Real estate agents have historically felt safe while performing their jobs, but the trend has shifted in recent years, with a number of agents raped, robbed and murdered while hosting open houses. Hopefully technology can change that.
Toronto startup Guardly announced this morning that it has entered into a partnership with the California Association of REALTORS (C.A.R.) to provide a smartphone app that helps real estate agents stay safe on the job.
C.A.R. is the largest state association of realtors in the US and Guardly’s mobile application will be available to its 155,000 members as part of its Keep Safe Program.
Guardly empowers its users by providing one-touch access to their safety network. Simply launching the Guardly app on a smartphone will instantly identify a user’s location and alert family, friends, co-workers, managers and 911 operators that he or she has an emergency. Built-in security features include the ability to snap and share pictures of an assailant and sound a loud whistle.
Guardly officially launched in April of 2011 with a seed round of financing that includes investments fromExtreme Venture Partners, Bryker Capital and several angel investors.
So if there was a way to solve these problems, companies could save themselves some big headaches. That’s where Yesware comes in. According to a November 3rd interview with CEO, Matthew Bellows, Yesware offers a browser extension to Google (GOOG) Gmail that lets sales people report on their activity very efficiently and accurately and streamlines their email communication.
Before Yesware, sales people would get hectored by their bosses to type into the corporate Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system the status of their sales calls. The sales people found this annoying and they did a very half-hearted job. As a result, sales managers could not compare the performance of difference sales people or estimate the sales that were likely to close by the end of the quarter.
But as an experienced sales person, Bellows realized that his email was a treasure trove of accurate information that could be tweaked to improve the sales reporting process. With Yesware, a sales person can choose to send relevant emails to the CRM system instead of typing information into the system.
And the sales people can choose different templates — that relate to different sales activities. For example, there are templates that can be tailored to each Yesware customer’s approach to common sales activities such as Prospecting, Pipeline Management and Objection handling. This helps sales managers to track actual sales activity and compare different sales people.
For their part, sales people like another Yesware feature — it informs them of who in the company has actually read the emails they’ve sent and to whom they’ve been forwarded. This can save the sales people the uncertainty of not knowing whether someone is taking seriously their request for help from others.
Bellows launched Yesware’s product in September 2011 and is pleased that 2,000 users have signed up so far. Between its launch in September 201o and April 2011, Yesware was bootstrapped. And it raised $1 million from Foundry Ventures and Google Ventures. Bellows believes that these are the two best seed start-up VCs around.
Yesware has three full time people – two of whom have known each other for 10 years since the bootstrapped and sold a company to Cnet between 2001 and 2003.
Bellows believes that Yesware is targeting a segment of the $9 billion CRM industry. Specifically, there are 250 million professionals in North America and Europe who use email. There are currently four million companies using Google Apps.
Yesware has a so-called freemium pricing model. It lets individuals use its service at no charge but charges $19 per user per month to share their email templates and reports with a team.
Bellows has big ambitions for Yesware. He wants to turn it into a big company that creates value for customers, investors and employees. He does not want Yesware to be the typical Boston company that gets acquired by a California firm.
To do that, Bellows wants Yesware to have millions of users in the next year or two. Accomplishing this will depend on four strategic initiatives:
By supporting Outlook, almost all the business-to-business sales people could use Yesware since this email system is so popular.
And if Yesware is adopted by a large enough collection of these organizations, Bellows may well be able to achieve his goal of creating a big, standalone company in Boston.
On the one hand, the Canadian Venture Capital Association reported that investments in the second quarter dropped from $355-million to $328-million due, in part, to “stalled fund-raising activity.”
CVCA president Gregory Smith described the decline as “very concerning.”
What’s the deal? Is Canada’s venture capital industry still struggling, or are there signs of encouragement?
For the glass-half-full contingent, there appears to be growing reason for optimism.
Aside from the number of Canadian startups that have raised much-needed capital in the past few months, there has been an increasing number of seed-focused venture capital firms appearing on the scene.
Although none of them are large funds, particularly when compared with the United States, they have active and engaged investors who are providing start-ups with the capital required to nurture an idea, or give a company with an existing product or service the money to gain more traction and attract more customers.
Matt Golden, who runs Toronto-based Golden Venture Partners, said the emergence of seed-focused VCs has a lot to do with the opportunity to invest in startups that do not require a lot of capital.
