Startup Spotlight: ToutApp's Sales Platform
ToutApp's founder wants to do for sales software what Marketo and Eloqua did for marketing software.
San Francisco-based startup ToutApp is trying to bring a platform approach to sales software, in the same way companies like Marketo and Eloqua did for marketing software, by unifying useful sales tools and packaging them in a user-friendly way. "We want to become an operating system for sales people," said Tawheed Kader, the company's founder and CEO.
Kader said many companies experience "tools fatigue" because they use dozens of sales tools from different vendors. "Many tools are good at doing one thing like tracking leads or booking meetings," he said."They use some fancy algorithm to prioritize leads, but then they do not address how to actually reach out to those leads. We unify the entire sales process to help sales people do their jobs better."
ToutApp integrates with email systems like Outlook and Gmail and with CRM systems like Salesforce. It offers scheduling, tracking, communication and collaboration features that streamline sales processes and "help a sale person take the next, best step and be efficient while doing it," Kader said.
Founded in 2011, ToutApp's unified approach has helped it sign some 400 customers, including companies like Dropbox, Jive and Namely. It also attracted an acquisition offer from a marketing automation company last year.
"When you get an offer, you ask how much fun are we having in building out this vision and executing on it and how excited are we about the future?" Kader said. "The prospects seemed too great to give it up for an acquisition and risk not being able to continue on with our vision. Our goal is to win and be number one in the space. Whether that's an IPO or raising more money or partnering with another organization, we want to win and to deliver on our vision."
Kader already has one acquisition experience under his belt. In college he co-founded a company called HipCal that was sold to Plaxo in 2006. HipCal produced a "networked calendar" that allowed students to subscribe to class schedules and integrate them into their calendars. Post-acquisition Kader worked on a product integration with Comcast, which bought Plaxo in 2008.
Communication Is Key
He then helped develop a software system for hedge fund traders for the investment firm Bridgewater Associates. The job taught him a lot about "how you take indicators, whether it's economic data or earnings reports, and turn them into real signals with meaning," he said, insight that he used to create ToutApp's product. "It's about analyzing all the data available to us to surface the most important information."
Improving communication has been the underlying theme of his professional life, he said. "While it looks like there have been some crazy twists and turns in my career, helping people communicate has been the core connecting principle."
When he founded ToutApp in 2011, the company was focused on improving email, Kader said, an anti-intuitive idea in a market in which communications tools like Yammer and Chatter were pitched as email killers. Yet the company made money from the beginning, he said, charging $30 a month for its software. Sales people were by far its largest customer base, which led the company to begin focusing on sales-specific tools in 2012.
Kader's goal of ToutApp becoming "the number one sales platform" was made a bit easier by a $15 million Series B funding round in March led by Andreessen Horowitz. Kader said he'll use the money to hire sales people and engineers.
While sales is ToutApp's current focus, he does not rule out expanding the product's reach into other business roles.
"I'm a big believer in personalized software. When you log into Outlook or Gmail each day, it has no clue what your do for your job or what your workflow is or what you value and prioritize. We have software that understands your job and helps you do your job better. Once you understand how to do that for sales, I think there is a broader play to take that kind of personalized software and expand it out into multiple roles," Kader said, adding that public relations professionals, journalists and scientists would all be logical ToutApp users.
"Building software that understands what you do and care about is the big theme here," he said.
Fast Facts about ToutApp
Founders: Tawheed Kader
Product: Sales software platform that helps salespeople close more deals through advanced email tracking, templates and analytics
HQ: San Francisco
Customers: Almost 400 enterprise customers, including Atlassian, Dropbox, Optimizely, Jive, and Namely
Funding: $20 million, with investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Sigma West, Founder Collective, 500 Startups and Launch Fund. Angels include Esther Dyson, Eric Ries and Scott Banister
Ann All is the editor of Enterprise Apps Today and eSecurity Planet. She has covered business and technology for more than a decade, writing about everything from business intelligence to virtualization.