Aug
06
2020
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Crossbeam announces $25M Series B to keep growing partnerships platform

As sales teams partner with other companies, they go through a process called account mapping to find common customers and prospects. This is usually a highly manual activity tracked in spreadsheets. Crossbeam, a Philadelphia startup, has come up with a way to automate partnership data integration. Today the company announced a $25 million Series B investment.

Redpoint Ventures led the round with help from existing investors FirstMark Capital, Salesforce Ventures, Slack Fund and Uncork Capital, along with new investors Okta Ventures and Partnership Leaders, a partnership industry association. All in all, an interesting mix of traditional VCs and strategic investors that Crossbeam could potentially partner with as they grow the business.

The funding comes on the heels of a $3.5 million seed round in 2018 and a $12.5 million Series A a year ago. The startup has now raised a total of $41 million.

Crossbeam has been growing steadily, and that attracted the attention of investors, whom CEO and co-founder Bob Moore says approached him. He was actually not thinking about fundraising until next year, but when the opportunity presented itself, he decided to seize it.

The platform has a natural networking effect built into it with over 900 companies using it so far. As new companies come on, they invite partners, who can join and invite more partners, and that creates a constant sales motion for them without much effort at all.

“We didn’t go out fundraising. We caught the eye of Redpoint because they could see the virality of the product and the extent to which it was being used by many of their portfolio companies and companies out in the market […],” Moore told TechCrunch.

Image Credits: Crossbeam

To accelerate interest in the product, the company also announced a new free tier, which replaces the limited free trial and a starter level that previously cost $500 per month. Prior to this move, if you didn’t move to the starter tier, you would lose your data when the trial was over.

“The idea here is what we’ve seen in the data is that we can create a whole lot of value for people and demonstrate really strong ROI once they get in the door and actually have access to that data, and they don’t have to worry about a free trial where the data is going away,” Moore explained.

Moore says they currently have 28 employees and have ambitious plans to add new people to the mix in the coming months, expecting to reach 50 employees by early 2021. As the company revs up on the personnel side, Moore says diversity is front and center of their plans.

“As far as Crossbeam specifically goes, we’ve made sure that diversity, equity and inclusion is part of our entire recruiting process and also the cultural experience that we create for people that are at the company,” he said. Although he didn’t discuss specific numbers, he said the company was making progress, particularly in the latest round of hires.

While the company has an office in Philly, even before COVID hit, it was a remote first organization with about half of the employees working from home. “I think a lot of our culture was kind of built to make sure that remote team members are first-class citizens in every respect in the company. So we already had all the controls, technology and practices in place, and when we shut the office, it was about as smooth as could be,” he said.

Mar
17
2020
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Addapptation snares $1.3M seed to build a better UX for Salesforce

Addapptation, a startup that wants to build a practical design layer on top of Salesforce and other enterprise tools, announced a $1.3 million seed investment today.

2048 Ventures led the round with participation from East Coast Angels, The Millworks II Fund and additional angel investors from New Hampshire, where the firm is located

Co-founder Sumner Vanderhoof says the startup’s goal is to build a user experience platform for enterprise tools like Salesforce . “Our goal is to help make simple, easy to use Salesforce.com solutions built on the addapptation UX platform.

“At the end of the day, we’re really helping transform the way companies work, making their employees more efficient, making the job they do easier and more consistent, so they have a bigger impact on the companies that they work for,” Vanderhoof told TechCrunch.

He says they do this by looking at the company workflow and what issue the customer is trying to solve — such as a problem converting deals through the sales cycle. They will then help build tools and an interface to make it easier to pinpoint this information with the goal of being able to reuse whatever solutions they create for other customers.

He says the platform is template-driven and designed to quickly go from idea to solution. A typical solution takes no longer than two weeks to build and implement. Once a customer is using addapptation, employees can log into the addapptation platform or it can be a layer built into Salesforce providing a more guided experience.

