July 26, 2017

From the VA Stage to $10.5M: Behind-the-Scenes With Synthio

Venture Atlanta Alumni Have Officially Raised $2 Billion in Funding

A couple weeks ago, Venture Atlanta passed $2 billion in funds raised by companies that have pitched on the VA stage – and Synthio pushed us over the mark.

They have the tech, the leadership and the funds to grow big, so we went beyond the recent headlines to hear straight from Synthio’s Founder and CEO, Aaron Biddar about how they reached this point.

First off, tell our readers a bit about Synthio.

Synthio is a customer data platform and the fastest growing CDP on the market. We help marketing and sales professionals synthesize their data from all their different pockets and actually make use of it, helping them communicate more effectively with customers and prospects. Our database currently holds over 182 million global professional contacts.

So how did Synthio get started? Were you always in this space?

Funny story – there’s no data background in this organization. When we first started building the business five years ago, we had a lot of trouble finding up-to-date contact information of potential customers to sell to. That’s when we had that “aha” moment and found our sweet spot, which is grabbing disparate data from around the world and pulling it together into one place. We set out to solve one problem and, in the course of doing so, realized we were better at something else.

Since you have shifted over the years, how has your customer base changed?

When we first got started, we went for the low hanging fruit. We asked ourselves “who would definitely be interested in our capabilities?” It turned out to be data companies serving B2B sales and marketing companies. We knew they would potentially become our competitors in the future, but back then they were what we liked to call our “coopetition.” In the past year or so we have shifted to target the end user.

Many entrepreneurs are leary of change like that, so what has the transition been like? Was it hard to navigate?

I’ll be honest – it wasn’t easy. You watch your revenue dip and have to have tough conversations with VCs. After all, we were cutting off significant streams of revenue. In the long run, we knew we were positioning ourselves better than the competition and the shift was well worth it to reach our ultimate goal. The latest round proved that point.

It absolutely did! Tell us about this latest round of funding….how did that process go?

You can’t spell fundraising without FUN. (Insert both of us laughing here). But seriously – we are happy to finally be at a point where we can go heads down with the capital we need to invest back into the company. We’re ready to put that money to work to achieve our goals. We’ll continue to invest in our tech teams and marketing departments. And, of course, we’ll keep it local. There’s plenty of talent right here in Atlanta.

Speaking of local – any reason in particular that you went with a local, Atlanta fund?

Synthio was born and raised here in Atlanta, and the community has meant so much to us. As we grow, we want to give back to the local startup ecosystem in any way that we can. I took several trips to the West Coast as well as to the Northeast, but ultimately, we wanted to go local. We were lucky that business was good and that we had the luxury to choose which VC funds to engage with. We went with Fulcrum Equity Partners specifically because they were a LOCAL Atlanta fund. We knew that we had found a smart group of people willing to roll up their sleeves and work alongside of us – it really was a no brainer to go local.

How do you approach your relationship with investors? Any advice for those just starting the funding process?

We see a lot of startups try to keep their investors at arms length. Our approach is the exact opposite. We treat our investors as true partners. The biggest and best decisions we’ve made as a company really stemmed from our angel investors, early investors and the people on their boards. I’ve always followed the “surround yourself with people who are smarter than you” approach. We try to keep the line of communication open and have our investors in the office as much as possible.

Tell us a bit about your journey as an entrepreneur and how the Atlanta startup scene has shifted over the years.

I’ve been a practicing entrepreneur for ten years now. When I first started, there were only three local funds here in Atlanta. There wasn’t really a support network of other entrepreneurs trying to start a technology company in the Southeast. Fast forward to now and a lot has changed. I’d say the last five years have really ignited this new infrastructure in Atlanta, and the energy is undeniable. Today’s local entrepreneurs have incredible resources like Venture Atlanta, Atlanta Tech Village, ATDC, and more. Everything you need is right here in Atlanta.

Alright – so how does Venture Atlanta play a role in this news?

The experience that I gained from the coaching and mentoring associated with Venture Atlanta got me to where I am today. It made me comfortable with telling our story, and that’s half of the battle when raising capital. My advice for anyone participating this year would be to take the coaching seriously. What you learn will go beyond those six minutes on stage – it will help you along your entire journey.

Venture Atlanta gives exposure to our local companies and the talent we have here in Atlanta. It inspires our local entrepreneurs, showing them that it is possible to be born, raised and grown here in Atlanta. Anyone who says “there’s no money in Atlanta” needs a reality check. That’s old news. There are a lot of successful business people and companies making significant investments of time, energy, and money to help foster local growth. I think Venture Atlanta is the vehicle that’s pulling all of these forces together to propel Atlanta tech forward.

Have any advice for those just getting started?

Know when to call your baby ugly. Look out for clues that it’s time to shift. The product that we have today is completely different from what we set out to build. Looking back, I know we wouldn’t be where we are now if we hadn’t gone through that difficult iteration process. Innovation is listening to your customers and adjusting to serve their needs. If you can find a niche of people to take care of and evolve your solution to solve their problems, you’ll be just fine.

And what about to the companies looking to pitch at VA this year? Any words of wisdom for them?

Fill out the application. Don’t be afraid. It’s the hardest step but it’s so worth it. It’s a fantastic experience. The Venture Atlanta team is extremely professional. They’ll walk you through every step of the process, give you honest feedback, and guide you towards success. It certainly worked well for us.

Ready to hit the ground running? This year, we’re giving you TWO opportunities to get involved. Apply now for a chance to pitch on the VA stage OR join our first-ever Startup Showcase.

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