Over the past few years, the old speech of “customer support” has been supplanted by the new language of “customer success.” In the old model, companies would essentially vanish following the conclusion of a sale, simply managing client problems when they arose. Now, companies are actively reaching out to clients, engaging them with education and training and monitoring them with analytics to ensure they have the best hour with the product as possible.
What’s changing is the nature of product and services today: subscription. Customers no longer just make a single buying decision about a product, but instead must actively commit to using the product, or else they churn.
New York-based Catalyst, founded by friends Edward and Kevin Chiu, wants to rebuild customer success from the ground up with an incorporated software platform. They have received some capital success of their own, securing $2.4 million in venture capital from Phil Black of True Ventures with participation from Ludlow Ventures and Compound.
New York has had something of an increase in founder mafiums, as TechCrunch reported this weekend. Catalyst is no exception to this trend, with the Chiu brothers both is currently working on DigitalOcean, one of New York’s many high-flying enterprise startups. Edward Chiu was director of customer success at the company for a number of years, but had a unique background in sales and also in coding before starting.
Kevin Chiu was head of inside sales at DigitalOcean. “I brought my brother on to do marketings at DigitalOcean, ” Edward Chiu explains. “We always knew that we wanted to start a company together, but wanted to see if we would kill each other.” The two worked together, and lo and behold, they didn’t kill each other.
Edward Chiu wanted to match the product experience of using DigitalOcean with the experience of using its internal customer success tools. Nothing on the market fit. “Given that DigitalOcean was a very technical product, ” Chiu explained, “we decided to build our own tool.” Chiu thought of customer success at DigitalOcean as its own product, and his team built up the platform to improve its functionality and scalability. “We merely utilized the tool and we loved it, ” he said, so we “started to show this tool to a bunch of other customer success leaders I am connected with.”
Other customer success leaders said they wanted the platform, and “after the 20 th person told me that, ” he and two brothers spun out of DigitalOcean to go on their own. Unlike enterprise startups in New York a couple of years ago that often struggled to find any investors, Catalyst observed cash rapidly. “Two weeks in we had more offers than we knew what to do with, ” Chiu explained. The two said they had originally targeted a fundraise of $750,000, but aimed up at $2.4 million.
Catalyst is a platform that integrates between a number of other major SaaS services such as Salesforce, Zendesk, Mixpanel and others to create a unified dashboard for data around customer success. From there, customer success directors have a set of automated tools to handle involvement, such as customer segmentation and email campaigns.
A major challenge in the customer success world is that these directors often don’t have the skills required to do advanced data analytics, so they often rely on their friends in engineering to operate scripts or perform database lookups. The hope is that Catalyst’s feature set is powerful enough that these sorts of ad hoc tasks become a thing of the past. “Because we aggregate all this data, you can run queries, ” Chiu explains.
Chiu says that Catalyst doesn’t simply want to be a software platform, but rather a motion that pushes every company to think about how they can make their clients successful. “There are so many companies that are starting to understand that it is not something that you do once you create a Series A, but something you do from day one, ” Chiu said. “If you take care of your very first client, they will constantly promote you and constantly promote your business.”
The company is based in Flatiron, and has eight employees.
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