In the last founder interview of season one, Ross talks to Joe Garafalo, COO & co-founder of Mosaic, a startup building the first Strategic Finance Platform.
Joe and his Mosaic co-founders, Bijan Moallemi and Brian Campbell, first met when they were working in Palantir’s finance department back in 2012. Over six years, they saw a renaissance in software, with solutions being developed for GTM teams, engineers, marketers – and meanwhile, finance was being neglected.
After grinding through Excel sheets every day, experiencing the walls between finance and the rest of the company, and seeing the same challenges at other companies, Joe and his team decided to build a solution themselves.
In this episode, Joe shares insights from his journey, Mosaic’s exciting growth, and his advice to other founders.
3 Stages of Mosaic’s Journey, from COO & Co-Founder Joe Garafalo
1. Finding “founder-market fit”
Since Joe and his co-founders personally struggled with the problems that finance teams faced for years, they knew that something like Mosaic needed to exist and that customers would respond to it.
“Either we could spend our careers solving the same problem for every company we go to, or we could come together and actually build a solution so everyone has access to it,” Joe said.
While other departments were getting software that made their jobs easier and more efficient, finance had been over-promised and under-delivered up to that point, and people were ready for change. Joe and his founding team had a roadmap built for a solution before they officially started Mosaic.
“We knew that if we built the product we would want to use and would solve our problems, it would resonate with customers,” Joe said. “Our investors called it ‘founder-market fit.’”
2. Winning their first customers
Mosaic’s founding team and early investors knew that they had a strong idea and fit with the market. The next step was signing their first customers.
At first, this involved a lot of networking with connections they knew from their backers, Palantir, and other companies they’d worked with. And it involved a willingness to be scrappy and honest.
“We would go to customers and say, ‘Please work with us, we’ll do it for free,’” Joe said. “‘We’re scrappy, we want to help you solve this problem.’”
Mosaic found people who believed in the solution they were trying to build, and signed their first few customers without writing a single line of code. A short time later, they had their first prototype built, and customers started seeing the value of the product for themselves (and were happy to pay Mosaic).
“Be scrappy to get those first few customers, and really solve a big pain point they’re facing,” said Joe. “When it comes to strategic planning and finance, the problems are hard and they really matter.”
3. Mosaic’s growth (and Joe’s advice)
Since officially starting in April 2019, Mosaic has raised more than $21M, grown to over 50 employees, and hit the three-digit mark for customers signed. Mosaic’s platform is able to connect to CRMs, ERPs, and payment platforms, and helps break down traditional walls between finance and other departments.
The number of requests for new connections, features, and metrics that customers want to see is growing exponentially, Joe says, so the big focus now is on engineering and continuing to provide more value through the platform.
Joe’s #1 piece of advice to his past self and other founders?
“Be okay with being uncomfortable,” he said. “When you start a company, the highs are going to be high, and the lows are going to be low, but just be ready for that.”
Putting things into perspective has helped Joe through challenges Mosaic has faced over the past few years. “The problems we’re having right now we only dreamed about having six months ago.”
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Joe is Co-Founder and COO of Mosaic, a software startup building the first Strategic Finance Platform. He began his career in the Big 4 with KPMG and went on to hold multiple leadership positions in finance at Palantir, Axoni, and Barkbox before founding Mosaic. Outside of work, Joe enjoys traveling, learning about capital markets and cryptocurrency, playing poker, and spending time with family and his dog, Coconut.