When Tukan Das asked at a 2015 board meeting how he could improve staff morale, he didn’t think the answer would lead to the complete reboot of his company.

But the CEO of Halifax-based data analytics company LeadSift was soon leading his team through a pivot that resulted in a new business model. LeadSift is now focused on helping small and medium-sized technology companies in the business-to-business market find sales leads, and its own sales are rising as a result.

It’s not unusual for startups to pivot. What’s astonishing is LeadSift pivoted when the company had been going for about four years. It had big clients and funding from backers like OMERS Ventures and Salesforce.com. But Das says the company would have failed if it hadn’t changed direction.

“We had blue chip clients but the problem was that the product was built [in a way that] they would not have stayed around for long,” said Das in an interview. “And the team would not have stuck around.”

The lightbulb moment came at a late 2015 board meeting when Das’ presentation included a slide asking what he could do to improve morale.

Director Damien Steele, an OMERS fund manager, said morale problems would persist as long as the company maintained its focus -- monitoring social media for enterprise clients to identify consumers who intended to buy a retail product. The problem was big clients often demanded customized installations, so the development team pretty well had to build a new product for each customer.

“This discussion that I hoped would lead to something like, ‘Buy a ping pong table’, hit me like a ton of bricks,” said Das. “I never wanted to build a company like that.”

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So in early 2016, LeadSift reassessed its market, calling up customers and asking them about their problems and trying to divine a product that would meet their needs.

“We said, ‘Let’s try everything’,” said Das. “Four years after graduating from [tech accelerator] Propel, we were back doing customer discovery, and doing it right this time.”

After a few months, the team came up with a product and asked clients what they thought. The response was lukewarm.  Frustrated, Das asked sales intern Corey Kirkhus what he thought, and the young man outlined the need for a product that would find leads for B2B salespeople.

That was the beginning of the current business model. The team methodically researched and courted clients that needed such a product. Once they established there was a bona fide market for it, they began to build it.

“It’s sales-intention software for B2B tech companies,” said Das. “It helps them identify and prioritize the companies to go after based on signals of intent.”

LeadSift adopted the new business model in March 2016 and by December of that year, the company had monthly recurring revenues of $18,000. A year later, that figure was up to $60,000. Das said the goal now is to hit $1 million in annual recurring revenue by the end of 2018, which would mean revenues will have risen about 40 percent this year.

“The beauty of it is we’ve learned how to do product development,” said Das, adding his team continues to improve the product based on the data it collects. “We dream of a world where sales people would log into their CRM [customer relationship management tool] in the morning and there would be a list of 10 leads. Each day. That’s the vision we have.”

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