they didn’t have a sales org, so the first thing he did was build an enterprise sales team to help the company grow. They hired a few people, improved the pitch, had high-level conversations, and eventually began closing larger deals – but product adoption was low. The primary users of ZenHub, developers, said that they felt like the product was being pushed down on them from above.

Tyler’s experience and comfort with GTM led him to improve sales first, when they really should have been focusing on other areas. After they realized this, the ZenHub team decided to focus on taking care of their customers and building up customer success.

“I was going against the natural motion of the business because I was focusing on the things I knew best,” he said.

3. Be willing to ask tough questions, even when things are going well

If there’s one key thing Tyler has learned through his journey with ZenHub, it’s that founders and startup leaders need to be willing to ask the tough questions, all the time.

“I think we just get too complacent because startups are exhausting sometimes, and you think ‘We’ve already figured that out,'" Tyler said. “You’ve got to be asking the basics all the time.” 

Is your ICP still your ICP? Are you still using the right GTM motion? Are customers still enjoying your product? These are some of the basic questions you should revisit over and over, Tyler says, even when things are going really well.

“We’re trying to predict the future of where the market is going,” Tyler said. “If you’re proactive about it, asking these questions will help you make some really big decisions.”

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About Tyler and ZenHub:

Tyler Gaffney is the CEO of ZenHub, Founder of Entrepid Partners, and former VP of Sales at WePay.

ZenHub enables software teams at startups and scaleups to build better code, faster by providing a developer-friendly productivity management platform. ZenHub is the leading team productivity management suite in GitHub and is trusted by teams at over 6,900 companies and open source projects to help them work together to ship great code.