Our "startup for grown-ups" saw unprecedented success in the last year. Check out our favorite moments across the company.
We’ve had a lot of wins (and also made a ton of mistakes) since launching CB Insights, but 2017 was undoubtedly our biggest year — and we say that about every year, btw.
Our execution was stronger than ever in 2017. So while we usually focus 100% on the future, the end of 2017 calls for a review of our team’s many achievements.
JANUARY: New Year, New Goals
2016 saw us close more customers than ever and cement our reputation as the tech market’s top intelligence platform. We moved into 2017 with a ton of momentum, and with three main objectives for the year ahead:
- Scale revenue by over 80% YoY by closing high-quality deals, increasing ACV and increasing retention.
- Expand the team by at least 50%, without sacrificing our culture.
- Finance our growth by building long-term client relationships… not by raising (or spending) venture capital.
These big-picture goals — which we achieved in spades — all come down to one idea: Good growth. CB Insights closed $10M in venture funding two years ago, but we’ve built the industry’s best product (and best team) without touching the money we raised.
“Growing on revenue, not VC, means we control our own destiny. Our refusal to light money on fire kept us at the top of our game in 2016, and 2017 was even better,” says Jonathan Sherry, co-founder and COO. “Our balance sheet is stronger than it’s ever been, and our culture is too.”
Scaling the team that Sherry says “makes the magic happen” was key to the year’s success: In addition to hitting aggressive revenue goals and boosting overall retention, we outdid our early-year hiring expectations — ultimately growing the team by a whopping 70% year-over-year to 170. (Note: We do view team growth and employee counts as vanity metrics to a large extent, but we think our ability to grow the team to 170 without burning cash does provide a view into the strength of our business.)
FEBRUARY: Educating NYC Teachers on How to Think About Data
Through our partnership with CSNYC — a non-profit focused on improving computer science education — we hosted a February workshop designed to help NYC’s public-school teachers understand our data analysis and visualization techniques.
Our “train-the-trainer” workshop aimed to help CSNYC’s members prepare students for careers in data. Using real-world business examples, we explained the thought processes and tools that help us turn raw data sets into meaningful inferences and predictions.
The session was a unique opportunity to connect with our local community and impart knowledge with a lasting impact.
“It was awesome sharing our knowledge with the teachers, who were all really engaged throughout the session,” says Kerry Wu, the Senior Intelligence Analyst who led the presentation. “But the best part is knowing we helped students. If they’re exposed to data analysis now, they’ll have a leg up on the competition for jobs in the future.”
MARCH: Hitting 250K Subscribers For Tech’s Best Newsletter
Annual subscribers for the CB Insights newsletter.
Since the earliest days of CB Insights, we’ve used our daily email newsletter — sent from our CEO & co-founder Anand Sanwal — to spotlight emerging technologies and show new audiences what our company’s all about.
Our readership has scaled dramatically since launch, growing from just 1,400 subscribers in 2010 to 52,000 in 2014 to 222,000 by the end of 2016. (BTW, we celebrated reaching 200k by welcoming a unicorn to the office to serenade the team.)
We credit the success of our newsletter to a combination of the tech sector’s best data analysis and a conversational email style that resonates with readers.
Hitting 250,000 readers this past March was another huge, celebration-worthy milestone. But little did we know how much higher we’d climb by year’s end: At this writing, we’re landing in the inboxes of ~370,000 people daily.
Best of all, we’re talking to some of the world’s smartest tech investors, corporate strategists, and innovation enthusiasts across every industry you can think of (and still signing off with “I love you” every day). Sign up if you haven’t already. Trust us, you’ll like it.
APRIL: Expanding The ‘I-Unit’ To Make Our Audience Even Smarter
The newsletter is also our engine for delivering the excellent work of the CB Insights Intelligence Unit. The “I-Unit” is our core team of analysts, data scientists, editors, and writers who generate client reports, expert intelligence, and the briefs, articles, and insights in our industry-leading Research Portal.
From monitoring financing trends and patent activity to tearing down the strategies of the world’s top tech companies, the Intelligence Unit keeps CBI (and our clients) in front of where tech is headed next.
“We say the ‘future leaves clues’ and it’s true,” says Marcelo Ballvé, VP of Intelligence. “Our database is full of information, but the I-Unit uncovers how investments or innovations can be transformative down the line. We predict game-changing trends, and we see huge engagement – people, at the most senior levels, respond to the team’s work in a major way.”
By April 2017, the I-Unit’s work was seeing such strong response that we needed to add five new members to the squad. Since then, we’ve expanded it even more (now at 27 team members and counting.)
The research has never been better, but the demand just keeps growing. If you know any bright minds with a knack for spotting what’s next, we’re still hiring.
