Four Irishmen, Several Companies
Intercom raised $125 million in a Series D round, led by Kleiner Perkins, with Google Ventures participation.
But things weren’t always running smoothly for them either!
This is their story.
Four Irishmen, Several Companies
Eoghan McCabe, Des Traynor, Ciaran Lee and David Barrett.
Remember these names, because these Irishmen proved that with the right idea and near-superhuman persistence, you can always find a way. With the right vision in mind, before landing on their great Intercom idea, they launched a few other companies, building up their experience, but also their business portfolio.
Exceptional was perhaps the biggest thing that happened to these young entrepreneurs before launching Intercom. It wasn’t really new, as it was an app error tracking tool, but they were able to sell it to Rackspace for an undisclosed sum at the time. Rumor has it, it was a significant lump of money!
Noteworthy or not, it gave these four Irishmen the opportunity to fund their new software company in 2011 - Intercom.
Intercom wasn’t supposed to be just another platform copying those that were already created. Something had to be different - if not unique - as you need a great hook if you want to see greenshoots in any start-up.
But what makes Intercom brilliant? Well, one day, the team had a breakthrough.
The owner of their favorite coffee shop knew every one of his regulars by name, and they kept coming back. With a stroke of brilliance, they took this idea, translated it into the online world, and adapted it to their business model.
Intercom wasn’t about to be just another basic tool. They would give the opportunity to businesses and customers to talk to each other directly, on the internet. So, they started offering their “Inbox” and “Messages” services. Businesses could integrate these services and talk to anyone who clicked on their website directly, in a chat box. Right now, this idea is one of the best if you want your sales to go through the roof, but back then, businesses were more focused on running email marketing, CRM or online help desks.
But it was all for naught - nobody could provide a holistic approach for their customers like Intercom!
Creating the Future Over a Pint of Guinness - Biz Stone Saves the Day
In 2012, McCabe and the boys had it all - on paper. In reality, they were just another startup selling potential snake oil, convincing venture capitalists to invest in it.
A full year had gone by - and investments were still a pipe dream. All the VCs ever did was tell them how the product was too broad, too complicated, too ambitious.
They would advise McCabe to focus on one thing and narrow their offer. In the end, the only hope was that maybe the next idea would be better. Desperate, and with a company nobody wants to invest in, they were forced to literally beg and chase ventures - but without any luck.
But they weren’t about to give up.
McCabe pulled out the ace from his sleeve - and gave a call to Twitter co-founder, Biz Stone.
It came out of nowhere, but he had actually met Stone in 2007 while visiting the States. He reached out and texted him, saying some guys from Ireland would like to buy him a Guinness, resulting in Stone replying within 10 minutes - and having beers with them in a couple of hours. They eventually ran an app for Twitter for a while, called Quitter. It notified users when someone unfollowed them, but this venture didn’t really have the happiest of endings.
Anyway, five years later, the Intercom team was desperately looking for investors, so they gave Stone another call. Biz had no idea what Intercom was, but he decided to take his chances, promising to invest an undisclosed sum.
That’s win #1.
Now, the ball started to roll.
With Biz Stone as the first one to invest, other fancy Silicon Valley business angels were encouraged to follow, allowing Intercom to raise some $1 million from prominent names like entrepreneur David Sacks, co-founder of Flickr and Slack, Stewart Butterfield, and founder of Huddle, Andy McLoughlin.
Many Millions To Follow
After successfully landing the first millions to set Intercom afloat, in 2013 they raised $6 million in series A funding from Social Capital. The startup’s promise to help online businesses develop a more personalized communication with customers, became appealing to the big shots.
Just like that, the project was no longer snake oil - it was happening.
Soon after, Intercom managed to raise another two rounds of venture capital investments. In 2014, they got $23 million series B funding from Bessemer Venture Partners, followed by 2015 series C-1 investment by Index Ventures, who handed out $50 million.
Intercom was now working like a beehive, as their status shifted from just another startup with a ‘lousy’ product, to a serious company with tons of investments.
The four Irishmen didn’t stop at cleaning their own yard. In 2017, when president Trump proposed to ban travel to Muslims, they volunteered to pay any legal fees for those affected and willing to relocate to Ireland.
In 2018, Intercom received an impressive series D funding round amounting to $125 million. The guys standing behind this supportive act were the Kleiner Perkins venture company along with Google Ventures, and Mary Meeker from Bond Capital onboard.
When it came to sales software, this was Intercom’s major chance to outrank Salesforce - by setting the quality bar higher.
Where is Intercom Today
Thanks to big shots who had faith in this spotless idea that brought all these investment rounds, Intercom has become the worlds’ first customer messaging platform for business growth. A ballpark figure of their current funding is some $241 million, and their net value is topping $2.7 billion, turning them into a unicorn status startup.
The company operates successfully in the UK, US, and Australia, but Intercom’s vision is to make its services available across the globe.
From rock bottom and zero faith in their overly ambitious idea - to today’s position as one of the highest-ranking platforms for providing a personal messaging experience with customers.
Speaking of customers, for them Intercom may be just a live chat-box, but for businesses, it’s a whole website with several modules for sending automated emails, to be used for onboarding and educating customers by answering their questions. Intercom has provided an outstanding experience to more than 30,000 paying clients, so it turns out that having an ambitious and broad initial plan isn’t such a bad start after all.
In 2020, Intercom audited their back-end development and upgraded the server-side of the platform. They transitioned from a system coded on Ruby-on-rails - into a React application, extracting all their content from Contentful. This way, the site became resilient to any potential crashes or bugs.
Quite ingenious - and a testament to how far they’ve come.
From a startup nobody wants to take chances with, to a top-notch CRM platform with thousands of satisfied users. The story of the success of these four Irishmen teaches us that great ambitions and valuable ideas can change your life - if you’re persistent and inventive enough!