ABOUT THE EPISODE
In this episode of Altvia’s Preferred Return Podcast, Gui Costin, founder and CEO of Dakota, returns to discuss Dakota’s upcoming partnership with Altvia, integrating Dakota Marketplace with Altvia’s Private Equity CRM: AIM.
Gui also offers his insights on the current market trends, how leveraging a CRM for private equity and venture capital can grow your pipeline, and the limitations of AI in alternative investments.
ABOUT THE EPISODE
In this episode of Altvia’s Preferred Return Podcast, Gui Costin, founder and CEO of Dakota, returns to discuss Dakota’s upcoming partnership with Altvia, integrating Dakota Marketplace with Altvia’s Private Equity CRM: AIM.
Gui also offers his insights on the current market trends, how leveraging a CRM for private equity and venture capital can grow your pipeline, and the limitations of AI in alternative investments.
Jeff Williams: All right, welcome to Altvia’s Preferred Return Podcast. I’m your host, Jeff Williams. And today I’m with Gui Costin, founder and CEO of Dakota. Gui, thanks for joining me. A return guest, second time having you on the podcast. I feel so honored, man.
Gui Costin: I feel honored. Thanks for having me again.
Jeff Williams: Coming to us from your beautiful studios in Philly. That place is incredible.
Gui Costin: Thank you.
Jeff Williams: We talked about that a little bit, but, uh, you know, I think your vision for video and the investment you guys made during a time at which, you know, there were a lot of questions about office space and things like that. But here we are getting the full experience.
It’s pretty amazing. And big shout out to your team there who are amazing folks and got y’all set up for us to have.
Gui Costin: Yeah, great. No, what’s funny about the studio is, you know, once– it’s amazing when you truly build it, you don’t know what’s gonna happen. Then you build it. Then there’s all these other use cases you end up using a lot.
So it’s been a really fun experience.
Jeff Williams: I think that’s all I would do is go down there and find, you know, things to play around with and videos to make. I think it’d be a lot of fun. Um, so it’s been a couple months now. Um, and we’re going to be talking about, um, you know, an official partnership we’re launching here, which is really exciting, but, uh, been a couple of months since we last caught up.
What’s. What’s different? I mean, I know that, you know, we– I heard on the way in this morning, mortgage rates hit seven, you know, north of seven and a half percent for the first time in 22 years of the market, you know, markets generally have kind of shifted around a little bit and, uh, what’s going on from your perspective, man?
Gui Costin: You know, and I think, you know, as fundraisers, and I think, you know, from when you look at your customers at Altvia, there’s just so few things that you can control. There’s no doubt, uh, there’s going to be interest rates, mortgage rates, the stock market going up and down and stuff like that. But the thing that we have seen, which has been truly amazing is…
There’s allocations being made every day. Money is in motion. People are raising money. It’s just so important to be out there in front of the right buyers. That’s really the key takeaway. And that’s what we’re seeing. So we’re seeing a lot of allocations. There’s a lot of money in motion, which is great.
And you’re always going to have headline news, right? You’re going to have, uh, CNBC, CNBC. You know, all those guys, CNN, they’re all built right to generate advertising revenue and eyeballs. And so whatever’s the topic to draw, they’re going to play it up to drive it, right? What I believe is going on is that everybody’s looking out the next three, six, nine months of what they should be investing in.
And so it’s really incumbent upon us as fundraisers and all your subscribers, right, for us to be out there in that same way, telling our story. And that’s really worked this year.
Jeff Williams: Is there a specific group of people? I mean, it, you know, I was at a, um, PEI Investor Relations and Marketing Communications event last week in San Francisco, and I can’t tell you the number of times I heard, like, you know, institutionals are upside down and, you know, RIAs and, um, you know, certain pockets where there’s a little bit more opportunity.
I mean, it, it’s– it’s great. I totally agree with you. I mean, the mass media news is not necessarily indicative of what’s really going on there. Is that a little pocket from what you guys are seeing? I mean, is it RIAs that are… Really coming on strong, or is it sort of elsewhere that people are raising, you know, new funds and having a lot of success with it?
Gui Costin: RAs are not as exposed to, you know, private vehicles like public funds are. So clearly public funds over allocated to, you know, private vehicles. And so now the secondary market’s thriving, right? Because they’re having to basically cough up a lot of those, uh, those fund investments in the secondary market.
RAs, multifamily offices, have to invest capital on behalf of their clients. They’re not going to sit in cash, so they’re always looking for new and interesting investment ideas. I mean, look at one big trend you’re seeing right now in the indices, right? You’ve got this magnificent seven or whatever they’re calling the top seven largest market caps.
I mean, dominating the index, right? So you think to yourself, “Alright, that’s too much exposure to seven companies,” right? And so the question is okay, now active management could come back. So if you think, you know, in the equities firm, you look a lot different than the index you’re going to, you can have something that’s a product that’s very complimentary.
So meaning– you know, there’s an old saying, you know, you underestimate, uh, what you can get done in 10 years and you overestimate what you can get done in a year and time flies. And so you just have to make sure your strategy is in front of those potential buyers because listen, it doesn’t always mean just because one public pension funds upside down or because 10 of them are and they have to right size, but they still have.
