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Autopilot, which wants to be the marketing platform for the rest of us, is announcing today it has raised a new $7 million round. The funding was co-led by a company that helped invent this space — Salesforce.

You might wonder why Salesforce would help fund a startup that could take away potential marketing cloud business coming from growing companies.

CEO and cofounder Mike Sharkey sees his five-month-old company as, essentially, nurturing the space below Salesforce but above email blast tools. In other words, educating and training marketers to use these tools at all — including both small and larger businesses.

Autopilot, he told me via email, is “focused on helping the 96 percent of companies who do not currently use marketing automation, and, in doing so, growing the pie in the martech space.” The marketing software space is expected to grow to more than $32 billion by 2018, according to research firm IDC.

To help bring marketers up to speed, Autopilot is launching an online training center called Flight School, which will feature courses, workflow plans, current best practices for connecting with customers, shareable content, and more.

“We see other vendors in the space focusing on the four percent of the market currently using marketing automation today,” he said, apparently including Salesforce among those other vendors. Pricing starts at $4 per month for 500 contacts.

Recently named a “best bet” for medium-sized B2B companies in the “Marketing automation: how to make the right buying decision (the first time)” report from VB Insight, VentureBeat’s research arm, Autopilot has raised $20.5 million in total so far. The startup claims more than 3,500 companies have signed up, including Dolby, Freshdesk, Narrative, and PandaDoc.

“You can think of [Autopilot] as Legos for marketers,” Sharkey said, referring to the platform’s visual approach. “Marketers can take individual blocks, or stages of customer interaction, such as sending a customer a text message or a handwritten postcard, and build them into an overall customer experience personally designed for a particular individual.”

Sharkey said the need for this kind of tool became obvious during his time with the two previous companies that he founded and sold in his native Australia.

Stage One Capital was the other major investor in this round, which also saw participation from Blackbird Ventures, Garnett Ventures, Rembrandt Venture Partners, Southern Cross Venture Partners, and Tim Draper.

The new funding will be used to further develop the platform, grow the community, and add support staff.


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