Chennai-based startup PipeCandy that uses data to help sales reps raises $1.1M seed funding


Chennai-based intelligent sales prospecting platform PipeCandy has raised $1.1 million in seed funding from IDG Ventures, Axilor Ventures, Emergent Ventures, Indian Angel Network, and a few other startup founders. The company had earlier raised an undisclosed amount in February 2016. PipeCandy plans to use the funding to verticalise its analytical models and to build tools that make sales reps follow best practices effortlessly.

Co-founded by Ashwin Ramasamy and Murali Vivekanandan in in February 2016, PipeCandy uses data science techniques to discover the right prospects for B2B sales reps and helps them segment the prospects based on nuances specific to their respective industries. The company is headquartered in San Francisco but have all the operations in Chennai.

PipeCandy Co-founders - Shrikanth Jagannathan, Ashwin Ramasamy, Murali Vivekanandan (from L to R)

Story behind PipeCandy

Ashwin, who has done everything from selling automotive software to supply chain consulting to app development across three countries for eight years, founded ContractIQ, a B2B platform for app development agencies, in Chennai in 2012. Murali ran one such product engineering agency which was the top grosser in terms of projects for two years. Ashwin and Murali, who worked on over 20 projects together over four years, in their first meeting concluded that "At the end of the day, sales is primarily a data problem. If you fix data, you fix authenticity or rather the lack of it.” They then decided to start PipeCandy.

The duo was joined by Shrikanth Jagannathan, who had gone to grad school with Ashwin and had developed products for the top 10 Fortune 500 companies that applied data science techniques to understanding consumer behaviour.

The business and the business model

PipeCandy tracks industry-specific nuances about retail, e-commerce, mobile, and SaaS industries and provides these insights to sales reps who sell to them. The tracking is done through a combination of crawling public data sources like Yellow Pages and company websites and through data partnerships with a variety of data providers who give firmographic and business decision-maker contact data. Firm-level data is refreshed every quarter and people data is refreshed every month. Ashwin claims that PipeCandy’s bounce rates are less than 10 percent, confirming that the data is authentic.

Sharing a use case, Ashwin elaborates,

A San Francisco startup that helps retailers tell original luxury goods from the fake ones used PipeCandy to discover retailers and consignment stores around the world that sold luxury good of a specific kind.

The company sells intelligence and insights. They charge for the number of prospect records that someone buys and for the number of intelligent attributes per record. For example, if someone is looking for data on e-commerce companies and if PipeCandy gives them insights on how many stock keeping units (SKUs) they sell or how many shipping options they have, each such data point is an attribute that is priced additionally (over and above the cost of the contact data).

PipeCandy claims to track over 100 million decision-makers across 40 million companies globally. Specifically, for businesses targeting retail, e-commerce, mobile, and SaaS verticals, PipeCandy has built analytical models that help sales reps apply industry-specific attributes to narrow down to 'exact fit' targets and run outreach campaigns. Ashwin explains,

A point of sale software company can discover retailers that have an omni-channel presence and filter them based on the number of SKUs they sell.So, unlike traditional sales intelligence companies, with PipeCandy, sales reps are able to target companies based on contexts that are very unique to specific industries and thereby dramatically increase their response rates.

Clients, market, and the team

The market in which PipeCandy is playing would be about $12 billion in 2021. Companies like Infer, Lattice Engines, and Zen Prospect are its competitors. While most of these companies focus on 'commodity data' which is name, email ID, phone number, etc., PipeCandy focuses on industry-specific attributes that a sales rep can actually use to strike a very contextual conversation.

PipeCandy’s clients include Freshdesk, Chargebee, Zarget, and US-based e-commerce tech companies like Shyp and Agiliron. Some of PipeCandy's customers get close to a 20 percent response rate to outreach campaigns sent to prospects identified by PipeCandy's analytical models. According to Ashwin, the company’s primary focus will be English-speaking markets and the US would be the dominant focus. The company expects to have close to 100 paying customers by June 2017.

Ranjith Menon, Executive Director, IDG Ventures India, believes that artificial intelligence and data science are rapidly maturing. He says, “Globally this is a very under-penetrated space with only about 3 percent of the companies adopting technology to reach out in a structured manner.”

The 25-member team includes 10 members in data team, five in the tech team, one in product, three in sales, one in marketing, one each for taking care of HR and finance, and three founders.

The company plans to open up intelligent insights for at least three new verticals in 2017.

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