"At Citi, we have zetabytes of data," said Debby Hopkins of Citi Ventures, but what the gigantic banking institution didn't have is the technology to make sense of it. There is so much data generated in large enterprise that “you cannot humanly imagine all the relevant questions to ask," added Gurjeet. We cannot - but Ayasdi can: Gurjeet Singh, the founder & CEO, has developed a technology to give data not just meaning, but shape. When he and Debby finally spoke during the Citi enterprise sales cycle, Gurjeet knew he finally knew he met someone who "got it."
Coming together on the Startup Grind Global Conference stage, the two talked about the new challenges and opportunities in the vast, complex universe of enterprise data, the technology Ayasdi has pioneered to find not just the right answers but the right questions - and most importantly, the sales process for getting Ayasdi's solution into Citi's hands.
Watch Gurjeet and Debby's full fireside chat here, and read our highlights below.
Making Sense of it All: From Idea to Product to Enterprise Customer
During his time as an researcher, Gurjeet was tasked with finding interesting algorithms in disparate fields and applying them to original problems - think of it as trying different keys on a stubborn lock. Borrowing from biology, Gurjeet stumbled on a fresh idea: “All data has shape and shape has meaning."
But it didn't end with an inspiring conversation: enterprise sales cycles are notoriously long and demanding.
“To sell $100M in enterprise software, you need your product to be perfectly operational," says the Ayasdi founder. And even when you have the perfect product, expect to take your time because “you are talking to a lot of people, and each one is asking the question: “What is in it for me?” Be prepared to face polarization within the customers’ IT organization: “some will buy into your idea and others will completely reject it”. And when dealing with a corporate giant like CitiBank, understand that “it is like dealing with a country”.
To Make Big Sales, Find Your Champion
Debby was critical not only in helping Gurjeet get venture funding, but also introducing Ayasdi as a solution to CitiBank. Convincing a large enterprise to explore a new technology is no easy task, which is why you need Debbys on your team: as part of the Citi Ventures team, she in fact became their champion in the large financial institution.
She strongly advises entrepreneurs who target large enterprises to “find a champion within the company who can make introduction to decisions makers”. But, ultimately, you want to deploy your solution across the business - which means you must operationalize your product.
An Ayasdi data graph.
But even with Debbys help, Citi was not easy to win over - until the technology spoke for itself. Put into a room with some of the smartest people at CitiBank, Gurjeet faced opposition: “It simply did not make sense to them," continues Debbie, “until Gurjeet explained to them [how they might use] some data that they were not able to analyze." And then came the “WOW” moment.
Using Big Data in Big Enterprise
Debbie see huge opportunities for technologies like Ayasdi in a variety of markets. In Gurjeet's view, one such market is healthcare, where Ayasdi can be used for care variation management, especially in less developed countries with large populations.
Debby's last piece of advice for high-technology startups getting involved in enterprise sales: “Recruit board members who understand what it is to sell to large enterprises. It’s hard!” You - and they - must understand that your product is not the only one that is used by this big companies. It will have to be integrated as part of an end to end process.
Our Best Takeaways:
The amount of data that large corporations have to digest is now so big that we need to first find the right questions to ask.
Selling into big enterprises is very difficult, especially for startups. Find a champion within each customer, and work had on operationalizing your product.