You just invested in an early-stage startup, the newest addition to your corporate venture fund’s portfolio — but now what? What happens the next day? How quickly can you onboard the portfolio company so you can start supporting its growth plan? What’s your strategy for orienting the portfolio company with your customers and partners?
And more importantly, how do you deliver value as one of many of their investors?
At one point, these same questions ran through Director of Okta Ventures Austin Arensberg’s head. That’s why the venture capital arm of Okta, an identity and access management company, began using Crossbeam’s partner ecosystem platform. After only two weeks, Okta Ventures has already surfaced 60 ecosystem qualified leads for its portfolio companies.
“Corporate venture capital organizations typically rely on one-time annual conferences or occasional virtual events to provide matchmaking for their portfolio companies. But Crossbeam supports that matchmaking continuously and at a more granular level,” says Arensberg.
Now, Okta Ventures is working with its portfolio companies like DataGrail, a data privacy startup, to scour its partnerships and customer relationships to help move the needle on DataGrail’s existing deals. When companies like DataGrail choose Okta Ventures, they don’t just get an investor, they get the keys to one of the SaaS world’s largest ecosystems — easily navigable thanks to Crossbeam.
“Think about the companies that are selling to personas that are similar to the ones you sell to. If they’re on Crossbeam, then it’s a no-brainer. You should be on there,” says Aisling Grogan, Strategy and Operations Manager at DataGrail.
We sat down with Austin Arensberg, Director of Okta Ventures, and Aisling Grogan, Strategy and Operations Manager at DataGrail, to learn how their processes and workflows have evolved using Crossbeam — and to explore how partner ecosystems are the next frontier of venture capital firms providing value to portfolio companies.
The Challenge: Scaling a Two-Month-Long Manual Account Mapping Process
Before using Crossbeam, the Okta Ventures team worked with its portfolio companies to identify their target accounts and assess how Okta’s sales team or partner ecosystem could support deals in their pipelines.
There was a downside, however. Their process relied on too many back-and-forth exchanges, spreadsheets, and recurring meetings. It was both inefficient and laborious.
For example, every two months, the Okta Ventures team connected with DataGrail’s team to share notes about DataGrail’s open opportunities and discuss ways to drive revenue through their integration. The DataGrail/Okta integration helps Chief Information Security Officers identify which of their internal systems are exposing personally identifiable information so they can comply with privacy regulations. Chances are, a customer of Okta is a highly sought-after account for DataGrail.
DataGrail and Okta Ventures’ process used to look like this:
- Aisling Grogan, Strategy and Operations Manager at DataGrail, would regularly export Open Opportunity reports from Salesforce and send them to Austin Arensberg, Director of Okta Ventures.
- Arensberg would cross-reference DataGrail’s Open Opportunities spreadsheet with Okta’s referenceable customer list to find accounts they shared in common. (By this time, DataGrail’s exported opportunity data had already gone stale.)
- Then, Arensberg would connect DataGrail’s sales reps to Okta’s assigned account executives and track all the intros in a Google doc.
- If there was traction on any of those accounts, both Grogan and Arensberg had to hunt that information down and manually update their records. Arensberg also referenced DataGrail’s quarterly investor reports to update his notes on DataGrail’s target accounts.
Multiply this two-month-long process by twelve portfolio companies (and counting) — and you’ll quickly learn how unscalable it is.
When this realization hit Arensberg, he decided to use Crossbeam to do secure, real-time account mapping with his portfolio companies — starting first with DataGrail.
From Months to Minutes: Accelerate Time to Value for Portfolio Companies
Getting set up was simple. DataGrail connected its Salesforce CRM to Crossbeam in a few minutes, and Okta Ventures uploaded a CSV file containing Okta's referenceable customers.
Once both companies connected their data sources, they created “populations” (groups of people or companies) and defined rules to customize what information they shared about their respective populations.
For instance, Okta Ventures created an “All Customers'' population, and DataGrail created an “Open Opportunities” population. Then, they’d review "overlap counts" to see the number of accounts they shared in common, and they’d run "reports" to see specific data — like account names, URLs, and account executive information — on those shared accounts.
Okta Ventures and DataGrail built reports in Crossbeam to determine:
- how many of Okta’s customers overlap with DataGrail’s customers to explore cross-selling motions.
- how many of Okta’s customers overlap with DataGrail’s open opportunities for Okta’s sales team to broker warm introductions to specific stakeholders at an account for DataGrail or help DataGrail push their deals further down the funnel.
“What used to take 2-3 months of account mapping, long meetings, and manual processes now takes 10 minutes,” says Arensberg.
Crossbeam has also spared Grogan from administrative burden. “The [Salesforce] data is live in [Crossbeam]. I don't have to be pulling data and then sending it over every week or every month,” says Grogan. “It’s saving me a couple of hours a week,” she says.
Help Advance Portfolio Companies’ Deals Further Down the Funnel
After identifying 10 ecosystem qualified leads in their first meeting, Okta Ventures’ team is now helping DataGrail get in front of Okta’s sales reps to:
- Gain insights about key decision-makers and the procurement process for strategic accounts
- Identify opportunities to launch co-marketing and co-selling motions
- Request intros from Okta’s sales reps to specific stakeholders at DataGrails’ strategic accounts
Now, Okta Ventures and DataGrail are actively collaborating to advance those ecosystem qualified leads further down the sales funnel. Grogan says knowing which prospects are customers of Okta helps DataGrail’s account executives better frame the conversation on how DataGrail can add value.
“Because of the way our integration works with Okta, and then Okta’s [brand], it definitely influences our deals,” she says.
Offer a Unique Value Proposition for Portfolio Companies
Using Crossbeam allows Okta Ventures to differentiate itself from competitors by helping its portfolio companies rapidly influence pipeline opportunities to drive revenue growth.
“Okta Ventures has embedded Crossbeam’s account mapping capabilities as a standard offering for onboarding each of its portfolio companies,” says Arensberg. “This allows both parties to quickly get up to speed on their relative strengths and gaps, and identify co-selling and partnership opportunities.”
Grogan says, “We can be a lot more thoughtful about the way we approach ecosystem deals or deals with Okta customers.” “[Crossbeam] is providing that secure place, but then also providing that framework for us to work together and a reminder that we should be hopping on a call, doing account mapping together, and having more active conversations,” she says.