New York Business Journal -- Venture capitalists continue to back the artificial intelligence (AI) industry with the hope that new advancements will bring forth useful tools for sales and marketing needs.
Leadspace is the latest startup in this space to benefit from this trend.
The software company has managed to grow despite the inherent challenges of the industry. Leadspace, which is used by various sales teams to find new leads and prospects, recently raised $21 million to bolster R&D while exploring options on where to expand next.
To learn more about the company, I caught up with Bewsher — a former CMO of SalesForce and Skype — to discuss the latest AI trends, what Leadspace's recent fundraising process was like and what the AI landscape looks like heading into 2018.
How did your time at SalesForce and Skype affect your views on tech and growing a business?
Both Skype and Salesforce were hugely successful companies built on a foundation of customer advocacy. For example, we added 20 million users a month at Skype because our users truly saw incredible value from the product and thus in turn brought their friends; and Cloud software became mainstream because the users of Salesforce recognized its transformative power.
As we build Leadspace, I am hugely focused on customer success and advocacy as the basis for our business and growth.
What are your thoughts on AI in 2017 and what will change for 2018?
AI is everywhere. While there is no doubt that it is going to change every corner of our life, both as private users and business people, I think we will start to move from the promise to the reality in 2018. In business-to-business sales and marketing in 2017, it was enough to say: “We have a ton of great data scientists who are working on new ways to better engage your customers.”
But in 2018 customers will look to see actual results — like the 90 percent increase in email connection rates we have seen from the deployment of AI to recommend the right way to engage a specific user. This will require a maniacal focus on specific use cases from the emerging area of AI.
In what ways is AI coming into its own as a sales and marketing tool?
Historically we have relied on sales people to figure out which are good target accounts to go after, who is the buying group in that account, what are the right kinds of content to engage them with, and where they are in their buying journey.
This sole reliance on people has truly limited what data can be consumed due to limited data sources and people's finite ability to consume information. It has also limited the ability to scale programs, which is one of the reasons we have seen limited capability to execute on account-based marketing programs and personalization at scale.
AI is changing all this, with the ability to consume and understand unprecedented amounts of information and turn this into action at scale and in real time. So sales and marketing teams now have the opportunity to drive much more relevant and effective engagement programs for their entire potential target audience.
How was the fund raising like for Leadspace this time around?
AI is a very hot topic at the moment, but as always the challenge is to know who are going to be the companies that will really lead the way in transforming their industry, whether it is self-driving cars or B2B sales and marketing.
Having a highly skilled data science team in Israel, and a caliber of customers such as Microsoft and Salesforce using our product definitely made it easier for us than others. But keeping the ability to cut through the noise in a very busy space always remains a challenge, especially in emerging technologies.
What kind of questions or concerns did investors have?
In our series C funding round, we moved from traditional VC investors to growth equity. At this point the investment is not just in the idea and the team, but also the underlying metrics and performance of the business.
Once you have “Product/Market fit”, the kinds of questions investors ask are whether you are ready to scale; what are the opportunities for further growth; and apart from additional investment can we be an investment partner that can help you address these opportunities?
Arrowroot Capital as a growth equity investor has a team to help us on these topics as we scale our business, and thus we were excited to have them join as our lead investor in this round.
Is Leadspace expanding to other cities?
We are building out our third office in Denver at the moment and definitely looking at additional locations, including on the East Coast and also in Europe. Perhaps back to my home town in London!