A look at the growth strategies that led to Tray.io to become a $ 600Mn company, with marquee clients like Zendesk, Udemy and Bain & Co.
Think of something, and the ancient Greeks probably thought of it first.
Democracy, geometry, airplanes, alarm clocks. Even cement! They even vaguely thought of the idea of automation first.
Yep, you heard that right.
The story goes that Hephaestus, the God of metalworking, made ‘assistants’ out of gold to help him in his workshop. He also sculpted golden dogs to guard the palace of Alcinous and Talos.
Oh, and a giant bronze man to protect Crete.
These assistants (basically, robots) ‘automated’ parts of his work, and while the automatons were moved by magic rather than technology, such stories point to an early human notion of giving inanimate objects the power of movement in order to complete simple, repetitive tasks.
In Ancient Greece, you had to have the power of a God to create robots and automate processes.
2000 years later, Tray.io is here to make sure even us mere mortals can do it.
Founders Rich, Ali, and Dom built a platform that uses a graphical interface to allow businesses to configure complex workflows, integrate apps, and add customized logic to create new ways of working with data.
All of this without the need for a dev team dedicated to integration.
The magic of their low-code platform that lets even nontechnical folks build out automation for their day-to-day role is why Tray.io is valued at $600M today, with heavyweight brands like IBM Cloud, Cisco, Vox, Lyft, Mixpanel, and Forbes on their client list.
But how did they get here?
🐢 Slow and steady wins product-market fit…eventually
Tray’s insane growth trajectory included a lot of stops and starts before it finally took off.
The year is 2012 ⏱
Richard Waldron, Alistair Russell, and Dominic Lewis - friends who shared a love of tech and worked together on a couple of projects - decided to venture out on their own.
To fund themselves while they built out their product, the founders quite literally ‘bootstrapped’ their company - by selling (and delivering) wellington boots on eBay, starting a 20-person marketing agency from scratch, launching a magazine, and of course, running into huge amounts of debt. 🤯
They did all this - for an entirely different product.
The initial idea for Tray was an email automation platform that would sort incoming messages before they reached your inbox. It was designed to help people handling large volumes of emails easily read and respond to the most important ones.
“While working on a previous product back on AngelPad in 2012, we wanted to find out if any investors had signed up for our product. We realized that writing the code to figure this out (looping through Mailchimp & Angellist to create the list) was extremely time-consuming and hard to scale, we couldn’t believe there wasn’t a better, more efficient way to do it, that’s when the idea for Tray was born,” - Rich Waldron
The year is 2015 ⏱
It was the frustration the founders felt while trying to integrate their tech stack and automate processes - since they couldn’t afford to hire more team members - that they hit upon the idea for what is today, Tray.io.
Rich, Ali, and Dom realized that a product that could help them do this was way more valuable than something that helped you sort out your email.
And that’s when things started looking up.
To test their idea, the trio built a heavy Salesforce integration system which helped them secure their first big round of funding - $2M from investors including True Ventures, AngelPad, Redpoint, and Passion Capital in 2015.
🐻 Hibernation mode
Then something strange happened.
Instead of going the usual route of seeking further investment while building out the product and talking to customers, the founders took the money, left SF, and spent the next couple of years in London perfecting their product.
“We were so passionate about the problem we were solving, and we were so clear on how we wanted this product to be, we sort of ignored most of the fundamentals and kind of built exactly the way you’re not meant to.” - Rich Waldron
While this was definitely an uncommon approach - it worked for them.
The year is 2016 ⏱
All the founders had was an idea for a product with a couple of integrations they’d built for demo days. It took them 4 years to figure out all of the integrations they needed, how the platform would look and how to build a GUI for people who weren’t dev experts.
The year is 2020 ⏱
When they finally came out of stealth mode, Tray.io had a whole new interface, could integrate with over 200 software products🤯, and allowed customers to create custom workflows in minutes. 💨
And most importantly, they were right on time.
In 2020, SaaS was exploding - which meant companies needed resources to integrate all their interlocking software.
