Justin Benson joined Spreedly as CEO in 2011. He has driven Spreedly’s dramatic expansion through a successful pivot and evolution of the company’s go-to-market strategy. He led the company’s fundraising of $75 million from Spectrum Ventures in late 2019 to accelerate Spreedly’s growth strategy. He combines a technical background with expertise in sales and customer experience.
Justin began his career in the Bay Area and joined an early stage startup (Intraware) as their first technical support employee. During his tenure, the company grew from 40 to 400 in three years, went public, and was acquired. He was steadily promoted through business development, direct sales, and then onto the senior management team before a successful exit. He subsequently joined SafeNet as VP of Sales for the Americas prior to moving to N.C.
- What is in your pockets?
The exciting thing about pockets is actually having less and less in them—so keys, wallet, phone. I’m finding more and more now that I can get by with a watch and phone. For me, the less things I have in my pocket, the happier I feel.
- What exciting thing has happened recently for you or your organization?
Spreedly is completely focused on online digital payments. The problem we saw was that many merchants and many new types of businesses needed to work with multiple providers simultaneously. That creates a lot of security and development headaches and that’s the area that Spreedly stepped into. We sit between merchants and their payment providers, and we let them route payments based on a ton of business or geographical rules, to optimize the chance of a successful, accurate payment happening.
Covid was kind to us from a business perspective—everything moved online, lots of in-store payments became digital. It’s been a wild couple of years.
Expanding into Europe has been exciting. We operate primarily in the EU, North America and Latin America, and we’re starting to hire people on the ground in Europe to support our growth there. So that’s been fun and stressful. Hiring employees and regulatory compliance are some of the short-term fun things that we’ve been doing.
- What is your favorite coffee spot?
The Durham Hotel. That’s become a new favorite for me in terms of Durham meetings for the coffee and the big open spaces. Thankfully as Covid has declined, having coffee meetings has returned, whether it’s with other entrepreneurs or potential employees.
- What keeps you up at night?
Like a lot of CEOs right now; the employee market is just incredibly in flux right now. You’ve got economic things, like salary demands, rising wages, and remote workers. California and New York companies are now competing for the same remote workers. You’ve got inflation and a strong economic bubble. There’s just being on top of salary data and making sure you’re competitive. Then of course there is the human side to it; returning to office, what employees want, like trying to build an understanding of what gives you the best combination.
I heard the other day that everybody wants flexibility and they want a tribe too, and they want connectivity. So how do we thread that needle? I don’t think we’re going back to the way that things were, but there are definitely benefits to being in-person, so just trying to work out what that looks like.
One way I think about it is when employees look at a new job, obviously cash compensation was big for them. Equity would be big for them, the company and the opportunity and the stage would be big for them. Well, you’re really adding a fourth pillar now of, what does that work experience look like? Is it fully remote? Is it in-person? Is it blended? That’s now one of the top grading criteria. You’ve really just added a whole new dimension to thinking about hiring, retaining and keeping employees happy that we don’t all have all the answers just yet.
- What is your favorite restaurant or happy hour?
Hawthorne & Wood in Chapel Hill is a new favorite place for us.
- What is next for you or your organization?
What’s next is going international in terms of employees. We’ve had international customers for a long period of time and we’ve probably been a little slow to get people there to support them on the ground. But that’s next for us. That’s a big part of this year.
The other thing we’ve seen is a slowdown in terms of valuations and heat in the market that might produce some acquisition opportunities for us. So perhaps in the next 12 months, 24 months, you’ll see us grow and do our first acquisition as well. I think those are the things that are on our radar.