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Meet Jonah Lopin of Crayon

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jonah Lopin.

Jonah, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I studied physics at Cornell University and then started my career at Deloitte Consulting in Boston. I had a great experience at Deloitte, but it was very clear to me even in my early 20’s that I wasn’t meant to be a partner at a consulting firm.

I left Deloitte to earn an MBA at MIT Sloan, and my eyes were opened to the world of startups. I took every entrepreneurship course at MIT and did projects and internships for a bunch of startups. I just couldn’t believe how great startups are: no politics, no bureaucracy, no BS, and unlimited upside! You can break any rule as long as you do one simple thing right: create value for the customer and scale a business model around that value. I was so happy that there was a place for someone like me in the world!

The other really important thing that happened to me at Sloan is I met my current co-founder, John Osborne, although it would take us almost a decade to actually start our company. I knew I wanted to do a super early stage startup after MIT, so I joined HubSpot as employee no. 6. I was on the management team at HubSpot from $0 to the IPO. This was an important, substantive company-building experience for me. I developed a playbook for how to scale something big.

In hindsight, the idea for Crayon was staring me in the face the whole time I was at HubSpot, but I didn’t see it. I ran Customer Success at HubSpot, and my team onboarded 10,000 customers in six years. We helped these customers understand and implement inbound marketing. We used to say, “marketing isn’t about arts and crafts anymore,” and we’d help our customers become really data-driven in sales and marketing.

But we only helped our customers be data-driven around their internal data. We never helped our customers understand what was happening outside the four walls of the business.

For example, we’d help our customers generate sales leads, but we never helped them understand how to close those leads in competitive sales situations. We’d help our customers build a website, but we never helped them understand what positioning and messaging to put on the website to be differentiated in their market. We’d help our customers do content marketing, but we never helped them craft topics based on shifting buyer interests.

I knew our customers had these challenges but didn’t yet understand these challenges were universal and could be solved with software. When I left HubSpot to build a company with John, we didn’t know exactly what we were going to do. We’re ambitious, and we knew we wanted to build something big. We knew we wanted to have fun, be creative, and write software. Beyond that, we weren’t sure.

The first idea that clicked for us was a “Pinterest for Marketing” called Crayon Inspire (https://app.crayon.co/f/). This product launched in 2015 and enjoyed some success, but toward the end of 2015, we realized that the data we were collecting and the way we were organizing and analyzing the data could be far more valuable to customers in a different product. We realized we could use our data to answer those very same market intelligence questions that my HubSpot customers had.

We launched Crayon Intel (https://www.crayon.co/competitive-intelligence-analysis) in early 2016 and have been scaling rapidly since then, deepening our understanding of this market and opportunity. It turns out it’s not just my old HubSpot customers that need real-time software-driven market intelligence… it’s just about every business on the planet.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Like any company, we’ve run into obstacles – but really these have been great opportunities for us to learn and grow. We learned a ton from our first product – Crayon Inspire (https://www.crayon.co/blog/crayon-inspire-got-a-makeover-to-make-your-website-redesign-inspiration-easier) – and how to gather an incredible amount of data and organize it in such a way to provide value for marketers. Today, we have over 40 million web page designs, including homepages, landing pages, pricing pages, and more.

Ultimately, we found that the data could be far more valuable to customers in a different product. Based on our experience, we launched Crayon Intel, the market and competitive intelligence platform that enables businesses to track, analyze, and act based on market movements. That product has been scaling rapidly, and today, Crayon is on track to reach 350 percent growth in 2018.

Another learning experience has come from talking to our customers and potential customers and realizing the differences in challenges they face in the mid-market vs. the enterprise. In the enterprise, they’ve been trying to tackle market intelligence with manual and expensive research efforts that have consumed a lot of time without as much impact as they’d like.

Software and the ability to harness all of the incredible market intelligence data available online today is really transforming their teams. And in the mid-market, they simply haven’t invested much in market intelligence historically because of the cost and human-driven focus of the industry. But software changes the game and makes market intelligence much more accessible to those businesses.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Crayon – what should we know?
Crayon is actionable market intelligence software. We believe that businesses should be as good at understanding and acting on everything happening outside the four walls of the business as they are at understanding and acting on all their internal data. We build the software that makes this possible.

Most businesses are remarkably data-driven in sales and marketing when it comes to internal data. They’ve got customer relationship management (CRM), web analytics, and Business Intelligence (BI) tools. They’ve got real-time, software-driven data that enables them to make good decisions and optimizations around their sales team, their website, and their marketing campaigns.

But businesses have never had a good way to understand what’s happening outside the four walls of the business. Businesses have never had a good way to answer fundamental questions about their market, their competitors, their brand, and their customers, because the only way to answer these questions historically has been through human-driven research and consulting efforts, which are very expensive and almost always lag the market and fail to drive action and value inside the company.

What we’ve realized at Crayon is that we can solve the market intelligence problem with software in a way that’s never been possible before, because there’s exponentially more signal online about every business. Reddit didn’t exist a decade ago; now it’s the fifth most trafficked site in the U.S. Yelp didn’t exist a decade ago; now there are more than 130 million reviews on Yelp. Google’s index has grown over 50 times in the past decade. Exponentially more data online about every business means we can finally solve the market intelligence problem with software.

Crayon gets your arms around all the signal that didn’t even exist five or 10 years ago, and we extract from all that signal the market intelligence that drives action and value.

It’s real-time, software-driven market intelligence at a fraction of the cost and a multiple of the value.

The market and competitive intelligence industry is going to change more in the next 5-10 years than it has in the past 50.

Here are just a few of the shifts we see coming:

The mid-market is going to get off the sidelines. The majority of SMBs have been priced out of the market intelligence market historically, because human-driven research and consulting are always very expensive. But as we drive market intelligence to a software market with much lower costs, the mid-market is going to unlock the value of market intelligence for the first time in history.

Increased investment in the enterprise. Most enterprises have relatively small investments in market and competitive intelligence because the ROI on human-driven efforts has never been massive. But when you can get 10 times better intel in real-time at a tenth of the cost, the ROI goes up 100 times, and you’re going to see correspondingly much larger investments from enterprises.

Democratized, measurable, tactical, and integrated. Market and competitive intelligence has traditionally been a centralized function focused on enabling better strategic decision-making because strategic decisions happen over the course of months, which fits the necessarily elongated cadence of human-driven research and consulting efforts. It historically took weeks or months to generate an insight. As a centralized function impacting strategic decisions, the ROI of these teams has often been hard to measure. As we generate insights in real-time with software, however, market intelligence will be democratized throughout organizations and will be used to influence far more tactical decisions, from marketing campaigns to deal-by-deal sales positioning. This democratization and tactical focus is also leading to more transparent measurement of impact and ROI, and to deeper workflow and systems integrations throughout the enterprise.

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