Small biz tech-startup: HiveLive Inc.

Initial light bulb: Brothers John and Geoff Kembel wanted a means of better keeping in touch with one another and spun the resulting technology off into a new startup company, HiveLive. “It started with our own need of connecting and sharing with ourselves and family,“ John says. “And we built the technology that is now the most flexible community platform in the enterprise social software space.” That product, the LiveConnect Community Platform, is now HiveLive’s key offering.

Departing from the Silicon Valley status quo, the brothers decided to start HiveLive from Boulder, opening the first HiveLive office in early 2007. Both Kembels had their hand in several different technology ventures in California before co-founding HiveLive, John as a serial entrepreneur and Geoff as an engineer-of-all-trades. “My wife was born and raised in Boulder,” John says. “We opted to moved to Colorado to start the company. It’s a good time and a good place for our startup.” Now 30 employees strong, HiveLive officially launched in November 2007 with John as CEO and Geoff as application architect.

In a nutshell: HiveLive’s LiveConnect Community Platform “helps companies build customer communities,” John says. “We help them effectively use social software. Technologies that have been successful in the consumer space like MySpace and Facebook, how do you take those kinds of things and apply them to business needs?”

To this end, the LiveConnect platform offers users the ability to build a site that integrates all of the technologies of the social networking universe to a people-centered website for a community of customers. “That original premise of taking a people-centered, not technology-centered, point of view is now our greatest advantage,” John says. “We do lead-generation through community and word of mouth, which is more cost effective. Customer loyalty traditionally is through loyalty programs and membership programs — we build loyalty by allowing customers to connect with each other and building a community of folks who want to stay connected.”


“There’s a lot of focus on blogs and wikis and forums, but those are technology-focused, they’re not focused on how you connect people with each other or how you connect people with information. As soon as you take a people-centered approach and not a technology-focused approach, it’s about how do you enable any person to share anything with anybody — it can be about customer engagement, it can be about concept testing, it can be about product ideation. That vocabulary can be expressed by connecting people, but it can’t be expressed with the buzzword – compliant technologies of Web 2.0.”   — HiveLive CEO and co-founder John Kembel

Kembel touts LiveConnect as easy to use and eminently customizable, noting, “We believe everybody’s business is unique. Our platform allows you to rapidly construct something that is specific for you. You don’t need a Java developer — you just need a mouse.”
Pricing for LiveConnect varies based on the size of the project and the level of customization, including activation and consulting fees and a monthly fee of $2,500 for support of a community of up to 2,500 members.

Boulder-based Rally Software uses LiveConnect for its website, an online community of 5,000 members and 50,000 customers that launched in late 2006 as one of HiveLive’s first beta customers. “There’s a push toward transparency,” says Rally CTO and co-founder Ryan Martens. “We need to be able to communicate with customers on an ongoing basis. We are using Agile Commons to share prototypes, to collaborate with customers, to let customers suggest new features, and then we take their suggestions and do it all over, every eight weeks.”

Without HiveLive, Martens says, “We would be struggling to do it as fast as we do,” highlighting “a very unique permissioning platform” as a standout LiveConnect feature.

The market: “Our market is everybody that has a website,” John says. “The social-software shift is that big.” He says verticals from “health care to financial services to media” were targets, noting, “Everybody’s educated on these technologies and everybody’s trying to connect the dots.”

Financing: After an initial seed round
of $2.2 million from institutional angel investors in late 2006, HiveLive closed on its first round of venture financing in early 2008 for $5.6 million led by Grotech Ventures. “We don’t need more money right now — we’re seeing great interest and growth,” says Kembel, who anticipates going after a second round later this year.


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