GE 215: Cofounder Dan Reich On How Troops Is Building Artificially Intelligent Personal Assistants for the Workplace (podcast) With Dan Reich

Dan Reich

Hey everyone, today I share the mic with Dan Reich, Co-founder and CEO of Troops, an artificial intelligence assistance for work.

Tune in to hear Dan discuss his vision behind Troops and how the improving AI capabilities will completely change the way we use CRM software, his struggle with getting Troops on the growth curve and the eventual funding and tie-up they landed with Slack, and his management philosophies and hacks that help him be more productive on a day-to-day basis.

Download podcast transcript [PDF] here: Dan Reich On How Troops Is Building Personal AI Assistants for the Workplace TRANSCRIPT

Time-Stamped Show Notes:

  • 01:06 – Review and subscribe to the Growth Everywhere Podcast
  • 01:26 – Eric welcomes Dan Reich
  • 01:26 – Troops is a sales Slackbot with high AI capabilities, and is Dan’s tenth startup
  • 02:16 – Dan’s last startup was sold to Buddymedia and then subsequently to Salesforce
    • 02:26 – Though Salesforce is the most popular CRM, it is not very user-friendly
    • 03:00 – Troops integrates with Salesforce to create an enhanced customer experience
    • 03:09 – Troops helps pull workflow and reports from Salesforce to the popular messaging platform, Slack
  • 03:41 – What is the main benefit of using Troops? – Users can pull information from Salesforce via Slack, hence negating the need to log on to Salesforce every time
  • 04:23 – Dan shares the important numbers around Troops
    • 04:23 – Troops has 15 employees
    • 04:36 – Troops works with over 800 companies
    • 04:42 – Raised over $10 million in venture financing
  • 05:05 – What do you see in the future? – In the future, instead of interacting with fields, forms, buttons and boxes, we are going to be interacting with something much more conversational
  • 06:33 – They plan on working with other platforms apart from Salesforce and Slack in the future
  • 07:22 – Depending on the complexity and size, the product costs between $10 and $50 per month
  • 08:20 – How did you acquire the first 100 customers? – “Hustle”
  • 09:00 – Word-of-mouth publicity has worked wonders for Troops
  • 10:19 – Troops is one of the bigger investments that Slack has made
  • 11:11 – 77% of the companies surveyed felt that they could be doing more with Salesforce
  • 11:47 – What is the one unique thing that you are doing in terms of customer acquisition? – Educating potential customers about the capabilities of Troops via blogging
  • 13:21 – What’s one big struggle you faced while growing any of these startups? – “How do we execute our vision against limited technology?”
    • 14:45 – Being involved in a startup is like digging for gold—you need to be at it
  • 15:25 – If people want to learn about AI, what would you recommend? – Stanford lectures, university material, blogs
  • 16:00 – What’s one big change you’ve made in the last year that has impacted you or your business in a big way? – “Write down a few things that I am grateful for. It is therapeutic and sets the tone for the day”.
  • 18:10 – What’s one new tool that you’ve added in the last year that’s added a lot of value, besides Troops? – Wunderlist: it’s a digital version of writing things on paper and checking things off
  • 18:50 – What’s one blog or podcast that you tune in everyday? – “There is not particular blog or podcast that I listen to every day”
  • 19:16 – What’s one must-read book do you recommend?High Output Management – “Great for managers as well as people who report to managers”
  • 26:47 – Connect with Dan on his blog, website or Twitter

3 Key Points:

  1. As a company, it is important to have the technology in place to help you execute your vision.
  2. With the future being in AI, we are going to be interacting with something much more conversational—not just fields and buttons.
  3. Being involved in a startup is like digging for gold—you never know when you strike gold, so you need to just keep on digging.

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Full Transcript of The Episode

Show transcript
Dan Reich: Science fiction is a really good indicator of reality. And so I think in the future we're gonna be living in a world where, instead of interacting with fields, forms, buttons and boxes, we're gonna be interacting with something much more conversational in nature. You think about R2D2 and CP30 from Star Wars.



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Alright everybody, today we have Dan Reich, who is the CEO of Troops.ai, which is the artificially intelligent assistance for work. Dan, how's it going?

Dan Reich: Hey Eric, how's it going? Thanks for having me on.

Eric Siu: Yeah. Thanks for being here. And I was just telling Dan before we started recording that we're on Skype right here and he has a bitmoji that looks exactly like mine. But that's like a side note. But Dan, why don't you tell us a little bit about who you are, what your background is and what led to this?

Dan Reich: Yeah certainly. So, my background, my academic background is electrical and computer engineering so nerd and tech geek at heart. But really have been doing startups my whole life. This is, I think my tenth startup. Which, by the way, not all of them have worked. And I think one of the things that led me to Troops was experiences with my previous startups. The last one we sold to another company called Buddy Media and subsequently to Salesforce.com. And what I've learned over the years along with my co-founders is that, like every business on earth needs a way to manage information on their revenue, their customers, their relationships, their pipeline. We know that category to be CRM. We know the leader in that category to be Salesforce. And if you ask anyone that uses this what their experience is like using it, they'll tell you it's kind of like a double edged sword. It's really painful to use in many cases although they need it.

And so we felt that it was about time to really make it easy to use once and for all. Instead of using a database interface to work with the database, it should feel more human, it should feel more intelligent, it should feel mobile, it should be smarter. So that really kind of the thesis on thinking around Troops. And so today, at Troops we basically integrate all this workflow, intelligence, notifications, and reporting from CRM's like Salesforce into what we call the new operating systems for teams, the conversational platforms like Slack, which is where people are increasingly spending all their time to collaborate, communicate and do work.

