Main illustration: Andrew Kolb
We just raised $125M in a round led by Mary Meeker at Kleiner Perkins. Here’s what we’re going to do with it.
2018 is shaping up to be a massive year for the Intercom platform. Historically, we’ve spent proportionately way more on research and development than other software companies we track, and that won’t stop any time soon. This funding will go straight into building great new software at a pace you’ve yet to see from us. Last year, we shipped 156 new things. Now we’re accelerating that pace, and last month we announced we’re doubling our entire R&D orgs in San Francisco, London, and Dublin over the next 18 months. So at a high level, here’s what we’re working on next.
Substantially improving our existing products, especially for bigger businesses
All disruptive technologies start selling first to small companies, the early adopters in a market. Then, as the customer base and market matures, successful disruptive technologies evolve with them, adding the sophistication that ever larger customers need as they scale. Salesforce is a great example of this – when they started, they focused on sales teams with only 5 reps.
The most important thing we’re going to do is improve our existing products
Intercom is yet another example, where at the start, we sold to tiny businesses. That segment is still crucial to us today, and we’ll continue to serve them well. Yet our success there is becoming clear – in the last Y Combinator batch, 84% of all companies with a messenger or live chat product on their site used Intercom. Our next frontier is the generation or two further along than them.
We’ve made some nice progress here, with large, newer companies like New Relic using Intercom, as well as large, more established companies like Sotheby’s using us too. But we need to do more. The most important thing we’re going to do with this capital, and this year, is improve our existing products based on your feedback. We’re about to start shipping your most frequently requested features faster than ever before.
Reinventing our invention – the next evolution of the Business Messenger
In 2011 we launched the Intercom Messenger in the same 12 months that iMessage, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, Whatsapp, and others launched too. Nobody called these things “messengers” back then, but there was something about that time that saw a bunch of different companies experiment with new and better ways for people to connect and communicate digitally.
Our mission from the start has been to make internet business personal
While these companies built for consumers, we built for businesses. We were the first to put a messenger inside a web or mobile app for use by marketing and support teams, and later, the first to put one on a website to help sales teams too. Our mission from the start has been to make internet business personal, and we felt that this messenger medium was substantially more personal than the alternatives like email and legacy live chat. Later, we learned it was way more effective too – customers who use the Intercom Messenger to engage with visitors on their sites all see an aggressive lift in conversion rates.
We released the third version of our Messenger 18 months ago, and we’re getting ready to release the fourth. This will be the biggest evolution yet, because it redefines what a messenger is and what it can do. We’ll share a lot more soon, but we think you’ll love it for the new use cases it will unlock, uniquely for you.
Investing in machine learning to make automation personal at scale
I studied artificial intelligence in college in 2004. It was overhyped then, and it’s overhyped now. Yet some things have changed in that time that give it the potential to be more than a marketing gimmick. From our perspective, the most interesting of these changes are the new platforms we now have to build on, and the rich data available to them.
Our applications were built as a suite from day one
Intercom has three cool things going for it in these respects:
- Our applications were built as a suite from day one. So the workflows across your sales, marketing and support teams are connected in a way that you don’t get when you buy different products from different vendors – or sometimes even from the same vendor! This means that cross-application technologies (like our Operator bot) can join dots in pretty unique ways.
- Our Messenger directly interacts with the end user. So we can not only build cool things to join dots across teams, but also between you and your customer. So much of the potential for smart automation in this space lies in the interactions between the business and the customer.
- Finally, the data you store about your customers in your Intercom database is incredibly and uniquely rich. This will become invaluable training data to help you better serve your customers in the future.
You’re going to see us take advantage of these things this year, bringing some technologies to market for the first time that will accelerate the growth of your business, and make your existing and prospective customers even happier too.
Building a brand-new product
Intercom is focused on solving communication problems across the customer lifecycle for internet businesses – from acquisition, to engagement, to retention, we sell to sales, marketing, and support teams. Our focus will stay there, and we’re going to go ever deeper into these areas.
you are appreciated
From time to time, we’ll come across an opportunity to bring to market a new type of technology that doesn’t fit into the existing product categories these buyers know. And the product we’re working on now is a prime example of that. It’s something everyone will be excited to experiment with, and which quite a lot of you will get a ton of value from. That’s coming this year too.
Intercom customers, you are appreciated. Through our imperfections, you’ve kept the faith, and you’ve made us what we are today. We are wholly committed to giving you what you want and need, and making you ever more successful. We have more passion, energy, and resources than we’ve ever had, and can’t wait to get all these new things into your hands.