Big Name VCs Back Seattle Enterprise Software Startup usermind
The founders of usermind, a Seattle startup raising $7.6 million from three top venture firms, see a new de facto IT department emerging in companies that use multiple software-as-a-service (Saas) platforms to run customer-facing sales, marketing, and support functions.
Co-founder and CEO Michel Feaster says usermind is making software that helps the operations professionals in charge of those functions better manage, modify, and integrate apps like Marketo for marketers, Salesforce for salespeople, and Zendesk for customer support.
Andreessen Horowitz is leading the Series A investment in usermind, with Charles River Ventures and SV Angel also participating. The funding will support hiring of up to 15 people as usermind, founded in May and currently with five employees, works toward releasing a product in nine months to a year from now, Feaster says.
She says the company sees a big opportunity in the upheaval caused by Saas apps, mobile, social, and the consumerization of IT.
“The entire front office of companies is going to change very dramatically,” she says. “We think there’s a new organization forming in the front office.”
Responsibility for front-office Saas apps increasingly rests not with centralized IT departments but with business operations teams—often staffed by people with hybrid skill sets in business analysis and technology. Feaster says these teams represent “the next generation IT organization,” a side effect of widespread Saas adoption that she says has gone largely undiscussed.
These business operations teams need better tools to innovate within and among Saas apps, she says. They represent the bottleneck between wanting to rapidly change business practices for marketing, sales, and customer service, and actually doing it.
“The pace of change of that team is the pace of change of the company,” Feaster says.
Aren’t big Saas companies like Salesforce already doing this? Feaster says no. They’re focused on making improvements to their own platforms, or integrating their recent acquisitions. “They only have so much attention span,” she says.
Feaster says usermind would enable a given event or logic within Salesforce, for example, to trigger actions in other systems.
The growth of the broader Saas business apps category only bolsters the case for usermind, she argues.
“The more business apps there are to help companies, the more people need to be implementing them, modifying them, integrating them with other things,” Feaster says.
Feaster was most recently vice president of product with Apptio as it grew from about 30 people to 400. “I learned first-hand how to build a really disruptive enterprise software company from the ground up,” she says. Before that, she was at HP Software and Mercury Interactive.
Co-founder and CTO Przemek Pardyak is on his third startup. The first, Performant, was acquired by Mercury Interactive—which is how the two first met. The second, Doyenz, was sold to Persistent Systems. He studied computer science at the University of Washington.
They are bullish on Seattle as a leading tech hub and have taken office space in a central downtown Seattle location with the hope of attracting talent from all directions. The company is holding an open house for job seekers Nov. 7.