I’m happy to announce Propel’s latest round of funding, led by Norwest Ventures. Our $18M Series B will help us further “Propel’s Platform for Future Brands” and help us bring our cloud-based platform to even more companies so they can create innovative products their customers will love.
With this round of funding, we plan to not only deepen our product roadmap, but we also plan to deliver on it. Our product team is already creating new ways for Propel customers and future Propel customers to stay competitive in their own industry and get their products into their own customer's hands faster than ever before.
More than ever we want to promote and encourage innovation in brands and companies that will change the world, or as we call them "future brands".
We believe this round of funding will also help grow our market presence in the very competitive but outdated product lifecycle management (PLM) landscape.
Propel, Marty McFly and the Future of PLM
What’s going on with PLM today? It’s currently experiencing what I call the “3G” problem. Let me explain.
Today's digital age is quite similar to what Hollywood thought it would be many years ago. If you refer to the movie Back to the Future II, Marty McFly and Doc Brown envisioned a world where technology lived among us within our homes and our shoes tied themselves. The technologic parts of Marty and Doc's world gave us a glimpse of a world where the customer was the driving force behind every new product manufactured.
While we don't have actual flying Hoverboards like in the movie (just those dangerous rolling ones with the same name) – that vision isn't too far off from what we have now. Not unlike the way the McFly family communicates via video chat in the movie, Facebook is bringing Amazon's Alexa even further into our lives with their new Portal device. And Nike released their own version of self-tying shoes at the demand of their customer base – albeit at a very hefty price tag.
I Want My Products Now
Many of today's generation grew up watching that movie and probably deep down pined for a world where products were made for them and their interests unlike previous generations sold to before them. Social media has helped this become a quicker reality with instant feedback and metrics from even more specific demographics.
Futuristic Workforce and the Future of PLM
What Back to the Future II didn't touch on and what most "futuristic" movies don't touch on is the impact the new technology will have on the workforce that is responsible for making those products. Unfortunately, over the last 30+ years, the product lifecycle management (PLM) industry has been pretty limited in technological change in what we refer to as the “3G's” – gender, generational and germane.
Product lifecycle management (PLM) as an industry has been pretty narrow on the diversity scale from a gender, generational and germane standpoint (the 3G's). PLM vendors have made solutions primarily used by older (Generational), male (Gender) mechanical engineers (Germane) leaving out software engineers, electrical engineers, and other creative types. They frequently ignore the millennial generation outside engineering, like marketing or salespeople.
Where other industries have caught on, PLM as an industry has stumbled. In order for PLM to be successful in today's digital age, it needs to change and address the “whole product”, which includes services, the product details they see on the web, customer feedback and more. Here at Propel, we believe that it is a doable change through what we call the "age of the customer" and we believe in combating the 3G's with our ethos called the 3C's – customer, cloud, and collaboration.
3C's – Customer
It's no surprise that customer expectations are currently at an all-time high. With the subscription service booming to the likes of Netflix, LeTote and various meal kit services, customers are getting things they are asking for and things that help make their lives easier instead of being "sold" stuff they don't really want.
Can you imagine explaining to someone the concept of LeTote in 2002? It's a subscription service for people with busy lives or for people who hate malls. You pick the clothes you want and wear them as often as you like for a small fee a month. They're delivered directly to your home and you can swap them out for new clothes as many times as you'd like or buy them to keep. Forget going to malls or retail stores. Now you can tailor pick your once tailored goods and get them sent directly to your front door. Watch as that person's jaw drops in amazement but most probably in confusion.
The LeTote model is a response to a customer bases' need just as Nike ID was created for a customer's desire to customize their shoes. Each company listened to their customer and gave them what they wanted. Both of which are happily reaping the financial rewards.
Customers driving new products combat the gender and germane portion of the 3G's. No longer does the product lifecycle only involve the male-dominated mechanical engineering world. It extends past the engineering teams to the entire company. Sales, marketing and partners are involved more than ever in the product lifecycle thanks to this shift in customer communication.
3C's – Cloud
Just like customers are driving internal change within manufacturing companies, the internet or the "cloud" flipped the original model on its head and brought upon a mass need for digitalization.
