Why we invested in CleanshelfDawn

I was in Copenhagen when I found myself, trip cut short and bleary eyed, boarding a 06:00am flight to Ljubljana to go and meet Dusan Omercevic, Founder and CEO of Cleanshelf, and his team.

My first call with Cleanshelf had been the month before, on 18 December, when most of us had at least mentally checked out for Christmas! I liked the pitch and Dusan’s story, but then I went off for the Christmas break and almost forgot that we had a product demo scheduled for the first week in January.

It was fortunate that I didn’t, because Cleanshelf’s product demo is impressive — impressive enough to make me drop pretty much everything else to focus on getting to know the company, Dusan, and his team.

Cleanshelf’s platform enables enterprises to manage all their SaaS applications in one place. The typical employee at a mid-sized company uses 44 different tools to do their job. And that is a figure from before the global shift we have made over the past few weeks to remote and home working. For businesses, managing this stack of cloud-based tools and applications is a huge job and often a headache — because anyone within the business can download a free version of a tool, start using it, then share it with colleagues.

Cleanshelf solves this management challenge by giving an organisation visibility of all cloud subscriptions. Its platform plugs automatically into accounting, HR, storage and expense management systems and integrates with over 2,000 SaaS providers, providing companies with a single source of truth.

The product itself is extremely user friendly, and one of the best UX I’ve seen at this stage (series A). It was clear that the team had spent a lot of time thinking about what the end user really needs and what she doesn’t (something I always warn companies against is “feature creep”). On top of that, the integrations and level of automation the team had built were truly impressive.

Besides the great product, the value proposition is very clear. When Cleanshelf does an initial audit of a potential customer, the team finds that around 30% of all SaaS spend is wasted on excess licences, redundant or overlapping services, or overpriced vendors. Cleanshelf sweeps away these inefficiencies, providing features like a monthly “anomalies” report, the ability to assign or cancel unused licences or subscriptions, tips on pricing, and “trending” new tools — personalised to the company. Customers also get an immediate overview of SaaS usage, spend by department, and contract renewal dates.

Cleanshelf’s work plays into a long-standing thesis of Dawn’s: that B2B SaaS is taking increasing market share in a sector (software) worth a trillion dollars a year.

And it was refreshing to see the company’s longer-term view of SaaS. Instead of the tired “SaaS is great and going to rule the world”, Cleanshelf is saying, “the battle is won and SaaS is the winner, and that’s causing some real problems. We need to get back the transparency and control of IT spend that we had when enterprises had monolithic IT stacks — perhaps now more than ever.”

Getting back to my trip to Ljubljana — and Dusan, the man I went to see. Dusan personifies that rare (and somewhat schizophrenic!) combination of qualities we at Dawn look for in founders. He is very impressive, driven, and has a hugely ambitious vision for his company; yet he’s also down-to-earth, a great listener, and acutely aware of his own blind spots. Having the opportunity to confirm that, meet his team, and see the level of talent and dedication to the success of the business was, ultimately, what convinced me of the great potential of Cleanshelf.

And while the tech and product brain of the company is firmly in Ljubljana, the commercial heart is already on the West Coast, in Cleanshelf’s San Francisco office, from where the company is already winning in the largest and most competitive software market in the world.

Co-founder and CRO Farlan Dowell is a Silicon Valley sales veteran, with a proven track record of scaling sales and customer success functions. And on the customer side, Cleanshelf already has an impressive client list, and is an established and trusted partner to a number of leading brands, including Harry’s, AT&T, CoStar and Looker.

In sum, I found a fantastic product tackling a big and growing issue, in a real market with a stellar team. Never had I felt better after less than four hours of sleep.

We’re looking forward to many more trips to Ljulibjana and San Francisco, and working with the Cleanshelf team as we help them build the dominant company in this market.

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