Startup Spotlight #100: Convictional
Convictional is the Seller Enablement Platform that enables enterprise B2C retailers and distributors to implement and scale their own digital marketplace.
Author’s Note: Thank you to all my subscribers who have supported F2F by reading these Startup Spotlights and all the founders who have participated. I’m humbled to have reached the 100th Startup Spotlight article, and can’t wait to see what the next hundred articles will bring me!
Convictional is a B2B trade enablement network. Our customers are B2C retailers and marketplaces and B2B distributors who need a single way to source, onboard, integrate and grow with third-party suppliers. Founded in 2017, Convictional has a vision of balancing the needs of buyers and sellers in all B2B trade transactions. The B2B Graph is our description of the dynamic of companies trading with each other in networked ways, and how we can provide a platform to enable it.
Roger Kirkness is the co-founder and CEO of Convictional. Roger started working at age 16 in retail management at GNC. He later spent three years at the family business, learning all aspects of operating a software business. He spun up and eventually sold a plant floor automation technology company, before joining Shopify to commercialize their wholesale product. Roger oversees product, engineering, design, finance, and HR at Convictional.
Chris Grouchy is the co-founder and COO of Convictional. Chris graduated from the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University, holding product marketing and sales roles at Oracle and Cisco during university. Upon graduation, Chris joined Shopify Plus as an early Account Executive, quickly becoming the #1 salesperson by ARR and deals closed. Chris oversees commercial, marketing, sales, customer success, operations, and growth at Convictional.
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Startup Spotlight: Convictional
Problem: Convictional exists because existing legacy technologies like electronic data interchange (EDI) software fail to serve the needs of modern retailers and marketplaces, as well as the third-party suppliers they choose to onboard.
Market: Any retailer, marketplace, or distributor that purchases from more than twenty third-party suppliers, or the entire retail trade and supply chain trade sectors of the economy. We believe there are about 2,000 companies in North America that can pay our enterprise pricing, and about 300,000 that would qualify on the basis of mid-market pricing and supplier count.
Solution: We built infrastructure software that our customers (e.g. the buyer in the B2B transaction) can use to source, onboard, and integrate with third-party sellers. It’s basically a combination of APIs, apps, and a UI for both sides to make it as easy as possible to get to a transactional state.
Team: The team is composed of Chris and I, along with 18 other people. We currently have 9 software engineers, holding different portfolios, and 7 people dedicated to every other function (marketing, people ops, customer success, sourcing).
Grouchy & Kirkness: Given our backgrounds, we feel we are strong at figuring out enterprise go-to-market among our peers. It’s one thing to say you’re focused on enterprise, but offer SMB pricing and another thing to negotiate MSAs with publicly-traded customers where the people in the room are double our age and have spent 30 years building their experience in our domain. We have constantly marched upmarket with our pricing. Each time we do that, it feels scary, but we eventually figure out how to support the new price level, and better serve customers ultimately by being able to fund our high-touch approach to customer success. We could easily have struggled more with this and been stuck at lower price points, in less complex deals.
Grouchy & Kirkness: We struggled originally to understand both who the customer is (we got this wrong and had to really pivot who we reached out to) and how to talk about what we do. The product has remained the same more or less from the start of the business, it’s really been about how we talk about it and who we talk about it to that has had the biggest impact on our success to date. Customer development for us was not some process that took a few months before we had to focus on other things, we’ve been doing this for going on three and a half years, and finally, over the last six months, it feels like we really know who it’s for and how to talk about it clearly. People talk about the importance of UX and customer personas, but it is critical to have a clear picture.
Grouchy & Kirkness: It’s hard to bake generic advice into general rules, but for anyone tackling B2B, we would challenge people to think about who your customer really is, and the importance of the problem you can solve for them. The more senior the person you need to sell to, the shorter their to-do list is, and if what you sell can’t cleanly map to those priorities, it simply will not sell. Assume it will take two solid years of talking to customers to actually get to a point where customers are willing to pay you and continue paying you once they learn what your product really does. One of us had our first company fail because we didn’t save enough money to weather the two-year customer development journey, this time we didn’t quit our jobs until we had 24 months of cash on hand to be able to make the leap. It took a long time, but it allowed us to make it through.
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