Jul
13
2021
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ZoomInfo drops $575M on Chorus.ai as AI shakes up the sales market

ZoomInfo announced this morning it intends to acquire conversational sales intelligence tool Chorus.ai for $575 million. Shares of ZoomInfo are unchanged in premarket trading following the news, per Yahoo Finance data.

Sales intelligence, Chorus’s market, is a hot space that uses AI to “listen” to sales conversations to help improve interactions between salespeople and customers. ZoomInfo is mostly known for providing information about customers, so the acquisition expands the acquiring company’s platform in a significant way.

The company sees an opportunity to bring together different parts of the sales process in a single platform by “combining ZoomInfo’s historic top-of-the-funnel strength with insights driven from the middle of the funnel in the customer conversations that Chorus captures,” it said in a release.

“With Chorus, the entire organization can make better decisions by surfacing insights and analytics that you would only get if you sat in on every sales or customer success call,” ZoomInfo CEO and founder Henry Schuck said in a blog post announcing the deal.

Ahead of the transaction, ZoomInfo was valued at just under $21 billion.

Chorus looks for what it calls “smart themes” in sales calls, which help managers steer sales teams toward the types of conversation and tone that is likely to drive more revenue. In fact, Chorus holds the largest patent portfolio related to conversational intelligence, according to the company.

Chorus was founded in 2015 and raised more than $100 million along the way, according to PitchBook data. The most recent round was a $45 million Series C last year.

Crunchbase News reports that at the time of its Series C round of funding, Chorus had “doubled its headcount to more than 100 employees and tripled its revenue over the past year.” That’s the sort of growth that venture capitalists covet, making the company’s 2020 funding round a nonsurprise.

Notably PitchBook data indicates that the company’s final private valuation was around the $150 million mark; if accurate, it would imply that the company’s last private round was expensive in dilution terms, and that its investors did well in the exit, quickly more than trebling the capital that was last invested, with investors who put capital in earlier doing even better.

But we’re slightly skeptical of the company’s available valuation history given the growth that it claimed at the time of its Series C; it feels low. If that’s the case, the company’s exit multiple would decrease, making its final sale price slightly less impressive.

Of course, a half-billion-dollar exit is always material, even if venture capitalists in today’s red-hot, and expensive, market are more interested in $1 billion exits and larger.

Chorus.ai will likely not be the final exit in the conversational intelligence space. Its rival Gong (often known by its URL, Gong.io) is one of the hotter startups in this space, having raised over $500 million. Its most recent raise was $250 million on a $7.25 billion valuation last month.

The implication of the Chrous.ai exit and Gong’s enormous private valuation is that the application of AI to audio data in a sales environment is incredibly useful, given the number of customers the two companies’ aggregate valuation implies.

Mar
24
2021
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Salesforce updates includes sales info overlay for Zoom meetings

The pandemic has clearly had an impact on the way we work, and this is especially true for salespeople. Salesforce introduced a number updates to Sales Cloud this morning including Salesforce Meetings, a smart overlay for Zoom meetings that gives information and advice to the sales team as they interact with potential customers in online meetings.

Bill Patterson, EVP and General Manager of CRM applications at Salesforce says that the company wanted to help sales teams manage these types of interactions better and take advantage of the fact they are digital.

“There’s a broad recognition, not just from Salesforce, but really from every sales organization that selling is forever changed, and I think that there’s been a broad understanding, and maybe a surprise in learning how effective we can be in the from anywhere kind of times, whether that’s in office or not in office or whatever,” Patterson explained.

Salesforce Meetings gives that overlay of information, whether it’s advice to slow down the pace of your speech or information about the person speaking. It can also compile action items and present a To Do list to participants at the end of each meeting to make sure that tasks don’t fall through the cracks.

This is made possible in part through the Einstein intelligence layer that is built across the entire Salesforce platform. In this case, it takes advantage of a new tool called Einstein Conversation Insights, which the company is also exposing as a feature for developers to build their own solutions using this tool.

For sales people who might find the tool a bit too invasive, you can dial the confidence level of the information up or down on an individual basis, so that you can get a lot of information or a little depending on your needs.

For now, it works with Zoom and the company has been working closely with the Zoom development team to provide the API and SDK tooling it needs to pull something like this off, according to Patterson. He notes that plans are in the works to make it compatible with WebEx and Microsoft Teams in the future.

