As we move ever closer to the huge milestone of $1 billion ARR, co-founders Olivier Pailhès and Jonathan Anguelov share what’s been happening at Aircall since the last chapter of their founders’ story, and what the future holds.
Well, here we go again—sharing another chapter of the Aircall story with you! At a crazy time like this, it's important to continue to show you behind the scenes of Aircall—warts and all!
In the past 12 months, the business landscape for tech has degraded a lot with a challenging economy and the tech bubble bursting. (We can call it a bubble, right? I know, understatement of the year!) This is why we’re continuing to put honesty and vulnerability out into the world—to encourage others to take risks and pursue entrepreneurism.
The world is less predictable than ever, and seeing how others (friends, startups, software companies, or rivals!) are pivoting and adapting is something we’ve benefitted from—and now we want you to. That’s why this next chapter in our founders’ story is all about embracing change–a must in this unpredictable world we’re living in.
Let's pick up where we left off: June 2022. Everything—post-pandemic—looks great. We’ve just reached Centaur stage ($100 million ARR) and buried the unicorn status, closed the first chapter of our journey ($0 to $100M), and are ready to embark on the next one—fueled by our ambition to become the number-one cloud business phone system in the world. But if you are not too bad at math, you’ll know that in a $60bn market growing 30% YoY, we still have far to go—VERY FAR.
Our ambition has always been to create an international company. To strengthen our position in the market, especially in the U.S., we bring in experienced professionals, including a new CEO with a proven track record in the sector. It was time for our existing CEO and co-founder Olivier to pass the torch and take a step back, allowing himself some well-deserved rest.
So much for that idea! Inflation and global recession hit hard. Overnight, the economic and social environment forces us to shift our focus from revenue and growth to agility and efficiency. And all the time, we hear the same question: How do we keep people engaged and happy, when there’s so much pressure and we don’t know what the **** is happening??
We decide to pause. Rising prices force companies, including us, to reassess expenditures, reevaluate plans, and rationalize tech stacks. We decide to refocus, to prioritize and review all of our plans—aiming to curtail spending (especially hiring), improve our product, reassess our long-term ambitions, analyze the market's current state, and identify our strengths. All we need now is to chart a new path that will lead us to the next chapter of our success.
And with a clear mindset: do more with less!
The new year begins with financial and social tensions. But in Q1 and Q2, we set new sales records, reaping the rewards of our enhanced efficiency. Despite the tech crisis, we manage to grow faster than before and sign up more and more new customers quarter after quarter—while regaining our clarity and vision step by step, and avoiding significant layoffs.
Then comes another curveball—the CEO we hired has to step down for personal reasons and Oli decides to assume leadership once again—so much for his rest! Knowing the company, he recognizes the need to build on our milestones so far while optimizing areas that require consolidation. He embarks on this mission with a singular goal in mind—to emerge as a winner from the tech crisis.
The outcome is that our brand and business model are more relevant and better aligned, while our path to profitability becomes more clearly defined. We never stop believing that technology should be accessible to small and medium-sized businesses—they make up most of the world's businesses and generate over half of its wealth. So we fight for them.
As the second quarter draws to a close, we realize that our accomplishments are in line with our expectations. Our acquisition model thrives, each quarter surpasses the last in new sales. The sales machine we built, meticulously nurtured by co-founder Jonathan, weathers crises and is thriving no matter what.
The rise of AI
AI takes the world by storm in how intuitive it can be, with the likes of ChatGPT, Microsoft Bing, and Google Bard creating copy and images that appear to be human-made—commenting on tennis and winning photography prizes.
Already, our brains are working overtime, thinking how this can impact the work of customer-facing teams. We think a lot about our own AI journey and how plenty of businesses will be embarking on their own as well. To better understand the concerns and opportunities associated with AI’s meteoric rise, we collect the opinions of over 3,500 SMB employees worldwide for our AI Index.
We see a familiar trend—smaller businesses think of AI as something exclusive to the bigger players. But this isn’t true and, instead, current tools just aren’t accessible enough. We know that with the right AI-supported software solutions, smaller businesses could level the playing field.
We launch our AI-supported call and transcription tools. Our AI Index tells us that sales and support teams spend over 20 hours a week on busy work and admin that AI could easily solve—so we decide that this is what our AI journey will be about. This would not only see businesses’ productivity levels skyrocket, but help them navigate an increasingly confusing and congested space—and not be left behind in the process.
Answering the call for coaching
We know we want to help with coaching. It is one of the most costly, yet necessary, activities, and employees estimate that 23% of the time spent on coaching can be saved with AI, while 77% say training and coaching teams is essential to getting the most value out of their phone calls.
The power of the human voice has been our mission since day one and AI doesn’t change this. Despite the concerns, we always knew that AI was about enablement, not replacement.
For sales and support teams, AI isn’t about to take over talking to customers. But it can play a part in how teams access the right insights and tools to make coaching easier and more effective. It’s about partnership and offering a premium experience from start to finish (for all stakeholders) to sell better, better support their customers, and get the maximum value out of their tools.
A team built for the future
When it comes to the rest of 2023 and beyond, we know we need to remain focused on how we continue to listen to our customers and help drive their success. We’re also focused on our own success too—setting our sights on going from $100 million ARR to $1 billion ARR. Things are off to a good start with Aircall beating its H1 forecast—not easy in such a competitive market—and being two-thirds of the way to profitability.
We have some very exciting things in store—not just new features, but new team members. We’re excited to count on very strong leaders—Emmanuelle Benoliel (CMO), Fred Viet (CSO), Mary Nelson (CCO), and Alexandra Diez (CPO)—who bring expertise in scaling companies globally.
We’ve always been very proud of our ability to pass the torch at Aircall—no matter what people achieve! We’ve always encouraged individuals to develop internally or even become entrepreneurs, and to support them in doing so, remembering that they’ll always be a part of the beloved Aircall Mafia, created and supported by Jonathan.
But while we welcome this fresh talent to Aircall’s team, we say goodbye to our dear co-founder Jonathan who recently decided to step down after close to 10 years of hard work. This September, he will hang up from his operational position and devote himself to his other passion, real estate. Jonathan has brought so much to the company culture but also operationally in the go-to-market department and we can only say that we will miss him. Luckily, he will remain invested in the development of Aircall—how could he not!!—and continue the Aircall Mafia as its godfather!
As for the new management team, they will contribute to expanding Aircall’s international footprint and increasing the company’s revenue and profitability. We have solid foundations to continue our development and guarantee our long-term success as a leading player in the B2B communications space.
The tech sector is experiencing uncertain times across many markets right now, and our priority is to support companies to become increasingly resilient and successful. We believe that customer experience is a real driver of this and we’ll continue to partner with like-minded businesses, ensuring their success becomes our success.
In times of uncertainty, we can only urge other leaders to lay the groundwork diligently, prioritize wisely, and pause when necessary. But never cease to experiment, innovate, and unleash creativity. These elements form the cornerstone of enduring success, guiding us as we navigate uncharted territories and carving a path toward a brighter future. There will be faster cars around, but our vehicle of choice is the tractor—slow, yes, but robust and something we know will get Aircall where we need to go!
Published on January 2, 2024.