On the customer side, the internet created a method for them to find what they want and be connected to their products in new ways, which gave us the Internet of Things and the connected home we saw in Back to the Future II.
The internet also brought instant customer feedback into the product lifecycle via social media. Real-time customer feedback is now driving future product iterations and involving more than just the engineering teams.
Above all else, the internet gave us the "cloud" and a new way to do business. On-premise technologies are no longer a means to run a business. The "cloud" booted legacy systems and gave companies the edge to stay competitive by lowering overhead costs and allowing for faster innovation. The "cloud" attracts a younger generation within the workforce and removes the generational portion of the 3G's. Younger people are more open to embracing new technologies, working more collaboratively, and expecting more transparency. Legacy systems are the exact opposite!
The "cloud" created a new era for companies. In creating the "cloud" we now have a new way to stay connected as a workforce. Which brings us to the last C of the 3C's – collaboration.
3C's – Collaboration
The "cloud" has given us quite possibly the best gift of all in collaboration. Teams and partners worldwide can now communicate and work together on projects regardless of their timezone. The best and brightest minds no longer have to be in a nearby cubicle for great work to be accomplished or for deadlines to be reached.
The "cloud" digitized the workforce and made it easier for companies to collaborate better and get their products to market faster. We believe collaboration drives product success which in turn drives company success. When you can collaborate from each stage of the product lifecycle, from "concept to customer" you have a higher likelihood of success and maybe even ringing that bell on Wall Street one day.
Propel and the 3C's
Propel was built for brands and companies looking to stay competitive and looking to drive innovation through the 3C's. Our platform for future brands helps our customers get their products to market ridiculously fast using our robust and intuitive product experience platform.
We believe the most innovative products should be built on Propel. Our 3C's ethos is deeply ingrained in our cloud-based platform.
Propel helps engineers, marketing, sales, partners, customers, and everyone in between collaborate on every piece of product information needed to get products from the concept and development stage to the moment the product is in the customer’s hands.
We understand the digital age and the need for constant collaboration. We allow you to create, change and collaborate on all the product details that customers actually care about. Confirm or deny changes through our change management feature so you can feel confident knowing your internal sales teams and omni-channels have the most accurate and up-to-date information. Whether you sell online, directly to distributors, via a field sales team or through additional sales channels you can be sure that product imagery, pricing, model numbers and more are up-to-date across each channel.
The 3C's ethos is built for companies who believe in digital transformation and staying competitive.
Built on Propel
Some of today's most innovative products are already being built on Propel. Desktop Metal, a Propel customer has been changing the 3D printing landscape in very big ways since they first opened their doors in 2015. Propel continues to help Desktop Metal get their newest printers to market faster than imagined as they continue to scale and grow their company.
“Propel is one of the critical applications that helped us scale the company in just 3 years. Over 75% of our company relies on Propel to collaborate on the latest product information,” said Matt Verminski, VP Engineering at Desktop Metal.
Regardless of size, Desktop Metal gives businesses the advantage and the ability to produce their own prototypes and the finished product. With the use of Desktop Metal printers, companies are able to get their own innovative products to market faster than ever before.
AMS Technologies, a Propel customer, is a leading solution provider of high-tech components, systems, and equipment, serving more than 2000 customers across Europe.
Because AMS is also built on Propel, they have one place to track all sales, customer and solution information from initial opportunity through to final version. AMS uses Propel's system for their true engineer-to-order process and since implementing Propel they have a 500% increase in engineering productivity.
“With Propel, we can work much more closely with our customers to deliver innovative solutions they need to succeed," said Jan Meise, CEO of AMS Technologies.
Helping Future Brands
These are just two examples of our customers who are currently built on Propel. We want to continue our vision of the 3C's and help more companies break through the 3G's barrier.
As the only cloud-based product lifecycle management (PLM), product information management (PIM), and quality management (QMS) solution built on Salesforce. We believe our future is bright and that soon enough the 3C's will take over the PLM space we hold so dear. We believe our newest round of funding will lead more companies to embrace our 3C's ethos and more products will be built on Propel.
All of us at Propel are very excited about our future and very grateful that we get to continue building a platform we truly believe will help companies change the world.
Here's the future!
CEO of Propel