Interview with Veena Giridhar Gopal, Co-founder & CEO at Salesbeat

salesBeat, headquartered in the US and with an operating subsidiary in the UK, is an AI-driven platform that makes predictive recommendations of optimal order volumes for fast-moving consumer goods sales teams. Therefore eliminating lost sales, due to retailers being out of stock. Alex & I founded salesBeat in 2019 at Antler’s first European cohort in Sweden.

I have over 20 years experience, consulting for and working in companies like PepsiCo & Diageo. I’ve worked in several markets and across functions, and so have a deep understanding of this industry. Alex has more than 20 years experience in start-ups and in Tech. He has been building apps, managing web development projects and advising start-ups on their tech strategy.

From inception, we purposefully decided on a distributed team approach so we could hire for talent and not for the location. Also, Alex lives in Sweden with his family & I live in London. 

salesBeat started off as Salesbeat in 2019, when we had a marketplace matching fast-moving consumer goods companies with freelancers and service providers. We were growing rapidly and had a presence in more than 50 countries when Covid hit and our users decided to dial down international expansion plans and freelancers started looking for jobs. 

During this time, stockouts became pronounced due to stockpiling by consumers of toilet paper, hand sanitisers and cleaning products. However, stock-outs have been a long-standing problem for the industry. This may come as a surprise to several people, but typically, sales into retailers are made based on historical sales data. Using prior year sales figures, salespeople agree joint business plans or order volumes with their client, the retailer. However, prior year sales volumes are not a good baseline for demand in the current year as it became apparent this Easter, when there were Easter egg shortages in stores as retailers based orders on 2020 sales when we were going into lockdowns. 

The democratisation of AI has enabled us to access tools and resources without having to recruit a large team of data scientists. We were able to build a platform that makes AI-driven recommendations of optimal sales actions to fast-moving consumer goods sales teams and launched an MVP in June 2020. Optimal sales actions include sales volumes, timing, portfolio & promotional recommendations. Our mission is to ensure 100% availability of brands in store and eliminate stock-outs.


What makes salesBeat different from competitors?

There is no sales intelligence tool used by national and key account manager teams in the FMCG sector; but there are field sales apps used by field sales teams for route planning, invoicing sales and for portfolio recommendations and demand planning solutions used by the sales operations team to ensure production runs are scheduled for the right times and volumes. Our platform makes recommendations of optimal sales actions to take for national & key account managers.


How has the company evolved during the pandemic?

We validated and developed our new product, launched an MVP and raised further funding during the pandemic. We also grew our distributed team and have developers working on different aspects of the product now. We also became finalists at well known pitch competitions like Start-up Avalanche (Europe) and Collision (North America).

What advice would you give to other aspiring entrepreneurs? 

Commitment to the problem and not the solution is important. If you are ‘wedded’ to the solution, it may be hard to identify issues with your solution that make it unviable in practice. 

Also, persistence and patience are key when building a start-up. Overnight success stories take years of hard work.

What can we hope to see from salesBeat in the future?

We are in the process of setting up a Twitter campaign out of stocks to raise awareness of how widespread the problem is. Currently, consumers complain about stock-outs of their brands in-store on Twitter, which is scattered. We are creating a central account, @outofstocknow, to collect these stockouts so companies, as well as retailers, understand how significant the problem is.

We are also currently raising a round and are closing by mid May. With the funds raised, we are planning on recruiting a team to implement our pilots and on sales and marketing initiatives, to raise awareness within the industry.