Ifbyphone Scales With New Funding, Purchase

Smarter phones means companies need to get smart about answering customers' phone calls.

And there's opportunity for solution providers selling products that can help companies automate and manage those inbound calls, said Ifbyphone CEO Irv Shapiro.

Shapiro's Chicago-based company sells a Software-as-a-Service solution that works with customers in the retail, financial, insurance and health-care industries among others to measure, manage and automate their calls. New funding and an acquisition that closed this month is expected to help Ifbyphone scale its operations in a market Shapiro said is heating up.

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"We are reaching a tipping point in a brand-new industry," he told CRN. "There's a revolution occurring and the revolution started with people going to e-commerce sites. ... The next factor in this tipping point is smartphones."

The ease of being able to look something up on a phone and then tapping a link to make a call into any given company has created a flood of inbound sales calls and companies need to get prepared for that, Shapiro said.

Ifbyphone is positioned to capitalize on that prospective business, he added.

"We're doing what Salesforce did with data," he said. "We're pulling voice out of the hands of IT. They get to keep their phone switches, but we're putting software on top of that to allow sales and marketing managers to take control of that engagement."

And a recent addition to the company should help.

Ifbyphone closed on its purchase of Cleveland-based Mongoose Metrics this month, which gives it greater scope in the marketing world by adding Mongoose's marketer tracking solution to the Ifbyphone platform.

"Marketing technology, broadly, is a hot area right now," Hubspot Vice President of Business Development and Partner Products Arjun Moorthy told CRN. "You need to have a lot of resources to be able to compete and be a leader. We know Mongoose Metrics has a good footprint with marketing agencies."

Cambridge, Mass.-based Hubspot is an Ifbyphone partner that sells software that helps its companies attract and then convert people into customers.

Hubspot's ramped up efforts to "build a closer partnership in the last year" with Ifbyphone, Moorthy said, which he said is driven by the increased use of smartphones.

Mongoose adds about 30 workers to Ifbyphone's 115 and adds a Cleveland office for Ifbyphone.

Investors appear confident in the prospects of voice-based marketing software solutions.

A large chunk of Ifbyphone's $30 million in Series E funding went toward paying for Mongoose. The recent round also effectively doubled the amount of funding the company has now raised to date since its founding seven years ago.

Shapiro declined to say whether the company intends to eventually file for an IPO except to say that he's focused on building "a very large enterprise-class business. The exit will take care of itself."

The rest of the funding will go to expanding the sales and engineering teams, according to Shapiro.

The company's targeting 50 percent sales growth annually and the sales organization would need to scale at close to the same rate to realize that goal, Shapiro said.

But it's also about maintaining relationships with the current customer base, which is now more than 5,000 with the addition of Mongoose. Retention and expansion of clients will be key as more competition enters the market.

"Voice is the Rodney Dangerfield of technology. It gets no respect, but it's fundamental to what we do," Shapiro said. "When that happens it creates a business opportunity."