While the idea was in the works prior to the pandemic, COVID created a sense of urgency for this kind of feature, as well as other features announced today like Pipeline Inspection, which uses AI to analyze the sales pipeline. It searches for changes to deals over time with the goal of finding the ones that could benefit most from coaching or managerial support to get them over the finish line.

Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM Essentials says that this ability to capture information in online meetings is changing the way we think about CRM.

“The thing the caught my attention is how tightly integrated video meetings/collaboration is now into sales process. This is really compelling because meeting interactions that may not find their way into the CRM system are now automatically captured,” Leary told me.

Salesforce Meetings is available today, while Pipeline Inspection is expected to be available this summer.

Mar
03
2021
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Dooly closes on $20M for AI-based tools to help salespeople with their busywork

Robotic process automation has taken the enterprise world by storm by providing a set of tools for those doing repetitive, volume-based tasks to use software to remove some of that labor to let those people focus on more complicated tasks. Today a startup that’s taken some of that ethos and is applying it to more individualized work — that of salespeople — is announcing some funding.

Dooly, a Vancouver, Canada-based startup that has built a set of AI-based tools that automate the busywork that goes into updating data in their sales software, and namely Salesforce, has picked up $20 million in funding to build out its business, which to date has picked up a number of customers among the sales teams of enterprise-focused software companies. They include Airtable, Asana, Intercom, Contentful, Vidyard, BigCommerce, Liftoff and CrowdRiff.

Its aim is to make sales software more useful for salespeople by eliminating the work that goes into inputting data into those systems.

“Really they’ve just created a mountain of virtual filing cabinets,” Kris Hartvigsen, Dooly’s founder and CEO, said in an emailed interview with me. “Filing cabinets just wait for drawers to be opened — or in the case of enterprise software, reports to be pulled and data to be input. We know people are capturing information across the business and our job is to make sure that the people and systems across the business have a better, faster, more far-reaching way of staying informed.”

The funding is being announced today, but it was actually raised in two tranches that had not previously been disclosed. A $3.3 million seed round was led by Boldstart Ventures and also included BoxGroup. Its $17 million Series A, meanwhile, was led by Addition, with Boldstart and BoxGroup again participating, along with Battery Ventures, Mantis (representing musicians The Chainsmokers) and SV Angel.

Alongside the VCs, there are a number of interesting strategic individual investors, too. Daniel Dines and Brandon Deer of UiPath (the RPA connection clearly is not one that I’m imagining!); Allison Pickens, the ex-COO of Gainsight; Zander Lurie of SurveyMonkey); Jay Simons, ex-CEO of Atlassian); Harry Stebbings; and other unnamed investors are all also involved. Ed Sim of Boldstart is joining Dooly’s board of directors with this announcement.

The challenge that Dooly has been built to solve is that while there are a lot of tools out there now to help salespeople source leads, manage the progress of their sales, give them advice and other helpful material to supplement their charm and the basic strength of a product, manage customers once they’ve signed on, and so on, all of them still require something important to work: a time commitment from salespeople to keep them updated with information. Ironically, the more tools to help them that are built, the more time salespeople need to spend feeding them data.

Even more ironically, one of the big daddies of the problem — the somewhat overweight Salesforce — has published figures (cited by Dooly) that say salespeople spend just 34% of their time selling. The rest (minus trips to get coffee to stay caffeinated) seems to be about data entry.

The idea with Dooly is that you turn it on, connect it to what you are using — starting with Salesforce — and Dooly lets you make notes which it then organises and puts into the right places in the rest of your apps.

“When a salesperson starts using Dooly, the ‘aha moment’ is pretty immediate,” Hartvigsen said. “Whether they want to do quick pipeline edits or push their notes to Salesforce, we don’t ask the user to learn any new patterns they aren’t familiar with, we just automate a bunch of things they hate doing, often comparing those traditional chores to clerical work.” For example, he notes, when they sync a note, Dooly automatically updates any Salesforce with any contacts found in the meeting, updates fields, adds to-dos, logs activities, and pushes messages to the appropriate internal stakeholders on Slack, all in the same motion.

