An interview with Zak Pines, VP of Partnerships at Formstack

This post is part of a peer interview series where we invite folks in partnership roles to share their insight and advice.
Gabe Caldwell
September 5, 2023

This post is part of a peer interview series where we invite folks in partnership roles to share their insight and advice. If you are interested in talking with us and sharing your experience and wisdom, feel free to email me at

Today’s interview is with a former colleague of mine, Zak Pines, VP of Partnerships at Formstack. Zak has worked in the SaaS space for the last couple decades — leading, managing, and grinding through every growth stage from $0 to $100M+/ARR. I was excited to have him kick this series off. Let’s get into it!

Let’s start with you sharing more about your role at Formstack.

I head up the Formstack partnerships team, which includes technology partners. These are companies who have integrations with Formstack and/or ecosystems we are playing in, our community of consulting partners, and companies who recommend and implement Formstack for customers. I work closely with all Formstack departments and teams to deliver the best possible experience for our partners and grow the revenue contribution of partners to Formstack.

How did you get into this role?

I joined Formstack in late 2018 when they acquired Bedrock Data. The best way to describe my role at Bedrock was a go-to-market jack-of-all-trades; if you mapped my role at Bedrock to Formstack job functions, it would span something like seven different roles. A few months after joining Formstack, Beau Brooks and Dustin Sapp pitched the idea of starting up the partner team along with you. I had a very rewarding three years working with you; we were like-minded and naturally aligned, but also complemented each other really well by balancing each other’s strengths and weaknesses, learning from each other and challenging each other. The Formstack partner team was off and running from there, and the rest is history.

What’s interesting is now looking back at my career, partnerships has been a through-line to every one of my past roles. It’s such a differentiated growth strategy for any business. At IBM I helped create the software that was the foundation for the IBM-NBA partnership. At LiveTechnology, our GTM strategy was based on creating win-win partnerships with agencies to deliver marketing automation solutions to their customers. I was one of the first five Marketo consulting partners at Avitage. At Ipswitch, both MSP and reseller partnerships were key to our growth especially internationally. And at Bedrock Data, we had a technology-partner driven growth strategy with HubSpot as our top ecosystem. I’ve been able to draw from each of those experiences in building the Formstack partner strategy and program. 

What are the biggest challenges for a partnership role?

A partnership role is by definition multi-faceted and cross functional, because partners touch every facet of a business, whether you realize it or not. It requires partner team members to be agile and really effective at communicating both internally and externally with partners. We need to continually be working across multiple planes — the day-to-day alignment partners require, thinking ahead to the next key initiatives, and building out growth plans for the business to maximize impact from partnerships.

How has the role of partnerships in tech changed over time?

One of the reasons I was excited about focusing on partnerships when given the opportunity at Formstack is that the evolution of the partnerships function reminded me of the evolution of the marketing function about a decade earlier. At that point, the concept of revenue marketing meant marketers were focused on the business impact of marketing and driving growth. Partnerships for many companies historically has been a soft function, hard to measure and not seated at the revenue table. Technology today gives us greater ability to measure the impact of partnerships and connect to revenue and growth metrics, and therefore take more accountability for revenue.

Any hot tips/hacks you’ve learned over time?

I’ll give you a few across a range of topics:

  • Know your partner persona inside and out
    Spend time with partners. Ask them questions. Learn from them. Make sure you know what makes them tick as that is going to drive so many decisions you make on how to recruit partners and create mutual benefit.
  • Celebrate wins
    It will make the progress you’re making with partners, and the impact they are making, more visible. Also, acknowledge cross-functional team members for the work they do to help partners be more successful.
  • Be a power user of your CRM
    It should be the lifeblood of your reporting, partner database and communications. Act accordingly — keep your partner data clean, and always connect opportunities back to partners.
  • Be responsive
    The reason this is so important is you are now working with another companies’ parameters and deadlines and requirements and goals. If you lean in on responsiveness, partners will know they can trust that you’ll be there for them when they need you.
  • Become a product expert
    Know your products. Use your products. Love your products. It’s the currency in which your partners and customers operate, after all.

Favorite tools in your tech stack?

I’m a big believer in the “eat your own dog food” / “drink your own champagne” mantra. I always say the partner team is the number one user of Formstack. When you become a Formstack partner, we ask you to fill out a Formstack for Salesforce form — but it’s not just any form, it’s a prefilled form that serves as your partner profile, fed with data out of Salesforce. Our partner certificates are built using Formstack Documents. We use Formstack Sign wherever possible to manage document signatures. When we run events, we manage registration using Formstack Forms (like this one). You get the idea.

Any career advice for people getting into this role?

Not specific to partnerships, but my advice is take advantage of any opportunity big or small. Any breakthrough I’ve ever had in my career journey has been because I “went for it” at a given moment in time. I spoke to the right person at the right time, followed up with the right message, and the right level of persistence. A great example is an outstanding member of my team at Formstack, Amanda Nielsen. I came to meet Amanda because she introduced herself to me at INBOUND 2016 or 2017, and a couple years later she became a key member of our partner team at Formstack.

If you’re interested in connecting with Zak, be sure to find him on LinkedIn. Also be sure to check out his post on Formstack 12 Steps to Building Brand, Community & Revenue with Partnerships.

Thanks for reading!

Gabe Caldwell

Gabe Caldwell is Head of Partnerships at Plain Sight Ventures. In his free time, you can find Gabe riding bikes, playing beach volleyball or experimenting with new biohacks.

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