Where it's based: Spokane, Wash.
When it was founded: 2012
Why it's Fierce: What do you do if you're a small- or medium-sized business and you want to send out text-message-based marketing? Do you send out thousands or tens of thousands of messages per day individually? Business Texter thinks those companies shouldn't have to, and that the process should be customizable and automated. The company's technology takes a phone's existing ability to send and receive text messages and "adds horsepower and business logic or intelligence," according to CEO and co-founder Aaron Rollins.
Rather than doing group texting, the company's app sends out massive amounts of text messages that all look like individual texts coming from a real phone number. The technology is also smart enough to know what to do when a customer wants to send a text back to a business. If customers respond, they can get intelligent, instant answers, because the firm's artificial intelligence platform understands hundreds of different ways customers ask thousands of different questions to businesses. For example, it knows multiple variations for how customers ask what the store's hours are. The app reads the texts, interprets the intent and writes back. Businesses can pre-program answers to commonly asked questions and they can create filters for specific questions. For example, a pizza parlor could have the app scan for the phrase" gluten-free" and can automatically set up a response that says the shop does offer gluten-free pizza, Rollins said. The app also has multiple marketing tools that lets businesses intelligently group contacts based on behavior. So, that pizza shop can send out a mass text only to customers who have asked about gluten-free pizza to let them know the shop now offers new gluten-free crusts.
Business Texter currently has around 4,500 active business users and offers a variety of different pricing models, including monthly plans and rollover plans, with prices varying depending upon how many messages a customer needs to send. The company started by targeting independent small business owners and companies like coffee shops, salons, massage therapists and independent sales representatives for companies like Mary Kay Cosmetics. Recently, the company added an option to have its app run on a tablet with a virtual phone number.
What's next: The company is currently beta testing an online version of the software that can run on PCs, and also expects within the next 90 days to have the platform running on VoIP-based PBX phones. The company's tablet and online version offer virtual numbers via a partnership with Twilio, a 2014 Fierce 15 winner. Later this year, according to Rollins, the company aims to expand to call centers by offering them a full artificial intelligence platform for responding via text. In 2016, the company hopes to sell the platform to Fortune 500 companies that do text-based marketing. Although Business Texter is still seeking investors for a Series A funding round later this year, Rollins said that for the past six months the firm has been self-sufficient based on its incoming revenues.