Today we’re announcing our $3.8 million Series A financing as well as opening our service to the public with a free beta offering.
I wanted to give a bit of a personal perspective to what is being announced today and put it in context.
In early 2009 I was looking for the next opportunity. Cloud computing in general and Software-as-a-Service specifically were continuing to rapidly gain ground and it was clear that almost every aspect of the software was undergoing massive change: how software is delivered and consumed, bought and sold; everything was changing.
It was clear that while SaaS presents enormous opportunities for vendors, it also introduces new challenges. Much of the focus in the industry has been on the technical aspects of these challenges: how to build scalable, high-performing, reliable multi-tenant services. But while these technical challenges are interesting and important, we felt that not enough attention was being given to the business side. In SaaS, the customer engagement model is fundamentally different.
The SaaS Customer Engagement Challenge
Most SaaS companies put their services in front of potential customers on the web and allow for a self-paced evaluation process. The sales process is no longer controlled by the companies’ sales people. However, sales teams do need to keep up with the high volume of evaluating prospects and make sure the users find what they need to make a favorable buying decision.
Most SaaS pricing models are based on subscription or usage, which allows customers to stop using — and stop paying for — the service at any time. That, plus low switching costs, mandates that SaaS companies constantly monitor customer satisfaction and improve the value that is being delivered.
In addition, the engagement between customers and the business is indirect. There are almost no customer visits, minimum sales calls, and most of the interaction between clients and the business is usage of the service. This no-touch and low-touch engagement model creates a wide gap in how companies understand their customers.
But there is one huge advantage SaaS companies have over their traditional counterparts — they can measure the actual way in which prospects and customers use their products. That is, if they have the tools to properly track and analyze such activities.
Helping SaaS Companies Understand Their Customers
So we set out to help SaaS companies understand their customers through their actual interactions on the service. It also quickly became clear for us that  customer facing staff — sales, customer success and others — are looking for practical and actionable solutions  based on this information, and not YAD (or yet another dashboard, as it is often referred to).
Before we wrote a single line of code, we talked to more than 50 SaaS companies, trying to validate our initial assumptions. It was clear from these conversations, and especially from the fact that many companies have developed homegrown tools that crudely attempted to address this need, that we were on to something.
Those homegrown solutions were developed, well frankly, half-ass, without a long term strategy. As a result, there was constant friction between the business users who need the information and the engineering team, which was already barely keeping up with its core product development responsibilities.
The Totango Solution
We created the initial version of Totango, and worked for almost a year with a number of SaaS companies of all sizes and industries in a private beta. From this we learned (and are still learning) how SaaS companies would like to analyze and act on customer usage information.
Today we are publicly releasing the first solution we developed through this process. It is a set of tools that help sales teams increase their effectiveness by improving the conversion rate of evaluating users into paying customers. We’ve built this by spending many days at the offices of our initial clients to learn their daily routines and practices so that we could provide the missing tools they’ve been looking for. The initial results with these private beta customers were amazing, and we feel very confidently that it is time to share our solution with a wider audience.
For now, the product is free. And although we will announce pricing in the coming months, we are planning to always offer a free tier.
When it comes down to it, we’re a SaaS company ourselves and we know first hand how important it is to get people up and running in minutes, so we’ve made sure Totango is as simple as can be to get going.
You can read our official press release here.
We’re ready Totango, please join us.