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Apollo.io, which runs a sales acceleration platform for B2B companies, today announced it has raised $32 million in a series B round of funding. The investment, led by Tribe Capital with participation from NewView Capital and existing investor Nexus Venture Partners, will be used by the San Francisco-based startup to expand its team and client base as well as to strengthen its technology platform.

For any organization, a well-crafted go-to-market strategy and its execution is the key to success. Business leaders lay a lot of importance on go-to-market (GTM) to gain a competitive edge. However, sales professionals often end up struggling with the execution part due to the GTM process being too manual, tedious, and complex for them. Even if the representatives choose outreach automation tools, they struggle to target the right prospects as the solutions are stifled by convoluted workflows and minimal guidance.

Apollo.io to find and target business prospects

Founded in 2015, Apollo.io solves the above-mentioned challenge with a self-serve software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform that sales professionals can use to find and target suitable business prospects. The solution comes with a series of filters that one could use to find information about whom to target according to their business needs. Then, using the same platform, they can set up automated email and call campaigns to reach the prospects at speed and scale.

“We give you a lot of best practices on how to write these emails and how to make the messaging most effective,” Tim Zheng, founder, and CEO of Apollo.io, told VentureBeat.

“After that, we give you tons of analytics on what’s working, what’s not working, and why. We also learn from this to give you recommendations on what to do better next time. It’s like a loop to help you get better and better at your go-to-market,” he added.

Zheng developed the platform when he couldn’t find an effective go-to-market acceleration tool for his first startup, Braingenie. He curated an initial database of clients and an email campaign tool for the ed-tech company and was able to drive significant growth using it. Then, upon receiving interest from other businesses, he built on that product and transformed it into a separate company.

Currently, Apollo.io hosts a database of more than 220 million contacts from 29 million companies, accessed by over 9,000 paying customers, which includes startups like Lyft, Peloton, and Gympass as well as Fortune 500 giants. The company has raised $41.3 million so far (including this round) and claims to have maintained profitability for over 18 months.

AI ensures accuracy, finds future customers

Apollo’s platform can also integrate directly with CRM platforms, so B2B sales professionals can find the right buyers at the right time. The company says it uses advanced algorithms and data acquisition methods to provide business attributes and contact information on prospects; display this information automatically when visiting LinkedIn profiles; enrich CRM databases with more than 200 unique business attributes, and flag new contact information in real-time if prospects change jobs or get promoted.

“We crawl the public web and index and synthesize tons of information like technologies used, different keywords, websites, etc. Plus, we also have a contributory network of users who opt in to share their data in exchange for using our free product,” Zheng said while noting that they use AI and machine learning to make sure that the information gathered is clean and accurate.

Beyond verifying information, the company uses AI as part of its recommendation engine, which helps users identify and prioritize their next customers.

“Once a user connects through their CRM, we are able to figure out who their current customers are and who in the entire universe of our 200 million contacts is most similar to those customers. Then, we help them prioritize reaching out to those prospects,” the CEO added.

While there are platforms that offer contact data and sales intelligence, including players like ZoomInfo (which acquired Chorus for $575 million), Uplead, and Outreach, Apollo claims to have distinguished itself by offering a unified platform with better data and workflows. The company says its solution is backed by best data — both in terms of breadth, accuracy, and depth as well as coverage of mobile numbers and email addresses — and streamlined workflows, where a user can set up the platform in minutes and start targeting prospects, gathering intelligence right away.

Road ahead

Moving ahead, Apollo.io will spend a large chunk of its capital on R&D. Zheng did not share specific details but noted that the focus will be on improving the data quality, building out AI features (including the recommendation engine), enterprise-grade functionalities, and ensuring that the product is simpler and easier to use.

The company expects to drive 4 times more engagement for sales reps, with 100% revenue and user growth year-over-year.

The development comes as the sales tech space continues to grow with increased investment and M&A activity. According to Gartner, the revenue in the sales enablement market touched $1.7 billion in 2020, an increase of 12.1% over the prior year, and 93.6% of sales leaders are investing or considering investing in some kind of sales tech.

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