Monday, May 18, 2015

The Rise of Sales Tech

The new Digital age is leaving no function in the Enterprise immune to change. In particular, the past 5 years have witnessed a profound transformation of the world of Business to Business sales.

The new buyer's journey

Buyers have taken upon themselves to research the products, solutions and services they need or might want to consider. They do it on their terms, using the internet as their primary source of information. Gone are the days when sales representatives would be called or invited to “educate buyers”. The Corporate Executive Board found 57% of the Enterprise Buyer's Journey takes before vendors get formally engaged.

Content is the new currency

In response to this trend, Businesses have massively invested in building and sharing content. According to the Content Marketing Institute, marketers are spending 28% of their marketing budget on content marketing. This content is offered to help buyers and potential buyers in the early stages of their exploration. The quality of the content created has become a mean for businesses to build preference. But the widespread availability of great and valuable content on the internet can also disintermediate brands. So, the understanding of the information consumed by prospects is an essential proxy of their interest. It is further exacerbated by the Social Transformation. Indeed, Social Networks and communities of interest have become places where people share experiences, get feedback on products through peer reviews, and look for information.

Purchase democratization

Corporations used to have a few Buying Centers where decisions were centralized in the hands of a few, easy to find, roles. Nowadays, a growing number of purchases are made at all levels and functions in the Enterprise. This trend is exemplified by Gartner prediction from a few years ago that, by 2017, Marketing organizations would spend more on technology than their peer IT groups. Even large purchases made centrally now involve a much larger number of decision makers. Captera found that 2/3 software purchases involve 3 or more people. Finding potential buyers and other decision stakeholders has become a daunting task for sales organizations. Furthermore, the sheer volume increase of leads and potential contacts to handle has become overwhelming. So, they need to turn to the Internet to get the best possible insights on organizations and buyers.

Sales transformation

Sales organizations have started to transform themselves to respond to these trends and become more effective. They increasingly leverage new communication tools to shift their engagements with prospects and buyers away from in person meetings to the phone, emails, online meetings or other forms of remote interaction. Marc Benioff, the founder of salesforce.com, coined the term of Inside Sales for sales done remotely. He keeps on reminding us that he only used Inside Sales during the first 6 years of his company. This trend compounds with the imperative for sales organizations to become more productive as pointed by Bain.

The rise of Inside Selling

Topo is predicting that in 2017, 85% of the hours spent by sales professional, will be so selling remotely. Accordingly, new roles have emerged:
  • Inside Sales to sell remotely,
  • Sales Development to engage prospective buyers showing potential signs of interest, give them information for their explorations, and detect the appropriate moment to connect them to a Sale Representative, and
  • Business Development to proactively identify potential buyers and reach out to them.

[Inside] Sales is enabled by technology

These roles exist because of the widespread availability of communication technologies that make remote interaction seamless and convenient. They have led to the emergence of a new set of tools to:
  • gain insights on companies and potential buyers,
  • steer interactions towards desired goals,
  • improve these interactions with relevant information,
  • increase sales productivity,
  • make remote selling smooth and effortless, and
  • use analytics along the way to drive and, in hindsight, improve the entire selling process.

Making sense of a new market?

I lived through this transition as an Executive of the Enterprise Software industry. Since I became an Advisor to technology companies, I often get involved in the implementation of Inside Sales roles and processes. It has given me a unique appreciation of how critical technology can be, but also, how confusing this space can be to its practitioners.
Yet, I found it has a lot of similarities with Customer Engagement, a domain that I know very well. So, with the help of Spoke and VBProfiles, I have embarked on a mapping of this new Inside Sales technology landscape.
In my next post, I will share existing market categorizations and why I thought I should create one.
Stay tuned and, in the meantime, share your thoughts!
Nicolas De Kouchkovski

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Do Unicorn really exist in the ChiefMartec Landscape?

A lot has been said about Unicorns since Aileen Lee seminal study was published on Crunchbase in November 2013.  A surge of private companies being valued at US$ 1 Billion could either be a sign of an upcoming bubble or the next renaissance. Josh Kopelman coined the term “private IPOs” while Bill Gurley was urging to not mistake highly priced private deals with IPOs. In the meantime, opportunistic Venture Capitalists like Glenn Solomon from GGVC were advising CEOs on how to stay in the moment and leverage this burst of valuation while keeping their heads cool.

In a recent EBook built on top of the Chiefmartec Landscape, VBProfiles (a partnership between
Spoke and VentureBeat) identified the 29 companies (1.5% of the total landscape) belonging to the Billion Dollar Valuation Club including 12 Unicorns (0.66% of the total landscape).

In spite of an incredible burst of innovation due to the emergence of the cloud in the ChiefMartec landscape, the increased number of companies that we have seen joining the Billion Dollar Club in 2010-2015 is due to a catch up of older companies founded in 1995-2004 that have survived the two nuclear winters and materializing their valuation later in the cycle. Furthermore, we are seeing a steady rate of 2 companies created every year between 1990 and 2010 that ultimately reached billion-dollar valuation, except during the nuclear winter of 2000-2002 when only one such company was created for the entire three years.