MAY: Team-Building At CBI’s First-Ever Offsite Retreat
The I-Unit was just one department to see its numbers grow significantly in 2017. But as we continue to expand, we’re committed to keeping a small-company culture alive.
A big part of that is making sure all employees feel like part of the same team, and that they understand how their efforts contribute to shared goals.
Our first-ever offsite retreat helped make that internal engagement possible. We took 120+ staffers upstate to Mohonk Mountain House — a truly incredible place, btw — for two days of team-building, hiking, tomahawk throwing, and learning.
We were thrilled to spend the trip welcoming new recruits, forging bonds across departments, and celebrating the banner-year achievements of 2016. Before we even left, we were looking forward to the next one.
JUNE: The ‘Future of Fintech’ becomes a big deal
Hosting workshops and team events is great, but putting on tech’s top conferences is even better. The second-annual Future of Fintech in June was one of our best yet: We welcomed 1000+ attendees (hailing from 33 U.S. states and 31 countries) to Jazz at Lincoln Center for a two-day dive into the disruption of financial services.
“2017 was a breakthrough year for the Future of Fintech, with hundreds more attendees than last year,” says Bob Bierman, our SVP of Events & Communities. “It was inspiring to see the event take its place as a global gathering of players in one of the world’s most dynamic sectors.”
“What’s great about the events that we produce is that they really are a team effort,” says Mary Usher, our Senior Events Manager. “All different groups come together leading up to (and during) each event, and they truly couldn’t happen without that. It’s hard to put into words how much I appreciate everyone’s excitement and eagerness to help.”
JULY: Engineering’s Hard Work Pays Off In Killer Product Upgrades
The upgrades to the CB Insights platform in July were our most impressive product changes ever. In response to feedback from our clients, we released a new-look Research Portal, debuted our client-only Expert Intelligence arm, enhanced our Home Feed functionality, and refreshed the platform’s overall design.
Our expert software engineers and product managers made the “Summer Release” a huge success (and they all credit our Graphic Designer Kristin Annon for her invaluable skills). The teamwork made our platform more seamless, predictive, and intuitive for users.
“I love how effortless the new Home Feed is. You just open the page, scroll, and learn about what’s been going on in all the spaces you’re interested in – all from a single feed,” says Alex Testu, Senior Product Manager. “I’m also really proud of our recommendation algorithm, which makes sure you know about relevant new companies before anyone else.”
The Home Feed changes also integrated the work of our Intelligence Unit directly into the product, helping clients take full advantage of the insights in our research briefs and reports.
“My favorite thing about the the July release is that now, anyone can find our awesome Research content right from Top Search,” says Julien Capron, Lead Software Engineer. “‘You’re looking into healthcare tech? Here is all our intel about it.'”
AUGUST: Making CBI A Better Company at Our 4th Hack Day
Along with the 4 Hs, a core tenet of our culture is “experiment to win.” That shines through on Hack Day, our semi-annual hackathon where employees get 24 hours to work on any CBI-related project they choose.
Hack Day helps us build CB Insights into a better company: Staff members team up to create innovative tools, develop new processes, or find ways to do their jobs more easily.
After the teams present their work, we vote for our favorite hack-day creations across three separate categories. This year’s winners delivered some of the coolest CBI “hacks” to date.
Most Impressive: Shisi Wang (Data Analyst) & Connie Liu (Senior Software Engineer) integrated public-company data into the sandbox version of our Collections tools. From there, they used algorithms to predict a stock performance using our data.
Most Creative: Anna Meyer (Graphic Designer) designed the awesome CBI Hack Day branding you see above, plus a killer animation!
Most Useful: Jake Weiner (Senior Software Engineer) & Justin Dalton (Lead Software Engineer) created a way to add data from our email CRM to our internal client-usage dashboard.
SEPTEMBER: Helping 500 Clients Guess Less & Win More
CB Insights’ tools and services help our clients prioritize profitability over punditry, and our talented sales team ensures we stay focused on profitability too.
Our sophisticated, multi-department sales engine spans Business Development (BD), Customer Success, Marketing, Sales Ops, and a Special Projects team. These units come together to generate leads, close deals, renew subscriptions, and maintain an extremely loyal customer base.
Our sales model drives loyalty inside our ranks, as well. We love promoting from within, but it’s our team’s “coaching culture” that activates Sales Development Reps (SDRs) to win their way up.
“The BD team is extremely strong from both a skills perspective and culture perspective. Everyone has stepped up to build this into the best coaching culture in our industry,” says Marc Jacobs, SVP of Sales and Customer Success. “I’d argue (with data to prove it) that no company sets their SDRs up to be more successful Account Executives than CB Insights.”
