Archive for the ‘ Openera ’ Category

How Salesforce Admins Solved the Email Integration Problem.

This post is going to break a blogging rule. I’m going to cover 2 topics. Gasp. If you want to know “How did Salesforce Admins solve the email integration problem?” Here’s the short answer: They pointed out the technical underpinnings within our product and told us “that’s what we need!.” The longer answer requires some background and is my other topic which answers the question “Hey, how was Dreamforce?”

As a bootstrapped start-up, deciding to attend and exhibit at a major conference is not easy. I made the decision despite believing that big events are one of the least productive ways to fill a pipeline. Over my career, I’ve attended and exhibited at hundreds of big events, they simply are not the best lead generation tool. In order to make an event worthwhile, you must have multi-dimensional objectives.

The Banana is not with us!

Tiny Booth. Big Story. Openera exhibited at Dreamforce 2011, Salesforce.com’s annual user conference in San Francisco  a month ago. Our objectives included:

  • validate market assumptions,
  • collect market intelligence,
  • solicit influential support,
  • access and quickly navigate the partner ecosystem,
  • and yes, meet potential customers and partners.

The question we keep asking ourselves is this: “was it worth it?” Immediately after exhibiting at an event like Dreamforce it is hard to tell if it was worth the time, money and effort. With a month of activity behind us since the event we know a lot more than we did when we wrapped up Dreamforce.

Measurable Results  With over 1500 leads, hundreds of sign-ups and roughly 5 solid, multi-user opportunities poised to close, we can say it was definitely worth it. I couldn’t have said that the day after the event. If I measured solely based on our pre-event objectives however, we failed.

Unrealized Goals or The Missing Execs

One of our unrealized goals was to meet with a good percentage of the 1/3 of the attendees that were supposedly Directors and VP’s of sales to validate our GutCheck offering. (GutCheck solves the “I don’t trust my sales reps forecast” problem.) The vast majority of attendees we spent time with were Salesforce admins or integrators. VP’s and Directors of Sales were not walking the floor of the exhibit hall, they were sitting comfortably in the executive lounges sipping espresso’s.  This was a major disappointment.

Of all the people we spoke to, only about 20 people actually ran sales teams. So, I am not comfortable making assumptions based on such a small sample audience. However, here’s what they had to say: of the sales leaders that we had an opportunity to explain the GutCheck value proposition, almost all agreed with the statement that “sales rep’s forecasts aren’t very reliable or trustworthy.” Roughly 80% of the sales leaders that didn’t trust their reps forecasts, would invest in a tool like GutCheck to validate forecast accuracy. A small percentage (ok, it was one vocal person) didn’t believe that we could do what we say we can do. (I love a challenge!)

Salesforce admins rock. They changed our minds and helped us focus.

Surprisingly, the vast majority of system administrators we spoke with considered forecast accuracy only  “a minor problem.” Even though they agreed with the statement that “forecasts aren’t reliable” and what sales reps enter into their forecasts don’t reflect reality.” 

Salesforce admins we spoke to care about the integrity/interoperability of the system, data quality/completeness and user adoption. Salesforce Admins & Integrators got excited when we explained how we GutCheck a forecast. The fact that we automate the ingestion of email conversations and content into Salesforce was of high value. They didn’t necessarily care about the GutCheck value proposition, they cared a lot about the underlying technology (SmartCloud) that enabled GutCheck.

Salesforce Admins Solved The Problem of Email Integration |  Because of this real world feedback, validated by our pipeline activity and follow-up conversations, Openera is adjusting/focusing our development. Although GutCheck relied on SmartCloud, we are focussing on SmartCloud for Salesforce to solve the email conversation and content problem first. We still believe that sales leaders responsible for forecasting want a solution to poor quality forecasts. For now, our focus is on SmartCloud. (Note: GutCheck will continue as a value-added, packaged service offering through our SmartCloud implementation partners and through the AppExchange relatively soon.) 

