He’s been up. He’s been down. But this entrepreneur remains focused on building the future.
George Seybold will be the first to say startups face a shortage of many things: cash, talent and time included. But for George and his company, Talloo, “ambition” isn’t one of them.
“I don’t think small,” George says. “I think in scale.”
The vision for his company? To do nothing less than turn the $20 billion customer relationship software (CRM) market on its head.
Talloo is a social network for sales people. According to George, CRMs like Salesforce and Zoho are powerful tools to help companies manage and track potential customers, but they’re only scratching the surface of what boots-on-the-ground salespeople really need.
“There are no sales tools for the salesperson, they’re all for the sales leader,” George says, explaining that existing CRMs allow sales managers and CEOs to control the flow of leads as well as the sales process.
Talloo solves this by allowing sales professionals to share details — as many or as few as appropriate — with their broader referral network. It makes it easy to help others find potential sales opportunities, enhancing your reputation and chances of reciprocal referrals.
“Say a commercial real estate person closes a deal on a lease,” George says. “There’s an opportunity that’s been created. You have contractors, painters, carpet installers and other people that want to know that.”
Most notably, a salesperson’s Talloo account is personal and personalized, like Facebook, and not owned and controlled by their boss.
“An account in Talloo is owned by the salesperson,” George says. “They take it with them when they go. I can’t take my CRM — my Salesforce — with me if I change jobs. The company keeps that.”
In many ways, George built Talloo for himself. Or at least for people a lot like him.
“I’m a sales guy. I came out of the Army and basically realized I didn’t have any skills,” he says. “I understood tech and I understood people pretty well, so I figured I could turn that into sales.”
He started building a career at Hewlett-Packard. It was a job he enjoyed, but that he ultimately had to cut short when his manager said his moonlighting project — a startup that built an early version of a content management system used by larger media companies — would have to end if he wanted to stay employed.
“They said it was policy. You couldn’t have a business on the side.”
So George left. And helped build a successful company that served a who’s who of notable media companies, including Fox News, and sports properties such as former Boise Hawks owners Diamond Sports.
The company rode the dot com wave of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Then the wave crashed.
“I licked my wounds for a few years,” George says, still clearly smarting from the pain of flying high, then tumbling down.
“That burnt me so bad it basically ruined my life. It was devastating losing the startup after we had built so much.”
With the help of his then new wife and family, George eventually picked himself up and launched a digital agency before eventually taking a job for Verizon, selling phones and phone plans to businesses.
He was grateful for the steady paycheck, but also clear about his long-term goal.
“I had a plan to build enough cash to get back out there in the game,” he says. Pressured by sales managers to constantly hit more aggressive sales quotas, the idea for Talloo began to take shape.
“I couldn’t hit the targets,” George says. “I started thinking, ‘I’m doing this in the same way it was done in the 80s… 70s… 60s. But now there just isn’t enough time to generate and work sales leads. I knew technology could help fix it.”
So after getting out debt, George focused on saving enough cash to launch the company that would fix this problem.
“What mattered was building enough runway to get things off the ground. When I hit that mark, that’s when I went after it.”
He left his job and started working full-time (really nearly all of the time) on Talloo. He worked out of his house, coffee shops and eventually Boise’s Trailhead. Harnessing a mix of overseas and local developers, he’s been able to bring his product to life. Talloo is in beta now with Boise users and will officially launch early next month.
“I’ve been able to get a relative long ways with relatively little cash burn,” he says. “I’m cheap. Startup cheap.”
While George knows he has a long way to go, he is focused on building a company with impact that extends well beyond Boise.
“If you can help people help themselves in amazingly big ways,” he says, “That’s awesome. And we’re building something awesome.”
Photography by Shawn David