Sales Enablement Startup Node Aims to 'Flip' the Traditional Funnel with Matchmaking Algorithm

Zach Brooke
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Key Takeaways

​​​What? Silicon Valley wunderkind Falon Fatemi announced her newest company, Node, is emerging from stealth mode with $16 million in financing.

So what? The company pioneered new tech that helps sales and marketing organizations co​mb through intimate details of people whom they should sell or market to for the next five years, known as the total addressable market. 

Now what? Identify an idea or service you are currently giving away for free and capitalize on it.

Sept. 1, 2017

Falon Fatemi recently unveiled her newest company, Node, which she contends will “flip” the traditional sales funnel and, in the future, be the high-octane gasoline that powers "discovery" on every device and application

Falon Fatemi first made waves in Silicon Valley when she was hired by Google at age 19. Six years later, she left to become an intermediary in the world of startups, facilitating key introductions between talent and investors. This specialized skill led her to create her own company, Node, which for the past two years has operated in secret with backing from tech luminary Mark Cuban and others. Node recently emerged from stealth mode in July to report more than $16 million in financing and a roster of clients who claim to have earned $100 million using the platform.    

Node relies on many proprietary algorithms to “accelerate serendipity.” Put less whimsically, it aspires to draw connections between users and companies that go unnoticed by traditional lead generation. If successful, Node could revitalize B-to-B marketing and prove to be a defining link on the path to advanced artificial intelligence. Marketing News spoke with Fatemi, who pitched Node with empathic declarations it would change the industry. 

Q: Using back-of-the-envelope terms, can you describe what exactly Node does?

A: Node helps sales and marketing organizations understand the world of people and companies they should sell or market to for the next five years, known as their total addressable market. They’re guessing at this [right now] because they’re purchasing incomplete lists of information from many different data vendors that all have limited coverage and quality. They might use a predictive tool to rank that list or rank those leads to prioritize them better and hope the right buyers come in and purchase their product. This results in what we commonly refer to as a funnel, where 80% of those prospects are the wrong people at the wrong companies at the wrong time being approached with the wrong message. 

We aim to flip that. The Node solution starts with identifying a company’s total addressable market. Then, Node will prioritize the execution on those markets that it has identified will drive more revenue per unit of time. In addition, Node provides all of the people and company intelligence required to tactically execute on the strategies it has prescribed. Node will proactively recommend the right prospects at the right time and even suggest the right message to reach out. It’s a truly end-to-end platform, from strategic to tactical, in terms of execution. We call it people-based intelligence. 

Q: Can you give me a sense of how this will change day-to-day operations for marketers?

A: We reduced the need for about 10 different point solutions on the market. We reduced the need for individual point solutions of data vendors, as well as predictive solutions. Customers of Node are able to recoup their cost of Node within the first eight weeks of deployment. 

To give you a sense of the breadth of this, to date we’ve generated recommendations that resulted in $100 million in closed business, more than $330 million in increased [sales] pipeline [or, the potential money in play as prospects move toward closing a deal], and our recommendations have driven 4.7 times higher deal sizes than the company average. We use Node internally, so all the customers we have are recommended by Node. 

Q: Don’t sales and marketing teams already have a pretty good idea of who they should be going after?

A: If that were the case, then we wouldn’t have an 80% failure rate, or a 1% conversion rate for marketing-qualified leads to deals closed, right? Sales and marketing teams are guessing. They’re doing the best that they can by utilizing these broken point solutions and vendors, as well as their own intuition, to identify what their ideal customer profile is. They’re missing 70% to 90% of the optimal customers that they should go after.

Q: Where did you first come up with the idea for Node?  

A: I’m a Silicon Valley native. I started working at Google when I was 19. I was one of the youngest employees at the company. I was there for six years. I spent six years in the startup world, as well. I’ve essentially spent more than a decade focused on go-to-market strategies, global expansion, as well as building strategic partnerships at Google, YouTube and in the startup world. The story behind Node really has to do with the last six years that I was in the startup world, where I was making a lot of introductions between people and companies. 


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I decided to do an analysis of all of the introductions that I’d made and uncovered that a lot of outcomes of those introductions had resulted in life-changing opportunities for both businesses and individuals. For example, I found out that my recommendations had led to millions of dollars in investment, a number of acquisitions, a number of sales and marketing partnerships, hires and so on. I was essentially acting as a Node within my network and facilitating discovery of those right opportunities at the right time. I started digging into my own matching algorithm.

I realized what could be done if I were to actually use technology to accelerate the serendipity that I was driving. That’s where I realized that a lot of the approaches that Google used to help us find the right information through search can be applied to solve this greater discovery problem. Sales and marketing is the first application of this. 

With the proliferation of information—90% of the information on the web was created in the last two years—there is now more information than we could possibly absorb in a lifetime. 

There’s all this data out there that’s relevant to us that we don’t know we should be searching for. We see the next 10 years being all about proactive and personalized discovery, and we aim to solve this bigger discovery problem by powering personalized recommendation. 

