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Start-up Story: Ciara – A million-euro investment within 3 months in the digital sales sector

stories-Ciara-founders © Ciara GmbH
27 September 2019

With their digital assistant, the team from Ciara took off two times in a row: Founded in January this year, it had already acquired a million-euro investment by May. With their sights set on big visions, the founders are particularly interested in having the right team by their side.

What is Ciara all about?

It offers a digital 'Inside Sales' assistant. Ciara is a software that supports sales representatives during sales conversations – interactive adjustment and smart voice recognition included. This means that during a customer call, Ciara will suggest the ideal next step in the sales pitch and deliver responses to customer objections in real-time. For instance, should the customer find the cost too high, Ciara will immediately provide the right argument to justify the price.

Would “sales-conversation-guideline-meets-language-assistant” perhaps be a more apt description of Ciara, then? Yes, and a great deal more than that, too: The vision of the startup is to deliver an all-in-one assistant for sales calls that does more than merely support the conversation and provide conversation guidance tips – but also reads out and updates the CRM tool and automatically sends out the right follow-up emails.

stories-Ciara-dashboard © Ciara GmbH

The Ciara dashboard with tasks and playbooks

From founder to mentor to founder

Once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur. Founder Martin Heibel already brought startup experience with him when he first joined UnternehmerTUM in 2016. Together with three of his friends, he’d founded the IT company IntraWorlds as a student and had served as one of its CEOs for nine years.

At UnternehmerTUM, he spent two years building up the XPRENEURS incubator, which supports teams from all around the globe in developing their business ideas into scalable enterprises.

“As an entrepreneur, you’re always on the lookout for opportunities to start something new.”

Martin Heibel

Experiencing the XPRENEURS teams’ passion for starting businesses, Martin was once more bitten by the founding bug himself.?

He found his ideal co-founder in Konstantin Krauss. At the Munich Summit (MUST) in early 2018, the two shared a conversation that made a lasting impression on them both. They found themselves naturally bonding during a promising discussion about their joint passion for starting businesses and how technology can facilitate the workplace of today.

Finding a startup team isn’t necessarily easy. A great deal has to happen for it to all fall into place.

Martin Heibel

Find your four tips for finding the right co-founders below. In the case of Martin and Konstantin, their respective skills just happened to complement each other beautifully, too: Konstantin’s strong coding skills, experience with CRM systems and development of SaaS (software as a service) were the perfect match for Martin’s sales assistant idea, business acumen and sales knowhow.

stories-Ciara-founder-martin-heibel © Ciara GmbH

All for one – toward the right team

The only thing missing was the right team – a crucial success factor. What’s the number-one recruiting secret? “Many aspects are implicit when it comes to recruiting your first team members. At the end of the day, though, the decisive factor is your gut feeling,” says Martin. Even so, a few aspects needed to be met for Ciara, such as:

  • “Can we imagine working with this person? Does he or she a good fit with the team?” The two founders made sure their existing team members got a chance to speak with applicants to ensure this.
  • “Can this person work independently, identify problems and find solutions – even outside their specific remit?”
  • “Does he or she have the necessary expertise and bring the required skills to the team?”
  • And: “Is he or she truly ready to step things up and make a difference?”

For the Ciara founders, it’s paramount for everyone to find solutions for the startup as a whole and to be prepared to get involved in all areas of the business. An engineer conducting a sales call? That’s not out of the question.

Working in a wide range of roles gives you the chance to progress very quickly and put everyone’s knowhow to good use in all areas. As long as you're working in versatile roles, you're able to move fast and use everyone's competence for every aspect of the business.

Founder Martin Heibel

Scalability? Check!

Ciara is already implementing the technology trend to combine previously separate data from various software systems in an automated and intelligent way and to use it holistically. The software isn’t a CRM tool, though.

stories-Ciara-sales-assistant © Ciara GmbH

“Our goal is to take the CRM systems that have been around for 20 years and render them far more serviceable than they are today – while also providing an assistant to improve usability without replicating them,” explains Martin Heibel. To achieve this, the young startup is already collaborating with such major players as Salesforce, Hubspot and Pipedrive.

“The days are numbered when we’ll be operating a computer with a keyboard, a mouse and lots of open windows. Voice recognition is the future.” The Ciara vision is to build a digital assistant for professionals from the most diverse business areas:

We believe that the feel of a business software and the way you can use it is going to undergo fundamental changes.

Founder Martin Heibel

Since Ciara was founded in Munich in 2019, it’s also expanded to include a subsidiary in California in order to tap into the tech market overseas. The long-term goal is for the software to provide support for customers worldwide in conducting better sales and customer conversations.

Munich - a great place for founders

The UnternehmerTUM network, with its talents, other startups and partners, still serves Ciara today. Many investors with whom Martin already worked in the context of the XPRENEURS incubator are supporters of his startup today, such as UnternehmerTUM Venture Capital Partners, Felix Haas, co-founder of IDnow and Bits & Pretzels, along with Scout24 CEO Christian Mangstl. In May 2019, the team was able to secure a 7-figure investment, only three months after being founded. The two consider Munich a great location for founders as it offers a wide range of highly qualified talent, opportunities for lively exchanges and even more potential.

stories-Ciara-founder-konstantin-krauss © Ciara GmbH

Co-founder Konstantin Krauss

Just a few months into our collaboration, we were able to reap immense benefits from our investors’ knowledge and networks.

Co-founder Konstantin Krauss

Interested in finding out more about the Ciara startup and its sales assistant? Check out the company’s website here.

Copyright title image, portraits of Martin Heibel and Konstantin Krauss, Ciara screen images: Ciara GmbH

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