SalesTechStar Interview with Joe Rohrlich, Chief Executive Officer at Recurly

Joe Rohrlich, Chief Executive Officer at Recurly chats with SalesTechStar about the current trends impacting subscription and billing business models:


Welcome to this SalesTech Series chat, Joe, tell us about your journey in the B2B tech market and more about being Recurly’s new CEO….

My origin story is rooted in partnering with innovative customers to drive new frontiers of growth, and it’s shaped how I approach leadership. Every great B2B success story is rooted in a vision for expanding customer value—and then reverse-engineering the path to scale that repeatedly.  I’ve been privileged to lead these journeys at industry innovators like Bazaarvoice, transforming brands’ ecommerce growth, and at Top Hat, innovating how software can scale student engagement. Growing through Revenue roles like Customer Success, Sales, and Marketing has really shaped my approach as CEO.

I chose Recurly because of the mission-critical value that we deliver to customers every day, and the dynamic growth of the subscription economy. The business value we deliver is untouched by others in the space, and it is deeply ingrained in our culture to be a true partner. I’m awed by the depth of expertise we have in consumer subscription success, and we are committed to continuing to lead as the proven platform for delivering faster, more profitable growth for our customers.

How is the demand for subscription and billing management evolving today? 

The demand for subscription and billing management is incredibly strong and expanding into new verticals. Consumers love subscriptions and the market is set for continued, significant growth. Consumers are also very demanding of their subscription providers—pause, upgrade, novel promotions, payments—it evolves every day. At Recurly, we understand that it all starts with the subscriber, creating a frictionless and flexible experience for them. That’s how you build real subscriber loyalty. Our platform enables that, and our expertise guides our customers in how to navigate the complexities of growth elegantly—and stay ahead of the subscriber.

We know that the better experience a subscriber has, the more likely they are to buy, stay, and consider additional subscriptions. It is great to be in the driver’s seat of category growth.  And our growth is tied to the success of our customers.

Recurly has led the transformation of the consumer subscription industry (from media and news to consumer goods and software) for the world’s leading brands like Twitch and Paramount, and now we look forward to driving the industry’s evolution further. One example? There is an increasing number of industries leveraging the power of subscription models—everything from health and wellness to travel and entertainment—selling bundled products and services to meet consumer demands. We have already seen success with this industry expansion.

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What are some of the top features that end users demand more of today?

This is a great question. We just finished our Sales Kick-off and heard from some of our amazing customers. The themes are consistent, and here are the top four.

  1. Speed: Our customers need to be able to respond and launch in real time. Being a consumer business is hard—and the pace of business is now. They need a platform that can launch a new promotion or add a product to a bundle in minutes. This speed is core to Recurly’s platform.
  2. Flexibility: Consumers are demanding—and growth leaders need to test offers, deliver dynamic pricing and promotion, and add a new payment method. Again, flexibility is core to Recurly’s platform.
  3. Retention: We are all tasked with driving efficient growth. Recurly delivers the highest revenue recovery for consumer businesses. We have been offering and training our machine learning retry models with more data, and for a longer time period, than anyone else in our industry. Our platform is incredibly sophisticated and—paired with our expertise, a great set of tools, and best practices—we deliver almost a 9 percent revenue lift and millions of saved customers.
  4. Partnership: Not technically a feature, but an imperative trait that they look for is a partnership. Our customers deeply value our expertise, sharing best practices, insights, and benchmarking across a broad portfolio of subscription businesses and subscribers.

What thoughts do you have for the future of this segment? 

This segment is incredibly exciting. There is still tremendous growth to be had—both in existing, growing businesses and in traditional, transactional businesses creating subscription offerings—in every category from healthcare to travel to retail. Recurly is in a great spot to help grow these businesses, create avid subscribers, and help shape the future of consumer subscriptions.

Can you talk about the impact of AI on this market and how it’s changing the digital subscription journey for users today?

AI is having an impact in multiple areas of the market. At Recurly, we have been using and training machine learning on billions of consumer transactions for years. It helps to dramatically reduce churn—one of the key challenges facing subscription companies—to the tune of $1.2 billion in 2023 alone for our customers.

Additionally, many of our clients leverage the data from Recurly to help inform their own AI efforts, everything from smarter dynamic pricing and offers to highly curated experiences to AI-driven customer support.

What are some of the top trends that will drive the B2B tech and SaaS market in 2024?

The strongest providers will partner with their customers, share their expertise, and expand offerings. The leading platforms integrate well into a larger ecosystem, as businesses require a broad range of providers to compete successfully, and businesses rely on providers to create value.

Subscriptions are all about the long-term relationship created between the business and its subscriber, and the top trends for our industry will be linked to platform providers understanding the unique nature of each subscription business—whether that’s flexible payment options, scalability, accessibility, adaptability, security, or developing incentives for subscriber loyalty.

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If you had to share a few AI trends that will lead the salestech-martech space in 2024 and beyond, what would you talk about? 

Simply put, we are all in the early innings of how AI transformation will enable super-powers in salestech and martech.  AI will increase productivity, streamline processes, and drive efficiencies for those who use it well. It can free up sales time with automatic note-taking and next steps. It can help draft sales sequences on-brand and on-message to speed up that process. Or it can deliver highly personalized, targeted experiences for consumers.

For Recurly customers, AI and ML deliver incredible revenue. By optimizing the churn process through intelligent retry logic, our customers see a direct, significant revenue lift. Last year, Recurly returned $1.2 billion to their bottom line. That is a very tangible benefit we can all understand, and it will continue to improve as the network effects of our clients’ volume continue to grow.

Thousands of innovative companies across digital media, streaming, publishing, SaaS, education, consumer goods, and professional services industries rely on Recurly to unlock transformational growth using subscriptions. Recurly’s all-in-one, integrated platform removes the complexities of automating subscription billing at scale by enabling teams to manage and optimize their subscriber lifecycles with ease. Category-defining companies, including Sling, Twitch, Bark, FabFitFun, Paramount, Lucid, and Sprout Social, have chosen Recurly to manage billions of dollars in recurring revenues, future-proof their recurring billing and revenue management, and recover billions of dollars in lost revenue due to churn. Founded in 2009, Recurly is based in San Francisco, with offices in Boulder and London.

Joe joined Recurly to accelerate the company’s next phase of growth and impact across the subscription economy. He is a passionate believer in the value great teams deliver when relentlessly focused on customer outcomes. Prior to Recurly, Joe was CEO of Top Hat, the leading higher education engagement platform, scaling to serve over 750 universities and completing multiple acquisitions. Before this, Joe led a range of customer and go-to-market teams at Bazaarvoice, as CRO and General Manager EMEA, realizing tenfold revenue growth over his 11-year tenure. When not building teams, Joe’s passions include world travel with his family, cheering for the Michigan Wolverines, and rec league tennis from his home base in Austin, Texas.

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