“On a macro level, I think you are starting to see that, from a technology perspective, the cost of creating valuable technology has declined,” he said. “You can deploy a high-value product and, with the availability of open-source code and technology, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to build on existing or new platforms.”
The ability for VCs to get bang for their buck, Mr. Golden said, means a nimble and fast-moving investor can make a smaller investment but still get a significant return, even if an acquisition price is fairly modest.
For large VCs, he added, the rules of engagement are different because investing $200,000 to $500,000 in a bunch of startups does not scale.
For seed investors and VCs, it has also helped to have a robust mergers-and-acquisitions market, in which large companies have aggressively snapped up start-ups with interesting technology or solid traction. The Canadian startups that have been acquired so far this year include PushLife, Five Mobile, Zite, Backtype, Postrank, Tungle andMyThum.
“You have tremendously cash-rich buyers sitting on more cash than ever,” Mr. Golden said. “They are buying early and often, often right at the point where something is interesting. They are buying a lot of companies in the $20-million to $60-million range, often under the price point where they have to report it from a material perspective. Often, they are buying talent and technology. Other times, they say, ‘This product has tremendous traction, let’s buy it early.’
“For a seed fund, it makes a lot of sense if you invest early and sell for $20-million. You can do really well and every exit is meaningful.”
Another important consideration that has created opportunities for smaller seed-based VCs is how the new breed of fund managers are different from their predecessors, who ran much bigger pools of capital.
Mark MacLeod, a partner with Montreal-based Real Ventures, said the previous generation of fund managers didn’t have a lot of operational experience.
“You are seeing a big transition in the venture landscape,” he said.
“The first generation of fund managers – and this is a stereotype and negatively biased – did not deliver the goods. There are reasons for that: fund sizes were too large and too much capital was invested relative to the exits. One of the biggest issues was that most of the people managing the money didn’t have operational experience. You now have a new breed of fund managers who have come in at a time when the startup landscape is changing.”
While there are positive developments within the Canadian VC industry, there still isn’t enough capital available for startups, and holes remain in the ecosystem.
In particular, there is an absence of large investors with the financial muscle to invest large amounts of capital (more than $10-million) to provide startups with enough ammunition to aggressively seize an opportunity.
Much of the problem has to do with the fact there are few Canadian institutional or pension funds still in the VC marketplace due to poor historical returns. As a result, start-ups looking to raise large rounds need to go to the United States.
“We definitely have a gap in the venture ecosystem,” said Robin Axon, a general partner with Toronto-based Mantella. “Companies showing traction with or without money are able to raise money, but it’s not in Canada at the latter stage.”
Mr. Axon said there are signs the institutional and pension funds are starting to get back in the VC game.
He points to a new $180-million fund recently announced by Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS). So far, OMERS has invested in one company, Wave Accounting, but it has a pro-active and aggressive mandate over the next three years to establish itself as one of the leading VCs in North America.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Mark Evans is the principal with ME Consulting, a communications and marketing strategic consultancy that works with startups and fast-growing companies to create compelling and effective messaging to drive their sales and marketing activities. Mark has worked with four startups – Blanketware, b5Media, PlanetEye and Sysomos. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshmarketing and meshwest conferences.
Yesware, a Cambridge, Mass.-based company that makes email productivity software for gmail and mobile devices, has received $1 million in seed funding from Google Ventures,Foundry Group, Golden Ventures Partners, and angel investors.
Yesware ( www.yesware.com ) today announced the launch of its cloud-based email productivity solution for salespeople, as well as its first round of funding from Google Ventures, Foundry Group and several prominent angel investors.
Yesware is a suite of productivity services that work where salespeople do — in their email and on their phones. Available now for Gmail and smartphones, Yesware provides email analytics, customizable templates and CRM integration to help salespeople close more deals faster. Yesware works in conjunction with leading CRM platforms including Salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle CRM, Highrise and many others.
“Yesware has increased the efficiency of our email communications and has provided us with the ability to reach out to more people than ever before. That’s invaluable from a sales perspective. Yesware has already become ingrained into our workflow. It’s made a huge impact on the way we do business.” – Fred Shilmover, CEO, InsightSquared
“Yesware’s template system immediately helped us. It easily saves me a couple of hours a day from cutting, pasting and rewriting emails. I’m also a heavy user of Yesware’s management features. I can provide our new reps and outsourced salespeople with Yesware so I’m sure they are using the right language with customers and prospects.” – Ben Sardella, VP Sales, Kissmetrics
In order to help the salesperson gauge interest, Yesware’s Tracking features report on the time, number of times, location and platform that the recipient opens an email. One Yesware report prioritizes email conversations by customer engagement so salespeople can spend more time with interested prospects. Depending on their email reader, the recipient can either opt-in or opt-out of Yesware’s Tracking feature.
