The End of Message Fragments: Q&A With Relenta CEO Dmitri Eroshenko

Before the arrival of sales force automation and marketing campaign software, there were productivity applications. CRM, as we all know, rose from that fundamental platform of email, calendaring, mailinglist management and task management.

A lot of CRM vendors include productivity in their CRM apps — most do, in fact. However, few focus on it as relentlessly as Relenta does. Indeed, Relenta took its name from the word, CEO Dmitri Eroshenko told CRM Buyer.

One point of the startup’s application is to wring as many efficiencies as possible out of the productivity piece of the CRM operation by linking all communication activity. Another is to do it on a shoestring. The end result?

“People who can’t afford to pay for the Salesforce.coms and the NetSuites of the world come to us,” Eroshenko said.

CRM Buyer: How is Relenta weathering the economic downturn?

Dmitri Eroshenko:

We grew 500 percent in 2008. We did that without spending a dollar on advertising: All of our growth has been due to word-of-mouth referrals and organic search engine results — mostly viral growth, in other words. Relenta being a productivity enhancement tool …, the downturn is actually good for us.

CRM: What are some of the cost-cutting measures you’ve taken?


We haven’t had to cut costs. We’ve had to be leaner and meaner and do more with resources we had on hand so budget could stay steady over the year, but that is our strategy or philosophy anyway — to enable companies to be leaner and meaner with what they have. I do wish wecould hire more right now, I will say that. Client growth puts pressure on resources, but we are not complaining. It is a good problem to have.

CRM Buyer: How can your products help your customers’ bottom lines in the near term?


They help big time. One, our customers can get more done with fewer workers because Relenta provides a structure for organized workflows. That is essential when resources are scarce. Another important aspect is that Relenta is an ideal productivity tool for geographically dispersed teams — and the downturn is forcing some companies to look overseas for cheaper labor and use telecommuting.

CRM Buyer: What are some of the bright spots for your company right now?


This is a tough question. Right now is the best time to grow and bootstrap the company is my belief. Because we are forced to be lean and mean and do the best we can with minimal resources, we can better help customers do the same with our product.

CRM: How will your company look a year from now?


I have a vision for becoming the de facto standard for communication-based CRM operations. We are on an exponential growth curve, as well — we will be profitable in three to four months. By this time next year, we will have rolled out a comprehensive platform; that is what we are focusing on right now. We are also working on a mobile version. There is a huge demand for that, and it will be available in six months.

CRM Buyer: Tell me more about this platform.


Right now, people have a hard time keeping up with messaging fragments, even if they have a good communications platform in place. That is because with all the social media outlets out there — Facebook and so on — communications occur now across multiple channels. This platform will give users the ability to better tailor their communications to their needs.

CRM Buyer: That seems to be a focus of your offering anyway — the inclusion of social media.


Yes, that is true. Relenta’s strength is not only that it integrates email and contact management applications, but that it has an activity stream. It is sort of like Facebook’s ministream, but we implemented ours two weeks before Facebook did.

CRM Buyer: How else does it differentiate from, say, Outlook?


Anything in the relationship is accessible, from meeting minutes to emails to blog posts. Also, we have a shared email feature, so a colleague who is covering for someone, for instance, does not have to track down her counterpart while he is on vacation in Jamaica to ask a question. All she has to do is consult his communication stream.

CRM Buyer: Speaking of Outlook, do you see yourself ever making serious inroads into its marketshare?


(laughs). I have to say that is a hard one. People are just married to it — and then there is Gmail, which is free. But we are getting traction, and our customers value what we can do for them.

CRM Buyer: Who is the ideal customer for this app?


A small business with a lot of customers, several employees, and information scattered all over the place.

CRM Buyer: Do you ever see yourself investing in marketing at some point?


It’s not in the plan — but when we have the resources, we plan on makingstrategic placements in relevant blogs and other social media.

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