Bravado: $12m to elevate the profession of sales
TL;DR — We raised $12M in funding from Redpoint, Freestyle, and other top VCs to elevate the profession of sales. If you want to know why we decided to build Bravado, why our investors are so bullish on this professional network for sales, or why everything that you have ever been taught about sales is wrong … read on.
Early on, my parents were not fans of my career choices. They had sacrificed everything in order to put me through school and had high hopes that I would pursue a prestigious career. Instead, I became a sales rep.
Sales has always been perceived as a second-tier job. Children want to be firefighters, police officers, or astronauts when you grow up. Once in school, the smart kids all plan to be doctors, lawyers, or engineers. Top students who have a bent for business end up in consulting, banking, or private equity. So who is filling the 18 million jobs that make sales the most populous job in the United States?
The leftovers. The kids who couldn’t cut it in a real, academic profession. The ex-athletes that didn’t make it to the bigs. After all, it doesn’t take any real skill or training to get into sales, does it? All you need is someone who is willing to never take no for an answer. Anyone who is willing to lie, cheat, cajole, and do “whatever it takes” to close the deal. Always Be Closing, right?
Wrong wrong wrong.
All of it is wrong.
It’s time to change everything about sales.
This is why we founded Bravado — the first professional network to elevate the profession of sales. Bravado’s vision is simple: everything that we do today in sales is backwards and broken. Let’s fix it together. There are 3 problems that we’re tackling today:
Problem: If you’re in sales, you know that the #1 most important thing you can do is build trust with your customer. It doesn’t matter how good your pitch deck, objection handling, or negotiation skills are. Human beings will only do business with people they trust. Now that’s a problem when sales is the least trusted profession in the world. According to Gallup, only 8% of the general public trusts salespeople (even politicians clocked in at 11%)!
So how does a sales professional prove to their customers that they are credible, trustworthy, experts in their industry?
Solution: Bravado Portfolio. In 2017, we launched a radical new concept for sales. What if every sales professional had a portfolio where they gathered testimonials from their happy customers? A sharable, digestible showcase of the clients you’ve done business with, proving that you’re an expert in your field and somebody that a customer can trust. After having over 1,000 sales teams from all over the world (incl: Salesforce, LinkedIn, Oracle, Slack, Outreach, Salesloft, Uber and many others) creating portfolios and leveraging them in their sales processes, the answer became clear: trust is the currency of sales. Turns out that customers trust the recommendations and testimonials of their peers more than they trust a salesperson’s pitch. Go figure.
A modern way for sellers to showcase their career
*If you would like to start building trust with your customers faster than you’ve ever imagined, create your own free Bravado Portfolio.
Problem: Connecting with like-minded individuals is a delight. Whether it’s fantasy football aficionados or lovers of fine tea, gathering together and discussing one’s passions with folks who understand and want to help is ingrained in humanity. Recently, we’ve seen this trend with vertical professional networks. Engineers gather around GitHub and Stack Overflow. Designers can be found on Dribbble and Behance. Doctors have Doximity and data scientists nerd out together on Kaggle.
But what about sales professionals? Where do all sales professionals meet to share ideas, ask questions, and discuss best practices within a private group purpose-built just for sales?
Solution: Bravado Communities. Frustrated by the same old talking heads giving tired advice? Join a purpose-built community designed for sales practitioners to network with like-minded friends, ask questions, trade warm intros/referrals, and start learning the best tactics for the modern sales environment. This is professional development and networking as it was meant to be. No thought leaders allowed. Only sales practitioners who are actively selling or managing sales teams.
*Do you run a community for sales professionals? Would you like to leverage our platform for your members to ask questions, learn, collaborate, and meet? Join the Bravado Community!
Problem: We already mentioned the dearth of sales programs at the university level. 4,000 universities. Fewer than 50 offer a major in sales. But what’s far sadder is the lack of diversity in sales. Perhaps it starts with the stigma of sales, where our most popular cultural references are Glengarry Glen Ross, Wolf of Wall Street, and Boiler Room. All of whom caricaturize sales and certainly haven’t cast a welcoming view of the role. We need more Historically Underrepresented Groups (HUGs) in sales. More women, more minorities, more LGBTQ representation.
