Anchor List: Amer Ali, Head of Strategic Finance & Business Operations, Netlify

The Anchor List recognizes extraordinary operators in the startup ecosystem. Learn more at anchorlist.com

In our highlight reel of the most impactful startup operators, Amer Ali deserves special mention for his success leading Netlify’s strategic finance and business operations.

“Successful finance leaders in tech today have the creativity to lean into non-traditional measures to define success and value, both internally and externally.” - Amer Ali

With a background in strategic consulting followed by directing finance at multiple startups, Amer joined Netlify in 2019 as the company’s first business operations and finance hire. At Netlify, which powers a platform that helps software developers launch apps and websites, Amer laid the company’s first foundations for finance, accounting, business operations, and legal. By creating and executing on triple-digit growth plans, Amer helped spur Netlify’s growth from 30 employees at his joining to around 160 today.

Reflecting on his success, Amer credits much of his impact to setting very precise goals for all of the company’s departments. As he describes: “The core job of a finance or operations leader in tech is translating the product’s high-level vision and strategy finto specific goals & KPIs for each department that roll up into a 1, 3, and 5 year plan.” 

In creating these metrics, Amer’s specificity and creativity shine through. Amer successfully boiled down to the specifics of how and why Netlify’s unique technology delivers value to its customers. For example, he found the metric “number of build minutes used” to be a leading indicator of the value that Netlify delivers to its customers, despite this highly-tailored metric exclusively applying to Netlify (and not, for instance, other peer developer platforms). 

In general, finance leaders would benefit from adopting a similar creative mindset that aligns with the world’s changes. As Amer articulates: “Broadly speaking, a lot of traditional finance and operations strategy emanated from the pre-tech manufacturing era. Cost of goods sold (COGS), for instance, comes from an era where the economy was structured around tangible goods. Now, successful finance leaders in tech today have the creativity to lean into non-traditional measures to define success and value, both internally and externally.” 

At Netlify, this approach led Amer to distinguish between three sets of metrics, a distinction that would also aid many other startups: 

  1. Metrics that increase the company’s total addressable market (e.g. the total number of users of Netlify’s company’s Jamstack architecture)

  2. Metrics that measure the value delivered to customers (e.g. number of build minutes used, sites launched, or bandwidth used)

  3. Revenue metrics (e.g. New MRR, Expansion MRR, and Churn MRR)

In including Amer on the 2020 Anchor List, we’re particularly impressed by his specificity, creativity, and inventiveness in aligning short-term thinking with long-term aims. By coordinating his company around short-term KPIs and continually re-adjusting to changing circumstances, Amer has accomplished large goals that power the company’s growth.