Uh, they still have pension fund money coming in that does need to get invested. And so that’s – right – so this is, I think, a temporary phenomenon. I mean, it might last 6, 9, 12 months, 18 months, but it’ll eventually, uh, change. And you want to make sure your strategy’s top of mind with all those investors, is how we approach it.
Jeff Williams: Yeah. Good stuff. Alright, um, talking partnership. We’re, we’re, uh, just on the verge of, of sort of launching and announcing this. Um, I want to get back a little bit to, um– you know, Marketplace and Fuse and, you know, I think we, we probably have some listeners here that, that, uh, have heard the first episode with you and some that, that, uh, won’t have maybe give us like the, you know, quick kind of summary again on, on how it was that Dakota came to be in this sort of origin story.
Gui Costin: Sure. We founded the firm in 2006 as a third party, early as a real estate fund of funds. And we did two funds to start off in ‘06, and then simultaneously in ‘06, we started working for a firm called Edgewood Management, which is a long only equities firm, large cap growth, mutual fund separate account, and those were our two partners to start.
We had our own fund of funds in partnership with Townsend group, so anyone in Altvia who’s in the private real estate opportunistic type investing would know Townsend very well. We did two funds with them. Then over the course of time, as we grew the firm and as we added salespeople, we used Salesforce.com, right? Just what you guys are built on and build up a great database of intermediary and institutional investors. And then in 2019, we turned that product or that, uh, that database and we commercialized and turned into a product. And today we have over 850 investment firms with over 3, 300 individual investment salespeople.
And on that side of the business, roughly 50 people on the fundraising side, roughly 10. And so that’s where the business is today. So we’re active in the market fundraising. So for every one of your customers, you know, Jeff, we, we eat our own cooking. We feel their pain. Like fundraising is a hard job, but a sales enablement tool like a CRM that can really make it efficient is, I believe so strongly, is such a big deal. And when I look at your business from a CRM perspective, there’s only a handful of leverage points that a salesperson has. One of them is the CRM, the information, and then the reports that you can look at to then make sales calls and trigger sales action.
So, um, we’re a big, big believer in CRMs, accurate data, clean data. So that’s kind of a quick background on Dakota.
Jeff Williams: Yeah. And I want you to talk just a little bit more about that moment where it was like, “Oh, our data might be useful to others.” I mean, that’s like this sort of light bulb moment that became Marketplace, where effectively people were able to kind of come in and be in similar roles and having similar, similar problems to y’all, um, kind of get to eat your, your dog food a little bit, the dog food you were making.
And, you know, I just love that sort of as a light bulb moment. Must have been extremely powerful and not without, you know, sort of, well, this work, can it work kind of situation? Yeah?
Gui Costin: Yeah. One of the biggest challenges running a sales organization, if they’re successful, the salespeople can potentially rest on their laurels.
Right? They keep some existing accounts. They’re not always finding new leads and new information. And it’s very, very expensive to create a data team to go out and do that for your salespeople. So what do people do? What do organizations do? They – about 99. 9 percent of organizations – rely on salespeople to add to their data and keep it up to date.
And that’s a failed strategy, right? We’ve seen it time and time again. And one of the biggest frustrations with any CRM is the data stale. So my feeling was if we want to stay relevant and keep new leads coming in and not have to invest personally on an operating basis, not an investment basis, an operating basis, millions and millions of dollars to have a data team, to have infrastructure, everything.
What if we made the database available to other investment salespeople? And that was really the lightbulb moment. It was really self-serving, because I wanted to make sure our team stayed relevant, had fresh leads coming in, the data in the database was accurate, so we can focus on setting up meetings, making sales calls, finding new leads.
So… That was really the impetus behind it. It’s actually played out, you know, just like that. What I’m a little surprised about is how expensive it is to keep data actually up to date and growing. Uh, it’s a lot more expensive than I would have thought it would have been. And our customers, just like yours, I mean, our customers hold us to account.
On a daily basis in terms of that accuracy. So we feel it. If anything’s not up to date.
Jeff Williams: Yeah, and you just couldn’t do that to your point. Um, about the cost. You just couldn’t do that. Like inside a firm. I mean, you know, makes makes sense to spread that cost out at scale and, um, and do it. I’m curious what some of the learnings there on like “it’s more expensive” than you thought it was.
Is it, um, do you think like the, the dynamic is something different about the dynamics, like underlying the market, like more people are shifted as the result of COVID and move jobs or like– I mean, what, what do you think that is? I’m, I’m now curious about that.
Gui Costin: Well, if you, if you really, truly want to keep your data up to date, you have to invest.
And then if you want to grow the business so you can pay for the investments, you have to have. A sales team, pretty large sales team and a marketing team to be pretty aggressive out in the marketplace. So one feeds the other, right? So the more demos that you do, the more feedback that you get, the more you improve the product.
So you, it’s the thing that the lesson learned from me, which I had no clue about until we started it, was how important the front end sales engine is. to the overall success of the product and the growth of the product, because the more feedback that you get, which is by being doing more demos, but you need more inside salespeople to set up those demos, is you get feedback on the data and the product, so the features in the product and the data, and then it causes you to go improve the data.
