The Founders of Fuzy: Q&A with the CEO, CTO, and VP of Engineering

The Founders of Fuzy: Q&A with the CEO, CTO, and VP of Engineering

Mar 30, 2023

Mar 30, 2023

For years, the founders of Fuzy have been in each other’s orbit. Whether working for the same company simultaneously (and not knowing it), one signing on as another departed, or teaming up to consult and exchange ideas, the trio seemed destined to collide. 

These technology powerhouses have taken unique career paths, shaping them as researchers, storytellers, engineering team leaders, and expert builders. Yet, they all share a common interest in data science and problem-solving. Together, they have pinpointed a gap in the product-led growth model and are working to fill that gap by turning product data into product science– helping small teams make better decisions with actionable insights that connect features and customer behavior with real business outcomes.

This is the story of how stars aligned to create Fuzy and how the founders made their way from Vietnam, England, and Ohio to join forces in Austin, Texas. 

The snowball effect 

Sierra Kiner, CEO
Follow Sierra on LinkedIn

Question: Tell us about your life before Fuzy.

Answer: “I went to Ohio Wesleyan as an undergrad studying economics. (Although, I was really seriously pursuing soccer.) Unfortunately, I got injured and soon found myself walking in knee-high snow! That wasn’t working for me, so I transferred to the University of Tampa for business and studied corporate finance and marketing. After starting my career in Washington, DC in client management, I shifted into consulting; that’s what got me into technology. I worked at The Advisory Board for several years, and when they acquired Crimson, a technology company in Austin, I was asked to join the team, move to Austin, and build the client services capacity. Working with them until 2014, we built the customer base from 20 to 1500. I began missing the excitement and urgency around building new products, so I joined Civitas Learning as employee number 21. There I was tasked with building a pioneer customer cohort of higher education institutions to understand from a data perspective what contributes to student success. Interestingly, my sabbatical experience had the next biggest impact on my life’s trajectory and the vision for Fuzy. I decided to join my husband to the starting line of the Mongol Rally; we traveled through Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, Turkey, Albania, Russia, the Baltics, Poland, Austria, Italy, France, and England. Then, after eight months in Asia, we came home just in time for COVID. 

During that time, I kept a journal of problems I would like to help solve–things like regenerative agriculture and soil health. Pursuing those causes became my mission when I returned from abroad. I worked with Fearless Farmers as a passion project starting in 2020 and then began thinking about how to help companies solve the important problems they have to grow their product and customer base. I wanted to learn the most common problems in the market, then set out to build a product around them.” 

Chasing the startup spirit 

Steve Denton, CTO
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Question: What led you to co-found Fuzy?

Answer: “I never had the desire to go into tech. I was bored with school with all the reading and test-taking; I wanted to do something. As luck would have it, I was invited to spend a year in the IBM research lab before college, which was eye-opening. I continued working at IBM through college in the UK and Denver but realized I really liked working at small companies. So, I was drawn to build a company with a former colleague in Atlanta, and it ended up selling to Real Networks in the dotcom boom for $268 million. In 1996, I joined Trilogy in Austin but soon left to start my own consulting company, with Trilogy as our first client (along with Tanto, Motive, and Vignette). After weathering the bubble burst by moving operations offshore, I exited the company in 2007 to spend more time with my family. By the time I was ready to return, the cloud and data science had changed the game. I wanted to dive into data science for pure learning, so I joined Civitas Learning. Despite keeping my head down and trying to focus on acquiring new skills, I became department head within nine months. From there, I went to ShipStation as VP of engineering. But I was still craving exposure to data science and left after about two years to join a smaller company that needed help growing and building products that customers stick with.”

The cheat code for a fulfilling career

Triet Le, VP of Engineering 
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Question: Describe the career path that has brought you here. 

Answer: “I was born in Vietnam and moved to Houston for high school. Being an immigrant is an important part of my life experience. I’ve spent quite a bit of my life outside of the US. But I’ve also spent half of my life in Austin. I came here for college, earning two computer science and math degrees at the University of Texas. Originally, I planned to get a Ph.D. and become a professor, but after five years of paying tuition, I decided to make a little money instead. I fell in love with working in software. It was a different environment: the instant gratification of shipping products and features, building things users rely on rather than conducting research that a small group of academics may only touch. Another experience that shaped my early career was being part of a company that was acquired by IBM. A few months after the acquisition, I missed working in a small team and company where you can level up much more quickly, like a video game.”

Two engineers and a client services expert walk into a bar…

Triet Le, VP of Engineering 

Question: How did you three come together to create the vision for Fuzy?  

Answer: “At the end of 2021, everyone was out of their minds. We’d been trapped inside for two years! At the same time, I was wrapping up my own startup and planned to take a break. On a beach. Steve and Sierra were also ramping down their projects and ready to start on a new idea. Steve called me, and I nearly didn’t take his call. I told him, ‘Don’t say anything. I know what you’re going to ask!’ But he convinced me to meet with him and Sierra to explore possibilities. We all met in a pub in Austin, still wearing masks, and had a great conversation. I’ve wanted to start my own thing. But it takes more than building a good idea to sustain a business. There are builders, and there are storytellers. (Engineers are not great at talking to people and doing research.) I’d never had a person like Sierra–a storyteller–say, ‘I’ve been waiting to hear from someone like you.’ Sierra’s storytelling talents and my building skills convinced us we could work together. Cut to a meeting over coffee, and we are discussing pain points. We’d seen brilliant, powerful products that no one used. Why is it so hard to connect product teams with the right thing to build? The thing that matters the features that people will actually use. How can we help product managers understand if what they’re building has the intended effect on business metrics? That’s where the hypothesis started, and that was the beginning of Fuzy.”

Down the product data rabbit hole

Sierra Kiner, CEO

Question: After your collective ‘A-ha! Moment,’ where did you go from there?

Answer: “We set out to research. I quickly learned that most analytics capacities focus on go-to-market activities involving sales and marketing. The product organization often lacks sophisticated ai-driven tools that help with decision-making. Instead, the process is extremely manual. Even with the data they do have (which is sometimes overwhelming), there’s not a lot of access to business outcomes on the product side of the house. So, product owners lack transparency and context around how users behave and what business impacts this has. Surprisingly, they are more often consumers of this information–receiving second-hand insights from customer success or sales. This has led many product teams to be output driven, not outcome driven, worrying about how many features have shipped rather than their impact on key business metrics like customer retention.”

The Evolving Role Product Managers and PLG

Steve Denton, CTO

Question: Why is Fuzy so important for product teams and SaaS organizations at this moment in time?

Answer: “If you look back at how software organizations have been built, they started with a sales model, then moved into the enterprise model, and more recently, they’re moving into a product-led growth model (‘try-before-you-buy without ever speaking to a salesperson). That will change how the industry builds and invests in software. Engineering practices have dramatically evolved. It used just to be engineers, but now there’s UX, product managers, and so on. It’s pretty apparent that over the next decade the product manager role will be massively more important because they’re responsible for building these products.”

Started from the bottom now we’re here

Triet Le, VP of Engineering 

Question: What makes the Fuzy team so special (and appealing to investors)? 

Answer: “We’re very unique as first-time co-founders because we have been contributing to the industry for decades, working our way up from the bottom. We’ve learned so much in our individual careers, and now we are ready to build our thing. Many other first-time founders may have an idea but don’t have the experience to execute it.”

Fuzy is on a mission to help outcome-led software teams think faster, perform better, and celebrate more, together. To learn more about how Fuzy works and what your product team can achieve with our help, check out our blog on finding the signal in the noise of overwhelming product data.