July 27, 2012
With more than a decade experience in sales, Anthony Cole is familiar with the frustrations a salesperson faces in the field regarding customer relationship management.
I was at IBM and working on what ended up being the biggest deal I’ve ever closed in my career. I was working to structure and close a $36 million ELA for a large New England Bank. Throughout the course of the year, I worked with the CIO and various executives both within the bank and IBM and probably had something in the neighborhood of 100 meetings on the deal. The most challenging aspect of the deal was keeping our team and management updated on various aspects, outcomes and nuances of meetings and customer feedback.
This led to Cole’s founding Cogent Mobile, a voice-recognition B2B mobile CRM solution. As Cole explains below, starting up means learning how to handle all sorts of situations – like losing your technical co-founder early on.
Tech Cocktail: What is Cogent Mobile and who is it for?
Anthony Cole: Cogent Mobile is a virtual private assistant for mobile CRM. We are focused on addressing the problem of a seamless and easy way for field sales and service professionals to update their CRM while out of the office. Users can leverage a voice UI to interact with the application and update, create and edit CRM data in real time.
Tech Cocktail: What do you enjoy most about working on Cogent Mobile?
Cole: The opportunity to work with immensely talented people and solve a problem that impacts organizations and individuals. Taking an idea to product and then taking that to market is one of the most challenging experiences I’ve ever undertaken.
Tech Cocktail: Who is your greatest competitor, and how do you differentiate yourself?
Cole: Our competitors are the CRM companies that have mobile applications of their own. They have been around for decades, and they have deep pockets, an established revenue stream and customer base, and resources (technical, sales). Although they are also potential partners with whom we would integrate on our back-end, we also understand they could potentially see what we are doing and want to follow. Our intention is to differentiate ourselves by focusing on really nailing the UI layer and algorithms to perfect the solution we offer.
Tech Cocktail: What is the biggest advantage and disadvantage of starting up in Boston?
Cole: There are many advantages to starting up in Boston. We have a very mature startup ecosystem with storied VC firms and entrepreneur-fostering universities such as MIT, Harvard and Babson. Boston is only rivaled by Silicon Valley in terms of its startup success and the fluidity of an optimized ecosystem that encourages the brightest and most ambitious to create new and lasting companies.
I think the maturity in the Boston ecosystem can sometimes be a disadvantage in that the investment community has a tendency to be very conservative in doing deals in general. This can be both positive and negative, depending on how you look at things from an entrepreneurial perspective. From the investor’s perspective, the cream of the crop rises to the top, and those are the companies and ideas you invest in.
Tech Cocktail: Describe a challenging moment or a crucial decision for your startup. How did you deal with it, and what did you learn from it?
Cole: A challenging moment that our startup faced occurred when an early technical co-founder decided to move on to pursue other endeavors, leaving us at risk of not being able to build the application and platform. We dealt with it as best we could and leveraged our network to find another technical co-founder that could help build the technology.
What we learned from it is that the entrepreneurial journey is a bumpy one. We are called on to make gut decision about going or not going forward, and sometimes it’s necessary to trust your instincts….
Tech Cocktail: What’s one quirky fact about you, your team, or your office culture?
Cole: I have an uncanny capacity to retain facts and information on the most mundane and obscure topics. Growing up, I was very curious about many subjects and simply read a lot about areas and things that interested me. I’ve been to Jeopardy contestant try-outs twice in New York. Never made it into the contestant pool, but it was a fun experience.
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