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Crayon, a Boston, Massachusetts-based market intelligence company, today announced that it raised $22 million in a series B round led by Baird Capital. CEO Jonah Lopin says that the proceeds will be put toward expanding the platform while growing Crayon’s engineering, sales, and marketing teams.
Standing out and differentiating through product design, packaging, and messaging is critical, with 75% of technology buyers claiming they don’t understand how vendors are different, according to Gartner. With nearly one-third of all sales pitches lost to competitors, discovering and sharing compelling insights can mean the difference between winning or losing a competitive deal. Crayon’s own research suggests that competitive intelligence should be a strategic priority for every company with at least one competitor in their segment. Over 60% of businesses report competitive intelligence has positively impacted revenue, Crayon found in a 2021 survey, a 17% increase from 2019.
Crayon, which was founded in 2014, helps midsize and large enterprises capture, analyze, and act on competitive intelligence to drive business execution and decision-making. It enables businesses to track, understand, and react to market changes, delivering a holistic view of a business to foster sales, long-term revenue, and relationships.
“My cofounder, John Osborne, and I met at MIT Sloan doing our MBAs back in 2007, although it took us almost a decade after graduation before we founded Crayon in 2015,” Lopin told VentureBeat via email. “The thesis behind Crayon is that there’s never been a good way to do competitive intelligence, because it’s always been a human-driven, research-driven discipline. This means insights are very expensive to generate, and even worse, they lag the market by weeks or months, and therefore often aren’t actionable or impactful.”
Crayon’s platform automatically captures moves that companies make, drawing on more than 46,000 data points from over 300 million sources to track pricing adjustments, customer reviews, marketing campaigns, and other intelligence. AI and human review highlight key updates, trends, and more, while analytics tools let customers filter data by category, company, keyword, and date. Users can also save views to monitor changes, share insights, or home in on data. Or they can partner with a market intelligence analyst to curate intel and call out trends weekly.
“It’s hard to track website changes well because of rampant false-positives, and that’s where we apply AI and machine learning: to filter out the noise. We’ve actually compared over a billion web pages in the past 4 years for customers, so the dataset feeding our AI is quite large,” Lopin explained. “Crayon [also] uses AI and machine learning to prioritize insights for customers through an ‘importance’ scoring model … We flag approximately 3% of all data points for customers as ‘high importance’ for them to review, so they never miss a critical update. [Beyond this,] we do natural language processing to support visualizations such as this: how did HubSpot’s content marketing change from the pre-COVID to post-COVID period?”
The competitive intelligence tools market is anticipated to be worth $82.0 million by 2027, up from $37.6 million in 2019, according to Fortune Business Insights. Partially driving the growth is predictive modeling challenges related to the pandemic. For enterprises modeling future consumer behavior, data drift was a major challenge in 2020 due to never-before-seen circumstances related to the global health crisis.
“At Crayon, we drive competitive intelligence to a software discipline. What if competitive intelligence could be programmatic and continuous? When CI is software-driven, not only are the insights inexpensive, they are real-time and therefore much more actionable,” Lopin said. “Finally, competitive intelligence can be timely and hyper-actionable in sales, customer success, marketing, and product.”
Lopin says that Crayon has more than 33,000 users across 500 customers including Discover, Gong, Intuit, SurveyMonkey, Zendesk, and ZoomInfo. At Dropbox, “won” and “lost” competitive deals flow through the platform via the Salesforce integrations. Crayon sends competitive information via email and Slack and serves as the system of record for employee-sourced intelligence.
“In Crayon, Dropbox employees can select the competitive set for a product line, pull all insights with takeaways, and see the patterns and trends from a quarter with a few clicks. So it’s days down to hours to get insight for execs in the process,” Lopin said.
Baseline Ventures, Bedrock Capital, C&B Capital, Oyster Funds, and Gaingels also participated in 100-employee Crayon’s latest funding round. It brings the company’s total raised to date to $38 million following a $6 million series A in February 2019.
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