So one feeds the other. It’s not just necessarily the data team in the background doing the updating and our different technology tools we use to update, but it’s the actual, uh, it’s the whole infrastructure that, it’s sort of a loop. If you will, and that’s, that’s expensive to, you know, to put together.
But the good news is by doing that, you end up with a far superior product because you’re getting so many, so much more feedback from the marketplace. Yeah.
Jeff Williams: Yeah. You know, I, I, um, I see Marketplace infused quite a bit. And then that is one thing I’m, I’m always amazed by is that it’s clear just from the sort of user submitted stuff.
Every time I see it, like the, the volume of that grows and people commit more and more to that, like– Hey, you know, I mean, it’s like if you took as a proxy, the sort of times I log in, or I see, you know, in working with your team, their screen or something like that, the sort of time since the last times, you know, a user submitted something back to y’all and it’s like, Hey, that person’s no longer there.
I mean, every time I see it, that time goes down. And most recently it was like within a few minutes of that moment, somebody had submitted that. That’s really cool. It’s gotta be very fulfilling.
Gui Costin: Yeah, I think that’s a cultural thing is that if you care about your customer, I mean, at one point we had one person on our team that took 25 hours to do this and he was – right – in a position of leadership. And it, I was like, wait a second. I mean, that’s how much we care about our customer when it, when it takes under three minutes to go find that update. I mean, it’s right there, sitting right in front of you. Is that, so now we really, we just have a policy. We set up all infrastructure and the team is bought in to service and service to the customer.
And we do it very, very quickly. And it’s the whole concept of Apple, right? You want to delight your customers. And speed is a very, very big deal. And as we all know, uh, you know, any product that we sign up for, maybe trying to get somebody on the phone or getting somebody to react to an email. And it takes days and weeks and we want to do it in minutes.
Jeff Williams: Yeah. Well, and, and nevermind the culture of you guys, which is amazing. We’ve talked about that. I, I absolutely love Dakota and. I’ll give you a big ups again for, um, from the culture and the sort of, you know, the, the way you built the company. Um, and I love the Dakotaisms. We probably got to get into those at some point here today again, but, um, it’s this whole other thing when, when your customers and their users are then willing to take a step, you know, it’s like sort of, you have like 10 million people buy a product and ask every single one of them to leave a review.
Um, it’s a pretty simple step, but only a fraction of them will, because they feel, um, either very on the polls, right? They feel very strongly in favor of the product or the service or, or not. And they’re willing to take a moment, but in this case, like the user submitted data of like, Hey, I just called this person.
We all need to know fam that, you know, that person’s no longer there. I mean, you know, that happens to a lot of people, but then to take that step, like leaving a review. I mean, people are really. You know, committed to, to kind of the same culture and the same sort of, you know, environment you’ve created inside the company now spread to the customers and they’re sort of taking it and running with it and, and circulating it back.
That’s really cool.
Gui Costin: Yeah, the member feedback and the member comments is great because then that allows us to update the database for them. Right away, right? So we’re really think of us in the background. If there’s 10– 14,000 investment firms across the globe. But if one CIO in the U. S. changes jobs. That means 14,000 firms need to change their, update their database. It’s kind of a little bit ludicrous, right? We want to be that centralized, uh, repository for updating. And the members have responded really well and, uh, we’re highly committed to it.
Jeff Williams: So that’s certainly from, from my perspective, one of the things that makes, um, Dakota different.
Well, we’re talking about many of these things, right? The, the culture of service, um, the, the origin story and how that continues to be a part of the business and the community that’s growing. And, um, what are some of the other things? I mean, I, I think that, you know, we, we talked about there’s pockets of the market where maybe fundraisers are having a little bit more success in RAAs, and turns out you guys, you know, that that’s a, from, from what I’ve heard and from what we’ve talked about before, that that seems to be a differentiating a little space for you. Not everybody has, um. That, that same sort of volume and depth and quality of RIA data as y’all, because again, you know, you guys are the ones that are calling on it on those, um, segments, still a differentiator for you. What else?
Gui Costin: I would say the differentiator. Well, from a product standpoint, and you– and as you as you’re looking at Marketplace, there’s accounts and contacts. There’s depth in every channel accuracy. So easy to find what you’re looking for. Great user interface design, which we’ve really worked hard on. And we really care a lot. It’s really 1 or 2 clicks to get what you’re looking for. At the same time, we’ve filled in around the edges with what we call value added data.
So over 36,000 holdings of public funds. We have over 3,000 manager presentation decks, which are fully searchable. We have your 13F filing holdings for RAs, so you can see what RAs ETFs are invested in, closed end funds, BDCs, at the asset class and sub asset class levels. You can get real, so based upon your strategy, you can run reports and get right to the RAs that have the greatest exposure.
To your products. Um, searches. It’s just, uh, we’re bringing an insurance company general account information with holdings across public fund holdings, private fund holdings and, uh, underlying equity holdings. So, uh, if you just break it down, the, uh, we’ve really tried to marry the accounts and contacts account descriptions and investment preferences with all this other.
