InterviewInterview with Chief Revenue Officer, AlphaSense – Kiva Kolstein

FTB News Desk FTB News DeskDecember 3, 201918 min
Kiva Kolstein Chief Revenue Officer, AlphaSense

Kiva has spent the last 20 plus years building high-growth companies and teams. He is currently CRO for AlphaSense, an AI-powered market intelligence search engine. Before AlphaSense, Kiva was CRO for Handshake, a global B2B commerce platform later sold to Shopify. Prior, Kiva was the Chief Growth Officer and VP Sales for Percolate, later sold to Seismic, where he grew the global sales organization to over 100 employees and revenues ten-fold in three years. Prior to Percolate, Kiva was SVP of Sales and founding member of the corporate division of Gerson Lehrman Group ("GLG"). Kiva has also led national accounts for software provider, Kastle Systems, worked for CPI, a niche-consultancy focused on organization development, and general manager for Global Crossing. In addition, he's a regular consultant to FRC, Primary Ventures, and Softech portfolio companies, and on the advisory board to several high-growth technology start-ups in New York. Kiva received degrees from University of Delaware in Political Science and Marketing.

1. Tell us about your role in AlphaSense?
I’m the Chief Revenue Officer at AlphaSense, the leading AI-powered search engine for market intelligence. I am responsible for managing our global sales, customer success, revenue operations, sales enablement, corporate development and partnerships teams, overseeing all revenue generation efforts across the company and delivering a transformative product and experience to our financial services, corporates and consulting clients.

2. Why did you decide to pursue the field of AI?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a buzzword that most people either love or loath. Either way, there is no denying that AI is already changing how we live and work, whether that is email spam filters or virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa. AlphaSense’s ground-breaking search technology uses natural language processing and deep machine learning to enable knowledge professionals to be more efficient and thorough at gathering critical information needed for business decisions. One of the things that excited me most about joining AlphaSense more than two years ago was the enormous market for the product, one that already exists and did not need to be created.

3. How is technology redefining the finance space?
Technology is disrupting every sector, and financial services is no exception. How it is disrupting the finance space varies greatly, at both the consumer and enterprise levels.Broadly speaking, technology is introducing more transparency, access and speed —you can see this through the adoption of online lending sites, digital currencies, blockchains/distributed ledgers and market intelligence platforms.

4. How has the application of AI empowered financial professionals?
With the growing presence of AI, financial professionals have already seen a rise in the automation of manual processes and activities, enabling tasks to be completed more quickly and decisions to be made more efficiently and effectively. AI tools can process an immense amount of data and generate better analytics than ever before, which can have organization-wide applications, ranging from alternative datasets and relationship mapping to automated operations functions and on-demand reporting.

5. Can you explain how AlphaSense helps organizations in making investment decisions?
AlphaSense streamlines the research process and empowers knowledge professionals to uncover actionable insights. For corporations, that could mean helping an investor relations officer monitor the latest news and updates related to their peers and industry, or increasing the speed and accuracy a healthcare CI analyst can gather and analyze information about competitors’ product pipelines. In financial services, it may result in improved idea generation by allowing research analysts and portfolio managers to be first-movers and identify emerging trends and themes as new investment opportunities.

6. What advice can you give to startups?
1. Be comfortable with change and embrace it.

If your company looks the same way a year from now as it does today, you’ll be out of business.

2. Hire great, experienced managers, and give up some control to them. These managers should come with a playbook for their respective function and need to be able to use it. They’re there to help you see around corners and avoid potholes. If you allow them, they’ll accelerate your business by years.

3. Set an extraordinary vision for the company and align the entire organization around that vision. Share that vision weekly so that everyone across the organization knows exactly why they’re getting out of bed and running to work every day and exactly how their role contributes to the vision.

4. Establish your culture as the foundation. Make it a fun, intense, collaborative and special place to work.

5. Debate ideas, not people. Make sure everyone knows nothing is precious, and the best ideas win regardless of where the idea came from. Hire talented people who come with fresh perspective, new ideas and a deep desire to participate in discussions around tactics and strategy.

6. Know the competition and put your head on a swivel. If your product really is disruptive, competition will soon be fierce. Read Wartime, Peacetime CEO by Ben Horowitz, and become a wartime leader.

7. Is there any other startup technology that has grabbed your attention?
I’m excited by what’s happening in the micro-mobility space. There are several interesting companies like Bird, Lime, Mobike, Ofo and others emerging in a massive global market which I’ve read could be $300B by 2030. As congestion in cities continues to rise, these companies are offering a very real alternative to the way we’ve traditionally thought about transportation.

8. How does one prepare for an AI-centric world?
Welcome it. AI is here and here to stay. Like the Internet, AI has and will continue to permeate through the different facets of our lives. There is much discussion about how machines and automation will soon eliminate many jobs, but what people should contemplate is how AI will augment human intelligence and create jobs that previously did not exist. Think about it in terms of strengths and weaknesses. No one person can be proficient at everything. Instead of viewing AI as a threat, it’s important to acknowledge that machines will always be more competent at processing data and recognizing patterns than humans, and that humans will always have an edge when it comes to solving complex problems that require creative, social, emotional and cognitive skills.

9. Tell us about your team and how it supports you.
My team is approximately 100 people globally across sales, customer success, revenue operations, sales enablement, partnerships, corporate development and management. I am truly inspired and motivated by them every day. I’m proud of the extraordinary talent we have across all these functions, and I am constantly learning from them better ways to take this business to market. I can feel the energy from the moment I walk into the office at 7:30am on Monday morning and every minute of every day through our Weekly Wrap at 4:30pm on Friday afternoon, which leads directly into an end of week happy hour for employees, candidates, friends and family. There is a deep desire to learn (and share) here, and you can sense it when we’re talking about almost anything that may be standing in our way. Everyone across the organization is thinking through how to be better than we were yesterday.

As CRO, I strongly believe my team’s role is less about supporting me and more about supporting each other. We have a saying, “nobody closes alone.” What that means is everyone recognizes that Sales is a team sport. One of the most important lessons is understanding how to marshal the internal resources from around the organization to help get deals done. We’ve created a highly collaborative environment, where sharing best practices is standard operating procedure.

10. Are there any major upcoming developments you can share?
We are acutely focused on deriving actionable signals from the high-value content that we derive from over 1,000 sources and optimizing the surrounding AlphaSense workflow tools to enable our users to make better decisions more quickly and confidently.

Some of the most recent applications of these actionable signals include our ability to generate sentiment scores from earnings transcripts, as well as provide users with real-time theme suggestions extracted from the hundreds of thousands of public documents that we process and index every day–increasing ultimately the speed to access key insights and signals.

11. Is there a book you’re reading now that interests you?
There are several great blogs/podcasts I read or listen to daily:

1. SaaStr
2. Sales Hacker
3. Predictable Revenue
4. Tomasz Tunguz
5. Hey Salespeople
6. Gary Vee

FTB News Desk

FTB News Desk

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