Back in April 2016, the Wall Street Journal reported that Mixpanel, a Silicon Valley startup that helps companies track how people are using their apps, was scaling back its dreams of hitting a $1 billion valuation in favour of cutting costs and refocusing the business.
Six months later, Mixpanel, last valued at $865 million, is announcing some big changes to the company’s leadership as it works through this awkward stage and looks forward to an eventual IPO.
First, Max Levchin, the legendary cofounder of PayPal and the CEO of Affirm, is joining Mixpanel’s board of directors. Levchin has long been a fan of (and investor in) Mixpanel, having mentored CEO Suhail Doshi at his first job. Microsoft veteran Shawn Hansen signed on as Chief Marketing Officer, as well.
And in terms of day-to-day operations, Mixpanel has brought on startup veteran Stu Aaron as its new President and Chief Operating Officer — focusing on sales, marketing, and other aspects of growing the business, while Doshi leads development of the product.
“I like to think of us jointly as ‘Stuhail,'” jokes Aaron.
‘No longer a buzzy startup’
Aaron says that after 7 years in operation, “Mixpanel is no longer the buzzy startup,” but rather “a significant, substantive midsized company” with 20,000 customers using it to monitor 500,000 apps and projects, including Uber and Amazon.
While Mixpanel may have had to table its dreams of achieving unicorn status, Aaron says that future funding and an IPO isn’t off the table for the company under his watch. Despite fast-growing Silicon Valley startups skewing the numbers, the average time before going public for software companies is still around 10 years. By that timetable, Mixpanel is right on schedule.
Still, the challenge ahead is in continuing to get spending under control, focusing on making Mixpanel and its salesforce ever more ready for the lucrative large enterprise customer, and generally transitioning from thinking of itself as that young company and into a more mature software vendor.
“We’re getting ready for that next stage,” Aaron says.
People, process, product
Aaron says that he was attracted to Mixpanel because he was actually a big fan of the software in his prior positions as a top executive at communications startup Blue Jeans Network.
The core technology behind Mixpanel, which focuses not so much on how many people are using an app or website but rather on the ways they’re using it, has the potential to make a much bigger splash in the business world, and make investors more willing to deal with the company.
It’s just a matter of “people and process and product,” Aaron says, which isn’t as hard as it sounds: The core idea is strong enough, he says, that the problem of refocusing the company as it grows up is anything but impossible.
“I’ve seen it solved before,” Aaron says.