Jeff Williams: Yeah, it’s cool stuff. And I must say, um, I got to give your team props. I, it does seem like the roadmap and all the things that we’re seeing in the pace at which, um, we’re seeing it from y’all is, um, pretty incredible. So hat tip to those folks. Very cool.
Gui Costin: Well, thanks.
Jeff Williams: Um, all right, well, let’s talk about, um, some of that stuff.
So, you know, started out with Marketplace and I’m curious. Um, at the time that you sort of chose the CRM for the sort of core operation of the business, uh, it was Salesforce.com. Was that like sort of the only thing, or did you put, you know, a lot of sort of decision into that at that time? And you had experience with Salesforce or was it like, was there something about that?
Maybe, maybe not, might’ve been the only thing.
Gui Costin: Here’s the only thing I, uh, one of my friends from college, Halsey Minor, was one of the original investors in Salesforce, and I started using it in 2000 or 2001, and I’ve always used it, and it’s highly customizable, very intuitive to customize, and then the most robust reporting capabilities, bar none.
And we run our entire business on, uh, on Salesforce is reporting capabilities. So if I wasn’t able to run and slice and dice all the objects and fields and information to be able to get views and then segment it the way that Salesforce does it, it literally runs our business. I would be crippled. If I didn’t have that capability, because what it does is it allows you to take a vast amount of data and then basically zero it into small little chunks so you can get a sense of where you stand within your business.
And so, uh, yeah, it’s the I mean, for my, my opinion. Now, I think one thing that you guys have done that other people have is you’ve solved the ultimate problem, right? Obvious solves the configuration problem. You’ve simplified the whole thing. So the installations are so much more smooth. Versus a lot of people who are hiring a consultant and they’re starting off raw.
And that’s very, very difficult because that consultant doesn’t have the domain expertise that you guys have over the past, you know, 10+ years within investment management for how this should look and how it should be set up. So, uh, that, I mean, the value proposition called VIA knows no bounds. I mean, that’s the whole, and Salesforce, Salesforce didn’t do anything wrong. Just the person doing the integration and setup doesn’t have the industry expertise.
Jeff Williams: Yeah, yeah, it’s like, it, it, it, it’s this dynamic I think a lot about, and I, I think the simplest way to boil down my view on that is that it’s so easy Salesforce as a platform is, and it’s so sort of pervasive and everywhere.
And, you know, in, in a lot of cases, people might look at this situation you were in and be like, where do we build this? And, you know, I think a lot of people are sort of like, well, Salesforce is like kind of the only real thing. You know, uh, real, real place to do it even still today in 2023, certainly back then too, but it, you know, it, it is so easy, right?
There’s like a whole sort of SI channel and it’s like, you know, you’ll, you’ll get introduced to one and it’s like, let’s go. And you see the speed at which you can sort of implement it and stuff. That’s all beautiful. And yet that’s also this sort of, um, kind of a little bit of a trap for many people because nobody’s– Nobody knows yet, um, that they don’t know about the pitfalls of that approach as it relates to the sort of organization of their data, right?
So it’s like we’re headed just so quickly and easily down this path and it’s going so smooth, but we’re not aware yet that like we missed a turn, um, you know, in order to be able to structure the data the way we need it to be able to get those sort of reports for a fund of funds, for example, right?
It’s like, well, oh, man, now we– either we’re looking at the same fund and committing and considering committing to it twice out of our fund products. And we didn’t think about how we organize this data because Salesforce out of the box does not, you know, sort of ponder these sorts of things. And then you end up in a situation where to some of the points you’ve mentioned, you either are forcing users to take – you know – redundant steps and recreate, you know, kind of some of the same data, um, multiple times which users don’t like to do, or you’re ending up compromising, you know, reporting and analytics and stuff like that by, um, not having it.
And so, you know, what. What ends up happening is a lot of people end up in that, like they got started, they got going, it was working until they realized it wasn’t, you know, there was some sort of like next level of complication that, that was failing them.
And then, you know, that we’ve been the beneficiary of that because it’s, you know, it’s a situation where we’ve worked with now hundreds of, of people in this market over 10, 15 years. And, you know, we, we, we had to learn those things too, right? And we’ve sort of built it into a reusable platform that’s available to everybody.
And, and good news is Salesforce makes it easy when, when people are struggling with that to come to us. And it’s sort of like, “Oh, just, you know, download this app. We’ll come help you out and kind of get, get things reconfigured, move it around for you.” Um, You know, bail them out in a way. But yeah, it’s a very interesting dynamic Salesforce has created, but the ease to get going and almost sort of end up at a dead end and have to kind of go back and, and figure some things out.
Gui Costin: Yeah. Cause really, really what you want to be able to do is have your salespeople follow what they’re looking for very quickly. I mean, at the end of the day, investment salespeople go to cities to book meetings, right? So you just want to be able to go to your Boston metro area and see all your potential investors in Boston, make it that simple, and then be able to send emails to book calls and meetings.
So if you make them do. Other activities outside of that, as it’s related to the CRM, if they’re doing all the updating, if they’re searching the websites and if they’re configuring it because, uh, their company didn’t know how to do it or their systems integrated didn’t do a good job, right? They’re just wasting time.
