Zendesk puts Smooch acquisition to work with WhatsApp integration

Zendesk has always been all about customer service. Last spring it purchased Smooch to move more deeply into messaging app integration. Today, the company announced it was integrating WhatsApp, the popular messaging tool, into the Zendesk customer service toolkit.

Smooch was an early participant in the WhatsApp Business API program. What that does in practice says Warren Levitan, who came over as part of the Smooch deal, is provide a direct WhatsApp phone number for businesses using Zendesk . Given how many people, especially in Asia and Latin America, use WhatsApp as a primary channel for communication, this is a big deal.

“The WhatsApp Business API Connector is now fully integrated into Zendesk support. It will allow any Zendesk support customer to be up and running with a new WhatsApp number quicker than ever before, allowing them to connect to the 1.5 billion WhatsApp users worldwide, communicating with them on their channel of choice,” Levitan explained.

Levitan says the entire WhatsApp interaction experience is now fully integrated into the same Zendesk interface that customer service reps are used to using. WhatsApp simply becomes another channel for them.

“They can access WhatsApp conversations from within the same workspace and agent desktop, where they handle all of their other conversations. From an agent perspective, there are no new tools, no new workflows, no new reporting. And that’s what really allows them to get up and running quickly,” he said.

Customers may click or touch a button to dial the WhatsApp number, or they may use a QR code, which is a popular way of accessing WhatsApp customer service. As an example, Levitan says Four Seasons hotels prints a QR code on room key cards, and if customers want to access customer service, they can simply scan the code and the number dials automatically.

Zendesk has been able to get 1000 businesses up and running as part of the early access program, but now it really wants to scale that and allow many more businesses to participate. Up until now, Facebook has taken a controlled approach to on-boarding, having to approve each brand’s number before allowing it on the platform. Zendesk has been working to streamline that.

“We’ve worked tightly with Facebook (the owner of WhatsApp), so that we can have an integrated brand approval and on-boarding/activation to get their number lit up. We can now launch customers at scale, and have them up and running in days, whereas before it was more typically a multi-week process,” Levitan said.

For now, when the person connects to customer service via WhatsApp, it’s only via text messaging, There is no voice connection, and no plans for any for the time being, according to Levitan. Zendesk-WhatsApp integration is available starting today worldwide.

GetAccept’s workflow and e-signature platform for sales secures $7M Series A funding

Many years ago every sales deal was sealed with a handshake between two people. Today, digitization has moved into the sales process, but it hasn’t necessarily improved the experience. In fact, it’s often become a more time-consuming affair because information and communications are scattered across multiple channels and the number of people involved in a deal has increased. That means lots of offers and quotes are get lost in the mix.
GetAccept a startup which provides an all-in-one sales platform where video, live chat, proposal design, document tracking and e-signatures come together to simplify the life of a sales team.

It’s now convinced investors there is such a need, raising a $7 million Series A funding round led by DN Capital, with participation from BootstrapLabs, Y Combinator and a number of Spotify’s early investors including ex-CFO of Spotify, Peter Sterky. The former CMO of Slack and Zendesk, Bill Macaitis, will also join the company’s Board of Directors.

The new capital will be used to scale sales and marketing, and accelerate product innovation for GetAccept’s industry leading document workflow solution for sales.
This round brings GetAccept’s total financing raised to $9M after then won their first seed round in 2017.
Samir Smajic, CEO, GetAccept says while CRM systems have made it easier for sales teams to manage pipeline and broker deals, “60 percent of all contracts are lost to indecision or simply go unanswered… Prospects no longer have to interact with reps to get basic information about a product or service, making the sales process highly impersonal. But prospects still need a rep to guide them through an increasingly complex B2B sales process in order to make better-informed buying decisions.” He believes GetAccept bridges this growing “engagement gap”.
GetAccept integrates into a company’s sales pipeline through technology partnerships with CRM and sales automation platforms including Salesforce, HubSpot, Microsoft Dynamics 365 and others.
It’s pitched as an all-in-one sales platform which compete with several separate tools including well-financed solutions likeDocsend, Pandadoc, Showpad, Highspot, Docusign, and Adobe Sign. Their ‘sales pitch’ is that companies can do all of the things in those products but the single GetAccept platform is actually geared toward to sales reps and includes the important features that help sales reps to actually move deals forward.
“Getting a deal to the point of contract has become increasingly difficult because buyers now get most of their information online,” said Thomas Rubens, Partner at DN Capital. “GetAccept honed in on this growing issue early on and built a best-in-class platform for managing document workflow and engagement across the entire sales cycle.”
GetAccept has so far signed customers including Samsung, Stanley and Siemens . It’s also expanded to the US and EMEA including Norway, Denmark and France.

