Xpert Financial set out with big dreams. Founded back in 2009, the company wanted to become an alternative trading system and marketplace that would allow pre-IPO, private companies to find funding and sell shares. Basically, it was hoping to become a new SecondMarket, with the benefit from early, perhaps tacit approval from the SEC.
However, thanks in part to Facebook’s lackluster public offering, interest in the platform waned. So, Xpert Financial founder Thomas Foley has pushed on to a new enterprise that again focuses on the relationship between companies investors — with a different spin.
CapRally, which launched in public beta this week, is a freemium platform that allows companies, investors and investment bankers to more easily manage their capital raising opportunities, whether that be in companies, real estate or financing films. Another way to think of CapRally would be that it’s the lovechild of Salesforce and Mint.com — a marketplace and CRM tool for fundraising.
Once an entrepreneur or company signs up for CapRally, they can “create a deal,” specifying how much they’re looking to raise and the type of investors they want to work with, at which point CapRally matches them with a list of investors based on stage, sector, and size of the round. Companies can also use the platform to track ongoing deals, store term sheets and financial docs, along with managing and tracking investors within the deal.
Companies can (securely) share this information with their team or their advisors and check out shared data analytics and reporting to help them get a better handle on which investors are still considering terms, who’s balking at the deal and who is helping them succeed. Companies can do this in the platform’s “Deal Grid,” which acts as home base for tracking investment data and conversations, i.e. investors they’re speaking with and looking to close. On the flip side, investors can do the same, tracking their portfolio companies, alongside deal flow and investment opportunities.
The platform also includes a pop-up window that enables users to input qualifying information within the Deal Grid, including the event that took place (i.e. an email, call or meeting), notes, investor interest and decisions, along with capital and valuation ranges discussed. Plus, there’s good old-fashioned reporting and analytics, which do exactly what you might expect: They show investors and companies exactly where they stand across their deals and funds.
Why should you care? Well, as some readers might be familiar, each year some 85,000 deals are completed across angel, venture capital and private equity markets, which equates to about $2.2 trillion invested. That’s already a fairly sizable market and, as CapRally builds out its tools for investors and cleans up its UI, it will move into other markets, like Real Estate and Non-Profit, to name two. With these additions, the market becomes even larger.
That’s part of the reason why, even at this early stage of the game, Tim Draper of DFJ has already thrown money behind CapRally — and why Foley is optimistic about the seed round he and his team are currently raising.
As Draper and many other investors know all too well, the current options for deal and portfolio management are slim. Many of the big institutional VC firms, for example, have the capital to invest a few hundred thousand dollars in re-tooling a traditional CRM system for their own purposes. But angel investors, smaller firms and startups themselves generally don’t have enough capital to take on the internal development of these systems.
That’s why, by keeping the platform free and charging for additional, premium features depending on the size of the firm, number of users, amount of dollars under management — the traditional software/SaaS pricing model — CapRally believes it provides an attractive alternative.
Plus, most general purpose CRM systems are, as that label implies, focused on their core user, i.e. sales people, and the software’s data structure reflects that. Historically, these systems haven’t been particularly flexible, requiring users to change their process to match the system, rather than vice versa. While Salesforce has created instances for VCs and Investment Banks, they really just rename the fields and objects, putting lipstick on a sales system, Foley says.
By fighting overcomplicated systems, high price point and inflexibility, CapRally is addressing the right friction points and is off to a great start. However, as Foley points out, CRM systems are at their worst when they don’t accommodate their users’ workflow or the tools that they use regularly. Today, most investors and companies tend to manage the fundraising process in Google Docs, spreadsheets and by email. The smart general purpose CRM systems have begun building their tools into the most popular email accounts, i.e. Gmail, to build a not-so-disruptive workflow experience.
If it hopes to take the next steps, CapRally will need to build connections and integrations with Gmail, GDocs, etc. in order to encourage real adoption and usage and, hopefully, in turn produce quality data on which it can then work some analytics magic.
There’s a lot left to build, and it will be tough to add all the right pieces without producing feature saturation and overcomplicating, but for a process that remains largely offline or at least email-based, this is an appealing step in the right direction.
For more on CapRally, find it at home here.