With his new startup, Toronto-based Volley, founder and CEO Ian Carnevale plans to apply his past experience at Andela to the sales talent space.
New York-based Andela, which Carnevale co-founded in 2014, connects tech talent in regions like Sub-Saharan Africa to job opportunities around the world. The SoftBank-backed startup, which has reportedly raised $381 million USD to date, has seen success helping tech companies build remote engineering teams by tapping into workers located in emerging markets.
“It’s much more scalable, because you can sort of come to us and snap your fingers.”
-Ian Carnevale, Volley
At Andela, Carnevale told BetaKit that he learned that scaling a human-driven model was not only possible, but “massively impactful, and companies needed the talent.” When it came time to think about his next venture, Carnevale said he returned to his Andela roots.
“I started thinking about, what do winning companies need?” Carnevale said in an interview. “Where are their talent challenges, and where’s the most impact? Unquestionably, top-of-funnel [sales] talent was the biggest gap, both from what the market has been saying but also from all of my experiences building startups and investing.”
Carnevale launched Volley in July 2020 to fill this gap, entering Highline Beta’s venture studio with the goal of expediting the startup’s development. The company secured $1 million CAD in previously unannounced pre-seed funding last year from a list of investors that includes Highline Beta, Panache Ventures, and Carnevale’s former Andela co-workers. With the company claiming to have progressed from concept to validation, Volley has exited Highline Beta’s venture studio program and set its sights on closing a new seed round of funding.
Volley aims to help enterprises, particularly SaaS B2B companies, scale their outbound sales efforts through its trained and vetted pool of business development talent, research, and data.
Prior to founding Volley, Carnevale, who stayed with Andela as an advisor until early last year, also previously spent some time working at Highline Beta, joining as founder-in-residence before becoming the firm’s VP of growth operations.
Headquartered in Toronto, Highline Beta is a hybrid corporate venture studio and VC firm that focuses on building and backing tech startups.
“Highline Beta invested in Volley because Ian is the right founder to build a better way to scale personalized outreach in the sales talent and tech arena,” Highline Beta founding partner and CEO Marcus Daniels told BetaKit. “One of my best investments previously was backing Ian when he co-founded Andela. Volley is building Andela for outbound sales.”
Daniels described Volley as “the ideal fit” for Highline Beta, while Carnevale said the firm played “an integral role” in the startup’s growth.
Much has been written about today’s tight labour market for skilled tech talent, particularly on the engineering front. But according to Carnevale, the same factors fuelling this environment have led to stiff competition on the sales side as well.
“It’s happening across the board,” said Carnevale. “In the sales funnel, in the sales world, it’s happening just the same. Companies raise a round, they need to hire salespeople. Sales engineering are the two things that they invest in.”
Within the outbound sales space specifically, Carnevale claims there has been a shift away from generic messaging towards a more personalized approach.
“That requires a very different type of skill set,” said Carnevale. “It requires a more introverted, empathetic person who is able to do the research and do the creative writing required to customize outbound messages.”
According to Carnevale, there is currently a “disconnect” between the talent that exists within companies and what sales prospects actually want. Enter Volley, which provides the necessary sales tools, systems, and talent to serve this need, drawing from Sub-Saharan Africa, including Nigeria, and parts of Canada.
“One of my best investments previously was backing Ian when he co-founded Andela.”
“It’s much more scalable, because you can sort of come to us and snap your fingers,” said Carnevale. “We’ve already got the talent pipeline ramped … All we do is we look for this type of talent, and all of our systems processes are built to optimize that.”
Volley caters to companies that often don’t have the infrastructure required to do this themselves, or hire junior employees and guide them to “those next levels.”
Meanwhile, Volley finds, vets, trains, and employs these workers, and then sells their services as part of a package to its clients. According to Carnevale, in the markets the startup draws from, Volley offers better pay and advancement opportunities, as well as the chance to gain some experience working for international companies they might not be able to reach otherwise.
On the customer side, the companies Volley is targeting are currently considering remote talent “more than ever,” and the CEO does not see that changing.
“It is here to stay,” said Carnevale. “It’s bigger than we thought … The market and the demand, it’s fantastic.”
Feature image courtesy Volley.