Interview with Michael Wolfe (Pipewise)
Pipewise is a user relationship management solution for cloud-based companies who acquire, convert, engage and support customers via the web and mobile.
I interviewed Michael Wolfe, Pipewise founder to find out more. This interview is the sixty third in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Michael for the interview!
How would you describe Pipewise in under 50 words?
Pipewise helps e-commerce businesses and consumer web services understand their user base, gain insight into what makes their users successful, and create and automate campaigns to turn users into loyal, paying customers. We drive engagement, reduce churn, and create new revenue.
You launched as ccLoop January 2010 and received $3.5 million in funding. When and why did you pivot? How much convincing did your investors need?
ccLoop pivoted about 9 months after we started, after going into public beta and disclosing the product at TechCrunch Disrupt in May 2011. We got some very positive product reviews and user feedback but realized that it was going to be hard to build a big business. But along the way we uncovered what we think is a much larger opportunity.
My last company sold products directly to corporate IT. We used Salesforce.com to drive our marketing and sales efforts and centralize our customer data. We ran our business off of it.
But ccLoop was a business selling directly to end consumers via a fremium SaaS model. We had a large number of users who tried the product and converted via self service. We knew little about them other than their email address, but we wanted to understand what it took to convert them to paying customers.
We compared notes with a bunch of other companies, and we found that most of them were building internal solutions to this problem. Since almost every new B2B market starts out with companies building their own solutions, we realized that this is a big opportunity, pivoted, and jumped on it.
As a triathlete and ultra runner, have you managed to compete since launching Pipewise?
Startups are tough, and we all work very hard. But my team is in this for the long haul, so we are try hard not to let our family lives, social lives, and hobbies go by the wayside.
I’ve kept up my training and racing, same as I have through all of my other startups. This is a Quora post I did on the topic, which I feel passionate about.
You have some impressive investors and advisors, including Ron Conway and Kevin Harvey. Are these relationships you’ve built over your past 4 startups?
All of my investors and advisors are folks I know well or know people in common with. My relationship with Benchmark and Kevin goes back three companies to 1997 when they funded Kana. I was an Entrepreneur in Residence at Benchmark in 2002, which led to Vontu, which I co-founded with Joseph Ansanelli, who is now on my board.
It helps that my previous companies were successful, but I also counsel anyone I talk to of the importance of building relationships and keeping a reputation for ethical behavior. Even though most startups don’t succeed, every company is an opportunity to expand your skillset, reputation, and network, and use them to launch your next project.
What technologies have you used to build Pipewise?
The Pipewise application requires us to store and process large amounts of data securely and serve up a great user experience to our users, who are mostly marketers. We use MongoDB, Ruby on Rails, Backbone.js, Bootstrap, Foundation, and several other tools that let us build a secure and scalable application and iterate quickly.
What do you wish you’d known 2 years ago that you know now? Where do you see Pipewise in 2 years time?
Two years ago I wish I had a better understanding of this problem. I had just assumed that effective commercial solutions existed, and I had to learn first hand that they do not. In two years this will be an established category with lots of spending and multiple competitors, and naturally I think we’ll be the leader!
Who is your biggest competitor?
Homegrown solutions. Businesses have gotten resigned to needing to do this themselves, so we need to show that we can do it better and at a fraction of the cost of their devoting internal resources to it.
What are some of the most difficult challenges you are currently facing as CEO of Pipewise?
It is a new category in a new part of our economy, so it requires education and evangelizing, but that has not proven too difficult since the pain is well understood by anyone who has lived it.
Where have you had the most traction? Web applications, mobile or enterprise?
For us it is really anyone who is managing a large user base, which means e-commerce and consumer web services. We literally have a waiting list of people who want us to solve this problem for them.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
This is a company where I’m not only excited about our technology and our team, but I also love our customers. They are a bunch of fun companies who are all setting out to do something new, break new ground, and build huge businesses. We like to think of ourselves as a disruptive business selling to other disruptive businesses!
Can you convince the reader to start using Pipewise in under 50 words?
We can give you actionable insights into your user base that will help you increase engagement, decrease churn, and drive more revenue. If you have users, you need us.
Finished reading? Check out Pipewise!