From 6 years of Bootstrapping to Raising 20M€: How Batch is building the Customer Engagement Platform for Modern Marketers

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21 Oct 2021 • Rédigé par Simon Dawlat

With 70 team members, 300 Enterprise customers and 400bn engagement messages delivered yearly we're taking Batch out of bootstrapping with our first-ever 20M€ round of financing to keep investing in our culture, build the next-generation cloud marketing platform and accelerate international expansion. All legacy shareholders from our prior venture such as Iris Capital exit the cap table—we thank them for their continuous support all the way through—as we welcome our new lead investor Expedition Growth Capital followed by Orange Ventures.

Update: thanks Romain Dillet for the TechCrunch coverage!

First off, I want to thank the team once again for bearing with me for so long and for delivering a product that is truly mind-boggling in its scale and quality.

As I pause for a moment, and reflect on the journey, it amazes me that we’ve been able to go from survival mode to the scale and operational maturity we’re at today.

In terms of growth and resilience, the last 24 months have been a prime example of what compounding effects look like, and as I struggle daily to become a better CEO, seeing people unbelievably stronger than me in every seat of the company is what motivates me the most for the decade ahead.

A Customer Engagement what?

While it’s also commonplace to say this, I want to explain what we’re building, and why we truly are at the very beginning of our journey.

Raising money in the post-Covid era for a fast-growing MarTech platform proved to be both a dynamic and frustrating experience as I realized the category was seriously back in favour with VCs—for its resilience and renewed growth potential—but at the same time, badly misunderstood.

From a bird's-eye view, our space is the huge and multi-layered $20bn+ Cloud Marketing market.

It’s been around for two decades and now growing at an even faster rate in the post-Covid era. From that perspective, the decade ahead is looking fantastic and both the acquisition and fundraising spree we’re seeing today is a testimony to this.

This market has been dominated by some of the largest software suites in the world: suites that have helped define what SaaS means today: pioneers of relational databases and email marketing from the web-based era such as Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Adobe Campaign, Oracle Eloqua, IBM Unica and dozens of others.

While their unquestionable dominance isn’t expected to fade away anytime soon, we see a new generation of marketers out there gradually taking the reins of customer engagement at Enterprise companies across the world that will not tolerate to work with these products anymore.

We’re building for them.

We’re building for the new consumer behaviours.

We’re building for the new software technologies and platform-owned, token-based communication protocols—such as push notifications—that have become a basic requirement in the toolbox of this unprecedentedly tech-savvy generation of marketers, and are disrupting the incumbent's web-based data models so badly.

By doing so, we’ve laid the foundations for the next generation customer engagement platform.

A platform that would combine the best of both worlds by allowing marketers to concentrate all their customer data in one place—whether logged-in or token-based, online or offline, real-time or static—create limitless engagement journeys, workflows and leverage advanced personalization features while accessing all their engagement channels under the same roof. Finally, a platform that would connect seamlessly to all their other tools, and be modern, beautiful and real-time, with built-in customer support.

As we like to say, a B2B product built with the codes of B2C.

This is our vision.

How hard?

Very hard.

We know this to be a massive opportunity and a no-shortcuts challenge. I've seen firsthand that what we’re building requires the synchronization of truly rare technological & operational expertise—and that’s why we’ve taken our time to get there.

And that time was well spent, as dozens of well-funded companies have failed before us. Some were too early. Some underestimated the difficulty of mobile and thought mobile engagement and push notifications were easy to build. Some went head on with the incumbents (never a good idea). Some simply quit after a while.

We may live in a world where capital has become a cheap ressource for startups but building a long-standing tech company remains a similarly brutal experience.

Other companies (actually, mostly one) and our primary competitor, US-based Braze —which got its start 5 years before us—have followed the same trajectory, from a place of mobile engagement expertise to an entirely novel and holistic kind of CRM platform. What they’ve achieved is nothing short of exceptional and we’re pumped to be executing alongside them against this exciting vision and massive opportunity.

Now, looking ahead, I know there’s still tremendous work to do.

But as I contemplate the obstacles awaiting us, I feel confident that we're building upon the foundations of a unique platform designed by my visionary co-founder Antoine, delivered by our amazing Product & Engineering team, and brought to clients across the world by our humble and tenacious Go-to-market & Finance people.

Now, to truly understand the opportunity we have in front of us it's important to look back and see the progress we have made thus far.

Looking back into the future.

By now, I know this note is getting long but I’m writing in hopes that people will discover our story and get excited about what we're building.

Today, we not only seek to create a compelling and fast-growing business but also a thoughtful culture and stimulating workplace filled with insanely great people where we always seek to optimize for trust over growth.

I believe 2022 is the year where we surprise folks with how strong and thoughtful our culture is, and we’re currently working on making it more accessible to outsiders.

2014 - 2015 The Survival Years

Our culture begins with a startup story like no other.

In 2013, my prior company, AppGratis, was hitting 400% y-o-y growth as we were helping define the nascent app discovery space.

What we were running at the time was one of the largest mobile apps in the world, powered by a team of 100+ amazing people, with 50M subscribers worldwide.

That year, we were on track to achieve 40M€ revenue in our fourth year of operations and saw no limits to what we could build.

Apple, however, saw differently. The team in Cupertino decided we no longer had business doing the curation job they’d rather deliver themselves to iOS users and decided to pull AppGratis out of the App Store.