Q: When you say we don’t know what we should be searching for, could you elaborate on what you mean by that?

A: When we search, we already know what we’re looking for. It’s almost too late [for discovery] when we get to a search box. We essentially need to build machines that make sense of all of the people, companies and products on the web; understand what you care about; then facilitate discovery of those right opportunities, at the right time, in whatever application you’re in. 

We will know that we’ve succeeded when you can log in to any application and it will come with an understanding of you. That’s also the promise of AI. Powered by Node, you will receive recommendations for the people that you should know and why, the companies that you should know and why, the job opportunities to pursue, and even the articles you should read. Let’s say, in the future, you want to advise companies. You can actually enter in the type of opportunity you’re looking for, maybe in a particular location, and Node will proactively recommend who those people and companies are, why they are being recommended and how you can most effectively take advantage of that opportunity. 

To translate that, we will make a recommendation for a person—Penny Wilson, let’s say. We will state why we made that recommendation. So, we’ll say Penny was your former buyer. She used to work at your existing customer. She just moved to a new company that Node has identified has a higher deal-size potential, and exactly what those signals are. Not only that, here’s what you should say when you pick up the phone and call her. You should let her know that one of her direct competitors is a customer of yours. That you went to the same university and you worked at the same previous company as her. Oh, and by the way, she’s actually using a product you have an integration with. 

Q: How are you finding these links between your client and the leads you recommend? 

A: The infrastructure behind our system, the technology itself, you can think of as a search engine without a search box. We generate what that query should be, and then we translate that in a way that’s personalized to the individual. There’re three steps to our product value chain. The first step is, obviously, data acquisition, building these deep profiles on people and companies with high accuracy. We use natural links processing, which are a number of AI techniques to acquire that data using the web as our database. To date, we have more than half a billion profiles of both people and companies. While that is a challenging thing to do, that is not our core competency. Our core IP comes in the next two phases. The second step is connecting all of the relationships between those data points—essentially, building the Node graph—as well as prescribing, or making a recommendation. You can think of it as building a model for every person, then explaining why we made that recommendation and personalizing it to the end user. 

Q: What you describe seems like it would be very helpful for marketers in a small world. Would this work if somebody wanted to expand into a new market, and those personal connections aren’t there? 

A: That is what Mark Cuban loves to call “prescriptive” about what we do, where you could have zero presence, zero customers in an industry sector or a location. But because we know all the companies within those industry sectors or locations, and we identify that they exhibit attributes that will drive more revenue per unit of time, Node can recommend the next markets and opportunities for your business, and can also relate it in other ways. 

For example, knowing the industry that your company is in, understanding the competitors that you have, the customers that you may have and then looking at the customers of your competitors or other proxies, based on social proximity through our graph, we can make recommendations. 

Q: How are the customized sales scripts generated? 

A: It’s largely based on deep profiles that we have in our data layer and the modeling that we do. We have marketing teams that use our insights to do personal advertising as well. We’re leveraging social proximity algorithms, as well as our understanding of commonalities between people, companies and the relationships between them, to be able to then generate these scripts in real time. 


Q: How would you characterize your endeavors while operating Node in stealth mode?

A: We’ve been under the radar for the last two and a half years. Pretty tight-lipped about what we’re doing. We’re really excited to be publicly emerging and entering the market with real value that we’ve driven for our customers. Now is the time we’re ready to emerge and support customers worldwide and help them leverage the power of Node.

Q: You’ve secured $16.3 million in financing. How happy are you with that figure? 

A: With these funds, we’re essentially going to be doubling the size of the company. We’re at 22 employees today. We will also be leveraging these funds to invest in product development, as well as sales and marketing, to climax the amount of customers we have in the next 18 months or so. 

Q: How did you convince Mark Cuban to come on board? Did you know him prior to starting Node

A: We were introduced about six years ago through mutual friends. I believe he was most recently quoted saying, “The first trillionaire will be an AI entrepreneur.” He is a huge believer in the power of the technology, as well as our initial use case, and he has been a great supporter, almost selling Node for us, if you will. 

Q: Is Node completely different from anything that’s currently available on the market? Do you feel that you’re operating without any competitors? 

A: I would say we reduce the need for a number of point solutions that are utilized in the market, from individual point solutions and data vendors, or predictive solutions as well. That’s the closest proximity we have to light overlap. Data is a really important part of what we do. Obviously, we make really intelligent recommendations. But for the most part, the way in which we’re solving this problem is fundamentally different. We’re not trying to rank a bunch of stuff in your Salesforce; we ’re trying to identify the right people, companies and markets that you should go after that will take your business to the vision of the business you want to be. We’re building our system as a platform so that in the future you can imagine Node being fuel for other engines, applications or systems of record that today, when you purchase, come empty. 


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Author Bio:

https://auth.ama.org/publishingimages/zack_bio.jpg
Zach Brooke
Zach Brooke is a staff writer for the AMA’s magazines and e-newsletters. He can be reached at zbrooke@ama.org or on Twitter at @Zach_Brooke.
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