Interview with Ilan Kasan, CEO and Co-Founder, Exceed.ai

llan Kasan, Exceed.Ai
Ilan Kasan

“Successful reps will soon work alongside an AI-powered bot that helps them make better decisions while focusing on the high-value opportunities.”

Tell us about your role at Exceed.ai and how you got here. What galvanized you to co-start an AI-driven technology company for marketing and sales?

While I am the CEO at Exceed.ai, Yaron Ismah-Moshe, my co-founder, and I run the company. All major decisions are taken jointly. I am responsible for marketing and sales and Yaron is responsible for the product and R&D. We both consult each other on many items related to each other’s area of responsibilities.

For a while, both Yaron and I wanted to do something in the Conversational UI space. Initially, we focused on a solution for B2C companies such as large brands, e-retailers, and CPG.  After 6-8 months, we understood that we were barking up the wrong tree and changed our strategy to build a solution for B2B companies. Exceed.ai is helping B2B companies scale their marketing and sales operations by automating lead capturing, qualification and nurturing, using two-way intelligent conversations. We view it as the next generation of sales automation tools.

How is the tech ecosystem different from when you first started here?

Exceed.ai was founded in Tel Aviv, where we raised money and most of the company is located, so I prefer talking about the tech scene in Tel Aviv, which has grown on a weekly basis in terms of new companies, exits, new VCs and investments and a thriving ecosystem. Due to the elaborate ecosystem in Israel, in many regards, starting a company in Tel Aviv and finding good talent is easier here than in many other places in the world.

What does your ‘Ideal Customer’ Profile look like? How do you build your audience segments?

Currently, we regard B2B companies which have a business with a sales development strategy, as a good fit. In other words, a company with a digital acquisition strategy that requires reps to follow up, qualify leads and close deals over the phone.

Given the changing dynamic of marketing technology landscape, where do you see Exceed.ai fitting into the stack?

Exceed.ai technology gets a sales playbook as an input and automates it over email. Our sales assistant works alongside reps performing many of their mundane tasks helping them increase conversion rates and touch more leads. We see two main use cases: Assisting SDR teams to scale the middle of the funnel, by increasing their velocity with our two-way intelligent email conversation engine. We capture, qualify and nurture leads on behalf of the reps.

Another use is customer success at scale. Exceed.ai assists Customer Success Reps scaling renewals, new product announcements and more.

We work nicely with the CRM, Marketing Automation and complementary to sales tools such as SalesLoft and Outreach.

What data points do you work on to make Exceed more effective for optimized marketing automation using bots and intelligent assistants?

We noticed that the type of customer communication our customers have are very similar across companies, even if they are in different domains. That enables us to create a strong data network effect. Which means the more customers we have, the more data we have, the better our product becomes for all our customers. Every email communication processes through our system we are learning something new and increasing our learning dataset.

What are your predictions for Conversation Automation technologies shaping up with the greater maturity of DMPs and AI-driven analytics?

I think we are still far away from the day when robots will replace humans. But we are getting very close to a point where successful reps will be the reps who work alongside an AI-powered bot that helps them both scale, by remove repetitive, error-prone tasks, and make better decisions while focusing on the high value opportunities.

How do you see the recent changes in data privacy laws (like GDPR) impacting personalized customer experiences in your business?

That’s a good thing for both the companies and their customers. Customers need to know that their data is not mishandled, which in turn will increase trust between the two. If trust is there, more customer will be willing to share data they believe is relevant. Data that is shared in a legit manner, is very valuable and indicates that that prospect/customer trusts the company and is more likely to do business with them.

How are you preparing for post-GDPR disruptions?

Since we are a relatively young company, we made sure from day one that customer data handling is top of mind. As it pertains to GDPR, we provide various ways for our customers to manage their customer data that adheres to the new regulations

What startups are you watching/keen on right now?

Zoom Video Communications is doing an amazing job. Through great leadership, spearheaded by Eric Yuan, Zoom built a culture that puts the customer in the center followed by employees and community.  Through this culture, they built the best product in the industry and were able to grab market share from existing established players.

What marketing and sales automation tools and technologies do you use?

We use HubSpot CRM as our system of record, MailChimp for to send our newsletters and we eat our own dog food and use Exceed’s AI-powered product for lead outreach, qualification and nurturing.

Could you tell us about a standout digital campaign at Exceed.ai?

At this point of our company’s lifecycle, we spend very little on marketing campaigns. We focus on building a product that will WOW and delight our customers. The little marketing we do is content marketing and cold outreach. Most of our customers come from word of mouth.  And that is working for us for the time being.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?

As an AI company, we have a more balanced and down to earth approach. We understand the limitations and also what it takes to make it work for the business. We are focused on making our AI-powered product be the #1 AI product.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

First and foremost I set an example. I try to be the first at work and leave last (obviously this is not always possible, given I want to maintain a healthy work-life balance). I show my energy and passion at all times. Also, both my co-founder and I, are building a culture that puts the customer in the center, encourages ownership, and leaves room for everybody to experiment and make mistakes.

One word that best describes how you work.

Passion

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Whether we like it or not, email is the still the main tool for most businesses, followed by online meetings such as WebEx and Zoom.

What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?

I must admit that our product is currently the best productivity tool we have. It has saved us lots of money and helped us scale and win business with little resources. Instead of hiring an SDR, our software helps to reach out to prospects, qualifying and nurturing them with very little work on my part.

What are you currently reading?

I do most of my reading using Audiobooks. I recently read, “The Challenger Sale”, “Good To Great (second time)” and “Start With Why”. My next book would be “Survival to Thrival” by Bob Tinker and Tae Hea Nahm.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Be responsible and own your failures. Taking responsibility for my mistakes and failures is not just the right thing to do, it is liberating. Once you own your failures without being ashamed about it allows you to learn and grow.

Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?

I don’t think there is any one thing I do better than anybody else. I can say with confidence, though, I am good at owning my mistakes and not being afraid to fail.

Tag the people from the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

All our employees at Exceed.ai who are an equal part of our success.

Thank you Ilan! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

Ilan is an accomplished product leader with proven successes in driving product, user experience, strategy and execution and building products users and enterprises love such as Webex and others.
With deep expertise in mobile, web, & application software & SaaS products, Ilan has had an 18-year career in general management, product management for leading global technology companies including, Cisco, WebEx, Comeet and others.

Ilan has built winning teams, with a proven track record in growing businesses and leading teams to build, launch and manage cloud and mobile enterprise and consumer products.

Exceed.ai
Exceed.ai is the next generation conversational-driven marketing and sales platform. We use AI, machine learning and conversational bot technology to generate more qualified opportunities by automating lead capturing, qualification and nurturing. Unlike traditional marketing and sales platforms that rely on forms, one-way email campaigns and manual follow-ups, Exceed.ai automates many of the customer interactions currently performed manually – like a virtual assistant to your sales and marketing teams.

The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.

Previous ArticleNext Article

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *