First-time pitches to investors are rightly famous for inducing jitters.
These pitches usually take place early in the startup journey, but that wasn’t the case for Tal Frankfurt, an Asheville founder presenting his latest startup at the 2016 Dreamforce conference in San Francisco earlier this month.
When Frankfurt pitched his second startup to investors at Dreampitch, he was literally entering uncharted waters complete with a panel of notable “sharks” and thousands of attendees watching both at the event and through a live stream.
Big-wig investors will.i.am, Shahrzad Rafati, Chris Sacca and Mark Cuban sat on stage, ready to hear pitches from Frankfurt and two other founders with startups that utilize the Salesforce network.
Frankfurt’s four-minute pitch began with a spotlight on the job and revenue growth the Salesforce ecosystem has achieved.
Yet, there is still a gap between professional services and Salesforce projects, Frankfurt noted. This is why, according to a Gartner statistic he cites, more than 50 percent of these projects fail.
CRM Market is working to change this by meeting specific customer expectations effectively. The platform, which Frankfurt colloquially refers to as the “Angie’s list for the Salesforce ecosystem,” is ingrained with a sophisticated algorithm that looks at project requirements and pairs registered consultants with customers who want to plan and build projects.
To ensure trust between the two, consultants are verified by CRM Market’s “Salesforce reputation score,” a value based on sales certifications, trailhead badges, reviews and testimonials.
The startup is growing fast since its launch earlier this year. Frankfurt says happy customers are returning to use the tool for their second project and some are even demanding some additional features like better project and time management tools, and integrating artificial intelligence into CRM Market’s match algorithm. The prize money from Dreampitch would go toward hiring new team members to make these improvements happen.
Frankfurt left the judges and audience with a friendly invite to join him in “Uberizing the Salesforce ecosystem.”
Judges ultimately awarded first place to another startup, but Frankfurt and the remaining competitor still received a cash prize from the event.
Frankfurt says the big takeaway from his first pitch experience was the “extremely educational feedback” he got from Sacca, a venture investor known for his early backing of Twitter, Uber and Instagram through his holding company Lowercase Capital.
In a short, post-pitch question/comment session administered by the judges, Sacca advised Frankfurt to spend less time citing statistics and buzzwords and go with a more personal narrative, pointing out the problem he is trying to tackle and making sure investors know how and why CRM Market can solve that problem better than competitors.
Frankfurt says he will remember the advice the next time he pitches, as he is considering speaking to other investors in the future. “The potential and the market is huge,” he adds. “And we need significant capital to build the brand.”
The startup is loosely based on the mission behind Frankfurt’s other brand, Cloud for Good. It was born out of a one-bedroom apartment in 2010 around the same time Frankfurt was selected to be one of the first members in Salesforce’s exclusive MVP Program.
The initial decision to start Cloud for Good was motivated by a question Frankfurt asked himself years ago—“Do I want a job or do I want a business?” He says that point of view allowed the startup to land $160,000 in sales its first year.
Since then, the startup’s momentum has quadrupled every year into what is now a $10 million company.
CRM Market, while similar to Cloud for Good, caters to a more narrow market. It’s less focused on professional services and more geared toward matching customers with consultants that can handle specific projects and tasks.
The platform launched to the public in March and so far, Frankfurt is happy with what it has accomplished. He says the biggest victory is landing over 600 registered consultants that represent a range of fields, particularly in manufacturing and technology.
And CRM Market has had an impact on startup founders like Jeremy Littlejohn of RISC Networks, an Asheville-based IT analytics company.
After posting his first project on the platform, he was connected to skilled and qualified developers eager to help plan and execute the project.
“The questions that we were asked around scoping the project helped us to crystalize what we needed,” Littlejohn says. “When you don’t know what’s possible, it’s hard to determine what you want. So that expertise is critical.”
Frankfurt’s plan is to sign on more Salesforce users like Littlejohn both throughout the country and all over the world.
Cloud for Good’s quick evolution into a powerful platform for Salesforce members is proof that the same triumph is possible for CRM Market.
And the startup’s rising revenue and increasing user base, along with its confident and connected founder, are clearly driving that potential.