New 22 M$ round for Decisyon/Ecce Customer: interview with Cosimo Palmisano
Maybe somebody will remember our 2012 interview regarding Ecce Customer, now named Decisyon, a pre-incubated project by Working Capital and Top-ix concerning Social CRM. Then the news was the recently closed 15 Million Dollars round, the “Biggest one regarding an Italian startup from an American investor in at least 10 years”, as commented by Gianmarco Carnovale at the time.
And yet, a few years later, Decisyon has just received another financing for a stellar amount: 22 Million Dollars by Catalyst Investors. To know more we have interviewed Cosimo Palmisano, the man who founded the then Ecce Customer, while he was living in California on a student scholarship by the Fulbright BEST program.
Where did the idea to create a social CRM platform come from?
The idea was born while I was working as a consultant for FIAT in Turin and used to create algorithms to understand which clients would be buying a product in the next 6 months and things like that. But those statistics algorithms were lacking something in my opinion. I had many data but none that would care for the social data, at least not in real time. I needed to tie the social data to customer relationship management.
From there Ecce Customer was born, even if at the beginning it was merely a power point. In fact, even when I presented it at the Working Capital event in Bari, in 2010 I believe, invited by Salvo Mizzi, all I had was that power point. However I had already met Franco Petrucci, Decisyon, which whom I had begun to project the software prototype. In 2010 however everything was down to its embryonal stage, and it was only in 2011 that we effectively started.
In your work, which insights did you glean from the industry, after 4 years?
I would say that there has been a big evolution, since companies have gone from listening and understanding social media to an integrated approach. At the same time, it wasn’t competence only of the communication and marketing department to the inclusion of the customer service (here in Telecom Italia we mainly work with the Social Big Data team of Salvo Mizzi and Mariano Tredicini) and even those companies that have created multi disciplinar teams ad hoc. So we could say that we passed from marketing & communications, through the listening and the customer operation to CRM and data integration. Companies such as Telecom Italia have had such a vision since the first lights of social CRM
Where will this evolution lead?
We’ll reach the stage where social data will be used for sales activities. Actually social data is an amazing instrument for marketing saving, in particular to care for client relationship. The next step will involve using those data for online recommendations. So, for example, to know whether ‘Cosimo’ is likely to buy something or can influence other buying behavior. The social commerce: that will evolution be.
How important are for startups instruments like the ‘Albo Veloce’ of Telecom Italia, to which you are a part of?
It was fundamental, since for a startup is always difficult to ‘catch’ a big company, for many reasons. One, because there is a certain size disparity and second since it is difficult to normally gain entrance in a supplier register, that requires much bureaucracy and I would have to present a 2 years balance among other things. But not having access to one of these lists is very limiting when one wants to sell innovation to big companies.
So for us it was fundamental to have access to an instrument such as the ‘Albo Veloce’ as to the Innovation Basket, a budget that supports Telecom Italia managers should they decide to acquire startup services.
What’s the role of accelerators and corporate initiatives, such as Working capital, in the startup scene?
My approach is surely positive, meaning that those initiatives become true accelerators once they manage to create a connection between the company that would like to do innovation and startups’ ideas.
It is necessary, in order to make it work, to generate a link between demand (the companies) and offer (the startups). For example, if a company like Telecom Italia wants to intercept an innovative trend and invest in it for the next 3 or 4 years, the accelerator can incentivate the startups to move in that direction and create a service that’s more likely to obtain a contract. Then the system works.