Fast-growing customer success platform company Bolstra announced last month that it closed a $1.5 million seed funding round and that software-as-a-service (SaaS) industry veteran Steve Ehrlich joined the company as chief operating officer.
Returning investors include Allos Ventures, 4G Ventures, Collina Ventures, and others. First time investor in Bolstra, VisionTech Angels also contributed to the seed round.
I spoke with Co-founder and CEO Haresh Gangwani and new President and COO Steve Ehrlich recently to find out what’s been happening at the Indianapolis-based startup since we first profiled the company in July. One of the more interesting developments highlighted by Steve joining the company is the total collection of talent and experience shared by the Bolstra team working together in the past at landmark Indianapolis tech firms Aprimo and Software Artistry.
“It was very important to me in my role as co-founder and CEO of Bolstra to recruit people who would not only help me grow the business, but who would help me grow as well,” Haresh said. “Last summer, as we were beginning to grow up-market and in need of more strategic operational infrastructure, I knew I needed to find someone who could be my partner, someone who I could really rely on and trust like the rest of our team. When I heard that PolicyStat was acquired, that was my cue to reach out to Steve and I’m thrilled that he has joined us at Bolstra.”
Haresh and Steve worked together at Software Artistry and both worked at Aprimo, but at different times in the company’s growth trajectory. Aprimo co-founders Bill Godfrey and Rob McLaughlin — who also worked together at Software Artistry — are both involved with Bolstra as advisors and contributors. And finally, John Warne, VP of product and customer advocacy at Bolstra, also has shared history with all of the above at Aprimo and Software Artistry.
“If you look at the paths we’ve all followed, we’ve had these meaningful touch points along the way but each of us has had very different experiences as well, like mine at Autobase and PolicyStat over the past 15 years,” Steve said. “Plus, the team includes our VP of Sales Lisa Leahy, who has a long and successful history of selling to the enterprise, but didn’t work with the rest of us in the past. It is serendipitous both from a timing standpoint and from the fact that we were all made available because of exits or other tech successes.”
Early successes reveal enterprise product market fit
After debuting the Bolstra platform in 2016 to great success with early adopters mostly based in Indiana, the customer success solution started gaining momentum with customer success pros outside of the state because it’s something different from everything else on the market that really helps them eliminate friction and delight customers.
Bolstra guides users through a series of best practices for customer engagement, assisting SaaS companies in maximizing retention and ultimately customer lifetime value. Through these best practices, customer success professionals are able to deliver on their customer’s desired outcomes which also leads to better upsell opportunities.
The $1.5 million in seed funds will facilitate increasing Bolstra’s sales and marketing efforts along with the expansion of research and development resources to better address the needs of enterprise businesses to engage and bolster loyal customers.
“Following the validation from the launch where we focused mostly on small- to mid-sized SaaS companies, we found ourselves competing with major enterprise players because the Bolstra platform is such a great fit for enterprise class companies,” Haresh said. “Enterprise product market fit is in our DNA so we were competing with those larger competitors and winning!”
After closing some monumental deals with large enterprises like Coveo, Experian, Aprimo, Connect First and Worxtime HR, Bolstra began accelerating its product development as well as its sales and marketing efforts with the seed funding capital through its DriveIT demo campaign that has continued to rapidly increase the company’s annual recurring revenue.
Customer success transcends departmental boundaries
“Customer success isn’t just a function anymore; It’s holistic,” Steve explained. “It’s the entire relationship that an enterprise has with a customer that matters, and that transcends departmental boundaries.
“Enterprises are looking for a solution — not just for customer success as a department — but for customer success as a discipline across the entire enterprise because delighting the customer is a responsibility of all departments within an organization, not just a department that’s called customer success,” Haresh continued.
“You might think that everyone has the same goal, but in effect, everybody within the enterprise has different goals or different responsibilities, but their actions need to all be congruent in delivering the value. You want to make sure that everybody is going in the same direction, that people aren’t working against each other, and Bolstra is the best solution on the market to achieve that,” said Steve.
For example, an account manager who only communicates with a customer 90 days before renewal isn’t likely to have much success, or an accounts receivable rep in finance could potentially cause friction by calling a customer about an unpaid invoice while that customer is actually still in the on-boarding phase with a trainer. With Bolstra, there is built-in, continuous value attainment right from the start when the handoff occurs from sales to post-sales and throughout the entire customer lifecycle journey.
Bolstra includes an integration gateway container to address the needs of customer success across the enterprise that has the ability to literally shrink that time it takes to build a connector to other systems and tools down to days versus weeks or even months. These product extensions allow simplified integration for a wide variety of systems right into the Bolstra environment and vice versa.
“That is our Intellectual Property, which is embedded in our product, that as soon as a customer is added to Bolstra an appropriate lifecycle journey gets activated and all of the work associated with those journeys are also activated for customer success professionals,” Haresh said. “The revolutionary thing we’ve brought to the customer success market is that we make customer success pros fire preventers, not fire fighters.”