Hive Streaming: Building an empowered organisation to drive category leadership

Verdane-backed Hive Streaming has doubled revenues for three years in a row – and is set to repeat the feat in 2020, with a record number of new customers following the onset of the pandemic. By delivering a highly efficient video distribution service that reduces the network impact and ensures an unsurpassed quality of experience, Hive solves the enterprise live and on-demand video distribution challenge. To get under the hood of Hive’s success, we sat down to talk with CEO Johan Ljungberg and COO Niklas Hagen about their philosophy of building an empowered organisation to drive category leadership.

Tell us a little bit about how you have built Hive Streaming.

JL: Our philosophy has always been to create category leadership. Back when we started out, we were small and insignificant in terms of revenue and customerscustomerwon. Today, we have customers and partners like Microsoft, Facebook, GE, Staples, HP and adidas. The way we got there was by asking ourselves how to build trust. And to build trust, you need category leadership.

To build category leadership, we focused on three central components: the technical component, or how well our solution solves the customers’ problems; the business component, where our customers represent the most progressive and innovative organisations in their respective fields; and the organisational component, creating an empowered organisation with clarity of vision and a culture of trust to enable us to run faster and in parallel.

Looking at it through the lens of why we’ve been able to perform so well both before and during the pandemic, the key is focus. Focus, focus, focus. We originally started out as a research-driven organisation, building the best technical software-based solution there is to help organisations deliver high-quality video to their entire workforce, guided by the industry definition we set ourselves – frictionless enterprise video distribution. Your industry definition allows you to determine how and when you have reached technical category leadership.

NH: Once you have that core value driver, you have what can be likened to a diamond in the rough, where each new facet you cut unleashes new growth for the company. The next step was to move from a research-driven value proposition to a customer-driven value proposition. By adding new functions to the organisation like customer success and a product development oversight function, you establish internal and external connections that increase the value added of the product, and ensure that product development is driven through data insights and in collaboration with your customers.

We started that journey following a cross-functional internal workshop in October 2019, where we focused on what it would take to accelerate customer intake. Crucially, we made the decision to refine our old undefined product architecture into three different product categories that we are have been able to deploy during 2020. It’s made a big difference in how customers understand the value we are able to bring to their operations. Today, 80 per cent of our business has been pitched using the new value proposition. So while some businesses talk about value proposition pivots during 2020, we liken our development to that of a tree growing. Our original value proposition, or the roots if you will, was built on Hive-proprietary category-defining research, patents, insights. During 2020, we’ve expanded on that foundation by strategically scaling and growing the organisation, developing more valuable modules in collaboration with our customers and augmenting the value proposition. And that’s what’s driving our growth right now.

The article continues below. 

Creating an empowered organisation is vital if you want everyone to be able to run faster and in parallel – or to, say, navigate sudden market changes.

We haven’t talked a lot about the organisational component yet.

NH: We spend a lot of time thinking about how to achieve operational excellence. In my experience, investors tend to miss the importance of operational process excellence, because although processes are extremely important in determining the success of a company, they aren’t tangible. It’s hard to put a numerical value on them.

Operational excellence is, to a significant degree, affected by organisational culture, and how engaged and empowered employees are to figure out solutions, take care of each other and drive the organisation toward fulfilling its vision and mission. Creating an empowered organisation is vital if you want everyone to be able to run faster and in parallel – or to, say, navigate sudden market changes. To create empowerment, you need a culture of trust and clarity of direction. That starts with clearly and effectively communicating your vision and mission.

In our case, our vision is to democratise great enterprise video experiences for every employee in every organisation worldwide. Our mission is to help enterprises maximise their video experience to achieve alignment and engagement in a world of massive change. Practical, and focused on how our business helps our customers achieve their goals. To support our vision and mission, we defined our values for success: customer centricity, empowerment and innovation.

For leaders, it’s important that you also dare to continuously show and explain – in a way that each employee understands – what the values mean in terms of action and thinking in the day-to-day business. Creating an empowered organisation takes a lot more work than building a hierarchical one, but that element of trust is critical if you want to grow faster. You can ignite trust from the top down, but after that you as a leader have to show what you mean to create the culture that’s going to fuel your success. Great communication fosters – but doesn’t equal – great collaboration. Good leadership determines whether you get where you want once your vision and mission has inspired trust and engagement.

JL: It’s great to see that the organisation we have all built together – the product, the trust in one another and the clarity of direction – is how a good company is run. 2020 has proved that to us.