By Andrew Patterson
If you’ve ever been stressed trying to finalise a last minute client presentation minutes before you’re due to deliver it only to find there’s a problem you can’t seem to resolve, you’re not alone.
Just about everyone in a client service role has a horror story to tell of their own personal day from hell.
From the video that wouldn’t load properly to the dreaded freezing of the presentation or the client who wants to go through the slides in a random order that makes jumping around the presentation difficult, or even leaving your USB stick containing the presentation back at the office, any one of these scenarios creates a nightmare situation for anyone trying to deliver a seamless presentation to clients.
Well a group of enterprising kiwis based in New York have developed what they believe is the ultimate cloud based presentation platform.
DialedIN is a sales and marketing communications platform that enables the creation of multimedia and interactive communications without coding or technical expertise.
The fledgling start-up says it’s on a mission to revolutionize the way organizations communicate with their customers by providing an intuitive, easy-to-use tool that allows for the creation of web-based interactive presentations, connection to the right customers as well as leading edge insights in to audience engagement data.
The product gap
Founder and CEO Justin Mahy says it was in his previous role as an investment banker that he saw a gap in the market for DialedIN.
“Working in the bowels of investment banking, as I did previously, where you’re churning out financial models and then turning them into presentations part of the spark happened a long time ago when I started thinking that there had to be a better way of both managing and delivering a more effective outcome.
“So that played a significant role in terms of the development of the product over time. There have been a few pivots along the way, but essentially I started to think about it when I was a banker.”
Since that time technology has caught up and DialedIN is another example of the way the cloud is rapidly changing the way business is done.
“Essentially being able to create these presentations in the cloud is the real game changer. Currently, desktop software tends to be the default choice.
“That creates issues with availability. What if you have left the file in the work computer and you want to do something while you’re on the move. What if you want to be able to seamlessly incorporate a video and have a 100% chance that it's going to work with your client? What if you want a presentation which is interactive rather than linear?
“Presentations generally start out linear. They progress in a logical order, so page one followed by page two, page three etc, but I think as we all know, these presentations, often start out linearly, but then feedback from the client is saying 'what about this', 'what about that?' So you need a tool which enables you to go 'touch, touch' or 'click, click' and get there, rather than flipping through ten, fifteen, or twenty pages to get to the page that you are looking for.”
“There's just a plethora of issues with regard to the way that people are creating, sending and viewing presentations and a clear lack of insight in terms of who's actually paying attention to your presentation. What our software does is fix in one foul swoop the entire problem base of the communications cycle.”
Incorporating video into a presentation can often be a problem in terms of compatibility and embedding. DialedIN has the ability to manage these situations more effectively.
“Video can be particularly problematic. You've got to make sure that the video file is in the same folder on your computer. You've got to upload the folder into a zip file. Then you have to take that zip file and upload it to a Dropbox, or a file sharing service. They've got to then download it and then they have to know how to unzip that folder and after all that you’ve got to make sure that the video file is still in the presentation. It’s way too clunky.”
Microsoft’s PowerPoint has, until recently, been the default option for presentations, but with Apple’s Keynote and other free options such as Prezi becoming increasingly popular, Mahy says there is plenty of disruption happening within the space creating an opportunity for DialedIN.
“What Microsoft have been attempting to do is to move some of their offering into cloud with their Microsoft 365 release. That fixes a couple of the problems, but there are many, many problems beyond just putting it into the cloud. We're focused on creating our own new paradigm of communication. We don't really see ourselves as competing head-to-head with the likes of Powerpoint. We’re focused instead on offering a whole new way for our clients to communicate with their customers.
“If you track the evolution of the cloud from the late 90s it has allowed companies to grow and scale very quickly. Just look at Salesforce.com, for example, which is probably one of the most successful cloud companies out there. What it involved was literally taking the application from the desktop and putting it in the cloud and therefore making it available irrespective of whether it was your home or work device. It's really one set of codes, so a company doesn't have to manage all of these apps across all of these devices.”
“However, things have got really interesting in the last few years with what I call cloud 2.0 which is a blend of collaboration, data and mobility. Essentially now you have multiple apps in the cloud, and these apps can now collaborate with each other through integrators. These collaborating apps can then mine for opportunities in data. So now you've got these machines-to-machines effectively talking to each other, providing potential revenue opportunities, and then on top of that you put mobility, which means you can then access these opportunities from anywhere from any device.
“All of this is creating some new big winners in the cloud space. There are companies such as Work Day, a big cloud HR company, and of course Xero in accounting. In terms of customer service you've got Zendesk and Fresh Desk and what we're doing at DialedIN is we're looking to be a big participant in the communication zone of that cloud 2.0.
