Sramana Mitra: What year are we at now?
Zvi Band: Around 2010. I had just been the CTO of an enterprise startup. I was consulting. I then tried starting my own projects. It was called Structo. Are you familiar with parse and convey and all these backend service tools?
Sramana Mitra: No.
Zvi Band: The whole idea is that it could be like a remote hosted database so that the developer wouldn’t need a database or a backend. They could build a mobile application or a web application and we would handle the backend. I tried it. It failed. Honestly, it didn’t fail because it was a bad idea. It failed because I lacked the stamina to keep working on it everyday. I was easily discouraged. I would then go back to my other job where I was consulting. It died more of inattention than anything else. When I started Contactually, we went all in. We founded Contactually in the middle of 2011.
Sramana Mitra: What was the trigger in 2011 to start this?
Zvi Band: One of the things that you and I share as entrepreneurs is that we’ve learned one of the key secrets in business. Our relationships and who we know is one of the most, if not the most, important thing. Especially in changing economy and a changing world, the knowledge and our ability to have unique knowledge is going away with the web. Having a skill set that few others in our area posses doesn’t matter anymore because I can work with anyone.
Knowing that the skills gap and knowledge gap is decreasing, the remaining thing is our relationships. People do business with people they know. I was able to see a lot of success early on in my career and worked with some amazing brands not because I was necessarily good at my job or my school taught me well. It was just because I knew the right people and the right people knew me. I said, “This is actually a really powerful thing if only I was good at it. We always forget human beings.
We’ll meet someone for coffee and then two weeks later, forget them. You may be learning a lot about me on this call but chances are, two weeks later, you’re going to forget about this. That’s okay because human beings have to forget things because we’re overwhelmed with so much information. How can I make sure that while I am forgetting people and people are forgetting me, how can I build software that helps us build and strengthen relationships? The idea for a proactive CRM around relationship building came up. On May 15, 2011, that’s when I first wrote down the idea.
Sramana Mitra: Help me understand what a proactive CRM means. There’s a lot going on. What did you think your idea was going to be that was going to be substantially different to be able to stand out in this extremely crowded space?
Zvi Band: CRM is passing ERP as the largest overall IT expenditure.
Sramana Mitra: Yes.
Zvi Band: Because of that, there are a lot of entrants. Because it’s an incredibly crowded space, there are so many types of CRMs. This is the specific aspect that we are trying to solve. Most CRMs require that every data point has to be entered by yourself. What we focus on is connecting your email, calendar, phone, and social media, and understand all the people you know. That’s obviously one key aspect of being a proactive CRM. We proactively get the data rather than wait for you to put it in.
We know that if you want to grow your business, it involves staying in touch with relationships and making sure that they’re nurturing new and referral businesses. We simply need to know who do I need to talk to today, when I need to talk to them, and what I should say in order to build a great relationship. Our system basically does all the artificial intelligence and messy work to be able to say, “Talk to Sramana today.” That’s still a very unique value proposition.