How We Raised $6M From Stripe To Transform Sales From Vendorship → Partnership

It’s a strange thing realizing that your dream job isn’t exactly what you thought it’d be.

For years, I tried to break into the music industry – from unpaid internships, 100’s of coffee runs, to opening for Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (ask my brother / co-founder Ryan or I about that sometime). I thought I finally made it as I sat in the Columbia Records offices high above Midtown Manhattan.

Opening for Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, circa 2012
Opening for Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, circa 2012

I was working on projects for my favorite artists and going to shows every night. But I hated the industry’s culture; too much bureaucracy, a lack of transparency, and huge egos. Knowing what I know now, it was the antithesis of my experience in technology – collaborative, creative, and a teamsport.

(My team told me not to put an Entourage reference here, but I couldn’t help myself... I started out with dreams of being Ari Gold or the next Scooter Bruan, but ended up as Lloyd.)

Had you told me then, while leaving NYC after a failed attempt at a career in music, that I'd be writing a post about founding a tech company with my brother Ryan, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Here we are though, announcing Accord’s $6 million seed round, led by Stripe and Y Combinator! Feeling immense gratitude for our earliest supporters, investors, and users from aspirational companies like Figma, Productboard, & Okta. All who share our vision of moving sales from Vendorship → Partnership.

Looking back on the impeccably timed decision to leave our day jobs right before a global pandemic, it’s almost unbelievable how quickly the last year flew by. It feels like just yesterday we were demo’ing our hand-drawn “app” over Zoom and coffees.

fake it till you make it
We might have taken “fake it till you make it” a bit too literal

Ryan and I first became obsessed with sales and had an inkling that something Accord-like should exist while learning the trade at Stripe, startups, and Google Cloud. I joined Ryan in SF after my NYC experience, and we both studied the art of B2B sales for five years.

I had an incredible experience scaling Stripe’s sales org from a few reps just trying to figure out the sales-led motion to a 450-person global engine. It was a hard place to leave, but, after years of the two of us sharing the same frustrations about the realities of B2B sales, we started looking into starting a company to solve them ourselves.

The 3 main challenges that led us to take the leap and start Accord were:

Customers don’t want to talk to sales reps

One of the wildest learnings so far is that 95% of the buying process is NOT spent with a seller. This leaves companies only 5% of the entire process to engage.

This gets compounded by the major lack of focus on partnering with customers to solve their problems. Sellers aren’t taking into account the needs of modern buyers and how they want to evaluate and purchase. They push customers through a sales process instead of guiding them through a buyer journey.

Lack of repeatable systems

Even if you had the above all figured out, there’s no system to reinforce this collaborative, buyer-first approach. Nothing exists to structure the sales org like you have with engineering (Github), design (Figma), product (Jira). No matter how many sales trainers you bring in and laminents they leave behind, you’re never going to see a real transformation in sales until you bring the buyer into the process and put all parties in a structured process.

It’s worse to be a buyer

Most surprising was what we learned when we started talking to buyers while figuring out how we were going to solve the first two issues: It’s worse to be a buyer. 

Today, the average B2B sale involves 14+ people, and that’s only on the buyers’ side. This epiphany is really what forced us to take the leap and solidified what Accord needed to be and solve for.

We spent time on a few things here and there between what we call our “buyer epiphany,” and today: 

  • Turning our hand-drawn “demo” into a real, collaborative platform that buyers and sellers love (BIG shout out to our co-founder Wayne Pan for this one)
  • Hiring a passionate, talented founding team <3
  • Partnering with sales reps and leaders to transform their sales org into repeatable, customer-first revenue engines
  • Oh, and this round!

Before I make this already too long post even longer, I’ll try and wrap up here.

I’m no longer optimistic about Accord based solely on my time at Stripe and early conversations with sales professionals and buyers. Now, our energy comes from how excited actual users are to use Accord with their buyers. Not only that, but we’ve already had requests from our customers’ customers (buyers) to have their sales teams use Accord!

“With Accord, there’s total transparency for AE's, sales management, and most importantly, the customer.  After using Accord, my customers will tell you how much the platform helps tie their initiatives and timelines in a concise, easy to understand solution”
-Dan O'Holleran, Okta (AE)
“The transparency of seeing what the sales process actually is was very unique. And then layering on the collaborative process of the sale and onboarding made things that much easier for our team.”
- Sean Considine, West Monroe (buyer)

Maybe it’s just classic startup revisionist history, but in retrospect it feels like the collaborative, relationship-first approach to our path led to what is now the DNA of Accord: real partnerships, radical collaboration, and deep trust. We’re on this journey to help people build better relationships. To empower companies, sales organizations, and B2B sales in general to move from Vendorship → Partnership.

Can’t skip thanking the true venture visionaries, mom & dad, who put in capital before even YC & Stripe. 📈

Here’s to building the future, together 🤗

- Ross