Helpshift, an in-app customer support service on mobile, announced Tuesday that it's raised a seed round of $3.2 million from True Ventures and Nexus Venture Partnesr to provide customer support for the tens of thousands of mobile app developers who don't offer such help-desk services.
"Mobile is where the Internet was in the late '90s," said Abinash Tripathy, co-founder and CEO of Helpshift, in an interview with VatorNews. At that time, there had already been an established group of companies that were able to sell products and services. But what was lacking in the late '90s was customer service and support for the newly-minted Web companies. In like vein, now that app developers have emerged and become viable businesses, what these app developers lack are help desks.
These companies are in the "I am a real business " phase and the products they need in this are business enablers like CRM (customer relationship management) tools, marketing automation tools, accounting and other backoffice products, said Tripathy, whose background includes 17 years in the software industry at companies, such as Oracle and Openwave.
To this end, Helpshift, which Tripathy self-funded initially with $300,000, has positioned itself to be the outsourced, SaaS (software as a service) help desk.
"The biggest problem [for app developers] is that users just delete and replace the app [because they have a lousy experience]," said Tripathy. Unfortunately, they miss the boat on keeping those customers happy. If you look at app reviews, roughly 50% of reviews are negative, said Tripathy. "What we're trying to do is to help app developers service those customers before they get those negative reviews."
Tripathy wouldn't disclose the customers he's working with today, only to say that large corporations that produce a number of apps, such as Disney, or large national retailers, are their target market. Helpshift currently has a salesperson and a business development person to go after these enterprise relationships.
Helpshift is also working with developer forums, such as StackOverflow.com, Reddit.com and iphonedevsdk.com to reach developers.
Connecting the end user with the app developer
While Helpshift is focused today on being the help desk for mobile apps, in the future it has a much larger goal: to be the new CRM (customer relationship management) provider on mobile.
"App stores have worked really hard to abstract the users away from the app developers," said Tripathy. "Those apps can't track who the customerss are... We're providing an in-app channel for app developers to be able contact their customers."
Over time, Helpshift hopes to offer more than help-desk services.
"With cloud and SaaS, we are truly in an era of high velocity, low-touch sales where sales people are getting dis-intermediated," Tripathy explained. "The mobile app industry doesn't really need any sales people thanks to the frictionless distribution capabilities of the App stores. As this trend continues, we are going to see the need for CRM software evolving from being sales tracking tools to more of Customer Service / Experience tools."
Helpshift sees itself as Zendesk, but for mobile. Zendesk, is a cloud-based customer support company that raised $60 million in a Series D round of funding in September (for a reported valuation of $600 million). It is also similar to Assistly, which was bought by Salesforce last year for $50 million in cash.