Mid-way through the Pardot days one of our more serious competitors was Genius.com. Genius.com started out as a tool for sales reps to send emails where all the links were tracked such that sales people could understand what links prospects were clicking on and what web pages they were viewing. The novelty was that it didn’t require tracking code on the resulting website as all the rewritten links routed to a Genius.com proxy server that would serve up the appropriate page, and subsequent pages. Of course, this worked well for the first or second click but broke down quickly with dynamic websites and web applications. Regardless, sales reps love understanding what links are clicked in an email and what pages are visited on a website.
As an individual sales rep-oriented tool, Genius.com was able to sign up thousands of users and raise 10s of millions of dollars of venture capital. A couple years into the sales rep tool they realized that sales rep email link tracking was quickly becoming a mere feature within marketing automation systems. Genius.com did a pivot and built a full blown marketing automation tool while reducing the focus on the sales rep tool. Only, they could never get the product quite right and after a noisy start we stopped seeing them in the market. Finally, the company fizzled away to be picked up by a large software vendor.
A few lessons learned:
- Even with $40+ million in venture capital it doesn’t mean that the company will build a successful product in a competitive market
- It’s tough to have minor success with an initial product, raise huge amounts of money, and then pivot in a new direction (going from software for sales teams to software for marketing teams)
- Heroic efforts and tapping out personal networks can get enough sales to look like there’s something substantial when there really isn’t (Genius.com was known for working its team extremely hard and delivering amazing results until people quickly started burning out)
What else? What are some other thoughts on a once high-flying competitor quietly going away?