Co-founders Will Richman and Brandon Pizzacalla impart valuable lessons for startups large and small.
Familiarity and a fresh perspective are key elements to the success of GrowthGenius, a Toronto-based scaleup that automates B2B prospecting.
GrowthGenius uses data-driven AI to generate more outbound sales. But Will Richman and Brandon Pizzacalla, co-founders of GrowthGenius, never had any past experience in sales.
Initially an obstacle, the longtime friends (since high school) now see their unfamiliarity with traditional sales-culture as a reason for GrowthGenius’s success.
“A big hurdle that gave us an advantage early on was that we started with a completely fresh understanding of how to connect with someone through cold outreach” said Richman, CEO and co-founder of GrowthGenius.
“A lot of sales organizations are broken. They get caught up on the terminology, the process, and how things have been done… We don’t focus on how things have been done in the past. We want to help folks out and bring immediate results”
Taking a counter-culture approach to sales has led to a few disagreements between the company’s founders and more traditional sales teams, including some GrowthGenius employees.
But the approach seems to be working.
In a little under a year, from September 2017 to July 2018, GrowthGenius grew a customer network of two in to 40, generating an annual recurring revenue (ARR) of over $1 million.
Solving a major pain-point for companies (in their case it’s helping businesses reaching the ideal customer) is another element to the company’s growth.
“Helping people close deals is so valuable and it’s something so many companies have trouble doing”
GrowthGenius does that by acting as an extension of a business’s sales team. After analyzing past sales data, GrowthGenius can extrapolate that information to create and send one-to-one email copy for targeted audiences, an entirely automated process.
From there, all the sales team has to do is focus on positive responses rather than waste time with prospecting.
Pizzacalla describes the process as “the future of sales” because now, and definitely in the near future, “no one is going to be doing the work that can be done by machines.”
Solving a particular pain-point and learning to sell their product at an early stage are two key lessons Richman and Pizzacalla would impart to other entrepreneurs.
Another is building your business with the right team members.
“The earliest people in the business” said Pizzacalla, “you should know them for a long time.”
That’s exactly what Pizzacalla and Richman did with GrowthGenius. Duncan McCall, head of customer team, partnered with Richman in a past business venture. Ryan Nahas, head of sales, was Pizzacalla’s roommate.
Doing so ensures you know how a team member will likely react in all sorts of situations, both good and bad.
It’s also important to onboard people who have a different set of skills, adds Richman.
As a business grows “you’re going to be doing very different things” said Richman, “and if you have the same skillset you’re going to fight over the same turf.”
Building a business solely with close friends isn’t exactly scalable, of course, so GrowthGenius’s founders recommend hiring through referrals.
About fifty percent of the 24-person GrowthGenius team were recommended by friends or current employees.
“If you’re bringing on awesome people they’re going to bring in other awesome people”