Build – Measure – Learn

With lessons learned from the lean start-up model, championed by Steve Blank, Eric Reis, Ash Mauria and others, but modified for the enterprise, we have consumed customer data and altered our development strategy. Was it a pivot? Not really. But the insight into our customers motivations informed our decision to focus our development efforts on the immediate, high value pain point of email conversation and content integration with Salesforce. I’ve estimated the amount of development time this decision has saved, and it far outweighs our investment. Coupled with our post-event research, we are able to make this decision based on data pulled from a great sample audience, not just our gut. That alone made Dreamforce worthwhile.

A VIDEO | I’ll leave you with this ‘work-in-progress’ video of what we did the first thing in the morning before Mark Benioff’s keynote. We wanted to wake the groggy, hungover masses up and get them to smile. In case you were wondering, Metallica was the headliner for the after party…reportedly paid $1.4M to play the event… so for this preview, I borrowed a track from them for this “work-in-progress” version of the video. Obviously, we’ll use royalty free music for the official version… when it’s ready for release. Enjoy.

TechCrunch Disrupt – Insights and Advice

TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2011(http://disrupt.techcrunch.com) punctuated Michael Arrington’s career heading up TechCrunch. The final Disrupt for Arrington was held in San Francisco attracting over 2,500 leading technology innovators and investors and over 150 new startups. Despite the controversy and media maelstrom over shadowing the event, there was something else going on. Start-up entrepreneurs were unveiling new technologies and businesses.

Openera SmartCloud

Richard & Peter

Openera’s Founder & CEO, Peter Lalonde was there, showcasing SmartCloud in Disrupt’s Startup Alley, a startup launch platform, where over 200 companies exhibited their product or service.

Here are just a few of his perspectives and thoughts on Disrupt, the Startup Alley experience, and advice he’d give to other startups thinking of attending the next Disrupt conference:

What was the highlight for you at Disrupt?

For me it was getting real and honest feedback on SmartCloud. The opportunity to have other founders, investors, press and potential partners get excited about the promise of SmartCloud was outstanding. I was really impressed by a few startups that rose above the noise of so many similar themed ones.

What type of feedback did you get from Investors/attendees?

It was mostly good feedback. A lot of people said things like

“I’ve been waiting for something like this!” “oh my God, you’ve solved my biggest frustration.” or some variation of “wow, this is actually really useful! You’ve solved a real problem.”

It wasn’t all good feedback though. Some people just didn’t see the value. They don’t mind keeping all their content in their inbox. There were also concerns around security, which we expected, but our answer didn’t always satisfy people in hyper sensitive businesses. We’ll write a blog post about our view and approach to security.

Of all the other startups you saw in Startup Alley, were there any that you got excited about, and why? 

Yes! Definitely. Bitcasa was the standout, most disruptive company there. The fact that they didn’t win offended me! LOL. Their CEO, Tony Gauda, is dynamic, brilliant and quick witted. Their approach of offering infinite local/cloud storage for $10/month is groundbreaking on a technical level, pricing level and user experience level. They are exactly in-line with the SmartCloud philosophy of not changing user behaviour.

The other stand-out startup that also adopts the SmartCloud philosophy is Everpix. They have an elegant solution for solving the fragmented photo library problem. Like many people, I have photos scattered all over the web; MobileMe, Flickr, Facebook, Picassa and across several local drives and email!  Everpix will consolidate and even auto-curate your photos (hide bad pics) and organize them into ‘moments’ allowing you to easily collect from, and share photo moments with friends.

GoInstant is a fellow Canadian Start-up that has, what seems to me, the easiest shared browsing / screen sharing solution possible. No plug-ins, no logins, no hassle, immediate group browsing. Ideal for groups that want to test web-based products (like SmartCloud) – it even works on mobile browsers.

Special mentions to Sonar (a social networking app that brings your LinkedIn contacts (and others) into a location aware context) and CodeGuard (time machine + version control for your website and a cool logo!) as well as sponsors, UrtheCast (launching HD cameras into space to provide (and make available) essentially a new hi-res image of the planet every month.Tesla because Tesla is awesome and Elon Musk is a visionary and inspiring. SugarSync, because they might make a good partner, and EventBrite, because they disrupted local & social event ticketing and has made life easier for many people.

