Startup founders, especially those up to their necks in product development, don’t always have the head for building the kinds of customer bases required to keep their business afloat.
That’s where Y Combinator alum MobileWorks comes in. It first raised funding for its approach to building a virtual, on-demand workforce, and now it’s trying to bring that distributed team to bear on another weighty problem: building up a user base. Long story short, MobileWorks CEO Anand Kulkarni is trying to offer user acquisition as a service with a feature called LeadGenius (though I think we can all agree that UAaaS doesn’t have a great ring to it).
If you’re a company looking to drum up some new users, the process seems simple enough — you shell out your monthly fee depending on the level of support you need and let the LeadGenius team do its thing. That “thing” naturally involves plenty of conversations.
“They’ll come to us and talk about where they found their first users and what they look like,” Kulkarni explained. “From there we discuss where to find reproducible sources of users.” Once that team has dug into the meat of a business, they’ll start trawling sources like LinkedIn, Kickstarter, and even CrunchBase in search of leads that could stand to benefit from a client’s offerings. Of course, much of that legwork can be invisible to the company that requested it — LeadGenius handles some of the initial outreach and qualification so in the end that client company gets leads to try to seal the deal with.
Kulkarni says a “good number” of LeadGenius customers are startups like Firebase and Zenefits; considering MobileWorks’ background, it comes as little surprise that many of its users are fellow Y Combinator companies. There are some key larger clients in the mix too, though thanks to some pesky NDAs I can’t name names — one is a notable player in payments and the other is a prominent e-commerce entity.
But there’s a fine line between reaching out to a third party for assistance and dumping the job on them entirely, and MobileWorks isn’t ready to cross into that new frontier just yet. For now, the onus of actually making those crucial sales still falls on the client. “We’re one step short of sales as service,” Kulkarni noted.
He added that a more sales-centric push may not be completely out of the question, but at this point it’s more a question of feasibility than ambition. After all, how much work does it take to make a virtual salesperson as fluent and engaging as an in-house one? Too much to make it worth MobileWorks’ time right now, but there are other startups trying to bridge that very gap. The folks at SwipeGood took a stab at baking small, frictionless donations to charity into every credit card transaction before pivoting last year to offer tools and on-demand sales teams to young companies.