Syncari turns two: reflections on helping people regain their trust in data

This month, we celebrated an important anniversary: Syncari turned two years old. When we launched the company in 2019, we had an ambitious mission: to help every business associate, manager, and executive regain trust in their data without hidden complexities or specific technical know-how. We are well on our way to making this vision a reality, and it's only the beginning. To commemorate the two-year anniversary of our launch, I’m going to share the story, my gratitude, my lessons, and what the future of Syncari could mean for you.
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Nick Bonfiglio
June 17, 2021 . 6 min read
Syncari turns 2 - team photo

In January of 2019 I was having lunch with a friend who sat on the board of multiple companies. He confessed something that piqued my interest. Over and over in those board meetings, the sales, marketing, and finance teams would each bring their own set of numbers and argue. 

“Nick,” he told me, “If it was just one of my companies I’d say ‘Get that working!’ but it’s not—it’s happening with every single one of them.”

And I guess that’s how this whole thing started.

At the time, my wife and I had just retired to Scottsdale, Arizona with four horses, two cats, and two dogs, but I couldn’t escape my curiosity. How was this still a problem in 2019? So I lied to myself and said “I’ll just do a little research.” Two years later, Syncari has raised $27 million and gathered 36 incredible humans who have built and sold a software so compelling that people consistently tell us it’s too good to be true. 

Today, if you’ll indulge me, I’m going to share the story, my gratitude, my lessons, and what the future of Syncari means for xOps pros everywhere.

How is this still a problem?

Back to the initial idea. After sketching a rudimentary architecture to solve the “everybody has different data” problem, I called up Neelesh Shastry, who I’d worked with at Marketo and respected beyond anything. I asked him, “Is this anything?” and then didn’t hear back. I figured maybe it wasn’t. I forgot about it. Finally, Neelesh called.

I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but he said something to the effect of, “This hasn’t been done before and I think it would actually solve a lot of problems.” When you hear something like that from an engineering leader as brilliant as Neelesh, you know he’s serious. But of course I didn’t want to start another company, so I said, “Take this slide and go talk to some VCs.” But he wouldn’t have it, and insisted, so together we built a deck for this thing we called “Syncaroo.” I knew I could always hand it off once it was in motion.

2019 Syncari architecture and original logo in 2019

First generation Syncari architecture wireframe with draft version of logo

But is it real?

Fast forward six months. We’d raised a pre-seed round and built some software, and a buyer interrupted one of our demos. He said, “I’m pissed.”

This was, of course, not what we expected, so we froze. He continued, “I’m so pissed … how did I not know about this a year ago? We just spent twelve months building this ourselves and it didn’t work.” 

So that’s sort of how we knew we were onto something. 

Other reactions included “How on earth did you build this in just twelve months,” “If that does what you say it does I can connect all three of our Salesforce instances,” and “But is it real?”

Those demos and 80 more interviews with founders, CTOs, and heads of every business unit possible assured us that everyone’s data is a snarled mess—primarily thanks to inconsistently configured API connections. It was also clear to the three of us (Varsha Neelesh had now joined us) that the world is hurtling toward greater data entropy. More systems. More tangle. More chaos. And the real issue is that data was a hidden enemy. Nobody blamed “the data.” Instead, they blamed each other. The villain didn’t have a name. That made things difficult in some ways. 

Since the beginning, we’ve struggled against a tide of semantics. All of our competitors use the same language, e.g. “sync”, to mean very different things. The difference has taken people some time to realize, and often, it isn’t until the Syncari demo that they have the “aha” moment. But in that very first deck we laid out the differences between “sync” and “integration”—the former is keeping all data up to date across systems; the latter is simply copying and pasting data without regard to its purpose.

Sync vs. Integration

Knowing your data’s purpose is everything. A user’s view of the world is at the very heart of Syncari. Records aren’t just records. They’re a salesperson’s contact. They’re a living person who changes roles and has ongoing conversations. Their identity needs to persist—intact—across systems; otherwise, you look foolish while marketing and selling to them. 

All the vendors that came before were built on these sometimes 20-year-old technologies trying to move more data, and move it faster. Syncari is the first platform to move it smarter.