Solution: Bravado Mentorship. A free program designed to help college students from all over the country learn the basics of sales. Get paired with a seasoned mentor who will prepare you for a career in sales, offering an inside look at what it is like to be a sales professional. The actual profession, where sellers lead with integrity and compassion. Last year, we worked closely with Stanford, Cal, Chico State, and Duke to offer the first sales mentorship program designed to increase the pool of top candidates excited to work in sales. In our first cohort, over 55% of the students were female and over 60% of the students were minorities.
*If you’d like to mentor the future generation of sales, sign up here: Bravado Mentorship
Since our launch in 2017, we’ve been honored to have over 50,000 members join the Bravado Network. Most of these amazing folks you can find on the Bravado website, but there have been some incredible people supporting us tirelessly that have never gotten the thanks they deserve.
Today, we are proud to announce that we’ve raised over $12 million in funding from some of the most celebrated investors in Silicon Valley. First came Charles Hudson (Precursor VC), Ross Fubini (Village Global), Steve Jang (Kindred Ventures), and Roseanne Wincek (IVP, Renegade Partners). They were kind enough to believe in us when all we had was a pitch deck and a vision for the future of sales.
Then we were lucky to raise our seed round from someone who has become one of our dearest friends and biggest champions, Jenny Lefcourt (Freestyle VC). I have to pause and say that if you are an entrepreneur looking to raise a seed round, and want an investor who will push you hard when you need it and supports you tirelessly even when you don’t … go talk to Jenny. (Of course, you can also just see why her founders love her on her Bravado Portfolio here: https://bravado.co/p/jennylefcourt
And most recently, two inspirational humans joined the Bravado family. Alex Bard and Annie Kadavy of Redpoint Ventures understood why sales professionals all over the world were joining and becoming active members of the Bravado network. They believed deeply in our mission to elevate the profession, to shed the stigma, to increase diversity, and help sales professionals build trust with their customers faster than ever. We’re honored that Redpoint Ventures led our Series A and we plan on using that funding to supercharge our efforts to elevate the profession of sales. Thank you for your belief in us Alex and Annie!
My favorites :)
There are lots of folks we owe a massive thank you to that haven’t yet been mentioned. As investors, advisors, and friends of Bravado, they have been instrumental in helping change the face of sales forever. So a big thank you to: Manny Medina (Outreach), Leela Srinivasan (SurveyMonkey), Ellen Levy (LinkedIn), Kevin Mahaffey (Lookout), Yaron Zakai-Or (Facebook), Pete Kazanjy (Modern Sales Pros), Max Altschuler (Saleshacker) Jake Dunlap (Skaled), Preeti Pinch (Uberflip), Stephanie Elsesser (Rigor), Kevin Walkup (Salesloft), Finn Alvaro (Pinterest), Fern Mandelbaum (Stanford), Tim Heinze (Chico State).
And to save the best for last: I want to say thank you to the entire Bravado team. From my co-founders Yoni Acriche and Chris He, who have stood by me from Day 0, our incredible leadership team led by Amy Young, Katherine Buck, Ashley Zagst, and Anton Pleshivtsev, and the entire design, engineering, product, marketing, growth, and operations teams… I am so proud of all of the work that you have done to champion sales professionals.
A Final Word
Most companies end this type of announcement by saying “and the work has just begun!” I’d like to take a different approach by explaining when our work will be done:
- When every college in the United States offers a major in sales.
- When every top student competes to gain employment in sales.
- When sales is rightfully recognized as a career just as prestigious as one in medicine, law, or finance.
- When diversity statistics in sales are shared with pride.
- When every parent is proud that their child chose a profession in sales.
Happy ending with loving parents :) Thank you for everything you’ve done for me Mom and Dad!