Sometimes you have to listen to your gut. That's a sentiment you don't often hear in today's data-driven environment. But that doesn't mean instinct shouldn't play a role in product strategy, said Andy Byrne, founder and CEO of Clari, a Mountain View, Calif., startup that recently snagged $20 million in Series B funding for its sales productivity software.
In a tech startup scene dominated by the under-30 set, Byrne said his years of experience help him "strike the right balance between data and intuition to drive product priorities." An admirer of Apple's Steve Jobs, Byrne said, "I do not think he would say everything needs to be data driven."
Byrne, who has a degree in economics and an MBA, held leadership roles at Clearwell Systems, a provider of e-discovery software that was acquired by Symantec in 2005, and Timestock, a provider of enterprise application management solutions that was purchased by Wily Technology, which was then acquired by CA Technologies. He founded Clari in 2012.
In addition to knowing when to trust his gut instincts, Byrne said his maturity has helped him attract funding, assemble a "stellar" team and "know when to put the pedal to the metal on investing in sales teams."
Clari's solution is "first and foremost" for time-starved sales representatives, Byrne said. During the design phase, the company studied "a day in the life" of sales reps to determine the kinds of insights the software could push to the reps to make selling easier and the type of data that could be automatically captured to eliminate manual entry.
The result is "people using a product they love," thanks to an attractive UI and an emphasis on mobility. While this is a simple idea, Byrne said, many enterprise apps fall far short of delivering a user-friendly experience. "Most enterprise software is boring," he said.
The software also leverages predictive analytics and data science capabilities to sift through enterprise systems such as Salesforce, social channels such as LinkedIn, email and other disparate data sources and "surface information about relationships and deals that helps sales reps focus on the right things to close deals faster," Byrne said.
Expanding the Sales Sphere
Clari expanded its focus to include "data-deprived managers," Byrne said, by creating an algorithm to look at deals in the pipeline and let managers know which ones require their attention based on similar deals that have been won or lost in the past.
The idea is to increase managers' efficiency and level of collaboration with their sales reps so they are filling out fewer Excel spreadsheets and not spending their Sunday nights on calls with reps to discuss the upcoming week's sales calls. Similarly, the software gives sales executives insights that help them strengthen the predictability of their forecasts.
"This is an area where we are now spending lots of time building out the platform," Byrne said.
Clari's approach is winning fans at companies like Cisco, VMware, Juniper Networks and Box. The company's software is being tested by about 50 companies, ranging from mid-caps with sales teams of 100-250 people to enterprises with thousands of sales reps. A "significant number" of them are paying customers, Byrne said.
The company is entering a new growth phase, Byrne said, having outgrown its current office space in less than a year. One of his biggest challenges now, he added, is staffing up. "We are not a traditional enterprise software organization. We are more consumer-oriented in the way we build products," he explained. "We are looking for people comfortable working up and down the stack."
Quick Facts about Clari
Founder: Andy Byrne
HQ: Mountain View, Calif.
Funding: $26 million, with investors including Sequoia Capital, Bain Venture Capital Ventures, Northgate Capital
Product: Sales productivity software
Customers: About 50, including Cisco, Juniper Networks, VMware