By the time I hit the 'go' button on this post, Sam Lawrence, co-founder and CEO Crushpath will be pitching at the London edition of LeWeb. Assuming the live feed is still working then you can find it here.
I've known Sam since his earliest days as CMO at Jive, long before anyone really knew the company. He's a marketer I admire for crafting great messages in which he believes and which are effective. Since then his investments have taken a few odd turns but with Crushpath I sense his team are onto something really useful.
Crushpath takes the view that while the CRM world and his dog layer and/or embed social aspects into their offerings, the core database led functions have not really changed such that sales people's job is any better than it was 10-15 years ago.
Crushpath believes that however good CRM may be at maintaining database records of deals, administering teams, pipeline funnels and the like they really don't offer anything fundamentally new for the hard pressed sales person attempting to close deals.
There have been several attempts at solving this problem. One of the better known examples is Nimble which just announced that:
More than 1,400 customers purchased Nimble Business Edition since launching earlier this year
Monthly revenue has doubled each month since launching the paid version
Overseas growth is matching U.S. demand, representing more than 40% ofNimble's revenue
SAP will argue that SAP Sales OnDemand fulfills a similar need. In its late stage beta last year, the company reported strong take up inside its own sales teams.
TIBCO will argue that tibbr fullfils a similar role and already plays well in the large enterprise space.
I like all three solutions but for different reasons.
Crushpath is clearly thinking the same will happen in its niche. So what makes this solution different, why should you care and why am I bothering with a startup? Last question first.
I like what Crushpath is bringing to the table. More than that, I like they are taking an extraordinary risk in refusing to be boxed into one of the xCRM pigeon holes so loved by analysts. When the team asked me how I would position it, my immediate reaction was sales engagement and enablement. I guess that could go into a three letter acronym (SEE...hmm like that idea)
Now to answer the second question - for all that social media is said to deliver to the consumer experience, I have yet to see solid evidence that it works the same way in the business-to-business or enterprise market. Outside the self interested peanut gallery, who really cares about Twitter inside enterprise? Only this morning, Ray Wang, CEO Constellation Research said: "MyPOV: all the consumer tech startups have to pivot to enterprise in the next 12 to 18 months if they plan to exit well. #leweb"
That may not be quite true but it is something I see only too clearly for many socially oriented tech startups.
That is not to say that sales and business people cannot benefit from the numerous streams of information in and around companies to assist in figuring out where people are in the sales cycle and how best to construct their offers. This is particularly true in team situations where the last thing you really want is to be stuck trying to assemble a series of email threads involving people, many of whom may be irrelevant to the deal but whom you dare not miss out. Crushpath allows teams to be built organically, in the moment, for individual deals. When you think about it, that is part of the future of work where expertise is brought in and out of projects or deals as the use case demands.
So to the first question which is really where the rubber hits the road. Crushpath is providing a chronological view of all events related to the sales opportunity all the way from qualified lead - their entry point - to close. That includes email, calendaring, documents shared (via Box.com and Evernote), marketing data (via Marketo) and a growing list of third party sources. It is taking feeds from PubSub.
Crushpath provides sales people with a means to easily construct a private customer 'view' that the customer sees and which includes whatever information and links are relevant to the deal. This may sound intrusive but a sI thought about the idea, it struck me that as a buyer, I might well like the fact that a salesperson has done enough research for them to demonstrate an understanding of my business and my needs.
Finally, there is a coaching activity. This allows team managers and other permitted to 'coach' an opportunity to augment team knowledge related to the deal.
Crushpath integrates with Salesforce.com and the third parties mentioned above, out of the box although I suspect there will be some customisations required in most engagements.
Does that sound good enough? I think so, especially when you know it is mobile enabled with a native iOS app coming 'soon.' As a start, it certainly has enough baseline features to make it attractive as a niche solution but one that can be readily fleshed out. However, as the team knows only too well, it will have to rapidly build many information source integrations in order to provide the full richness of potential data that's available. Bloomberg and other financial news feeds is an obvious example.
In the short term, Crushpath is aiming for the mid-market. That helps it gain traction relatively quickly and avoids the risk of explosive growth coming out of high end enterprise demand. However, I suspect that the company will find it hard to resist the path (sic) that Salesforce.com has taken in recent years by targeting large enterprise.
My one lingering question was whether Crushpath is built to flip. The team are adamant that they want to build something long lasting. If they can get over the natural antipathy of analysts wanting to pigeonhole and are prepared to view this approach as novel as an important adjunct to the overall xCRM category then they have a good shot at making this a powerful service.