Interviewee: Sami Asikainen, Founder and CEO of Radium CRM — a CRM system built with Gmail integrated into it and feels like email. The crazy part is that as opposed to it being built into Gmail, like so many apps today, Gmail is actually built into it!
I first got in touch with the Radium team after I wrote this blog post and received a comment from their team explaining how their system was very close to the conceptual CRM I was writing about.
To my surprise, they were pretty dam close! I have to say that I was very impressed with their system and love the vision behind the product. I really LOVE their creative nuances and UI design!
Check out our recent interview:
Jorge: Tell me a little about what inspired you to build RadiumCRM and what the long term vision is for the product?
Sami: I was looking at CRMs to help with a previous startup we had and we were rather unimpressed with what was on the market at the time. My options were to choose between Salesforce, which I thought was too bloated for my small team, or try using one of the other smaller focused CRMs that I thought lacked some key features or just didn’t have the right feel. We ultimately hacked together an in-house solution for the team and shelved the CRM idea for a later time, but that idea for a better CRM would always come back to me.
We’ve taken the approach of building something we’d want to use for ourselves first and that eventually that would yield the best results. Early on that led us to integrate Gmail directly into Radium. We are all heavy Gmail users and it felt like a natural integration for a CRM so we linked the two. Our long-term vision is to build a CRM that sticks to the core sales process, minimal UI and is easy to adopt. The CRM should work in the background to let the user know that there’s an opportunity here or that this contact is falling through the cracks.
We included a native email and calendar client in Radium but we also didn’t want to force people to give up on their Gmail and Google Calendar. Thats a big step for many people so we wanted to let people ease into it or continue using Gmail altogether by installing our Chrome extension to let them track communication that way.
Jorge: What is your professional background and how long have you been doing startups?
Sami: I started with a web design studio in 1995 when I was 15, and I’ve been doing startups ever since. I’ve always been trying to find a better way to do things, automating tasks or fix problems. I think some of the motivation stems from me wanting to be more efficient in my daily life and some out of laziness not to repeat mundane task :). Running a CRM startup really satisfies many of those tendencies.
Jorge: What is your take on the current state of CRM, what sucks about it, and what is awesome?
Sami: I think there are some really great things being done in the CRM space these days. There are many more alternatives to Salesforce then when we started. I think 37Signals and their Highrise CRM opened the idea that a smaller-focused CRM might work better than the larger Salesforce for some teams. Many of the newer CRMs took that torch and furthered that thinking.
Some things still suck with CRMs, namely data entry and trying to force users to change their habits. Radium and a few of our competitors have started to try and tackle this problem but there’s still a gap. When we can reach the point where your CRM does more work for you than you do for it that will be great achievement.
Jorge: What are you favorites CRM tools out there today, outside of RadiumCRM?
Sami: We really like what Highrise did for the industry by simplifying what a CRM could be. We love what Close.io is doing with VoIP, RelateIQ with data management, and Yesware’s Gmail Extension functionality to name a few.
Jorge: What is your take on Salesforce.com and why does it maintain it’s position as the leader in sales CRM?
Sami: I think for large companies where its difficult to scope out what features you need Salesforce has you covered. You can’t go wrong as a manager and get fired because you didn’t cover some other team’s use case or IT concerns. It does everything. For many people we talk to Salesforce is just too much for what they need are looking for a simpler more streamlined solution.
Jorge: Tell me about RadiumCRM, what it does really well, and what kind of companies should be using it?
Sami: If you are using Google Apps or Gmail you should strongly consider Radium. We do the email piece really well.
I think we are one of the easiest CRMs to start using. With one click you’re in Radium and all of your Google data is organized by contact. We’re also focused on removing as much of the learning curve so people can just get on with their day. CRM isn’t something you should spend your whole day in but it is convenient for sending multiple emails at once or looking up a contact’s meeting history. Most of the time we want people to stay in Gmail or Google Calendar and know that Radium is capturing that information and notifying them when a contact needs attention.
Going forward we will continue to be focused on the Google ecosystem including Google Drive integration and upgrading the Chrome extension for Gmail.
Jorge: What RadiumCRM features are you most proud of?
Sami: We’re most proud of the things that make things easy to use.
Little things like:
Email send later
Adding emails to deals
Emails opened tracking
Real contact matching
These type of features are all great tools to help a sales team cut down on repetitive tasks. They’re also great benefits for managers to sell to their sales team and get them to embrace the CRM. We try not to mess with the workflow people already have.
Jorge: What advice would you give an entrepreneur when building a b2b startup?
Sami: Build the features that you think is your differentiator first. Its ok to be an add-on to another product or work well with other systems. If customers like your product and your approach you can build the other elements out over time, but perfect your differentiator first. We spent a lot of time building features that weren’t differentiators first and that could have been better spent starting on a smaller piece if we were a widget etc.
Jorge: Is RadiumCRM more of an inside sales, outside sales, or both tool?
Sami: We’re an inside sales tool at the moment. Outside sales will come later as we unroll the mobile app.
Jorge: What can our readers do to take a test drive of RadiumCRM?
Sami: You need a Google Account and click Sign Up on our home page. Thats it.