February 3, 2016

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Andrea Baptiste, CEO of Benbria

1.     Can you set the stage? How did you first connect with Verizon Ventures and why did you choose Verizon? 

I met directors Mark Smith and Michelle McCarthy in 2014 when we began our Series A financing activities. Since Benbria has been a partner of Verizon Enterprise Solutions since 2013, working with Verizon Ventures was a natural fit. Mark and Michelle were also very knowledgeable in SaaS business models and practices, which was something we were seeking in a new investor. Partnering with a recognizable company like Verizon Ventures on our Series A financing has helped the company achieve ambitious growth plans and continue to deliver unparalleled consumer experiences to our enterprise clients.

2.    Text messaging is one of the preeminent forms of communication around the world; therefore, brands can’t afford to overlook mobile when seeking to connect with customers. How does Benbria’s real-time customer engagement technology address this?

Texting, regardless of the medium (SMS v. IM) will continue to be the fastest growing medium for 1:1 communication. Most people forgot the last major communications revolution; the transition from fax/phone to e-mail, but you can see some incredible similarities. Text will be the next frontier to e-mail.  There will be some very early adopters and eventually, a point where it will explode. We believe this “tipping point” in terms of a shift to “universal adoption” is rapidly approaching. Perhaps even within the next 12 months.

As such, the ability for a brand to be able to act “like a person” and communicate with customers over SMS or IM is going to be one of the major marketing struggles in the coming 5 years. Luckily, major brands have had some degree of practice with developing inbound solution-centers to manage social media. The next wave will be managing customer messages in the form of concerns and requests. This is where Benbria will be able to help.

Our entire platform is designed around the guest/customer experience. The way they interact with a brand (aka: company). The tools we can provide a company to manage multiple enquiries and respond in a timely manner over multiple mediums (App, SMS, IM, etc..), and the analytical tools we offer to pull insights from these conversations will be essential for major brands to communicate effectively with guests and customers. Those who build a reputation early on for being leaders in engaging and delighting customers via text/IM will be the brands with the greatest long-term success in terms of audience nurturing.

3. Benbria recently announced its technology partnership with the International Luxury Hotel Association. How has the hospitality landscape changed with regards to improving guest satisfaction? 

We are thrilled to be working closely with the International Luxury Hotel Association (ILHA). Guest satisfaction continues to be a major driver for a hotel’s overall financial success, on multiple levels. The more satisfied the guest, the more likely they will return. The more opportunity to welcome a guest, the more opportunity there is to increase their overall spending per room/night. With so many options out there for guests to choose from, the property offering the most unique experience that leaves guests personally satisfied is the one they will develop long-term loyalty with.

We just launched a major research study on guest engagement with ILHA and Cornell University. Working with these two great institutions to chart the course for the future of guest engagement is groundbreaking and indicates how technology is playing a crucial role in implementing hospitality strategies.

4. In your experience, what's the best way to work with an investor like Verizon Ventures?

It’s important to have a healthy and close relationship with a CVC like Verizon Ventures. Our leadership meets with Verizon Ventures on a regular basis to keep them apprised of our progress and any challenges we encounter. We’ve gained valuable insights from Mark and Michelle based on their vast exposure to SaaS companies in the Bay Area and elsewhere. Giving them regular visibility into our ongoing activities allows them to keep us front of mind and maintain open communication of contacts or ideas that may help with Benbria’s business goals.  

5. What's next for Benbria in 2016?

We have some great product enhancements coming this year to support our aggressive growth plan. In addition to enhancing our user experience to make our suite of guest engagement solutions even better, we also plan on improving our reporting and analytics to further position us as leaders in this space.


Related posts from Verizon Ventures: 

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Roger Desai, CEO of Payfone

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Sascha Simon, CEO of Driversiti

Portfolio Spotlight: Q-Sensei 


Tags: mobile , portfolio , Mark Smith , Benbria