We talked to Ablorde Ashigbi of 4Degrees about Intelligent relationship management for deal-driven teams and this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Ablorde Ashigbi: 2020 has been an incredibly challenging year for a lot of people – some have lost family members; some lost their jobs, and many have struggled with mental health issues as a result of not being able to keep up with their routines and surround themselves with their family and loved ones. So on the one hand, I feel extremely saddened for everyone who has to go through any of these challenges; On the other hand, I feel lucky and blessed to be able to continue my work by working from home and have my family’s support during this difficult time.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded 4Degrees.
Ablorde Ashigbi: Prior to founding 4Degrees, I worked in a few different industries that are heavily relationship-driven. I had seen how poorly relationships were being managed – and the problem was, we didn’t have an effective platform to store all the data, so we ended up jotting down contact information on sticky notes, whiteboards and ended up forgetting all about it. That frustration over manual systems along with the belief that successful relationships can drive long-term value made my co-founder, and I take the leap and start 4Degrees. Part of the inspiration also comes from our customers. We’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand the challenges involved in managing and growing a relationship network, and we’re inspired to truly answer the needs of our customers.
How does 4Degrees innovate?
Ablorde Ashigbi: At 4Degrees, we focus on understanding the strength of relationships and helping our customers turn them into something valuable – whether that’s acquiring new customers, attracting funding or seeking new job opportunities. In short, our platform helps track the connections our customers are making in a dynamic fashion. It provides insights and recommends actions to build new relationships over time and strengthen existing ones. What sets us apart is the technology we leverage on the back-end to make our platform highly effective. By utilizing machine learning and artificial intelligence, we analyze the history of communications data, for example, email and calendar exchanges, to score relationship strength and suggest how someone can leverage these relationships for different purposes. We also apply machine learning to the categorization of a team’s relationship network. By doing so, we can foster a better understanding and ensure that we share relevant information, such as news and events, with the most relevant contact. Essentially, our platform generates highly actionable recommendations our customers can use to accomplish their professional goals.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business, and how are you coping?
Ablorde Ashigbi: The pandemic has probably been neutral to a slight boost to our business. The beginning phase of the pandemic was filled with a lot of uncertainty – a plunging stock market, retail establishments shuttering, rising unemployment numbers, and social unrest. So the first couple of months was characterized by customers slowing down their buying cycles and diverting attention towards ensuring their portfolio companies and clients survived. This shifted over time as we began to see remote work as being the “new normal.” With a more distributed workforce, products and solutions that help people better connect and manage relationships are even more critical – they help collaboration across not only different departments within your company but externally with partners and clients.
We’ve adapted by having a “human-first” approach – in the middle of a pandemic where people are losing lives, struggling with economic insecurity and mental health issues, and much more, we’ve focused first on trying to help. We’ve created content around best practices we had learned about building strong professional relationships from interviews and made that information available others. We also created a program for people who are looking for ways to expand their relationship-building skills for people around the world to help them upskill and find their next role.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Ablorde Ashigbi: Our relationships with our customers and their trust in our company is our strongest asset. COVID-19 has shown us even more how important customer feedback is to the success of our business. Throughout the different phases of the pandemic, we have spent even more time with our existing customers and actively sought out their advice on how we can make our platform and services better as this distributed work environment continues. So as the pandemic shifts phases, we are best positioned to capture this incoming demand for people who need to figure out a new way to work.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and 4Degrees in the future?
Ablorde Ashigbi: I’ve always been a person who’s relatively balanced. I tend not to get too high or too low, so I think that has enabled me to get through stressful situations a little bit more easily. I also try to be physically active and make sure I’m always getting enough sleep. My connections and interactions with my family and friends have also helped me navigate through stressful situations. Lastly, I try to spend time helping others. I’ve learned that focusing less on yourself and more on other people can help boost my spirit and mitigate some of the stress.
In today’s digital world, many transactional processes are being taken over by machine learning and other technologies. But if you think about it, as technology continues to advance and automate mundane and difficult tasks, the area where humans can continue to differentiate themselves is in building relationships and how we engage and interact with one another. We’ll continue to double down on creating a platform that will enable people to build relationships that truly matter.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Ablorde Ashigbi: 4Degrees is all about helping people cultivate and manage robust relationships. While there are many others who work in the CRM space, we do not simply surface news and alerts from all the connections in your network; Instead, we focus on understanding the strength of each connection and offering targeted steps to building meaningful relationships through organic and relevant developments in your network. We’ve helped some our customers across various sectors successfully turn these valuable relationships into business opportunities ranging from sources of deals to talent. By gathering and analyzing communications data, our platform tracks the connections our customers are making as well as helps them authentically manage and maximize their relationship networks.