SugarCRM is a company that makes the hard things easier for marketing, sales, and service teams to get a clear picture of each customer’s journey without getting all the headaches and hassles that come with using traditional customer relationship management (CRM) tools. Pulse 2.0 interviewed SugarCRM’s co-founder and chief strategy officer Clint Oram to learn more.
Clint Oram’s Background
What is Clint Oram’s background? Oram described:
“I’m just another kid who grew up in suburban Sacramento and spent way too many hours at Tower Records and playing video games at the local bowling alley. But I did have the fortune of having a dad who wanted to break away from the doldrums of a day-to-day sales job back in the early 80s and start his own software company. He was blown away by the precursor to today’s laptops – the Tandy TRS-80 Model 100 – and started what today would be called an Internet software company before there was an Internet.
Yes, that meant the lovely screech of dial-up modems multiple times a day. His company was called Media Computer Network, and it introduced me to the world of building software, starting companies, scraping together your first customers, and pouring your life savings and countless hours into a startup. I’ve loved it ever since and started my own company 20 years after he did.”
Formation of SugarCRM
How did the idea for SugarCRM come together? Oram shared:
“We were three CRM guys who wanted to change the world. We all worked together at another CRM company and wanted to start our own. All three of us had come to Silicon Valley with the dream of being entrepreneurs. Open Source was changing how software was built in 2004, and we were crazy enough to believe that Open Source was ready for business applications. The company was just an idea in January 2004. By that next December, we had released our first two versions of the software, raised $2M in venture capital, hired our first 15 employees, and sold $250,000 to our first 50 customers in just the last three months of the year. Good times!”
What has been Oram’s favorite memory working for SugarCRM so far? Oram reflected:
“SugarCon 2017 at the Hilton in San Francisco is by far my best memory. Our annual user conference was always a big bash, and that year was extra special as I had recently taken over as chief marketing officer and had planned the event for the first time.
We had the San Francisco 49ers’ “Niners Noise” drumline open the show at 8 AM with a drumroll that I will never forget. I hired a dance troop to put on a surprise “Star Trek versus Star Wars” dance-off in the middle of the exhibition floor. And the party that night was a superhero theme, with customers and partners flying in from around the world with their favorite costumes ready to show off. That was truly an epic day.”
What are some of the challenges Oram faced in building the company? Oram acknowledged:
“For SugarCRM, our biggest challenge for many years was being clear on who we were building the application for. The three of us who started the company were product guys who had a vision for a better CRM. We put the product out into the market, and companies of all sizes and industries in all geographies around the world were using the free version.
Our CRM product has been used in over 130 countries. But who were the people that wanted to pay for the software? What was common across all of them? Why did they pick SugarCRM? We had so many different types of customers that it was baffling at times how to narrow in on that “Ideal Customer Profile.” Because there reaches a point when the venture capital is spent, and you have to be running a real business, not just a party in a San Francisco hotel.”
I’m very thankful that we have clearly established our target customers as mid-market B2B manufacturing, technology, and financial services companies. These companies all have some form of recurring revenue that requires strong relationships with their customers – the area that our technology excels in.”
What are SugarCRM’s core products and features? Oram explained:
“SugarCRM provides a full suite of CRM solutions to help companies instrument and manage every step of a customer’s journey. We help sellers sell, marketers market, and customer service agents deliver an extraordinary customer experience.
With marketing automation, sales force automation, and customer service tools powered by an award-winning customer data platform, we deliver growth for B2B mid-market companies that rely on selling and then selling more, to loyal customers.
Our platform is built with artificial intelligence (AI) to augment and automate day-to-day processes, making the hard things easier for customer engagement teams. The SugarPredict AI engine uses historical data, patterns, and even external sources to forecast and enable businesses to make better sales decisions. In a nutshell, this provides the insights sales reps need to execute better and sell smarter. SugarPredict AI capabilities also include sentiment analysis to supercharge every sales and service interaction with the power of knowing each customer’s/prospect’s emotional state and intent.
SugarCRM also features low-code/no-code capabilities designed to put change in the hands of non-technical business users. And, our SugarOutfitters software marketplace offers on-demand access to more than 200 SugarCRM add-on solutions that help customers enhance and extend the value of their SugarCRM platform.”
Evolution Of SugarCRM’s Technology
How has SugarCRM’s technology evolved since launching? Oram noted:
“Open Source, cloud, mobile, social, digital, AI … SugarCRM has been a leader in all of the tech trends shaping modern business applications over the past 20 years. In the early days, it was all about the open-source LAMP stack and competing for downloads on SourceForge.net. Today, we are an enterprise-ready, mid-market-focused cloud platform built on Amazon Web Services.
Almost all of our innovation is pointed squarely at applying tomorrow’s AI at today’s CRM business challenges. But despite these changes, we continue to solve much of the same core CRM challenges for companies. How do I get a clear, 360-degree view of my customers? While helping my employees effectively and efficiently engage with customers? And drive revenue growth while delivering a differentiated customer experience?
That’s CRM, and that’s what we do.”
What have been some of SugarCRM’s most significant milestones? Oram highlighted:
“Over the years, we have had our fair share of big customer wins – and many of these have included the largest and most recognizable technology brands worldwide. At the time, one represented the single largest unified CRM deployment in the world. We’ve also had a number of customers that warm the heart, including the United Nations World Food Programme and Funds2Orgs, the world’s largest shoe drive company that’s worked with 20,000 nonprofits around the globe. Most recently we signed Barnardos, one of the largest children’s charities in Australia.
