Monday, September 19, 2011

Fizzback does a NICE deal

Readers of this blog may have noticed that Fizzback, an investment we made in 2005, gets lots of coverage – here in and in tweets @robinklein. Aside from the fact that I’m passionate about customer service being a fundamental competitive advantage and one of the pillars of a great brand, I have a strong personal connection with the company.

Today we are announcing that a sale of Fizzback to Nice Systems (NASDAQ: NICE) for approximately $80m has been agreed. The transaction is scheduled to close in a few weeks.

In many ways this is a great result for the team and the investors to be celebrated. Nice is a very good home for Fizzback and Fizzback is going to add considerably to Nice (see product/market details below)

On the other hand, its a disappointment that a company which had begun to make a global impact in the world of Customer Experience Management, had captured some of the largest corporate clients worldwide, is not going solo ‘all the way’.
The TAG philosophy has always been to support founders and to recognize that entrepreneurs’ own motivation must ultimately be the deciding factor in these types of decisions.

Some history of this super company is relevant and I think interesting.

Our relationship with Rob Keve, Fizzback's founder, goes back about 15 years and we invested in IMI (Instant Market Intelligence – its former iteration) in 2005 - as part of the company's small seed round. I well remember the 4 hours Rob and I spent driving to and from the Cotswolds every month during 2003 for the Cotswold Company's board meetings. Rob was thinking about starting IMI.
Like many successful companies, the vision for Fizzback made a few pivots along the way.

Its initial vision was to address demand for rapid market research and new forms of customer insight- kind of vox pop via SMS. Selling a product to the market research community didn’t seem to me to be a place where we’d find good sized budgets. Rob had another much more appealing idea which he was running in parallel. A service to retailers and service providers which enabled consumers to provide feedback at the point of experience – in store, on the train etc – via their mobile phones – via SMS. IMI would interpret the message (using NLP appropriate to SMS ‘speak’), categorise and direct the message to the appropriate department for action.
This latter idea got me excited. I agreed to invest and join the board as Chairman.

Rob and I pulled together a small group of angels – including Jonathan McKay – and what a great decision that was! Jonathan, who is a real enterprise software/services guru, took over the Chair in 2008 and helped Rob build the stellar sales team and been an invaluable guide to the business.

Step one back in 2005 was hire a small team. Tech head was Herx Fisherman who conceived and built the original Fizzback Enterprise platform. Operations head was Jonathan Morris (my son-in-law) – still the Operations Director of the group, often holding things together …. another reason for the soft spot for this company.

Step two was creating a brand which would define a category. With the help of Phil Ley of Branded, Fizzback emerged. This was not about market intelligence, it was about actionable feedback.

The learnings gleaned from early clients like Butlins, National Express and others helped the evolution of the product.
The 2 relatively modest funding rounds – first from Advent £2.5m in October 2006 and later, at the end of 2009 £1.6m from Advent, Nauta and TAG helped focus the company on bravely targeting giant accounts like Tesco, Carphone Warehouse, BT, Vodafone, Virgin, O2, Waitrose, Eurostar and the rest.

These kinds of customers ensured that the Fizzback platform was always at full stretch – not just in terms of scaling but in their demands for enhanced functionality. Great customers demand great products and service!

The support from our VC backers has been magnificent – in the very early days from our good friends  at Advent - first Frederic Court and then from Mike Chalfen – who is a master at the insightful intellectual challenge and has been an active practical support all the way.
Jordi Vinas, the Nauta board member provided the Euro perspective and his knowledge of the mobile vertical in particular has been hugely valuable.

So another great European company gets sold to a foreign company just 6 years after its foundation. No problem with that -and I do expect we'll see more of the proceeds being re-cycled and re-invested in the growing Euro tech eco-system.

Extracts from the press release:

The Fizzback SaaS offering is a real-time operational VoC solution. It sends consumers requests for feedback relating to a specific interaction or transaction via mobile, web or social media. The consumer is engaged at the point of experience, for example in the contact center, branch, point of sale (POS), mobile application, or web. The feedback is analyzed by the system to determine a relevant response, and automatically conduct a dialog with the consumer in natural language rather than a survey format.

Fizzback’s unique approach generates game-changing response rates of up to 50%, significantly higher than industry norms at under 10%, as it motivates consumers to provide relevant feedback, at the moment of interaction. Additionally, consumers provide feedback about their experience rather than only about what was asked in a survey. With more than 150 million feedbacks collected annually, Fizzback enables organizations to better understand their customers’ perceptions, and be agile across the organization, while improving customer experience at the various enterprise touch points.

The combination of Fizzback and NICE will both improve CEM as well as operationalize VoC both for the contact center and across the enterprise. Correlating customer feedback to specific interactions or transactions helps improve performance enterprise-wide with statistically validated responses, as well as enhance quality management and processes. Key efficiency metrics that can be significantly improved include First Contact Resolution (FCR) and Average Handle Time (AHT) in the contact center and employee performance in direct customer facing roles.

