The co-founders of Fullcast.io knew they wanted to create something together, but they had to wait until the timing was right.
Dharmesh Singh and Bala Balabaskaran met more than a decade ago while Microsoft employees. They both left for other jobs, then were colleagues again starting a few years ago at Salesforce, the software juggernaut that helps big and small companies organize their sales efforts. It was there that they saw an opportunity for a startup of their own. But Singh was working in San Francisco while Balabaskaran was in Seattle. That meant waiting another two years until both were back in Seattle.
Finally in November 2015, Singh and Balabaskaran launched Fullcast.io, a company that is building software to do all of the back-end work done by sales reps that’s not directly related to sales. That includes setting sales quotas, defining and assigning sales territories, the process for bringing on new customers, tracking company contacts, compiling data about sales and more. Their goal, in brief, is to do for sales operations what Turbo Tax did for calculating taxes.
It’s automating “all of that non-sexy, back-end stuff that keeps a sales team running,” Singh said.
The Bellevue-based company has eight employees. They signed their first paying customer in January 2017 and are on track to lineup $500,000 in booked revenue for the quarter that spanned February-April. Singh is Fullcast.io’s CEO and Balabaskaran is the chief technology officer.
While this is Singh’s first real startup, he’s been a mentor for the startup accelerator 9Mile Labs. But he admits that’s not the same launching your own enterprise.
“It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and coach people,” he said. “It’s very different when you have to do it yourself.”
The two main competitors for Fullcast.io are both in California: Anaplan and OpsPanda. Singh said his business is different in that Anaplan targets larger companies, offers Excel-like services on the web and requires companies to still build their own sales models. OpsPanda is focused on sales planning software, Singh said, but his company additionally offers support for sales operations.
While the work is hard, neither of the co-founders misses the safety and predictability of working for larger corporations.
“Both me and my partner,” Singh said, “I don’t think either of us have ever regretted leaving that.”
We caught up with Singh for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “We automate sales operations and planning tasks required to run a metrics-driven sales team.”
Inspiration hit us when: “When our co-founders were running sales operations at Salesforce and saw how repetitive and painful some of the tasks were in the planning cycle. They automated the tasks for Salesforce and then thought of turning it into a service for the world.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “Angel and bootstrap. We have been focused on growing through customer revenue. Raising money takes time and we optimized to manage our time serving customers. We will, however, be raising money soon since there is growth that we want to tap into.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Complexity is our moat. Sales operations is complex. Depending on the size of the company, industry and the person within a given organization everyone has a differing viewpoint on what sales operations should do and are responsible for. Most people think of the sales ops teams doing a bunch of low-value adds, repetitive tasks. We think that sales operations is a strategic function. Sales is almost always the most expensive part of an organization, yet scaling them is being done through expensive folks working on low-level tasks that can be automated.
Our secret sauce has been reducing this complexity to a level that automation can aid the valuable sales operations resources inside an organization. We automate the tasks related to the day-to-day motion of sales. We’re measuring the impact of those tasks and automating the annual or quarterly sales planning exercises where teams across multiple departments are looking to build a coverage model to match their sales go-to-market strategy.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Listening to our customers and building an engineering roadmap based on their feedback. Our space is complex, and we are a startup with finite resources. So we decided to listen to our customers to prioritize our roadmap. Listening to them has also been valuable for us to build our pricing plans. We don’t consider it to be a smart move, however, since this is something so obvious that everyone should do it. The other approach that seems to have paid off for us has been investing in customer success early in our life cycle. Investment in customer success helps our growth by getting a handle on churn, which can break companies at our stage.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “We outsourced our sales development tasks too early in our life cycle. Thankfully, we realized it fast and cut short that experiment.”
Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Bezos. We are frugal and we are customer obsessed.”
Our favorite team-building activity is: “Volunteering at food banks in and around Seattle.”
The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “Domain expertise and passion. Our team is small. We need ‘doers’ with domain knowledge of sales operations. That’s a pre-requisite since we don’t have the time to train folks on the domain itself. Beyond that, we look for passion. We need Type A personalities who will take ownership. We are building a culture of ownership and we have individuals on our team who are accountable for what they own, but are also looking around corners to see issues and fix them. Like other startups, we have more to do than time to do it, so we need folks who are willing to take ownership and fix things that limit customer success or our operational scaling. At the end of the day, if you don’t have a passion for this space you can get easily burned out.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “We are a startup ourselves and still on a journey to learn. We can say to other entrepreneurs to be honest with themselves at all times and be clear of why they became an entrepreneur. You will meet a lot of people with a lot of advice, you will have ups and downs. But irrespective of the advice and the swings, stay true to why you started and trust your gut. If it feels right, it’s right. You know your business better than anybody, you know your circumstances better than anybody, so trust yourself. If you can’t trust yourself, no one else will. This journey is very hard, so do yourself a favor and take self-doubt out of the equation. You have other headwinds already, so why add more.”