Team blog post by Anand Sanwal (CEO/Co-founder/Customer Service)
We’ve been big proponents of virtual selling. We’ve done millions in sales without visiting or traveling to clients. Just give us our join.me web conference and the CB Insights product, and we let the magic happen. It even led to us proclaiming it was the ‘end of steak dinners‘ in a recent newsletter. The idea was that we could virtually sell and in-person contact was less important.
So recently, when I went to San Francisco to speak at Dave McClure’s PreMoney conference, it was a great opportunity to test this theory with a ton of in-person conversations. And I will say that the results, while still early, suggest that I might have been a bit brash in my call for the end to in-person conversations. Beyond sales, there was a lot of market intelligence that I gathered. Below is a copy of the update to the team I sent upon my return. It covers what I learned as a result of all the in-person meetings.
This is the language used in the update so at times, it maybe a a bit “salty”.
Note that names of customers (current and prospective) have been removed.
The San Fran trip was outstanding. Given the # of current and prospective customers we have out there, we def need to be going out west more frequently. The last time was nearly 2 years ago so this was long overdue.
I wanted to share some highlights/learnings from the trip with you and also give you a sense for what I did while out there. We’re typically heads down in the office and this was definitely a departure from that.
A really good one.
The first part of this update are my overall takeaways from the trip followed by a more detailed view of what I actually did day-to-day.
- Awareness of CBI is good, but… – People know us via or newsletter or research blog. They love both, BUT they dont’ always know what we sell. We need to a better job of communicating this.
- Data is hot but folks don’t always know why – Data, in general, is getting more love, and customers and prospective customers see potential in using it, but we have to evangelize and educate about it. Our understanding of what can be done with the data is way ahead of what most customers think of at present. Of course, there are a handful of customers who we can learn a lot from as well as they’re doing game-changing things, but they’re in the minority. Educating customers on how data can improve their processes and bottom line is important.
- We have a lot of happy customers who spread the word – We need to figure out a way to make this happen more often. We’ve picked up two potential API partners because our clients asked these companies to integrate our data into their platform. There is no better marketing than that.
- Unbundling of startup & investor data – Oddly, there seems to be a bit of a perception that data for private markets is already being unbundled. What I mean by that is that there is someone for financing and M&A data and someone else for industry trends and someone else for company health. This speaks to point #1. We should be dominating the space end-to-end given what we already do and our isht is leagues ahead of others, but we’re not conveying it as we should be.
- Valley VCs are mostly very nice – I met with 30 VCs on this trip even if for a casual 30 second hello or hallway conversation at PreMoney. I can say I only met 1 guy who was a total and utter douche from the get go. Everyone else was gracious, nice and constructive (and many were helpful). A 3% douche rate is pretty good for any industry.
- San Fran and the Valley are a crazy altered reality – Based on my very cursory, superficial experience, work and social life collide here. It’s not a good or bad thing but just is. Of course, my view is probably extra skewed cuz of the short duration of my trip and the nature of our biz.
- Dow Jones is the ideal competitor – Everybody hates the Dow Jones product suite. EVERYBODY.
- Pricing is a dark art – Our VC customers thought our pricing was fair and those that have been with us for a bit liked how they got grandfathered in. Some micro VCs thought we were too pricey but we’re, of course, not a product for everyone. And interestingly, some corporate clients thought we were too cheap. I love that feedback 🙂
- We should do more of this – And it need not be only in the Valley. It can be in any hub where we have a critical mass of existing or prospective clients. They work. We should, of course, ensure the ROI of these trips as we’ve been disciplined about customer acquisition costs and should not deviate from that.
- Office layout inspiration – I worked out of the offices of our friends at VC firm, Homebrew. Their office setup is pretty cool so I’ve got some ideas for our new digs.
Wed, June 25th
I arrived Wed evening and took my first ever Uber (actually UberX) which was great (#disruption) from SFO to a dinner we hosted with 15 corporate M&A, VC and innovation/strategy folks. It was people from existing clients including ___________ as well as folks who we’ve interacted with recently including _____________ who are prospective clients.
