Sherif Ali, founder, and CEO at Funnelll tells us about running marketing campaigns that work.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Sherif Ali: Doing well, thank you for asking.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Funnelll.
Sherif Ali: I am an engineer by training. I joined IBM fresh out of college, where I spent 14 years holding multiple technical, sales, and sales leadership positions. During my career, I have worked on and launched products used by millions worldwide as well as sold over $30M worth of Software and Software as a Service.
During my last 4 years at IBM, I was their regional sales manager for digital products in the Middle East and Africa. I worked closely with different marketing teams to build sales funnels for our products. I saw firsthand the challenges and disconnect that can arise due to the lack of end-to-end visibility of the sales funnel and how hard it was to attribute sales dollars to marketing activities. For the next 2 years, this became my obsession. How can we take a problem that is deeply technical in nature, like running highly performing data-driven marketing activities, and make it available to companies of all sizes? This was when I decided to found Funnelll. Shortly after, we got funded by 500 Startups and the rest, as they say, is history.
How does Funnelll innovate?
Sherif Ali: We are the first marketing tools for non-marketers. We help startups and small and medium businesses run their own marketing campaigns like pro-marketeers. No coding, complex integrations, or even much marketing know-how is needed. It is just like having a development, data science, and marketing team added to your business without the hassle.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Sherif Ali: Funnelll is a remote-first company, which made us better equipped to handle the pandemic than a lot of the other companies out there. That doesn’t mean the pandemic didn’t come with its challenges.
The pandemic put everyone in a suspended mode. It was like time stopped for a while there. There was a paralyzing sense of panic in the air. Some companies turned off all their marketing activities almost overnight, and investors were telling startups to basically hold on for dear life as there wasn’t a clear sign as to when the pandemic would end.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Sherif Ali: We had to take some difficult measures to cut expenses like having some of our full-time employees going part-time. I personally had to forfeit my salary for a while. In the end, we survived this together. We’ve since raised from Flat6Labs, one of the top regional accelerators in the Middle East and Africa, some of our employees came back to work full time for us, and new members joined the team.
As they say, startups that go through a crisis and survive are the ones who go on to do great in the future. Personally, I feel lucky that I was given a chance to keep doing what I love.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Sherif Ali: Our team lives on Slack and Zoom. We use Notion to document everything from how to set up a development environment to employee onboarding manuals.
From a management perspective, I think empathy goes a long way during tough times like these. We were also very transparent in communicating what was going on and where we were as a business. This brought the team even closer. We were all in it together.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Sherif Ali: There are a lot of marketing tools out there, but none of them are built for the business user. They require developers to set up, in some cases, data scientists to cleanse and stitch the data together, and a lot of marketing know-how to use.
Our mission is to empower business users, especially in startups and SMBs, who might not have access to those resources, or who prefer to have their technical teams focusing on building amazing products and marketers to obsess about messaging, content, and customer experience rather than spend their time and energy on marketing activities are made super simple with Funnelll.
Your final thoughts?
Sherif Ali: For all the startups and entrepreneurs out there, hang in there. Things will get better.