Enterprise healthcare platform Collective Health raises $205M led by SoftBank

SoftBank’s Vision Fund may be facing some challenges when it comes to restocking its massive reserves, but the firm famous for cutting big checks is leading a sizeable round for Collective Health. This startup focused on enterprise employee healthcare management announced a $205 million Series E raise today, bringing its total funding to $434 million since its founding in 2013. Its last raise was a $110 million round in February, 2018.

Collective Healths’ client list includes Red Bull, Pinterest, Zendesk and more, and it counts GV, NEA, DFJ Growth and Sun Life among its financial backers. Its platform is an integrator for the various insurance and benefit providers that large employers offer to their employees, and provides access to info, as well as claims filing, eligibility checks and data sharing across vendors. The funding will also help with additional engineering hires to continue to build out the platform.

The funding will help the company add more partner providers, a process that’s key to continued growth as it seeks to expand its footprint and ensure that it can serve customers and their employees across the U.S. In addition to the Vision Fund, this round included new investors PSP Investments, DFJ Growth and G Squared, as well as new participation from existing investors.

The Exit: Getaround’s $300M roadtrip

In August of last year, Getaround scored $300 million from Softbank. Eight months later they handed that same amount to Drivy, a Parisian peer-to-peer car rental service that was Getaround’s ticket to tapping into European markets.

Both companies shared similar visions for the future of car ownership, they were about the same size, both were flirting with expanding beyond their home market, but only one had the power of the Vision Fund behind it.

The Exit is a new series at TechCrunch. It’s an exit interview of sorts with a VC who was in the right place at the right time but made the right call on an investment that paid off. [Have feedback? Shoot me an email at [email protected]

Alven Capital’s Jeremy Uzan

Alven Capital partner Jeremy Uzan first invested in Drivy’s seed round in 2013. Uzan joined Index Ventures co-leading a $2 million round that valued the company at less than $10 million. The firms would later join forces again for the company’s $8.3 million Series A.

I chatted at length with Uzan about what lies ahead for the Drive team, what Paris’s startup scene is still in desperate need of, and how Softbank’s power is becoming even more impossible to ignore.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity. 


Getting the checkbook

Lucas Matney: So before we dive into this acquisition, tell me a little bit about how you got to the point where you were writing these checks in the first place.

Jeremy Uzan: So, I studied computer science and business and then spent three years as a tech banker. I was actually in a very small investment banking boutique in Paris helping young startups to raise their Series A rounds. They were all French companies, my first deal was with the YouTube competitor DailyMotion.

Keyword research in 2019: Modern tactics for growing targeted search traffic

In 2019, it’s estimated that every minute there are 150 new websites coming online. While many of these won’t be long-term ventures, a large percentage will eventually find themselves looking to organic search engine traffic to grow their reach.

This invariably leads people to the task of keyword research; uncovering the search terms most likely to result in prospective customers.

With increased competition it’s imperative you don’t just focus on the traditional sources of keyword inspiration that every other business uses.

In the past year alone I’ve personally helped hundreds of business owners grow search engine traffic to their websites. This responsibility drives me to succeed in one key area: Finding relevant search terms to target that their competitors have likely missed.

In this article, I will highlight some of the most overlooked ideas and sources of data to reveal words and phrases relevant to your business that are high in intent but lacking in competition.

If you can find the keywords your audience are searching for, but your competitors haven’t found, you can leverage a huge advantage to increase traffic and engagement on your content.

