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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Yesware – Integrating Email and CRM

Comments (16)

I continue to be obsessed about email – it’s by far the most significant comm channel I use. And – it’s accelerating, not decelerating, especially as it proliferates across devices as well as other comm channels.

I’ve watched as many of the companies we’ve invested in use email and CRM systems (such as Salesforce) as though they existed in separate parallel universes. I’ve listened to the endless complaints about the complete and total lack of real integration between the two. I’ve watched the workflow, even from very disciplined sales people, and shaken my head in total bafflement at the lack of integration and the perverse contortions the sales person goes through to try to make the two systems work together. And – as I’ve continued to manage the enormous flow of email I get in Gmail, I’ve been searching for more efficient (and effective) ways to deal with it, besides just ignoring it which, while efficient, wouldn’t be very effective.

To address this, we’ve invested in a new company called Yesware.

At the beginning of the year I was kicking around some ideas with my long time friend Raj Bhargava. Raj and I have done a bunch of companies together since we met in 1994. He acutely felt this problem in his most recent company StillSecure as he dealt with the garbage in / garbage out problem of his CRM system. Over a few months we bounced some ideas around until one day he mentioned to me that he’d run into two entrepreneurs in Boston – Matthew Bellows and Cashman Andrus – who were working on something similar. Over a few weeks everyone connected, Matthew, Cashman, and Raj decided to merge efforts, and I agreed, along with Rich Miner at Google Ventures, to provide a seed financing.

A few weeks later we had our first board meeting in Google’s NY office where I discovered Zico Coconut Water. Matthew and Cashman showed us a detailed product road map along with the MVP they were working on and planning to ship in 30 or so days. We spent the entire meeting talking about the product (I’m sure Matthew had other slides but I don’t remember them.) While the first MVP was interesting and an extension of the ideas they had started with, it didn’t feel right to anyone in the room.

Rich and I both suggested – in different ways – that the team delete what they had done so far. We felt they were falling into a classic startup trap as they’d spent three months raising their round and were now anxious to get a product out the door. But they hadn’t spent much time in the previous three months thinking deeply about the product, so their plan was an awkward continuation of their demoware and concept pitch.

At some point in the meeting I said something that Matthew has told me stuck with him. I said, in my most Yoda-like voice, “slow down to speed up.” The seed round was an ample amount of money for them to go for at least a year. Their vision didn’t have an expiration date. Sure – other people were likely working on similar stuff and getting to market fast is always important, but getting to market with something compelling is even more important.

The team heeded the advice, stopped trying to ramp up headcount to work on extending the demo, deleted the product roadmap, and started again. The progress over the next 60 days was awesome as they went very deep with real salespeople on the problem, simplified their product vision, and defined a very clear MVP, release plan, and path to a revenue producing product.

At the time we made our investment I asked Matthew if he wanted me to blog about it. He didn’t – he saw no reason to talk widely about it until the company had shipped something interesting for people to use. That time has come – if you are a salesperson and use Gmail in Chrome, give Yesware a try. And give us feedback.

  • http://www.alearningaday.com Rohan Rajiv

    All the best!

  • http://boomylabs.com Shyam Subramanyan

    Sounds cool.  I’ve been using a combination of Rapportive, Boomerang, Custom Labels, Canned Response (Google Labs). Yesware does not cover everything, but has the potential to reduce the number of moving parts – will give it a try.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Great! Love to hear your feedback.

  • James Mitchell

    The problem with email is that people use it when they
    should not be using it, because it is so easy. In some cases, there are more
    efficient methods to communicate.

    All VC firms need a deal tracking system. It would be better if everyone at the
    firm used such a system to track their thoughts and comments on a particular
    deal, rather than sending emails back and forth. That way, all of the comments
    are centralized in one place, and one call look at all of the comments for Deal
    X when one wants to think about Deal X, rather than the random interruption
    that email is.

    At my firm, I have pretty much arm twisted everyone to use our CRM system to
    track prospects, so there are very few emails sent internally concerning
    prospects.

    The other problem with all of the major email platforms (such as Outlook and
    Gmail) is they do not think about workflow. I like to keep all of my emails
    with John Smith in a John Smith folder. I would like to have John’s email in my
    In Box, I send a reply, and then unless I tell it otherwise, his email and my
    response is then moved to his folder. It would not take Microsoft much time to
    add this functionality to Outlook.

  • Matthew Bellows

    My first thought when you said that in the board meeting was “Really!? How awesome! What a great opportunity.” that was followed immediately by “holy shit! What do we do now??!?”

    All investors give lip service to how they add value above and beyond dollars. In the six months we’ve been working with Foundry and Google, this is only one of many examples of how they actually do it.

  • http://blogmutt.com Scott Yates

    I can’t WAIT to try it. I looked everywhere for something like this and finally had to build my own hacked-together CRM for people managing a list of potential beta customers. http://www.sco.tt/scott_yates/2011/07/crm-pipeline-for-beta-list-tracking.html

    I’ve gotten some good feedback, and thought about taking a few more steps to build out the functionality, but… I’M BUSY RUNNING MY OWN DAMN COMPANY!

    Ahem. Sorry for yelling. I have high hopes.

    • http://twitter.com/yesware Yesware

      Thanks Scott! Please let me know how it goes: matthew@yesware.com

  • http://www.Wishery.com Cooper Marcus

    All of us here at Wishery http://wishery.com/install are also big fans of helping sales and support people get more done in Gmail. Congrats Matthew and Cashman, you are in great hands with Brad and Google Ventures!

  • http://www.facebook.com/gratzo Joel Gratz

    Install was quick and already see this saving time for both sales leads and support. Very cool – good work, all!

  • Grant Carlile

    Brad-That is a real problem, I agree. It’s exciting to see design process principles being talked about. Good design is good business amd esp. on the web. I’ll be sure to check out the product and give David over at google ventures a shout for being on the band-wagon.
    All the best.

  • http://www.adub.net/blog Alan Wells

    I was the last question at the event in Palo Alto last night and not cutthroat enough to jump in front of the other guy. The question I was going to ask was in reference to this post. The point about needing to “slow down to speed up,” do a reset post-fundraising and not continue building upon what was created for the investor demo is timely for me. What pitches well in investor conversations seems to be the bigger vision for the product, not the one feature that needs to be in place for an MVP.After working at Zynga in 08/09, the notion of working at Zynga speed is ingrained in my work habits, but this post was a refreshing counterpoint to the typical urgency-driven mentality that is the driving force at many startups.Do you think your perspective on this is generally common among investors – that it’s acknowledged that the team may need to step back and re-group on product development? I haven’t experienced it yet but it seems like this could create some tension where the people who just wrote a big check want to see a product release ASAP and putting the brakes on may come as a surprise.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Oof – this was a great question – I should have chosen you!

      I think a lot of VCs don’t understand this until things are messed up, then they encourage the team to hit reset and try again, but a lot of time is wasted. Whenever I do a seed investment, I encourage intense urgency, but only once it’s clear what you are being urgent about. That was the message I gave Matthew. Yesware is building and iterating extremely rapidly and it has real power since they are working on – at least in our current collective judgement – the right things.

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