Qualified.com, which operates a conversational marketing platform, has raised a $12 million Series A round (the total funding is $17 million since inception). The lead on the deal is Norwest Venture Partners and the other investors include Salesforce Ventures and Redpoint Ventures.
The co-founders of Qualified — Kraig Swensrud and Sean Whiteley – are veteran Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. But their two prior ventures were actually bootstrapped.
The first was Kieden, which integrated Google’s ad system on the Salesforce CRM. “Since the market opportunity was uncertain, we chose to bootstrap the company, which was a great call because we had an opportunity to sell the company to Salesforce quite early,” said Swensrud. “It was Salesforce’s second acquisition ever, and a huge opportunity for me to become the Salesforce CMO as we blasted through $1B in revenue and 10,000 employees.”
Then Swensrud and Whiteley would go on to launch GetFeedback, which was a survey platform for Salesforce. “We believed that developing the technology and serving our customers was not extremely capital intensive, and the deal sizes were going to be modest,” said Swensrud. “Bootstrapping allowed us to preserve optionality, and we ended up selling the company to Campaign Monitor and subsequently to SurveyMonkey in 2019.”
Then why go the VC route with Qualified.com? Well, it’s essentially a different type of company and market. Note that the target accounts are larger and the solutions need to be more extensive. The market also only has a couple players. In other words, there is an opportunity for Qualified.com to become a leader – and this means capital will be critical.
The idea for the company came about when Swensrud was CMO at Salesforce. His team would tease him because he would walk the halls and say, “I’m blind.”
Even though Salesforce had a massive cloud infrastructure, the reality was that the company did not know about half of the users who were on the site at any given moment.
And yes, not much has changed since then in the B2B world. Sales pipelines remains slow and inefficient, with delayed handoffs and missed opportunities. The result is that a large amount of marketing spend is wasted.
As should be no surprise, the COVID-19 pandemic has made the situation even worse. Without trade shows, conferences and field marketing, it has gotten tougher to build pipelines. So more than ever before, there needs to be better conversations with potential buyers on digital channels.
“We’ve purpose-built our product for companies that use Salesforce, and the largest ones at that,” said Swensrud. “When you tie into the pipeline generating process, that’s the front line selling team, and those are the folks that use Salesforce. Our platform has to work in real time, taking into account the potentially thousands of Salesforce customizations and configurations unique to that company. With the background of our team, as you might expect, we have loads of expertise in this area. Also, the larger the company, the more they care about enterprise-level trust, security, compliance, and privacy. That’s why we’ve achieved ISV security certification, GDPR compliance, and SOC 2 compliance.”
A key advantage for Qualified.com is that its system has been an accelerant for its own growth. This is evident in the metric of “net new sales pipeline created.”
According to Swensrud: “Pipeline is the lifeblood of B2B selling — creating new sales pipeline for a customer has a direct impact on their top-line revenue. We measure the success of our company on that metric, because as everyone in SaaS knows, when you’re delivering real, tangible value for a company, their renewal rates skyrocket, and that’s how you build a valuable SaaS business long term.”
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