Big Data

RelateIQ: The startup that turns salespeople’s data crumbs into gold

Above: The RelateIQ office in Palo Alto, Calif.

Image Credit: RelateIQ
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Many companies invest in fancy software to track sales leads. The trouble is, you have to remember to log in and keep the software up to date.

If you don’t — well, that’s like having a monster truck but forgetting to change the oil.

RelateIQ looks hot in this market, where giants like Microsoft, Oracle, and Salesforce.com operate, because it won’t let valuable bits of data get left behind. The company’s software automatically logs progress on the phone, in email, and inside calendars so salespeople and their bosses retain the most accurate information.

“When professional relationship managers interact with each other, there is a huge amount of kind of data exhaust that is being created and left out there,” RelateIQ cofounder and chief technology officer Adam Evans said in an interview with VentureBeat. His company aims to pick up all that data exhaust.

But it goes further, producing entirely new “data products” based on that data.

(Data products, in data science parlance, are things that help push people toward an end goal with the use of data. They can take the form of new columns in spreadsheets, new features, or even whole new apps.)

Suddenly, with RelateIQ’s data products, the software does more than serve up a database of old information. It can solve longstanding problems like rescuing information that can determine whether a deal is won or lost. Or it can identify the right salesperson to hit up a potential customer.

These might seem like obvious features to a regular person, but they’re not easy to pull off in the business of customer relationship management software.

Hundreds of customers are now eating up RelateIQ’s software. Investors continue to show their support. (Palo Alto, Calif.-based RelateIQ started in 2011 and has raised $69 million so far, including a $40 million round that it announced last month.)

And as RelateIQ’s gets more data, its algorithms improve, making the software smarter stilll. What’s more, the company sees a chance to do more than just, as Evans puts it, “supercharging salespeople.”

Altogether, RelateIQ stands out for using data in intelligent ways to generate growth or reduce costs. This is why Evans is scheduled to talk about how companies are benefiting from the software at our DataBeat conference in San Francisco next month. Evans will take the stage with Paul Cheesbrough, the chief technology officer of News Corp.

Raw ingredients for data products

While RelateIQ might not be able to listen to and report on every single word a salesperson uses on the phone, the company can consider information associated with a call, like who’s calling whom, the call’s duration, the title of the person being called, and so on.

“It turns out if you actually look out at the wider story of touchpoints — the frequency, duration, and the direction of phone calls, like who is initiating phone calls — there are a lot of signals in all those interactions,” Evans said.

“If you sum them up, you can kind of describe the relationship.” RelateIQ files this sort of data.

Email contains lots of information worth mining for RelateIQ, too. The company’s technology is “trying to reconstruct a story that really tells what’s happening from more of a [sales] process standpoint in a particular opportunity,” Evans said.

But it also looks out for you by noticing what doesn’t happen. One feature, Follow-Ups, keep tabs on statements you should respond to and set alerts so you or your colleagues end up following through. And it’s not some static widget. “The more people [that] see email and respond to it, the better it gets,” Evans said.

Some Follow-Ups.

Above: Some Follow-Ups.

Image Credit: RelateIQ

RelateIQ also assists with communications with no history. It consults the social media accounts, email accounts, and calendars of people at your company to determine who maintains the best connections to a potential lead.

“Ultimately, the data product comes out of a simple list of your colleagues,” Evans said. And you can expect the company to keep coming out with new data products, too.

Caring for customers

Even when it comes to retaining existing customers — something lots of software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies have to worry about — RelateIQ plays a fresh tune. The company applies labels for individuals who use RelateIQ’s software. Some are super-users who tinker with administrative features. Others are more collaborative.

RelateIQ knows what’s typical for every customer, so when one has an unusually low number of collaborative types — because you need at least two people to collaborate, generally — RelateIQ gets a hint that it needs to take action.

Sometimes an in-app notification is sufficient to get more people onboard. At other times, a member of RelateIQ’s customer-success team can receive information about a possible issue for the customer. “So the next time they pick up the phone or see someone in person or writing an email, they kind of know what to focus on,” Evans said.

And yes, RelateIQ tracks the use of different features inside its software.

“We look at every click, every page view,” Evans said. “We track everything. We look at … what’s being utilized, what’s not.”

As is the case with many other startups today, the company’s data is all sitting on Amazon’s public cloud. RelateIQ maintains a large Hadoop cluster there, Evans said. A bunch of servers running Hadoop can store and process lots of different kinds of data. But that’s not enough. Hadoop isn’t always as fast as some companies want it to be.

“Basically, real time is important to us,” Evans said, “because we’re dealing with things like email.” RelateIQ needs to reflect a key line in an email right away, in seconds, not hours. That’s where the company’s Storm cluster comes in.

Apache Storm, an open-source real-time stream processing framework, can crunch data as it comes in, and can do so much faster than the Hadoop cluster. RelateIQ has built its own signal-processing layer on top of Storm to help produce its data products based on multiple data sources, too, Evans said.

He expects the joint architecture — with real-time and offline processing — to become more common in the future, especially when data products need the freshest data.

Going forward, Evans said, data products will become more critical for sales organizations from a competitive standpoint.

And when software creates those data products without waiting for people to give the okay, it’s all the better. That’s what RelateIQ is aiming for.

“We envision a world where that’s all going to be automated,” he said.

“People don’t enter data in Salesforce as it is, because it’s just too taxing. It can’t be more complex than it already is.”

More information:

RelateIQ began in 2011 when co-founders Adam Evans and Steve Loughlin got fed up with manual data entry. In the age of big data, cloud-computing, and mind-blowing consumer electronics, they couldn’t understand why they had to spend h... read more »

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