The company has built around 40 plug-ins for the platform, including a heat map that identifies where sales is likely to find the best opportunities to close a deal. The solutions they build are designed to work online or on mobile devices as needed.

Photo: addapptation

Vanderhoof says that the company has a good relationship with Salesforce, and it doesn’t compete directly with the company. “Their main focus is providing tools for a wide audience. Ours is extending the platform beyond what it can do,” he said.

The two founders, Vanderhoof and his wife Carla, took three years building the platform, essentially bootstrapping before taking today’s funding.  The company has 15 employees in its Exeter, NH, headquarters and has 20 customers including Comcast and Ingram Micro.

Mar
19
2019
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Oracle adds more AI features to its suite of sales tools

As the biggest sales and marketing technology firms mature, they are all turning to AI and machine learning to advance the field. This morning it was Oracle’s turn, announcing several AI-fueled features for its suite of sales tools.

Rob Tarkoff, who had previous stints at EMC, Adobe and Lithium, and is now EVP of Oracle CX Cloud says that the company has found ways to increase efficiency in the sales and marketing process by using artificial intelligence to speed up previously manual workflows, while taking advantage of all the data that is part of modern sales and marketing.

For starters, the company wants to help managers and salespeople understand the market better to identify the best prospects in the pipeline. To that end, Oracle is announcing integration with DataFox, the company it purchased last fall. The acquisition gave Oracle the ability to integrate highly detailed company profiles into their Customer Experience Cloud, including information such as SEC filings, job postings, news stories and other data about the company.

DataFox company profile. Screenshot: Oracle

“One of the things that DataFox helps you you do better is machine learning-driven sales planning, so you can take sales and account data and optimize territory assignments,” he explained.

The company also announced an AI sales planning tool. Tarkoff says that Oracle created this tool in conjunction with its ERP team. The goal is to use machine learning to help finance make more accurate performance predictions based on internal data.

“It’s really a competitor to companies like Anaplan, where we are now in the business of helping sales leaders optimize planning and forecasting, using predictive models to identify better future trends,” Tarkoff said.

Sales forecasting tool. Screenshot: Oracle

The final tool is really about increasing sales productivity by giving salespeople a virtual assistant. In this case, it’s a chatbot that can help handle tasks like scheduling meetings and offering task reminders to busy sales people, while allowing them to use their voices to enter information about calls and tasks. “We’ve invested a lot in chatbot technology, and a lot in algorithms to help our bots with specific dialogues that have sales- and marketing-industry specific schema and a lot of things that help optimize the automation in a rep’s experience working with sales planning tools,” Tarkoff said.

Brent Leary, principal at CRM Essentials, says that this kind of voice-driven assistant could make it easier to use CRM tools. “The Smarter Sales Assistant has the potential to not only improve the usability of the application, but by letting users interact with the system with their voice it should increase system usage,” he said.

All of these enhancements are designed to increase the level of automation and help sales teams run more efficiently with the ultimate goal of using data to more sales and making better use of sales personnel. They are hardly alone in this goal as competitors like Salesforce, Adobe and Microsoft are bringing a similar level of automation to their sales and marketing tools

The sales forecasting tool and the sales assistant are generally available starting today. The DataFox integration will GA in June.

Jun
26
2018
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YC grad ZenProspect rebrands as Apollo, lands $7M Series A

ZenProspect, a startup that emerged from the Y Combinator Winter 2016 class to help companies use data and intelligence to increase sales, announced today that it was rebranding as Apollo. It also announced a $7 million Series A investment.

The round was led by Nexus Venture Partners. Social Capital and Y Combinator also participated. Apparently Y Combinator liked what they saw enough to continue to invest in the company.

Apollo helps customers connect their sales people with the right person at the right time. That is typically a customer that is most likely to buy the product. It does this by combining a number of tools including a rules engine to automate prospect routing, a lead scoring tool and analytics to measure results at a granular level, among others.

