CNET tech sites: Price comparisons | Product reviews | Tech news | Downloads | Site map
Front PageEnterpriseE-BusinessCommunicationsMediaPersonal TechnologyInvestor
An old boys network of 0s and 1s?

By Alorie Gilbert
Staff Writer, CNET
April 17, 2003, 2:05 PM PT

Let's say you're a salesperson trying to land a big account. Wouldn't it be nice to know if the prospective customer was, by chance, an office mate's tennis partner or neighbor?

Sussing out such social and professional connections among employees to help clinch a sale is the mission of Spoke Software. The Palo Alto, Calif., start-up recently closed a $5 million round of venture capital financing, bringing the total it has raised since opening its doors in July to $9.2 million. Lead investors include US Venture Partners, Sierra Ventures and Partech International.

Spoke plans to release the first version of its product this fall, joining numerous software companies, including big names like Siebel Systems and SAP, in the business of selling applications designed to make salespeople more productive.

The Spoke software "discovers" relationships that could come in handy in a sales situation, according to Spoke cofounder Chris Tolles. A key feature is that although the system requires very little effort on the part of employees entering data, it's able to gather detailed information about how well people know each other and in what context, Tolles said.

"There is a huge amount of social capital that is not utilized by businesses," Tolles said.

Tolles said the software is designed to protect workers' privacy by allowing them to opt out of being part of the system. It also lets employees control information related to their relationships, though Tolles would not elaborate on exactly how. The company is keeping further details of the technology and how it works under wraps until it launches in the fall.

But what can be gained from exploiting the random social connections of employees? Does it really help, for instance, if the son of the human resources director and the son of an executive at a prospective client play on the same soccer team? According to Tolles, it does. Being able to drop a name, make a personal connection or just pick the brain of someone in-the-know in preparation for a sales pitch translates to higher sales and a faster sales cycle, said Tolles. In other words, it's like tapping an old boys network programmed in 0s and 1s.

Although demand for so-called customer relationship management (CRM) software has waned over the past two years, Tolles is optimistic. Five Fortune 500 companies, which Tolles declined to name, are already testing the software, and the company has a patent pending on its technology. Spoke management also plans to tap the CRM industry expertise of one of its investors and board members, Tim Guleri. The general partner of venture capital firm Sierra Ventures was a cofounder of Octane Software (acquired by Epiphany) and a former executive at Epiphany and Scopus Technology (acquired by Siebel).

Print story E-mail story feeds Send us news tips

     Advanced search

    Latest Headlines
    display on desktop
    Flaw bugs Office 2000 customers
    Dell unseats HP in PC shipments
    Longtime Intel exec Vadasz steps down
    Chip equipment makers see modest gains
    DARPA pulls OpenBSD funding
    Verizon looks to expand its reach
    Gateway hits its lowered target
    Transmeta posts narrower loss
    An old boys network of 0s and 1s?
    CNN postings send some to early graves
    Microsoft Research seeks better search
    SanDisk soars on cell phone potential
    Opteron prices reflect AMD confidence
    Report: Trouble for integration tools
    FTC targets porn spam operation
    Apple reseller shuts off the lights
    HandEra waves goodbye to Palm
    Chip industry shakes off SARS
    'Tekken' developer Namco courts Sega
    AOL hands Mac users tighter Net reins
    This week's headlines

    News Tools
    Get news by mobile
    XML What is this?
    Content licensing
    Display news on desktop

    CNET newsletters

    Enterprise Hardware
    Senior editor Michael Kanellos covers chips, servers, and all the hardware that runs your business. (weekly)

    Daily Dispatch
    Our award-winning editors deliver top stories right to your inbox. (daily)

    All newsletters

    Send us news tips | Contact Us | Corrections | Privacy Policy

       Featured services: Job Search | IT Community | Compare Prices | IT/IS Policies | MS Access   
      CNET Networks: | CNET | GameSpot | mySimon | TechRepublic | ZDNet About CNET   

    Copyright 1995-2003 CNET Networks, Inc. All rights reserved. CNET Jobs