Office Hours: I am a growth solopreneur helping companies build product-led growth (PLG) models. I’m Elena Verna. AMA!Featured

Hi Elphas!

I’m Elena Verna, the growth solopreneur making PLG dreams a reality for B2B SaaS companies. Think of me as the one-person Avengers team, doing everything from interim exec positions, advising, investing, course creation, and most demanding position of them all – being a mom.

I’ve operated or advised companies such as: Miro, Amplitude, SurveyMonkey, MongoDB, Netlify, Clockwise,, Similarweb, HP, Bonusly, Browserstack, and many more. I am also a Program Creator at Reforge, creating courses for Experimentation, Monetization, Growth Leadership, and soon-to-be released PLG. All while trying to make my own blog happen 🙂

All of my downtime is consumed with my 2 kids and their endless soccer practices, with mandatory daily Crossfit sessions. Because deadlifting 250 pounds and seeing your traps in the mirror does wonders for female self-confidence and imposter syndrome.

Ask me anything about growth, leadership, B2B, working mom life, or anything else!

Thanks so much for joining us @elenaverna!Elphas – please ask @elenaverna your questions before Friday, April 14th. @elenaverna may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
I've taken quite a few Reforge classes that you have created / co-created and was recently in a Strategy course just last week where you were our guest of honor - SurveyMonkey case study. Loved it.As someone who is also finding her niche in B2B spaces in as a PM - Technical after a whole other career in Private Equity & Data Science, and am currently a mid-high level IC1) What mindsets, skills, and practical advice do you have for someone looking to move into advising while simultaneously moving towards, but not yet IN leadership roles in her "day job"?2) Also, were you always good at setting boundaries (meeting blocks, no weekends, etc.?) - I seem to have an issue where I'll not enforce boundaries around my corporate tech job and delay progress on personal projects and businesses ... sometimes not even out of necessity, but out of ... guilt?!?! Like I owe my corporate job more than what I already provide - which based on feedback, is enough.
Thanks so much for the office hours!Question: when you advice startups is there a pattern about what everyone struggles with in customer acquisition and growth? I'm curious about what are the most common challenges to be aware of.
@HelenaRonis - problems that b2b companies face are so similar, sometimes it feels like a groundhog day. It's mind-boggling that we have not progressed further in the industry and are continually reinventing solutions from scratch. The most common are:1. Activation defined incorrectly (or not defined at all!)2. Lack of clarity on core use case across the company3. Nobody can clearly articulate why the product is better than altealternatives4. Monetization model has not evolved, and everyone is afraid to touch it5. Marketing teams picking vanity MQL metric and begin down the death spiral6. Companies not investing in long-term growth, and prioritizing short-term revenue-chasing activities7. Companies prioritizing the number of activities over outcomes8. Companies notnot know what doesn't work for them because they are afraid of admitting failure9. Products trying to copy competitor tactics, which rarely work10. Departments sitting in silos, not communicating, and lacking collaborative goals and outcomes.
Hi @elenaverna - nice to see you on here! I've been following you on LinkedIn for a while now. I am also a solopreneur, doing product consultancy, coaching and a bunch of other things. One thing I'm struggling with is creating 'training' content. What would be your one tip to get started with that?Thank you so much!
Not sure what you mean by 'training' content. I've attached myself to Reforge to create courses that help scale my expertise, plus it offers passive income. Otherwise, I'm big on having a 'freemium' content strategy because I belive advice is cheap. Value is in operationalizing advice, which is what I monetize.
So excited to see you here @elenaverna! As an early-stage B2B SaaS founder, I want to be sure I build a smart, lean team - while not burning myself out trying to do everything myself. What positions (or skills) do you think are most critical to set a healthy foundation for growth? FWIW, we're committed to bootstrapping for the foreseeable future, so finding the right balance between dream team/budget reality is something I'm working towards. Thanks again for your time and I'm looking forward to all of your responses!
Hi there! I wrote a post on Lenny's blog about this: overall, be careful about hiring for growth too early. You should have founder-led growth through the first few million in ARR. If you see some channels working (SEO), hire a specialist. But don't outsource the growth model hypothesis and first distribution challenges to somebody else. Just like you wouldn't outsource PMF...
Hi @elenaverna, it is fantastic to see you among the elphas. I love your LinkedIn content, although I am building consumer l value propositions. Besides great learning, it often makes me smile :)I have 2 questions:1. You mentioned that one of the biggest problems is teams working in silos and not communicating which I can 100% relate to. I do not see anyone taking any action besides complaining. As you led and built teams, could you maybe recommend any sources/ tools/ books to dive into the topic? And should the approach be more top-down or bottom-up?2. If not B2B SaaS, what would you do? :)Thank you so much!Darya
