Many companies have turned to self-serve sales, which may encourage people to try freemium or open-source versions of a product. Some percentage of these users may turn into paying customers, and in the best case will act as leaders to bring a product into their organization.
Calixa, an early-stage startup, believes that this type of sale, known as a bottom-up sales motion, requires a new kind of tool to manage the process, and today it announced a $4.25 million seed round.
Kleiner Perkins led the round with help from Operator Collective, Liquid 2 Ventures and a bunch of individual investors. The round closed in February 2020, but is only being announced today.
Calixa co-founder and CEO Thomas Schiavone says the roots of the company began when he was working at Twilio in 2010 and saw how powerful it was for developers to purchase tooling themselves. An idea began to form that CRM tools like Salesforce weren’t built to deal with this kind of sales motion.
“What I realized [at Twilio] was that developers were just signing up more and more every day and that if you really wanted to stay on top of what was going on and try to effectively grow and retain those accounts, you weren’t looking in Salesforce,” Schiavone told me.
He said that he decided to start Calixa in 2019 to solve this problem once and for all. While this kind of user-driven, bottom-up sale has been in place at software companies for years, he still saw a dearth of tools for dealing with its unique qualities in one place.
“We saw a great opportunity to build something that democratizes [ … ] running a bottom-up company by not only giving all customer-facing teams the ability to see what’s going on with customers, but also take action,” he said.
This ability to manage the process and maybe extend a trial, issue a credit or even reset a password while letting these teams see and understand the underlying customer data was what set it apart from traditional CRMs.
“The central thesis here is that Salesforce and other CRMs don’t have that data. They’re too divorced or too much in this rigid world of the typical sales model, and you need something different to be an effective company,” he said.
To use the product, you simply sign up and then link the various accounts the product needs to compile the data it needs. It uses various API connectors to make this happen and all it requires is that you enter your username and password to access the accounts and begins pulling together the data.
Bucky Moore, a partner at lead investor Kleiner Perkins says that the pandemic has accelerated the move to a bottom-up approach as in-person sales models have been impossible. “Core to the success of this strategy is a data-driven understanding of each customer and user. By democratizing this capability to companies of all sizes, Calixa’s opportunity is to become the de facto customer operations platform for the modern software business,” Moore said.
Schiavone reports the company has seven employees spread across the U.S., Canada and Columbia. He says that as he hires, he will have offices in cities close to his clusters of employees, but he sees a hybrid approach where employees can decide just how much they want to be in the office.
The company spent last year building the product and working with 21 beta customers. The product will be generally available starting today.