And Tray.io was right there to deliver.
Their strong belief in automation - and the need to help everyone automate - is what sets Tray.io apart.
To realize their vision, the founders at Tray effectively created a whole new brand of people, who they call citizen automators. Citizen automators are people who aren’t developers or don’t know any complex code - but still want to automate their workflows.
And Tray’s low-code, user-friendly makes this happen. 🙌🏼
Today Tray.io includes more than 600 ‘connectors’ - which help you connect different apps - without using any code! Their platform now enables users to connect apps through a drag-and-drop UI, and they’ve also launched Tray Embedded, a white label offering to companies who want to use Tray for their clients and partners.
And that’s not all, they’ve raised over $100M in funding - $87M in just 6 months! —from some of the biggest names, including GGV Capital, Meritech Capital, Mosaic Ventures, Spark Capital, and True Ventures.
Over 200 of the world’s biggest brands are using Tray right now - a customer base that’s also increasing by 400% each year. 🤯
Their estimated revenue as of 2019 stands at $15M, with an ARR growing over 450% YoY.
Positioning itself as an integration marketplace, Tray is making costly IT investments in integrating workflows, a thing of the past.
In a space where they’re competing with the likes of Zapier and Workato. So, what are they getting right?
Let's dig deeper. 👇🏼
📦 Product-led above all else
Tray is filling in a need in the automation space in a spot between high-end tools like Mulesoft (bought by Salesforce for $6.5 billion) and simpler tools like Zapier.
Creating a workflow on Tray is literally a 5-step process. Step 1: Trigger, which can be as simple as a lead uploaded on Marketo (or any other CRM), Step 2: Plugging in the Source Data, aka the key information that will be used in the workflow, Step 3: Logic which is steps that determine what needs to be done with the input information, Step 4: Formatting aka manipulating the data to transform it into the form needed for the final destination or action, and Step 5: Action, aka what we’re going to do with the information, which can be as simple as a Slack notification or an Email to all sales reps, etc…
Here’s how Tray gets people to see value in its automation platform 👇🏼
🆓 Free Trial, FTW!
Tray.io has no fear of leading with its product. Businesses can access their standard plan - free for 14 days. No credit card required. The plan allows prospects to test out all their connectors (currently at over 400). You can set up simple workflows in about 5 mins - so prospects can begin to see value almost immediately.
And if you’d like to try more complex stuff, the free trial includes access to Tray Academy - which has detailed tutorials and courses on how to use Tray.io. Once prospects have spent the time learning how to automate - the buying decision becomes as easy as pie.
👯♀️ Invite ‘em all!
The free trial allows you to invite all your teammates to automate or tweak existing workflows made on Tray.io, thus getting more people in your company to witness the magic of the platform (and thus, decreasing time to value further) and making a buying decision easier.
🏷 Pay-per-use Pricing
Tray’s focus on flexibility - both on the product and the customer experience side is what sets them apart.
This continues in their pricing strategy. They price based on workflows - starting at $595/month. And since everything is customized to specific needs - this is reflected in the pricing (which needs a 1:1 for an estimate).
🌏 Explore your way!
If you do not have admin authentication for any of the apps you’d like to connect and create workflows with, Tray.io also gives you the option of viewing a recorded demo, attending a live one, or scheduling a 1:1 with their sales team.
The choice is yours.
🔥 All use cases covered.
To ease the buying decision further, Tray has also presented everything the platform can do, based on its several use cases, and give you a demo based on YOUR need.
If you need to use Tray for Marketing automation workflows like personalized email, lead scoring and routing, Data enrichment, or happy customer detection; then you can simply get a demo specific to your use case.
Similarly, they’ve got solutions that automate mundane tasks and power ECommerce, IT, Marketing Ops, Sales, Sales Ops, and Product. By assorting the magic of automation, specific to the way in which one function can benefit—each persona knows exactly what’s in it for them.
🧩 Templates, galore.
Users, especially non-technical folks, can utilize ready-built workflow templates to save time or understand concepts of how to build in Tray.