The product currently also integrates with Slack, G-Cal and G-Drive, because, Hartvigsen said, “we see this as an area where there is the most immediate friction and an area that was in need of disruption.” He added that the plan is to add more integrations over time. “We see need to expand the solutions that anchor to our connected workspace, with our near-term focus being the systems that touch revenue teams,” he said.

The design of Dooly seems to be about investing a little in order to save more. On average people are using Dooly between 2.5 and 5 hours each day, but Hartvigsen claims that right now the system helps people make up for more hours each week in lost productivity. Its pricing starts at $25 per user per month, going up depending on features and use.

There are quite literally thousands of products out in the market today, and among them hundreds of strong ones, being built to help salespeople with different aspects of getting their jobs done. I’ve written about quite a few of them, and I’ve actually asked companies about whether they are tackling the very issue that Dooly has identified and is trying to fix.

They weren’t, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t. Chief among them are companies like UiPath and Salesforce, which sit on different sides of this problem and could well move into it as they keep growing. (Having UiPath as a backer by way of its founder and a senior executive points to a relationship there, which is interesting.)

In the meantime, there have been some other interesting innovations using AI to improve the sales process, with companies like Pipedrive, Clari, Seismic, Chorus.ai and Gong all using natural language, machine learning and big data analytics (itself helped by AI) to improve how sales get done.

“The first thing we noticed when we met the Dooly team was the thoughtful design-first approach to product that engendered tons of customer love. This love was inherent not only on popular ratings sites like G2 Crowd but also in the individual usage and viral adoption throughout companies with only one initial user,” said Ed Sim, founder and managing partner at Boldstart Ventures in a statement. “Dooly is revolutionizing the note-taking experience for customer facing end users from sales to customer success to product.”

“Dooly is relentlessly focused on building a user-first experience for its customers to seamlessly create workflows and unlock new revenue opportunities,” said Lee Fixel, founder of Addition, added. “We are thrilled to support Dooly as it continues to scale and enhance the sales function for more businesses.”

Feb
10
2021
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Accord launches B2B sales platform with $6M seed

The founders of Accord, an early-stage startup focused on bringing order to B2B sales, are not your typical engineer founders. Instead, the two brothers, Ross and Ryan Rich, worked as sales reps seeing the problems unique to this kind of sale firsthand.

In November 2019, they decided to leave the comfort of their high-paying jobs at Google and Stripe to launch Accord and build what they believe is a missing platform for B2B sales, one that takes into account the needs of both the sales person and the buyer.

Today the company is launching with a $6 million seed round from former employer Stripe and Y Combinator. It should be noted that the founders applied to YC after leaving their jobs and impressed the incubator with their insight and industry experience, even though they didn’t really have a product yet. In fact, they literally drew their original idea on a piece of paper.

Original prototype of Accord sketched on a piece of paper.

The original prototype was just a drawing of their idea. Image Credits: Accord

Recognizing they had the sales skills, but lacked programming chops, they quickly brought in a third partner, Wayne Pan, to bring their idea to life. Today, they have an actual working program with paying customers. They’ve created a kind of online hub for B2B salespeople and buyers to interact.

As co-founder Ross Rich points out, these kinds of sales are very different from the consumer variety, often involving as many as 14 people on average on the buyer side. With so many people involved in the decision-making process, it can become unwieldy pretty quickly.

“We provide within the application shared next steps and milestones to align on and that the buyer can track asynchronously, a resource hub to avoid sorting through those hundreds of emails and threads for a single document or presentation and stakeholder management to make sure the right people are looped in at the right time,” Rich explained.

Accord also integrates with the company CRM like Salesforce to make sure all of that juicy data is being tracked properly in the sales database. At the same time, Rich says the startup wants this platform to be a place for human interaction. Instead of an automated email or text, this provides a place where humans can actually interact with one another, and he believes that human element is important to help reduce the complexity inherent in these kinds of deals.

With $6 million in runway and a stint at Y Combinator under their belts, the founders are ready to make a more concerted go-to-market push. They are currently at nine people, mostly engineers aside from the two sales-focused founders. He figures to be bringing in some new employees this year, but doesn’t really have a sense of how many they will bring on just yet, saying that is something that they will figure out in the coming months.

