Q&A With Total Expert CEO Joe Welu On The $20m Round

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Total Expert is a [B2B FINTECH] software company started by Joe Welu in 2012.  As a former industry insider, Welu launched the company as a vertically focused CRM and has since expanded it into an all encompassing “Marketing OS”.

By 2014 the company was achieving noticeable traction followed by initial investor attention in 2016.   Earlier this year they hit the 100 person milestone and Inc. 500/5000 recognition for ~ 1,500% three year revenue gains.

Just last week, Welu went to the next level with $20 million dollars of fresh venture capital from previous and new investors — launching Total Expert into the top 20 most funded of Minnesota’s tech industry.

Let’s hear what he has to say about it:

Why the decision to raise investment in the first place?

Speed. Looking at the opportunity we have in front of us and the collaborations we have with our customers – they are asking and expecting more from us.

The industry is really rushing to modernize right now so we raised the money to keep up with that demand.

There’s a lot of technology components that our customers need to remain compliant at scale and the industry increasingly turns to Total Expert just for that.

How did you settle on the $20m figure?

We looked at what we needed from an investment side to be able to grow our team of top notch people.  We also considered cushion and runway, with the option of running the company profitably within the next year if desired.

How do you breakdown the investment?

Almost all of it is going to people and talent. In some cases we are upgrading talent in different departments, for example we’re investing a lot of money into the data side of the product.

You had a pre-existing relationship with Rally Ventures and Arthur Ventures, who both participated in this round. How about your new lead investor Emergence Capital?

We ran a process and we talked with about 25 investors overall. Emergence was an early favorite because they have such a focus on their main thesis of industry vertical enterprise software companies.  A great example they were instrumental with is Veeva Systems which went public in 2013 around $200 million and today maintains a market capitalization of around $13 billion dollars.

There’s plenty of investors out there throwing money around but we were looking for more than just a check.  Our commitment to our customers and shareholders is to maximize the value all around in terms of best practices and scale.

Who is on the board of directors now?

Myself

Patrick Meenan – Arthur Ventures

Joe Floyd – Emergence Capital

Jeff Hinck – Rally Ventures

Justin Kaufenberg – SportsEngine

How many full time employees do you now count?

Right around 170

What is your projection?

Forsure we’re going to hire another 75 people over the next twelve months.

What is the pitch to prospective customers and typical results Total Expert demonstrates?

If you look at the banking industry there has traditionally been silos between sales and marketing. We are all about bridging that so everything is tightly interwoven and re-imagining how it can be.  We help them achieve a speed to market and matter of compliance much faster than ever before.

The marketing operating system is a new category. It’s an ecosystem that starts with the CRM but extends much further into multi-channel communications, content, data, security, etc.

So we’ll actually do a very specific value case study with a third party that looks at the entire customer journey from first lead touch through post transaction.  By identifying gaps, where things are falling through the cracks, we show how predictability and automation can help them leverage marketing for a significant ROI – I’m not going to quote specific figures right here – but so much so that it really becomes a no-brainer for lenders and brokers to partner with us.

What is your sales and distribution strategy?

Enterprise field sales…it’s very much about embedding in the industry. A big strategy of ours is to work with what I call best of breed technology partners who are doing great work in other parts of industry. For example, if they are doing a POS, they might as well put into a marketing operating system like ours.   Turning marketing into a revenue driver is critical to a lot of our customers.

Who are some reference-able customers?

Loan Depot, US Bank, Movement Mortgage, and Guaranteed Rate.

Are you going to enter new and different markets?

Yes – wealth management and other business lines within the finance sector.

What do you see as the overall market opportunity?

If you’re looking at total addressable market, it’s at least three billion before going upstream.   There is a massive set of customers who need us to help them solve challenges. Part of what’s driving that is the fintech industry overall is going direct to customer like never before, so they need to modernize, to personalize, and to get down to their customers faster.

How much market share do you have right now?

We represent about 10% of the $2 trillion dollar mortgage market on the banking side.

What is the geography of your customer base?

Our customer base today is all domestic but as we do more with banking that will certainly expand considering that some of our customers are multi-national global firms.  There’s tremendous opportunity here stateside in the foreseeable future.

What does your tech stack look like?

We are hosted on AWS. We primarily utilize Red Hat Linux, NGINX, MySQL and PHP on the back-end (LEMP Stack) with HTML, JavaScript and Vue.js on the front-end.

Do you have any other physical offices outside the Minneapolis headquarters?

No.

Have you made or do you plan to make any acquisitions going forward?

We have not made any, but if something makes sense to our customers and shareholders, we’d look at it.

What does liquidity look like to you?

All of our investors are running funds with 7-10 year horizons and I don’t spend much time at all thinking about it.  I’m all about being present and adding more value to customers right here and now. Liquidity seems like such a distant thing.

What do you think about the IPO market?

There’s so much access to capital in the private markets right now that I don’t think about that either. Maybe once we become a certain size, say north of $100m in revenue, it’s something to consider.

What are you doing right now in annual revenue?

Our 2017 revenue was: $5.3m and we’ll about triple that this year.

What is the biggest question mark that surrounds the business?

I have a burning desire to make sure that we are moving fast enough and staying ahead of things.  We are just in the first inning and it’s all about execution. I wake up every morning grateful and hungry.

What is something you have learned as CEO over the past year?

Just how important building strong teams is. It’s always important but you really can’t fully understand it until you start scaling…

Total Expert Is Now Hiring:

Product Manager

Information Security Analyst

Senior Software Engineer

Director of Content Strategy and Development

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