The templates page on the website covers is, by default, arranged in the order of most popular workflows, some of which include: Export Salesforce query to new Google Sheet, Collect Hubspot form submissions to Salesforce, Notify Slack when Salesforce opp is closed won, Extract AWS S3 Data as JSON.
The templates are further divided into Departments, Connector apps, and Experience levels (Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced) to make navigation easier.
Reduced TTV? Hell, yes.
🗣️ Great logos = Turbocharged WOM
Tray.io managed to crack the impossible and get big-name brands to join their platform as early adopters. In fact, one of their first ten customers ended up being a 350k employee organization.
Early customers included Digital Ocean, Expensify, Vox, Buzzfeed, Zycus, Meteor, and Keen.IO. Some pretty big names for a small company.
Getting these orgs onboard helped bring on board other large companies - which was also driven by the testimonials Tray.io showcased on their platform.
“We were deliberate about landing some key logos early on, we felt it would help to build trust with future prospects” - Rich Waldron
Today Tray.io customers include everyone from IBM to Lyft and Forbes.
Besides their A-list customers, Tray.io also doubled down on partnering with great B2B tech stack companies to catapult their growth further. They onboarded orgs across lead management, customer engagement, and customer data platforms to help deliver an even more seamless experience for customers. Their partners today include brands like DropBox, Drift, Segment, Zendesk, Salesloft, Copper, Qualtrics, Intercom, and Marketo.
This helped them drive insane word-of-mouth marketing - rarely used as a primary marketing strategy - but Tray.io clearly wasn’t interested in doing everything by the book.
👑 Content is King
For all stages of the funnel, Tray.io’s content serves three primary purposes: educating its customers, demonstrating the value of its product, and generating top-of-the-mind awareness.
Let’s take a look at how they do this.
🔎 You reap what you SEO
About 50% of Tray’s website traffic comes from search - out of which 86% is organic. Out of the 25K+ organic keywords that Tray ranks for, some of the top ranking are longtail keywords such as Facebook salesforce integration, how do APIs work.
Once prospects begin to trust Tray for all its integration needs, Tray.io primes them for more.
🪄 Reducing TTV via content
A dedicated Customers page showcases value-driven case studies that are used to demonstrate the value of Tray’s platform for potential customers.
The case study covers the use-case (challenge faced) by some of its biggest logos, and its exact solution deployed, the results achieved, the company type, and a lot more in a highly informative way.
By social proofing in this way, Tray.io is able to establish credibility and authority in the space. And of course, all of the case studies lead to Get a Demo as the Call-to-action.
📖 Educate, Educate, Educate. Sell.
If there’s one thing their content team is really serious about, it’s customer education. Tray provides a ton of resources - in multiple formats - to help customers learn how to use their platform.
Webinars and events - both live and pre-recorded
Detailed How To blogs on how to use Tray for a myriad of use cases.
Deep-dives with detailed walk-throughs on important software processes and full API breakdowns of the tools businesses use daily.
Trends, mostly penned by their featured author, Andrew Park, Director of Content, establishes Tray as the ultimate authority on Automation. Some of the many topics include: How your business turns chat automation into revenue and Gartner 2022 insights on Hyperautomation.
Tray Academy - which they redesigned in 2022 to make it easier than ever for customers to build integrations. The microsite includes free, self-paced courses for beginners - they also plan to add courses for users of all levels in the near future. Academy is a playbook that’s playing out across a range of PLG companies - Gong, Webflow, and Pendo to name a few.
👬 Retention > Acquisition
Once you end up signing up to Tray - the platform does everything it can to keep you.
Tray.io’s customer success team is focused on building powerful, scalable CX programs with a combination of deep, nuanced customer insights and a flexible strategy around technology that rapidly retrieves and combines customer details with highly personalized messaging.
