A week ago we were at Jason Calacanis' startup conference LAUNCH listening to Shervin Pishevar and Brogan BamBrogan discuss their new HyperLoop (great names x2, BTW). A gentleman sat down next to us, noticed Hilde's t-shirt, and said, "Hi, I'm Olin Hyde-- are you with Foundersuite? We LOVE Foundersuite. I'm a fan and an active, paid user."
Needless to say, in an audience of 15,000 entrepreneurs, it was awesome to run into a passionate Foundersuite user in such a serendipitous manner. It *totally* made my day, and it's interactions like these that keep us going through the hard times of startup life.
Further, it was cool to have a F2F with someone I'd only interacted with via twitter and by email on some support issues, someone who I'd seen in Entrepreneur Magazine.
In short: IRL meetings with happy users absolutely rock.
Thus, it's with great pleasure I bring to you our Startup Of The Week #21, LeadCrunch.
In just one sentence, what is your company / what do you do?
LeadCrunch finds high-precision B2B leads using artificial intelligence.
Briefly, what makes you unique / different / special?
We are “Moneyball for sales.” It finds leads that are most like your best customers -- so you can accelerate sales and focus efforts on who will become your most profitable accounts.
LeadCrunch is different from competitors in three big ways:
Entirely self-service. LeadCrunch only requires a few examples of your best customers. There is no need to integrate with CRM systems. It is so simple that no training is needed. Anyone can use it.
Better AI. We beat Palantir and IBM Watson to win a Lockheed Martin contract. These are the two biggest names in artificial intelligence. We license our technology to Lockheed for use in next-generation naval weapons systems. The commercial version is similar -- only it finds customers rather than military targets.
Better data. We collect data from every imaginable source -- from social media to job postings to news articles. These data sources are available to anyone with an internet connection. So the real tricks are: knowing how to detect the “signal of a customer” and where to find the data that is best for each customer. LeadCrunch gets smarter every time you use it by listening to your feedback. The end result is a custom database that is tailored to the unique needs of every user.
What do you love the most about running a startup?
We love helping people achieve their dreams -- both customers and members of our team. We believe that the best use of AI to augment human capabilities. Our team is passionate about creating a solution that enables our customers to achieve “super human” growth. As a founder, I am most passionate about fostering a culture that enables everyone to be the best at what they do. We use Salesforce’s V2MOM method to align our culture with our organizational objectives. Our values revolve are inspired by research by Daniel Kahneman and Daniel Pink’s “The Surprising Truth of What Motivates Us.” [VIDEO]
The result is we have a fantastically engaged team that is capable of creating magic every with remarkable code and brilliant math.
What is the hardest or most surprising part of running a startup?
Members of our team have been involved in 20 startups that resulted in four exits. We know startups are hard work and filled with surprises. Probably the hardest part is finding talent. For example, only 16% of candidates pass our code test. We are fortunate to have strong academic ties -- so recruiting is often as simple as giving a guest lecture at a local university. What’s surprising is that we have so many customers with so little marketing. Even more surprising is how much our customers dislike incumbents -- like Dun & Bradstreet. This is good news for us.
Do you have any success stories (big or small) you would like to share?
We’re proud that when we first started developing our technology, we used it for medical research. It helped expedite researching the a possible link between type-1 diabetes and the herpes virus that was published in Diabetologia. This paper led to $11 million in funding for research that we hope will lead to ending a terrible disease.
How, if in any way, has Foundersuite helped your company?
I’ve never raised money for a startup before -- so Foundersuite helped me identify investors that are most likely to be excited about our market, solution and technology. We looked at alternatives, like Mattermark, but decided that Foundersuite is a far better, faster way to find the right people. And it is working. We closed our first seed round in less than a month! [Editor's note: woohoo!]
Finally, what is your best tip, hack, or piece of advice for entrepreneurs?
Most important: Grit wins. It is the most valuable asset of any person or team. You must be willing to irrationally invest vast amounts of time, effort and your own money to make a business successful. Failure only happens by giving up too early. Keep at it.
Team is critical. It is really important to surround yourself with people who have two traits: 1) they are experts in their respective areas, and 2) they know how to be part of a team. This means they listen and care about the people around them.
Finally, mentors are critical to success. It is far easier (and less expensive) to learn from other people’s mistakes. Find people who have done it before. Ignore advice from well-intentioned idiots. They are everywhere. You want to find mentors who have direct experience doing something very similar to what you are trying to do. If you are starting a B2B SaaS business then find that person. Don’t listen to the executive who has spent 30 years learning how to rise through the ranks of IBM selling hardware. Learn from the person who has built a business out of thin air. The two experiences are completely different.
Thanks to our friends at LeadCrunch! And a nice product plug :)