“We use Gmail together with Salesforce.com, so Yesware is a great sales productivity tool for us. I use Yesware’s Tracking feature to see when a prospect opens my mail, where he is, and if he’s mobile or at his desk. Then I know when and where to follow up on the information I sent.” – Greg Drinkwater, Account Executive, Stack Overflow
For sales managers, Yesware improves team performance, increases CRM compliance, and makes training more effective. Yesware reports are based on activities performed instead of data entered, so salespeople spend less time filling out forms, and managers have a more accurate view into sales success.
Key features that are part of Yesware’s initial rollout include:
Integrated Sales Templates — Customizable email templates for every stage of the sales process — from prospecting to closing the deal — help salespeople communicate better and faster with customers. Sales managers can use Yesware’s template system to provide their teams with clear, consistent messages so the right language is always used when communicating with customers. Compared with retyping common email messages, salespeople using Yesware can save an hour or more of sales time every day.
Automatic Synchronization between Email and CRM Systems — Yesware makes it easy to update the salesperson’s CRM. When toggled on, Yesware automatically saves all outbound email into any leading CRM system. Entering customer replies into the CRM takes only two mouse clicks. Using Yesware, CRM compliance increases and enterprise data improves.
Activity-Based Reporting(TM) — Yesware’s Activity-Based Reporting provides objective metrics on how individual salespeople build rapport with customers, how their communications resonate in the marketplace, and how each member of the sales team spends their time. Sales teams gain valuable insights on customer interest and objections, and on ways to improve the sales processes.
Email Tracking — With Yesware’s Email Tracking feature, salespeople can monitor the activity around their emails, including when and where they were opened and which device was used to open them. This gives the sales team crucial insights on the effectiveness of their message.
Yesware for Mobile Phones — Key Yesware reports, including Tracking, Activity, Priority and Team reports, are available on modern smartphones. Salespeople away from the office can see exactly when prospects open their emails. For salespeople with Android phones, Yesware offers a mobile application that allows users to send sales templates right from their handset.
“We invested in Yesware because of how they turn a pain point into a productivity point. They take what for some is a chore — dealing with endless email — and turn it into an invaluable enterprise tool facilitating much of the sales process. We were impressed by the team’s vision and product direction and look forward to working with them to deliver productivity gains for millions of professionals.” – Rich Miner, Partner at Google Ventures
“Our mission is to help salespeople close more deals faster. That means helping salespeople communicate more effectively and efficiently, reducing their data entry requirements, and providing them with key customer insights. This company launch is exciting, but we’re just getting started. We aim to transform the way salespeople work.” – Matthew Bellows, CEO and Founder, Yesware
Yesware for Gmail is free to individual salespeople at www.yesware.com. For sales teams, Yesware for Gmail is available on a per-seat subscription basis. Yesware for Android is available for a one-time purchase price of $4.99 via the Android Market.
Yesware is an email productivity service that helps salespeople close more business. Integrated into Gmail and mobile devices, Yesware provides email analytics, customizable templates and CRM synchronization to help salespeople communicate with customers more effectively. Yesware was founded by Matthew Bellows, Cashman Andrus and Rajat Bhargava. The company is backed by Google Ventures, Foundry Group, Golden Venture Partners, Geoffrey Hyatt, Colby Wood, Mike Baker, David Cohen, Mike Dornbrook and Will Herman. The Yesware service is free to individual salespeople at www.yesware.com.
About Google Ventures
Google Ventures is the venture capital arm of Google Inc. We seek to discover and help develop great companies, and believe in the power of entrepreneurs to do amazing things. Our investments range from seed to late stage, across a broad range of industries, including consumer Internet, digital media, software, hardware, and biotechnology. We embrace the challenge of helping young companies grow from the proverbial garage to global relevance. For more information, visit www.googleventures.com.
About Foundry Group
Foundry Group is a venture capital firm focused on making investments in early-stage information technology, Internet and software startups. Their passion is working alongside entrepreneurs to give birth to new technologies and to build those technologies into industry-leading companies. They are centrally located in Boulder, CO, but invest in companies across North America.