Valuable Lessons From 5 Fast Growing Startups
From Silicon Roundabout to Silicon Valley, the startup industry is booming with success stories of companies that are addressing business needs with SaaS products, APIs and new technical procedures. We’ve taken a look at some of the fastest growing tech startups around and what has made them so successful; you can glean some best practice from them to help your business flourish too.
THE CUSTOMER SERVICE CONVERSATIONALIST
What is it? Customer service software built around email, calls, social media and text messages. In a world where disgruntled customers get in touch via a range of different communications, Gladly helps to curate all this information in one place so that no customer issue goes unresolved. There’s also analytics and reporting capabilities to create a more personalised, engaged experience.
Why is it unique? Customer service is at its best when it’s a conversation – people talking to people, says Gladly. “With the customer at the centre, multiple agents can work in parallel to take different tasks, solve an issue, or provide an answer in a fraction of the time it takes traditional systems,” says CEO Joseph Ansanelli. It’s an agile company that can get customer service representatives up and running in a matter of days – rather than the months it takes traditional systems such as Cisco and Salesforce.
How are they growing? Gladlyrecently secured another $36 million in funding, after previously receiving $27 m in early rounds of funding. The company employs over 50 people and has over 980 companies on their roster.
What can we learn from them? Do a deep dive with your research, have a conversation with the people that matter.
In a recent blog post they announced that in the past 6 months they’ve met with over 100 C-level executives at some of the world’s largest consumer brands. From them they’ve learnt that minimising the gap between the desired and actual customer service experience is not easy, and that’s the gap they’re trying to bridge with their app. By doing some in-depth qualitative research with people whose opinions really matter, they’ve got to grips with what their customers really need, creating what they call ‘a-ha moments’ and learning valuable lessons for developing their brand. They also release insightful research projects, such as this 2017 Customer Service Expectations Survey https://www.gladly.com/2017survey/
THE SOCIAL DISRUPTER
What is it? A daily leaderboard of the best new products, Product Hunt is a cool new tech company that allows tech enthusiasts to discover and rate the latest mobile apps, websites and hardware.
Why is it unique? Product Hunt is an enabler – It has seen over 100 million visits to product websites for 50,000 companies. As well as being a great product in itself, it’s helping other start-ups make a name for themselves and has become the go-to place for companies who are looking for new software for a specific purpose, and even for investors who are looking for start-ups to get behind.
How are they growing? The business has grown from a simple email list to being named the Best New Startup at the 2014 Crunchie Awards. It was acquired in December 2016 by AnglelList for $20 million, an acquisition described as “the two coolest kids joining the same team at Silicon Valley High”.
What can we learn from them?Champion early users to build a community
Product Hunt’s social strategy and the whole business model is based on building a community, and start-ups can learn a lot from the techniques they used to develop strong relationships. They made early uses feel appreciated by rewarding them with special privileges, giving early users status with a ‘user number’ and made them feel like thought-leaders by creating content that comes from them, for example ‘ top 10 recommendations from our thought-leaders.’ Social media has played a major part in this community. In nearly three years, it has amassed over 349,000 followers on Twitter and Facebook and has their finger on the pulse of new social networks such as Peach and Blab. They have grown their brand awareness through social media engagement, a strategy based on precise scheduling and automation and an on-the-ball community team – so there’s real people responding, not just bots.
THE AUTONOMOUS API
What is it? A single API with multiple purposes and functions; it collects customer data from numerous platform and sources, aggregates it and feeds it into business tools for analytics, marketing and data warehousing. Product managers, engineers and marketers can then make informed decisions based on accurate data.
Why is it unique? There is already software on the market that addresses all of these functions separately, but Segment is a SaaS that does it all, saving time and money, which has helped the service to quickly gain a large fan base amongst developers and analysts.
How are they growing? In 2015, Forbes named Segment one of the five hottest cloud-based marketing startups, helping it to secure $44.6 million in funding. Since then, Segment’s now has 4,000 active customers, doubled its user base since last year, and claims that its revenue tripled in the past 8 months.
What can we learn from them? Win over the users on the ground to become brand advocates
Segment is not necessarily pushing a new service, it has amalgamated several popular services into one autonomous product, which is appealing as users have everything they need in one place. This means a lot of engineers (the people who have to use this software day-to-day) have championed the software, recommending it to colleagues and managers, which has helped to onboard new customers and fuelled rapid adoption in the developer community as Segment really enhances their work process. Their mascot on social media is a sloth – speaking to how easy Segment makes the process that even the laziest of creatures can benefit from it (not that we’re saying that devs are lazy!).
THE CREATIVE CHALLENGER
What is it? A design platform that allows you to create graphics in a simple drag and drop editor, with editable templates and layouts, making it so intuitive that anyone can use it, not just the office Photoshop whizz.
Why is it unique? At a time where content and information needs to be delivered in a visual, slick and highly designed manner, a tool like Canva is a welcome addition to any businesses portfolio. It means you can create images for social media, banner ads, presentations, infographics and more without having to hire a designer. This empowers companies who may have struggled to design their own creative before Canva.
How are they growing? The Sydney-based start-up has secured $45.5 million over six rounds of funding, proving that multiple people (including Google Maps co-founder Lars Ramussen and actor Owen Wilson) are willing to back this growing business, which is now valued at $345 million, more than double its value a year ago. But according to Forbes, Canva co-founder and CEO Melanie Perkins said the startup hasn’t used a cent of the $15 million round it raised in 2015 because of strong revenue growth.
What can we learn from them? Don’t be afraid to challenge a market leader.
Canva has declared that it aims to become a mainstream workplace tool to rival Microsoft Office. The design tool has doubled its user base in the last year to 10 million registered accounts and is not afraid to set its sights on a market that is already taken up by giants such as Microsoft and Abobe. It’s essentially a simplified version of Photoshop and they’re not shy about it – They’ve seen a niche and gone after it with a platform that’s easy to use.
THE RECRUITMENT WRANGLER
What is it?
Why is it unique? For tech startups, hiring the perfect programmers and software engineers can be make or break, and the job interview process doesn’t always bring the best candidates out on top. HackerRank provides an objective set of tests – focused on coding challenges (algorithms, artificial intelligence and functional programming) for a company to quickly and accurately identify applicants with the skills set they need.
How are they growing: The startup secured $28 million over five rounds of funding and in September, HackerRank closed a further $4.3 million investment deal. They have over 2 million programmer members and a client base of over 1,000 companies, including Twitter, Cisco, VMware and Uber. Last year saw it launch HackerRank Jobs, a job search app that connects companies directly with software engineers who match their specifications.
What can we learn from them? Bring something new to an antiquated market
Silicon Valley had been facing something of a drought in terms of recruiting talent, dubbed a “tech hiring crisis” by Forbes. But HackerRank was an inbound way of attracting hackers, setting challenges in a method similar to gamification. Software engineers are renowned for loving online games and puzzles, so by posting these challenges and rewarding successful candidates with job opportunities, they were able to attract the best, brightest and most driven programmers. By approaching an old process, such as recruitment, from a fresh angle and adding gamification, they reinvented the wheel.