23 Sep 2021 . 5 min read
How we started Pronto
These days it feels like I am running at 500 miles an hour 24 hours a day. Between my myriad activities related to meeting with customers, working with the team to build splendid features, and promoting the Pronto brand, I rarely have time to take stock of everything that we have accomplished. However, today I am taking a short breather to celebrate a major milestone at Pronto. We just raised $4 million in seed funding to accelerate our growth in realizing our mission: helping companies unlock the collaborative value of their partner ecosystems.
Given this major milestone, it is important that I tell the Pronto story and share what drives us to build an excellent product that help partner professionals become rock stars.
Seeing the problem – but constrained from addressing it
My rendezvous with partner organizations goes back to 2012, when I was a management consultant advising clients in technology, media, and telecom industries. Some of my client engagements focused on working with the partner organizations of large enterprise companies. I saw all sorts of pain points as companies tried to work together and build large partner ecosystems: no comprehensive reporting on metrics, manual workflows associated with deal desks, Excel spreadsheets to track various partner activities including collaboration, MDF tracking, co-selling strategies, etc. These problems stuck with me, and I knew a solution was needed.
I thought I took a role in Corporate Venture Capital, but instead became a technology alliance leader
In 2017, I left management consulting and joined a large industrial company with a dual role: define the future of industrial digital transformation by investing in start-ups and build technology alliances that could bolster our digital offerings to industrial customers.
I initially thought that my time split would be 60% on due diligence of startups and 40% on building alliances. I was wrong and instead, spent nearly 80% of my time alliance building. The fact that my role was weighted so heavily towards alliance building was not by design! Rather, it was driven by the nature of activities needed to make strategic alliances operational as we conceptualized and built large technology alliances with companies like Microsoft, HPE, and IBM, among others. The challenges we faced spanned collaboration within and outside the organization, connecting Go-to-Market teams, and tracking metrics associated with not just dollars but also with collaboration and innovation. There was no system to track, report and share data both within the organization and with our partners.
I was sure a product or tool existed that could address these burning concerns. I searched around for tools that might address these challenges, and came across two options:
- Implement a PRM (Partner Relationship Management) tool
- Customize Salesforce and make it work
PRMs and customizing Salesforce were not sufficient
My first stop was to investigate the tools in the market, and I found that while there were many PRM (Partner Relationship Management) tools out there, none of them fixed my problem. While many were purpose built to manage channel partners, they lacked collaborative features and automation, and were not built for a scalable collaborative selling motion.
I also looked at Salesforce. But ultimately, customization was a big investment from a time and people resources perspective. And even if we had customized it, we never would have been able to open it up to our partners. As with the PRMs, Salesforce wasn’t built for collaboration with entities outside of my organization.
A back of the napkin solution - Pronto was born
While I couldn’t find a solution with existing tools in the market, I knew my problems could be solved with a platform that:
- Automated redundant workflows
- Tracked metrics not just for us but also for our partners to view so that it's all transparent
- Allowed me to collaborate securely both within and outside the organization while adhering to data privacy concerns
- Accelerated our partner Go-to-Market efforts
It was around this time that I also began thinking deeply about “Ecosystem Management”. Every organization, big and small, has an ecosystem made up of partners, vendors, suppliers, and customers. The larger, stronger, and more nurturing that ecosystem is, the higher competitive advantage that organization would have. My vision was that every organization should have a better way to manage and nurture their Ecosystem. This started the “back of napkin” (in my case a whiteboard) sketching process focused on how to solve these problems. After brainstorming with some colleagues, professional acquaintances, friends, and family (they are an intelligent bunch!), I conceptualized the Pronto platform and the mechanics of building a company that could survive the test of time.
While the process of building software products has become much easier (thanks to the start-up community) in recent times, building a credible and profitable company is still elusive to say the least. I needed an army of people who could partner with or advise me on the trials and tribulations of the start-up journey.
This is when I was connected to Suresh Batchu, a seasoned technology industry executive and Co-Founder & CTO of MobileIron, now Ivanti. One of the humblest people I’ve met in my life, Suresh took a leap of faith with me and signed on to guide us. I then partnered with my co-founder Manoj, who at the time was leading engineering teams at a large enterprise. He had deep expertise in building large scale, secure cloud platforms and I knew that he could help me realize my vision.
With Suresh by our side, Pronto was officially born in October 2018, and Manoj and I spent our first 6 months interviewing a wide variety of partnerships and business development professionals across various industries. We took abundant notes on their pain points and worked with them to ideate features that could address them. We truly wanted Pronto to be a platform by and for partnerships professionals, irrespective of the nature of partnerships they were managing. After months of listening to our peers and raising our first angel round, we hired our engineering team and started building. In April 2020, we launched our first general availability (GA) release of Pronto. At every step of the journey, customer success and a simple, intuitive user experience has been top of mind. We’ve adopted a design-first mentality and remain in lockstep with our customers to deliver the best solution possible.
