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An Adelaide startup with the aim to remove paper around the world……and winning!

Serial enterpreneur Antony Cerevalo was always amazed and frustrated that when he visited businesses in the digital age he was still signing a bunch of books just to have his meeting, creating a more experience for th visitor and more administration for building management. And he was just one visitor, think about all of the contractors & visitors who pass through your normal lobby.

He created Sine to remove this frustration for visitors and venue managers while giving actionable data and communication tools to be used in case of an emergency. In his own words “sales are going very positivly”

Antony is taking a blended approach to sales, creating an ecommerce engine, using inside sales to respond to trials and create outbound activity and enterprise sales to target larger multi-site opportunities and is having a lot of success.

Like many startups who are achieving success his biggest challenge is prioritization and he uncovers a couple of tactics that enable him to get the maximum return for his sales effort.

Check out Antony and Sine’s Startup Story;

 

For those that prefer to read there is also full transcript but here are the highlights;

What is your elevator pitch?

Everywhere you go or many places you go you’re signing in, using paper book, still in 2016. So “Sine” is trying to replace the “Sign in” book, for visitors and for contractors globally.

When did you first realise this is a problem that needed to be solved?

I suppose two factors: one through personal experience like you today it’s ubiquitous, everywhere where you go it’s still paper books. So even though we can have online systems like DocuSign and removing the digital signature from the online documentation, still the physical properties that you visit have this everywhere where you go.

So a combination of visiting properties but also doing what you do when you go travelling – as a business traveler or a person on holiday, you are starting to use your mobile a lot to check-in to Virgin, Qantas, British Airways. And so it was a coincidence but timely coincidence that that my colleagues, my wife and I were actually discussing – why can’t we use the same check-in process to check-in to a daycare center or a school.

Can you tell us more about your revenue sales story?

I think the first thing about sales Andy, after working with people like yourself is learning to listen to people with expertise and also customers, where Sine as app right now is we’re listening as much as we can to our customers in terms of how they see contractor, visitor, management evolving and that’s the first part of this journey before we scale up and industrialized or commercialized or scaled the sales operation, we’re still at the stage, and don’t get me wrong, sales are going very positive; but we’re really focusing on the product and feedback from customers. So that’s where our initial focuses are right now is getting that product absolutely right. And we’ll never be right, that journey will continue and continue to forever.

What is your biggest challenge in sales?

Working out the calibration between inward outward bound and also traditional business development, where you spend your time with those limited resources in the next 90 days. That’s probably key challenge, the weighted average, the weighting of which levers you should be pulling more of or pulling equally or doing or stopping and realizing that actually some of the stuff is not working. So I suppose the quick answer is, having enough time in the day to run a fully-fledged marketing, sales, distribution organization whilst you’re also developing an amazingly complicated technology stack.

For those that prefer to read there is also full transcript but here are the highlights;


FULL TRANSCRIPT

Andy:         Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the Startup Stories. Today I’m super excited to be joined the CEO and Sine, Antony Cerevalo. Antony, thanks for joining us.

Antony:     Hi everyone. Great to be with you Andy.

Andy:         Brilliant. Could you tell us your elevator pitch?

Antony:     Everywhere you go or many places you go you’re signing in, using paper book, still in 2016. So “Sine” is trying to replace the “Sign in” book, for visitors and for contractors globally.

Andy:         Awesome. Sine sounds like a huge opportunity. We walked into three buildings today and actually still use paper signing in.

Antony:     Yeah. And those organizations spending millions of dollars on IT are greeting you with a pretty poor first impression. Like using the analog systems, the way we look at it, the sign in book should have gone all the way of the fax machine many years ago, but it’s still there for some reason.

Andy:         When you first realized that this is a problem that you needed to solve?

Antony:     I suppose two factors Andy: one through personal experience like you today it’s ubiquitous, everywhere where you go it’s still paper books. So even though we can have online systems like DocuSign and removing the digital signature from the online documentation, still the physical properties that you visit have this everywhere where you go. So a combination of visiting properties but also doing what you do when you go travelling – as a business traveler or a person on holiday, you are starting to use your mobile a lot to check-in to Virgin, Qantas, British Airways. And so it was a coincidence but timely coincidence that that my colleagues, my wife and I were actually discussing – why can’t we use the same check-in process to check-in to a daycare center or a school.

Andy:         That’s really cool. Can you tell us a little bit about your sales story at the moment, you’re obviously getting some great attraction but can you tell us a lite about who is your ideal customer is and what are your people, process and technology from the sales standpoint right now?

