It has been about six weeks or so since I joined the CallRail team. We have made a lot of progress in that short time. Getting our arms around some high level important metrics. Tweaking some of our current marketing efforts to make them a bit more productive. Hiring Ashley Coleman to implement some marketing technologies (we don’t have that many at the moment) and really drill down on what is driving customer growth so that we can make our marketing more effective and kick revenue into hyper growth.
This week we made the biggest decision to date. We decided to organize the sales team using a sales development model. There were a lot of factors that lead to this decision. My experience watching Kyle Porter build the Sales Loft sales development organization, our investor Wain Kellum encouraging us to go down that road, and my general belief in the model. But the big driver of the decision was that our monthly inbound leads have increased 40% since the beginning of the year and our account executives are straining to pay attention to the big accounts that we want them to close and qualify new leads. We pay account executives to close deals. They need to be able to focus their time on doing just that.
So CallRail is going down the road of sales specialization. Right now we are looking for an sales development rep to join the team to respond to the healthy flow of new leads every day, qualify them for our account executives, help us map out a winning SDR sales flow process, and potentially scale into a larger role as a leader of an SDR team. And while this great article “How I Ramped Sales Development in a Month” is focused on outbound one of the first things I am going to do is have the person we hire read it. Great roadmap for a lone SDR.
Once we get inbound humming a suspect we will be ready to specialize a bit more by starting an outbound team. Just like in industrialization, specialization in the sales function is the winning road to be on.
Scott Brinker’s Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic is one busy chart. According to Scott the 2015 version has nearly 1,900 companies across 43 different categories. Finding one’s place in this universe is a bit like looking for Waldo.
CallRail is in the orange Marketing Operations area in the upper right in the Call Analytics/Management category. Blowing it up makes it a bit easier to find.
And when you take a closer look at it call analytics really is not that crowded of a space. Basically six companies vying for a large and fast growing market. Not a bad place to be.
The Local Search Association Conference kicked off on Monday. Part of the program is the Ad to Action Awards which recognizes innovation and helps promote the products that best drive consumer actions (calls, clicks, store visits, etc.) for local businesses. CallRail is a finalist in the attribution and analytics category. This 40 second explainer video which was part of the CallRail submission is a good quick overview of the company’s value proposition.
If you are in local marketing not having call tracking is no longer acceptable. You have to know what makes your phone ring. CallRail does that.
CallRail offers phone call tracking and analytics for online and offline marketing campaigns. Their tagline says it all. Know what makes your phone ring. Something that is becoming increasingly important with the shift to mobile and online advertising. It’s a big wave.
I met Andy Powell, one of the co-founders (Kevin Mann is the other), back when the company was a few people at Atlanta Tech Village and I was working for Half Off Depot. Engineered serendipity. Liked what he was doing and followed them a bit.
Late last year CallRail raised a $2 million Series A from Wain Kellum, Reggie Bradford, Canal Partners and BLH Venture Partners. Shortly thereafter I happened to run into Reggie and his family at the Shake Shack. He couldn’t have been more positive about CallRail so I decided to reconnect with Andy to see if he could see any sales and marketing help.
It happens that he did. We seemed pretty aligned from a values perspective. We decided to work together.
My number one objective in joining the CallRail team is to build a repeatable and scalable customer acquisition process so that we can double CallRail’s business in 2015 and then again in 2016. The CallRail team has created great momentum with a focus on friendliness and simplicity. Momentum so great CallRail could be the fastest growing Series A startup in Atlanta.
I am very excited to be a part of the CallRail team. It’s going to be a fun ride.
On the advice of my friend Dale Kirkland I decided to get my girl some decent seats to the Fleetwood Mac show last week. Never a huge Mac fan but Dale was right, they put on a heck of a show. The highlight to me was a story that Stevie Nicks shared leading into “Gypsy.” It seems that before Fleetwood Mac made it big and Stevie became rich she used to go to a store in San Francisco called the Velvet Underground. According to Nicks the store had a marvelously painted floor. Hence the opening lines of the song.
