This first 12-month partnership with Oracle was intense, to say at least: we grew our company by overcoming a lot of challenges and gathering knowledge to push our Artificial Intelligence to the next level.
There were challenges along the way, but we hit our goals (let’s repeat it: we reached USD 1.5M in gross sales with this partnership!), and we think it’s important to share this journey and everything we learned.
After all, if we did it, other startups can achieve great results with Oracle Cloud too.
Now, let us tell our story and say how it was for Nexus Edge to be part of this amazing experience. In this article we have 6 main chapters:
1. Oracle Startup Cloud Accelerator: why it was the best option for Nexus Edge
Nexus Edge was one of the 6 Brazilian startups to integrate the São Paulo Cohort 1 of the Oracle Startup Cloud Accelerator Program. It was six months in loco inside Oracle accelerator and 12 months of Oracle global assistance.
You can learn here a bit more about the Oracle Global Startup Ecosystem. There are residential and virtual programs.
Nexus Edge was 3-years-old and was operating in the bootstrap model when selected for Oracle Acceleration program, in August 2017. We had already reached about USD 300K in lifetime sales with our product, ALANA. It was a good result by that time, but the primary challenge was to sell it for Enterprises at a scalable model.
We applied for the program because we don’t have a traditional funding strategy, but instead, we choose to finance the company with revenue from our clients rather than depending a 100% on Venture Capital money. One of the main risks in the startup environment is the extreme dependency on Venture Capital funding, among others, to reach tangible results. We believe that acceleration programs, like Oracle’s, offer an excellent alternative to startup growth without losing its vision.
Inside our market, which is Customer Experience, Oracle has a strong presence. It meant we had the opportunity to integrate our product with Oracle Customer Experience portfolio, positioning our startup in the Enterprise Customers and adding value to Oracle itself, by making available our unique, high precision Artificial Intelligence for Portuguese and Spanish.
2. Our Challenges & Milestones
- Increased sales: to participate with Oracle in deals for the world's biggest companies.
- Product expansion: solutions for complex projects that demand the integration of our proprietary AI with Oracle CX.
- Infrastructure Maturity: to build a high-end security system for our product, with an Enterprise level infrastructure.
- We signed an exclusive partnership with V8 Consulting, one of the biggest Oracle partners in Latin America, reaching high quality in commercial representation and support.
- An Oracle Sales Channel was built, helping the sales team with strong education for prospects.
- ALANA became the only AI in Portuguese and Spanish available in the Oracle Customer Experience portfolio.
- Nexus Edge AI met the requirements of an Enterprise level, like for a Telecom customer, for example.
- We more than doubled our size, growing from 7 employees during the first six months of acceleration, to 21 employees in the team nowadays.
In just 1 year being accelerated by Oracle, we reached USD 1.5M in gross sales.
This result proves it is possible for startups to achieve sales results at an enterprise level without compromising equity, cash flow, and business vision.
3. Our next level in sales: five initiatives to achieve business results with the Oracle team.
For a startup, everything is about growth, and it just doesn’t happen by chance. Since the first day at the program, we created growth initiatives led by the founders.
Our strategy was to complement the Oracle Cloud portfolio, so we became the only AI in Portuguese and Spanish available in this cloud. These are the five initiatives we took to increase our sales:
-> Extension and integration: complementing Customer Experience Products
We were interested not only to integrate the products in a data perspective but to offer substantial benefits through proprietary extensions for Oracle Customer Experience as well: to do so, we made an exhaustive mapping of its portfolio and rebuild our roadmap to complement Oracle Cloud Customer Experience products and features.
One good example was the proprietary extension made for Oracle RightNow (Oracle Service Cloud), where our proprietary AI (ALANA) manages, creates and answers the main tickets automatically: human operators manage only 6% of them in the platform.
“Our strategy was to complement the Oracle Cloud Customer Experience portfolio, so we became the only AI in portuguese and spanish available to this cloud”.
It means ALANA does all the backend operation, and that avoids that human operators answer tickets unnecessarily. All roles of the operator are made in the Oracle RightNow by our Artificial Intelligence that handles the information autonomously.
This extension was fundamental to achieve our first client with Oracle Cloud.
