David Abbey, CEO, and Co-Founder of Penny AI tells us about helping grow direct sales businesses all over the world.
First of all, how are you and your family doing?
David Abbey: We are great, thanks for asking. We’ve just returned from an amazing family holiday. I was super busy earlier this year kickstarting a new project at Penny, but once it was over the line and I could take a breath, it was great to have some quality family time. We had such a great week enjoying the sun, getting out on the water, and properly catching up and having fun together.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Penny AI.
David Abbey: It all started with my amazing wife. As a Neonatal Intensive Care nurse, her shift work wasn’t great for a young mum, so she started a social selling business to make a little extra cash so she could say no to some of the late-night shifts.
Her business boomed, which was awesome, but it quickly became clear that there weren’t any tech solutions to help her optimize her time and run her business. Pretty soon, she was running out of hours in the day to run her business, and she still didn’t have the free time she was looking for to spend at home with the kids.
One day it became too much, and she said to me, ‘I just need a personal assistant that can organize my life.’
We looked at all the different sales-enablement solutions and CRM apps, but none of them were suitable for a relationship-building business. And so, while talking to my friend and co-founder, Chris Noble, we came up with an idea. We could build one. We pooled our experience, his as a software engineer, mine in tech project management, and my wife’s social sales expertise…and Penny AI was born.
I truly believe software that’s focused on people can improve lives. It’s our mission to help millions of entrepreneurs build, develop, and grow their businesses without sacrificing their free time. It’s been an incredible journey so far, and I love receiving feedback from our users that Penny is truly changing their lives.
How does Penny AI market its product/services online?
David Abbey: At the heart of our marketing is that focus on supporting our users. We’ve developed a ton of social seller education focusing on the challenges our users are asking for help with. All of this can be found in our Pennyverse and Help & Learning Centre. We’ve also developed LevelUP, a series of free expert-led courses that take beginners through everything they need to know to build their business.
We also have a major social presence across LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Pinterest. These channels promote our educational content, celebrate our Penny users and partners, share our new features and support our recruitment efforts.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how did you get through it?
David Abbey: We were incredibly fortunate during this time in that Penny AI actually grew through the pandemic. Our target industry was looking for a way to equip their social sellers with an all-inclusive business-building solution that can work from anywhere at any time, and Penny was their partner of choice. As we partnered with incredible customers, we grew our team to keep up with demand.
It has obviously been a tough couple of years for everyone, though, so we’re always as flexible and empathetic as possible. We had some incredible in-house lean-ins covering topics like Mental Health, Unconscious Bias, Working Styles, etc., all to support our team from a holistic perspective, so they knew Penny is here for them.
We were excited when the restrictions were lifted in 2021, though. We organized a summer in-person party and flew in almost the entire company so we could all meet up together. I was blown away. At the time, we’d grown from a team of 20 to 45 (we’re now at 100!). Seeing everyone together then was a huge milestone in our Penny journey. I loved meeting everyone in person, and it just reaffirmed for me that we are building the best company ever.
Then, from a marketing perspective, we conducted a survey to explore the impact the pandemic was having on the future of social selling. It revealed some very clear trends in light of the Social Commerce era. In particular, we learned that social selling will become even more popular as consumers transition to buying from people rather than from brands. This then highlighted the need for social sales companies to really focus on teaching consultants how to build personal connections and deliver stellar customer service. Penny was built to support this 100%, so we’re full-steam ahead with our roadmap. I’m super excited to deliver some of the awesome features that have been on the bucket list since day 1.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to manage your online marketing?
David Abbey: We have an incredible Marketing team. Led by our fantastic CMO Maria Osipova, the team is made up of all specialists in their field who use a whole host of software and management applications to get the job done at an incredibly high standard. They’re building our brand out across all areas of the business. A favorite tool for social media is Later.com (another great Vancouver company), so we can plan all our social content in advance. Marketing also works with our Sales team on HubSpot to drive our leads, and we use Intercom for managing our customer journey.
Across the whole company, we’ve also started implementing the Lean-Agile framework. As we scale, we want to keep the agility of a small company, so we have the capacity to deliver bespoke requirements, develop new features and continue innovating to best serve our customers.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
David Abbey: Overall, the industry is highly underserved by technical innovation. There are a number of specialized solutions focusing on either sales mass communication, learning management, or social media apps, but there isn’t a single tool that does it all. It’s left the technology landscape highly fragmented, offering solutions that either focus on the seller or corporate needs. Penny provides a unified platform that delivers an intuitive experience that drives sales, all while educating sellers. At the same time, it provides strategic insights and revenue acceleration capabilities for corporate teams. Penny is the data-driven enterprise platform built for direct sales enablement, learning, and strategic insights. We’re built for social selling success, and that’s why we’re being chosen time and again as the partner of choice for digital-first direct sales companies.
Our edge is that we’re always innovating. We’re always looking for feedback on the product and looking deeper at the challenges the industry is facing so we can develop practical, future-proofed solutions, all within one application.
Your final thoughts.
David Abbey: It’s been great speaking with you. I know that the effects of the pandemic are still being felt, and I am so incredibly grateful to our team for making Penny such an amazing place to work.
We’re building a product that’s improving the lives of millions of social sellers globally. I can’t wait to see where we’ll be in a year and the impact we’ll have had on the industry as a whole. And it’s still only the beginning of our journey!