As they do that, they are already thinking about being inclusive with several women on the engineering team, recognizing if they don’t start diversity early, it will be more difficult later on. “[Hiring a diverse group early] only compounds when you get to nine or 10 people and then when you’re talking to someone and they are wondering, ‘Do I trust this team and is that a culture where I want to work?’ He says if you want to build a diverse and inclusive workplace, you have to start making that investment early.

It’s early days for this team, but they are building a product to help B2B sales teams work more closely and effectively with customers, and with their background and understanding of the space, they seem well-positioned to succeed.

Feb
03
2021
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Scratchpad snags $13M Series A to simplify Salesforce data entry

Scratchpad is an early-stage startup that wants to make it easier for sales people to get information into Salesforce by placing a notation layer on top of it. Today, it announced a $13 million Series A led by Craft Ventures with participation from Accel.

The company has now raised a total of $16.6 million, including the $3.6 million seed round we covered in October. Co-founder and CEO Pouyan Salehi says that he wasn’t really looking to add capital, but the investors understood his vision and the money will help accelerate the product roadmap.

“To be honest, it actually wasn’t on our radar to raise again so soon after we raised what I consider a substantial seed. We had plenty of runway, but we started to see a lot of bottom-up user growth, this bottom-up motion just really started to take hold,” Salehi told me.

He says that lead investor David Sacks, who has built some successful startups himself, really got what they were trying to do, and the deal came together fairly easily. In fact, the company caught the attention of Craft because they were hearing about Scratchpad from their portfolio companies.

The bottoms up approach is certainly something we have seen with developer tools and with software for knowledge workers, but companies often take aim at sales through the sales manager, rather than trying directly to get salespeople to use a particular tool. This approach of getting the end users involved early allows them to gain traction with members of the sales team before approaching management about paid versions.

Traditionally, sales teams don’t like the tools that are thrust upon them. They are essentially databases and even with a visual interface, it doesn’t really match up with the way they work. Scratchpad gives them an interface like a spreadsheet or notes application that they are typically using to hack together a workflow, but with a direct connection to Salesforce.

What the paid tiers provide is a way to bring all this data together and get a bigger-picture view of what’s happening on the sales team, and it helps ensure that people are using Salesforce because the data in Scratchpad links to the Salesforce database automatically.

The company has completed the initial work of building the individual salesperson’s workspace, but the next phase, and part of what this capital is going to fund, is building the team workspace and seeing how this data can flow from individuals to a team view to give management more insight into what their individual reps are doing. This includes notes, which usually don’t make it into Salesforce, but provide a lot of context about interactions with customers.

It’s resonating with thousands of users (although Salehi didn’t want to share an exact customer number just yet). Customers include Autodesk, Brex, Lacework, Snowflake and Twilio.

Sacks says that he liked the viral way the product has been spreading. “Once a rep starts using Scratchpad, two things tend to happen: it becomes a daily habit, and they share it with their teammates. This phenomena of viral spread is rare and indicates a very strong product-market fit,” he said in a statement.

Jan
26
2021
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SetSail nabs $26M Series A to rethink sales compensation

SetSail wants to upend the way sales people get compensated by paying them throughout the sales cycle, rather than a single commission after the sale closes. Today, the startup announced a $26 million Series A.

Insight Partners led the round with participation from existing investors Wing Venture Capital, Team8 and Operator Collective. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $37 million, according to the company.

SetSail connects to your CRM, email, calendar and other systems that have signals about the progress of a particular sale, and then using machine learning looks at points in the sales cycle where it would make sense to reward the sales person for the progress they are making.

As CEO and co-founder Haggai Levi told me at the time of the startup’s $7 million seed round in July, the single commission system discourages risk taking:

“If I’m closing the deal, I’m getting my commission. If I’m not closing the deal, I’m getting nothing. That means from a behavioral point of view, I would take the shortest path to win a deal, and I would take the minimum risk possible. So if there’s a competitive situation I will try to avoid that,” he said in July.

He said the idea of changing the way we think about compensation resonated with sales executives during the pandemic, especially as everyone’s role got altered and teams became distributed because of COVID, but he says while rethinking compensation was certainly a big factor so was SetSail’s ability to connect to all of the sales systems to help build these new approaches to pay.

“I think it’s even beyond just compensation. […] It’s also connecting to all of your data using an end-to-end platform that helps you understand what’s happening between you, your reps and your customers and allowing you to tie that back in using behavioral science to machine learning-based compensation,” he explained.

