I’ve enjoyed writing this series of posts. It’s been a privilege to “be in the room” with some inspirational startup founders/entrepreneurs.
Let’s get the hard bit out of the way first. Despite my promise at the end of Part 2, this post – reporting back on Nimble and interviewing their founder Jon Ferrara – will not include my summary. I’ll do that tomorrow… Think of it as a 3 part post and summary… I know, I know, how can you ever trust me again! Sorry.
Jon, as I mentioned in the post last week, was the founder of Goldmine – a ground breaking CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool from 20 years ago (in fact it probably defined CRM!). He’s a busy guy – and I really appreciated that he was prepared to give me an hour out of his busy schedule to do a Skype video call.
We seemed to hit it off from the start. After Jon telling me how warm it was in Santa Monica (and showing me he was in short sleeves and shorts) I turned around my camera and showed him the sunset view of the Alps from my chalet in Switzerland. We chatted for a while about the pleasure we had shared in selling our businesses – and then taking time-out to spend with our young families growing up.
Then Jon kicked in to telling me about his new venture, Nimble – and I knew straight away he was focussed on success. Earlier in the year, I wrote a post about how I was struggling to find my way and whether I could bring a team together and achieve a second entrepreneurial success. My post was base on an analogy around Pink Floyd and the success of their Dark Side of the Moon album. Well – I might have pulled back from thoughts of startup for now (hence the concentration on daily blogging) – but Jon’s undoubtedly got an idea for a platinum album that’s going to top the charts (again) for a long time. He’s a visionary….
His starting point this time is very, very different than his days as co-founder of Goldmine. Jon says: “I started Goldmine with $3,000 and an idea. It was the days of pink ‘while you were out’ slips and little black books called Daytimers. We had no loans and no venture capital.”
He continued: “We had absolutely no money for advertising, so I made friends with people who were writing about the space. The writers told me ‘we want to have stories about people using the products’ – so that’s what I gave them. Goldmine’s name got more column inches than anyone else.”
There was a strange Déjà vu feeling about all this. Back in the late 1990s, my business chose Goldmine – and we did the case study working with their solution partner. It’s still on Goldmine’s site (the company was acquired by Frontline in 1999 for tens of millions of dollars). Today, he’s taking time to chat and give time to a start-up blogger… Sound familiar.
Jon speaks at a 100 miles per hour. He warned me about this before he launched in to a presentation about Nimble and a walk through of the system. He talks so fast he could have a second career as a rapper!
Nimble is much more than a PRM (Personal Relationship Management), CRM or sCRM (Social CRM). In fact, Jon says: “I don’t like acronyms.” However, he does recognise that a world with social media creates new challenges. He says: “I want to help Nimble clients swim in the social river. Social Media is akin to the industrial revolution. If people and business don’t understand that it’s the place to manage relationships, listen and communicate – they are going to get killed.”
Jon’s reinvented himself, but with the same passion for helping people build relationships with customers (and colleagues). He’s cynical about the CRM business that he helped to build with Goldmine. He says: “You look at these systems with a screen laid out with 50 fields. That’s grandpa’s CRM system!” He also describes these systems as “stodgy and old school.”
I’d been given access to the Private Beta and had a play. I can imagine that for anyone coming from the structure of Goldmine or other enterprise CRM – this is the ideal transition to “swimming in the social river”. Jon showed me through some of the updates in the pipeline, He’s intent on making the interface even more visual. For example, losing the names and links and putting pen portraits anywhere he can. He’s building the system to be able to do absolutely everything a person/enterprise will need to make sales and build relationships. There are already a raft of integrations with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Gmail, Imap, Google Calendar – and he sees no limit to the role Nimble will take in unification.
I asked Jon about how this would work in practice. I seem to remember the Goldmine salesman 15 years ago flashing me through screens at the speed of light – and I was convinced it could do everything I could ever dream of. Jon said: “I realise that with all these systems the 10% that people definitely use is contact management. The challenge is to get the 10% for relationships used. With Nimble, we are going to give the contact management away – that’s the free part. The rest will be the important bit – getting in to the conversation and building relationships.”
We talked about the “battle for the tabs”. As Jon shared his screen during the demo, I took a look at the tabs he had open in Google Chrome. It was a similar mix to mine – the usual suspects of GMail, Google Calendar, Hootsuite, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc. For systems like Nimble to become THE contact/relationship/personal network service – they need to get on the tabs – and then push the others out (in my opinion). Jon said: “I want to get a space on there – and happy for the others to stay. However, Nimble will connect the dots in your life – we’ll help nurture those relationships, communicate and listen.”
Jon is preparing to market Nimble through his well worn path of “classic CRM resellers.” This is a very familiar strategy to how he built Goldmine. He sees the “sweet spot” as the “SME business users who are mostly ignored.” He defines these as anything from a single user to a typical 10-25 seat sale. He’s also keen to bring in individuals – and his proposed free contacts only service reflects this.
Jon has set up Nimble with a clear strategy in this new area of social media. He’s using tried and trusted methods to get to market – skills he learned building Goldmine. He’s also got the financial resources and clout to get what he needs done (some of the LinkedIn integration he showed me in beta was groundbreaking). Jon will find a shoal of “Grandpa’s CRM” users coming to swim with him in the “Social River.”
I’ll finish this post slightly flipantly, with a “British” twist on brand names. Nimble has a very fond place in the memories of my youth (I am showing my age). Nimble was a household name through British TV ads about a special bread to keep an eye on your weight/figure. Take a look at these ads – brought to you by the wonders of YouTube. One even features a very young Joanna Lumley. It will bring back memories for my older UK audience…
Jon’s Nimble is no lightweight – but it’s certainly going to fly! Do take the time and register for the Private Beta.