VentureSCALE Launches in Chicago
CHICAGO: With over $1.7 billion raised in 2016, the Chicago tech ecosystem continues to draw significant venture capital attention; however, studies show that nearly 75 percent of tech startups will eventually fail due primarily to lack of revenue. VentureSCALE was created to bridge the gap between early-stage technology companies and successful organizations through a 90-day sales and revenue strategy education program. Through in-person classroom sessions, learning lunches, mentor calls and roundtable discussions, each cohort is immersed into the most important aspects involved in building and growing a scalable sales organization, including metrics and forecasting, lead generation and building customer personas that are actionable for expansion of product lines. We sat down with VentureScale co-founders Matt Green and Jeff Rosset to learn more.
- Q: There are countless accelerators that serve the startup ecosystem. With the number of programs out there, why did you feel the need to start another?Jeff : While it’s undoubtedly true that there’s no shortage of accelerators, what we noticed when looking at the market was that there was a dramatic lack of sales and revenue focused resources for early stage tech companies. If you’re an entrepreneur that has already raised a seed round or small series A, you exist in a sort of “sales no-man’s land” where it’s too early for you to hire a VP of Sales, but at the same time there’s an major need at this stage of the business for all of the structure and best practices that a sales leader would bring to the table. VentureSCALE is focused solely on solving that problem; providing entrepreneurs with all of the tools, resources, connections, mentors and expertise they need to build a scalable foundation for sales…and get to the next stage of their business, quicker and more effectively.
- Q: What do you mean by “scalable sales foundation?” Won’t a foundation look different based on the product a company is selling and the industry they are selling it to?Matt : There will always be nuances between verticals, but at the same time there is a certain set of tools that every B2B technology company needs. More than simply turning the founder (who is often an engineer or industry expert by trade) into a better salesperson, entrepreneurs who go through our program come out knowing what type of data to capture during their sales process, how to leverage that data to make more informed decisions and properly forecast, how to develop channel partnerships, how to hire and train a small team of account executives, how to build an effective Customer Success model, and the list goes on. These are tools and skill sets that an expensive VP of Sales usually brings to the table after a company raises their Series A. Unfortunately many companies don’t survive to reach that point, and it’s usually due to lack of sales. That is what we want to change.
- Q: You bring up a good point about the failure rate with early stage technology companies. Have you taken this idea to the venture community? If so, how have they responded?Jeff : Right from the beginning, major influencers and leaders from Chicago’s venture community saw the value in what we were doing. There was $1.7 billion in venture capital invested into Chicago tech companies in 2017, and everybody knows the unfortunate reality is that 75% of startups will fail – most often, as Matt said, due to lack of revenue. The local community recognizes the need for VentureSCALE and they haven’t hesitated in partnering with us to help get early stage companies the help and support they need. In a short amount of time we’ve brought on over 2 dozen “community partners” such as MATH Venture Partners, Catapult, Hyde Park Venture Partners, The Bunker and Chicago Ventures. Plus, the leaders of many of these organizations are part of VentureSCALE’s mentor network and will be personally supporting the entrepreneurs that go through our program.
- Q: Speaking of mentors, usually one of the biggest value propositions that accelerators bring to the table is their network of mentors. So tell us, who all is involved?Jeff : We have over 60 mentors that are involved with VentureSCALE, which includes VP and C-level sales leaders, CEOs and Founders of successful tech companies, prominent Chicago investors and influencers, and operations, finance and marketing leaders from the local tech ecosystem.
- Q: Why such a varied network if VentureSCALE is focused on sales and revenue?Jeff : While the program itself will build the sales foundation we discussed, we wanted each entrepreneur in our cohort paired with investors, sales leaders and operations/marketing leaders to provide a more holistic look at how they are building their business.
- Q: Makes sense. Walk me through what being a part of VentureSCALE looks like.Matt : We will follow a cohort format, with our first cohort consisting of 12 companies and lasting 90 days. During the 90 day period, participants will be immersed into six half-day sessions each covering a core skill topic such as Metrics and Forecasting, Lead Generation, Sales Fundamentals and so forth. Additionally, there will be three “Fireside Lunches” which will include a Q&A sessions with a prominent tech CEO or sales leader. Finally, cohort participants will meet individually with their assigned mentors as well as the VentureSCALE team throughout the program.
- Q: Who leads these half-day immersion sessions?Matt : For each of the six sessions we have a separate Entrepreneur in Residence, each of whom has built their own organization focused on the core skill topic they’ll be teaching to our cohort. These are absolutely the leaders in their respective fields within the Chicago ecosystem.
- Q: Why the lack of focus on fundraising during the program?Matt : It’s often not a lack of access to investors or a subpar pitch deck that’s getting in the way of many of these companies raising money. It’s usually a lack of people buying their product. The better engine they have for sales and revenue growth, the easier it will be to raise capital – on more favorable terms to boot.
- Q: Along those lines, I see you don’t take any equity in the companies that go through VentureSCALE, which is not necessarily the norm. Why is this?Jeff : We knew from the beginning that we wanted to create a program that was very founder friendly. We’re providing the structure and benefit needed, all at the cost equivalent of 1-month’s salary of a BDR/SDR.
- Q: Most accelerators have a pretty selective application process. Is it safe to assume VentureSCALE’s is as well?Jeff : Yes, absolutely. We want to work with promising companies that are being led by entrepreneurs who have a learning mindset and are going to be open to guidance, even if it means making some uncomfortable changes to the way they are currently doing things. The companies selected will also be post-revenue, have a team already in place above and beyond the founders, and most likely will have raised outside capital already.
- Q: Jeff, I understand that VentureSCALE is an extension of a company you’ve already built. Can you tell me how the two tie together?Jeff : VentureSCALE was conceived and built under the umbrella of Sales Assembly, the parent company. Sales Assembly is Chicago’s premier peer community and resource for the sales leaders of top growth-stage B2B tech companies such as Sprout Social, PowerReviews, DialogTech, G2 Crowd and Jellyvision. Sales Assembly will be providing lots of resources, connections and help to VentureSCALE, and the cohort companies involved.
- Techweek: Awesome! Thank you so much for your time guys!