2.5 years later, it’s a reality
We are now 2.5 years into our journey and what started as a back of the napkin plan is now a reality. With support from a robust network of advisors, angel investors, analysts, and most importantly our customers, we have helped create a new product category called “Ecosystem Management” and we are helping to solve customers’ pain points. Today, over 90 companies have adopted our platform and are currently managing over $130 million in partner-enabled sales pipeline. Our mid-market and enterprise customers come from many different markets, including independent software vendors (ISVs), networking, security, data analytics, storage, application management, and cloud management. All are deriving value from Pronto’s collaborative, data-driven Software as a Service (SaaS) shared system of engagement and using our platform to effortlessly build, manage, scale, and monetize their partner ecosystems effectively and efficiently.
I’m proud to share some of the kind words our customers have said about us to date.
Jeff Clawson, Director North America Cloud Alliances Team, from Red Hat appreciates how our platform automates work and allows partnerships to focus on the real reasons' partnerships are formed — for developing and selling solutions.
“At Red Hat, we have an ecosystem-first mentality. Partners are core to our GTM strategy, not just in how we sell but also how we innovate. With Pronto, not only are we automating our business processes and collaborating with partners on various deals but also building innovative industry specific solutions. We are now able to enable our partner sellers like never before, win more deals, also get a holistic view of our ecosystem performance.”
Craig Strachman, VP of Corporate Business Development, Juniper Networks acknowledges the power of our data-driven platform that provides visibility to the performance of individual partner relationship, and to the whole ecosystem to help executive management make better investment decisions.
“Juniper Networks often works with technology partners to deliver innovative solutions that transform the experience of networking and security. With Pronto’s unified ecosystem management platform, we are able to collaborate seamlessly with our technology partners, improve our teams’ productivity and visualize the trends and patterns together with our executive teams.”
Taking Pronto to the next level in 2021
Getting to where we are today wasn’t an easy task. With Suresh’s unwavering support and guidance (and a big investment), we raised $2 million from a group of angel investors who fundamentally believed in our vision and passion. Today, the investor community recognizes our potential and the need for an ecosystem management platform that spans different partnerships constituents, multi-party partnerships, and industries. We just announced that we raised $4 million in seed funding led by Work-Bench, with participation from Vertex Ventures US, Firebolt Ventures, and Tau Ventures.
Jessica Lin, Co-founder, and General Partner at Work-Bench recognized the power of our collaborative ecosystem platform.
“Pronto gives business development executives and partner leaders at some of the world’s most recognized enterprise companies the visibility and insights across their business. Companies now have a comprehensive solution to increase collaboration effectively within and outside the organization. We’re thrilled for the opportunity to support Pronto as they transform the ecosystem management landscape.”
With this new capital infusion, we are bolstering our team across various functions. It will also help us accelerate the delivery of our robust, customer-driven product roadmap and invest in future innovation.
I am also thrilled to announce that Suresh Batchu, our non-operating Co-Founder, will be joining the Board of Directors alongside Jessica Lin, Chase Roberts, and myself.
Our Design-first company culture reflects our passion about partner success
Our investors also recognized our culture and DNA is based on successful partnering. We consider our customers as our partners. Our relationships are based on complete transparency and trust. They guide us in identifying and prioritizing the most impactful capabilities to continuously improve our platform. We are building rich feature sets and functionalities to improve the overall user experience of our platform and enable customers to achieve faster ROI while also uncovering new revenue opportunities in their partner ecosystem. This is another reason why our investors believe in us.
Chase Roberts, Principal at Vertex Ventures applauds our commitment to helping our constituents.
“We see in Pronto what we’ve seen in our other successful portfolio companies – a fierce commitment to continuously create products that enable individuals, teams, and companies to deliver on customer and partner experience.”
We are grateful to have an extraordinary team with a “growth mindset”. Our growing workforce is diverse, aligns with our core values and has important skillsets that are key to addressing the needs of our customers. For example, most of our engineering team has deep expertise in information security, ensuring that anything and everything we build here at Pronto is fully secure. Our sales team is very customer-centric, not pushy, and collaborates with our customers, like how true partners should. Our product management team not only prioritizes requirements and works with engineering, but is also highly knowledgeable about partner ecosystems courtesy of their previous roles as business development professionals.
Help us write our next chapter
The Pronto story is still in its first chapter. Ecosystem business models will be one of the largest business disruptors over the next 10 years and have the potential to unlock over 100 trillion dollars (about $310,000 per person in the US) in business value. We are ready to help you achieve the full value of your partner ecosystem with our Ecosystem Management platform, and together we can write our next chapter.