Vancouver-based startup Supportbench has secured $1.9 million CAD ($1.5 million USD) in funding as it looks to build a Zendesk-like customer support engine for B2B businesses.
The startup’s founders, Nooshin Alibhai (CEO) and Eric Klimuk (CTO) created the company after Klimuk, who spent a decade working at cybersecurity company Sophos, noticed a need for B2B-specific support.
“Freshdesk and Zendesk cater to the needs of B2C, leaving significant whitespace for a solution that serves the pain points Supportbench is addressing.”
Klimuk and Alibhai argue that platforms like Zendesk and Freshdesk are more focused on B2C customer support, which can leave enterprise clients in the lurch. Supportbench, they say, is made specifically for supporting businesses.
The $1.9 million SAFE marks Supportbench’s first outside capital after Klimuk and Alibhai self-funded the startup through five years of building its tech and operations.
Investors in the round include StandUp Ventures, N49P Ventures, United States-based Liquid2 Ventures, and a number of undisclosed angel investors.
Supportbench’s first outside capital comes after years of trying to raise financing but getting turned down. The company had a minimum viable product and early customers, but Alibhai recalled how investors would shy away despite admitting there was a space in the market for a B2B play. The CEO said that investors argued that customer support is an “enormously competitive space” and existing consumer loyalty to the likes of Zendesk or Freshdesk was too high to leave room for smaller players.
“They didn’t understand the market, or they didn’t have an appreciation for the problem that we were looking for, or what we were trying to solve,” said Klimuk.
Alibhai and Klimuk were told they needed more clients to prove the potential of Supportbench. After working to ensure Supportbench was a robust product, the startup began onboarding customers near the end of 2019 and into 2020.
In 2021, things changed: Supportbench closed a major deal with an enterprise customer that gave the startup three years of operational capital, and room to breathe. Today, Supportbench names among its customers car rental company 3M, Budget, Ricoh, and American private military contractor DynCorp International.
With customer traction, Alibhai and Klimuk decided it was time to go back to fundraising. The pair alsosaw an opportunity to pick the right investors for their business.
StandUp Ventures Managing Director Michelle McBane told BetaKit the firm invested in Supportbench in large part due to its founders’ experience.
“We look to invest in resourceful, scrappy, founders who have a deep understanding of the problem they solve and empathy for their customer – especially when this deep understanding gives way to a unique insight,” said McBane.
The customer support management software space is a large one. Zendesk has more than 100,000 customers globally, and its competitors include big names like Freshdesk, Salesforce, ServiceNow, and Zoho Desk.
Many of these platforms work with both B2C and B2B clients. And while they may not have specific B2B offerings, Zendesk, for example, touts its ability to work with such clients. Where Supportbench hopes to win is by creating, from the start, a platform only targeting B2B customer support.
McBane emphasized the need for the likes of Supportbench. “Customer support is fundamentally different for B2B and B2C,” she told BetaKit. She argued that B2C customer support engines focus on ‘first-in-first-out’ ticketing systems that cater to high volume and simple, one-touch communication issues.
“Contract values are low and mistakes are inexpensive,” McBane noted. “On the flip side, B2B contract values are high, mistakes can be extremely expensive, and customer retention is critical. Freshdesk and Zendesk cater to the needs of B2C, leaving significant whitespace for a solution that serves the pain points Supportbench is addressing. ”
With built-in email, ticketing, and more, Klimuk argued that Supportbench eliminates the need to switch between various tools, whether that be Zendesk or a separate chat solution.
Supportbench is using its seed capital to attract customers.
“We have a very crowded market with competitors that have very big marketing budgets that can outspend us,” said Alibhai. “So we’re doing as many creative things as we can to just get awareness about [how] we’re here, ‘just test us.’”