Why Every CRO Should Know Warmly

When I met Warmly's CEO Max Greenwald back in April, we experienced something close to a mind meld. He spoke about how most great companies grow through positive word of mouth but fail to systematically leverage it. He saw a specific opportunity for businesses to reach out to customer advocates who moved to new companies and thereby represented a new sales opportunity. More broadly, he envisioned a long-term customer advocate network that -- in my point of view -- could supplant CRM software.

I think most revenue leaders would agree that the architecture of CRM was designed for an earlier era. The fundamental pivot point within a CRM is the "account", but when we're trying to get deals done, the more interesting entity is the individual.

That's partly because individuals are no longer wedded to their companies ("accounts") for life. In the tech industry, but increasingly in other industries as well, people switch companies every couple of years on average. But more importantly, the individual is more important to track than the account because business gets done through a varying, subtle web of relationships between individuals.

That was true in Warmly's fundraising process as much as in any business deal. Max's running partner (clearly impressed by his ultramarathon endeavors!) introduced him to a friend of mine, who introduced him to me because of my experience in the customer advocacy space. I then introduced him to the folks at the ultimate lead investor NFX, whom I had been originally introduced to last year by someone who worked with someone whom I used to work with.

That's an example of leveraging advocates in a constructive way. Max ran a strong fundraising process. He succeeded because of his hustle, natural people orientation, and all the things that make his business compelling (team, product, market, etc.). But certainly there was serendipity in the process -- how could he have known that his conversation with his running partner would ultimately lead to an introduction to NFX? He couldn't have. But he's now building a product that could ultimately make that foresight possible in a B2B context, by tracking the links among advocates.

Max did a great job leveraging advocates with the information at his disposal. But what does it look like when people don't leverage advocates to get deals done?

A salesperson reaches out cold to an executive at a target account. That executive asks her team for their thoughts on the product, and it turns out that several of them used the product at a previous employer. Two of them gave glowing reviews, but two others had a terrible experience with the product and recommend evaluating a competitor instead. The executive might invite the vendor to pitch, but she might not.

What if the salesperson had known in advance that the team members had used the product before? He could have called up the two advocates and asked for an introduction to the executive, bypassing the two detractors. Moreover, what if the salesperson had known that a member of his company's board actually sold to the executive at a previous employer and could have influenced the executive's decision?

Without a system that maps commercial relationships between individuals who don't belong to the same "account", and tracks an individual's changing relationships to accounts over time, this kind of advocacy-driven sales is very difficult to orchestrate. Warmly is looking to make that possible.

It's hard to imagine a better team to go after this vision. Their experience working on mass data collection at Google is highly relevant to the problem they're looking to solve. They also bring a fresh perspective to the sometimes stodgy enterprise world. Moreover, when you meet them, you can't help but feel the warmth of the team tackling the opportunity inherent in warm relationships. (This is a group that is currently living together, along with two pet chickens whom they recently adopted and who sometimes make an appearance on team calls.)

I'm looking forward to being a small part of Warmly's journey as an investor, and I'm sure they'll inspire many others to join them in their mission as well.