Written by Kevin Volz.
For decades, salespeople have relied on cold-calling – or the process of reaching out to prospective customers unsolicited – to find new customers. This method traditionally relied on the telephone, but the evolution of the internet and email brought new and more efficient ways to reach out to people. At the same time, privacy settings on the web often made finding an individual’s contact information a difficult process.
SellHack is a web browser extension that helps salespeople find new customers’ names, company information and email addresses with the simple click of a button. By downloading the SellHack software, a salesperson is able to go to a prospective customer’s LinkedIn profile, click the SellHack icon, and get all of the public information from across the web needed to initiate contact. The startup company even verifies email addresses to ensure accuracy.
“Whether you’re trying to find lawyers or CEO candidates, it’s all the same process,” said Ryan O’Donnell, cofounder of SellHack. “There’s a person you want to connect with, and finding that person’s information can be time consuming. Let us do it for you.”
O’Donnell was inspired to start SellHack based on his own personal experience in sales. The software was built in March 2014 as a tool that O’Donnell and some of his startup colleagues used to find new customers. After a successful trial run with this small group, O’Donnell offered SellHack as a free download on the Google Chrome webstore. There was so much demand for the service that eventually the company had to shift to paid subscriptions. They now have hundreds of paying customers including large companies like Oracle, Dropbox and SalesForce, along with many tech startups.
“We’re replacing the constant copying and pasting that uses up so much of a salesperson’s time,” said O’Donnell. “In the past you’d have to find someone’s name, basically guess what their email was and then send emails to all of your different guesses. If you do that enough, email servers will recognize you as spam and you won’t get through.”
In February 2015, SellHack received a $25,000 award from the Innovation Fund, a northeast Ohio partner of Ohio Third Frontier. Outside of this funding, SellHack has been self-funded through customer revenue.
“We were able to invest the $25,000 we received from the Innovation Fund to grow our business,” said O’Donnell. “We created an e-book and invested in new technology. It was very beneficial.”
SellHack currently has three full-time employees, plus a group of onshore contractors and freelancers that the company uses as needed. O’Donnell’s current mission is to identify the best channels to find new customers for SellHack while keeping the company’s current customers happy.
Born and raised on the west side of Cleveland, O’Donnell spent ten years of his life in New York City. He moved back to Cleveland to start his family and his business here in Ohio.
“The speed at which I was accepted and assimilated into the Cleveland startup scene was remarkable,” said O’Donnell. “Cleveland is home to so many great organizations for entrepreneurs like JumpStart and Flashstarts. SellHack has been asked to go to Silicon Valley or New York City, but we always say no. Cleveland is maturing as a tech entrepreneurial community and we are thrilled to be a part of it.”