Like most stories worth telling, this one begins with bad time management.
The day I was set to fly out to San Francisco, I was on the road with a friend driving to Chapel Hill from Chicago. By the time I got back, I had just under an hour to pack for my new home. I got to the airport 20 minutes before my flight and clutched a miracle. Unfortunately, my checked bag was not as lucky.
It was subject to a random screening and didn’t make it onto my flight as a result. When I got to the airport, I immediately contacted my airline and a process to deliver my bags was set in motion. The next day I received a text message to coordinate the delivery and everything was solved.
Unfortunately, not every business-to-consumer text-message interaction goes this smoothly. Amit Kulkarni had just bought a used coffee table from a small shop and the owner offered to have it delivered the same day. The owner collected Amit’s cell phone number, coordinated the delivery and dropped off the table.
“About a month later, I got a text message from the same shop owner on a Saturday morning saying ‘sorry about last night, I was really drunk but it was good to see you,'” recalled Kulkarni.
The result became HeyMarket. Kulkarni and his co-founder, Manav Monga, discovered that thousands of businesses, large and small, were using text-messaging to communicate with customers. Employers were collecting credit card information on their personal cell phones.
HeyMarket enables professionals to use their phones to text with customers using a separate assigned phone number. This provides a veil of security to business owners and allows them to have a unique professional presence. Users send texts from HeyMarket while customers receive the messages as normal text messages.
The platform offers basic CRM features so business owners can develop relationships with clients. Business owners can use templates to insert names, photos and annotations.
If real estate agents need to show photos of houses to prospective buyers, they can annotate them and then attach the photos within HeyMarket. The platform will auto-stitch them together and assign a URL that the homebuyers will receive. This eliminates instability and increases speed when sending large packages of data.
HeyMarket is optimized for teams. In the real world, multiple functional units are involved in a single transaction. Someone in sales must coordinate with delivery and installation. It’s easy to add and subtract participants within the platform. If a salesman with critical information adds a delivery contact, the contact will only be able to see dialog initiated after they were added. Once they are removed, they can’t see further conversation.
About a month later, I got a text message from the same shop owner on a Saturday morning saying ‘sorry about last night, I was really drunk but it was good to see you.’ Amit Kulkarni
Because HeyMarket operates separately from personal cell phone numbers, businesses can maintain customer relationships even if the employee with the original contact leaves. As a CRM, HeyMarket offers analytics that wouldn’t be available to businesses that simply text with customers. Professionals can see which photos were viewed and get impression feedback on messages. Users can quickly identify which leads are hot and which are cooling and could use a follow-up with lists and reminders. One other useful feature of HeyMarket is scheduling. Business users can quickly identify free times and forward them via text message to customers using templates.
The HeyMarket team is focused on small businesses but has also developed partnerships within companies like Best Buy so that theater specialists can maintain relationships with key customers. The biggest challenge to the team will be overcoming the ingrained habits of people.
“It’s up to the founders to make switching costs worth it for customers so they don’t revert back to using their generic texting app,” added Michael Dearing of Harrison Metal.
HeyMarket has been funded with a $2 million Seed from Harrison Metal, IDG Ventures and Precursor Ventures.
The team is also rolling out a web app and plans to experiment with bots in the future. HeyMarket will cost $4.99 a month per user. Premium tiers are forthcoming.