So I’m back, to the velvet underground Back to the floor, that I love To a room with some lace and paper flowers Back to the gypsy that I was To the gypsy… that I was
She went on to talk about how the big lady rockers of the day, Janis Joplin, Grace Slick and the like shopped there, but at the time she could not afford to do so. One day while visiting the store she had a premonition. That she was going to become a star and would be able to afford the clothes that the Velvet Underground carried. Using herself as an example Nicks went on to encourage the audience to follow those feelings when they happen, to devote their lives to things they are passionate about. Which gave a whole new meaning to the next two lines.
And it all comes down to you Well, you know that it does
And while she did not talk about the next line seems to be a bit of carpe diem encouragement.
Well, lightning strikes, maybe once, maybe twice
Stevie is quite the little motivational speaker when she does not have her witchy freak persona on.
Lighter Capital recently published a guide on how to choose the best funding path for your startup. It is pretty informative and outlines three funding paths that are potentially open for a tech startup. I find the guide particularly useful as less then 1% of all companies attract venture funding and it seems that nearly 100% of entrepreneurs seek out venture capital. Most companies do not raise venture funding and most entrepreneurs should not seek it.
There is a nice graphic in the guide that sums up three funding paths.
I don’t agree that companies generally raise a series A at launch and initial traction or that a series B takes place at $5 million in revenue. They both seem to come later to me.
The important takeaway from this chart is the non VC-backed path and revenue based financing. It is the path that the vast majority of startups will take and one that entrepreneurs should spend more time thinking about than pursuing venture capital.
1 San Francisco 630
2 New York 319
3 Los Angeles 160
4 Boston 150
5 Washington DC 69
6 Seattle 67
7 Austin 58
8 Chicago 56
9 San Diego 48
10 Atlanta 39
Atlanta has cracked the top ten in terms of regional concentrations of early-stage capital in the United States. Granted there is still a huge concentration of capital going to the Valley. There always will be. But I think we are starting to see the results of David’s vision, being carried out by lots of different entities across the entire Atlanta metro area.
In a nutshell they believe Fab paid too much attention to competition and did not stay focused on their core market market. Around the 3:20 mark things get really interesting when Mark starts talking about capital constraints. Capital constraints force focus, force creativity, and force innovation. Capital constraints also force you to ask harder questions about the viability of the business. Mark concludes that Fab’s issue was overcapitalization.
In his and Jeff’s point of view raising a large amount of capital increases investor expectations which in turn forces artificial growth and raises public expectations. The end result being growing too fast before a strong foundation is in place. Then things crumble.
Something to consider when big checks with high valuations are becoming more common.
The past two days John Doerr has been on the stand. Doerr is without question one of the most successful venture capitalist over the past 20 years or so. He funded companies like Compaq, Netscape, Symantec, Amazon, Intuit, and Google.
During a jury witness Q&A period with Doerr Judge Harold Kahn posed a question of his own. How do you learn to be a venture capitalist? When pressed Doerr said the following.
My advice to people who want to be in the venture capital industry is to forget about it. To go be a successful entrepreneur. To have the experience of having to lay people off because you can’t make a payroll. That’s not something you can learn in a class. Once you have that experience, I think you should apprentice yourself to a successful venture capital firm. You should read the business plans. You should see how venture capital firms conduct themselves, how they give clear answers. And the hardest thing of all is to become a good judge of what makes a good entrepreneur or good CEO. So you develop a sort of pattern matching of what works. And you should seek mentorship.”
While Doerr seems to believe that venture capital is an apprenticeship trade and people read business plans the most fascinating aspect of his entire testimony is that as one of the most successful venture capitalists ever he is telling people that want to get into venture to go start a company, make it successful, and then get taken under someone’s wing. It may to be the traditional path but I am not sure that is the most common path these days. People that start and lead successful companies generally don’t like people telling them what to do. It’s part of the reason why there is an emergence of so many new venture funds.