One month ago I left Facebook to join a start-up called Intercom. I loved Facebook and would always recommend people to take any job offer there – more on what makes Facebook such a great place to work another time. But Intercom felt like it was a once in a career opportunity to join and help build a company with an incredible mission.
It was important that I knew and highly regarded the founders, that their mission was large enough to last a decade, and ambitious enough to irreversibly change business for the better. Intercom has an engineering team recruited from Google, Apple and Amazon, and a fantastic launch product to build on top of. But on top of all that, I joined Intercom because of an immense opportunity I saw about the future of business, and the impressive steps Intercom have already taken towards that future.
Let’s look at the things shaping that future.
As the internet permeates everything, all businesses are becoming web businesses. As web businesses gather data about customers through interaction after interaction, they have an opportunity to learn about customers’ behaviour, habits and preferences. They can use this insight to personalise products and outbound communications.
Many start-ups are thinking about personalised outbound communication, for example email optimisation companies and website personalisation engines, but Intercom’s mission is much larger – to use behaviour based customer segmentation technology and build the best way for businesses to talk to their customers, and talk to them at scale. Intercom allows businesses to:
1. See their customers and their behaviour.
2. Segment them in meaningful ways.
3. Talk to everyone, specific segments, or individual people.
This two way communication is critical because the rise of the social web, and the web itself permeating everything else. The simple fact is that the internet is catching up with how life is offline, and this means that the future of business will look more like the past than the present: Business owners knowing all their customers’ preferences, tailoring their offering to customers through dialogue, and learning how to make their business better in the process.
When thinking about interacting with customers online today, many businesses try to minimise customer interaction to reduce costs. This is a model of business for a pre-social web world. The successful businesses in the future will see customer interactions as a profit centre, because they will compete not on technology (as most software and data storage is now high quality for low cost), not even on great product design (which is now becoming a minimum bar to entry to a market), but on really great customer service. This means ongoing dialogue with customers, building relationships and loyalty, and constant internal adaptations to changing markets.
Intercom‘s vision is to enable this future for businesses, with a level of personal intimacy our ancestors would be proud of, at a scale they could never have imagined. I’m incredibly excited to be a part of this new company.