In 2013, the Indianapolis tech scene scored a massive outcome when Salesforce acquired marketing software maker ExactTarget for $2.5 billion. Five years later, the key leadership behind ExactTarget have teamed up to try to do it again.
The new startup is MetaCX, a software company led by former Salesforce marketing cloud chief Scott McCorkle. And though not quite a year old, and with a product still in closed beta test, MetaCX is ready to start declaring itself to the market. The first step: reveal itself with $14 million in pre-launch funding from VC firm Upfront Ventures.
“We’re rethinking the idea of what it means to manage a customer with a company with a digital-first product,” says McCorkle. “What would solve the kind of problems that we have managing them? And we think there are problems to solve.”
Founded in January, MetaCX is operating in a fast-growing customer success category of software that helps sellers maintain clients and sell more over time. Software in the category can spot when a customer isn’t using the tools frequently or across enough employees, or guess when a company’s patterns of activity are pointing to user unrest.
MetaCX’s twist on the market is to offer the equivalent of a dashboard layered on top of its existing software tools like Salesforce so that both buyer and seller of the software can use to stay on the same page. The software seller can track metrics like time spent in app, the number of active users and other traditional tracking numbers more consistently than it can today, McCorkle claims. Customers, meanwhile, can see their own patterns and the outcomes their usage is producing, making it easier to give feedback if things aren’t going well.
MetaCX solves a problem that McCorkle said he had while an executive at ExactTarget and then Salesforce Marketing Cloud, which he ran for three years after his former ExactTarget boss and then group leader Scott Dorsey stepped down. Last year, McCorkle joined High Alpha, the startup incubator Dorsey founded in Indianapolis, as an entrepreneur-in-residence. In January, he started MetaCX, which now has 16 employees and several dozen companies in its closed beta test.
McCorkle credits his first extended professional break of his career following his departure from Salesforce as a catalyst for his idea for MetaCX. He’d worked with a lot of software products, he reflected, but still didn’t know if they helped customers as much as they were supposed to. “It became clear that what companies need is a layer to connect to them and understand what outcomes they see in their product,” he says.
In raising its Series A from Upfront, MetaCX is taking what amounts to a large Series A round before it has a general release of its product or has publicly named a single customer. Its new investor Kobie Fuller, though, knows McCorkle well, having invested in ExactTarget years ago when it was a startup and then serving as a customer to it in later years. It’s a new platform that rethinks the area of customer success from the ground up,” Fuller said in an email.
MetaCX will launch publicly outside its test community in early 2019. When it does so, it will face increasingly crowded competition from a customer success market that includes Gainsight and Pendo among others. It also must contend with a basic limitation of such software: the people actually paying for it – and thus fueling it – are the ones selling the tools. Would such a service ever tell a buyer that its purchase wasn’t making sense?
McCorkle argues that it’s better for a vendor to know quickly when its relationship with a customer isn’t working out. He says that companies using such tools often have issues but are too embarrassed to speak up: “They don’t want to say, I’m not happy or it’s not working.” Better for everyone, the founder argues, if visibility is consistent on both sides so there are no surprises when it’s time to renew a subscription.
At the least, MetaCX’s founder is building a tool he would’ve wanted for himself in his previous role. “It’s the platform I have always wanted to manage thousands of customers,” McCorkle says. “It’s fun to be back.”