Thanks so much for your time!(1) When launching a product - in the earliest stages- how do you know when you are onto something (but maybe isn't the right marketing channel or messaging or needs product improvements) vs it is time to pivot ?(2) Being an entrepreneur can be very straining from a mental health perspective- What strategies can entrepreneurs use to manage their mental health during challenging times?
Hi there! 1. Finding PMF is more of an art than a science. I always try to break down PMF hypotheses into specific assumptions (such as this is the right channel, this is the proper activation, or this is the right persona). Then run tests to validate isolated assumptions. Ultimately, if you have too big of a gap between perception and reality with the market, you will have too many assumptions wrong and never reach PMF. Living and breathing customers (and hopefully being one yourself as well) is the only way to refine the hypothesis. 2. Mental health is very important to me. I use the following tactics:A. I minimize context switching (which is extremely taxing) by staying in my B2B PLG lane B. I'm strict with my schedule - I don't take meetings before 8 or after 4. Always an hour lunch. This is non-negotiable. C. I go to the gym (crossfit) every day. Physical health leads to a healthier mind. D. I decline 8/10 opportunities, repeating 'Thank you, but I'm oversubscribed at the moment' over and over again. E. I take a lot of vacations. 2+ months/year, or I know I will burn out. F. I don't work nights and weekends. I watch TV, nap, and focus on being with my family. Hope this helps!
Thank you! Appreciate the perspective- especially regarding the mental health burnout section. I get so pressured to feed into the hustle at all cost culture and it is refreshing to see people prioritize themselves first (ironically enough it leads to longer term success)
Thank you for joining this AMA, @elenaverna! My question is about how you positioned your services. As a marketer, I find that growth or PLG are not new things in the industry. So - how did you manage to repackage your past experience into these terms, without the BS? :)
Ha, define BS? 1. Sure PLG has been around for a long time, but nobody knows precisely what to do. 2. PLG expertise has also been very siloed - somebody has a marketing angle, or analytics, or product, or sales. I'm cross across all, which differentiates me. 3. Very few people came from scaled companies with PLG models who sat at the leadership table. I did at a few. 4. I have patterns across 30+ PLG companies, and at most others can offer a single company data point. 5. I invested in my brand early, creating visibility for myself and creating a healthy pipeline. But my positioning is evolving, so I not looking to die on PLG hill :)
Thank you for being so honest about this topic 🙏
Hi Elena! I loved your podcast episode with Lenny Rachitsky, and I always look forward to seeing your content come up on my LinkedIn feed. 1. With the roles you've played or are still actively playing, - parent, exec, advisor, and instructor - how have these different roles shaped or refined your perspective, philosophy, and tool kit on growth? On leadership? 2. What first drew you into the B2B space? What about B2B has retained you? 3. What has helped you to optimize being a parent and continuing to be a rock star on the professional front? Thanks for sharing your time and insights with the Elpha community!
Hi @tiffanyyhchang! Thank you for such kind words :)1. Embracing a growth mindset, I try to continuously learn and improve throughout my career, treating each role as an opportunity to apply the scientific method to my personal development:- Interim/Exec roles help me get hands-on experience and pressure test frameworks.- Advising roles act as mega data collection methods, allowing me to run large multivariate tests across multiple businesses.- Content creation on my substack and LI helps me verbalize frameworks better and gather quick feedback through comments/interactions. 2. I accidentally landed in B2B. Can't say I chose it. And I found beauty in it, alongside the opportunity to apply myself to improve the industry. 3. Being an involved parent while growing a career is nearly impossible. And I don't pretend to be able to do all - my husband quit his job when we had 1st child and became a stay-at-home dad. I am beyond grateful to have such a supportive partner.
Thanks for your thoughtful response! I love how you have diversified your learning portfolio. I totally hear you on B2B finding me rather than the other way around. And I'm happy that you and your husband found a working model that works for your shared context - better together! 😍
Hi! Thank you for this :) and love your content. I was wondering how you think about Sales-led vs Product-Led growth for early-stage B2B startups? E.g. how should PMs / sales interact to drive growth and when should technical founders prioritise sales growth? Thanks!
Every company should pick primary growth motion and stick with it until it creates predictability and sustainability. Then invest in layering another motion. So trying to make PLG and SLG happen simultaneously will likely lead to failure in both. If founders are prioritizing sales growth, commit to that. But work on the product to assist by taking accountability over self-serve activation, engagement, and ability to sell itself without marketing/sales intervention. This will set you up to succeed in diving into PLG without much friction when the timing is right.