Marc adds that without the Customer Success (CS) team onboarding, engaging, and supporting our beloved customers, new leads would never want to buy. And buy they do: BD and CS hit a huge milestone in September when we added the 500th client to our ever-expanding roster.
It’s all a testament to the teamwork that keeps our sales engine humming, and to our best-in-class product that’s helping clients see around corners.
OCTOBER: Hosting Our First-Ever Talent Show & Councils
We see CB Insights as a place where team members can be themselves at work. We know that the hobbies our CBIers love are a huge part of who they are.
So this year, we created an opportunity for employees to bring their personal talents to the workplace. The variety of talents on display was staggering!
Our first-ever talent show featured flamenco dancing, poetry reading, accordion playing, origami folding, and a very cringe-inducing burger-eating contest, among many other memorable moments. (Props to Tyler Carnevale for smashing nine burgers. NINE.)
But the big winner of the night was Nephi Mata, who won the judges’ hearts for his CB Insights-themed renditions of beloved pop-music classics… played on his trusty ukulele.
“Joining CBI from a totally different, non-tech industry, it’s refreshing to have a working environment where I can be who I am,” says Nephi Mata, Sales Operations Manager and Ukulele Master. “CB Insights provides opportunities like this for someone like me to let loose and strum away, and still feel part of the crazy family!”
We also hosted our first-ever CBI Councils meeting in October — a members-only forum (exclusively for SVPs & above at large corporations) where we help executives learn from one another to solve their business challenges across five pillars: Strategy, advocacy, operations, measurement, and culture. The first Council was so successful that we’ve since hosted another out west at Dropbox’s HQ.
NOVEMBER: Launching of Market Map Maker
The CB Insights platform is designed to help people do their jobs faster, smarter, and more simply than they could otherwise. And a common request from clients was the ability to build market maps like the CBI Intelligence Unit. The new Market Map Maker, which debuted in November, does just that.
Corporate strategy teams and VC or PE firms spend days (and even weeks) creating the “market maps” used to visualize a market landscape — the sets of companies in a given space. Market landscaping to-date has been a highly manual process:
“Our clients were slaving for weeks to hunt down logos on Google, classify startups, and optimize images for Market Maps,” says Lucy Huang, Senior Product Manager. “With the Market Map Maker, they can create and share maps in minutes! It really shows our laser focus on solving clients’ workflow pains.”
The new Market Map Maker tool features template canvases, pre-loaded logos, and drag-and-drop functionality designed to minimize the time it takes to create or update market visualizations. The end product is an easily-exported PNG that users can drop into presentations or circulate with teams, or an interactive market map they can show in meetings.
DECEMBER: Being Recognized As One Of Tech’s Top Employers
We crushed it at the finish line of 2017 with a December to remember. In addition to closing tons of new deals, renewing our year-end subscribers, hosting a killer holiday party, and putting on the first-ever A-Ha! conference, we were proud to be named #9 on Glassdoor’s list of Best Places to Work in 2018 (among all Small and Medium Companies in the USA).
The Glassdoor ranking is a huge honor because it ranked us against similar-size organizations across the entire U.S. It was such a big deal, we brought in a mariachi band to celebrate… because who doesn’t get happy when they hear a mariachi band.
“Considering we were also named #55 on Crain’s 2017 list of the Best Places To Work In New York City, the Glassdoor recognition proves that the culture, product, and company we’re building aren’t just making waves in our home city,” says Amanda Gerhardt-King, our People Ops Manager. “They’re going nationwide!”
Our great reviews on Glassdoor were just one aspect of our ranking, along with employee surveys and details on compensation, benefits, etc. FYI, we offer education stipends, 401(k) matching, lunch stipends, and more.
NOW: It’s All About Looking Forward
At the close of 2017, we’re far from slowing down. Following the recent launch of our Reports tool — which enables clients to generate highly visual reports at the click of a button — we can’t wait to debut the next releases in our product roadmap. Coming soon: Earnings transcripts and analytics, market sizings, and more.
Integrating public-market information into our platform is just one way we’re improving the value our product delivers to users. As we keep building the best market intelligence product on the market, we’re winning the loyalty of customers who don’t just use our product. They love it, too.
“Working at CB Insights gets better every year, because we’re doing B2B in a brand new way,” says co-founder and CEO Anand Sanwal.
“Not many enterprise data companies are loved by their customers. In fact, I can’t think of any. We have a lot of work left to do, but I am incredibly proud and happy of what the team has accomplished this year. I’m also very proud of how we’re building the business — one that is growing very fast but which hasn’t sacrificed on the quality of the people, the product, the culture.”
It never gets old, and it’s an honor to be leading the best team in tech as we take on 2018.”