Thomas Cornelius founded CIENCE (then Leadware) on June 2, 2015. It wasn’t his first project. Building companies is his calling. He created Brainware, Adility, Adashop, and many others. Thomas is a true entrepreneur and has a fascinating unique ability to take businesses from 0 to 1 – perhaps, one of the toughest phases of any business lifecycle. He is not afraid to move fast and break things, as the Silicon Valley adage goes.
He kindly shared his story and vision with us:
Coming up with the idea of Data Enrichment business
I was developing a financial services platform and needed to connect with banks and other financial services companies. Unfortunately, I could not get accurate leads anywhere, so I decided to create the process on my own.
Finding the first client for CIENCE
I had a relationship with FiveStars from years prior. Furthermore, I met the founder for coffee and was impressed by their model, and how they work with small local businesses. I realized it must be a very laborious and difficult task to identify the correct contacts for them. Local businesses don’t have a central registry. They are very fragmented with unrecorded changes in ownership and management. This is why I felt this project was a great way to show our efficiencies and reached out to FiveStars. I was fortunate enough that they had a data project for us. In addition, they were just in the process of executing it. We were able to quickly demonstrate that we could perform the project faster and at less cost compared to the in-house team at FiveStars.
The decision to expand to sales development services
From the very beginning, I wanted to solve both challenges:
- Generating the quality list of leads with accurate data;
- Personalized outreach to those prospects with meaningful and relevant information for them.
It took just a month longer to identify our first client. However, we used our own process to acquire those clients, namely our in-house research team and in-house SDR’s. We created an Ideal Customer Profile, identified leads, and started emailing and calling those prospects to see if we could help them with both lead generation and outreach.
Things learned as a founder of CIENCE?
It is fairly easy to sell “opportunities,” but this comes with a lot of pre-set expectations of your clients. You need to maintain a very high level of integrity to not oversell and overpromise. In addition, you also need to build a lasting relationship with your customers that have a foundation of trust and longevity.
Challenges faced as a founder of CIENCE?
Both research and outreach are very laborious tasks. We grew quickly to hundreds of team members. Several things have been much more difficult than I anticipated. First, I had to recognize that team size does not equate with success. Second, I had to set up the company for future growth. Third, I needed to get the leadership team to develop and leverage technologies. It requires a lot of discipline from management. They should look beyond the day to day operational activities across three continents and hundreds of staff members to make the right decisions. Their goal is to not get outmaneuvered by competitors who implement a technology stack that leverages the latest in machine learning and AI for prospecting and agent support. Moving into new opportunities with a larger team – especially from outbound SDR to inbound SDR services, which seem to be so close in nature, has been as much difficult as it requires a different sales process. All these challenges are a byproduct of managing a company with a large headcount, which requires much more thoughtfulness in making changes as it has consequences too. CIENCE is fortunate to have a management team today which realizes the impact changes will have and a team that covers multiple roles in sales, customer success, operations, and finance. IT will help execute and seize these opportunities.
Seeing the company grow this big
We are providing human resources. As a result, our revenue per employee is only a fraction of exponential companies that provide mainly software solutions. It was clear to me that we have to grow to a significant headcount, and we are currently just at a fraction of where we need to be at, in the market. Expanding by leveraging technology, and creating a smart and modern workflow and process improvement will help to leverage revenue per employee. However, aside from that we need to target a team size of around 1,000 team members to become a meaningful player and actually a “big” company.