Interview With Alan Pendleton
Describe your product or service:
“ArenaCX uses technology and a marketplace platform to help businesses find, manage, and optimize their outsourcing partnerships.”
Describe your company values and mission:
“We envision a world where businesses of all sizes can easily, safely, and affordably engage with well-managed workforces around the globe. Our mission is to help companies succeed through better business outsourcing. As a team, we value integrity, transparency, collaboration, enthusiasm, and human potential.”
How are you funded? I.e. venture capital, angel investors, etc.
How big is your team? Tell us a little about them (I.e. co-founders, freelancers, etc.)
“We have 10 employees, including roles in sales, marketing, success, operations, finance, and engineering.”
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“My grandfather and father were entrepreneurs. Through them, I saw how difficult it can be to [start] and run a business, so I've never been under any illusions that it would be glamorous. Nevertheless, I've always felt a deep conviction that each of us should make a difference. I'm wired to envision a better way and ask why not, then start building. Because this is my nature, I am drawn towards certain types of work. While I have found meaning when innovating and building within established companies, I have also found that entrepreneurship - with all of its uncertainty, messiness, peaks and valleys - is a good fit for my personality. As I have grown older, I have also seen this disposition merge with my faith-driven passion for helping others. This nests my career into a larger sense of mission and purpose.”
How did you come up with your startup idea? How did you decide to actually act on the idea? What gave you confidence that you were on the right track?
“ArenaCX was born within the innovative consumer wireless brand, Republic Wireless (now DISH), as its operational solution for delivering world-class customer service. After spending a few years building Republic's supply chain and logistics functions, I was given the opportunity to run its well-respected customer service program. When evaluating the challenges we wished to overcome, I recognized that supply chain concepts could be applied to pain points within customer service management. That was the first spark. As it turned out, this approach was successful beyond expectations. I spent considerable time speaking with dozens of industry players and thought leaders and became encouraged that what we built would work well for other companies. That began a period of internal discussion which culminated in a venture-backed spinout in September 2020. And then the ArenaCX journey began.”
How did you come up with your company name? Did you have other names you considered?
“While we have evolved a bit, our earliest value proposition hinged on fostering healthy, data-driven competition between outsourcing companies who would win more client business based on their performance. This evoked the coliseum, or arena, where competitions play out. Also, because we began with customer experience (the ‘CX’ in ArenaCX), we also saw an arena as a place where an artist or influencer connects with an audience. And, finally, there is a wonderful quote from Teddy Roosevelt, known today as "The Man in the Arena," which captures the startup ethos in grandiose, motivating terms. Because the name ArenaCX touches on all three brand concepts, it stuck.”
What is the greatest challenge you faced in starting your business, and how did you overcome it?
“Because we were a spinout, we did not follow the typical startup path. Usually, you test for product-market fit with lightweight prototypes before investing heavily in product development. In our case, we inherited mature technology and a battle-hardened product before we ever called on a prospect. So, doing things in reverse order was challenging. It took us a bit to align our assets with feedback from the market: we had to adjust our value proposition, calibrate our target market, and orient our model towards broader use cases beyond customer service.”
Who is your product or service made for? Who is your target market?
“Our product is for leaders who want to successfully outsource a business function or wish to complement their in-house expertise with an outsourced workforce. With our marketplace platform of more than 50 best-of-breed outsourcing partners around the world, discovering, engaging, and managing a third-party workforce is easier, safe, and more affordable than ever.”
What's your marketing strategy?
“Underpinning our marketing strategy is value delivery. Our services need to be easier, faster, and more affordable than a company could do on its own. As a testament to this, nearly 80% of our customers expand after the initial engagement.
To drive growth, we focus our tactical efforts on four fronts:
Our background in consumer wireless gave us an appreciation for digital marketing, so we continue to develop and hone our online program.
We also recognize that outsourcing has traditionally been, and largely remains, relationship-driven, so we have built a sizable base of referral partnerships.
Because our marketplace platform includes many dozens of impressive outsourcing providers, we collaborate with them to amplify our voice in the market.
We maintain an industry presence at events and conferences where we promote our brand but, more importantly, meet world-class practitioners and thought leaders to help us understand and keep pace with industry changes.”
How did you acquire your first 100 customers?
“Our earliest customers came from our personal networks. Then, as word spread, we began to receive referrals. Over time, our digital marketing efforts gained traction and became the primary source of lead generation.”
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?
“Our KPIs focus on revenue growth, customer expansion, customer acquisition cost, payback period, and pipeline development.”
What's your favorite book on entrepreneurship?
“I'm an avid reader and also love podcasts. I don't really have a top 10 list. Currently, I'm listening to ‘Faith-Driven Entrepreneur’ and recently read ‘What You Do Is Who You Are’ by Ben Horowitz. I also read a lot of fiction; I find it sparks creativity and gives me a more expansive, balanced, perspective.”
What is the biggest lesson you learned during your journey?
“A lot of life, and a lot of business, is out of your control. Yes, we use craft, data, and science, but still, there are aspects that are more like a dance where you aren't the lead partner.”
Who is your support system?
“We have an incredible board comprised of deeply experienced leaders who generously share their guidance and insight. We have also recruited some formal advisors who I rely on for their domain expertise.”
How do you stay motivated?
“As a person of faith, I have a higher calling that motivates me daily. Spending time with my family is a great motivator, as I want to be a good example for my daughters. I'm also motivated by meaningful work, so as long as I can see the purpose behind it, it feels natural to stay committed.”
Did you have to develop any habits that helped lead you to success? If so, what are they?
“I'm still learning and developing. For now, at our company's lifecycle stage, it has been important to focus on a few key initiatives [like] delivering value quickly ... The habit is to constantly filter all activities against these few priorities.”
What are you most proud of as an entrepreneur?
“Taking on a bold challenge where we can do good — creating opportunities for others and watching them flourish.”
More on ArenaCX
Founded in 2020, ArenaCX is an outsourcing platform that makes company outsourcing easier and more human.
We were fortunate enough to hear some valuable insights during our interview with Alan Pendleton of outsourcing software startup ArenaCX that will inspire, motivate, and teach aspiring and established entrepreneurs alike.