I was a young and inexperienced founder back then and I had invested everything into the company: 18 months of uncertainties and a personal life trauma ensued but since I’ve told this story many times before, I’ll stay brief here.

Mid-2014, we pulled ourselves together.

Thanks to the grit and vision of my co-founder, the unflinching support of our early business angel Franck, and the ever-inspiring founding Batch team—Nicolas, Vincent, Cédric, Stéphane, Arnaud B, Arnaud BM, Thierry and Baptiste—we started hacking the first lines of codes of what would become the Batch SDK.

2016 - 2017 The Road to Recovery Years

Early on the vision was simple.

Mobile was becoming the primary screen and centerpiece of everything: modern mobile OSes brought along push notifications as the big break-through in human-machine interfaces and B2C communications.

Push notifications would be elegant, timely, real-time and also, let’s face it, quite addictive. Deep consumer habits quickly formed around it that we all experience today.

But push notifications were also incredibly hard to implement for brands and developers—especially at scale.

Hard to maintain, since gatekeepers such as Apple and Google would update their APIs at breakneck speed.

Hard to scale, since mobile audiences would quickly become humongous.

Hard to master, for this new generation of marketers, who had only known email and SMS marketing since then.

And especially hard to deploy into the Enterprise, since our SDKs would have to live not on the side, but inside customer’s production environments—with all the legal and privacy challenges associated with running a critical piece of software inside some of the world’s largest brands web and mobile assets.

Later on, new regulatory frameworks—such as GDPR—also came into play, creating an extra layer of complexity—which is why the typical RFP for our product today looks like a hardly decipherable 500+ lines long Excel requirement spreadsheet and each one we win requires a small town effort.

By the end of 2017 we would handle 90M MAUs and deliver 33bn push messages yearly with 18 team members. We had “cracked” push notifications for the Enterprise but didn’t know it yet.

2018 - 2019 The Product-Market Fit Years

Product-market fit epiphany came mid-2018.

With a 25bn€ market capitalisation, 3,5M daily users of their main banking app and highly sensitive data flowing in and out of their web-services, the stakes were incredibly high as we entered the RFP for one of the largest banks in the world: Société Générale.

I—the eternal optimist—advised the team against it.

I didn’t want to waste 6-8 months on a complicated deal that we were likely to lose anyways.

Revenue was starting to grow at a nice pace, fuelled by small and mid-sized clients, and I was afraid that a big business blow would waste our time and dampen team morale — It took the tenacity of Antoine and our Sales guru Thierry to actually win the deal.

But the true “ah-ah” moment came when receiving the full process debrief, after the final contract was signed.

Reading through the slides Société Générale had sent us, we were shocked to realize that our offering had ranked higher than all the big five. Salesforce, Adobe, Oracle, IBM and Microsoft had all bidded for the deal, pushing their web-based suites. And got turned down.

That year, we started re-positioning for the Enterprise and large scale-ups more aggressively, and also started building native integrations with all the CRM suites, CDP and analytics products out there while strengthening our Enterprise-ready framework.

At the end of 2019 we would handle 188M MAUs monthly and deliver 120bn push messages yearly with 25 team members.

Thank you for your trust, Société Générale!

2020 - 2021 The Compounding Effects Years

We spent 2019 scaling the org and started investing in our culture more proactively.

After years of searching, go-to-market was now super clear.

By the end of 2019, we were lucky to hire our CRO, Clotilde, who helped strengthen our sales culture and execution excellence.

The team went from 25 to 50 very quickly and we were starting 2020 with high team morale and the highest expectations but you know what happened next.

In March, facing the abyss for the second time in my short entrepreneurial existence I braced myself for losing everything once again. Luckily this time, quite the opposite happened.

After a few weeks of uncertainty where the team gave its absolute best supporting both our clients and the entire country, clients started to double down on their platform investments to compensate for offline revenue drops and in an effort to go digital even more rapidly. Time had come for the long-awaited cleaning session in the MarTech space which would separate the nice-to-have products from the must-have solutions.

This time, we were lucky to be lucky.

By the end of 2020 we had won 12 new major RFPs, hired 18 more people and we’re nearing half-billion MAUs on the platform while surpassing 200bn push messages delivered. And these numbers have gone up +100% in 2021 where we will cross the 400bn push messages delivered mark.

By early 2021, VCs started to notice. After having been under the radar for so long, I started receiving weekly email inquiries. We were aiming for strong growth this year and with the help of our new CFO, Nicolas, I felt the team was stronger than ever and decided the timing was right to execute our first round of financing—something we had delayed for a while.

We hired the legendarily discreet and efficient London-based bank Alpha Capital Partners, started the roadshow in Q1 and signed the final papers on the very last days of July thanks to the support of our long-time lawyers Lawint (thank you Alex!) and Jones Day (thank you Renaud and Paul!). What we learned during the process is probably for another blog post, but we feel super lucky to have met Oliver and Clément and couldn’t be more excited to have them aboard for the next steps of this exciting journey.

As I near the conclusion of this note, I will state the obvious which is that we’re hiring a hell lot across all teams. Please visit our career pages or shoot us an email (hello@batch.com) if you’d like to learn more about opportunities at Batch.

Finally, to all Batchers reading this note: know that your work is truly inspiring and pushes me to become a better version of myself everyday — I know I’m far from perfect, but I’m trying super hard and your trust is what keeps me going.

More than ever, it’s time to keep pushing.

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