The company began 2020 with five customers, a reasonable start for an early stage startup, but it ended the year with more than 20 including Cisco, Dropbox and HubSpot. It now has over 5000 sales reps using the platform.

In spite of the growing number of users, Levi says they have no plans to aggregate data, leaving each customer’s data as distinct to build the compensation packages that make sense to them. “We try not to play kind of the data, aggregator role because we want to make sure that every customer’s data is encrypted and secured in a completely different container. The trade off between getting knowledge between customers versus receiving their data is is too high in our opinion,” he said.

The company now has 35 employees with five more hired who will be starting in the next several weeks and plans to reach 70 by the end of the year. They are thinking hard about how to hire a diverse workforce. For starters, Levi says that the company board has two female members. He says hiring in general is a challenge for every CEO, especially early on, and hiring a diverse group even more so, but he says it’s important to be thinking about this from the start because from a gender perspective at least, you are losing half the talent pool if you ignore it.

When the pandemic is over, he sees having at least some in-person office presence in spite of being spread out across San Francisco, New York and Tel Aviv, but it will be probably be a hybrid approach and not require as much office space as they might have rented prior to COVID.

Oct
06
2020
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Scratchpad announces $3.6M seed to put workspace on top of Salesforce

One thing that annoys sales people is entering data into a CRM like Salesforce because it’s time spent not selling. Part of the problem is Salesforce is a database and as such is not necessarily designed for speed. Scratchpad wants to simplify that process by creating a workspace on top of the CRM to accelerate the administrative side of the job.

Today, the company announced a $3.6 million seed round led by Accel with participation from Shrug Capital and Sound Ventures, the firm run by Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary, as well as several individual investors. The round, which closed at the end of last year, hadn’t been previously announced.

Last year, company co-founder and CEO Pouyan Salehi had just stepped down from his previous company PersistIQ, a sales enablement startup that came out of Y Combinator in 2014. He and his co-founder Cyrus Karbassiyoon began researching a new company, and the idea for Scratchpad came to them when they simply sat down and watched how salespeople were working. They noted that they were using a hodgepodge of tools like taking notes in Evernote or Google Docs, tracking their pipeline in Excel or Google Sheets and tracking tasks with paper lists or sticky notes.

They recognized that these tools were disconnected from Salesforce and required hours of manual work copying and pasting this data. That’s when they saw there was an opportunity here to build a tool to track all of this information in one place and connect it to Salesforce to automate a lot of this grunt work.

“It eventually evolved into this idea that we’re calling “The Workspace” because everyone has Salesforce, but they are working with all of these other tools that then they just have to literally spend hours — and we saw some reps block off four-hour chunks on their calendar — just to copy and paste from their documents, spreadsheets or notes into Salesforce for their pipeline reviews. And that’s how the idea for Scratchpad came to be,” Salehi told TechCrunch.

Today, a salesperson can install Scratchpad as a Chrome plug-in, connect to Salesforce with their log-in credentials and create a two-way connection between the tools. Scratchpad pulls all of their pipeline data into the WorkSpace. They can cycle through the various fields to enter information quickly, enter notes and track tasks (which can be pulled from email and calendar) all in one place.

What’s more, because all of this information is linked to Salesforce, anything you enter in Scratchpad updates the corresponding fields and sections in Salesforce automatically. And any new opportunities that start in Salesforce update in Scratchpad.

The company has been operating for about a year and has thousands of users, although many are currently using the free tier. It has seven employees, with plans to hire more over the next year. As he builds his second company, Salehi says he and his co-founder are building on a foundation of diversity and inclusion.

“By nature, we are very diverse in many different perspectives that you can look at, including gender, age, location and backgrounds,” he said. He adds that building a diverse and inclusive workforce is important to the company.

“And so even in our hiring process, we incorporated certain elements just to make sure that we’re not introducing bias in any sort of way, or at least recognizing that the natural bias and thoughts we might have. We look at things like doing blind looks at resumes and it’s something that we take very, very seriously,” he said.

While the company is built on top of Salesforce today, he says it could expand to include other databases or sources of information where the product could also work. For now though, he sees an opportunity to build another company in the sales arena to help reduce the amount of work associated with updating the CRM database.

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.

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