The best salespeople like to pride themselves on having both a sixth sense when it comes to closing a deal, and a healthy amount of persuasive magic to get a sale over the line. Now, a startup that says it can help any salesperson be like those top people, and help those top people be even better, has raised a large round of funding to to take its own company to the next level.
People.ai, which has built a platform to ingest all the data that salespeople generate in the course of their work, and then use it to provide guidance to them to help source and close more deals, is today announcing that it has raised another $60 million in funding, which it will use to continue growing the business and building partnerships with new channels such as system integrators to target bigger enterprises.
Alongside this, it is also launching a new product that it calls “The Wire” — a feed of insights that salespeople can access to find leads, pick up tips on how to approach them and ultimately to sell to them.
“Some people say it’s what LinkedIn should have been,” Oleg Rogynskyy, People.ai’s founder and CEO, said in an interview. It helps, he said with a little laugh, that People.ai had managed to recruit David Flink to lead up project management at the startup. Flink joined earlier this year, having worked for nearly three years at LinkedIn on areas like search and discovery.
The startup is not disclosing its valuation but sources tell us it is around $500 million — specifically in the “mid-nine-figures”. The big number is partly the result of the startup’s strong growth so far: it has already ingested 350 million sales activities, 40 million contacts, a sales pipeline of $300 billion and $100 billion in closed and won deals. Its revenues have been growing 5X year-over-year with customers squarely so far in the tech camp that surrounds the San Francisco-based startup. They include Red Hat, Lyft, Zoom, New Relic and Splunk.
This latest round is being led by Iconiq, the VC that includes the family office of Marc and Pricilla Zuckerberg, among others, with participation from previous investors Andreessen Horowitz (which led its previous round just seven months ago), Lightspeed Venture Partners, GGV Capital and Y Combinator (where it was in a cohort in 2016).
There have been a number of startups and tech giants (Oracle and Microsoft being just two) that have been applying AI mechanics to the world of sales — specifically to help improve one aspect or another of the process. Startups range from those that use Robotic Process Automation to do some of the mundane work around data entry, to those that analyse conversations to parse them for clues to help close deals, to those that offer predictive analytics, and those that are using AI to replicate sales agents altogether.
People.ai’s approach, says, is not to replace salespeople but to “supercharge” the teams by using AI to ingest “high value, low volume activity”. Sitting in the background, requiring no active input from the user, it picks up all the “exhaust” produced in the process of a day, and uses it to produce cheat sheets to salespeople so that they can use them when speaking to clients to help them close deals, providing interesting insights, relevant facts and other details.
That is now going to be augmented with The Wire, which takes some cues from social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, providing a stream of information to the viewer, and tapping into the concept of “graphs” to source names of people and information that is most relevant to the viewer (without the ads, of course).
Rogynskyy points out that his company currently has more than 65 patents (secured and in progress) on intelligent matching, and the plan longer term will be to take the sales model and apply it to a wider range of industry verticals. These are likely to include areas like real estate, financial services and recruitment (areas where the product is already being used in smaller use cases, he noted).
“This model is applicable to any area where you are building external, complex relationships at scale,” he said.