Kapiche: How we 3x our customers in 4 months of the RCL Accelerator
For those not already aware, Kapiche are proud participants in the current (and 3rd) cohort of the RCL Accelerator (powered by muru-D). We joined the program with a team, a product, and paying customers. But we knew we were lacking a lot of knowledge and experience around sales, marketing, and commercialisation. And we thought the RCL Accelerator could help us with that.
Luckily, our hunch was correct. In the first four months of the program, we have tripled our count of paying customers, attracting companies like Qantas, PWC, Neiman Marcus, and Crown Casinos. It’s something we are super proud of. How did we do it? It’s a complicated story with plenty of nuance but there were three high level activities that the we attribute the growth to.
We picked a niche
By the end of our second conversation with one of the program EIRs, Mike Knapp, we’d already been given firm directions to read Crossing the Chasm. And as we did, on came the light bulb. We were a B2B SaaS company that believed we could solve any problem that involved text data (at our core, we are an AI text analytics company). As we later learned, this is a mistake that teams with a heavy engineering background were particularly prone to make. Lesson learned.
Picking a niche turned out to be a surprisingly simple task. We reached out and spoke to our existing customer base. We spoke to them a lot. And what we really wanted to know was “why are you using Kapiche?”, which sounds really bad to say out loud, but it’s true. We had a list of 15 (!!!) use cases we had identified prior to having these conversations, and we hope to revisit some of them at a later point in time. But for the immediate future, it was clear that customer satisfaction, customer experience, and voice of the customer was the niche we needed to focus on.
Know the customer pains; empathise
This gem actually came from an introduction made by Stewart Glynn to Vu Tran, Head of Growth (and YC alumni) of portfolio company GO1. One of the things Vu hammered home to us was know who your customer is, know the chain of pain felt through various roles in the organisation, be able to talk about and empathise with those pains without needing to talk about your product features, and concentrate on providing solutions to those problems. This really all comes back to a key point for any startup: you have to be addressing a real pain for customers. You can’t just be a nice-to-have.
I think we were fortunate in that we had paying customers that could articulate a real pain that we were solving. We just had to let them tell us that. Once they had, we then needed to validate that others were feeling that pain and that our solution was applicable to them. Once we understood the pains potential customers would be facing, it made communicating with them in a manner they could relate to a whole lot easier.
Team, focus, and team again
If you’ve been around the startup ecosystem much, there are a few things you hear constantly. One of them is team — it’s all about your team. And I can tell you from personal experience, people are hard. I didn’t realise this initially. I thought product and engineering would be the hard parts (you probably won’t be surprised to learn I was an engineer originally). We have an amazing team, but we needed to strive to ensure we were all on the same page pushing towards the common goal. Realistically, it fell to me to articulate that vision and rally the team behind it. We also needed some process on how we worked together, and to document the type of company we wanted to build. All of this became really clear thanks to a workshop organised by the program in San Francisco run by Anamaria Nino-Murcia from Foothold Coaching.
All of this manifested itself in a number of ways. We became really clear on the journey we were going on and what we believed we could be the best in the world at. We took time to think about and document the culture we wanted (not the culture we currently had). And we made sure to define the internal processes we needed in order for us to start scaling (particularly the roles people would be doing and the interface between Product & Sales). Upon reflection, I probably thought this kind of stuff could wait until we were bigger. I really underestimated the impact of having an aligned team, and what it could do for the velocity of the company. We were only six people when we started this process, and in hindsight we should have done these things even earlier.
I think this article probably reads like we have it all figured out, but we really don’t. We know a lot more than when we started, and we are really grateful for the RCL Accelerator staff, Transition Level Investments, Black Sheep Capital, Full Circle VC, Vu Tran from GO1, and everyone else that has helped us immensely to reach this point. But we have a long way to go. We are successfully crawling.
One thing I’ve learned is that as you grow there isn’t any less problems to solve — it’s just that the problems you are solving change. Luckily, solving new problems is what motivates me. I feel like we are on a good path and there are exciting times ahead. I‘m always happy to talk about Kapiche, just reach out if you are interested. And of course, we are hiring!
I personally prefer posts that contain practical, actionable advice. So, I wanted to make sure I included a list of resources that you could use on your own journey. Keep in mind we are a B2B SaaS company, so that’s the context in which I found these books useful: Crossing the Chasm, Good to Great, High Output Management, Traction, From Impossible to Inevitable, The Challenger Sale, and The Collaborative Sale.
Kapiche was built for companies who want to empathize with their customers at scale. Our multi-structured analytics software helps companies truly understand what their customers are trying to tell them. Learn more at kapiche.com.