Compared to their going public counterpart, ChiefMartec Unicorns have a tendency to raise fewer funds to become US$ 1 Billion valuation and are doing better after having reached the Unicorn mark with a median valuation of US $ 2.1 Billion versus US 1.8 Billion for public companies.

Whether we are at the beginning of a Unicorn Era or witnessing an anomaly remains to be seen. Billion dollar private deals exist because a combination of stars is aligned: First, there is an existing demand from Financial Investors who trade better protection and early access to deals against liquidity. Most of the time, investors who invest in Unicorn deals also invest in public companies and will switch the balance to more public or private deals based on changes of market conditions.
Second, some CEOs prefer to delay their IPO, creating a supply of companies interested in highly priced private deals. If conditions change, those CEOs may decide to go the IPO route if the private highly priced deal terms are not favorable anymore. After all, the number of IPOs in 2014 was only half of what it was during the 1990-1996 timeframe.
All the while, secondary markets are taking care of liquidity for private investors and employees alleviating the pressure from the existing shareholder base to push for an early exit.

After having reviewed the data, one can only ask if the unicorn phenomenon really exists and if there are significant differences between companies that decide to go public versus ones that want to be financed privately. In the ChiefMartec landscape, Unicorns appear to be companies like the other members of the Billion Dollar Valuation Club, taking the same amount of time, raising the same amount of funds and being valued about the same.


The Venture capital market from a funding standpoint seems also to be fairly healthy selecting the same number of company year over year. This obviously may change in the coming years with a new vintage of start-ups created in 2010-2015 and if the market heats up even more.

Philippe Cases
CEO

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Open letter to CB Insights CEO about leadership and term of service


Dear Anand:


I tried to leave you a comment on the following blog but apparently it didn’t pass moderation so I am going to leave it on my blog and tweet it so you are aware of it.

Sorry to hear about DataViz. This is annoying to say the least. This said I now understand why I was not able to download the 46 page corporate VC whitepaper goodie you offered me via one of your marketing email. It is probably because Spoke is considered a competitor. Truth is I didn't know and I didn't despite 10s of marketing emails you sent me. If you truly care about this terms of service, you should explain as well why you have touched me at least 100 times through marketing materials and offers to download free reports and never let me know that I was in breach of your terms of service. If you want to be one of the leaders of our industry, I strongly advised to be consistent in your message across the board and use marketing techniques that you can swallow otherwise you are going to frustrate a lot of people like the ones who were on this wall.

If I am appalled by what Dataviz did, I seriously advice you remove this paragraph about competitors from your terms of service because it is a serious impediment to the productivity of our industry as well as unenforceable.
1) You basically are asking your competition to ask their employees to read the terms of service of all the sites they visit. You know as well as i do that this is not enforceable and completely counterproductive; 
2) You are also asking your competition to limit their choice of consultants and limit the consultant ability to perform their work; 
3) Lastly, if you are serious about asking your competitors to enforce this clause, I am surprised that you show screenshots of Dataviz in your blog. By doing so, you are using information obtained by a source that would clearly breach your term of service. 
If you want to be one of the leaders of our industry, you need to accept that you are going to be copied because this is what people do to improve. You should blame people like Dataviz if you feel they broke a line. But this term of service is like the Berlin Wall, it has to be brought down for the sake of your company and the industry before people tear it down for you.

Lastly, if you want to frame a culture and lead the industry this way, make sure you let people write comments on your blog posts. After all, we live in the 21st century in the open internet and this wall you have created for yourself seems very very old school to me.
Philippe Cases, CEO Spoke Software

PS: in the spirit of full disclosure, I received this blog tracking your company through Owler. You can see how bad I am.

Friday, January 16, 2015

VB Profiles and the Spokeintel Network recognized by ChiefMartec

Difficult to start the year better for the Spokeintel Network: VB Profiles, one of its feature sites, was selected by Scott Brinker in the "Vendor/Data Analysis" section of its new 2015 ChiefMartec Landscape released on January 7, 2015.  In this section, VB Profiles is the only profile database alongside but ahead :) of Crunchbase and is featured with established brand names such as Gartner, Forrester...


For those who have followed us in 2014, you know that you can access the 2014 Chief Martec Landscape for news, funding and people information. You can even receive a daily update email by subscribing to this landscape. You can also access the 43 lists that compose the ChiefMartec Landscape by clicking here and get the same benefit for a much more narrower list.

Witnessing the level of requests, we know you are very anxious to see the 2015 ChiefMartec Landscape on VB Profiles. We are in the process of working on it and we should release it before the end of February.

Oh and one last thing, the average time our members spend on our sites per visit has been above 15 minutes for two weeks in a row from 8 minutes back in October 2014. Love it...

Philippe Cases
CEO

Monday, December 1, 2014

Introducing Similar Companies

I hope you had a great Thankgiving.

