This former Twitter exec thinks he’s found the next Salesforce — and it just hit $108 million in funding

Ali Rowghani
Ali Rowghani, partner at Y Combinator, thinks Segment could be the next Salesforce. cableshow/flickr

It’s not everyday that Ali Rowghani joins a board of directors.

The Y Combinator Partner and former COO of Twitter only sits on three or four boards at a time. Now now he’s added a startup named Segment to that list.

Segment offers a marketing platform that lets companies track and consolidate customer data. Its service is used by businesses like Glossier and Instacart to understand how consumers reach and interact with their services, whether through a marketing email or by going directly to their e-commerce sites.

Rowghani thinks Segment could one day be as big as Salesforce. As consumer interactions with businesses becomes more and more digitised, companies are struggling to consolidate all of the data they are collecting on their customers. Segment lets companies in industries ranging from retail to media manage multiple applications in one place, but it also helps them create new tools within its platform.

CEO Peter Reinhardt, a 27-year-old MIT dropout, launched Segment through the Y Combinator incubator program in 2011. The startup just completed a $US63 million C funding round led by the Y Combinator Continuity Fund, which is specifically designed for former Y Combinator incubator companies that are looking to expand. In total, Segment has reached $US108 million, with other major investments by GV, Accel and Thrive.

When asked what made Segment so special, Rowghani waxed poetic about his relationship with Reinhardt.

“He’s really one of the most outstanding founders that I have ever known,” Rowghani said. “We were already sold on him, and as we learned more and spent more time evaluating the company’s plans for the future, we thought this was a unique company with a potential to build a long lasting product in this space.”

Rowghani said that liking the founding team is rule number one when it comes to investing in a startup.

“A great team is better than a great idea,” Rowghani said. “A great team will either fix an idea or make it great; a bad team will ruin an idea.”

The second rule for investing in a startup is that it has to have a great product, Rowghani said. He thinks Segment has Salesforce potential because it creates an infrastructure layer on which businesses can grow.

For now, however, it’s Segment that will be doing the growing. Reinhardt said he plans to use the company’s new funding to build out his team, particularly in engineering and products. Segment currently has 160 employees, but that number could go up to 400 in 2018, he said.

Rowghani, for his part, is up for the challenge. During his five years at Twitter, the company grew from 100 employees to 3000.

“I hope they don’t have to scale as quickly as Twitter did,” Rowghani said. “It creates a lot of problems when you grow that quickly.”