Antony:     I think the first thing about sales Andy, after working with people like yourself is learning to listen to people with expertise and also customers, where Sine as app right now is we’re listening as much as we can to our customers in terms of how they see contractor, visitor, management evolving and that’s the first part of this journey before we scale up and industrialized or commercialized or scaled the sales operation, we’re still at the stage, and don’t get me wrong, sales are going very positive; but we’re really focusing on the product and feedback from customers. So that’s where our initial focuses are right now is getting that product absolutely right. And we’ll never be right, that journey will continue and continue to forever.

Andy:         You just answered my next question. At what stage do you think is going to be that right point to scale? A lot of startups have this challenge as well. When you’re going to say, I think the products are in a good spot for us to really step on the gas?

Antony:     I think we going from that phase very soon. We’re selling to individual customers where we’re replacing the paper books and implementing the software and hardware because it’s not just about software in this market, we have to provide iPads or stands or printers to help them unlock the situation. So we’re dealing with customers in the one on one situation where we are replacing one site or building at a time. Very soon we are starting to work with portfolios. So as soon as we start to win more portfolios where we win 100, 200 buildings or sites at a time, then we know that it’s really time to accelerate the above the line, through the line and direct sales, marketing efforts and SaaS sales techniques that we’re going to employ.

Andy:         Fantastic. As you’re looking to employ those SaaS sales techniques and tactics, you talked on one point which is little bit challenging for companies that have a blend of software and hardware, how do you actually go and educate your customers on the value proposition that you’re delivering when you got to give them both.

Antony:     I think the key word that you just used “Blend”, and like any fine wine and my family came from a wine making background. We try and employee some method to the madness of any startup and it’s a blend of testing thing where we’re continually testing all sorts of inward and outward bound activities which you and I and various other people have discussed. And some of them are and some of them don’t work, but that doesn’t mean that we ruled them out. So we’re them and using those techniques in phases and seeing what we think is going to be right for this business. So I think the message is listen to all of the different sales techniques, look up what you think, what your guts telling you is going to be the most appropriate time to spend on different techniques and then keep on trialing and testing and cycling those different methods until you come up with the magic recipe.

Andy:         Well, it’s always the ultimate goal – the magic recipe. How you’re validating a successful path to market or successful approach?

Antony:     Of course within online services where it be paid search or organic search, we’re using all the analytical tools that we can. We are internally measuring and looking at the milestones or the conversations that are reached. And that’s one aspect of it. but I think the point that you’re eluding to is, within a markup where you’re trying to change behavior or create a whole new industry, you’ve got to do a lot more than just to analyzes the conversions that are coming through the normal channels. You’ve got to create word of mouth which is very difficult to scale, you’ve got to create great content which people are naturally engaging with and they feel that they’re being shown or told how product works that they can truly engage with the content. So all of those things where we can use analytics to track those different content pieces we’re using those methods. We haven’t fully scaled up to use integrated services like HubSpot. But typically as a startup we’re patching together as many services that we think constitutes what our service like HubSpot would deliver. So we might go on to a platform like that in time. But through content generation where we’ve got landing page where we can track who’s coming on to those landing pages and then who converts into sign ups, that all stuff.

Andy:         You probably answered a couple of question for me. While you’re straying on that nurturing path that you’re going on, obviously creating content, when you’ve got these call to action in your content, are you putting these people straight to sales conversation to just accelerate the learning or are you putting them further into a nurturing path and enabling them to consume more content, allowing them to raise their hands, when they’re ready to speak?

Anthony:     I think we’re trying to do both for different audiences. It’s the plate spinning scenario where you’re trying to keep all of the plates spinning at the one time and you trying different techniques for different porsonas and different people or different customers that you’re trying to address. But we are learning more and more not the take people into that direct accelerated sales. That does work for people who have got limited time and know exactly what a propensity to buy and they want to get going. But I decided that is lesser percentage obviously than the wider market. What we’re doing more and more which is a learning journey for the team assigned, it’s just engaging light touch and finding the angle that really appeals to a different type of persona. You can’t have a cookie cutter approach where all of your literature and everything will apply to your whole broad audience; you’ve really got to spend some time dividing up all the personas and the communication to each of those people. And we’re not saying attend through that way of personalization. We’ve got a lot more to do on that because we’re still learning who’s interested in buying our product.

Andy:         Absolutely. That’s a never ending journey that personalization. You’re going on that path, it’s super exciting that you’ve taken that lead, you’re not using HubSpot, what is involved in your tech stack at the moment sales and marketing perspective?

