Base CRM: The Enterprise Startup On A Mission To Overthrow Salesforce
In 2017, spending on enterprise software is projected to reach $351 billion globally, and is expected to hit $462 billion by 2021.
Although CRM giants like Salesforce have stood as the industry standard for nearly two decades, the enterprise software industry is a fertile ground for innovation. With more competitors in the market than ever before, the pressure is on traditional power players to disrupt their existing models and design effective solutions for businesses emerging in a changing digital age.
Founded in 2009, Base CRM offers next-generation customer relationship management software for sales teams looking to consolidate workflows, increase efficiency and scale at an accelerated pace. Currently serving over 7,000 customers globally across industries, the growing startup has raised over $53 million in funding to date. The company also operates three locations, with offices in Silicon Valley, San Francisco and Krakow, Poland.
Base is best known for the development of Apollo, a proprietary technology that adds a layer of artificial intelligence over existing CRM software. Known as a Prescriptive Sales technology, Apollo sends prescriptive recommendations to sales teams and managers to help reps make smarter decisions that drive results. Instead of simply delivering detailed reports of trends and outcomes, Apollo actively analyzes data to discover different ways to improve outcomes and adjust sales strategies.
Additionally, while competitors like Salesforce charge extra fees for upgrading various features, Base handles everything internally, consolidating their suite of services into one package deal provided to customers at a fixed rate. As a result, beyond saving companies thousands of dollars monthly by offering a full scope of tools at an upfront cost, Base also removes the middleman. Leaders like Salesforce rely on an expansive ecosystem of vendors to design their platform for customers. With Base, all integrations are handled in-house, ultimately cutting costs dramatically.
By building a user-friendly platform that streamlines workflow and communication between departments, Base is helping business owners get full buy-in from their sales teams, resulting in more reps hitting their sales numbers, which generates more revenue for the company.
I spoke with Founder and CEO Uzi Shmilovici about the vision behind his company, challenging Salesforce, and developing the future of CRM software.
What specific void or opportunity did you discover that inspired the idea behind your company?
Uzi Shmilovici: I owned a digital agency before starting Base, and in searching for a tool to manage our sales, we started using Salesforce. I was shocked that a tool considered as being the leader in the CRM space could be so unintuitive and overly complicated. Not to mention, most of these legacy CRM tools are each essentially a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none. So, I set out to build something that was designed specifically for salespeople, and was so straightforward and easy to use that reps would actually want to use it.
What were some of the challenges you faced early on and what lessons did you learn throughout the process?
Uzi Shmilovici: Early on in the life of Base, people questioned our ability to disrupt the category. There is a wall-to-wall consensus that there hasn’t been much innovation in the space, and I have yet to find one company that actually loves the Salesforce product; but people still believed Salesforce had too much market power. The biggest lesson I learned is if you stick to your vision and stay true to what customers need, you will prevail.
Describe how your CRM solution works and what is the strategic thinking behind your business model?
Uzi Shmilovici: Our core mission is very clear: dramatically improve the work experience for the 25 million sales professionals worldwide. Then, we use the data that is being collected to provide transformational business insights. Our solution works by providing an all-in-one solution for sales teams - pipeline management, mobile sales management, sales productivity tools, reporting and analytics. For measuring and mining insights, we recently launched Apollo, which uses very advanced techniques to analyze sales data and provide quantifiable and actionable feedback. The business model is simple: you pay per seat.
What gives Base a competitive advantage over giants like Salesforce?
Uzi Shmilovici: Think of it this way: Salesforce wasn’t built for the way that people work today – using multiple devices, relying on real-time data to make decisions, and so forth. Because of this, sales teams don’t want to use it. If your sales team isn’t using your CRM, then how are you supposed to get meaningful data and insights? You simply can’t. In contrast, Base was built for the modern sales leader. It’s mobile first, highly visual, and automation-driven. It’s also an all-in-one solution, which means you have all the tools you need in a single platform. Because of this, sales teams use it. When your team is consistently using your sales platform, you can collect a high quantity and quality of data, which yields unprecedented insights.
How do you remain both innovative and competitive in such a rapidly changing market?
Uzi Shmilovici: It's simple: Agility. Unlike our competitors, we’re not dragging decades of outdated technology behind us, which enables us to move and innovate quickly. Because we are a sales-focused platform, we also have the ability to really zero in on what our customers are saying and what sales teams need to be more successful, and prioritize those projects.
Describe the importance or benefit of keeping everything in-house and consolidating your services?
Uzi Shmilovici: To fill the gaps in their own technologies, legacy CRM players have begun acquiring and/or integrating with point solutions like email trackers or power dialers. Not only does this drive costs for businesses, as they’re forced to pay for additional licensing fees and API calls, but it also causes frustration for reps who are forced to constantly move between systems. Ultimately, adoption and data capture suffer. Having an all-in-one sales platform like Base streamlines the entire sales process and enhances productivity because reps don’t have to go back and forth between different platforms. Communication is more easily kept in context, and reporting is much easier and more effective because all of your data is in one place. It saves you money as well since you don’t have to pay for the licensing, integration and upkeep of five different platforms.
How do you see the CRM landscape changing and how should business leaders be thinking about these tools when planning for the future?
Uzi Shmilovici: Sales is catching up to other categories like marketing and becoming increasingly data-driven. Sales leaders understand that in order to scale and refine their performance and processes, they need to be able to accurately measure their sales efforts. Doing this requires a more scientific approach to sales, and CRMs must evolve to support this. This means making it easier for reps to capture data through automation, mobile functionality and intuitive design. It means functioning as an all-in-one solution that keeps information organized and in proper context. It means surfacing relevant information at the right moments, providing highly visual reports that give both managers and reps the insights they need in real-time. Keeping these needs in mind when selecting your next sales tool is the best way to future-proof your business.
How do you see the company evolving in 3-5 years and what impact do you hope to have on the industry?
**Uzi Shmilovici: Currently CRMs are database centric, meaning that they simply provide tables and views of information to users, regardless of who they are and what they need. However, at Base, we are striving to provide data in context so that the information users see is specifically relevant to them and their jobs. Using case-focused information is the next step in our mission to provide sales teams with a highly intuitive solution that makes their days more productive and their lives easier. I also believe that this is where the market is heading as a whole -- more personalized and contextual experiences for salespeople.