Tech review site IT Central Station closed on a $30 million Series A led by Invictus Growth Partners. The site grew ARR 124%, surpassed 500,000 registered members, and was visited by 3.5 million enterprise software buyers over the past year. The firm was bootstrapped in 2012 and has been self-funded until now. It is both profitable and cash-flow positive.
The funds will be employed to rebrand the site as PeerSpot, expand its coverage of new enterprise tech categories, and accelerate sales and marketing. Hiring will be concentrated in the R&D, Sales, Marketing, and Customer Success departments.
IT Central Station has focused on core IT sectors such as Cybersecurity, DevOps, and IT management; however, it does not have the profile breadth of some of the major review sites.
“Now we are expanding to categories where IT is not the primary buyer but is still on the buying committee,” explained CEO Russell Rothstein to GZ Consulting. “Following that we will expand our coverage for all enterprise technology categories, including mid-market.”
The new brand and site will be launched in January 2022.
“IT Central Station has succeeded in building a platform that tech buyers trust and enables vendor marketers to achieve strong ROI,” said Rothstein. “We are in the top of the first inning in our plan to build the world’s largest B2B marketplace for enterprise technology, built upon a foundation of verified user-generated content and peer reviews. The Invictus team adds deep operating expertise, including a uniquely valuable approach to data science, and I am thrilled to have Invictus as our partner for the next stage of our growth.”
Rothstein explained that as a bootstrapped company, the firm didn’t have the marketing resources of other sites, so he focused on the depth and value of reviews, high-quality intent data, and building its customer success team. Along with rapid revenue growth, the firm posted a net retention rate of 142% last year.
“People trust their peers more than any industry analysts or so-called experts,” said Rothstein. As a result, younger tech buyers expect to “go online to tap into the knowledge of their peers as part of the buying process. It’s just natural for them.”
Rothstein argues that IT Central Station’s reviews are “the most in-depth,” with an average length of 620 words. In addition, it offers a “Zero Fake Reviews” commitment, with a triple authentication process (LinkedIn profiles, community policing, and human oversight) for validating reviews. First, reviews are checked to ensure the individual does not work for the reviewed company or one of its competitors. The job function is also verified to ensure that a qualified individual wrote it.
“Every review has to have pros and cons. We don’t accept any five-star ‘everything’s perfect’ reviews without any room for improvement,” explained Rothstein. “Reviews have to have both room for improvement as well as value that you get from the product.”
Conversely, IT Central Station also filters out reviews that are purely negative rants.
“If someone’s having such an extreme opinion, then they’re not really presenting a realistic picture,” continued Rothstein. “It’s just losing credibility. People aren’t going to believe the review and it just reflects poorly on the review site itself. So we really aim to get that balance in every review.”
Rothstein explained that IT Central Station has a strong community that both polices the site for biased reviews and supports active Q&A discussions.
Profiles include an overview, filterable reviews, pros and cons, pricing, alternatives, “Many of our customers generate millions of dollars in pipeline and closed business from IT Central Station leads and intent data,” blogged Rothstein. “They’ve given us high marks with an average 70 Net Promoter Score (NPS) over the past four quarters. That’s world-class NPS, putting us at the level of Apple and Starbucks.”
IT Central Station argues that review sites mostly attract “high intent buyers” in the decision phase of the buyer’s journey. Furthermore, Demand Gen’s 2021 Buyers Survey found that most purchasers reached out to peers and existing users before contacting any vendors.
“People don’t read complex product reviews just for kicks – they are looking for help in choosing what product to buy,” added IT Central Station Content Manager Rony Sklar. “B2B buyers who are about to spend a lot of money on an enterprise solution want to know what their peers’ experiences have been with the solutions they’re considering before making a purchase. Because review sites have this highly targeted, homogenous audience whose main logical use case for a review site is researching a purchase, all the site visitors exhibit a degree of intent. Unlike other types of data, this intent data is low funnel and has a high degree of accuracy because there is no guesswork involved. The intent data generated by a review platform shows you exactly which companies are researching you and your competitors.”
Along with CSV files and webhooks, IT Central Station delivers integrated intent data to Salesforce, Demandbase, and LinkedIn. In addition, the firm will be announcing support for 6sense, Marketo, HubSpot, Outreach, and Metadata in the coming months.
“We can provide [intent data] at the contact level, but also aggregate it at the account level, as we can associate multiple people at the same company,” stated Rothstein. “We provide a proprietary Buyer Intent Score for each account that incorporates activity done both at the contact and overall account level for each account. For contact level, we provide email, phone, title, function, job level, and BANT information. We also provide product interests per contact, so you can see which products the contact is researching and comparing, with the level of depth of their research.”
Intent data is updated daily. “Making the right enterprise software purchasing decisions has never been more mission critical for the success of growing businesses and the careers of enterprise software buyers,” said Invictus Managing Partner William Nettles. “IT Central Station’s reviews have proven to be a must have for enterprises to validate the performance of their products, while providing buyers the most trusted and reliable data for their buying decisions. We are thrilled to partner with Russell and his team to help them scale the business to the benefit of enterprise software buyers globally.”