Apollo analytics. Photo: Apollo

The company also uses data they have collected from 200 million contacts at 10 million companies to match sellers to buyers along with the information in the user’s own CRM tools — typically Salesforce. Apollo is making this vast database of company and contact data available for customers to use themselves for free starting today.

Apollo CEO and founder Tim Zheng says the company was born out of a need at a previous venture. He was working at a startup that was floundering and sales had flatlined. When they couldn’t find a product on the market to help them, they decided to build it and saw the number of users increase from 5000 to 150,000 users in just five weeks. That eventually reached a million users.  As he spoke to friends at other Bay area companies about what his company had done, he heard a lot of interest, and decided to turn that sales tool into a company.

The company launched as ZenProspect in 2015 and went through Y Combinator in 2016. They were the third fastest growing company in that YC batch, generating $1 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR) during their tenure. In fact, they were profitable out of the gate, using their own software to sell the product.

Zheng points out that there are thousands of sales tools out there, but he said, even if you bought every one of them and stitched them together you still wouldn’t have a great sales process. Zheng says his company has figured out how to solve that problem and provide that structure to deliver the best prospects to sales people to close deals.

The company works closely with Salesforce as 80 percent of its customers are using data inside of Salesforce in conjunction with the Apollo tool. It’s worth noting, however, that Apollo is not built on top of Salesforce platform. It just integrates with it.

They target both early stage startups looking to increase sales and established enterprise customers with huge sales teams. So far it’s been working. Today, Apollo has 500 customers and 50 employees. With the current influx of money, they expect to get to 120 in the next 12 -18 months.

Sep
19
2017
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Salesforce Einstein celebrates its first birthday with several new features

 Salesforce launched Einstein, its artificial intelligence platform just one year ago this week. As it celebrates its first birthday, it’s worth taking a look back at the first year and looking at a couple of enhancements they’re adding as a birthday surprise. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that Einstein isn’t actually a product at all, even though Salesforce markets… Read More

Apr
05
2017
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InsideSales expands chummy Microsoft relationship with new Dynamics platform integration

two business people, shaking hands, shot from above | date created: 2007:04:30 | notes: canon EOS 1-Ds Mark II | release references: mr2.pdf, mr6.pdf | release status: MR | date created: 2007:12:17 | notes: canon EOS 1-Ds Mark II | release references: mr2.pdf, mr6.pdf | release status: MR Microsoft has had a fair bit of investment action with InsideSales, the startup with a unicorn valuation of $1.5 billion, and today they are expanding that relationship with some product integration. The companies announced that InsideSales Playbooks will be available on the Microsoft Dynamics CRM platform. Playbooks offer customers a set of recommendations aimed at sales teams, such as the… Read More

Jan
31
2017
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Tact brings intelligent sales assistant to new Slack enterprise edition

Business people standing in conference room shaking hands Tact, the AI-driven sales tool that uses software smarts to simplify sales tasks, today announced integration with the newly announced Slack enterprise product, Slack Enterprise Grid. Tact, which currently has a mobile app and Amazon Echo integration (along with in-car integration in private Beta), sees messaging tools like Slack as a logical extension of the platform. It can help automate… Read More

Jan
18
2017
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InsideSales $50 million round includes another Microsoft investment

Business people standing in conference room shaking hands InsideSales, a predictive analytics platform which helps salespeople focus on finding and engaging prospects at the right time and in the right way, announced a $50 million round today with a couple of strategic investors — Microsoft and the Irish government.
The round was led by Polaris Capital, a long time investor, along with newcomers QuestMark Partners, and the Irish Strategic… Read More

Dec
12
2016
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Tact grabs $15 million Series B to make CRM easier to use

Closing the sale -- contract signing. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software was born with the best of intentions — to create a record of customer interactions. The problem, salespeople will tell you, is that it becomes a chore. Tact has been designed to add an intelligent layer to CRM — and today it got $15 million to make CRM easier to use. The Series B round was led by Upfront Ventures. Microsoft… Read More

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