Marc Miller’s entrepreneurial story is one of perseverance. Like many first-time entrepreneurs, he had a great idea but needed the guidance of more experienced advisors to turn his vision into a successful business. Now the founder and CEO of Spearfysh, JumpStart’s 59th portfolio company, Marc spent the past two years refining his original idea of selling a pen that records conversations while a person takes notes.
A sales consultant with more than 25 years of industry experience and the author of two best-selling books on sales productivity (Selling is Dead and A Seat at the Table), Marc connected with JumpStart in 2009 in hopes of attaining the funding necessary to launch his new venture. But before JumpStart could commit risk capital, we needed to understand the problem the company would solve, the unique solution the technology would offer, the target market, the progress that had been made to-date, and the talent that would be involved in the launch and growth of the company. Over a span of nearly two years, Marc spent over 250 hours with JumpStart advisors, tweaking his business model and addressing the following issues:
- Marc had identified a solution Spearfysh would offer, but he needed to further explain the problem;
- He still needed to develop a secret sauce— a unique, breakthrough, protectable way of solving a problem; and
- He needed to develop a more compelling explanation, one that would lead others to invest, partner, or join his company, of Spearfysh’s potential to help businesses substantially increase the productivity of their sales and marketing teams.
Marc was resilient—he viewed the feedback as an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and fine-tune his idea. He says that “JumpStart’s guidance has been extremely helpful . . . it’s like tough love because you get pushed to answer difficult questions, but in the long-run it’s worth it.” Marc also leveraged the resources of the entrepreneurial community, reaching out to individuals who could help him fill the identified gaps, and looked to bring on a technical developer to complement his skill set. By the late summer of 2011, he was ready to reconnect with JumpStart with a demo of his technology and a new, refined idea for Spearfysh—a technology company that would provide businesses insight into their sales and marketing efforts through impactful data analytics. Marc addressed each previously identified issue as follows:
Defining the problem — Entrepreneurs need to be able to, not only explain the problem their target customers have, but convince others that those individuals have a true pain point, a particularly urgent and tough problem. Statistics around sales and marketing teams are not impactful if the problem is not defined in a way that others can understand it. Marc worked hard to arm himself not only with statistics, but a story. Now he tells potential partners and investors how companies waste thousands of hours and millions of dollars trying to sell their products. And he explains how 80 percent of all conversations are forgotten in one week and 85 percent of sales training shows no productivity gains after 120 days. In order to increase the productivity of marketing and sales teams, businesses need improved interactions that lead to improved outcomes. By clearly defining the problem, Marc enables others to understand the potential for Spearfysh’s solution to gain mass adoption.
Solving the problem with a unique, protectable solution — After more specifically defining the problem Spearfysh is solving, Marc turned to modifying his original idea for a pen that records conversations. In order to develop a solution that others cannot easily replicate, he hired a Chief Technology Officer, who created a Software as a Service (SaaS) system and proprietary algorithm to record direct sales calls and analyze the contents of conversations to extract business intelligence and market insights. The patent-pending technology mines sales calls to identify trends, challenges, and opportunities.
Delivering an elevator pitch — Both enthusiastic and energetic, Marc always makes an impression. And he knows how to explain his ideas in simple terms without hiding behind jargon or industry terminology. But two years ago he was still having difficulty expressing with technical clarity how he would “revolutionize the direct sales industry.” With the help of JumpStart’s team, he carefully crafted the message surrounding the market opportunity and hi robust data acquisition and analysis offering. He also learned to explain what Spearfysh customers could expect, including analytics around the ratio of talking to listening during sales calls, the discovery of omissions and red flags for training, the uncovering of new opportunities, and the finding of best practices.
On October 24, 2011, JumpStart invested $250,000 in SpearFysh. But Marc believes the value JumpStart has added to his company is much more. “In intellectual capital, the investment was more than $1 million,” says Marc. And we think the investment will have a huge payoff because Spearfysh is a potential game changer for businesses with extended sales cycles and businesses for which sales and marketing efforts are a fundamental business driver. The company is poised to take advantage of this multi-billion market opportunity. For the first time, sales and marketing management can have direct, fast, unfiltered, and pinpoint access to specific topics and dialogues of interest that can be used for sales coaching, competitive positioning, product planning, and strategic marketing.
Now, Spearfysh is looking to build its national salesforce, continue the development of its breakthrough sales analytics technology, and close out a seed round of funding.
Leah’s primary focus as JumpStart’s Market Analyst is developing a deep understanding of the key challenges and opportunities facing entrepreneurs and early-stage companies. Using her experience leading research projects and framing problems to identify creative solutions, Leah works to build stakeholder relationships, ensure the growth and success of client and portfolio companies, and drive organizational strategies. Additionally, Leah brings her insights to life through communications and advocates for and connects entrepreneurs to additional capital and service resources beyond those provided by JumpStart.