Local tech startup Centricient has received $6.5 million in funding as it continues to develop and market its texting and instant messaging software for customer service.
The Bozeman business said the financing came from two venture capital companies — including local firm Next Frontier Capital.
Centricient’s customer service software uses text messages and Facebook messages in place of phone calls to coordinate customer service questions and complaints.
With its new software, Centricient joins several other companies, among them multinational tech giant Zendesk, in the world of customer relations management.
In addition to Centricient, Next Frontier, with $21.5 million in its inaugural fund, has invested in SiteOne Therapeutics, a Bozeman-based pain treatment company, Submittable, a cloud-based submissions platform in Missoula, and Clearas, a water treatment company in Missoula.
Centricient CEO Mike Myer and co-founder Bill O’Neill, both former senior employees at RightNow Technologies, started the company last October after reflecting on their personal experiences with customer service.
“I’m not a big fan of making phone calls and being on hold,” Myer said in a phone interview Wednesday. “It’s like going to a dentist: You have to do it, but you’re not looking forward to it.”
Tapping into the popularity of messaging made sense, he added.
“It was driven by my realization that in my personal life, I use text messaging. The idea for the company was just looking at how the world communicates personally.”
The software also caters to the current business trend of connecting with customers, Myer said.
“It’s all about being reachable,” he said. “Businesses want to be more engaged, and if they don’t engage with their customer base, they will go somewhere else where they can be engaged.”
The company is currently offering its software to between five and 10 businesses as part of what Myer called a “controlled introduction.” The $6.5 million in first stage funding will go toward expanding the platform’s functionality and selling it to clients.
“There’s always so much more to do; we’ve got a long list of stuff that we’d like to add,” he said. “What we’ve built so far is the messaging infrastructure, but we think there is a lot of opportunity to go beyond that.”
Centricient partnered with Helix Business Solutions, a cloud service integration company with offices in Bozeman and Dillon, and Myer said the growing number of tech businesses in the area made the decision to start his company in Montana an easy one.
“I can’t imagine anything worse than having to relocate from Bozeman,” he said. “Montana is a great place to recruit up-and-coming people, and not just recruiting, but retention and loyalty. I love the fact that the tech sector around here is expanding.”