So you’re wasting the company’s time. They’re wasting their time and they’re getting less out of it. So the more work right that we can do for the customer as it relates to that infrastructure, that CRM infrastructure and data, the better. And so they can focus on what matters most, which is booking meetings with qualified buyers.
I mean, nothing else matters. And, uh, and I could go on and on about how certain people not, I’m not going to make a sales call for the next six months because I’m going to get the website more designed properly. I’m going to get the pitch deck. I mean, that stuff at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter that much, right?
What matters is do you do– can you easily access qualified buyers? You can send emails to book meetings.
Jeff Williams: Yeah. Yeah. No, we’ve seen some of that too. It’s like, well, we need to reconfigure our CRM and you might need to reconfigure your CRM, but you might not, you know, you might just need to start calling on people and there is this. This beautiful space where the question becomes, well, who do I start calling?
Because we’ve got the CRM fully configured. We know this works. Um, so who do I start calling? And that’s where Salesforce is just a behemoth because it’s so big and so pervasive. That, um, providers like y’all are, are building integrations that, that bring that data to those users, it’s, you know, to, to everything we’ve talked about here.
It’s, it’s, uh, very relevant. It’s coming and being generated by, by folks just like these users. And so that’s really sort of where, where the, you know, partnership and working together between Altvia and Dakota comes together. Um. Is, you know, the ability for these users to actually get this data, you know, right there and in their specific CRM, of course, in marketplace, they can log in and sort of peruse, but fuse, um, enables that Dakota data to come directly to their Salesforce instance becomes far more actionable and in a way sort of allows them to kind of branch it a little bit and start, you know, kind of, um, riding on the back of, of that versus like, “Oh, I’m going to, um, you know, spend the next three weeks, just keying and data.”
What, you know, spend the next three weeks trying to book meetings because somebody else has already got the data.
Gui Costin: Exactly.
Jeff Williams: Um, cool. So I want to talk, I guess, just on that note, um, a little bit about, uh, about some of the stuff we’re doing. I mean, this is ultimately sort of a, uh, an episode about announcing this partnership.
We’re, we’re going to be allowing our customers to do some specific things. We’ve been working with your, um, product and engineering teams to, to, um, kind of even extend Fuse a little bit to be specific to Altvia such that, you know, you now take some of the same steps of bringing in a bunch of accounts, for example, that would be new that you’re going to start calling on.
Saving you the step of, of adding them to the pipeline because that’s sort of, you know, for a lot of people, one in the same, it’s like to say, okay, well, I want to bring in all these accounts. So I’ve got them and I can start calling on them. And as soon as I start calling on them, then I need to put them into like a, you know, sales type pipeline and kind of, um, blending those 2 steps together again with, with our application in Salesforce, which is prebuilt and has that sort of defined, but you can change the stage names and things like that.
That’s an opportunity for us to really dial it in and take this even further for the users and save, you know, even more steps because of relevance of the data and then that sort of, um, reusable and existing sort of logic and workflow stuff that’s built into the application. So I’m super excited about that.
Gui Costin: You guys have done an amazing job. I think you really revolutionized pipeline creation and pipeline management, making it very efficient and Salesforce built on, you know, at the opportunity level. So congrats.
Jeff Williams: Thank you. Appreciate that. And the same is true. Um, for y’all, where do you see, um, this whole sort of data market going?
You’re, I told you on the first episode, you, um, have as much claim as anybody I know to, to being the most interesting man in the world. Very visionary. Um, where do you see like, you know, what, what sort of stuff are you seeing like out there in the future, like in this market in terms of how people are raising money, maybe where the data is going?
I mean, everybody, you know, it wouldn’t be a podcast episode without talking about AI. Um, what’s kind of on your mind these days?
Gui Costin: So it– the thing that– you know, we’re, we’ve been in this business now five years or coming on five years and you still meet people who’ve never heard of us and they’re pretty prominent firms and we have massive outreach.
Right. We have a 15 per inside sales team that’s making calls on investment sales people. So one, it’s just making sure that that stays consistent, that we’re still doing the outreach on a daily basis to book meetings, just like an investment sales professional, would we take the same approach on the data sales side?
And so that’s number one, being consistent there to the ultimate vision is to be the ultimate backbone for any investment firm that has a, you know, has a CRM, right? And has data that we can be their data partner and be that person that’s doing all the work that you just described. And then what you guys are doing is the display factor, right?
Taking the whole risk off the table of the configuration. And then you’ve really accelerated pipeline management and creation. But I do see AI playing a nice role. I don’t– listen– we’re regulated by the SEC, so I don’t think there’s a lot of things that are going to be able to be truly AI’d, if you will.
Now you might be able to do some start off an RFP. There might be certain things, you know, administrative tasks that you can do, but when it actually comes to sales. Or being a financial advisor or telling an investment story that can’t be done by A. I. And you can’t probably create your, uh, you know, account pay.
Here’s, here’s a quarterly report. It’s all done by AI. Because everything has to be compliance approved, numbers need to be checked. Facts need to be checked right now. If you go to ChatGBT and you ask an investment question, do you know what recommendation it gives you?
Jeff Williams: Don’t, I’m frightened.