Tell us a little bit about the experience of being in Startup Alley. 

You give the pitch so often, you sometimes forget that what you are saying may have quite an impact on someone. If I could have done anything differently, I would have spent more time reaching out to people ahead of time. There were very few members of the press interacting with the Startups in Startup ally. They were mostly distracted by Arringtongate! I would have thought that, at a minimum, TechCruch would have sent someone to talk to each startup.

What advice/recommendations would you give to other Startups who are considering attending the next Disrupt?

You might want to read my other post on Disrupt for more insight. If you are a B2B start-up expect a good percentage of the attendees to not care about what you are doing. This may change, but social, mobile and games seem to be the startups that get all the attention. If you decide to be a part of startup ally you may want to push to be exhibiting on day 1. Our experience was that Day 1 was far more busy for startup ally. Don’t wear a costume! Even if it does get you attention, press, leads is it worth it? Most importantly, talk to other startups. Find ones you like and promote the hell out of them. The good ones are often not the ones in the battlefield. Get to know their pitch, value proposition, send people you talk to their way too to check them out. Finally, it’s all about the follow-up. What are you going to do after Disrupt?

Thanks for supporting the Openera pre-launch party and cancer fundraiser!

Thursday August 25th was a day to remember for us at Openera, and we want to thank YOU for making it such an awesome day. The Openera Launch Party and GutCheck for Cancer Fundraiser was a huge success – which is a major reflection of the kick ass startup community we have here in Ottawa.

We have a pretty lengthy list of people to thank for making the launch a night to remember… so here goes (queue the music…):

Bruce Firestone – Thank you for your inspirational words and being such a major supporter

of Ottawa startups/entrepreneurs.

– Dave Schellenburg from Live 88.5’s Morning Start Up – Thank you for attending the event and sharing a few words with the crowd, much appreciated!

– Devin and the Mill Street Brewery Team – Thank you for your sponsorship and for fueling our launch party.

RedBull – Thanks for sponsoring and giving our launch party “wings”.

– Scott Annan (Mercury Grove) – Thank you for letting us use the Mercury Grove HQ as the launch party venue and for being an awesome supporter of Ottawa startups.

– The NetGen Team – Thank you for your speedy delivery of our simple story video and working with us on our landing page and mobile site, you guys rock!

– Everyone who donated to our fundraising efforts for the Canadian Cancer Society. Cancer sucks and every little bit we can donate will make a BIG difference.

A special thank you to each and every one of you that has been an Openera cheerleader along the way and has worked with us to get us where we are today. We can’t thank you enough for all of your support throughout this journey. We have a phenominal group of supporters, friends and family.

We have a really exciting month ahead as we embark on our launch in San Francisco. We will keep you posted on our adventures and remember, if there’s anything we can do for you while we are in SF, please, please, please let us know!

Hacking a Cure for the Salesforce Email Headache

Today’s post comes to you from our very own, Adam Daw. Adam recently took the “hack-a-thon” crown at the International Startup Festival in Montreal. Here’s what Adam has to say about the hack-a-thon, the current state of email integration and Salesforce, and how many of the existing Salesforce email headaches can be solved with SmartCloud:

A couple of weeks ago, for the International Startup Festival in Montreal, a few companies related to Email threw an off-site event – a “hack-a-thon” – to announce their new APIs. I attended the event, and had a pretty good idea of a “neat” tool that I’d like to see for dealing with the kind of data you find in your email inbox. I was pretty jazzed up to start writing the tool until I found out two things:

  1. What we were being judged on
  2. Someone else had already built it at a similar event the month before

We were being judged on the number of APIs from that day we used, the creativity of our app, but also the financial viability of it. The business sense. So instead of doing something “cool”, I decided to do something that as a Salesforce User and Admin/Developer, I knew was a particular sore point with the application – Email Integration.

