Anand Shahs databook delivers consultant-like customer intelligence using AI and NLP technology
Business-to-business (B2B) selling has continued to evolve as buyers increasingly interact with suppliers on their own terms through digital channels. Therefore, capturing the attention of B2B buyers and keeping them engaged virtually throughout the buying cycle requires deeper customer intelligence and better customer analytics than ever before.
As a result, the global market for customer intelligence software and analytics applications was already a $13.2 billion industry in 2020 and growing rapidly, according to IDC.
One company, Databook, set out to provide sales teams with deep insights and customer intelligence data once only available to world-class consulting teams. Founded in 2017 by former Accenture partner Anand Shah with longtime friend and former BBC producer Alex Barrett to create an AI-powered SaaS platform that automates and augments smart presentations with targeted insights on the market.
Shah was the founder and head of Accenture’s Global Insights group and was responsible for leading a global team of consultants to drive a multi-billion dollar pipeline across Accenture’s largest accounts and industries globally. Along the way, he found that the process of aggregating the right data and information for their strategic presentations was an expensive and time-consuming process.
“I kind of walked away in order to think about how we could automate some of this and make it more scalable. It was extremely time-consuming and very manual. And it took me on a journey where I left Accenture in 2015 to move to the Bay Area and spent time working with a number of VCs and entrepreneurs and it became really clear that the “Bloomberg for Sales” had to exist, there was nothing like it on the market. And I had perfected that in an analog, process-driven way, at Accenture. So the idea of Databook would be to digitize that. So I took the idea , digitized it and put it in a mobile app in 2017,” says Shah.
And while Databook was born, the soft launch coming out of stealth mode was described by Shah as a disaster. Shah likened it to giving away a Ferrari to salespeople who had never driven before. It was so powerful; they didn’t know what to do with it. Then Barrett and his small start-up team realized they needed to make it more relevant to seller challenges. They transformed the mobile app into a web-based desktop app and integrated PowerPoint solutions into it.
“And here we are now, five years after that origin where we started with the idea. And we’re very, very lucky to have Microsoft, Salesforce, Databricks, and many of the biggest companies in the world among our customers, including Accenture, and others who are now using Databook. Approximately 50% of all enterprise software vendors globally have access to Databook. And they use it to drive their revenue, manage their pipeline, drive bigger deals and be more relevant not just at the C-suite level, but at all levels of the organization to better understand their customers’ issues,” Shah says.
Salespeople can instantly become experts on their customers’ business with the Databook platform. According to Shah, they push a button, and they can gain insight into the company’s strategy, learn about their client’s business, which allows them to be more relevant in terms of solutions that most interested and buy . In addition to finding out who would be the people in these companies who have the most difficulty and urgency to get involved.
Databook claims its software helps clients increase their pipelines by 3x, generate 2.5x larger deals, and accelerate cycle times by 1.5x. The start-up has experienced four consecutive years of 300% growth. The company’s headcount has doubled since April 2021 to around 100 employees and revenue has exceeded 300% year-on-year growth over the past four years.
Unusual for a Silicon Valley startup, Databook sees its diverse workforce as a key advantage. “We’ve been very lucky to hire people based solely on performance, ambition and attitude. And we now have about 40% of our board made up of what you would call traditionally underrepresented communities, about 40% of our business comes from those underrepresented communities, as does 56% of our leadership team. So we are a very diverse team, let’s continue to focus on that and make sure we continue to do so in the future,” says Shah
Its dramatic growth trajectory and future prospects have enabled Databook to raise a total of $71 million in venture capital to date. On February 14, 2022, the company secured its $50 million Series B funding led by Bessemer Venture Partners with participation from DFJ Growth and previous investors Threshold, Microsoft Venture Fund M12, Salesforce Ventures and Haystack. The placement valued the company at $550 million, compared to $84.3 million for its A round, lower than the previous year.
Shah’s journey to building a startup from the ground up with his own funds is not the typical story of a Silicon Valley founder. He grew up in the UK and graduated from Imperial College London. Later, he earned his Master of Science and Finance from ICMA Center, preparing for a career in finance. He then worked for Goldman Sachs, but only briefly before joining management consultancy Accenture, where he would build a highly successful career for the next fourteen years. Along the way, he earned executive MBAs from Columbia Business School and London Business School.
His consulting career is more typical of moving into a senior partner role than that of an entrepreneur. Yet his experience in successfully creating the strategy and pitch decks that would turn $10 million accounts into billion dollar accounts led him to eventually replicate that process in a software platform. “This is the kind of origin story that Accenture loved to see. And I think a lot of our customers at Databook are really looking at how to get a foothold in the organization. How to be relevant to your customer. And how do you continue to drive value so that they keep calling you back and you drive value throughout your engagement lifecycle,” Shah says. He and his wife moved to Denmark for a time to work with a client to implement Accenture’s strategic recommendations, then returned to London once the engagement ended to focus on training consultants from Accenture. Accentuate to be more strategic in their presentations and engagements with clients. His work leading Accenture’s collaboration with the World Economic Forum on digital transformation led Shah and his growing family to San Francisco, before founding Databook.
As future? “We’ve been very clear with everyone who’s joined Databook that I’d like to take the company public within the next five years. And to do that, we probably need to make about $200 million in annual run rate. So it’s not trivial. But we have a path to that. More broadly, we’re looking to build a pretty iconic business. Much like people access a weather app on their phone to find out if it’s raining or rain or shine, whether it’s cold or hot, we want Databook to be the platform of choice when enterprise sellers are looking to understand their customers and meet their quota, so just like Microsoft had this dream of putting a desktop computer in everyone’s house in the 90s. My goal is to put Databook in the hands of every business seller in the world,” Shah concludes.