Upshift is dedicated to helping startups grow by scaling their sales teams, and it’s hard to believe how much our own company has grown in just one year! We’ve graduated 15 companies from our sales coaching and acceleration program for 2014, and we’re busy rounding up new promising companies for 2015 to give them the same opportunity to set up the systems and processes they need to scale. So to help us survey the landscape and see what’s hot in the tech startup space, we asked our Upshift advisors to weigh in on what companies they admire, and what industries they think are likely to have their day or make an even greater impact in 2015. Here’s what they told us.
Lots of great minds, from Warren Buffett to Oliver Stone via Gordon Gekko, have talked about “the transfer of wealth,” essentially believing, “wealth isn’t created, it’s transferred.” If you look back on some of the hugely successful new companies, they were all able to create a disruption by using online technologies to help improve an offline process: not being able to find a taxi (Uber), automating + personalizing the marketing automation process (Responsys, Eloqua), even my current company GuideSpark, which enables employers to shift the education + communication process with its employees from offline channels to online channels throughout the employee lifecycle.
The list continues with some of these companies I am fortunate to advise: Take the Interview, which empowers employers to leverage a digital video management platform for interviews to replace time consuming, early stage in-person interviews, and ToutApp, which helps sales teams be better, stronger and faster at closing more deals through it sales acceleration platform. What do all of these companies have in common? They make a process better for both the user and the customer. Even the tablet wasn’t the first of its kind, it’s just that Apple made it better.
So looking forward – any company that has a strong Total Addressable Market (TAM) and can enable a transfer of wealth from offline to online, especially when they have a great leadership team – these are the types of companies I’ll be watching and looking for in 2015. Social selling evangelists like Jill Rowley, Daniel Barber, and Koka Sexton talk about this all the time – how improving the conversion, or the path to purchase, and making it more enjoyable, is what helps to transfer the wealth ultimately to the end user, by making their lives easier and better.
Andrew is currently VP of Field Sales at GuideSpark and the former VP of WW Sales Development + Pipeline at Responsys, where he helped lead the company to an acquisition by Oracle for $1.6 billion.
I think we’re at the forefront of three major trends that will impact the next year and beyond:
1) Data science. We’re at the very early stages of realizing what’s possible with artificial intelligence and we’re going to see significant progress in 2015. Natural language processing, machine learning, and data mining are all maturing, and the applications in both B2C and B2B are endless. The next wave of software companies will build data science into their solution from the ground up rather than bolted-on afterthoughts. Companies like Entelo in recruiting and RelateIQ in sales enablement, and 6Sense in marketing automation, are a few examples of companies that built their solutions around data science.
2) Mission-driven startups. For the last couple of years, the blogosphere and the media have increasingly challenged the Silicon Valley community to build technology solutions that will contribute to society. We’ve already begun to see the reaction: startups like Clever are tackling educations, Grand Rounds and Stride Health are improving access to and quality of healthcare. It’s just the beginning; I think we’ll see more meaningful startup ideas come out of Silicon Valley for years to come.
3) Verticalization. Over the last decade, we’ve seen a lot of SaaS companies do a great job of replacing broken offline workflows and on-premise software. Now, there is a great opportunity for companies to verticalize and create complete experiences for entire industries. Emergence Capital has done some great work in the area of industry clouds and had a great outcome with Veeva Systems in 2014. I think we’ll see more of the industry cloud model in 2015.
David is SVP of Revenue & Operations for Rocket Lawyer where his team has grown revenues from $2 million to over $40 million in just four years. David spent seven years at Oracle, building and leading sales teams that delivered record-setting results.
I think the big winners will be those companies that are able to understand how their online marketing influences offline activity. 90% of commerce happens in brick and mortar settings and this represents trillions of dollars. Understanding the full consumer journey has always been a blind spot, but now the technology has risen to be able to figure out what types of ads actually result in people walking into a store, making closing the loop between online and offline a real opportunity. And then you have companies like Google that are doing such innovative things like the Self-Driving Car, Project Loon (balloon-powered internet for remote and rural areas), smart lens technology (to treat ocular diseases using contact lenses) – this is where some of the brightest and best minds are working to change the world.
Navid is the Founder of Pinpoint Mobile, formerly the Founder of TriFame online talent discovery site, and an early member at Wildfire Interactive, which was acquired by Google in August 2012 for over $400M.
There are many areas in which there is tremendous innovation right now. This is one of the most exciting eras we’ve ever lived through because of the evolution of three new platforms, the combination of which create an unbelievably potent computing platform. These are: mobile, social and cloud platforms, all working together. The power of a portable mobile device – carried around, minuscule, always with you, always on – combined with the full computing power of the cloud, means any operation can be bigger that what can be done on the phone alone.
An example of this is Waze, which not only has the ability to transmit GPS driving instructions, but, by connecting with the cloud, and also using the shared capabilities of multiple drivers, you now have a faster routing engine than with the phone alone, or with social alone. The shared power of all of the social drivers sharing the speed at which traffic is running on certain roads is an example of how these three technologies can be used together. Companies that creatively leverage these three new capabilities to solve problems in new ways are going to be the big winners.
David is a serial entrepreneur turned VC. He started his first company at the age of 21, and over the next 25 years, founded a total of four companies and oversaw one turnaround. He is currently a venture capital partner at Matrix Partners, the firm that had backed his last two companies.
From a very high level, when it comes to software and technology, I think in the last five years the hot space has been people management/HR, with companies like Workday and Concur. More recently, marketing software like our company, HubSpot, along with Marketo, Eloqua, Pardot and ExactTarget, have been a huge focus. In the next five years, there’s a new category that not a lot of people see but is on the rise, and that’s the space of sales enablement and sales acceleration, which really fits somewhere between marketing software and CRM. For the first time, we’re seeing technology being focused on the sales person and making their job faster, and enabling them to create a better buying experience for their customers.
Mark is the Chief Revenue Officer of the HubSpot Sales Division. HubSpot ranked #33 on the Inc. 500 list of Fastest Growing Companies for 2011, and Mark was ranked #19 in Forbes’ Top 30 Social Sellers in the World.
Arjun Dev Arora
There’s a lot that’s going to be happening in the Internet of Things (IoT) and data connectivity in and around IoT. In addition, the “now economy” will continue to grow – examples include Uber, Lyft, Sprig and Spoonrocket. These speedy food delivery companies in particular will continue to grow, but we’ll also see them become verticalized for things like pizza and healthy food options. The restaurant industry as a whole (in particular fast casual) will start to change as a result of these companies. Not that people will stop going to restaurants, but food delivery models are changing, starting with GrubHub and Seamless in the first wave, then these others in the second wave. This space will continue to become more efficient and interesting over time.
On the enterprise side, there will be more data that lives within organizations, particularly within email services that will now be able to be leveraged. Email is critical to day-to-day business, we’ll see more of a verticalization of email clients – for example, real estate agents will have a different email experience or email client than a sales person – we’re already seeing that with RelateIQ and Salesforce. As more data gets pumped in, we’ll be able to know how long someone spent on the email, if it was opened, if it was forwarded – we’ll have better built dashboards to better understand communications within enterprises.
Arjun is the Chairman of the Board and Founder of ReTargeter, where he bootstrapped the company to be in the top 100 of the Inc. 500 list of Fastest Growing Companies for 2013.
Wow, lots to think about (and look forward to!) but it looks like verticalization is coming, along with continued advances in sales and marketing automation software and basically, just continuing to make people’s lives easier in ways we haven’t even begun to imagine yet.
What companies or industries do you think will be hot in 2015 and beyond? Tell us about them below.