The current state of affairs for integration between email and Salesforce is a bit of a hodgepodge of solutions, so to speak. You can integrate Salesforce with your Outlook installation, or set up an email service (or use the existing Google service for this) that you then make privy to all of your email traffic, bcc’ing it every time you want something to show up in salesforce. You also have to be aware that one solution doesn’t act the same as the other – they all have their quirks and idiosyncrasies, so if you have users on multiple platforms or some that prefer Outlook and others that don’t, there’s no unified truth for email in Salesforce. Of course, you can force users to adopt one method or another, but then you’re making your users conform to the tool instead of making the tool fit the user – not exactly the goal when implementing a system as robust as Salesforce.com!

Once the email data is in Salesforce, it works “sort of” like any other object, but not really. It’s hard to get the data you want when you need it, and even harder to make sense of the data once you find it – assuming your users are still uploading data the way they’re supposed to. With the burden of data delivery on your salespeople, you’re taking them away from the key tasks they’re meant to perform and asking them to follow a new process every time they do something as naturally reflexive as send out an email. That’s like asking someone to change the way they breathe, all day and every day: it can be done, and it’s not an incredibly difficult task, but you’ll be hard pressed to get as much done in your day as you potentially could! Also, you’re more than likely to forget as soon as something important comes up and shakes you out of it. In other words, it’s not natural, it’s not needed, and it’s not the best use of your time!

I guess that’s the ultimate goal when I started working on this – the autonomic nervous system of the sales cycle. Just like youshouldn’t constantly have to think about when to breathe and how, your salespeople shouldn’t have to think about how their email data is getting into Salesforce. By connecting to the email server directly, we can make sure the key data needed to let you make the right decisions ends up in the right location, and by making the details configurable from directly inside Salesforce, we can do it without requiring any additional components or systems to be set up. No plugins in your email client, no bcc’ing some random email address with every communication, and it can all be done directly from inside your Salesforce window. So that’s what I presented, or at least the beginning of it, at the hack-a-thon.

Apparently I wasn’t alone with my frustrations, as I ended up winning the event.

LOL! Openera @Startupfest in Montreal

Yes we are!

“Hey, do you want to go to Montreal for a couple of days and hang with a bunch of start-ups?”

That was my intro to the idea of the first International Startup Festival in Montreal. We weren’t really sure what to expect, but it definitely seemed like an event a bootstrapping startup should be at, if for no other reason than to connect with other startups and share ideas, pains, and opportunities.

Great Event.

Wow. What a fantastic event! StartupFest certainly didn’t disappoint.

Openera at Startup FestWe had the opportunity to hear from serial entrepreneurs who put us at ease that we’re not alone in this, and yes, startups are hard, but that doesn’t mean we should give up (even if it did seem like they were encouraging us to run away as fast as we can!) We gained incredible insight into the The Lean Startup Model, validating that we’re on the right path, and approaching things the right way. We had the fortuity of learning what VC’s and angels are looking for, and what to do, or not do, when seeking funding.

Here are some highlights of Startup Fest.

Here are our highlights from Startup Fest!

Adam Daw is a Hack! Officially.

Adam Daw - Hacker. Winner.

Openera kicked off our activities at StartupFest with our hacker-in-residence, Adam Daw (@adamdaw), competing at Context.io‘s hackathon at Notman House, and wouldn’t you know you know it – he took first place!

Adam Daw, you are a Hacker! What better way to kick things off for us – congratulations Adam! (enjoy the iPad!)

We knew right away…

…this conference was F*@%!ng Different!

There was certainly no shortage of amazing presentation from some incredible speakers. While Dave McClure ( http://500startups.com) (King of the F-bombs!) may have had entrepreneurs and founders curled up in the fetal position crying for mommy with his in-your-face keynote “Why *NOT* do a Startup” (I especially love the term “Wantrepreneur”), thankfully it wasn’t enough to make us run away screaming. Here are just a handful of presentations we attended that had a huge impact on us, as well as links to the decks on SlideShare where available:

“Startups are hard, but don’t give up”

Sarah Prevette‘s awesome napkin slide presentation “Your first Startup” and Tara Hunt‘s “Lies, Damned Lies, and Startups” (The cake is a lie!) – were sharp, witty, and authentic… Definitely the stuff a bootstrapping startup needed to hear to stay motivated.

