NFL legend Joe Montana. (AP Photo/Lennox McLennon, File) AP Photo/Lennox McLennon, File

Football legend, along with founder of Wix, participate in $2.5m seed round for Walnut, whose software “turns sales from an art form to a science.”

By Brian Blum, ISRAEL21c

When famed quarterback and NFL Hall of Famer Joe Montana throws a pass, you know you’ve got to go long.

So, when Montana was announced as one of the seed investors in Israeli startup Walnut,  we took notice of where this particular football is heading.

Walnut is not a sports startup, but it does help teams of a different sort – sales representatives in a company – to create customized sales demos without relying on graphic designers, product developers and R&D staff.

Walnut also learns from experience; it advises users on how to fine-tune demos based on experience.

Walnut was founded this year by CEO Yoav Vilner and serial entrepreneur Danni Friedland. It already has customers including the Nasdaq-traded Israel-based data security firm Varonis  and Israeli software-as-a-service provider Namogoo.

Walnut’s demos are run live even when the real product is offline. That’s meant to circumvent the infamous launch of Windows 98 “when Bill Gates went on stage and was met with the ‘blue screen of death’ in front of the entire world,” recalls Vilner.

It’s been 22 years since that goof, “but one thing hasn’t changed – showcasing your product in real time is a terrifying experience.”

Covid-19 has made remote sales a more common practice, and Vilner says this helped Walnut raise its $2.5 million seed round despite the pandemic. Along with Montana, other funders in this round include Gigi Levy-Weiss, a well-known Israeli high-tech investor in the Bay Area; and Wix CEO Avishay Abrahami.

In fact, Walnut has been dubbed “Wix for sales teams” since, like the drag and drop Wix website creation tool, Walnut requires no coding or technical expertise from its users.

“Our mission is to turn inside sales from an art form to a science,” Vilner says. “By doing so we can remove the guesswork from the methods in which tech companies are currently selling their products, mostly relying on human touch and the personal talent of salespeople.”

Montana, it should be noted, has long since stopped tossing the ball and these days tosses cash at startups; he pivoted into an investor in 2015 with the establishment of L2 Ventures. Montana’s company has now made close to 200 seed investments and had nearly 20 exits.

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