Intercom Connections Aid $6M Funding Round
Intercom promises a new and much better way of communicating with customers, and some big names in the tech industry apparently believe the startup has some serious innovation to offer. The involvement of social networking notables like Chamath Palihapitiya, David Sacks, Biz Stone, and Paul Adams has helped to draw investor interest, most recently demonstrated in a $6 million round of funding.
06/21/13 5:00 AM PT
Intercom, a startup that offers businesses a tool to create personalized communications with their customers, has secured some US$6 million in a Series A round of funding.
The Social+Capital Partnership, founded by former Facebook vice president Chamath Palihapitiya, handled the fundraising.
Some prominent tech players reportedly participated in the round, including Yammer founder David Sacks. Twitter cofounder Biz Stone participated in an earlier round of fundraising. Internally, the company can point to another high-tech pedigree: Paul Adams, Facebook's global head of brand design, joined Intercom in May as head of product design.
High-Profile Funding Begets More Funding
It is fair to assume that these prominent names influenced the funding Intercom secured, David Johnson, principal for Strategic Vision, told CRM Buyer.
"It's pure old-fashioned name dropping, and it works," he said. "It creates a bandwagon effect. People see that so-and-so has invested and decide that if he did, then they should to." In other words, high-profile financing begets more financing.
Ditto for the talent pool, Johnson said. Skilled Silicon Valley tech talent can pick and choose where they want to work. "It definitely helps in attracting talent if you have a name like Paul Adams to dangle."
What Intercom Does
Intercom might well be poised for success even without all the high-tech celebrity backing the company has attracted -- assuming its technology delivers as promised.
The company is developing a way to personalize customer communications at a deeper level than currently exists. The overall mission of the platform is to help businesses plan and track interactions with their customers and use the resulting data to tailor messages and customize offers.
Intercom offers tools to help guide the customer relationship -- such as one that creates a communication schedule for newly joined customers.
It also focuses heavily on building relationships. For example, the application purports to identify certain segments of users -- say people who haven't made a purchase in a while -- and then talk to them "to understand why they do what they do."
Perhaps most interestingly, the platform is built assuming the company wants to connect its customers to a live person as quickly as possible. It doesn't feature robotic autoresponders or ticket numbers, for instance, but instead "makes it easy for customers to reach a real person and for you to personally respond quickly."
In short, the company is not just a customer service or email marketing provider, Intercom spokesperson Jeff Gardner told CRM Buyer.
"Our goal is to make all of the Web business more personal for the user," he said.
The application gives users a better idea of who their customers are, Gardner continued. "You can see who the regulars are that use the website, for example, and how often they like to use the site. From that same screen, you can then send them a message."
The Case for More Personalization
The market is inundated with a plethora of customer service tools, most of which promise some degree of personalization and customization. The problem is, they just don't work, Johnson said.
"Companies are frustrated, and I think consumers are frustrated too by the level of automation and the many layers of tech that still exist in the customer relationship," he explained.
Not that companies expect or even want the CEO to be manning the front desk, fielding customer inquiries. However, the tech industry hasn't yet figured out a way to help companies use technology to better connect on a personal level with customers.
"If it had, why would we still be getting these automated, mass-generated emails?" asked Johnson. "Sure, they may have our names on them -- but so many of these messages simply don't apply to a customer's personal situation."