Typeform, a platform for ‘conversational’ data collection, raises $35M

Filling out forms online and on mobile can be a tedious and bug-ridden — yet annoyingly necessary — experience. Today, a startup called Typeform has raised a significant round of capital to help fund its mission to change all that, with a platform that the startup claims gets its customers much better results because the interactive experiences created on it are more intuitive and thus easier to engage with.

The startup, based out of Barcelona, today announced a Series B of $35 million led by General Atlantic as it drives deeper into international markets, specifically the US; and expands its tools for developers with more analytics and artificial intelligence features to personalise the experience more. Along with the funding and in keeping with this platform focus, the company today is also announcing a new portal for developers.

“We are proud to be the first company to transform the online data collection space by creating conversational forms. But now we’d like to take things further,” said Robert Muñoz, co-CEO and cofounder of Typeform, in a statement. He believes that Typeform is playing a role in “bridging the gap between data collection and customer interaction.”

This round also included participation from Index Ventures, Point Nine, and Connect Ventures, all previous backers.

In total, Typeform has now raised just over $52 million. The valuation with this round is not being disclosed but in its last funding of around $15 million two years ago, Typeform was worth $70 million post-money, David Okuniev, Typeform’s other cofounder and CEO, told TechCrunch in an interview. He added that this latest funding was an “up-round” and its valuation has grown. (I’m asking around to see if I can get a more current number and will update when and if I learn more.)

He said the company is ‘almost’ profitable.

Other notable investors in Typeform include Anthony Casalena, CEO of Squarespace; Javier Olivan, VP of growth at Facebook; and Jay Parikh, Facebook’s VP of engineering.

It sometimes happens that the most successful startups are founded in response to an enterpreneur’s frustration with an existing product or service. And so it was the case with Typeform. Co-founders Muñoz and David Okuniev are both designers — specifically with focuses on interaction, UX, and UI — and were running their own agencies back in 2011, when they found themselves working jointly on a single brief (for a toilet company of all things).

When the client asked for a new form to help pick up new business leads and more customer data, the pair were unable to find any suitable online templates or platforms that would not only get users to fill out their information with reliable regularity (no pun intended to the toilet company) but provide details that could be used for sales in the future.

“We felt there was a lack of attention given to engaging users in the first place,” Okuniev said, who added that the interaction that had been invented for forms hadn’t changed since the 1990s. 

The two set out to build something themselves, and then used that as the basis of what became Typeform, first launched in 2012, a more dynamic form-creating interface that presented questions one at a time. “We wanted to address that in a serious way, but you could also say it was accidental,” Okuniev said. “We had no intention of building a startup out of this.”

Today, creating basic online forms is nearly a commoditised business, with companies like Google offering products like Forms free of charge, and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter letting people create free polls and other services, and so on.

Unsurprisingly, Typeform has been iterating on its original product over the years, and today concentrates more on APIs and other developer tools, which are offered in a freemium model based on usage and additional features.

At the same time, the startup has very much pushed into making its service something that one can use in any scenario where a user might need to enter data: from basic information entry like job application and contact forms; through to surveys; registration forms; shopping and order forms; online learning and tests; and invitations.

The flexibility of the platform, and the focus on making more dynamic interactive experiences, translates into results. Okuniev said that the average conversion rate on one of Typeform’s forms — whether it’s a questionnaire, customer service request, quiz, poll, order form, or something else — is 57 percent, compared to a conversion rate of between 10 percent and 15 percent for more conventional forms. 

Its success is also playing out in user numbers. Today, Okuniev said that the company has 30,000 paying customers, and “a lot more” than this using its free tier. Customers include both small and medium sized businesses as well as Fortune 500 companies in the tech, retail, and hospitality industries.

Typeform’s today describes its form-filling platform as “conversational”, but its original concept behind that pre-dates a lot of the talk we hear today about conversational AI, and bots.

On the other hand, Typeform’s ethos is also very contemporary: it focuses on presenting and asking for information using conversational language, and works on the basis of feeding questions one at a time and getting answers in return and tailoring subsequent questions based on those responses.

That being said, today, the startup does not use any AI in its platform, although it’s being considered, either by growing it in-house (today the company has around 170 employees, including engineers), or by partnering with an existing firm, or potentially through an acquisition.

“AI is definitely on our minds,” Okuniev said. “We are doing some projects internally around user behaviour around form entry and we will be integrating that into the product soon. We want to help our customers generate more conversations, and we think our products could help with that.”

The focus on creating an interactive platform based around natural language is one reason why investors were interested in helping fund the startup to grow.

“Digital forms are transitioning from a simple data-collection tool into an integral part of the customer engagement journey,” said Chris Caulkin of General Atlantic, in a statement.

So, too, is the platform flexibility. “If you think about the proliferation of device types and browsers, including forms and data collection can be a real pain point,” Caulkin said in an interview. “And the solution that Typeform has developed can be easily integrated and managed by the product, not the tech, team.”

Caulkin is joining Typeform’s board with this round.

The interactivity and square focus on sales and customer relationships also makes the company a prime target for acquisition, in my opinion, with companies such as Salesforce, Google, Facebook, Microsoft/LinkedIn and many others all looking at better ways to help businesses interface with users, particularly across platforms with more tricky interfaces, like mobile. In the meantime, Typeform is also working on integrating more with other, existing platforms, such as Mail Chimp.