The team at Spoke Network is very excited to release Similar Companies,  a feature you will find on company profiles.


With this feature, you can now very quickly and easily identify which companies are competing with each other. They are the first ones on the Similar Company list and as you are moving down, you can also surface companies that are competing on part of somebody’s offering or similar companies that are part of the same ecosystem. 

Taking Cloudera as an example, you can identify the first two direct competitors as Hortonworks and MapR who appears on 10 lists together (hold your thoughts we will come back to that) and then Qubole, which provides a managed solution for Hadoop and then companies such as DataStax, Pivotal and IBM BigInsights who are providing analytics to the enterprise. As you are clicking on more, more companies are appearing which are less similar but still relevant.



Coming back to the question that is now burning your tongue: how are you ranking the companies? This comes straight from our scalable Semantic Web Platform. As our team and partners are creating lists where they assemble relevant companies together, we basically count how many lists a specific pair of companies are together and use the number of lists as our ranking mechanism. If two companies appear the exact same amount of time together with another company then we are using the number of employees and then amount of funding to finish the ranking.

Few points to note:
  1. Our classification is stronger where we have coverage. At this point, we feel very really strongly about our classification for Big Data, Marketing Technology and Mobile.
  2. Our classification favors the bigger companies. They are covered more by analysts and therefore appear in more lists together so they should appear first in any classification. That said, we have been surprised that the true competitors seem to be appearing on a consistent basis first despite their size.
  3. Clicking more to see the entire list makes sense: As the bigger companies appear first, the eventual disruptors of a particular company will appear later down the list.
  4. Clicking on the similar company is very important in your analysis as it could give you hints of particular clusters of companies. In our Cloudera case, if you click on DataStax, you will see surfacing companies like MongoDB, Couchbase and Marklogic before Hortonworks and MapR Technologies.
  5. The more you go down the list, the more a notion of ecosystem appear. Companies become more similar or are playing in the same space rather than being direct competitors…

We consider this approach as a first draft so we are relying on you to give us feedback. Easiest is to do it directly on the site using Intercom.io.  Based on those feedbacks, we will make adjustments.

One final note: talking to experts in the industry about our approach, we realize that the notion of similarity is very vague and that we are tackling only one notion of similarity at this point: are two companies competing or part of the same ecosystem? But there are many others and a list of other similarities could include: same founding groups, same past company employees, same location, and same investors among others. 

We will wish all of you happy holidays.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Welcome market summaries and ChiefMartec.com


We have been pretty quiet since we announced our partnership with MedCityNews but we have not seat idle in the meantime and have been working on solving tough problems.

The first problem we worked on is one that I have been faced with during my career as a Venture Capitalist and it goes something like this:  You are doing a due diligence and one of your partners asks you a question like this: who are the players in this Space? How much has been invested? Do we know anybody that we can talk to about this investment? Sounds familiar, you may have faced variants of this problem if you are a headhunter sourcing candidates, a business developer trying to make sense of a market, a consultant trying to categorize a market or simply an entrepreneur looking for information about who the investors, the journalists, the consultants, he should be talking are.

At this point, you have two options: one is to call the company and ask for the information, the other more common is to do it yourself because you want to make sure that the work has been done thoroughly. So you crawl the web and after an hour, you find a landscape of companies organized in categories and lists. It is usually a 2D graphic filled with logos. Once you have seen this list, you have to understand who the companies are and then for each companies figure out  the information you are looking for and then aggregate it to make sense of it. If you are lucky or not controlling, you will find an analyst or an associate to do it for you. But either you or him will take forever to do it. And, at some point, there will be a point where you will regret to have found this landscape.

This doesn’t have to be this way and we think we have found a solution that bridges the gap between the landscape graphic and the information you are looking for. As John Koetsier puts it, landscape on VBProfiles becomes alive. This has been possible because of two major milestones:


1)    Introduction of the Market Summary: for each markets or public lists you are tracking, you have now access to the summary of that public list. We let you know:
a.    how the specific lists you are tracking are related to other public lists in our portfolio;
b.    who the companies are and how they stack against one another;
c.    how much funds has been raised in that specific market or public lists;
d.    who the players are: executives, investors, journalists, consultants,…
This is free for now and for at least a couple of month so you should try it.
2)    Partnership with ChiefMartec.com: We have done one partnership with ChiefMartec.com who published the famous ChiefMartec.com Marketing Technology Landscape. ChiefMartec.com edits every year a marketing technology landscape of 1,000 companies organized in 43 different categories of product. We have ported this landscape on our platform so that everybody can start tracking the lists, categories as well as the entire landscape.

The combination of those two announcements is now extremely powerful for the Marketing Technology Industry. You can now have access to all data about this landscape, follow specific categories, know who funds what, who is covering those spaces as journalists and consultants. And with one click, you get now information that it would have taken days to get.

We hope you’ll enjoy those new features.


Philippe Cases