Capturing, analyzing and acting on the Voice of the Customer (VoC) is critical to the success of any Customer Experience initiative. NICE’s cross-channel analytics solutions support VoC programs by: (1) analyzing customer interaction content (indirect feedback), whether the customer is interacting with the organization or talking about the organization through the contact center, social media, or other channels, and by extracting insights from these interactions; and (2) by analyzing customer behavior (inferred feedback), such as transaction and web browsing patterns or their journey along different touch points. By adding direct customer feedback with the Fizzback solution, NICE now provides a complete CEM solution that delivers a holistic understanding of the customer by combining on one platform the VoC from each of the three feedback dimensions: direct, indirect and inferred.

Zeevi Bregman, President and CEO of NICE said, " The adoption of and demand for CEM solutions, at all levels of the organization, including Marketing, Finance and Operations, is on the rise. With the addition of Fizzback, NICE is expanding the scope of its capabilities of Impacting Every Customer Interaction by introducing a Customer Experience Management solution with the most complete Voice of the Customer offering. This enables our customers to more effectively capture, understand and leverage VoC as the foundation to a cross-enterprise CEM strategy.”

Rob Keve, CEO of Fizzback said, “Our unique solution has been enabling our customers to achieve exceptionally high response rates from their customers, and to receive feedback in real-time. This combination allows them to take immediate action for increasing customer loyalty and driving efficiency across the enterprise. This has resulted in extremely high usage rates for our customers, making Fizzback a strategic part of how our customers make decisions and run the business. Thus, we are proud to have experienced rapid growth and high rates of product adoption. We are looking forward to combining these capabilities with NICE’s real-time, cross-channel analytics to provide both NICE and Fizzback customers greater access to even broader capabilities with a more complete VoC solution.”

Under the terms of the agreement, NICE will acquire Fizzback for a total cash consideration of approximately $80 million. Subject to certain conditions and satisfaction of terms, the transaction is scheduled to close in the beginning of the fourth quarter of 2011 with 2 to 3 cents dilution of fully diluted Non-GAAP EPS for that quarter. In 2012, the acquisition is expected to add approximately $20 million to NICE’s non-GAAP revenues, to be slightly dilutive, and to become accretive to fully diluted Non-GAAP EPS within four quarters post closing. 


About Fizzback
Founded in 2004 headquartered in the UK and backed by  Advent Venture Partners, Nauta Capital and TAG, Fizzback is a global provider of Voice of the Customer solutions, providing software solutions for Real-Time Customer Feedback that drive customer loyalty and employee performance. The award winning Fizzback solution helps companies listen, respond and act in real-time to their customers’ comments. Fizzback customers include tier-1 organizations from a variety of vertical industries, including, British Telecom (BT), O2, Best Buy Europe, Everything Everywhere, National Express Virgin Media, Tesco and several Tier 1 North American telecom carriers.

About NICE Systems
NICE Systems (NASDAQ: NICE), is the worldwide leader of intent-based solutions that capture and analyze interactions and transactions, realize intent, and extract and leverage insights to deliver impact in real time. Driven by cross-channel and multi-sensor analytics, NICE solutions enable organizations to improve business performance, increase operational efficiency, prevent financial crime, ensure compliance, and enhance safety and security. NICE serves over 25,000 organizations in the enterprise and security sectors, representing a variety of sizes and industries in more than 150 countries, and including over 80 of the Fortune 100 companies. www.nice.com

Previous posts re Fizzback:
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Monday, September 12, 2011

TAG commits another 250K Euros to extend runway for Seedcamp companies

Seedcamp is obviously in our bones at TAG, but for a little colour,  
I remember:

  • brainstorming the concept while it was a twinkle in Saul and Reshma’s eye
  • being on the first Board with Mattias, Sara, Paul, Sumon and Jason
  • pitching to new investors and writing the first cheques to Seedcamp I and II
  • funding Zemanta, MyBuilder and Kublax in 2007; Toksta in 2008; Erply in 2009 and Editd in 2010
  • going to Mini Seedcamps in Ljublianga, New York, Tel Aviv, Paris, Copenhagen
  • working closely on Seedsummit and the latest Term Sheet program

So we love Seedcamp - that's a given.

But having just spent the week at Seedcamp in London, its clear that the Seedcamp platform and network has moved to a new level and finally there is also serious capital available.

But most importantly the latest group of Seedcamp companies are totally inspiring by:

  1. the progress they have made,
  2. the scale of their ambition
  3. the amount they have achieved with little to no money.
Seedcamp has never shied away from the fact that to build something great takes time - and to building an ecocystem takes decades.

We still have a long way to go in the markets we operate, TAG is not ready to buy a tracker (and also we are fundamentally "stock pickers").

We’ve had our successes and failures at TAG, that’s part of investing and its especially so at the earliest stages. However, we are inspired by the progress we’re seeing - especially from Eastern Europe - and want to make sure that at least some of this year's 20 teams will have at least double their run-way and be able to take some more time to develop the right product, find the right customers and discover which investors share their vision and values.

So we are offering €50k as a convertible loan to 5 teams from this week’s Seedcamp in order to help extend their runways further and look forward to contributing in a small way to the continuation of their journey from seed to start-up to superstar.
As frequently happens, Techcrunch got a sniff and published this offer here:
We would of course invite any other investors - European or otherwise to join us in this funding - this is a promising group and they deserve our support

Here are some edited highlights of Seedcamp Week.

  1. Daily Video Highlights: 
  2. Some of the news coverage:
  3. Seedcamp announcements:

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