How Rill reaches more customers on cloud marketplaces using Orb

Alvaro Morales
Jul 26, 2022
Alvaro Morales
September 9, 2022

Rill’s pricing has always been based on the value its customers derive from the platform. “From day one, we led with usage-based pricing because we believe that’s the best way to measure—and charge for—the services we render for our customers,” explains Nishant Bangarwa, Co-Founder and Head of Engineering at the company. Rill makes it easy to create and consume metrics by combining a SQL-based data modeler, real-time database, and metrics dashboard into a single product—a simple alternative to complex BI stacks. They save customers money by delivering high-speed query performance with efficient scaling, so adding a high volume of users adds little extra cost. 

For Rill, the more people who access data on their platform, the more value is created across their network of clients and clients’ clients. “We don’t want to limit access to or use of the product in any way because it’s not only our customers using our product, but hundreds of their customers accessing analytics and data, too,” explains Scott Cohen, Rill’s Head of Revenue. Scott joined the company as Head of Customer Success, where he oversaw all customer relationships and billing, later moving into his role overseeing all marketing, sales, and customer success—the entire funnel of Rill’s customers. 

Rill’s usage-based pricing relies on its own unit of measurement, the Rill Compute Unit (RCU). It’s a blended model of the CPU, memory, and disk used for ingesting and querying data on their platform. This pricing unit enables Rill to scale appropriately to the amount of data people are sending and analytics they’re running. 

A need for more flexibility and less data entry

“Initially, billing at Rill was managed with duct tape and glue, so to speak,” says Scott. “We were manually running queries, turning them into spreadsheets, and creating bills one at a time.” But this method of managing billing consumed the team’s time with data entry and processing, turned billing into a manual, multi-step process, and provided no way to track billing over time. “We could run a single query, but didn’t have visibility into longer-term data,” explains Scott. 

The need for a more robust billing solution arose when Rill started integrating with cloud marketplaces—a key sales and growth strategy to reach more customers—and discovered how challenging it was. “If we defined a plan for a marketplace and then wanted to make a change, it could take months to get the change reviewed by the marketplace,” explains Nishant. “While we understand why marketplaces have these controls in place, as a growing startup, the ability to experiment is critical. Pricing in marketplaces is inflexible and doesn’t accommodate rapid iteration, which is something we rely on to grow our company.”

Within cloud marketplaces, Rill encountered several challenges:

  • Limited pricing flexibility in the kinds of billing plans that marketplaces let them offer. Impact: This prevented Rill from offering critical billing incentives, like credits or discounts, to users. 
  • There were long lead times for changes to pricing on marketplaces because of the manual approvals process. Impact: Iterating or experimenting with pricing left Rill’s cloud marketplace customers stuck in old pricing models.

Ultimately, these challenges stopped Rill from reaching more customers and offering them the most up to date pricing through their marketplace listings. They needed a different billing solution. In their search for a billing platform, Rill’s number one need was flexibility. Because they’re a growing company, their pricing model is constantly evolving in both minor and major ways; they wanted a billing solution that would work through those changes. They also needed something that would integrate with their existing (and growing) ecosystem: “Billing must be connected to different parts of our workflow and able to help us think about connections in and connections out,” says Nishant.

The decision to build vs. buy

Nishant and the team thought a lot about how to streamline marketplace billing, but building such a system in-house would take months. “As a SaaS company, we decided early on that we’d rely on other services the same way our customers rely on Rill,” Nishant explains. “Building a billing system was complex and would take away from our engineering team focusing on building Rill’s products.”

Nishant and the team recognized that they weren’t the first to need a billing solution, so they looked to best practices and standards. They knew that implementing a scalable billing solution would help them expand to other marketplaces down the road, too. 

When they discovered Orb, Nishant and Scott knew it would provide the flexibility and customization Rill needs. “Best practices around usage-based billing still don’t really exist because it’s different across verticals; Orb gave us the ability to customize within a given framework and was the solution we needed—it helped us establish our own best practices,” says Scott. Orb also enabled them to set up billing for their cloud marketplace integrations without the aforementioned challenges.

“Orb abstracted away the complexity of billing—and billing for cloud marketplace integrations—for us,” says Nishant.

Once onboard, Rill quickly rolled out Orb, using its APIs to report metrics, defining plans and billing units, and collaborating with the Orb team over Slack. They also integrated Orb’s metrics into their own platforms to provide visibility into usage and billing to their customers—an added bonus that improves the customer experience.

Finding focus and saving time with streamlined billing

Now, when a new customer is created in Rill, their metrics are automatically sent to Orb, where Scott and his teams can view and monitor them in real-time. That customer data is integrated with Quickbooks, so invoices are created automatically. On Rill’s side, clients have access to Orb metrics, which let them see their cost to date each month, trends, insights, and more. 

“I can go weeks without logging into Orb because the weekly updates I receive via email and Slack give me the detail I need, and I trust that any changes we make to our pricing models will be automatically reflected in Orb—and work for our marketplace customers, too,” says Nishant. 

Since moving over to Orb to manage their billing, Rill has enjoyed numerous benefits, including:

  • Greater focus: “A very key element of running a startup is focus—on the problem we’re trying to solve for our users,” says Nishant. “That’s where we want our engineering team spending their energy.” But, as with any engineering team, Rill’s developers are often resource-constrained. Orb helps them focus on the bigger vision and execution of product improvements. The engineering team now focuses on measuring one metric around usage, instead of the complicated minutiae of billing.
  • Time saved: Shifting to Orb has cut hours of effort each month that Rill’s team spent creating invoices. Before, Scott or a senior member of the team had to validate and manually review everything, but now they can trust that invoices are accurate. “Orb has given us the ability to outsource our invoicing to a third party accounting provider because it’s now simple enough that someone can review a couple of numbers and make sure they’re correct,” explains Scott. What took them hours each month now takes just a few minutes. 
  • Greater visibility into customers: With Orb, Rill can track customer usage in a given period of time and respond to spikes or changes. This helps on the frontend and with sales because it enables Rill to share data with customers, drive transparency, and help customers understand what their future spend might look like. “Customer conversations are simply easier now because customers and reps have the same visibility into the data—there’s no black box anymore,” Scott says. 

Pricing innovation, without billing worries

Moving forward, Rill will continue to innovate on pricing, such as lowering the minimum required commitment, as well as introducing new billing and reporting metrics. “With improvements to Rill’s platform, new features, and launching on more marketplaces, our billing stands to become more complex—but we’re not concerned about it because Orb will abstract any complexity away,” says Nishant. 

Curious about what Orb can do for you and your team? Schedule a demo today

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