-> Oracle Sales Channel: a new process to reach new clients
To work side by side with Oracle Sales team, we invested in new professionals and methods. It means we created an Enterprise Sales Channel 100% focused on Oracle Cloud, in which we offer technical support and architecture solutions for projects based on Proprietary Artificial Intelligence powered by Oracle Cloud.
For this reason, we had to dissolve another existent sales channels and put all efforts into this new phase of Nexus Edge. We did an intense educational process with the Oracle sales team, including training, events, and meetings with prospects. That way, everyone can know exactly how our solution works and how we can help them with potential customers.
“We did an intense educational process with the Oracle sales team, including training, events and meetings with prospects”.
-> An immersion inside Oracle World by Nexus Edge founders
Courses, prospect meetings, national and international events, like Oracle CloudWorld New York 2018 and Oracle OpenWorld Brazil 2018. The founders went deep in the Oracle world. It made Nexus Edge learn at a fast pace how Oracle works and how we could achieve some great results together. We even created a shared library within Oracle Startup Cloud Accelerator!
-> Budget focus
We focused almost all our budget on the Oracle world to make the product, sales, and technology adaptations. It meant that we discontinued or paused any initiative that was not related to Oracle or could demand non-expendable resources.
We made a six-month plan to put time and budget efforts in order to achieve the expected results without relying on any new revenue during the first months. We did know that we would need a significant budget to handle POCs and complicated prospects, cloud migration and changes in our product.
For instance: before our first sale, we made a three-month POC and didn’t even got the deal! However, that lost prospect was the primary key to close our first deal with an Oracle customer. We became experts on Oracle products and technology, mainly on the Customer Experience portfolio.
-> We migrated 100% from AWS to Oracle Cloud
We migrated all our systems, and by that, all new products were released in an Oracle Cloud optimized architecture, what made the development and sales of enterprise solutions easier.
All of our clients are using ALANA via Oracle Cloud at the moment, which gives more stability and credibility to our solution. Against any popular belief, our Cloud cost did not get more expensive: actually, we had a positive experience indeed — you can see how to migrate to Oracle Cloud here “How a startup can migrate to Oracle Cloud in just five days.”
Looking back in time, we are pretty sure we could not reach our results without all the initiatives presented.
“All of our clients are using ALANA through Oracle Cloud by this time, which gives more stability and credibility to our solution”.
So, the level of our investments and strategic thought stayed as a learned lesson. We joined the acceleration program with clear goals, all of them mapped with initiatives as a way to increase the possibilities of success.
If you got interested and have plans to migrate to Oracle Cloud, Marcellus Amadeus, Nexus Edge Co-Founder and Chief Scientist, prepared a must-read technical guide.
5. What your startup must not do at Oracle Cloud Startup Accelerator (if the idea is to succeed, obviously)
It’s essential to learn with the mistakes you make, but to learn with the mistakes others do is much better.
The mistakes below are the most common mistakes we have observed during the acceleration process, and if you pay close attention to them, they are somehow related to the lack of a win-win way of thinking coming from startups.
You may think that Nexus Edge did not commit any of these mistakes, but that is not true. On the contrary, we certainly did. Nevertheless, we had sufficient luck to learn with them fast enough to make corrections and stay on track.
The analysis below refers to the global scenario of the program and the startups that were accelerated by it, taking into account all the countries, so, it’s not limited to the São Paulo Cohort.
Just like every content we make, it’s the Nexus Edge point of view and does not mean that Oracle or the startups think the same way.
-> Mistake: The startup has not defined its goals for the acceleration program.
Traditionally, the startups in acceleration programs expect to be conducted. In the case of the Oracle program, which is a corporate accelerator customized for each startup, it’s necessary to bring your goals and initiatives beforehand.
Of course, Oracle is going to help your startup with this too, but only you know everything about your startup, not Oracle.
With that in mind, it’s important to know that, if you don’t know what goals to reach with this partnership and have not even made a plan of how you will get there, things can get messy.
What we did: Set up a clear goal (and go for it!)
Nexus Edge, for example, since the first week in the program, presented its objectives: to make complete integration with the Oracle Customer Experience portfolio and make big sales side by side with Oracle Brazil (not only the professionals from accelerator, the whole sales team!), making Oracle have us as an new Enterprise Sales Channel.
This milestone made part of every single Nexus Edge initiatives, including our relationship with Oracle.
