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CRM for Startups - Too early to be good?

Featuring Salesforce.com and GENILEM

Switzerland is a very unique country from several points of view, be it geographical, political or linguistic. Despite its size, Switzerland is the most innovative country in the world (WIPO) and entrepreneurship is at the very heart of the economy. In technology, almost 1 new startup is created every day in Switzerland, which is 4 times more than in 2002 (Swiss Startup Radar). 99% of the companies in Switzerland are SMEs and 89% have less than 10 staff members (Federal Statistics Office), which contrasts with the perception that Switzerland is mainly made of multinational companies.
1 Exclusive Interwiew photo of Anna Lisa David Narr job titles incl logos

Over the last few years, digitization has set new rules for businesses: access to wider but more competitive markets, new sales and communication channels, new regulations and stricter data privacy laws, etc. These new rules apply to all types of businesses and startups cannot avoid them. Entrepreneurs, startupers and inventors can no longer grow with only a bright idea, as they also need to work professionaly in order to stand out from the crowd. Ensuring steady growth during the first years is key and the focus on business processes is becoming almost as important as the product / service they want to sell. Things are going fast and startups need to find ways to optimize internal efficiency as a prerequisite for further development.

At Nexell, we clearly noticed these changes which have clearly affected our industry, and also the way we work and the way we support our customers. When running CRM projects with startups, we now have to address different challenges and take new obstacles into consideration.

2 David Narr Job title bio GenilemLogo

In order to take stock of the situation from a startup point of view, we met up with David Narr, Director of GENILEM, the biggest startup incubator in Switzerland, to ask a few questions about his perception of the situation.

  • Could you please tell us a few words about GENILEM? What is your vision?
    David Narr: As a non-profit organization, GENILEM’s mission is to support innovative entrepreneurs. The reason why we help them is because of their capacity to overcome current challenges and create a sustainable world for tomorrow. They have access to coaching sessions, training, tools, and a network that accelerates sales and customer relationships. GENILEM’s services are free of charge thanks to our financial supporters and sponsors.

  • Based on your experience with startups, how have their challenges& priorities evolved over the years?
    David Narr: The competition is becoming more intense than ever. Entrepreneurs have to be perfectly aware of the value that their product or service brings to the market. Funding, which was previously based on an idea, now requires that startups already have a product to sell and early adopters. It is now essential to have feedback from clients who were acquired by being a bootstrapped company, or in “lean mode” (develop a first prototype, test it on the market, improve it, and start all over again). Entrepreneurs now need to be constantly in the field and meeting people, which  is time consuming but extremely rewarding.

  • How do you usually spot startups with huge potential?
    David Narr: During startup contests, by having a wide communication, and by word of mouth. The startups we support as well as our ALUMNI are our best spokespeople to represent and spread our value proposition. We support companies in all kinds of business sectors that aim to create 5 to 10 new jobs during their first 3 years of existence. This objective can seem difficult within 3 years, but it is realistic.

  • How is digitalization affecting the way startups work and grow?
    David Narr: Digitalization is not a hot topic for startups. Digitization of information allows instant sharing and simplifies the relocation of labor forces. Remote working gives the opportunity to work with more specialized people all around the world. The economy’s digitalization greatly accelerates the life of a company: failure or success come much faster. Indeed, markets have become globalized and all startups must think globally if they want to grow. In my opinion, digitalization has an impact on all areas of a business, and can be seen as an accelerator. It allows companies to be closer to their employees and customers by having a simplified engagement process, which also means that they can market and sell better products.

  • Would you say that a tech startup is more likely to raise funds and succeed than a startup in another area?
    David Narr: Investors look for companies that could be highly profitable in a short amount of time, and tech startups often tick these boxes. However, they have to consider the fact that this industry is very risky. It actually has one of the lowest success rate.  

  • When a startup is pitching investors with a great idea, would you say that a lack of digital vision could be a barrier even if this is not a tech startup? 
    David Narr: Again, in my own opinion, digital vision is not a topic for startups. Entrepreneurs naturally integrate the digitization process into their company, this is a pre-requisite.

  • Has GENILEM changed and adapted its way of supporting these startups?
    David Narr: Since its founding in 1995, GENILEM has provided 360° coaching to bring a full vision to entrepreneurs. We act as a sparring partner regardless of the field of activity. We are not subject specialists for all areas, but we strive to challenge and to lead the right people to the right network. Since our founding, we have driven startups to listen the market and their clients. Methods are evolving but the needs remain the same. 

  • GENILEM actually has 2 types of “customers”: the startups of course, and the sponsors. What benefits do you emphasize to these sponsors?
    David Narr: Indeed, startups benefit from free GENILEM services that would not be possible without the financial support of our sponsors. As a benefit to these sponsors, we offer visibility and privileged access to our startups panel. For our sponsors, the biggest value is the fact that they can have access to innovations, to new business visions, and to a new generations of entrepreneurs. Our sponsors have the opportunity to build special relationships with startups by being a part of their board.

  • You are in the middle of a CRM Project, with the implementation of Salesforce. Why did you decide to start this kind of project and why did you choose Salesforce?
    David Narr: Monitoring the impact of our program is key. By having an effective CRM solution in place, GENILEM can easily share reports and information with sponsors. We have decided to work with Salesforce for its flexibility and stability. The fact that Salesforce.org has a program for non-profit organizations also encouraged us to choose this solution.

