Interview with Sparkcentral
guest blog through Olivier Withouck from San Francisco
I walk into Union Square along Post Street, a hip area of the city. Amidst the expensive clothing stores such as Façonnable and Burberry's is the office of Sparkcentral, the startup company of the Flemish Davy Kestens. The company has completed a solid investment round.
It concerns 4.5 million dollars that the company was able to raise from Davy. This should give SparkCentral room to expand. This time, most of the money has come from US venture capitalist Sigma West. Other investors include The Social + Capital Partnership, Graph Ventures and Belgian Playfish co-founder Sebastien de Halleux.
The office is more like a living space. There are flashy seats, vintage bicycles, a Christmas tree with Christmas presents from and for the employees. I'm waiting because Davy is just finishing up a meeting. We meet. “I have an hour. We can go for lunch. There is a nice Asian lunch bar around the corner. It's a bit messy here. There are few people. Had a Christmas party with colleagues yesterday. It has run out a bit. Well celebrated, good quarter behind us.” He's in a good mood, serious, focused.
“Born in Belgium, Raised in California”
“I've been here for two years now. It's been a roller coaster. It seems like I've only been here four months. Today the company has 16 employees. There should be 25 by February. We just hired a recruiter because I don't have the time to do interviews myself. Attracting talent here is not easy. Talented people have plenty of choice here. It will soon be even more difficult as the big guys are coming to the City, leaving their offices in the Valley. Google and Facebook are coming to town. Google deploys Wi-Fi buses so employees can do their job when they're stuck in traffic. Traffic from the city to the Valley becomes difficult. The traffic jams during rush hours will be difficult.”
“Oracle is also in our market. We want to face the confrontation.” The company recently changed its name for strategic reasons. Twittspark has become Sparkcentral. “Because we want to focus on customer service for all major social media platforms, not just Twitter.” He is discreet about the turnover of the company. Rightly so because it is a private company. “The aviation sector in particular is a hit. We have Delta Airlines as a nice reference. The rest of the airline companies understand our added value.” The sales cycles are short. “On average 2 to 3 months. Last week we signed a deal in less than 2 weeks. “ Companies immediately see the added value.”
“The market here is better than with us. We mainly focus on large organizations that receive a lot of feedback from consumers about their products and services on Facebook and Twitter. The criticism that consumers give via social media is sent directly to the right people via our solution. They can respond quickly, which is important for customer satisfaction.” Davy is straight forward, no frills. The sobriety and modesty of Limburg. Feet on the ground and hard work.
“Next week for two weeks in Belgium to celebrate Christmas with friends and family. ” We pay for the sushi and part our ways with a warm greeting.