When dealing with any type of customer service online these days, I just assume that I’m talking with a chatbot. Companies like chatbots because they take the place of actual people who need things like paychecks, healthcare, etc. But if you reorder product from energy bar startup Verb, you will be texting back and forth with an actual human, and according to the company, it will always be this way.
To help with that mission, Verb Energy just raised nearly $1 million. The seed round was led by Global Founders Capital, with participation from Great Oaks Venture Capital and Vast Ventures, as well as an angel syndicate. Verb will use this funding to help launch a new suite of energy food related products and build out its text-to-buy platform.
Started by three Yale undergrads, Verb started off making bars in a dorm kitchen last fall and selling them at a local bakery. According to Verb Co-Founder and CFO (and still a full-time Yale student) Bennett Byerley, Verb bars are made from just eight ingredients and have as much caffeine as a cup of coffee. Though Bylerley says that because their bar’s caffeine comes from organic green tea, the result is a “less jittery burst of energy.”
Verb proved popular, selling ten thousand bars in its first month. As the business took off Verb expanded to online sales, and in January launched a text-to-buy platform for reordering. The company’s CTO built the text ordering platform using payment processor Stripe, which allows customers to simply text when they want their next box of Verb bars. But instead of automating the chat process, each text is answered by one of the co-founders through an online dashboard.
“We wanted it to be absurdly convenient,” said Bylerley, and so far “customers really like the experience.” The added benefit, he said, is the ability to get in-depth feedback from buyers. Byerley and the other co-founders ask questions about the product during chats, and people often reply with pictures of themselves eating a Verb.
Byerley says Verb processed their one-thousandth text-based customer in February, which seems like a manageable number for three energetic undergrads. But what happens when the product scales up? “I don’t think we can envision anytime in the future automating the experience,” said Byerley, “It feels inauthentic to use chatbots.”
Some of the seed money just raised will go towards building out the text to buy platform and team, but it still seems overly optimistic that they’ll be able to keep up this human-centric vision of customer interaction should the business really take off. And really taking off is something institutional investors are going to want.
Of course, if Verb does take off, employees will have easy access to caffeine to keep up with all those orders.