Skynamo’s Sam Clarke (CEO) and Wim Morris (COO) talks to The Margin about the challenges that comes with growing a global salestech business.
With offices across the world and $30 million in funding secured in February 2021, Skynamo is now recognised as a leader in field sales management technology. Yet this Stellenbosch-based startup grew from a group of technologists with the right skills finding a target market that needed a solution they were capable of building.
“Our background is in technology. We had the technical competencies of software development, specifically on Android and web applications, and we decided to form a company looking into solutions,” says Skynamo’s CEO Sam Clarke. Honeybee, as the company was first called, was formed in 2012 when one of Clarke’s close friends started a business distributing drinks and found issues with the current solutions on the market. “They just weren’t fit for purpose. We developed a proof of concept, tested it with his users and he loved it. It was what he had been looking for…but we didn’t have prices or contracts or anything. We signed them up and slowly started building up a loyal customer base.”
Within six months, they began to sign up real customers (or as Clarke says, ‘not friends’), taking the time to build up the first, sellable version of Skynamo, a CRM and order-taking platform designed specifically for businesses that sell products to other businesses on a regular basis.
“Most B2B CRMs are designed for businesses that sell once-off to new customers. Skynamo is fundamentally different because it is built around recurring product sales,” says Clarke. “Many of our customers sell to retailers. The relationship you have when your product is being replenished is very different to the relationship you have with a customer where they buy once, and then you sell to them again in five years’ time.”
Clarke believes salestech is an interesting field to be in. “You think it would have settled down, but it really hasn’t,” he laughs, adding that the move towards becoming cloud-based and bringing the user into the equation is what has really consolidated the salestech market. “The expectation from users is that sales technology should be as easy to use as consumer software. The days of having some clunky interface that you just have to live with have passed.” On the other side, people expect tools and applications that are hyperfocused and can cater to a business’ specific use case. This is where Skynamo comes in.
“We’ve taken a very specific type of business and a very specific type of interaction, and we’ve built a platform that is really intuitive, easy to use and is for people who do that specific thing,” he says. One of Skynamo’s main strengths is its ability to integrate other tools. “The sales technology in an organisation doesn’t live in isolation to all the other information in the organisation. Everything is cloud-based. Everything is cloud-based (Skynamo uses AWS), everything’s got an API – I need your solution to speak to my solution.”
While Skynamo started with very few employees, in 2020, it grew its employee count 42%, and the year before, it was 45%. Today, it has close to 10 000 users at nearly 1 000 companies across a wide range of industries and was named Sage ISV Partner of the Year in 2019. Skynamo has clients as far afield as Japan, New Zealand, Australia, the Middle East, North America and Europe, but remains proud of its South African heritage, even wearing socks with the SA flag at big meetings.
“We’ve really managed to grow the business from a small core team into a business that is busy reaching all over the globe,” says Wim Morris, Skynamo’s COO. “It’s always harder to grow a business than you think – there are always so many unexpected challenges. I’m proud but also humble because it means that every day there are a few more challenges to deal with.”
The search for funding
One of the company’s biggest growth challenges was securing funding, a harrowing journey that Clarke describes as ‘long and very difficult’. During their seed and angel stages in around 2016, they tried to secure local funding to match their customer base but found it difficult to access capital in South Africa. “The majority of funders in South Africa are well positioned to finance capital-intensive businesses,” says Clarke, and ‘high-tech companies don’t work like that’. Skynamo began to seek investment overseas, looking for funders to fit their value-based business mode, which it found with US-based Five Elms Capital, a global growth equity firm.
“The part that I really love about Skynamo is that we actually help other businesses to become successful,” adds Morris. “Where companies once struggled, after they implement Skynamo, suddenly both their employee’s lives and business performance is better. We can see it when our customers add more and more users – it’s really a fulfilling position to be in.”
“Skynamo is a business that serves clients of all sizes really well. One of the things I’m most proud of is that we recently got the renewal contract for the first customer that we ever signed,” says Clarke. “When a company starts going global, they forget about their South African client base and that’s something that we’ve specifically not done. Our local client base is as important to us today as it was last year or the year before.”
Sam Clarke and Wim Morris are the CEO and COO at Skynamo, respectively.
Established in Stellenbosch, South Africa in 2012, Skynamo is the leading field sales technology provider with close to 10,000 users at nearly 1,000 companies across a wide range of industries in Southern Africa, Australasia, the UK, Europe and the US. Skynamo’s field sales mobile app and cloud-based management platform are used by manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors with sales teams in the field, selling products to an existing base of customers. Skynamo integrates with a wide range of ERP and accounting software to improve order accuracy and fulfilment. Skynamo was named Sage ISV Partner of the Year for 2019 (Africa & the Middle East) and an Acumatica Certified Application and Customer Verified Application. Skynamo received $30million in funding from US-based software investment firm Five Elms Capital in 2020 and forms part of the Stellenbosch-based Alphawave group of software and electronics companies, with more than 100 employees in South Africa, the UK and the US.
For Media Enquiries
Issued on behalf of Skynamo by Zenahrea Damon from Hook, Line & Sinker Communications
Tel: +27 79 428 0389 / Email email@example.com
A related article also appeared in:
The Margin on Feb 3, 2022