Y Combinator Backed Bushido Pivots From Cloud Platforms To Customer Data

Prince Siddhārtha is said to have left behind his life of privilege, and his wife and child, to dedicate his life to the search for enlightenment and eventually become the spiritual leader known as Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.

Y Combinator backed company Bushido’s pivot is less drastic than Siddhārtha’s, but the founders are leaving behind a baby of their own. They’re ceasing development of their original product Cloudfuji, a cloud platform/app store for open source web apps, to focus on Zenbox, an app that gives companies access to their customer data from within any web app. They will, however, continue to support existing customers of Cloudfuji.

Bushido’s story reminds me of AppJet, the company hat created EtherPad. Cloudfuji is a platform-as-a-service that goes a step behind services like Heroku by adding features to make it easier to monetize an app once it’s been deployed (our previous coverage is here). But co-founder Sean Grove says Cloudfugi needed a killer app, so the team tried to build it themselves (much the way the AppJet team built EtherPad to highlight the capabilities of their platform). The result was integrated suite of business applications: an agile development planner, an Airbrake-style error reporting tool, a CRM system and an private chat app.

“We’d show it to people and they’d say ‘Oh that looks cool, we’ll look at that sometime,” Grove says.

After hearing that enough times the team knew they needed something better. So they starting asking customer what would make them want to use the service right away instead of just “sometime” and realized that visibility of customer information across applications was a big pain point. So they built Zenbox.

Zenbox is a deceptively simple product. It’s a browser extension that adds a sidebar to e-mails in Gmail with information about a sender from various customer service applications, like Salesforce.com, Zendesk, Stripe and MailChimp. So if you get an e-mail from someone, you can see if they’re a customer, whether they’ve submitted a ticket recently, etc. It’s like Rapportive, but while Rapportive pulls publicly available data from sources like LinkedIn and Facebook, Zenbox pulls in data from your own systems, giving you information about a person as they relate to your business.

You can take a closer look at that sidebar over there on the right.

It also displays that same information when you hover over an e-mail address on any website, meaning you can see this unified view of your customers’ information from any web-based application that displays their e-mail addresses. Grove gave an example use case: a user had a couple harsh comments left on their blog. They wanted to know whether those comments were from paying customers or from, for lack of a better word, trolls. Using Zenbox they were able to immediately see that one comment came from a good, paying customer. The other came from a “problem user” who had never paid. That made it easier to prioritize responses without having to dig through a CRM or help desk application.

Zenbox turned out to be a hit, so the team has decided to stop developing Cloudfuji and focus only on Zenbox. “We realized that we couldn’t split our time between a platform, a suite of apps and this new tool that we built,” Grove says.

The pricing is straight forward: four seats are free, and it’s $25 a seat after that, with discounts for bulk purchases. Zenbox already has a few banner customers: Stripe, Crittercism and Trigger.io.