“Lean, Mean, Startup Machines”

Ash Maurya‘s “10 Steps to Product/Market Fit“, Dan Martell‘s “Understanding the lean model“, and Ed Roman‘s “Lean Startup Cases” provided invaluable insight into the Lean Startup Model, and helped validate for us that we’re on the right track, and are doing the right things.

“To fund or Not to Fund” and “Exit → This Way”

Jeff Clavier‘s “Startup by numbers“, Stephan Ouaknine‘s “It’s all about shareholder value” gave us a lot to think about with respect to funding, VC’s, and Angels. Anand Agarawala took us along BumpTop’s journey from startup to being acquired by Google last year and gave some great advice in “The Art of the Hustle“, and Jeremy Edberg walked us through “A brief history of Reddit, the first YCombinator success“. Both were inspiring and insightful.

Art of the Elevator pitch

Openera at Schwartz's

StartupFest did a terrific job providing entrepreneurs with various opportunities to pitch their ideas to VC’s, Angels, and potential partners and/or customers. This included, pitching to Grandmothers (your pitch/product should be so easy to understand, even your Grandma “gets it”.), delivering your elevator pitch … in an elevator (literally), and, for a handful of startups, the opportunity to pitch on stage to a full audience.

We couldn’t resist: Openera Pitches SmartCloud in an elevator.

We weren’t planning on pitching at this stage in our development, but who could resist doing an elevator pitch, in an elevator, to a couple of VC’s sitting on couches? It was awesome! The feedback was exactly what we needed to hear. Hearing a VC say:

“You’ve got a great idea, you’re going to make money, but you’re not thinking BIG enough!”

Well, that was pretty inspiring. Message received. Thinking bigger!

Startup Fest was about a lot more than just presentations.

Bowling with Hippos

Bowling with Hippos

Way more than just presentations. People. Smart people. Entrepreneurs willing to build something, take chances and help each other. There was a LOT of fun to be had as well. Besides the Montreal nightlife, cuisine and electric atmosphere on the Main…there was bowling with hippos! Feel free to ask Scott Annan from Network Hippo to clarify!

Huge thanks to Phil Telio and his team for spear-heading this fantastic event. We hope to see this event back in Montreal next year!

What did you learn from StartupFest? Do you think this will become an annual event?

Searching the web is easy, finding your own stuff is hard.

Google makes it easy to find stuff online. Where do you go to find your own stuff? Likely you have to search your laptop, any usb drives you may, or may not have connected at the exact time you are looking for the stuff, you also might need to search your on-line storage (cloud storage like Dropbox, box.net, mozy, idrive or google docs…among many, many others.) But wait! Did you forget to check your smart phone? What about your tablet?

With an ever increasing number of devices and services to store and access content, how can you keep track of all your own stuff? This is one of the primary problems we want to solve with SmartCloud. All your stuff, where you want and need it. Quickly search across all your cloud services for relevant content. Automatically manage your content by stripping all your messages and saving the files to where they need to go. Automatically tag all your content based on the information contained in the exchange. Make sure you have access to all your content on your mobile device. Make the mobile experience simple and useful.

Our goal is to give you control over your own content, when and where you want it.

People are the problem!

Why do fresh & shiny new systems fail? People. People suck! They don’t do what you want them to. They don’t follow instructions or read manuals. They can’t follow simple processes because they say they are “too busy ” well, get over it. Seriously. Please get over it. It’s time to admit you have a problem and that problem is people.

So, what are you going to do about it? For starters, why not try to accept that people aren’t going to change. Maybe the problem is you! How would you change the system to accommodate the way people actually work?