Table of Contents

  1. Be Open to Talking About Your ‘Best’ Competition
  2. Use [Brand Alternatives] Search Terms to Gain Visibility
  3. Find Content Opportunities in the ‘People Also Ask’ Box
  4. Use Public Wikipedia Stats to See If a Term Is Worth Targeting
  5. Quora’s Ad Platform Reveals Popular Search Terms Without Spending a Penny
  6. Wikihow’s Public View Counts Are Great for Tutorial-Based Content Inspiration
  7. Bonus Tip: ProductHunt Dominate ‘Alternatives’ Keywords: Make Sure You Have a Listing There
  8. To Recap

1. Be Open to Talking About Your ‘Best’ Competition

Google is constantly improving their ability to understand searcher intent. That is, they know what people are looking for and the results that will satisfy those searches.

When it comes to any industry that offers products or services, one of the most common search queries is often some variation of “best [industry] [services / products]”.

Zendesk just hired three former Microsoft, Salesforce and Adobe execs

Today, Zendesk announced it had hired three new executives — Elisabeth Zornes, former general manager of global support for Microsoft Office, as Zendesk’s first chief customer officer; former Adobe executive Colleen Berube as chief information officer and former Salesforce executive Shawna Wolverton as senior vice president, product.

The company emphasized that the hirings were about expanding the executive suite and bringing in top people to help the company grow and move into larger enterprise organizations.

From left to right: Shawna Wolverton, Colleen Berube and Elizabeth Zornes

Zornes comes to Zendesk with 20 years of experience at Microsoft working in a variety of roles around Microsoft Office. She says that what attracted her to Zendesk was its focus on the customer.

“When I look at businesses today, no matter what size, what type or what geography, they can agree on one thing: customer experience is the rocket fuel to drive success. Zendesk has positioned itself as a technology company that empowers companies of all kinds to drive a new level of success by focusing on their customer experience, and helping them to be at the forefront of that was a very intriguing opportunity for me,” Zornes told TechCrunch.

New CIO Berube, who comes with two decades of experience, also sees her new job as a chance to have an impact on customer experience and help companies who are trying to transform into digital organizations. “Customer experience is the linchpin for all organizations to succeed in the digital age. My background is broad, having shepherded many different types of companies through digital transformations, and developing and running modern IT organizations,” she said.

Her boss, CEO and co-founder Mikkel Svane sees someone who can help continue to grow the company and develop the product. “We looked specifically for a CIO with a modern mindset who understands the challenges of large organizations trying to keep up with customer expectations today,” Svane told TechCrunch

As for senior VP of product Wolverton, she comes with 15 years of experience including a stint as head of product at Salesforce. She said that coming to Zendesk was about having an impact on a modern SaaS product. “The opportunity to build a modern, public, cloud-native CRM platform with Sunshine was a large part of my decision to join,” she said.

The three leaders have already joined the organization — Wolverton and Berube joined last month and Zornes started just this week.

Ambitious Singapore startup Delegate wants to bring its event booking platform to the US

It’s not often that you hear about a startup from Singapore with ambitions to expand to the U.S, but that’s exactly the goal for event booking service Delegate.

Founded in August 2015, the company aims to be a one-stop shop for booking an event, that covers corporate and professional functions, celebrations like weddings and more personal events such as birthdays or get-togethers.

Beyond the essential step of securing a venue, Delegate’s platform covers a range of different needs that include: food and beverage, photography and videography, flowers and decor, entertainment such as bands, invitation and gifts, event staff, production equipment and transport.

“We saw a huge gap in the market,” co-founders Melissa Lou and Jacqueline Ye, who both worked in the event industry prior to starting Delegate, told TechCrunch in a recent interview. “There was no one resource for finding events and resources.”

The Delegate platform covers venue booking, catering, staffing, entertainment and more.

But, beyond being a booking platform for consumers, Delegate has a smart hook that attracts those on venue and event hosting side. In addition to helping them generate bookings via its sites, Delegate offers a subscription ‘Pro’ product that helps them manage daily operations, generate leads, collect bookings and handle collaborations with others in their supply chain.