And so that's really where we came from with Troops and that's where we're at today. Eric Siu: Got it. Great. And so, I guess, to simplify it for the audience, what's the main benefit of using Troops? What are they gonna get out of it?

Dan Reich: Yeah, sure. So, you know, today anybody that uses Salesforce has to log into this interface to log notes. What we do is we basically rip out that interface and work well and put it in a messaging interface, which is where people are spending over ten hours a day. Much like you probably spend most of your time messaging, text messaging with your friends on iMessage or Facebook Messenger, that same paradigm is happening at work. Slack is really the same thing as Messenger but just for a work setting. So that's where people are spending their time so we're bringing really important business applications to that interface.

Eric Siu: Got it. Okay. And so how's the company doing today and what kind of numbers can you talk about around the business?

Dan Reich: Sure. So at Troops we're about 15 employees right now. Mostly product and engineering focus team right now with people from Google and Salesforce and all over the place. We work with about over 800 companies right now, today, in some way, shape or form. We've raised a little less than $10 million in venture financing from a handful of tremendous institutional investors and individuals. And that's the state of the world for Troops today.

Eric Siu: Love it. Okay. And I'm looking at the site right now. It's pretty clear. It says the Slack bot for sales team. But give a much broader vision for this in the future. Where do you see things going in the future? Let's say the next five years or so?

Dan Reich: Yeah, I think about the movies. I think often science fiction is a really good indicator of reality. And so I think in the future we're gonna be living in a world where, instead of interacting with fields, forms, buttons and boxes, we're gonna be interacting with something much more conversational in nature. You think about R2D2 and CP3O from Star Wars or you think about the movie Interstellar and Matthew McConaughey's buddy marine robot that flies the ship and tells him jokes. That is a future that will definitely happen and we think it's gonna happen at work. And we think that Troops is well positioned to build that artificially intelligent system for work. We're just starting today in a very literal sense of putting a lot of this intelligence into Slack, being the first messaging interface.

Eric Siu: Yeah. And just so everyone can check it out, if you're listening to this, if you're in front of a computer, you can pull up Troops.AI. If you're driving please don't use your phone. But looking at the site right now, I mean, you could just ask how are opportunities looking? So there's a current opportunities report that I'm looking at right now. And then there's a Sales Gong here too, you can see how things are looking and different stages that they're in too. So, this is great. I mean, this is valuable. I think it ties close to whether deals are getting won or not.

Now, I guess, a selfish question for you, we at Salesforce IQ, what do you guys integrate with? Definitely Salesforce but anything else? Dan Reich: Yeah. So today we're primarily only integrating with salesforce.com, but Salesforce IQ is certainly on our roadmap. We love that product and think that's certainly teed up. So that's certainly in the works. But you can think about us working not only with Salesforce and Salesforce IQ, but there's many other platforms we'll be integrating with soon. But just today, it's Salesforce and Slack are the primary two platforms that we're working with.

Eric Siu: Cool. So it's June 2017 and I'm putting you on the spot here, when is one of these other integrations coming out?

Dan Reich: I don't have that crystal ball, unfortunately, but TBD.

Eric Siu: Cool.

Dan Reich: As you know, product development, TBD.

Eric Siu: Yeah, I hear you. Great. So how much does this stuff cost? Because the price you pay ... You have a free version and then there's obviously a talk to sales team. So can you give us a range?

Dan Reich: Yeah so it depends on the complexity and future set that you're using. But right now the product costs anywhere from $10-$50 per user per month. And that really just, again, depends on the organization, the complexity, and the size. So obviously if it's a two person team, you'll probably pay something different than a 2,000 or a 20,000 person team.

Eric Siu: Got it. And just FYI, for people to note too, if you're using Salesforce, I'm looking at the demo here right now, the little gif. You can basically update the statuses so you can say if the deal is one, it's lost. Whatever it is exactly within Slack. So you don't have to keep hanging out in Salesforce all the time. Not that there's anything wrong with having that Salesforce tab open, but you can see how that can speed things up a little bit.

Now, and you said, I mean, roughly in terms of customers, and you don't have to say pain, but how many customers did you say you had again?

Dan Reich: Yeah so we work with about, a little over 800 companies today.

Eric Siu: Okay. And how did you start working with, let's say the first 100 customers or so? How did you acquire them?

Dan Reich: Hustle. You know? We were banging on the keyboard and email and phone and just reaching out to a lot of people in our network that we know are sales leaders, executives, really anybody in and around the space that are tied to driving revenue and pipeline.

Eric Siu: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Eric Siu: Cool. Final question by the way, I'm looking at the site right now. Do you have any ... Are there any case studies or anything that you can speak to so maybe there's a final thing to entice people? Because this is pretty cool.

Dan Reich: Yeah. If you hit our ... We have a blog that's linked off of our homepage. That blog has a handful of blog posts. It just has tremendous content ranging from case studies to productivity hacks. I think, very objectively, it's one of the better blogs out there for sales enablement, sales productivity. So definitely worth checking out if you've got some time.

Eric Siu: Cool. Yeah, I'm gonna bookmark it in my pocket for later. Dan, thanks so much for doing this.

Dan Reich: Yeah, right on Eric. Thanks.

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