Thursday, July 24, 2014
Pipeliner CRM's Nikolaus Kimla On Moving to LA, Sales Entrepreneurship
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
Southern California has a growing number of companies in the customer relationship management area, including a fairly new company in the area, Pipeliner CRM (www.pipelinersales.com). The company--which originally started in Austria--set up shop here two years ago to further expand its footprint in the US, and most recently hired away the entire Los Angeles marketing team of crosstown CRM software developer Nimble. We spoke with Nikolaus Kimla, the CEO of Pipeliner CRM, to learn more about the company, its move here, and its software.
Tell us about Pipeliner CRM?
Nikolaus Kimla: I moved here two years ago, from Austria-Vienna. I'm living now in Los Angeles. We had previously developed software for a hit company in the banking and compliance area, which was bought by Reuters, and is a banking solution used by all banks worldwide. We did that for 15 years, and have a lot of knowledge in this area. The long story is that company was sold to Thomson Reuters for almost $530M. A few years ago, we saw there was a need, and that there was something wrong with CRM software. The people we spoke with told us that CRM sucks, and sales people have to use this software, but don't like to use it. We interviewed over a thousand people around the world, and they all told us they don't like it. The reason why, they told us, is because it was not for us, but was written for management. We saw a tremendous opportunity to go into this realm. We realized also that programming CRM software is not that easy. It's not a little piece of software that you can put people in a room and have a perfect application running in two years. It took us many years to get to where we are.
How did you decide to move here to Los Angeles?
Nikolaus Kimla: We started to promote the product, and saw immediately that it was rocking around the world. We knew that 53 percent of all CRM systems in the cloud were sold in America, so it was an easy decision to move here.
Who are your customers?
Nikolaus Kimla: I'm 53, and am not a young guy. When you arrive here, you have to find a house for your family, but on the next day I was sending out emails, and people started showing up on our doorstep telling us they wanted to set up a contract for PIpeliner. The good thing is, after almost two years here in this space, we have over 128 customers in the U.S. alone, and hundreds around the world. We're gaining approximately 25 customers a month, and until now we had no marketing. We recently added an entire marketing team, which was originally at Nimble, including Eric Quanstrom, our CMO, Rachel Miller, our Content Director, and Alyson Button Stone, our Chief Listener. The whole team came from Nimble a little bit more than two and a half months ago. We're now opening up in six markets. We're in Great Britain, in the Nordic countries operating out of Stockholm, in New Delhi, India, and in Germany, and in Central Europe with our own sales representative. We are really building a whole structure around the world. Whever we go, and whenever we get in front of customers, people love the software. That's what it's all about. The manager is our buyer, but the sales people using it really like the software. We're finding that true in Finland, in Capetown, in Johannesberg, in Sydney, in Bogota, in Singapore, and here in the US. That makes it easy to sell the software to a manager, because all of the user is one of the biggest obstacles facing most CRM systems.
What kinds of customers use your product?
Nikolaus Kimla: We have business in a lot of countries using our product. I come from the enterprise business, but here, we're going after mid-sized companies, because the sale cycle for the enterprise is too long. Enterprise sales take twelve to twenty-four months. We'd run out of cash if we did all that. So, we are focusing on mid sized businesses with 20 to 200 licenses, which is our sweet spot. The kind of thing we do is vertical, not horizontal, so we have customers all over the map, from manufacturers, to web companies, to HR companies, to banks, to insurance, whatever.
Where is the company now, in stage?
Nikolaus Kimla: We'll be starting a Series A sometime after the summer, after August. We currently have a team of seventy people, but we need to grow faster, and we need some more support. Our core team, almost fifty people, are programmers. So, we have a core team of dedicated people working on the product, which is the most important part. Customer who find us also find that we've drastically reduced onboarding and support, particularly compared to companies like Salesforce, SugarCRM, and SAP. We have made the system so easy, that you do not even need a dedicated CRM person. You'll be saving money because you don't need that CRM person.
I believe that sales people are entrepreneurs in the enterprise. They have never been treated as what they are. They are truly entrepreneurs, as they live with risk of their commission. Around the world, ninety percent of sales people do not even have a base salary--that's only something here in the US. Even some business here have no base salary, and sales people purely live on commission. They live by risk, but they're not valued for that. We're really bringing back the spirit of sales entrepreneurs, and bringing back the mindset that we're here for you. If we help you guys, you help the company, and your company gets healthy. We minimize their risk, give them great opportunity, and go help them with everything.