Atollon, returning candidate from last year's edition of CRM Idol, was founded in the Czech Republic in 2006 by Jan Safka (Atollon Chief Islander), Jan Volf (Atollon Chief Wizard) and Jakub Vana (Atollon Shark). Not only do they have catchy titles, they have also achieved some impressive results by quickly growing their business into six other European countries and have currently set their sights on establishing a beach-head in the USA this year, with now more than 120 world-wide. In order to increase their growth rate, their GTM (Go to market) strategy is evolving from all in-house to partnering for Consulting, Development and Integration, and they are supporting this by building online communities around these needs, blogs and Kickstart programmes.
The competition in the arena is tight (think of Zoho CRM and Basecamp), but they are distinguishing themselves by targeting a well-identified niche of accountants, lawyers, consultants, web developers, architects, engineers, personnel agencies, executive search, management consultancy, financial advisory, IT firms, training firms, PR/marketing... a market segment that is still growing rapidly.
Talking about their customers – they cater to the needs of small to midsized Professional Services organizations, with having tropics-related module names which is rather surprising, considering that the Czech Republic is land-locked (maybe the product will help customers dream of far-away places on the beach in the sun ;-) ).
They have a clear understanding of the problems their clients face, which they articulated as follows:
- Fragmented information about clients and projects
- Not able to have a “Vue d'ensemble” concerning request fulfillment
- Client and project profitability tracking and management
- Not having a shared understanding of accounts in order to spot new business opportunities
- Insufficient protection of client data
Dealing with this issues has guided the development of the Lagoon platform, and has led for example the ability to allow the clients of their customers to securely connect to the application and check progress for themselves based on a their access rights – which we see as potentially a strong advantage if they apply this logic to the whole product. Integration is limited to for example Quickbooks, and they will need to make some substantial efforts, which hopefully be addressed by the partnering approach.
They presented a number of differentiators to us such as being an all-in-one solution, being customer-focused, havign a scalable product and a good price to value ratio, but we believe that these are in fact becoming almost standard in terms of positioning when you look at a lot of this year's contestants. Where they do have an interesting differentiator is in the User Interface, based on Adobe Flex so that it looks and feels the same regardless of the device and browser you use to access it (but is Flex something that will stand the test of time?).
They have rich functionality specific to the needs professional services organisations that it is not seen in other CRM vendors, but lack somewhat in the sales and marketing part (Atollon Shark) to make it the all-in-one solution. We see that partnering with a company such as Nimble could add to their overall value proposition.
We especially appreciate the way they are adapting their go to market approach to focus from in-house development to partnering, and are looking forward to see how their product evolves!
Reviewed by CRM Idol 2012 Primary Judges
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