First step? Convince investors that B2B customer support could be better.
Vancouver-based startup Supportbench has secured C$1.9 million (US$1.5 million) in funding as it seeks to build a Zendesk-like customer support engine for B2B businesses.
Startup founders Nooshin Alibhai (CEO) and Eric Klimuk (CTO) started the company after Klimuk, who spent a decade working for cybersecurity firm Sophos, noticed a need for specific B2B support. .
“Freshdesk and Zendesk address B2C needs, leaving significant white space for a solution that addresses the issues Supportbench addresses.”
Klimuk and Alibhai say platforms like Zendesk and Freshdesk are more focused on B2C customer support, which can leave enterprise customers on the hook. Supportbench, they say, is specifically designed to support businesses.
The $1.9 million SAFE marks Supportbench’s first outside capital after Klimuk and Alibhai self-funded the startup for five years of building out its technology and operations.
Investors in the round include StandUp Ventures, N49P Ventures, US-based Liquid2 Ventures, and a number of undisclosed angel investors.
Supportbench’s first outside capital comes after years of trying to raise funds, but being turned down. The company had a minimum viable product and early customers, but Alibhai recalled how investors would be hesitant despite admitting there was room in the market for B2B play. The CEO said investors have argued that customer support is an “extremely competitive space” and that existing consumer loyalty to Zendesk or Freshdesk is too high to make room for smaller players.
“They didn’t understand the market, or they had no idea what problem we were looking for or what we were trying to solve,” Klimuk said.
Alibhai and Klimuk learned that they needed more customers to prove Supportbench’s potential. After working to ensure Supportbench was a robust product, the startup began onboarding customers towards the end of 2019 and into 2020.
In 2021, things changed: Supportbench struck a major deal with a corporate client that gave the startup three years of operational capital and breathing room. Today, Supportbench’s customers include car rental company 3M, Budget, Ricoh, and US private military contractor DynCorp International.
With customers drawing in, Alibhai and Klimuk decided it was time to get back to fundraising. The pair also saw an opportunity to choose the right investors for their business.
StandUp Ventures chief executive Michelle McBane told BetaKit that the company invested in Supportbench largely because of the experience of its founders.
“We seek to invest in resourceful, scrappy founders who have a deep understanding of the problem they’re solving and empathy for their client — especially when that deep understanding gives way to a single vision,” McBane said.
The customer support management software space is vast. Zendesk has over 100,000 customers worldwide, and competitors include big names like Freshdesk, Salesforce, ServiceNow, and Zoho Desk.
Many of these platforms work with both B2C and B2B customers. And while they don’t have specific B2B offerings, Zendesk, for example, touts its ability to work with such clients. Where Supportbench hopes to win is by creating, from the start, a platform targeting only B2B customer support.
McBane highlighted the need for Supportbench. “Customer support is fundamentally different for B2B and B2C,” she told BetaKit. She argued that B2C customer support engines focus on “first in, first out” ticketing systems that address high-volume and simple one-touch communication issues.
“Contract values are low and mistakes are inexpensive,” McBane noted. “On the other hand, B2B contract values are high, mistakes can be extremely costly, and customer retention is key. Freshdesk and Zendesk cater to B2C needs, leaving significant white space for a solution that addresses issues. that Supportbench tackles.”
With integrated email, ticketing, and more, Klimuk argued that Supportbench eliminates the need to switch between various tools, whether it’s Zendesk or a separate chat solution.
Supportbench uses its seed capital to attract customers.
“We have a very crowded market with competitors who have very large marketing budgets that can overtake us,” Alibhai said. “So we do as many creative things as possible to just raise awareness of [how] we are here, ‘just test us’.