Consensus raises $110M to inject automation into SaaS product demos

Garin Hess, a tech entrepreneur based in Utah, experienced what he calls the "demo bottleneck" at a previous software-as-a-service (SaaS) startup while pitching to potential customers. He theorized that a self-directed interactive demo, personalized to each stakeholder, could not only streamline the process and save time, but also help organically discover and engage other stakeholders who might not normally be reached.

That led Hess to found Consensus, a platform for interactive video demos, which today announced that it raised $110 million from Sumeru Equity Partners. Consensus lets engineering teams build a library of reusable, interactive video demos that sales teams can send out on demand.

"Consensus is like an 'Iron Man mech suit' for every sales engineer to be able to do more with what they have," Hess told TechCrunch in an email interview. "For example, Consensus automates the routine 'harbor cruise' demos so that consultants can spend more of their time doing what they do best: strategically helping buyers through complexity when buying solutions that have many pieces to the puzzle."

Launched in 2013 and now with over $139 million in the bank (inclusive of today's raise), Consensus allows users to build demo videos and then email those demos to prospects. Prospects pick what they want to learn about and get a personalized demo, which they can share with their wider teams and organization.

Throughout the process, Consensus tracks engagement and automatically finds new stakeholders by role and priority.

"Unlike generalized video platforms, Consensus tracks who engages and personalizes both a video demonstration and hands-on, click-through product tour experience based on answers to specific questions asked upfront," Hess explained. "It uses a proprietary personalization engine, then gathers data analytics for the sales team to help drive alignment in the buying group."

Of course, Consensus isn't the only game in town when it comes to product demoing -- far from it. There's Arcade, a startup developing a Chrome extension for product demos, which raised $7.5 million last September. Another top rival is Demostack, which landed $34 million in April for its "demo experience" platform for SaaS sales teams.

To further set itself apart from the crowd, Consensus released Tours recently, which lets a salesperson demonstrate a product feature via video and then hand it off to a prospect so they can explore the same feature through a self-directed click-through experience.

"Millions of dollars of revenue are locked up in the inefficiencies of the traditional sales engineering model of doing live demo after live demo. It artificially stretches the buying cycle and adds risk to every deal, not to mention it is enormously expensive," Hess said. "With Consensus' intelligent demo automation platform, enterprise software sales teams not only improve their own efficiencies, but more importantly improve the target organization's buying group efficiency, which automatically accelerates the buying process, reduces risk and results in more sales without adding headcount."

Is that promising too much? Perhaps. But Consensus hasn't had trouble attracting business, apparently. Consensus' current customers span 15 of the 30 largest software companies, including Coupa, Oracle and Autodesk. According to Hess, revenue grew 60% in 2022.

"The pandemic helped move the 'pre-sales' profession from a focus on 'have to be there in person' to 'Hey, we can do this remotely?'" Hess said. "This forcing function from the pandemic caused the entire sales industry to sit up and question the status quo, which has been helpful to opening minds to the usefulness of demo automation as part of the process. We believe Consensus is uniquely positioned to grow effectively in this slowdown because we are automating a function that for many enterprise software companies [has] never been automated before."