Bolstra pivoted to disruptor role in customer success

One of the biggest pain points out there for the $200+ billion software-as-a-service (SaaS) market is churn. As soon as a sale is made, it’s a race to get that new customer onboarded and show value so they gain a commitment to the solution and become a long-time part of the SaaS company’s recurring revenue.

That’s why customer success managers — the roles most often charged with preventing churn — made it near the top of so many Best Jobs in America and Fastest Growing Tech Jobs lists last year, and placed even higher this year.

There are 30-40 customer success specific software platforms available on the market as well as several customer relationship management (CRM) players making in-roads, but so far no brand has emerged as the singular, dominant customer success leader. (At least not in the way Salesforce has with CRM or WordPress has with content management.)

Haresh Gangwani

Haresh GangwaniCo-Founder & CEO

“Most other customer success platforms are focused on customer success measurement and not customer success management. By the time they see that red color on the screen telling them that there is a problem, it’s too late to combat churn,” said Haresh Gangwani, CEO and co-founder of Bolstra, a newer, Agile customer success management platform.

“Instead, we based Bolstra on an agile work management approach that brings sanity and intelligent engagement to the customer success function — that is what’s at our core, and it’s why Bolstra is a real disruptor for customer success. Sure, we have the analytics and healthscores, too, but customer success is all about creating continuous value and customer delight so that a company can prevent churn, while at the same time grow their recurring revenue resulting in a higher lifetime value for each customer.”

The work management approach makes sense considering the typical client load for a customer success manager can range from 50 to 100 clients. Imagine having 50-100 spousal relationships to manage, keeping each one delighted enough to stay in the marriage. That’s how customer success managers can feel at times while trying to juggle the needs of their client bases.

Bolstra officially launched it’s software platform in November 2016, at the Technology Services World conference in Las Vegas, after successfully converting all 12 of its early adopter customers to the company’s 1.0 platform. It was a big deal for Bolstra, which started out as a professional services marketplace in 2014 before pivoting to customer success in 2015.

Cheryl Harris and Morgan Cooper of Bolstra pose together during INX3 at The Union in Indianapolis. The fast-growing Agile customer success software company launched at Technology Services World in Las Vegas six months earlier.

This pivot was a response to customer demand. Gangwani and his team saw that their marketplace was asking for a way to manage their customer interactions. The work management functionality of the Bolstra platform came to vision as a way to meet this need.

The pivot happened quickly. It helped that Gangwani is a tech veteran himself with Indy-based luminaries like Bill Godfrey and Rob McLaughlin in his corner — they worked closely at Aprimo, which sold for $525 million in 2010. Godfrey was Bolstra’s first official investor, and McLaughlin reached out to see how he could get involved, leading to a unique research and development relationship including fellow Aprimo alumnus Jon Lawrence and four additional engineers.

“What we have been able to build together with Rob’s R&D team is a state-of-the-art, multi-tenant, cloud-based SaaS platform with a workflow engine, best practice accelerators and integration framework from day one,” Gangwani said. “We knew it would be critical to our proactive engagement approach to draw data in from numerous other platforms, so everything is built with the ability to scale up to the largest enterprises, and of course, it’s all in the Amazon cloud (AWS).”

Gangwani highlighted three key pain points Bolstra addresses that help the customer success platform stand out:

Time to First Value — Bolstra’s workflows and work management allow customer success managers to show an accelerated time to first value in six to eight weeks rather than six to eight months.

Account Switching — Bolstra’s agile work management features make it easy for CS managers to switch between accounts and stay on top of what’s happening with each account.

Organizational Consistency — With Bolstra, access to accounts, contracts, customer lifecycles and healthscores are all in one place and integrated so every engagement, every activity and every deliverable are provided with the same consistent customer experience without having to dip into siloed systems.

Bolstra focuses on mid-sized to enterprise SaaS companies. Gangwani says we don’t shy away from small opportunities, but that five CS seats or $5 million in ARR is about the minimum size Bolstra customer. Despite the focus on SaaS companies, Bolstra is a good fit for any tech-as-a-service company providing product and/or expert services on a recurring basis.

In addition to early investments from Godfrey (4G Ventures) and McLaughlin, Bolstra has also secured investment from Elevate Ventures, Charmides Capital, Hyde Park Ventures, Collina Ventures, and its most recent round led by Allos Ventures, which closed in March. Also of note, the entire senior leadership team at Bolstra has invested some of their own money into the company, too.

Bolstra currently employs 14 people in the Indianapolis area, most of whom are new hires over the past six months. The company will add another 3 new hires in 2017, as they expect to acquire up to 50 total customers by the end of the year.

What customers are saying about Bolstra:

“Bolstra provides a consistent foundation for our team to build the most effective routines to achieve success for each unique client. It is also allowing us to stop and evaluate what is needed internally, for the growth of team and company. Having CSMs involved in the process has been invaluable. They are now better equipped to lead each client and our team to reach the desired goals. Overall, the result is more value for each client and our company.” — Kathleen Moffat, Director of Client Services, myCOI

“As we were contemplating ways to streamline our services delivery, Bolstra came in with the perfect combination of services and a unique software platform tailor made for what we were looking to do. With Bolstra, we are creating a whole new recurring revenue stream for our company.” — Terry Lister, Manager, Leaf Software Solutions

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joshua Hall is editor of techpoint.org. He writes about Indiana tech companies, jobs, people & events. @joshua2349