We kicked things off with some pre-dinner cocktails at a cool little spot in their wine cellar (Thanks to Satya at Homebrew who is like a walking Zagats for the recommendation). When we sat down to dinner, I did a brief hello and gave the one ground rule which is everything at the dinner is off-the-record.
Then we went around the table and everyone introduced themselves with name, who they work for/what they do, a company or space they’re particularly interested in and a book, tv show or movie that they recently saw which they’d recommend. Frozen came up a lot, surprisingly.
That sort of concluded the structured part of the night and from there, people had conversations with others on topics that were quite diverse.
I think many folks made great connections to others in the ecosystem so mission accomplished. I didn’t get back to my friend’s place where I was crashing until 11’ish and the event started at 615 so that was a great sign.
Thursday, June 26th
As mentioned, I worked out of the Homebrew offices on Thursday which was great. I really like their office setup. It’s not like a typical VC office. Felt very startup’y.
Most of the early part of the day was spent meeting with folks. So I set up shop in a coffee house near the Homebrew offices and the day began. I saw Joel from Buffer at the coffee shop which I though Bobby might appreciate given his man crush on the guy.
Specifically, I met:
- Name withheld – She has been our advocate at ________ for a long time and I’d never met her. She’s awesome and I just needed to meet her to say thanks for championing us in the early days. Like an idiot, I forgot to give her a t-shirt so need to send her one this week. She told me a funny story of how she got rid of Dow Jones but they keep billing her. Shady fools.
- Sandi Macpherson – Sandi is the CEO of Quibb – an online community which I’m a big fan of. It was a great opportunity to put a face with the name/emails and hear about some of the impressive ways she has built up her community. Her focus on keeping her product simple was also very refreshing. As we think about comments and other community’ish features, there is a lot to learn and Sandi was great to connect with.
- Journalists – I met with various journalists who’ve used our data before to understand topics they’re working on and their process as they’re customers of our data. I also told them about some tools we’ll have for media folks to get their reaction and the reaction was very positive and I got lots of feedback on things they’d find useful.
One of the best parts of the day at the coffee shop beyond the meetings was hearing an entrepreneur pitch at the table next door and realizing the VC he was pitching is a paying customer (________). When the partner from the firm was leaving, I intro’d myself and he was super gracious and said “we love your product”. Only in San Francisco.
After these meetings, I had some demos and calls for the remainder of the day which I did out of the Homebrew offices.
In the evening, there was a 500 Startups event for conference speakers and VIPs. Fancy, I know. I attended this and it was great. If being totally honest, this type of networking setting is my least favorite. I much prefer the smaller, intimate dinner type setting of Wed, but this still turned out really well for a couple of reasons:
- Existing customers who were there were introducing us to other customers. This made for lots of really good conversations and much easier.
- Twitter – There were people who I recognized from their pics on Twitter who’d tweeted our stuff out or commented and so I could go upto them with a bit more context. Pretty cool.
- People knew CBI – I don’t go into any setting assuming folks know us, but when people saw the name tag, the reaction from many was “I love your newsletter” or “we’re customers and big fans of the product”
I also met a guy who has built a board game called Robot Turtle which sounds awesome for kids. Unrelated to our biz wanted to share.
That concluded the night.
Friday, June 27th
This was the day of the 500 Startups PreMoney conference. I won’t go into all the speakers as you can catch them on the recordings on their site.
A few folks jumped out at me based on what I heard or from meeting them. I’ll detail those separately.
I gave out our “Eat. Sleep. Data.” t-shirts at this event. They were a hit.
I was speaking at 1.20 PST and Dave and the 500 Startups team totally delivered as the room was packed. I don’t get nervous speaking in front of big groups usually but I actually got that way a bit with this one.
But I think things went well. There were lots of good questions and people seemed to really like the data-driven view into funds, angels, etc.
We got lots of requests for the deck via twitter and to my email so that was also a good sign
Other than that, it was a great event. Lots of the best parts were in the hallways between sessions.
The conference wrapped up and I got a redeye flight back to NYC. My body doesn’t recover from these things the way it used to.
Hope that was useful/interesting. Let me know if any questions.