Gui Costin: Uh, yeah, It says, find a financial advisor
Jeff Williams: In over my head. Yeah. Which is I guess a good answer.
Gui Costin: Oh, no, what the answer is, is that the open AI day one, you program the platform not to be able to answer investment questions because it’s an, it will be a SEC violation, maybe shut down. They can’t offer investment advice.
Jeff Williams: Yeah.
Gui Costin: Can’t happen.
Jeff Williams: Yeah.
Gui Costin: You can’t offer, you know, you have to be a licensed professional with the SEC.
Uh, uh, to give and give investment advice. So as much as you think AI can really do it, it really can’t, uh, right now. And unless SEC is going to, you know, train and regulate, I just don’t see it happening, uh, anytime soon. And listen, maybe I’m wrong, but you know, for the level of compliance that we all live within, I don’t know how that happens.
So, but within Marketplace, using, uh, ChatGBT, what Salesforce has done with Einstein. You can go in and say, run me a report of the top 50 RAs in Boston. Boom! Right there in three seconds. So, that’s what we’re gonna, that’s right around the corner for us, uh, which is very exciting. And then just continuously enriching the data, so we can make that path to where people are looking to get in front of someone.
Jeff Williams: Yeah, you know, I mean, I, I, I’ve, I think I’ve mentioned on this on the podcast, maybe even in the previous call we had, but I heard somebody say, um, best way to think about the capabilities of AI today, or to think about like a sort of junior professional, right? It’s like, here’s a 50 page report. Can you summarize this for me?
Like, like, you know, that’s a really good thing. Um, or, or, or something that, that sort of AI in its current state today is really good at. But what you wouldn’t, you know, do to that sort of junior professionals, like, where should I, you know, invest my wealth, right? Be like, I don’t know. You know, I mean, just doesn’t have the context and, and to your point, um, AI neither has it or ChatGBT, nor is it, you know, even appropriate to go there for it.
But I start to think some, you know, about some of the stuff like. You know, I think, uh, one of the really cool things that you mentioned, um, that Dakota’s doing is providing the, you know, presentations and the summary reports and stuff like that. Um, and, you know, I, I see it, uh, as amazingly compelling as a fundraiser to be able to go in and see, like, presentations that other people have given, you know, to that institution or, you know, reading a, a summary report or something like that.
And perhaps that’s an area right where, where again, that sort of junior professional, maybe that’s on the team. Maybe there’s a level up that they can start to take themselves and being able to, to kind of either do something they’re not doing today or to, to even sort of, you know, kind of reduce the amount of time it would take them to summarize that report with.
You know, the use of AI and then take it further, you know, to insights into the firm, um, and then, you know, corresponding action and stuff like that. So maybe that, um, is an area, but, but, you know, you, you, you can’t just throw AI at something and just, you know, say like, well, you know, go pull all those reports.
You sort of summarize those reports for me, maybe. Right?
Gui Costin: Yeah. I mean, somebody could go into our, Yeah. Uh, 3,000 plus manager presentation deck library and search it and say, “Hey, on a five year basis, show me the private equity funds, middle market buyout that have the best performance,” and then it would show you those presentations.
And then you could go in yourself and look at those that we didn’t. All we did is pulled them from a public, uh, fund website. And so. There are certain things that now that with that rapid voters so rapidly access that type of information, so the bigger we build the library, the more people will be able to access or show me the ESG funds that have presented to a public pension fund in the last year, right?
So they go in and find all the, instantly go in and see by year when those, those ESG strategies presented. So there’s different things as we just continuously build the data, uh, where you’ll be able to ask questions and get, you know, that, that will be very difficult to run.
Man, you know, manually or by hand, right? So the ChatGBT could do that.
Jeff Williams: Well, and, and just that you guys have, have gathered it and put it in context, right? So it’s like, you know, here is a screen that’s relevant to the sort of, you know, um, account or the context you’re looking for. Or the metro area. I love the metro areas.
Um, you know, how to sort of visit a place. Uh, and be most efficient visiting maybe new, new relationships or ones that you’ve already got. Um, including who is working from home in that metro area. I think that’s so cool. I’ve mentioned that before. Um, and that’s the sort of stuff where it’s like, there’s a bunch of product managers and, you know, software engineers and, you know, data people out there thinking all sorts of things.
Um, new ideas, some of them good, some of them bad, but that’s kind of like one of those things, unless you’ve really been that person. Um, and made those trips and had to figure out how to maximize time, like in an area that’s just like one of those things that just doesn’t come off like a random whiteboard.
It’s a testament to to you guys eat, you know, dog food and stuff. I think that’s a great feature.
Gui Costin: Thanks.
Jeff Williams: Um, In any case, you know, just putting it all into context, like here, you’re going to the metro area. We helped to plan that. Oh, and here are those presentations. The amount of time being saved, um, for these users is pretty incredible.
I want to, um, get to kind of parting, um, thoughts from you here as the, uh, As a sort of well known, very, you know, sort of respected voice in this market. Uh, I mentioned I attended this event, the Private Equity International event. It’s a great one. Plug for them. Uh, I do it in New York and then they do it in San Francisco. Spring and fall.
