There’s no shortage of customer service startups trying to meet the changing expectations of consumers, who want to Tweet, phone, text, and use Facebook Messenger, among other newer ways to get their points across. In fact, according to the investment platform AngelList, there are now 960 companies currently operating around customer care.
That hasn’t deterred Joseph Ansanelli, who joined Greylock Partners as a general partner in 2012 but who’d first started and sold three companies and was itching to do it again.
As he recalls it, he was having dinner with colleague Aneel Bhusri, a former Greylock partner (and now advisor) and the cofounding CEO of the HR and financial management company Workday. It was 2012, Workday had just gone public, and the two were talking about the onerous but exciting process of starting companies. Before he knew it, Ansanelli was calling enterprise customers — contacts from his earlier life as a founder — and asking them what they were lacking.
The two things he learned from those conversations were “first, that they were getting tons of demands and requests from consumers about more ways to communicate, and second, a lot of the [related] software available to them was on-premise stuff centered around case numbers and tickets.”
And customers, says Ansanelli, “don’t like being a case or ticket number.”
In fact, his newest cloud-based company, Gladly, quickly formed around the idea of an enterprise-class company that did away with them, and he moved to get his old band together. Toward that end, he reached out to Michael Wolfe, who was Ansanelli’s cofounder at Vontu, a data loss prevention software company that was acquired by Symantec for $350 million in 2007, as well as Connectify, a company they sold in 1999 to Kana Communications. (Old timers may remember that Kana was a dot com darling that helped pioneer the concept of email for customer service. It went public in 1999 and was taken private again in 2010.)
Ansanelli separately called up Dirk Kessler, who was Connectify’s first engineer but who’d met Ansanelli at the outset of their careers, when both had worked at Apple. Even Jenny Roy, a communications professional who’d worked at Vontu, was tapped again; today’s she’s Gadfly’s VP of communications.
What the trusted colleagues have built, says Ansanelli, is more than another new ticketing system aimed at small and medium size businesses, of which there are many. (Think Freshdesk and Zendesk, among them.) Instead, he says, Gladly, based in San Francisco, keeps track of every customer interaction so that each exchange with a person isn’t viewed as distinct but rather an ongoing conversation, one that can hosted on any medium, whether it’s Messenger or Kik or Whatsapp or SMS. People are the “atomic unit,” he says, not cases or tickets.
Gladly is also catering to the big enterprise customers that have long relied on Salesforce and Oracle and Cisco. It’s a very tall order, but one helped along by the background of Ansanelli and company. “For a large of these large enterprise customers to feel confident to work with a startup is a challenge, but they look at our track record and they know we’ve been through this before,” he says. Ansanelli notes, for example, that one of Vontu’s earlier customers was the Bank of America. “When you can say, “We’ve scaled BofA and Goldman and JPMorgan Chase and we know how to do this,’ it helps us out immensely.”
Whether it helps out enough remains to be seen, but Gladly has already secured five large customers that Ansanelli says he can’t name publicly today. Asked if these are the financial services firms that Ansanelli knows so well, he says financial services is a “focus” as are “retail, travel and leisure” and other companies whose contact centers are closely tied to generating revenue.
In the meantime, investors clearly see room for Gladly, despite both its entrenched and many younger (and also well-funded) competitors. The 50-person company just closed on $36 million in Series C funding led by the cross-border firm GGV Capital, with participation from earlier backers Greylock Partners and New Enterprise Associates.
It has now raised $63 million altogether.
Pictured, from left to right: Gladly founders Michael Wolfe, Dirk Kessler, and Joseph Ansanelli. Courtesy of Gladly.