Enterprise is one of the hottest areas in tech, says Intercom engineering chief

3 Sep 2015

Enterprise software has become one of the hottest areas in tech, says Intercom’s VP of engineering Darragh Curran

Enterprise software has become one of the hottest areas in tech, according to Intercom’s VP of engineering Darragh Curran, who says he is confident the company will fill all 70 of the new engineering roles it announced recently for Dublin.

Intercom last week announced it had raised US$35m in Series C funding, bringing total funds raised by the company to US$66m.

The company said it will use the new funds to invest in R&D and double staff in its Dublin and San Francisco offices, including 70 new engineering jobs in Dublin.

The investment round was led by Iconiq Capital, a global multi-family office and merchant bank, which manages funds of high-profile people including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, with further participation from Series A and Series B lead investors The Social + Capital Partnership and Bessemer Venture Partners.

Intercom speaks the new language of business

Intercom, which is headquartered in San Francisco, was founded in 2011 by Eoghan McCabe, Des Traynor, David Barrett and Ciaran Lee. The company has become a kind of trendsetter for other Irish start-ups to follow.

I was recently impressed by the company’s international reach while visiting Berlin start-ups who all seemed to be using Intercom to talk to customers.

In fact, Intercom has 7,000 paying customers in more than 85 countries, including start-ups like General Assembly, ZenPayroll and Invision and public companies like Ancestry.com, New Relic and Shopify.

Next week Intercom will share some of its experiences and insights at an event all about product strategy at the Mansion House that will include speakers like Jules Coleman who sold Hassle for US$32m and legendary open source developer Yehuda Katz. The €10-per-ticket event has already sold out and the proceeds from 650 attendees will go to CoderDojo

This will be followed a week later by a similar event at the Laughter Lounge on 16 September focused on raising capital, which will be attended by McCabe, as well as Slack and Yammer investor Mamoom Hamid and Twitch and Twilio investor Ethan Kurzweil. Again, all proceeds from the night will go to CoderDojo.

Curran, who has been with Intercom since the early days, says enterprise software is undergoing an evolution whereby attractive user interfaces and direct communication with customers are the order of the day.

“10 years ago people would have used tools like Google Analytics primarily to gain insights but it is remarkable how shallow and superficial such tools have become,” Curran says. “Intercom is a set of tools that is enabling start-ups to get a far better insight.”

‘One of the interesting trends right now is how enterprise software is becoming sexy’

Intercom is positioning itself as the toolset of choice for internet business teams to communicate personally and at scale with customers and gain vital insights.

“We are not an analytics company, but we use analytics to get to the true story. It basically connects all things in a company and every team would use Intercom for a purpose.

“Sales teams use it to talk to customers, others use it to conduct research and find out more about how people are using products and services. Marketing teams use it, support teams use it and there are tools to support each context.”

Curran describes Intercom as a broad platform with different verticals to address everything from automated marketing to customer support and product research.

“One of the interesting trends right now is how enterprise software is becoming sexy. It is fun and it is transformative. Purchasing decisions for enterprise tools like Intercom or Slack no longer have to come from the top down or from the CIO. Now smart people on product teams can decide what tools they need to use if they need a better connection with customers and meaningful feedback and input.

“Because people are doing the work themselves, they are influenced more by the product quality than the sales pitch.”

Expanding in Dublin, Intercom-style

Curran says that while Dublin, like other global tech hubs, is in a war for talent, he is confident that Intercom will fill all 70 new positions.

“It is hard but we think we’ll do it. We’ve been successful in convincing people from Google, Amazon and Facebook to join us because they believe there is a greater opportunity for learning and making an impact.

“The Dublin tech scene is evolving away from being a place full of satellite offices to infrastructure-focused companies doing stuff. Product thinking and start-ups are happening here.

“Dublin has also had the advantage in Europe of being a magnet for other people from around Europe to work in tech.

“But now the question is: how can I make the highest impact. You won’t make a huge impact in established tech giants in Dublin. But one of the best places to grow your career is in young tech companies that have a strong growth trajectory and an ambitious team. An established giant might be good for your career but will you grow or will you be held back?”

I ask Curran about the link with CoderDojo and the proceeds of events going to the organisation that grew out of Cork in 2011 and now has 480 dojos operating in 48 countries worldwide. Within Europe alone CoderDojo classes reach more than 25,000 students.

“CoderDojo gives kids who are passionate about technology a place to go and learn and form friendships outside of the education system.

“Anybody I know that is good at what they do gets there by being driven and passionate and the fact that the whole CoderDojo movement has been driven by volunteers who want to teach kids to code has been amazing. That resonates with us.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years