Tell us about you, your Career, how you Founded RFPIO
Ganesh Shankar: Back in 2015, Sunder, Sankar, and I spent a lot of time responding to RFPs.
To put a number on it, I would guess about 30% of our time was spent responding to RFPs, even though that was not part of our primary responsibilities.
Whenever someone needed help responding to an RFP, we were the first people they’d asked to help. Our answers weren’t stored anywhere, and we’d often be asked the same question dozens of times. So it wouldn’t be a stretch to say the time we spent felt monotonous and inefficient at best.
The more we answered one of these repeated questions, an idea started to form. “What if we could store all our previous answers in a single, universally accessible library? And then use technology to automate the entire process?”
That idea is what eventually gave birth to RFPIO.
How does RFPIO Innovate?
Ganesh Shankar: At RFPIO, we innovate by listening.
We listen to our employees. Through our See Something, Say Something process, or as we call it “S4,” employees share ideas and observations. From new feature ideas to areas for improvement, the process provides a mechanism for our entire team to directly impact how and what we do at RFPIO.
And we listen to customers. “Made by responders, for responders” is a part of our story that lives on in our daily routines. As our product evolves, we remain committed to providing solutions our customers are excited to use, and customer feedback is our secret sauce. We believe that those using the software every day are the best people to inform the product roadmap—to date, we have implemented or are developing 95% of all customer feedback.
How the Coronavirus Pandemic affects your Business, and how are you coping?
Ganesh Shankar: Like many other companies, we’ve kept a close watch on changes since the pandemic began. As our customers made the shift to working fully from-home, we kept in touch and took steps to ease the transition the best way we knew how — through RFPIO. We offered our integrations with Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Jira free for 6 months. We ran programs to educate our users on features and functionality they may not have relied on before, but that could now make a big difference. As a result, RFPIO usage increased 27% since March 1, 2020, and repeatedly over the last several months, we’ve hit new milestones in usage, including a record number of users in a single day.
The bottom line, companies still need to get their deals done, and RFPIO has proven to be a key part of that process (pandemic or not).
What is the Biggest Challenge you’ve faced as you’ve built RFPIO to where it is today?
Ganesh Shankar: The biggest challenge we have faced (and will likely always face) is staying united around the intangible aspects that make us who we are, even as we continue to grow.
Everyone who works at RFPIO understands that we can’t get anywhere if we don’t get there together.
We value new opinions and fresh perspectives. We listen to customers. We work together as a team. And, most importantly, no matter what we’re doing, we have fun doing it.
That’s what it means to work at RFPIO. And every time we hire someone new, we make sure they’re someone who can take those core values to heart.
I’m happy to say that, even after adding 135 employees in 4 years, we’ve been able to stay true to our value and built a company culture that stays true to the original RFPIO spirit.
How does the Future look like for RFPIO?
Ganesh Shankar: The response management sector is ready to be automated—at last count, 84% of organizations are still relying on manual processes to respond to complex questionnaires like RFPs.
When considering the future of the Proposal Automation market, it is important first to examine its history, specifically the time that cloud-based RFP software has been available. RFP automation, as it exists today, delivered in a SaaS format in the cloud, is approximately 5 years old. Within those 5 years, the market has grown tremendously, and the demand for proposal and RFP automation only continues to expand.
Since January of 2016, we have seen our customer base grow to over 900 customers, including the likes of LinkedIn, Visa, Salesforce, Google, and Microsoft. The growth is not in a single industry, business size, or vertical; it’s a keen interest from a variety of companies.
Who are your Competitors? And what is the RFPIO Difference?
Ganesh Shankar: Our primary competitors are Upland Qvidian, Loopio, and RFP 360.
The RFPIO difference is that we are a company made by responders, for responders. While, yes, this refers to the fact that we three founders used to respond to bid requests and other questionnaires regularly.
But it also refers to our commitment to implementing customer feedback. We understand that if we want to build a solution for responders, we need to listen to what they need—after all, they’re the ones on the front line. They know response management better than anyone.
And we’ve stayed true to this commitment. To date, over 95% of customer feedback has been implemented or is in development.
The second piece of our competitive differentiation is our superior technology. Specifically, the patented import/export process. Unlike other import processes, we can import files in Docx, xlsx, and pdf formats, and export them back into the native format, or a customized template. This pairs with an AI-enabled answer library and in-app collaboration tools to create a truly seamless response process.
Your Final Thoughts
Ganesh Shankar: RFPIO celebrates our 4th birthday this year. Over the last four years, we have grown by an average of 250% YoY and have welcomed nearly 1000 customers to the RFPIO family—including companies like UHG, Google, Cigna, Visa, and Microsoft.
We believe our growth was ignited by our focus on developing the best product on the market. Rather than trying to solve every problem, we focused on creating a solution for proposal management. Our growth was further accelerated because we put our customers at the center of our product roadmap—knowing that through their experience, they could show us the best way for RFPIO to meet their needs.
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