Two former BlackBerry insiders who believe they've invented a better way for executives to manage their customer relationships have raised $7.3-million (U.S.) in a series B financing for their three-year-old startup, Introhive.
The company is based in Fredericton, N.B., where some 20-odd developers (many of them ex-BlackBerry staffers) are located, but it is run out of Washington by Canadian-born co-founders Jody Glidden and Stewart Walchli. It will use the proceeds to expand its sales team and its relationships with key partners, including early supporters Salesforce.com and Microsoft. The financiers include Salesforce.com, which converted an earlier debenture into equity, Halifax-based Build Ventures and Tech Equity Partners, which invests on behalf of primarily Silicon Valley-based limited partners.
Introhive was partly inspired by the frustrations Mr. Glidden and Mr. Walchli experienced after the smartphone giant bought their previous company, enterprise application developer Chalk Media Corp. in 2009 (they left BlackBerry in 2011 and 2012, respectively). Once inside the BlackBerry tent, they tried to expand Chalk's business with Fortune 500 customers by tapping internal colleagues with those connections. "But the way BlackBerry had grown up it was really hard to figure out who knew the right people at the client that I was trying to get into," Mr. Walchli said. "The first idea was: How do we automate who knows who in an enterprise?"
After talking to big clients they realized managing contacts was a pervasive problem. In particular they found many executives didn't like using typical customer relationship management (CRM) software because keeping their data up to date "relies on the end user to manually put it in," Mr. Walchli said. "The problem is the end user believes the amount of effort required to put that data in exceeds the amount of benefit they'll get from the system. [So] they put the bare minimum in, the data quality inside starts to suffer...We automate all that. We can actually identify the activity that should be in the CRM that hasn't gone in."
The Introhive software constantly monitors a user's corporate e-mail, social media accounts and mobile phone, mining for duplicates, updated contact information and even new relationships contacts have developed. It will identify who knows who, who's getting to know who and even which customers need a bit more love because the user hasn't been in touch lately. Users get a weekly notification from Introhive and can update everything with the push of a button. "It sounds mundane but the amount of time savings we create for organizations is through the roof," Mr. Walchli claims.
The company is growing revenues by more than 25 per cent from quarter to quarter and is in the seven-figure range annually, with tens of thousands of users at dozens of corporate accounts, who pay a monthly fee. One of the biggest is PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, which has rolled out the product to thousands of Canadian staff. "We are a relationship-based organization and an innovative tool like Introhive … helps give us a comprehensive view and valuable business insights by enhancing the base information provided by our client relationship management tool," said Philip Grosch, PwC's consulting and deals partner for Canada, in an e-mail.
"The good thing is we're dealing with global customers," Mr. Walchli said. "If we win Canada, we win the U.S. and then we win the world with these big clients."