  • What do you think GENILEM will look like in 5 years?
    David Narr: Our vision for the next five years is in line with our current vision: to be a key player for innovative companies.  We will keep creating value in cantons de Vaud and Genève and we will have more than 350 ALUMNI companies that make, day after day, the life of their customers easier and better.
3 Anna Lisa Job title bio SFDClogo

Now let’s have a look at the other side of the mirror with Anna Lisa Kurzbauer, Account Executive at Salesforce.com for Swiss SMBs. She is working with startups on a daily basis and acts as a trusted advisor when it comes to digitization.

  • Can you please tell us a few words about you and about Salesforce?
    Anna Lisa: Salesforce.com is the leading platform to digitalize any business process - we help businesses of all segments and sizes innovate the way they communicate with their business clients as well as end-consumers. In Switzerland, leading enterprises such as ABB, Novartis, Generali, Breitling, L'Occitane, Chopard, Vontobel as well as startups such as On and NGOs like Terre des Hommes use Salesforce to improve and personalize the way they service any client.Salesforce being one of the world's most innovative companies as listed by Forbes for many years in a row, and the #1 on FORTUNEs "100 Best Companies to Work For”, is what inspired me to start my career at Salesforce 3 years ago.
    In my role as an Account Executive, I have the pleasure of working with startups and medium-sized companies and assisting in their digitalization.

  • We often hear that Salesforce.com and generally speaking, CRM systems, are made for large companies only. Myth or reality?
    Anna Lisa: Myth - certainly! Any company, no matter which size, that wishes to understand their customers in a holistic 360° view, along all stages of a customer lifecycle, will need a CRM system. It helps your employees service your customers in a faster, more personalized way - simply said, to deliver the “wow” that will convince your customers, and turn them into loyal fans of your brand.

  • Why is Customer Relationship Management so important for a startup?
    Anna Lisa: Startups do not have unlimited personnel and resources to scale their operations. Thus, to put their customers at the centre of what they do, a high-performing platform is needed which will do the “heavy lifting” for them. Innovative startups such as wefox, FlixBus, or the Swiss premium runners On can grow without being limited by old, rigid infrastructure. Salesforce enables them to have information stored centrally and 24/7 globally available. Real-time insights into KPIs such as CSAT or any trackable metric allows faster reactions to your customers' demands.

  • Could it be too early for a company to take up the CRM challenge while still in a start-up mode?
    Anna Lisa: Again, successfully scaling startups such as On, wefox, FlixBus or N26 prove that starting while you are very small and have no IT legacy allows you to be nimble, and set up processes in a way that can flexibly be changed as your business grows and adapts. FlixBus for example started out with Salesforce in mid 2014, only a mere year into their existence.  By 2016, they had achieved a market share of 80% of German coach lines. Salesforce is a growth catalyst for them, having replaced inefficient silos such as Excel lists and E-mails by one transparent platform which allows all employees to service their mobility partners and consumers in a holistic way. 

  • What is Salesforce.com’s secret sauce that makes you so successful in this market segment?
    Anna Lisa: I would say it's the fact that our solutions are proven to work and scale in any segment - not only in startups, for example, 28,000 ABB employees worldwide use Salesforce to service more than a million customers globally.

  • Are entrepreneurs facing different challenges now compared to 10 years ago?
    Anna Lisa: We are in the middle of the 4th Industrial Revolution, where both businesses and end-consumers expect personalized marketing, instant replies and customer service on the channel they contacted your business from. Entrepreneurs who are unprepared to meet that demand will lose out on opportunities to  provide the exceptional brand experience that accounts for the majority of purchasing decisions.

  • Let’s talk about Switzerland, which is one of the most innovative countries in the world: how do you see the market potential in the area?
    Anna Lisa: Swiss companies and startups have realised that CRM - if used well - provides a competitive advantage for their businesses. They are happy to be at the front of digital innovation. Novartis, for example, can communicate directly with US patients to provide them with individual care concepts and gene therapy for leukemia, thanks to Salesforce. There are many more examples of how technology positively impacts our lives, and certainly, Switzerland has large potential.
Launching and running a startup is a great experience that can become very painful if not planned wisely. Developing a business or an idea is complex and time-consuming so the top priority is to leave secondary topics aside and to focus on the production of added value. As an example. wasting time or money on administrative tasks or technical infrastructures should be a no-brainer and startups need to dedicate efforts to operational and marketing activities that will enable them to grow and to be successful.
You are a startup and you want to share your experience or need support? Drop us an email on Diese E-Mail-Adresse ist vor Spambots geschützt! Zur Anzeige muss JavaScript eingeschaltet sein! and we would be happy to chat with you.



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Nexell GmbH mit Sitz in der Schweiz ist Ihr offizieller, zertifizierter Partner für Salesforce.com und Salesforce.org, Pardot und Fonteva.

Seit der Gründung im Jahr 2002 unterstützen wir unsere Kunden und non-profit Organizationen im Bereich CRM (Customer Relationship Management). Unser Dienstleistungsangebot und unsere Technologien greifen auf langjährige Erfahrung mit kleine wie grossen Firmen, lokal wie international, zurück. Diese Erfahrung führte zu einer Reihe von Best Practices, welche wir heute auf jedes Projekt anwenden, ob gross oder klein, national oder international.

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