Um, and it’s all about, you know, investor relations professionals. And one of the things I love about this event is the camaraderie and the collaboration, right? So you get a bunch of deal guys together from these, these firms, like nobody’s trying to collaborate and share best practices, stuff like that.
But you have like two competitive firms. The heads of IR are at this event, swapping notes and trying to help each other. And so one of the kind of things that I left with him and that I want to turn around as a question to you is like, what– what advice would you give somebody who’s like, just starting out in this market today, like as a fundraiser, what would, what would you tell them to do?
Gui Costin: So there’s two very simple pieces of advice. Number one, become addicted and committed to being a professional meeting setter-upper. Mentally commit to that. That is your, that’s 50 percent of your career for the rest of your life if you stay in this. The biggest winners are the best meeting setter-uppers.
The number two. Leverage a CRM. That’s the only way you can 10x your productivity. Okay? And here’s why. Because if you’re able to get all the meetings you’ve scheduled into your CRM, you can then run reports based upon those meetings, which will trigger sales actions. So become addicted and committed to setting up meetings.
Number two, make your CRM your best friend. And then three, like Altvia, pick a CRM where you have to do as little configuration as possible. So you can get to what you need, right, to do, which is setting up the meetings and the CRM can help you do the rest of that. So it’s, uh, I see most people don’t want to commit to that, the commitment of meetings, setting up meetings.
Two, they don’t want to commit to getting the meetings they’ve scheduled in their CRM so they can run past activity reports. And then three, they’re not, uh, committing because then what can’t happen is the next step. If you don’t enter the meetings, you can’t utilize the technology. Which is what Altvia’s all about.
And it’s all about rapidly accessing information, right? Well, if information’s not in there, you can’t rapidly access it. So it’s really those three things. And obviously we, we eat our own cooking. We have over 20 salespeople on the software side. We have seven on the investment side. We all same– we all sing from the same hymn book.
So we all believe in this. We live it every single day.
Jeff Williams: Is there a Dakotaism about the hymn book? That’s, that sounds like a. A great one.
Gui Costin: Yeah. The, uh, I mean, there, there’s so many Dakotaisms, right? We sell apples to apple buyers, uh, when I’m trying to convince orange buyers to buy apples. Um, but the, the, the set, the, the thing that I think is the single greatest thing back to this is that if you commit to the meeting, being a meeting setter upper, it’s utilizing your CRM to 10x your productivity.
It’s the only thing that I’ve seen to keep your brain. You just can’t remember so much. If you make the CRM your friend, and it doesn’t take that much work, the level of return you get on that is extreme. Because here’s the deal. If you effectively use a CRM, you can cover more ground, right? That’s all it is.
So you get in front of more buyers and someone else, you cover more ground. And that’s why we’ve been able to scale the software business, because we’ve lived by these principles. And then what ends up happening is people, you get on your first demo, your 10th demo, your 100th demo, and they’re like, Well, this is pretty good, but this sucks, this sucks, this sucks, and this sucks.
Okay, we’ll go change that. But if you only had 10 demos. You might not be getting as much feedback, then you don’t know what to go focus on. So, it’s just that feedback loop. And it’s the same on the investment side, right? You sit down in front of somebody. You get a ton of meetings. You start hearing the feedback.
Then the PM’s like, “Wow, now I’m hearing how I should be pitching this and the questions they’re asking.” So the fifth meeting… Get the 10th meetings better than the 5th, the 20th meetings better than the 10th and then all of a sudden they know exactly what they should be saying, so the story resonates.
But if they don’t get that many looks, guess what? They can’t learn. So, it’s a, it’s all very simple and I’ve tried my hardest Jeff and I’m being serious. I’ve tried my hardest to complicate this and I can’t. It’s, it’s, it’s kind of that simple and it’s fun, right? But a lot of people don’t want to commit to that.
Jeff Williams: Yeah, no. And, and, you know, I, I led a panel, um, at this event last week, um, about this. And one of the things that I, I told the, um, the panelists up front and the prep call was like, “Hey, you know, this is like CRMs inside these firms are political, right? Like, let’s not sort of pretend they’re not.” And so we, we talked to quite a bit about the, the political dynamics and the carrot of the stick, right?
I mean, oftentimes as a salesperson. A CRM, like the way you’re portraying, it’s amazing, right? But the sales rep oftentimes will still see it as like a stick, right? Whereas you’re sort of painting it as this carrot. Like if, you know, if you’re not doing this, you’re crazy. But it still might feel to them like, well, they just have to, because their VP of sales needs a forecast.
And they see it that way. But then the politics of firms, you know, can sort of further complicate this. So the last. Um, thing I want to get your thought on is like, how do you build that culture? Um, because you don’t, you know, it’s not each rep, like you can’t just have each rep, um, you know, see it as a carrot and do it for their own benefit and then also have a sort of.
You know, um, leadership that is like running their business off of it, right? I mean, you know, um, you have to have one to have the other, but how do you sort of really build that culture like leadership wise of doing that? Do you have any like magic tips there?
Gui Costin: Yes, I do. Uh, so number one, every meet– so you pay a salesperson to work at your company, their jobs to set up meetings with qualified buyers and do those meetings, every meeting I look at from a company standpoint as a gold bar.
