Across industries, despite the tide of automation and artificial intelligence, most companies still employ humans to deal with customers for important interactions, whether that is through customer service, sales or other roles. Seattle startup Highspot is betting that a combination of these workers, empowered by technologies such as AI, is key to increasing the bottom line.
The company today announced a whopping $60 million round to arm customer-facing teams with all the information they need for a smooth conversation. The Series D round brings total funding to date to $124 million and comes less than a year after Highspot landed $35 million in funding to power its rapid growth.
Traditionally, the company has been focused on software for sales teams and other jobs that directly bring in money, but it is expanding to make tools to help anyone who talks to customers. Highspot’s goal is to put all the information in front of the right people, whether it is the salesperson closing a deal or a customer service rep fielding technical questions. It’s a moment that CEO Robert Wahbe describes as the “last mile” of significant purchases.
“We see this incredible opportunity across all these industries and geographies — when you are making a significant purchase, the universal truth across all those things is that you are probably interacting with a person,” Wahbe said. “To the extent that person can be wonderfully enabled to have the right kinds of conversations, you now have a much better chance as a business to grow.”
“Revenue-facing roles,” as Wahbe calls them — account management, sales and other positions that directly bring in money — make up roughly 20 million people worldwide. However, adding in other customer-facing positions such as customer service increases Highspot’s market by another 50 million people, Wahbe said.
ICONIQ Capital led the round, with participation from new investor Sapphire Ventures and existing investors Madrona Venture Group, OpenView, Salesforce Ventures and Shasta Ventures. ICONIQ Capital has offices in San Francisco, New York, Singapore and Palo Alto Calif., and has been involved in a trio of huge funding rounds in just the last month: $60 million for People.ai, $260 million for Marqeta and $102 million for SendBird.
Wahbe claimed the round came together in a process that took less than two weeks, a quick turnaround time in the venture capital world. Highspot is in high demand among investors, he said, so the company had the luxury of casting a small net.
“We could have started by Monday at 9 a.m. and been done by Monday at 5 p.m., but we wanted to run a more disciplined fundraise,” Wahbe said.
The company says its revenue, customer base, existing customer expansion and employee headcount are all more than doubling year-over-year. It boasts a big-name stable of customers that includes Amazon, Dropbox, Twitter, Zillow and SAP Concur.
A finalist for AI Innovation of the Year at the 2019 GeekWire Awards, Highspot’s existing “sales enablement platform” serves as a sales playbook of sorts, analyzing hoards of internally-produced information — historical data; marketing presentations; case studies; data sheets, etc. — and then applying AI to optimize the selling process. Highspot also provides communication and analytics tools with a goal of helping marketing and sales teams better collaborate.
The concept of getting the right information from marketing to sales teams has been around since the beginning of the modern office, but the technology hasn’t been there. That all changed around 2010, as mobile technology, AI and software-as-a-service innovations progressed rapidly. Since then, the category has taken on a renewed importance, Wahbe said.
Citing a study from Gartner, Wahbe noted that the “sales enablement” category will receive roughly 15 percent of all investment in sales tech by 2021, double the amount in 2017.
“This category has emerged as a must-have category,” Wahbe said. “From a CEO point of view, making sure your key people that are touching the customers are well enabled so they know what to say and what to show is critical; it’s life itself if you want to grow as a company.”
Highspot has about 200 employees and expects to hit 300 later this year. Highspot recently leased a 55,000-square-foot office space in Seattle with room for roughly 450 people. It will also hold on to its existing offices in Seattle, giving it a total footprint of more than 90,000 square feet and capacity for roughly 800 employees.
The company opened new offices in London, serving Europe, the Middle East and Africa, earlier this year. It is expanding rapidly in Europe, where potential customers are about a year or two behind their U.S. counterparts in terms of adopting sales software solutions, Wahbe said.
Highspot was recently named to LinkedIn’s Top Startups list for 2018, one of just two Seattle companies to earn the honor — Outreach, a recently minted unicorn sales tech startup and a Highspot partner, was the other.
The company’s $60 million round is the latest sizable investment for a Seattle startup. Others include a $114 million round for Outreach; a $103 million round for Auth0; a $50 million round for Zenoti; and a $43 million round for Flexe. See all recent financings here.