Tim Zheng, Founder and CEO at Apollo talks about his journey setting up Apollo.io and how enhanced sales intelligence capabilities can drive better business outcomes:
Hi Tim, welcome to this SalesTechStar chat, tell us more about your journey through the years and the story behind Apollo?
I’m more of an engineer by training – I studied Computer Science at MIT with the career goal of building product-led tools that solve big problems. My first company was an education startup and we needed a way to get the word out about it and add customers. We purchased a wide array of data tools and outreach automation tools, but none of them were super effective because the data wasn’t very good and the workflows were clunky, not intuitive. So we built our own in-house, go-to-market platform.
This started with a database of teachers and principals and an email campaign tool to send out really targeted messages to these audiences, which grew our user base from 5,000 to 150,000 users over the course of about six weeks. When my other friends in business realized the impact of this tool in such a short time period, they wanted to build a similar workflow for their respective businesses and industries.
This is when we realized that it wasn’t just us – there were not a lot of great solutions out there to help any company reach their full market potential with a single platform or service, so we built Apollo.io, an industry agnostic salestech platform that makes prospecting more intelligent, automated and accessible.
We’d love to hear about your recent funding (big Kudos to you and the team!) – how will this help push your efforts to impact the salestech market with newer features and innovations?
A big focus for this funding is building out our sales intelligence capabilities further. One functionality of our platform to point to is its recommendation feature. From all the data our platform generates from sales outreach and responses, our intelligence module will recommend contacts that are in our database with similar attributes that should be added to their campaigns. We want to make these recommendations even more relevant and stronger.
Secondly, we’re focused on further automating the prospecting process. And finally, we always want to make sure the quality, breadth and depth of our data is constantly improving. This all comes with more investment in engineering, product, and marketing.
What are some of the top challenges in your view that sales professionals still face despite rich access to data and sophisticated sales tech features today?
Although there are a plethora of salestech platforms out there, very few are able to provide an end-to-end go-to-market solution. The few that do exist are cost-prohibitive to many companies and the accuracy, breadth, and depth of that data is not nearly as strong as Apollo’s.
We are also focused on building the most streamlined workflows, so tasks that may take 20 clicks in another platform only require a couple of clicks in Apollo. And then there’s our intelligence; we wanted to build a tool that helps guide the users through the prospecting process and provide recommendations on who to reach out to, when, and how to reach out to them.
What are some of the status quos affecting lead intelligence platforms and sales intelligence processes in B2B in your view today?
There is so much opportunity in this space for more intelligent, automated and accessible tools. At Apollo, we found an extremely effective and efficient way to build, design and deploy a full go-to-market strategy that can be set up in minutes – not months or years like other offerings out there.
How will future sales tech and sales engagement platforms evolve to impact how B2B sellers function in their day to day processes?
A successful evolution requires listening to the customers and building in more intelligent features and automation. For us, this evolution is easy; we use Apollo for our own sales prospecting, outreach, tracking and reporting, which makes it super simple to make meaningful improvements to our platform. We are also constantly sourcing feedback from our users to add new features and functionalities that we may not have thought of without their input. The benefit to using our platform internally is that whenever we have a new offering, we’re able to try it out for ourselves and so we can effectively communicate its value to prospects, current customers, our board, and our investors.
Some last thoughts and entrepreneurial takeaways before we wrap up?
A good idea usually comes from building something to solve your own problem, whether for yourself or your company. At the same time, understanding how other people perceive the same or similar problem is important because it will reveal a broader narrative around the issue, people’s existing solutions, and their further needs.
Everyone is capable of finding problems, but they’re typically solved using products and services that already exist. When you encounter the same problem over and over again among different groups of people or professionals, this should give you confidence that the market opportunity is great enough for you to invest your future in it.
Apollo.io is an intelligent, data-first sales acceleration platform
Tim Zheng is the CEO and founder of Apollo.io, before launching Apollo in 2015, the Massachusetts-born entrepreneur founded, built and sold e-learning platform BrainGenie. Since the company’s founding, As CEO of Apollo, Tim is primarily responsible for driving the product, hiring and go-to-market strategy for the company.
Before his success as a young entrepreneur, Tim interned at Citadel Investment Group, The Boston Consulting Group and Goldman Sachs. Based in San Francisco, Zheng graduated from MIT with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics in 2011.
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