In the early days of SugarCRM, we were named the project of the month by SourceForge.net, and hitting 100,000 downloads and then 1 million downloads certainly stand out in my mind as key milestones. Outside of this, hitting $500 million in lifetime revenues was a particularly poignant milestone – not many entrepreneurs can claim this, and all along, we’ve been able to employ hundreds of people.”
Customer Success Stories
Upon asking Oram about customer success stories, he cited:
“Tyson Foods, a global food company generating $38 billion annually and the entity responsible for such household name brands such as Jimmy Dean Sausage and Sarah Lee, spent 18 months looking for the right CRM method to help its new business-to-consumer offerings. Facing increasing complexity and higher demands, Tyson Foods needed a CRM solution that was simple yet comprehensive enough to facilitate collaboration and efficiently mobilize its business. When SugarCRM was adopted, the company was able to meet the demanding requirements satisfactorily and is nearing its expansion goals.
We’re also proud to have Backcountry, an online retailer specializing in gear for outdoor activities like sports, camping, climbing, skiing and hiking, as a valued SugarCRM client. Before SugarCRM, their teams did what they needed to do – sell merchandise, set up sales calls, respond to customer inquiries, provide customer service, etc. – but at the end of the day, they started to notice that their tasks lacked goals, context, and, most importantly, customer insight.
Backcountry sells differently today because of the progressive profiling it conducts within the SugarCRM Platform, which gives their sales team more insight into customers and sales opportunities. Team members now have a customer-centric view of their jobs instead of a task-oriented view.
A breakthrough for the company came when they decided to start individualizing their customers via an I-framed widget in SugarCRM called “Outdoor Passions.” This new addition to their CRM lists each customer’s hobbies, sports preferences, clothing, shoe sizes, and even the last adventure they went on to help each rep personalize their touchpoints. Because of that addition, sales teams no longer had to open a separate database every time they needed to access consumer information–it displayed exactly what they needed all within Sugar when sales pulled up customer profiles.”
After I asked Oram about funding and revenue, he replied:
“SugarCRM is majority owned by Accel-KKR, a global private investor with offices in Silicon Valley, Atlanta, and London. Accel-KKR has over $19 billion in committed capital across its current investment funds. Over its two decades of operations, Accel-KKR has made more than 300 investments and is focused on mid-market software and technology-enabled services businesses. In addition, SugarCRM has received capital from the lending arm of one of the world’s largest and most recognizable financial institutions. SugarCRM’s capital providers have a demonstrated track record of making long-term investments and are well aligned with supporting the success of our customers.
SugarCRM generates revenue through both SaaS subscription contracts and Professional Services engagements and has grown revenue at double-digit rates annually; the company currently generates annual revenue well into nine figures.”
Total Addressable Market
What total addressable market (TAM) size is SugarCRM pursuing? Oram assessed:
“Globally, the Total Addressable Market for CRM is $98 billion. Of that, the mid-market TAM that we address is $73 billion.”
Differentiation From The Competition
What differentiates SugarCRM from its competition? Oram affirmed:
“SugarCRM helps customers automate anything, accelerate everything, and predict what’s next, ultimately allowing organizations to drive memorable experiences and fuel business growth.
SugarCRM’s investments in AI, machine learning (ML), and predictive analytics are helping customers transcend from looking in the data rear-view mirror to looking forward by achieving actionable insights earlier. SugarCRM’s AI-driven cloud platform enables businesses to create profitable customer relationships by delivering highly relevant and personalized experiences throughout the customer journey.
SugarCRM’s AI engine, SugarPredict, is pre-integrated and included as a basic service, bypassing the traditional time, cost, and data-science expertise required to leverage AI – a key differentiator versus SugarCRM’s competitors that offer AI capabilities as costly paid add-ons.
In fact, extending the transformative powers of AI and ML across its core platform earned SugarCRM’s recognition and inclusion as one of ten top vendors in the 2022 Gartner Emerging Tech: Tech Innovators for Intelligent CRM Applications Report.
I should also note that a key part of our differentiation is how we approach our business, which can best be summed up as: Do well and do good. It’s unfortunate and frankly sad that some of the most “predatory” software companies happen to be in the CRM sector. Many of these companies are so focused on delivering against Wall Street expectations that they are using (and abusing) their customers like ATM machines. At SugarCRM, we have a very different relationship with our customers where our mantra is “customers for life.” With a Net Promoter Score of 90+, customer satisfaction for SugarCRM is far above the industry average for SaaS and CRM solutions.”
Advice For Entrepreneurs
When I asked Oram about advice for entrepreneurs, he answered:
“Those who have been in the software industry for some time may recall the launch and meteoric rise of Netscape. The company’s first product was a web browser, which quickly became the go-to browser, fundamentally ushering in the browser-based software application revolution. Or maybe you will remember using the first iPhone or Android. I feel that the launch of ChatGPT is a next turning point for the software industry, bringing us a truly usable voice interface. It’s an exciting time to be building killer software.”
Future Company Goals
What are some of SugarCRM’s future company goals? Oram concluded:
“The top goal is to be the number one provider of beautiful and easy-to-use CRM software that drives growth for B2B mid-market companies. Along the way, we are looking to drive our own growth both organically and through acquisitions. We are dedicated to enabling companies around the world to turn their customers into #ravingfans. And we’re looking to become the next $1+ billion CRM company while bringing back the ‘R’ – that’s ‘relationship’ – into the CRM moniker.”