But is this a case of having to capture as much of the market in the fastest possible time in order to competitors as Xero appears to be perusing?
“Certainly we would like to be the first company to really make it in this area. I don't think that one company has to dominate the sector. The fact is that when you are creating these communications platforms, you’re creating them in HTML and HTML5, which is the universal language. So you can have different apps which are creating product communications in HTML, HTML5 which can therefore be portable. Potentially, you could have a whole lot of different apps talking to each other going forward; it's not like a proprietary language. I think there could be a pretty robust landscape and some big winners.
Since its launch last year, DialedIN has grown quickly and has already secured a number of high value clients globally.
“We signed up major league baseball in the US and within five minutes of the sales reps using DialedIN they began to notice a difference. So it's 'aha' moments like that which you get when you’re building your business when you really know that you've you got something on your hands that’s working.
“Here in NZ, MediaWorks, who own a number of national radio brands, came on board as a client and reported a powerful response from individuals across the organization whether it was sales, marketing, training or event planning. It’s from here that you begin to see your application scaling naturally without you having to push it. It then becomes more of a pull from the clients.”
But is there a risk that in a smaller market like NZ where early adopters will quickly embrace new technology and presentations will therefore end up having a sameness to them and begin to all start looking very similar?
“Our strategy is HTML and HTML5, the universal language. So you've got independent developers and designers all over the world creating really cool new types of functionalities, like animations, or it could be special types of video players or interactive navigation. What we've done is take advantage of that open source community. We don't have to have hundreds of our own designers in house.
“We plug into the global development and designer community where there are literally hundreds of thousands of them available. So we see what is cool out there, and we approach those people and say: hey, we would like to license your product.”
Sales & marketing
DialedIN have used an enterprise sales model to get in front of potential customers thereby growing sales while at the same time also increasing its profile. Clients pay a monthly licence fee to use the service based on the number of users and the length of the commitment.
“As an example we recently agreed terms with major US investment banks JPMorgan in New York and Cantor Fitzgerald. They are very much relationship based deals that generally involve a six-month's sales cycle.
“However, the important thing to realise with enterprise sales is that once they adopt your technology and you do a great job, then you're part of their infrastructure. So while the sales cycle is quite long once you get in there it becomes a long-term relationship.
“Moving into next year we plan to launch a self-service model which means we'll be able to expand our offering to include small businesses from all over the globe. But for now we’re purely focused on large organizations.”
While security concerns have become less of a concern in recent years for users of the cloud, it is still the biggest stumbling block preventing a faster take up than is currently the case.
Mahy says DialedIN has had to incorporate very high level security features into its product given the highly confidential nature of many of its clients work product.
“A core part of our offering is our security rating. Everything is encrypted at multiple levels all the way through to our servers. Just by the nature of the clients we work with we have to go through extremely rigorous security audits. So for example, a recent security audit for JPMorgan took basically three months and involved a significant amount of work. Our system is very well protected. We have clients that are competing against each other, so those clients need to know that we are basically a black box for them, so that's an important part of what we do.”
Challenges along the way
As with any start up, there are plenty of challenges to manage along the way.
Mahy says getting the right mix of people from the outset is critical to the success of any start up.
“I've have been lucky that over the years I've met some A-plus people early in my career and having a background in mergers and acquisitions for big global banks you’re generally dealing with some of the brightest most driven, ambitious people in the business. So I’ve learned to recognize those types in different areas. Plus I had a short stint in television, so I've had familiarity with the creative types found in that sector.
“Probably the biggest challenge is getting the right people because if you get one wrong person, that can become a disease for the organization. So taking the time to find the right people, and then additionally you need to be well capitalized to be able to take advantage of the opportunity. Sale cycles can be long, so you need the staying power to do that, so there are multiple opportunities in different areas, but somehow we’ve managed to come out on the right side.”
Despite some early success DialedIN remains focused on achieving its growth potential.
“We're focused on growing this business, so that means growing customer numbers, growing revenues, really taking advantage of the overall opportunity, which is to be a big participant in cloud based communications for enterprise and small business. So, it's essentially growing that business, is the number one goal.”
As for some parting advice to those following in the slipstream?
“Be smart. Be ready to pivot if necessary and listen to people, but by I think by far the best advice I could give comes from Winston Churchill: never, ever, ever give up.
|Sector:||Cloud based software as a service|
|Fastest growing market:||USA|
|International offices:||New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Auckland|
|Rate of growth:||Not disclosed|