Dublin Startup Stories: SparkPage

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Dublin startups tell their stories, powered by DCU Ryan Academy.

Meet Peter Tanham, CEO of lifecycle marketing platform Sparkpage.

Tell us about your service…
SparkPage is a growth automatic platform that helps tech companies to activate more users. They use the platform to track a user as they move through the app and automate action, like emails, SMS and push notifications, to guide users through.

We have a workflow canvas that growth teams use to visualise their funnels, (e.g. ‘New User Activation’) and map out automated, personalised messages to guide every individual user.

What inspired you to start Sparkpage?
I worked for Vodafone for five years and spent a lot of time focused on their customer lifecycle marketing strategies. Telecoms companies are the original ‘consumer tech’ and for decades they’ve perfecting things like onboarding, upselling, cross-selling and retention. But they usually have big teams of dozens of people, using super expensive and clunky old-school technology (IBM, Oracle etc).

There’s a whole new breed of consumer tech companies who can benefit from all of the techniques and strategies used by the telecoms giants, but who need a more nimble, adaptable solution built around modern technologies like APIs, mobile apps and cloud services. Growth teams building the next Netflix or Spotify or Airbnb can benefit from the 20 years of telecoms strategy, but need a better suite of tools. So we built SparkPage for them.

How is SparkPage different?
Marketing automation is a pretty crowded space, but our customers (like Vodafone, MachineZone, Telefonica and Eircom) love us because our platform is the only one on the market that let you combine your funnel analytics with your automated messaging. So if you imagine any funnel you’d look at in your analytics software, like ‘New User Activation’. SparkPage lets you visually map out that funnel, then drag and drop the messages (emails, push and sms) that can nudge users through that funnel.

We also have a host of awesome third party integrations you can use in your funnel too. Like saying ‘If Stripe alerts us that a customer’s credit card renewal failed twice, send them to Salesforce for an outbound call’ or ‘If somebody doesn’t log in five days after signup, add them to a social retargeting campaign’.

What market are SparkPage targeting and how big is it?
We’re targeting tech companies with a subscription revenue model, particularly consumer tech companies like games and mobile apps. It’s a big enough market, don’t you worry.

What’s your business model?
We’re a SaaS company so we have a monthly/annual licence fee, much like many of our customers. Our pricing is based on the number of active users we help you track and message each month, so our interests are aligned to help automate and accelerate your growth.

What was the funding process like?
It was okay. Enterprise Ireland are pretty good to work with, especially if you go into the process knowing that they’re not as quick and nimble as most startups are, so the cogs are just going to turn a bit slower than you might be used to. But we were really happy with our experience with EI. We got our private funding from Jenson in London.

Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
We raised a small seed round of €300k from Jenson and EI, as we’ve mostly grown through revenues.

What factors about your business led your investors to write that check?
Besides the basics that everyone needs to cover (good team working on an interesting problem in a big/growing market), the feedback we got was that our revenues were what made us attractive – i.e. that they existed! We earned more in revenue that year than we raised in the round, which meant that the investment was purely to accelerate growth, not to build out the product.

What are the milestones that SparkPage plan to achieve in the next six months?
By the end of 2015 we will be delivering 100x more emails per month than we were at the start. Our team will have grown from six to sixteen and our customer and revenue numbers will be making equally fun increases. So far in 2015, we’ve established our US office in San Francisco and signed the last large telecom company on our list in Ireland, so we can now list them all as customers (Vodafone, O2, Eircom, 3 Mobile).

What advice can you offer companies in Dublin that don’t have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
If you can’t yet sell the service, then sell the outcome.

We grew bootstrapped for our first two years and we did it mostly through customer revenue (with a little help from EI’s Competitive Start Fund). We did this by ‘selling the outcome’. This means that, even if you don’t have a fully functional product or service, you can still charge customers for the end result. People sign up to SparkPage to increase the user activation rates in their app, so we started by charging for consultancy. We would write emails and help companies build lifecycle marketing campaigns, using some of our early tech and patching together other tools available and some manual work in the background.

Over time, we built out our own platform to be a better all-in-one solution than the mishmash of other tools we were using, we replaced manual work with automated software, but all the while we were talking to customers, discovering real problems to solve and – this is crucial – earning revenue.

Where do you see SparkPage going over the near term?
Right now ,the focus for us is on growing our marketing, sales and customer success teams. We have several big customers who love our service, now we just need to get the name out there to the wider market. Growth, growth, growth.

Tell us something you love about Dublin?
It’s small, geographically speaking. When I’m working from our Dublin office I bump into someone in the industry on the street once or twice per week. All networking events are usually within a 10-15 minute walk of our office and grabbing a coffee or a lunch is always an easy option.

Speaking of which, if you want to meet to chat apps, startups, growth and lifecycle marketing at any stage, connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn and say hello.

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