By Muphen R. Whitney
RESTON, VA – When Clarabridge’s founders spun off the company from the successful data warehousing consulting company Claraview in late 2005, they knew there would be lessons to learn.
“The challenge whenever you start a new company is how best to take the idea to market,” said Clarabridge co-founder and CEO Sid Banerjee. “The last 18 months have been a learning process.
“We have learned a lot about who our customers are, why they buy this type of product, and what our competitive differences are. We now have more focus from learning from our successes and from going head-to-head with our competition.”
Banerjee and his management team originally thought that they would apply their products to all types of data. They quickly found out that the areas where Clarabridge’s Content Mining Platform and BI Search were most applicable were customer analysis, experience management, and marketing services.
“We found that these were the areas of most interest where customers were willing to buy and use our products,” Banerjee explains. “Another lesson we learned from customers is that you can’t ask them to pay for insight that they aren’t already paying for. They are already capturing data in various ways, they just need to convert some of their budget to technical-based solutions instead of relying on manual data capture.
“We have learned a lot from our customers so far, and we are always open to feedback from them. We know that their feedback and ideas make our products better.”
The Pluses of Competition
Customers weren’t the only ones who provided valuable learning experiences for Clarabridge. Banerjee also values the things he has learned from his competition.
“Your competitors validate the market,” he says. “Going head-to-head with your competition also provides you with information on how to improve your product and on what you need to offer in the marketplace.”
“We found that most of our competition offers very specific data sets. We have taken a more generalized approach to provide the best products in the three areas we target (customer analysis, experience management, and marketing services).”
Many of Clarabridge’s competitors are being acquired by larger companies. Banerjee has learned from this, too.
“I think it is important for our scrappy startup to remain independent,” he says. “I know this is important when I hear from our customers that they like the fact that our technology was designed for use by business people and not for academics. And we almost always find a way to meet our customers specific needs in ways our competitors can’t.”
Clarabridge’s Content Mining Platform allows users to transform unstructured content into structured information that will provide insight into a company’s customers and will help the decision making process. BI Search allows prompt search of reports generated by a business’s intelligence (BI) platform.
The Clarabridge content mining first takes documents such as EMails and call center notes and transforms, analyzes, and stores the text content. The structured intelligence then can be analyzed with any BI analysis tool and specific items can be searched using BI Search. Users can ask any question, use any BI analysis technique, and access any data source to enhance an understanding of their business and customers.
The Funding Process
Banerjee’s road to his two rounds of funding were fairly obstacle free. Unlike many entrepreneurs he professes to “be very happy with the way the funding worked out.”
“We had been incubating the Clarabridge products for a year in Claraview (the data warehouse consulting company), so we were able to come to the venture capitalists with strong sales and a strong product for our first round of funding. We found a good tier of venture interest.
“For our second round, Intersouth Partners saw our strong initial customer base and the fact that our technology worked. Our VCs have been very supportive. Our experiences with funding have been the best I have ever seen or heard of.”
Past Growth and the Future
Clarabridge has grown in each quarter since its inception, and it expects to quadruple sales in 2007. The convergence of market factors in the company’s three customer space areas bodes well for the future, according to Banerjee.
“There is so much unstructured data available now,” Banerjee says. “The next frontier is to harness all the unstructured data available on the Internet and from call centers to find out what consumers want and why they buy what they do. Companies must find ways to analyze and use this data.
“Because of all this, we are looking at a bright future – the right data are available, the right companies are willing to spend to understand the data, and Clarabridge has the right technology to provide good decision making intelligence from the data.”
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