Here’s how Tray.io keeps retention rates high and customers happy:
Excellent customer support: Most of the G2 reviews can’t stop talking about how great their support experience with Tray has been. Since Tray’s focused on building ‘citizen automators’ - a great support service to hand-hold newbies are even more important for them. Tray.io offers two types of customer support plans - Standard and Premium. When a customer has a query, they can raise a ticket, and the customer support team takes over. The super cool thing about Tray’s customer support is that support teams can take over when customers are stuck and build out the rest of the workflow for them!
Now, that’s excellent service.
Professional and advisory services: Tray.io also offers new citizen automators upfront onboarding plans designed to help them become Tray experts. Plans range from a Starter onboarding, for those with API experience, to a robust Foundations 2, that provides hands-on guidance, training, and co-design services to help create your first Workflow. For enterprise clients who need bespoke solutions, Tray.io offers professional services to manage large volumes of data and help with building custom workflows. Customers get access to 1:1 onboarding with Tray technical experts who you can also hire to build out your workflows for you. This helped them speed up integration development for enterprise customers while also achieving quicker time-to-value.
🧑🏽💻 Data for growth
Using data to predict (and decrease) churn rates: Tray uses software like Segment and Gong to listen to their customers and understand where they need support - and where they’re most likely to drop off.
Bella Renney, Head of Product at Tray.io built a customer retention model using data they collected from Segment.
As Tray.io went into the hyper-growth mode, it faced a three-dimensional challenge to scale its number of engaged and retained users. Using Segment, her team was able to identify a number of factors that could cause churn and then designed various touchpoints to prevent this from happening.
The result? A 20% increase in customer engagement - for all users.
Listening to sales conversations on Gong also helped the leadership team understand the gaps in their sales process. They revised their messaging, launched new training, and then used Gong to make sure that all of those learnings were being implemented.
The result? A 40% increase in booked meetings!
🤝 Get others to sell for you
Tray.io’s platform was delivering such value for B2B customers that the leadership team noticed that many of their customers were using Tray.io for their customers as well. This wasn’t just word-of-mouth - their customers were actually doing the selling for them!
To capitalize on what was already happening, the product team at Tray.io built integrations for Tray.io’s products that were often being sold to third parties. The Marketing team also got involved and introduced channel partnerships to make it easier for third parties to sell Tray.io.
In 2019, they launched Tray Embedded, a unified service for products, services, and sales teams with a drag-and-drop workflow builder. The integrations are white-labeled which made it even easier for companies to sell their services using Tray.io.
“We’ve seen tremendous adoption of Tray Embedded and our customers are experiencing notable success after implementing the platform into their operations. Since last July, Tray Embedded has gained nearly 60,000 new end-customers,” Rich Waldron
🪴 Heavy Sales motion
While they may have started slow - sales is one of Tray.io’s biggest verticals now. Nate Gemberling, the Head of Sales was brought on a year after their first Series A fundraise of $5M and got to work building out the sales motion.
In 2019, Nate grew his AE team from 3 to 20, and revenue grew by 3x. But he isn’t taking all the credit for that.
A lot of our growth was attributed to an extremely strong product, also Alex Ortiz and the marketing team built an incredible marketing engine which kept the AE team swimming in leads! - Nate Gemberling
Sales is now approx 50% of the team at Tray.io. And they continue to hire!
In 2022, with expansion plans for the EMEA and APAC, the demand for sales is growing globally. Tray.io is actively hiring across all sales teams - and geographies!
The only way from here is up.
⏩ What’s next for the future of automation?
Tray.io may have spent some time in hibernation - but it’s all systems go from here on out.
Since 2019, after receiving their Series C round of funding of a whopping $50M - just a few short months after their Series B closed - Tray.io has been hyper-focused on growth.
They plan to expand GTM operations and their presence in EMEA and APAC and are working on providing both multinational and regional customers with enhanced sales, support, and implementation coverage.
By adding advanced-level courses and further building out Tray Academy, they’re working on increased capacity-building opportunities for their citizen automators, by adding advanced-level courses and building out Tray Academy.
We can’t wait to see what the automation platform for the future of work is going to do next.