There’s also an element of granularity with the consumer side of the business. Delegate has set up options to make the myriads of suppliers, venues and more navigable for less experienced customers. That includes a ‘deals’ section for, well, deals and an inspiration board for the planning process which is itself inspired by Pinterest’s visual approach.

Coming soon, the company hopes to add payment plans to help make it easier to pay for major events, as well as a new offering focused squarely on business users and API integrations for third-party services.

Lou and Ye started the business nearly four years ago with around 100 vendors thanks to their personal and business networks. Today, it claims 1,700 vendors and 70,000 users across Singapore and Hong Kong, its first expansion market.

Delegate co-founders Jacqueline Ye and Melissa Lou (left and right) want to expand their service to the U.S. market.

Already present in two of Asia’s top event locations, where average spend is among the highest for the region. But since those countries are limited in size — Singapore’s population is just shy of six million, Hong Kong’s is around seven million, it makes sense that Delegate is now looking for its next moves. Lou and Ye said they plan to launch the service in “key cities” in Australia and the U.S. to tap what they see as lucrative markets, while Korea and Taiwan are also on the radar closer to home in Asia.

“We see these markets as a good fit for us,” Lou explained. “They have a fair share of corporate events already and, in particular, Australia is a good country because we have a good network there.”

Entering the U.S. might sound implausible to some, but already soft launches of the platform in LA and Austin have drawn interest from over 100 vendors, the Delegate co-founders said. That’s without any major marketing push to either businesses or consumers, and it gives the company optimism. Already the U.S. is a listed location on their service but, for now, there are less than a dozen vendors and there’s no specific location.

Beyond early outreach, the company has raised funds for expansion. Last month, Delegate announced a $1 million pre-Series A round from an undisclosed family office (with apparent links to the event industry) and angel investors who founded Zopim, the Singapore-based startup that sold to Zendesk for around $30 million in 2014.

That network and Saas expertise is likely to help with those ambitious global expansion plans, although Lou and Ye said they aren’t planning to raise their Series A just yet. They say they plan to stretch their runway and keep their costs lean, a practice the founders say they have stuck to since bootstrapping without outside funding for the first year of the business. It’s unlikely bet for most startups in Southeast Asia, but if Delegate can gain even just a small foothold in the U.S, it would be a massive validation of its business model and niche, and no doubt precipitate that larger Series A round.

Brex has partnered with WeWork, AWS and more for its new rewards program

Brex, the corporate card built for startups, unveiled its new rewards program today.

The billion-dollar company, which announced its $125 million Series C three weeks ago, has partnered with Amazon Web Services, WeWork, Instacart, Google Ads, SendGrid, Salesforce Essentials, Twilio, Zendesk, Caviar, HubSpot, Orrick, Snap, Clerky and DoorDash to give entrepreneurs the ability to accrue and spend points on services and products they use regularly.

Brex is lead by a pair of 22-year-old serial entrepreneurs who are well aware of the costs associated with building a startup. They’ve been carefully crafting Brex’s list of partners over the last year and say their cardholders will earn roughly 20 percent more rewards on Brex than from any competitor program.

“We didn’t want it to be something that everyone else was doing so we thought, what’s different about startups compared to traditional small businesses?” Brex co-founder and chief executive officer Henrique Dubugras told TechCrunch. “The biggest difference is where they spend money. Most credit card reward systems are designed for personal spend but startups spend a lot more on business.”

Companies that use Brex exclusively will receive 7x points on rideshare, 3x on restaurants, 3x on travel, 2x on recurring software and 1x on all other expenses with no cap on points earned. Brex carriers still using other corporate cards will receive just 1x points on all expenses.

Most corporate cards offer similar benefits for travel and restaurant expenses, but Brex is in a league of its own with the rideshare benefits its offering and especially with the recurring software (SalesForce, HubSpot, etc.) benefits.

San Francisco-based Brex has raised about $200 million to date from investors including Greenoaks Capital, DST Global and IVP.  At the time of its fundraise, the company told TechCrunch it planned to use its latest capital infusion to build out its rewards program, hire engineers and figure out how to grow the business’s client base beyond only tech startups.