-> Mistake: The startup has defined the founders would participate less (or not at all) in the program
As the program had mature startups, some founders thought that it would be ok to have less presence in the initiatives. Well, Oracle is a big company, with sophisticated technology and highly qualified professionals, so it's not a good idea to have a low engagement from startup founders.
For example, a founder of a mature startup that only appeared at the beginning and the end of the program also complained that he did not have great results with Oracle. Silly, isn't it?
What we did: Dive head-first into the program
In our experience, our two founders made part of the entire program, every single day (except for external sales meetings). Nexus Edge was present in events, hackathons, created workshops and stayed as much time as possible inside Oracle, and learned everything we could with them, all the time.
“Our two founders made part of the whole program, every single day, with the exception of external sales meetings”.
-> Mistake: The startup did not allocate the technical resources properly
Oracle is a technology company, and for that reason, to not allocate consistent engineering resources was one of the most common mistakes we have seen.
Many startups think that a corporate program is a one-way road, but the fact is that Oracle can offers much more when receives more.
It’s the intense exchange between Oracle and the startup that generate results.
Without engineering resources, this exchange becomes restricted only for sales, and it’s going to be a problem because the startup does not understand how Oracle Cloud or Oracle Products work. Another point is that sales in Oracle are very technical, and if the startup’s expert team is not involved, deals won’t happen.
What we did: Using our resources wisely
Nexus Edge allocated the best engineers to learn, migrate and use Oracle Cloud. Marcellus Amadeus, our technical co-founder, participated directly in the most significant deals, creating architectures and prototyping in real time with Oracle Sales team.
-> Mistake: It was not the best time for the startup to be part of the program
We recommend the program for startups that already had a product. It’s not possible to be part of the acceleration program if you don’t have a product to sell. The critical point is that the idea of “first we sell, and after we create a product” will not work in this program. You need to have something useful at hand. Moreover, you should first tailor your product to Oracle and do not expect the first deal for that.
What we did: We connect our roadmap with Oracle
We were lucky in this one: it was the perfect time to be part of the program. We were not young enough to not being able to sell the product, and not mature enough to the point of not taking advantage of what Oracle could bring to us. We were in the early stage, but with available cash, so it was possible to adapt our product roadmap to leverage sales with Oracle.
-> Mistake: The startup thinks that the program is free of any cost
Yes, the program is equity-free. Also, Oracle is going to give you many credits to use Oracle Cloud. There is a free office available, consultants, events and a lot more. One of the best accelerators in the world, but equity-free. Cool!
However, here is the thing: if you want to sell with Oracle, it’s going to be necessary to follow Oracle’s machine sales. This machine is one of the best in the world at enterprise sales. Does your startup have the budget to make prospect go forward? Do you have a team to turn your product compatible with Oracle portfolio? Is your team capable of use, or at least try, Oracle Cloud? Do you want to learn how Oracle sells and merge your process to work with theirs? Can you reach the security and infrastructure requirements of an Enterprise Telecom Request Proposal (RFP)? You got the point.
6. New challenges: what comes next?
With all these results, new challenges appear your way. For Nexus Edge, one of them was to handle sales and support at an enterprise level and in a scalable way.
With that in mind, and with Oracle assistance, we reached an exclusive partnership with V8 Consulting, one of the most prominent Oracle Partners in Latin America. Now they are responsible for enterprise sales and premium support of our artificial intelligence ALANA in Brazil (our largest consumer market).
With this partnership, we hope to have an even closer relationship with Oracle, and offer meaningful benefits for the customers, like a 24/7 support room, and exclusive commercial conditions for enterprise sales.
Also, we decided to open an office at the same place where the Oracle accelerator is located, to keep physical proximity.
This first year was just the beginning of Oracle and Nexus Edge partnership, and we get more excited each day. We believe that at the end of next year the Oracle channel will help us reach more than USD 10M in global sales with the ALANA Enterprise Solution, powered by Oracle Cloud.
Thank you, Oracle!
Written by @Marcel Jientara, CEO of Nexus Edge.
We seek to lead the next advertising industry. For this, we created ALANA, the first proprietary artificial intelligence made exclusively for advertising. Your focus is on generating insights and creative actions in large advertisers, automating in a super-human level the work of thousands of tools and manual operations in the areas of consumer insights, competitive analysis, media, e-care, and content.