CommercialTribe Lands $3.2M Series A Round from Colorado Syndicate

4/29/14Follow @MichaelXBD

While some classic sales techniques have stood the test of time, the way sales teams train hasn’t, at least in the eyes of Paul Ironside, co-founder and CEO of CommercialTribe. Improve on the inefficient old standbys such as classroom training and sales conferences, he believes, and you could make a fortune.

Ironside isn’t alone in that belief or in the belief that CommercialTribe will be the one to do it. The Denver-based startup announced Tuesday it has closed a $3.2 million Series A round. Grotech Ventures, Access Venture Partners, Boulder Ventures, and Martha Tracey of Crawley Ventures invested in the round.

CommercialTribe is developing what Ironside described as a cloud-based social learning platform for salesmen and saleswomen. The application relies on videos and other content that a company’s most successful sales reps create and share with the rest of their team.

The idea is that top sellers are the ones who know best what pitches and tactics resonate with customers and the most effective ways to deal with objections, diagnose issues, and demonstrate value, Ironside said. CommercialTribe’s premise is the most efficient way of distributing that knowledge would be over an online site that lets users log on when they want to.

In addition to learning from top performers, reps would have the chance to refresh their memories about what they learned months ago at a sales conference but may have forgotten, he said. Companies also wouldn’t have to wait for conferences or webinars before distributing new information.

Being online allows companies with large teams, especially those distributed over a far-flung area, to keep their strategies up-to-date and to coach and develop their team members, Ironside said. Ideally, that would lead to a well-trained sales force offering better and more consistent pitches, which generate more sales, he added.

He also said that CommercialTribe will foster greater cooperation between a company’s sales and marketing departments, which, for now, remain “very silo-based” in most companies. “Marketing is creating messages and literally throwing them over the fence to sales to understand, absorb, and take out into the marketplace,” he said. “That’s a flawed process, there’s no real collaboration in that.”

Launched last year, CommercialTribe is working with 10 clients as it builds out its platform. The new funding, which is the first outside capital CommercialTribe has raised, will be used to continue product development and to add to the business development team, with the latter taking place in 2015. The company currently has 10 employees. Its target customers will be medium and large businesses with distributed sales teams.

There are a lot of companies that meet that description which gives the startup a huge opportunity, according to Joe Zell, a general partner of Grotech Ventures and a new CommercialTribe board member.

“We think this is going to revolutionize sales training, and the market for it is the same size as the market for Salesforce.com,” he said. “Any sales rep, in any organization greater than five or 10 employees, is going to need this kind of capability.”

While Zell is enthusiastic about CommercialTribe’s prospects, he said the deal also is noteworthy for the syndicate of investors, which has deep local ties. Boulder Ventures and Access Venture Partners are headquartered in Colorado, while Zell is based in Denver and does most of his deals in the state.

Zell said the combination of three institutional investors in a Series A round is a rarity, and should CommercialTribe hit its targets, the syndicate will have the wherewithal to put together a Series B round without having to bring in new investors.

“I think this is the strongest A-round syndicate of any deal I’ve ever seen in Colorado, honestly,” Zell said. “It puts CommercialTribe in a unique position to be heads-down and focused for the next 18 to 24 months.”

Michael Davidson is the editor of Xconomy Boulder/Denver. He covers startups, venture capital, clean tech, energy, aerospace, telecoms, and whatever else happens above 5,280 feet. Contact him at mdavidson@xconomy.com. Follow @MichaelXBD

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