Salespeople are always looking for an edge when it comes to contacting potential customers. Knowing someone who knows someone at your target customer and can make an introduction means that it’s much more likely the contact will pay attention.
A former Salesforce executive wants to make it easier to find those connections, and he’s building Connect the Dots, a startup that aims to build a personalized, professional relationship graph.
The way it works is you sign up and it scans any email accounts you have, looking for connections at different companies. It collects and correlates this data. When you look at a particular company, you can see who you know who knows someone there, with the strength of your connection measured by three colored dots. If they’re all green, it’s a solid connection and you can request an email introduction.
Drew Sechrist, who was employee 36 at Salesforce in 1999, was on Marc Benioff’s early sales team, pushing the company when nobody knew who they were or what hosted software was, for that matter. He recognized early on that having connections helped drive sales. He called Benioff the “number one alpha networker.” He could go to him at any time in those early days and get an intro, helping to grease the skids for his pitch, giving him a much better shot at a sale than going in cold.
He believes that email is the key connector. “We’ve got these emails that have been piling up forever representing relationships. And we just didn’t have any way to pull [them together] and get value out of them. But technology was getting to the point with machine learning and some other advanced techniques [that] we could extract value from that data and then build a graph of relationships to see who actually knows who,” Sechrist explained.
He acknowledged that LinkedIn was designed to do the same thing, but that it is too noisy and therefore unreliable.
“Asking for introductions on LinkedIn, salespeople and people who are recruiting or doing anything asking for a relationship introductions, they just get fatigued by asking people who don’t really know the person that they’re asking for the introduction,” he said.
Sechrist wanted to build a better way to do that. Today, Connect the Dots has a social graph in beta by request, or, if you know someone using it, you can also get on, using the Clubhouse approach to user-base building.
The company used a $5 million seed round to build the product and recently closed a $15 million round led by Norwest Venture Partners, with participation from existing investors Cloud Apps Capital Partners and Velvet Sea Ventures. Connect the Dots has now raised a total of $20 million.
The company currently has 55 employees with a home base in San Francisco, though employees are spread out, with a big engineering team in Serbia. Sechrist is living in Miami at the moment. He plans to double the team in the next year with the new capital.
Coming from Salesforce, he recently had his team write their V2MOM, a document idea from his former company that, according to Salesforce, is “a management process and acronym standing for vision, values, methods, obstacles and measures.”
“We actually just finished our V2MOM. We flew people from Europe and the U.S. to Mexico last week. … We spent a week [defining] our core values, and one of those is being inclusive. So we want to build a company and a product that is inclusive for everybody,” he said.
He admits that it’s challenging to be racially diverse, especially with a large part of the workforce in Serbia, but it is something he’s working on as the company doubles its head count in the coming year. He plans to keep the company mostly remote, and that should help because he can recruit people from anywhere.
Much like Crossbeam, a networking company for partnerships, Sechrist hopes that as the networks grow into networks of networks, it will have a flywheel effect, making the product more valuable as more people use it. He hopes to have the product generally available sometime in the first half of next year.