Antony:     When you’re so focused on developing your own product which we have been and we have a tightly whole team here assigned,  it’s not a large San Francisco based team, we are very cautious of getting engaged in a project or product which is not going to be right for us. So we did a lot of homework for rushing into that and the product that we‘ve landed on for the time being which is a mechanical product which helps with a lot of the transactions and the mechanics – Intercom.io Intercom really has helped us within a day we’re onboarded or less than a day of few hours and instantly we can now start to see this is now starting to sound like ad for Intercom.  It’s really cool technology. It’s a lovely SaaS business, the UI is easy to use and immediately now we can start to see who’s onboarded and we can do a way without the outdated CRM systems or onboarding systems. This gives us a lot more control in one system where we can do helpdesk onboarding processes and track and look at and engage with our customers much more readily. Live chat is working fantastic. Live chat through Intercom, is allowing customers who want to just dabble and ask a few questions without doing a full signup form and asking for the full product, demo, allows them to ask quick questions.

Andy:         Intercom is a fantastic platform. It sounds like you’re attaching it to your product and looking for more of those triggers sort of customer use engine; customer engagement to create a conversation with customers with is awesome. Say for touch sales, what are you guys using at the moment?

Antony:     SalesforceIQ. We would love to be embedded fully into the full fact versions of sales force. But given the team structure and the time that we’ve had, we haven’t felt that by using SalesforceIQ which is now owned by Salesforce it was called RelateIQ. It feels like a light version of sales force which integrates through zippier and other things that we use and talk straight to Intercom and it’s continually updated. Also we’re using our exchange email or Google mail. So we just felt that the integration with the email products and specially using Mac based products that allowed us to do more quickly at a fraction of the price then full fact versions.

Andy:         Absolutely. Everything related to SalesforceIQ. Seems it’ll get better and better. I’m trying to see what they do with those two products. So as you mentioned the spinning plates and having a lot of different opportunities that you can potentially target, what’s the biggest challenge that you’ve got right now from a sales perspective over there?

Antony:     Working out the calibration between inward outward bound and also traditional business development, where you spend your time with those limited resources in the next 90 days. That’s probably key challenge, the weighted average, the weighting of which levers you should be pulling more of or pulling equally or doing or stopping and realizing that actually some of the stuff is not working. So I suppose the quick answer is, having enough time in the day to run a fully-fledged marketing, sales, distribution organization whilst you’re also developing an amazingly complicated technology stack.

Andy:         Is there ever enough time in the day?

Antony:     No, no, especially when the London and the East Coast, US clients come online.

Andy:         Absolutely. It’s a very common challenge. How are you dealing with that at the moment in terms of having that focus?

Antony:     We’re spending more and more time chasing or engaging with larger deals. Although this is a SaaS model, we’re targeting one-to-one B2C style situation, so schools or individual sites or location, and that takes up a lot of time. But we’re getting better at onboarding those customers with hardly any friction. So once we’ve been able blow out the cobwebs on a smaller size deals. Now the team is really focused on portfolios which takes you away from more of a traditional SaaS online on boarding model into the more traditional business development. So the challenge is, as I said one day you might be feeling like you’re onboarding customers through a funnel in an online process, but then the next day you’re talking to a customer at a traditional meeting which has far bigger implications than all the work that you’ve done till the last X days onboarding people online.

Andy:         So it’s still a massive variety of conversations, go through the game and just focusing on the shortest path and the greatest amount of dollars.

Antony:     The B2C SaaS Self-Serve Model is getting better and more frictionless which almost allows customers to onboard themselves out. So that uses more time now to spend on business development which is working. It’s not a model that we don’t think we’ll not scale it, we’ll scale but it is going to have to be scaled in the very disciplined way.

Andy:         Absolutely. A lot of companies scaled that incredibly well. But it sounds super exciting, you’re eluded a little bit earlier that people can go on and trial the product and see if it’s good fit for them; where will people go to do that?

Antony:     From the website and they go to the sign.co signup for free trial. I think the key to all of these now is, we don’t ask for any credit card details or any verification really, we allow clients within 30 seconds to do their first checking. So the way that we looked at this whole market was, you should be able to use a web browser and check someone in at the venue that you decided to use this app within 30 seconds. That’s what they can do for free very quickly.

Andy:         Awesome. The website again is sign.co

Antony:     Absolutely.

Andy:         Awesome. Antony, thank you very much for your time today. I really appreciate sharing your startup story and enjoy the rocket ship that is Sine.

Antony:     Thanks Andy. It was a pleasure  speaking to you and meeting everyone online.

Andy:         Cheers mate.

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