“This is going to allow us to compete even more with Amex, Chase and the big banks,” Dubugras said.

Google.org, BlackRock and others commit $2.2 million to Fast Forward’s nonprofit tech accelerator

 As impact investing gains traction in the market, a new accelerator for tech nonprofits called Fast Forward has raised $2.2 million in philanthropic funding from the nonprofit arms of some of the world’s largest companies and financial services firms. BlackRock, Google.org, Comcast NBCUniversal, and AT&T joined Zendesk, Twilio.org, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, the Nasiri and Rita… Read More

Segment adds third-party sources like Zendesk and Stripe to help companies truly understand customer experience

Segment

Segment is an increasingly popular customer data aggregator that makes it easy for engineers to track funnel events, test new analytics partners, and combine data collected from websites, mobile apps, and servers. In a marketing technology universe littered with customer data tools, this can be really useful. At VB Insight, I studied the marketing analytics landscape and counted 700+ tools marketers use to house customer data and generate marketing insights. I didn’t collect all of them, and Segment doesn’t integrate with nearly all of them. Even still, in the classic “build vs. buy” dialectic — which was alive and well at VentureBeat’s own Mobile Summit this past week — Segment has historically offered the compelling alternative of “try.”

The new release, called Sources, is potentially much more powerful than that.

While web and mobile app data can be a massive undertaking unto itself, what about the droves of data collected in email campaigns, customer support channels, or payment systems? After all, customers don’t just use websites and mobile apps. They open emails, have conversations with salespeople, chat with customer support, and pay for stuff. These data sources typically live in their own silo — and in large, oftentimes fragmented companies, they are managed by their own engineering team with their own release and update cycles and data analysts.

In this model, tons of data gets left behind. And even in digitally mature companies thoroughly invested in customer analytics, they still have a hard time combining data sources with third-party systems — like contact center or payment information — and making it mean something.

Segment’s new offering is interesting because it’s drawing from rather than sending to cloud providers like Salesforce, Zendesk, Stripe, SendGrid, Mandrill, and Twilio, pulling information into a single database with just a few clicks. I usually scoff at the “5 mins to install, no engineering time required” vendor speak — but in Segment’s case, it’s actually true.
sources
More importantly, with all of this actual customer data in one place, companies can finally understand the complete customer experience and explore how touchpoints across communication channels affect revenue, engagement, retention, and churn. It allows engineering and marketing teams to stop focusing so much on data collection and start thinking about the customers behind the data. I like to use the analogy of water at a well. Are your highly paid data analysts best used pumping a cistern or gathering water? Or would be they be more effective with an effective infrastructure in place, building cool irrigation apps with that water system to make your products grow? With sources, Segment customers can truly focus on growth initiatives. For instance, they can see which pages in an app prompt the most support tickets, or whether customers opting in via text are more engaged than those in email, or even how support tickets can drive purchases.

Trunk Club, Instacart, Mapbox, Udacity, 99Designs, and Angie’s List are some of the launch customers using Sources and spending less time gathering water. Combining data this way puts typically near-impossible tasks, like quantifying the value of customer support — or understanding the effects of email and text message campaigns over time — very reachable, if not downright testable.

I also caught up with Segment CEO Peter Reinhardt to learn a little more about what the release means for high-performing teams and what’s possible with all of this disparate third party data living in one place. Perhaps, most importantly, are the types of sources available on the product now and on the way. Reinhardt said, in an email, “We have 8 sources to start (Salesforce, Stripe, Zendesk, SendGrid, Mandrill, Intercom, Hubspot, and Twilio) with 2 more currently in beta (Mailchimp, SalesforceIQ). We’re planning to significantly increase the sources catalog in the coming months. The new categories we’ll start with include advertising (Google Adwords, Facebook Ads) and databases (MongoDB, Postgres).”

Segment has also seen significant growth over the past year. Reinhardt told me, “Sources builds on our considerable momentum over the last year, which includes the launch of new products like Warehouses, a Series B led by Thrive Capital, and an increase in headcount from 30 to 80.”

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