So to get that message out there and reach the world, we gathered a superteam.

Building the A-team of data heroes

One thing that Neelesh, Varsha, and I were adamant about was that we were going to hire for humility. Call it trauma from previous experiences, but you can get people who are tremendously gifted, but if they’re not kind to those around them, they can do a lot of damage and inject a harmful element of craziness into the business. We wanted to hire people who are gifted in their respective craft, but who we also thought we wanted to spend a lot of time with, something we call being “good humans.”   

Varsha Neelesh is by far the best engineering leader you could ever have. Francis Callo was the first UI engineer at Marketo and exceptionally talented. Scott Edmonds began as an advisor and of course came on as CRO. There are too many people to name, but that early nucleus of humble humans on that founding team created, I hope, a culture where we’re going to get the thing done or die trying, but we weren’t going to do it at the expense of each other.

And the praise could go on. In no particular order, we were joined by Ben Bayat of NGVP, who led Syncari’s pre-seed round with Nico Berardi of Animo Ventures; Ross Mason of Dig Ventures and Ilyna Kirnos of SignalFire who led our seed round; and the CrossLink Capital team, who led our Series A along with participation from our existing investors. And our expert marketing team who bravely joined us from MuleSoft, Aaron Landraf and Aubrey Morgan, and so many others.

This team is the reason we’ve hit all the revenue targets we set so far (knock on wood). They’re why we give demos where people say, “You built all that in 12 months?” It’s why we received an unexpected inbound Series A event from our wonderful partners Crosslink Capital with participation by our seed-round investors ANIMO, NextGen Venture Partners, SignalFire, and Dig Ventures. And it’s why so many of our prospective buyers say they’re doing whatever they have to do to get it.

Below, an excerpt from our conversation with Asia Corbett, Director of Revenue Operations at Postal.io:

“And the other one is Syncari, actually. I really, really, really, really, really want to get it at Postal. I think that they’re addressing a lot of pinpoints for revenue operations, general operations, sales ops, marketing ops, and anyone who has to manage a tech stack. And yeah, we’re semi-technical people, but any tool that can alleviate some of that, and you can do your building with point and click, is just … it’s amazing. I think this is the second tool that I’m going to fight to bring to Postal because I really believe in what they’re doing.”

And once customers adopt Syncari, they achieve some pretty incredible results.  Here’s a recent quote from Brendan Reeves, Head of Sales Operations at Dremio: 

“With Syncari, we’ve streamlined customer onboarding by fully automating a 12-step manual process that used to take days to complete. With unified, synchronized data across Salesforce, Jira and our product database, we also now have unprecedented visibility into customer health and can better serve customers in every interaction. And we did all this without writing a line of code.”

The future of data and ops

I think people are beginning to understand the true cost of bad data. I think they’re starting to realize that true data synchronization that acknowledges the purpose of their data is the answer to nearly all their workflow problems—from quote to cash to lead to account matching.

I hope to look back and reflect again in two, four, and ten years’ time. If we are as successful as I know we’re going to be, Syncari will become the standard. And if it becomes the standard, it won’t have simply established a true data sync—it’ll have re-established everyone’s trust in their data. That is, ultimately, the journey we’re on, whether it’s an individual’s data, a company’s data, or data shared between companies.

It’s a big opportunity—bigger than I realized. Two years ago, I was unsure, and didn’t want to start another company. Today, I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt, and I won’t be leaving this one until it’s through. Data trust is an issue too big, too meaningful, and too integral to the future of our economy to ignore. I’m excited for the day when someone asks me, “How is this still a problem?” and the team and I can answer honestly, “It’s not.”

Since I’m in a nostalgic mood, wanted to share my first post about Syncari, two years ago:

Get ready to be a part of the Syncari journey

Curious to learn more about what we’re doing at Syncari, and how it can solve your data needs? Visit our demo center to see learn more.

Written by Nick Bonfiglio
Nick is a CEO, founder, and author with over 25 years of experience in tech who writes about data ecosystems, SaaS, and product development. He spent nearly seven years as EVP of Product at Marketo and is now CEO and Founder of Syncari.

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