Months after cutting half its staff, edtech startup Flockjay has landed on a new vision for how to disrupt tech sales: Start from the inside out. The startup is building Flockjay Elevate, a platform for sales teams to use across their companies to improve their jobs.
The Elevate platform has a number of different features, from a live feed that highlights gains and losses, a library of best practices, and an analytics layer that communicates impact. It should be a place where sales development leaders, sales managers and sales development representatives can gather their internal communications.
Flockjay’s new product, a B2B SaaS tool, might seem like a big leap from where it started in the edtech world. CEO Shaan Hathiramani thinks it’s a gamble on a belief he’s learned the hard way: Supporting alumni — and keeping bootcamp graduates in the sales jobs they’ve broken into — is one of the biggest responsibilities tech bootcamps have to respond to .
Flockjay, who graduated from Y Combinator in 2019, started out as a ramp people could use to get into tech careers. The main product was a 10-week sales training bootcamp that then placed graduates in sales jobs. At one point, about 40% of Flockjay students did not have a four-year college degree; half of students identified as female or non-binary, and half of company students identified as black or Hispanic.
Most recently, the company raised $11 million Series A venture funding in January 2021, according to Crunchbase data. Eventually, Hathiramani said, the pace of growth made it look like Flockjay was “running about six or seven businesses at the same time.” He went on to say that the team was running an admissions and selection business, a training business, a coaching and placement business, and an alumni community, something that caused burnout among the team of less than 100 people.
More problematic, perhaps, was the fact that Flockjay wasn’t “growing at the speed you want either”. More specifically, Flockjay was good at setting people up for early success, but when they were put into a company, they weren’t thriving amid a distributed workforce. Sales functions more broadly deal with high attrition, Hathiramani added.
“We needed to take a break and I had to make some really tough decisions about what I thought would make the business future-proof, and I wanted to do it at a point in our business that didn’t ignore those forces sooner. ” The company’s subsequent layoffs not only cost the 30 to 45 people who lost their jobs, but also the diverse customer base that Flockjay spent years building.
Fast forward; Hathiramani said his board of directors was in agreement with the eventual pivot — even though it was one of the most unconventional conversations he has had with them to date.
“If you’re really serious about the mission, don’t fall in love with the solution, fall in love with the problem,” he said.
Flockjay’s new business wants to break down silos the team has learned about in the bootcamp world, such as low participation rates with learning modules and lack of impact with Slack conversations, where Hathiramani says “great ideas die.” By making sales teams more collaborative across different media, he thinks he can empower those intruders to stay there longer. In other words, it wants to centralize the strengths of everyone within a team, build best practices, and create a safer and more useful space than other communication tools.
“If I’m new to an organization, whether I’m an account executive or an SDR, or if I’m ready for a performance improvement plan, I now have the cheat codes,” he said. “Now I can take advantage of that and come back from them in a way that wasn’t possible.”
Competition among B2B corporate sales tools is fierce. In January, Atrium raised millions to help sales teams meet their quotas through better data analytics. After raising $16 million in Series A funding last April, Databook, an AI-powered consultative sales intelligence firm, secured $50 million in Series B funding in February. Apollo.io is developing sales intelligence and engagement software for business-to-business companies.
Hathiramani says customers say that even Salesforce and Microsoft don’t have truly collaborative tools to help sales teams, so he’s confident there’s enough room even in the extremely fragmented market. The real differentiator I see, however, is a pivot that comes from a harsh reality and an altered perspective on how to build.
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