Usermind Raises $14.5M to Push “BizOps” Vision for Sales, Marketing
The Northwest is already home to some of the top technology providers in the DevOps movement. Now comes Seattle-based Usermind, which just raised $14.5 million to advance its vision of “BizOps”—a tighter integration of front-office functions such as marketing, sales, and customer support.
Menlo Ventures led the Series B funding round. Other participants included Andreessen Horowitz and Charles River Ventures, both of which invested in Usermind’s 2013 Series A. The company has raised $22.1 million since it was co-founded by CEO Michel Feaster and CTO Przemek Pardyak in 2013.
Seattle-based Chef and Puppet Labs in Portland, OR, have grown the DevOps movement—and, in the process, have themselves grown—by providing software and services to help companies redefine traditional IT practices and roles to enable rapid, flexible software and infrastructure updates on a regular basis. The DevOps movement—a clipped compound of the words development and operations—involves automating processes and improving collaboration among teams and individuals within a company’s IT department that previously worked in silos.
Usermind sees an opportunity for a similar change in the front office, capitalizing on the proliferation of software-as-a-service (SaaS) tools like Salesforce, Marketo, and Zendesk in companies’ sales, marketing, customer support, and human resources departments.
In developing its offering over the last three years, Usermind has heard from customers who want to shift from the old model—marketers focus on generating leads, salespeople go after the best opportunities, finance teams focus on bookings—to an approach that centers on customers, partners, or products.
“We think that many of the same principles that have transformed the way IT works over the last 15 years are going to be coming to the front office,” Feaster says. “We’re calling that BizOps, but in my mind, this is all about, ‘How do you establish a new discipline to power the way any function in a company works?’”
Usermind has built a platform and tools—entirely on Amazon Web Services—to enable this transformation. It connects and orchestrates the various SaaS apps and data used by front-office workers to build workflows that follow a customer through each phase of its relationship with the company. Often, these front-office SaaS apps are managed by “shadow IT teams” comprised of people with business backgrounds, not technical ones.
“They bring this radically different, consumer approach to technology,” Feaster says. “They’ll try tech fast. They experiment on an ongoing basis. There’s this agile approach that I think is the future.”
That said, members of these informal IT teams can benefit from the lessons learned in the traditional IT department. In effect, Usermind is trying capture the best of both of these worlds.
Usermind’s service can help companies automate things like starting customers on a trial version of software, encouraging them to renew a subscription, or making sure they’re using the key features of the product they’ve purchased.
It can also analyze the results of these cross-function workflows—looking for the e-mail that led to a closed sale, say—and improving business processes over time.
Usermind will spend the fresh capital on continued development of its technology, as well as sales and marketing efforts. The company has about 30 employees and expects to add another 10 by the end of this year. It will also invest in building a community around the BizOps concept.
“If you look at Chef and Puppet’s role in how DevOps emerged, although they invented many of the concepts, it became a breakout when the community itself adopted the idea and drove it,” Feaster says.
Feaster says early adopters of Usermind are, not surprisingly, technology companies, including Chef, Tune, CloudFlare, and recent Microsoft acquisition Xamarin. Her company’s next target is larger enterprise customers.