So it’s a gold bar. You set up the meeting. Well, if it stays on the calendar and doesn’t make it into the CRM, okay? The CEO of that company, okay, is letting gold bars fly out the back of the truck. So, so number one. This doesn’t answer your question perfectly. The CEO has to have, they have to have the buy in and make it part of the culture.
That’s the most important thing as a company. So we just configured Slack. So anytime anybody sets up a meeting they have to enter into Slack, goes right into Salesforce. So we make it very easy to enter that either on your desktop or your phone. Secondly, you measure on a daily basis, the number of meetings scheduled by salesperson.
And you measure it by first time meeting, follow up meeting, client service meeting. And then it stays on a board and a scorecard. And that’s how you measure it. Listen, as I say all this, most people will never do this. We do it religiously. If you go upstairs on our fourth floor and you walk in, you see the scoreboard right there.
Um, and so that’s how you make it part of your culture. And then you have your daily check in for your sales team. And you talk about the day before the meetings that were scheduled by individual team– team member. Now, the average group that does this is probably 3 to 5 or 1 to 2 or whatever it is. But holding yourself to that level of discipline because you don’t want to show up at the end of a week and have zero meetings scheduled.
Um, right, and then you, and then you want to show the output of those meetings that you scheduled in your Altvia, right? That’s, that’s where it should show up as a scorecard saying meeting scheduled for the day, for the week, average for the week, average for the month. Then you can kind of see where you stand.
And it’s measuring all that, uh, in a very transparent way, and then you do it by salesperson. And then, right, but then if people, Jeff, the key thing about the culture is that if you know what the expectation is during the interview process and you get the job, then you’re not surprised. I mean, I had one guy tell me when I went through all this, he goes, “Oh, geez, you must be Mr. Popular. It’s your company.”
I’m like, in fact, you know, I am, I’m saying that not to be cocky in any way, shape or form. I’m saying it because I hear people say, they say, what’s the favorite part of your day? It’s the 745 check in when I have to go through the meetings I scheduled the day before. So it’s not like they see this as a hardship because they know how good it is for them.
Um, so yeah, that, that’s, it’s just being very transparent. Like it’s just being very transparent. And that’s what ends up happening is those are the key. You know, performance indicators of KPIs that drive the business forward that should be measured. Um, so that’s, that’s the way we do it. I’m pretty passionate about it because I can’t see a scenario whereby we wouldn’t do this.
Jeff Williams: Yeah.
Gui Costin: I’d just don’t know how we run the business. I mean, you know, and then also, how about this? How do we take it to one more level? The investment business has super high margins. But if you, if you didn’t do this, right, and you’ve got all these amazing teammates. Well, then you might not be growing like you are, or you might be slowing your growth, or you might be truly going backwards.
Then you might have to lay people off. I mean, you’re, you know, it’s like you’re, these types of actions on the front end sales engine are very impactful to people’s lives, which is most important to the business, right? There’s, and I don’t think people treat them, uh, you know, at a high level of importance as they should.
Jeff Williams: The overwhelming thought I have is I hear you say all that is, man, you’d be a great coach, like a sports coach. Have you ever coached? Uh huh. Probably don’t have time.
Gui Costin: I coached for, you know, I did our golf team, our high school golf team for nine years. Yeah. The, the, the difference there is. It’s, it’s not, it’s not what you say, it’s what you don’t say to a golfer, right? You use very minimal words.
Jeff Williams: Yeah, it’s, it’s a total reverse dynamic. Yeah.
Gui Costin: Right. Get straight in their head. So you want to use very little words. You just want to be very positive.
Jeff Williams: Yeah. Well, um, coaching is one thing you got to have athletes. Uh, I, I hear you loud and clear. Fortunately, you know, sales roles and especially investment sales professional roles, um, tend to, to be, you know, not, not athletes in the sense that, um, of being athletic in playing sports and stuff, but, but competitive and, and wanting, you know, to, to be pushed a little bit.
And, and so that, that sets up pretty nicely, but you know, it’s a combination of things that lead to success and, um, and, uh, you seem to have dialed it in pretty well, man. It’s always fun to talk to you. So appreciate your time and, uh, thrilled to, to be partnered up with you guys. We were, um, so fond of the solution for all of the reasons aforementioned here.
You guys have done an amazing job of creating a– an outstanding tool. Um, and we’re thrilled to, to be able to kind of, you know, put it– put it into ours and, and ride it and make it even more useful for people. But I just love talking to you, man. It’s always so fun to just kind of hear you, um, get going on a topic you’re passionate about.
Gui Costin: Well, same here. I mean, I love your, uh, your positive attitude, your, your, your commitment to, you know, Altvia and Salesforce and the whole ecosystem, and we’re so thrilled at our partnership with you as well. So thanks so much.
Jeff Williams: All right, buddy. Well, we will talk soon and, um, until then keep doing your thing and good luck to you guys and, uh, catch you along the way sometime here.
Gui Costin: Sounds great. Alright, thanks.
Jeff Williams: Alright, bye bye.
Gui Costin: Alright, you too. Bye bye.
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