Saltbox co-founder and CEO John Delano admits that his company isn’t building the “most sexy mobile-social-big data app.”
But even so, they are attacking a big problem that needs solved, helping sales professionals participate in online training and education on their own terms and their own devices.
We chatted with Delano to find out more about the 2-year-old company for the latest installment of Startup Spotlight.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “Saltbox is a web application that helps sales people communicate and learn – from their co-workers, customers, the web, and their company – so they can gain a competitive advantage. Sales people love Saltbox because they have access to bite-sized chunks of information that can be consumed quickly, on-demand, from anywhere. Companies like Saltbox because they can communicate just- in-time information and assess learning quickly.”
Inspiration hit us when: ”While begrudgingly taking our mandatory web based training on computers when we knew we actually learned the most from our customers, co-workers and existing web based information. Reality hit us when we realized traditional learning departments are based on creating and distributing formal content in complex learning management systems even though up to 90% of sales learning is outside the formal learning environment. We were motivated to take action and solve this problem when we learned that we weren’t the only ones. Sales people learn differently.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We voluntarily left our salaried corporate jobs and bootstrapped the funds to build something we believe in. We’re not building the most sexy mobile social big data app so we had to build a business that makes money (like real revenue on a recurring basis). We are currently exploring seed funding investment opportunities so we can grow faster.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: ”Our team. We have been there, we have suffered through the problem we are solving, we have built large scale applications, we are agile and continuously learning from our experiences and mistakes.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Networked, sourced and recruited a highly talented and motivated team that shares our vision, and trusted them to deliver a phenomenal user experience. Ask our customers for feedback regularly, allowing them to tell us what they want to see.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: ”We initially partnered with a third party to assist in prototyping and learned that even as a short-term strategy this doesn’t provide the best long term results no matter how talented and experienced the partner. So we made our smartest move next.”
Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “All of the above but if we had to pick one, Jeff Bezos. His experience and mentorship would be invaluable but most importantly, relevant. He voluntarily left a promising career on Wall Street, became a pioneer in an entirely new industry, and continuously innovated through the dot com bust. Plus, who wouldn’t love free Amazon Web Services for life!
Our world domination strategy starts when: ”The decisions made by many small workgroups to embrace Saltbox dictates the adoption of Saltbox across an entire enterprise.”
Rivals should fear us because: ”What rivals? Just kidding. We are nimble, focused, and solving a real business problem with a highly differentiated solution that can save organizations millions of dollars each year while simultaneously giving their sales force a competitive advantage. The electronic learning industry is a $68.5 billion market ($20 billion of that is formal sales training), yet only 32 percent used. We intend to shrink the market by providing a more effective and less cost prohibiting informal and social learning solution.”
We are truly unique because: “We bring people together in the context of learning material and sources of information they have in common, and allow them to discuss or rate it if they wish. You can’t design a content management system to be social just for the sake of being social, nor can you just bolt on or add a “social tab” onto existing learning management system like our competitors are doing.”
The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: ”Becoming a major disruptor in the enterprise learning space requires us to drive change management in large organizations. Since we are offering a solution to a business problem for the front line sales employee, it has required some tough discussions with senior leadership who may have an interest in keeping the incumbent systems in place that they are comfortable with. We have learned that in order to sustain growth and retention in a subscription business, we need to trust our customers and let the “consumer-prise” command change, then the enterprise will follow.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: ”Always remember to focus on solving a real business problem and build a great team to solve it with you. Avoid getting caught up in being the next big thing or designing a cool app that needs to find a problem.”
Startup Spotlight is an occasional look at a Seattle area startup company. Have an interesting new venture you want spotlighted in GeekWire? Fill out the questions above, send photos of the founder(s) and company logo to firstname.lastname@example.org. Past profiles can be found here.