September 22, 2013

Evergage Bringing Enchantment, Real-Time Personalization to the Web

One buzz word among tech/innovation companies that you hear more and more these days is "enchantment." The word itself seems more appropriate for a Disney World employee handbook than as a guiding principle for a startup, and, yet, everyone seems to want to enchant their users and clients. Most of the time, entrepreneurs and company founders have no clue how to actually go about creating engagement.

Historically, Apple has been the company that has been better than anyone else at 'enchanting' users. From product launches to the entire Apple Store experience, the idea of creating a unique, lasting impression with a customer is at the heart of what has made Apple so successful over the past decade.  

There has been a growing cottage industry around applying the concept to business. One of Apple's first product evangelists, Guy Kawasaki, even wrote an entire book, Enchantment, as a how-to guide on how to create a lasting impression with customers.

Evergage, the local website personalization company, has built a product to help customers create more engagement and enchantment between client's web apps and websites and their customers/visitors.

Although Evergage (formerly Apptegic) doesn't come right out and say, "We are the tool you've been looking for to create a deeper relationship with your customers," they might as well. They promote their SaaS product as a "real-time behavioral web personalization and customer success management platform." Evergage's stated goal is to help marketers and 'customer success managers', "segment their website visitors, web app users and accounts. Then engage them in-context, within the online experience, to increase conversion rates, user engagement, and customer success," as Evergage describes their product on their website.

As CEO and Founder Karl Wirth explained more succinctly, "We enable all clients to change the web experience for their customers in real time, based on who they are and what they’ve done."

How do they do that? For one, they built a complex technology that tracks online customers 'cookies'. This differentiates Evergage from competitors (which we will get to in a moment) in that they can create moments of engagement with even anonymous customers on a site or using a web app. (An anonymous user is one who may not have identified themselves yet by filling out a web form of some sort.)

The company was founded by two former RedHat employees, Wirth and CTO Greg Hinkle. While at RedHat, Wirth explained, "We were actually looking for each other I was thinking about starting a company and so was he.” (RedHat, while known primarily as a North Carolina company actually has most of its leadership headquartered in Westford, Wirth told me.)

"I was looking for a superstar, someone head and shoulders above any one I've met as well as a technologist," he said, "and [Hinkle] was looking for a business partner [himself]."

As Wirth tells it, "We were working on developing RedHat's cloud strategy and we ended up talking to a bunch of SaaS and web companies." "As we were talking about RedHat, we were also bouncing some of our other ideas off of them." That was when Hinkle and Wirth decided to create a deeper customer relationship tool than anything on the market.

Wirth expressed great appreciation for the Boston tech scene and believes it has helped the company grow. As he first began to network and shop the idea of Evergage around, he became, as he said, "impressed by the Boston startup mentorship scene." He further explained, "I met a ton of people and companies, and got a bunch of great beta customers."

Evergage has grown to a team of six engineers. As Wirth said, "It took about a year building the tech, because it was very hard to build a totally real time big data solution. About a year ago, we started selling it, and we have been really successful with that."

If you follow the happenings of the Boston tech scene or even have an avid interest in the business of marketing, you might be saying, "Wait a second, isn't HubSpot doing the same thing?" This is the question I posed to Wirth, in regard to HubSpot's recent launch of their Content Optimization Service.

As he said, "They have more marketing finesse, but they will be making some noise [in the space] which will be good for us." Wirth pointed out that HubSpot's new product can only personalize within their own CMS, only for those using HubSpot already. However, Evergage can personalize for a wide array of different platforms including Wordpress, Drupel, customer's own web apps, and more.

Wirth pointed out two big differentiators between what Evergage can do and other personalization tools. "We are completely real time, and, [as explained above] we can access you even if you are anonymous."

Evergage raised $2 million in a 2012 Seed Round from Point Judith Capital, Advanced Technology Ventures, Jit Saxena of Netezza, Andrew Palmer, and other angel investors. Saxena had been involved with Evergage early in the companies development, before the Seed Round, providing, with some other angels, what Wirth called, "a drip angel fund."

Evergage is currently growing. Over the past couple of months, they hired a Head of Marketing and a Head of Sales, and are seeking to add more team members to their office in the quickly growing tech enclave of Davis Square.

As gaining a customer's trust and engagement by creating moments of enchantment becomes more ubiquitous in the tech/innovation sector, Evergage should continue to growth as its tool become a necessity for savvy marketers trying to build customer loyalty. As Apple, Dunkin Donuts, and even the Grateful Dead have proved, creating devoted customers can be one of the most sustainable business models out there.

Dennis Keohane is a staff writer for VentureFizz.  You can follow Dennis on Twitter (@DBKeohane) by clicking here.