One software as a service (SaaS) company in Scaleworks‘ portfolio has been steadily growing over the past year without an officially named chief executive officer (CEO) at its helm. Keen changed that Thursday in promoting Ben Kuhn as its new CEO.
Keen offers data analytics tools to help software developers build their own analytics products. The company built an application programming interface or API platform that lets developers collect and study user data at a massive scale. Co-founders Daniel Kador, Kyle Wild, and Ryan Spraetz launched the startup (then called Keen.io) in 2011. Kyle Wild was Keen’s CEO until Scaleworks acquired the San Francisco-area tech startup in December 2017.
Scaleworks is a hybrid investment firm that mixes private equity and venture capital to acquire and invest in business-to-business (B2B) SaaS technology startups. Irish investor Ed Byrne and former Rackspace Hosting Inc. president Lew Moorman created Scaleworks to focus on companies they thought could perform better by helping them boost revenue.
The firm acquired eight companies with its initial fund of $60 million and has since sold two of the firms. The co-founders raised a second fund of $80 million in February to add more B2B software companies to its portfolio.
“We’re excited about Keen’s direction, and their growth and focus on customer-facing analytics in 2018 speaks for itself,” Byrne said. “It’s a great brand with a growing team, and we think that they’re serving a very unique and important need for both existing and new customers.”
In April 2018 Kuhn came from Luka Health where he created SaaS solutions to improve health outcomes among stroke patients. He joined Keen as its general manager overseeing SaaS operations and has spent his career building new businesses and technologies in the health care and marketing industries.
Before its acquisition, Keen raised almost $30 million in venture capital in five rounds, with Pelion Venture Partners leading the last round in June 2016 for $14.7 million. The company moved its headquarters from San Francisco to Scaleworks’ downtown office space on Houston Street and has grown to 19 employees.
As last reported in 2017, Keen has more than 50,000 developers at 3,500 businesses around the world as its customers. Its clients include Ticketmaster, Adobe, Pandora, SendGrid and the InterContinental Hotels Group.
The ability to track sizable amounts of data in real time has given SaaS companies the power to collect product data, analyze it, and use it to make strategic business decisions. However, these companies are realizing that their customers want access to the same data they are looking at internally.
Keen aims to dominate the market for this unmet need SaaS companies have for organizing and distributing product data in a way that is easy to understand and includes actionable insights for customers. The startup focuses on refining customer-facing metrics so SaaS companies can share usage and performance data directly with their customers.
Startups San Antonio spoke with Kuhn about Keen’s mission to dominate analytics in the mobile apps ecosystem, which he said was underserved and ripe for disruption. The interview was edited for length and clarity.
Startups San Antonio: How does Keen stand apart from its competitors such as Google Analytics, Kissmetrics, and Mixpanel?
Ben Kuhn: We did a lot of work on this in 2018. When I started, we were a great analytics platform, but finding focus is always a challenge in the analytics space. Our customers told us they needed customer-facing analytics in their analytics platform. We’ve worked on personalizing the data for the customer and present in the same seamless format as the application itself to enhance the user experience.
Analytics for internal product teams are typically data dumps of aggregate data that’s accessed in a separate platform. We’re doing something fundamently different. We have not found any other companies focused specifically on this use case.
We were able to focus on this use case and build a product around this to be the world-class leader in the analytics space. We have no true competitors focused solely on customer-facing analytics.
SSA: How has the company grown since joining Scaleworks and what are you working on now?
BK: For Keen, 2018 was a good year. We grew revenue by 50 percent and added 10,000 new client accounts. We were able to hit new marks in terms of the data that our platform handles. We’re now overhauling our lightweight workbench that lets developers build and customize customer-facing metrics fast, it’s called Keen Explorer.
We’re working on advancing that product at a more rapid pace than before. With our focus on customer-facing metrics, we’ve identified several ways to build the product that help dev teams build metrics better and faster. Customer-facing metrics help SaaS companies retain customers by demonstrating value in attracting new customers with data-rich user experiences.
SSA: How is 2019 shaping up for Keen?
BK: We’ll continue to grow our team. We’re hiring and are looking for talent across the board because we value tech talent as well as people with a good eye for user experience who understand how customer-facing metrics are valuable for our customers.
One of our priorities is finding new ways to for us to engage with our customers and the market. We’re working on fully customized front-end visualization tool kits for our customers as well as on flexibility and performance updates to the core platform.
There’s more we’re working on—we’ll be announcing new features later in the year.
Featured image is of a hallway inside Scaleworks. Courtesy image.