Startup Spotlight – Splice – April 2012
Startup Calgary’s Startup Spotlight questions
Startup of the Week is a feature on Startup Calgary that aims to highlight and showcase innovative tech startups and budding entrepreneurs in Calgary.
This week we connected with Tara Kelly of Splice Software to learn more about how she’s making a difference with her new venture.
Name of Startup: SPLICE Software
Name of Founder(s) and titles: Tara Kelly President and CEO
Year Founded: 2006
What’s the elevator pitch?
If you can’t afford a human being and robotic voice is not good enough for your brand, you need SPLICE. We humanize the digital experience by splicing together linguistically optimized human voice audio and enabling you to have real-time, relevant and personalized interactions with your customers, on inbound and out bound phone interactions, and email and SMS.
For example, we recently helped a large US furniture retailer, Raymour & Flanigan use their data to personalize and localize their marketing campaigns helping them generate forty-five dollars in sales for every dollar spent.
How did you come up with the idea for your startup? Was there an “ah-ha” moment?
It all began with an awful telephone experience with a local service provider… we all go through such experiences everyday, where no matter how many times you call you get the same digitized voice asking for the same information and by the time you get everything you need you’ve wasted over an hour!
It’s amazing how much information we have on people, yet we’re unable to provide relevant and personalized information to them. My dad had built some of the first data warehousing systems and in my last venture, Simply Health Systems we used vocal concatenation. So I thought if we could only bring the two together we’d be able to improve customer interactions significantly.
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
We decided to use best of breed systems to increase our speed to market, but it was a challenge explaining to investors that we didn’t own the intellectual property (IP) on all the individual components. However, we had to demonstrate that we developed a patentable process and gathered data on tens of millions of calls and customer touch points that could be leveraged to make recommendations on improving customer interactions.
We also worked very hard to ensure that all our revenue didn’t come from just a handful of customers.
Are there any key individuals outside of your organization that have been of great help to your startup? What has helped you get to where you are right now?
Patrick Lor, co-founder of iStockphoto and President of Fotolia North America has been a great advisor. He always asks the toughest questions that take me out of my comfort zone and pushes me further.
An accountant and early SPLICE investor, John Pinsent has been a voice of common sense and has been the person to rely on whenever we needed any help.
David Thorpe, Principal of DAT Brand Marketing has helped make connections to some of our key customers and has also helped put together a solid brand strategy. Thanks to David, the SPLICE brand is starting to resonate in our industry.
What’s new with your startup that we can share?
We’ve launched an Opt In program and started managing all the opt-ins for our customers. We’re now able to scrub data against their customers’ preferences, which is in line with our mission to provide the best possible customer interaction.
We have this fantastic engine that can be used to personalize virtually any phone system in the world. At this time we are working with a number of Call Centres to help improve and personalize the inbound customer experience while increasing efficiencies and reducing costs. The inbound component is called VoiceYourData (VYD) and we are really excited about the reaction we are seeing from our beta implementation. More coming soon stay tuned…
Personally, do you think it is more difficult to raise capital or find the right talent? Any suggestions to make it easier
If you have a passionate story and can share your vision on how you can change people’s lives, it is easy to get talented people to work for you. Investors are more difficult because they care about monetization. However, if you have your numbers right and can help investors make sense of it, you will have an easier road to raising capital.
What advice would you like to share to early stage or new entrepreneurs?
You have to use your head… trust your heart, but always go with your gut! Your gut knows, I still remember we were looking at an investment opportunity that seemed perfect on paper, but my gut kept saying no. We declined the offer and later found out that it was one of the worst deals we could have made.
What made you choose to go down the path of entrepreneurship?
I’m not one of those people who need to be in control, but I have to do things that make a difference. I was willing to bet on myself and was confident that I could build a team of brilliant people to get it done.
What are your thoughts on Calgary’s startup community? What do you think the strengths and weaknesses are of the community? What would you personally like to see?
Calgary’s startup community has been fragmented, but I see it starting to change. We need to celebrate our wins more often. Also, our entrepreneurs need to support to the community more… I believe in life you get successes because you chose to help people, so always be excited to help.
Also, there’s a void in terms of support for companies who are at the $5 million in revenue stage and want to get to $50 million. We need better programs to help companies go from successful to significant.
What’s your ask right now? What do you and your startup need?
We’re looking for channel partners and resellers to get into new verticals and international markets. We’re also looking to engage with companies who care about their customers and want to create better, more relevant and meaningful relationships. And of course we’re always looking for great staff to join our team, people that really believe “things can be better”, after all at SPLICE that is the glue that binds us.
Startup Spotlight is covered by Boast Capital, a Calgary-based Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) consulting firm that helps companies secure and maximize government funding to advance innovation. For more information visit BoastCapital.com or @BoastCapital.