As part of our Growth Profiles series, we’d like to introduce you to Adam Berlew, an Executive Director in Google Cloud’s AI & Industry Solutions team and a Go-to-Market advisor at CapitalG. Read on to learn about how Adam helps companies scale with AI, the industry trends he’s most excited about, and what he sees as the biggest opportunities for growth-stage startups in a post-pandemic work environment.
Tell us about your background, and what brought you to Google.
I started programming as a kid, and as a teenager wrote scheduling and accounting programs. Since then I have spent the majority of my career working in many parts of the tech industry, including working: for a manufacturer of PCs and servers; telecommunications carriers, cybersecurity companies, storage manufacturers, semiconductor manufacturers — and now, Google Cloud.
By lowering the cost of usership and enabling greater access, enterprise cloud technologies are creating a more inclusive technology industry. And among them, I think Google Cloud is the cloud that is changing the way companies operate. Google is bringing the power of AI to enterprise companies. This includes the Vertex AI platform and industry solutions like Call Center AI , Document AI and Retail Search, among others. So of course I was drawn to Google, whose great technologies can improve how companies operate and hopefully improve lives.
How have enterprise AI applications evolved over the last decade? What are the trends you’re most excited about?
AI has gone from being the exclusive domain of big companies with lots of research and expertise to being embedded and leveraged in the products of many companies. This includes entertainment companies like Spotify, payment systems like PayPal, and transportation companies like Lyft and Ford. Even traditional businesses like Macy’s, Sabre and Verizon are leveraging AI technology and solutions.
Most significantly, many startups founded by members of underserved communities are using AI in their services. As a reviewer and mentor for the Google Cloud Black Founders program, it’s wonderful to see how many underserved people are building leading edge AI companies. I had the opportunity to mentor CustomerXi (CX.i), a platform for data-driven marketing decisions.
And more broadly, in the next 10 years AI will be key in developing new product experiences that feel more personal, and help us create advancements in scientific fields like drug discovery and disease prevention — areas where companies like Oscar and Strive Health are leading the way. It’s also important that we continue to invest in using AI responsibly.
What strategies and metrics are most effective for enterprise businesses that want to scale? Are there any common pitfalls to avoid?
There are three imperatives for companies that want to scale, in this order: one, customer success. Customers must have a great experience and want to become a reference for you. And since customers sell to other customers, you need to be able to point to those who love your product and are willing to share their experience. Two, customer acquisition: Find customers both big and small so you can show customer adoption. This is critical to winning both new customers and industry analysts. Three, customer retention: being able to retain and also expand revenue with current customers is faster and cheaper than acquiring new ones.
As for pitfalls, there are a few critical ones to watch out for: companies getting stuck in “science experiments” that don’t show value to a customer and don’t provide a good experience; and companies that don’t act quickly on customer feedback. Often, customers will stick with you if they know you take and act on their feedback to improve the product.
What advantages do growth-stage enterprise startups have? Where do you see an opportunity for competitive advantage?
Growth-stage enterprise start-ups have a level of urgency and the ability to make quick decisions. Their focus allows them to limit experiments in favor of building solutions that solve specific problems and can quickly demonstrate value. Take Orca Security, who can deploy their agentless security monitoring solutions across three different cloud providers with just a few clicks. With Orca’s multifaceted toolset, security teams can tackle nine different use cases across three different clouds from a single device. The lack of cumbersome processes and bureaucracy lets them quickly adjust to customer needs and change strategy if necessary.
What advice do you have for enterprise marketing and sales teams to help them excel in a post-pandemic hybrid work environment?
There’s a huge opportunity to leverage all the great digital marketing and sales tools that provide intelligence on customers and customer relationships. These tools help identify who is looking for solutions and can level the playing field with more established companies that solely rely on a relationship-based go-to-market approach. And great content will still be key to success. Most buyers are looking to be educated, so you need content that is useful and catches their attention where they are, at the right time. The companies that do this well will have a huge advantage in the coming months and years.