Monday, June 15, 2015

The new UI is live :)

Finally!!! The new UI is live.  After 18 months and the gathering of thousands of useful feedback, we are getting even closer to our vision of providing a platform through which people can effortlessly access information about the markets they care about.

With this new version, we had two overarching goals: to make the information more accessible and readable, and to make our existing use cases more apparent while building a solid foundation for growth. We are anxious to hear what you think have we achieved significant progress on all fronts? Of course, our platform is still fairly young and we have many more iterations to make, but the overall look and feel will essentially stay the same. 

Make the insights more accessible:

The overwhelming feedback we got on the prior site was that, while the information was readily available, the insights were too difficult to reach. Our business users want to access insights quickly and with their existing apps.

In this context, we completely rebuilt our search result page. Instead of showing data based only on the relevance of a keyword, we now show the most important results for each specific category of information: markets, company, people, or topic.  Markets are now front and center, as this is the category people most want to see. From the search page, you can refine your search by clicking on “view all” and navigate through this content or, leverage the advanced search section.

We have also completely rebuilt our daily newsletter so that information is more readable. Our users will also get access (recommendations) to companies or markets they should be tracking based on what they are already tracking in their emails.

Focus on our main use cases:

We realized that people are using the platform in three different ways that mutually feed on each other. The first one is the one we started with. Executives want to have access to all the information about the specific markets or group of markets they care about. Highly powered but also very busy people have three main considerations:

  1. They want to be able to consume the information in less than 5 minutes before their day starts, with their tool of choice which, at this point, is mainly their email systems;
  2. They want to have 95% of the information their industry generates every day and not to miss important news. Our surveys show that the Spoke Intelligence provide 60% more news than other sources and 3 to 4 need-to-know news per week that they wouldn’t have found elsewhere;
  3. They want to get insights in addition to news without having to search for them 

The second use case is Research: our platform is being used for a lot of different research needs from identifying potential candidates for a position to fill, to tracking more granular markets for sales and marketing purposes, to finding the most successful angel investors or venture capitalists for fund raising purposes.  For all those needs, the pages accessed when hitting “view all” are the pages that people will use to browse through the content and identify news, companies, or people based on specific criteria.

Lastly, we now have consultants and companies organizing their ecosystems on the Spoke Intelligence Network, tracking entire industries without the traditionally insurmountable clutter and effectively discovering new players and innovations for the innovation they care about.

Build the foundation for Growth:

With this new platform, the opportunities to develop the platform and derive value are almost endless.  Adding browsing criteria to search through information, building mini apps so people can access the information based on the use case they need, accessing deeper insights more quickly, and adding more data sources for each specific market will be our main goals moving forward, so stay tuned as we develop the platform moving forward.

Philippe Cases
CEO Spoke Software

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, 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

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