Q&A with Mike Sellberg

We’re excited to announce that industry vet, Mike Sellberg, has joined our leadership team as interim Chief of Product and Chief of Staff at Coviance! 

Mike Sellberg
March 27, 2023
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Meet Mike Sellberg, Coviance’s Newly Appointed Interim Chief of Product + Chief of Staff

We’re excited to announce that industry vet, Mike Sellberg, has joined our leadership team as interim Chief of Product and Chief of Staff at Coviance! 

Mike was previously the Executive Vice President, Chief of Staff at Vertex Software, and prior held the position of Chief Product Officer at Workiva, had executive roles at Engineering Animation, Inc. (EAI) and UGS. He has over 30 years as an experienced operations, technology and marketing leader that helped found and scale two B2B software companies from private startups to public companies with 1,200+ employees globally and over $200M in annual revenue. 

Let’s get to know Mike! Here’s a quickfire Q&A below…

1. What does your dual, Interim Chief of Product + Chief of Staff role at Coviance entail?

The CoS role is really about special projects for our CEO Omar, basically a “project-based COO.”  I have managed and scaled teams in product management, product marketing, sales operations, customer success, and I have been a “founder salesperson.” So, I am very fortunate to have gained experience in every area of a SaaS software company that touches the customer. My CoS job is first and foremost to support those groups to build or optimize processes to scale Coviance to the next level. 

My CoS initial focus is on operational scalability during our rapid phase of growth. Right now, that means “cross-group” processes such as “product launch” and “sales enablement” because in my experience those are the “tweener” areas that have failed to get attention. Each group is extremely busy and also trying to scale within their own departments. But, processes across two or more groups are the most critical at the current growth phase for Coviance. 

Adding the CPO role, let’s me focus on one very critical transition for startups – what I call the “3 Ws and H” of product development which is “What, Why, When, and How.”  It is not a new concept, but I come at it from a different angle. Operational scaling demands that a company understands how the ownership of these four letters changes over time from the entrepreneurial first product sprint to a scalable product organization informed not only by customers, but also product marketing, sales, customer success, and company visionaries.

2. Word on the street is that this role got you out of retirement. Is this true?

Yes, this is true! This is my second attempt at retirement, so I wasn't necessarily looking to get back in the startup software world. After 30+ years in the software industry, all in Central Iowa with almost all of it in the ISU Research Park in Ames (I worked for four different companies in the same office suite at the Park). I have been lucky enough to be part of some great product and technology companies including Engineering Animation, Inc (EAI) and Workiva. 

In my first retirement attempt, I took a year to travel the world hitting six of the seven continents. It lasted about nine months and I started to get the itch to work or at least consult again. I was also part of a group in Papua New Guinea that got robbed by bandits with guns and machetes, so that made me think about maybe mixing the safety of a triple-monitor tech job with continued travel! I went back to work for Vertex Software in Ames with former colleagues from both EAI and Workiva. I worked there for a couple years and through the pandemic and then tried to retire again in early 2022.

I met Omar Jordan through a mutual friend in the Fall of 2022 (thanks alot Dave Tucker). I told him I was not interested in working, but he convinced me to join him for coffee at his house. It didn't take Omar long to pique my interest when he described the Coviance platform, the customer satisfaction, the business success so far, the people and culture. I then met Martina, Allen, and Jill and I really liked the team. So, I ended up staying the whole day, and Omar knew he had me. ;)

3. What do you envision for the product and operations teams - how are you planning on taking Coviance to the next level? 

I am really striving to help all teams achieve operational excellence while growing very fast. I don’t like the blanket term “operations” because there is not typically an operations team that cuts across all teams or departments so it is meaningless. If you say “sales ops” or “marketing ops” or “dev ops” to me, then I know what you are talking about because those terms are fairly standardized across the software industry, particularly in the B2B SaaS software segment.

To me, the “next level” is just the next phase of improving the scalability and I can’t take us there by myself. What I can do is make sure we are all embracing the same philosophy and metrics for our success in our current phase. 

First and foremost, we need to embrace a “Customer First Culture (CFC)'' that makes our customers raving fans of Coviance. I am not just using that as a catchphrase, I mean they literally need to say, “I love Coviance. I love their platform and I love their team.” We have a great start with this and our Customer Success (CS) team already gets shout outs from our customers. But, CFC is not just about CS. CS is the front line with customers, but it is about every person on every team caring every day that the things they do help make our customers love us. For some teams this means that they make internal customers love their team.

I have also been emphasizing that the 2 most important metrics for Coviance’s current business phase are 1) sales hiring, and 2) engineering hiring. Our SaaS business model is “land and expand” which means we need more sales people to land new logos, and once that happens we need more engineers so we can develop new capabilities to expand by selling new things to existing customers. You get in trouble quickly if you don’t follow this initial phase with scaling marketing and product management because the next phase is better sales training and efficiency which is marketing’s responsibility through sales enablement and demand generation. Product managers make sure we build the right things for both land and expand.

4. What are your immediate goals with Coviance? Where do you see Coviance in 1-5 years from now? 

First and foremost,  I am very focused on supporting sales to meet their goals. Right now, that means I focus on helping our teams develop an efficient and robust Go2Market process across product, marketing and sales to close new SaaS logos and convert more existing customers. Given my experience, I am focused on these cross-group processes that will deliver better and faster sales enablement.

In five years, I see Coviance as the leading platform for “end-to-end loan process automation” across home equity, mortgage, auto, and personal lending. Oh yeah, and we are coming off our first year as a public company after a successful IPO in 2027. And… I am finally retired. :)

5. Tell us one fun fact about you or care to share a hidden talent? 

Photography and historical research are my favorite hobbies. I have a van motorhome and I am currently traveling the country meeting people, experiencing local cultures, taking photographs and writing a book (a combo travelogue and historical theme).

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