✊ Putting the ‘unity’ in Community - Braze’s journey from an app to a customer engagement powerhouse

And so eventually they decided on the name Braze - which means to bond or unite something with strength. The idea with Braze was to further blur the lines and unite people and technology.
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Priyanshu Anand
February 22, 2022

How it started

Bill Magnuson, a graduate from MIT who was 23 at the time, and Jonathan Hyman, a Harvard graduate who was 25, were working in South Connecticut. In May 2011 they decided to enter the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon in New York City. Now, do you guys believe in destiny? Because this next part sounds exactly like the beginning of a biopic waiting to be directed.

Jon Hyman (Left) and Bill Magnuson (Right) at the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon 2011 - Source

In the city, while getting across a busy street they had a brief encounter with Mark Ghermezian who was 28 at the time. Yes, this is the same Mark who was the CEO and co-founder of Appboy (later braze). The duo won the Hackathon following which Mark reached out to them. The three met, the connection only grew stronger, and without any further ado, they quit their jobs and moved permanently to New York to build a company.

Once we decided we were going to do this, we got involved in the app community and figured out where the pain points were for developers and where the tool sets were missing. We found that while there were a slew of tools to help people understand their customers in brick and mortar, on the web, and on TV, mobile was way behind. - Bill Magnuson (source)

It didn’t take them long to get seed capital for their idea. The NYC-based startup raised $1 million in November that same year led by Blumberg Capital among other investors. Not long after, in March 2012 they raised another $1.5 million in seed funding from the same investors as before while also opening Appboy beta to the public. With all that said, what exactly was Appboy?

So much more than a quirky name

Back in 2012, at the top of their game in tech were mobile phones and social media. In a sense, the founders were way ahead of their time. They realized that social media and mobiles will only become more tangentially interdependent over time. Well, the proof is in the pudding - phones and socials these days are like De Niro and gangster movies. The idea behind Appboy was to create a product that bridges the gap between quality products and the customers that can benefit from the product. Also, there wasn’t really a way for developers or companies, in general, to receive any feedback from customers apart from public platforms. They guys sought this as an opportunity.

Appboy was developed as a fully integrated management platform for mobile app developers and the apps they’ve built. It consisted of an SDK that resided within the host application, enabling developers to provide CRM tools, encourage social-media sharing, and promotions. And there was the user dashboard that allowed developers to share resources and collect personal feedback. Keeping in mind the importance of data-driven decision-making, Appboy could easily plug into social apps like Twitter and Facebook, while also providing internally collected analytics for developers to understand user behavior and differentiate valuable customers.

A version of Appboy  - source

Over the course of the next 3-4 years, Appboy continued to grow tremendously in the mobile space. From an IOS-only platform, they also expanded towards Android with the realization that tech in mobile will continue to witness an exponential growth that transcends the limits imagined by businesses. What was thought out to be a uni-dimensional platform later revealed itself to be an omnichannel and cross-platform technology with immense scope for expanse. Appboy bagged 4 rounds of funding worth close to $100 million before realizing “well, it’s time for a change”.

An iconic rebranding - From Appboy to Braze

"We built our product and company for an evolving cross-channel landscape with mobile at its vanguard. The evaluation emphasizes our sophisticated product capabilities, enterprise-class platform, and overall strategic vision to build personal and humanized interactions and connections between brands and customers.” - Bill Magnuson (source)

The company as a whole came to an understanding that what they represented with Appboy was now evolving to mean so much more than what they stood for. It was a sense of recognition and acknowledgment of the fact that the tech ecosystem in which they were key players has now extended its role of being just an ‘app’. In a world of hyperconnectivity, you need to be able to upgrade yourself before you become obsolete.

A new brand name has to work across the board. It has to resonate with your current and potential clients. Trademarks and web domains have to be available. And if you’re a global brand the way we are, you’ve got to make sure your new name doesn’t mean something profane in Mandarin or Hindi. - Marissa Aydlett, Ex-SVP Marketing (source)

And so eventually they decided on the name Braze - which means to bond or unite something with strength. The idea with Braze was to further blur the lines and unite people and technology. Help make data more accessible, readable, and usable to improve a brand’s customer relations. At its core, Braze wanted to be a cohesive and coherent product that people could rely on despite the changing technological landscape.

But rebranding can be a daunting task to undertake. You can’t just write a blog about it and change your logo all of a sudden, especially not for a company of that stature. At the time braze had 200 employees all around the world with thousands of customers using their platform to share millions of messages with customers. Rebranding means a change of visual identity, tone of communication, company values, new website, CMS, new corporate identities, new email accounts, among so many tiny details that cannot be overlooked. And all this is just on the front side of the brand. There are technicals involved, databases, product feature updates, so much to look into. And all this was accomplished in six months. Quite impressive.

Reaching for the stars 💫

Braze has become a multichannel marketing platform for better customer-relationship engagement and management. It conformed into a platform allowing control of user experiences from a single interface to manage cross-channel messaging to get better prospects, in-app messages for better engagement, and email marketing to retain or get back customers. With stronger data analytics and personalization, braze offers an all-in-one platform for companies to take their customer relations a step further.

In November 2021, Braze opened its IPO which netted a total of $520 million. As the stocks opened on Nasdaq, the price was 34% higher than what was the price during the initial offering. The listing brought braze’s valuation to $8 billion.

Team braze celebrates as stocks open on Nasdaq

Currently braze has more than 3 billion active users who engage with the brands they love. The company has more than 1000 paying customers in the B2B space boasting affiliations with giants like GAP, HBO, PayPal, Intuit, The Guardian, Etsy among others. Braze in the UK was named the 6th best place to work in 2021 and has also been named a leader in cross-channel campaign management by Forrester.

Welcome to the Braze Community

You can’t spell community without unity and that’s what the word Braze represents. Customer engagement and communities go hand-in-hand, which is the idea that Braze leveraged to account for better customer relations aka harnessed the power of community. Let’s look at a few ways in which they did it.

Braze bonfire

A bonfire is an invitation to gather and share stories — a place to learn and be inspired

In 2019, Braze launched Bonfire which is a community of people using braze’s platform to connect with newer customers. The community is hosted on Slack and has grown to 5,000+ members since inception. With various channels to explore and engage with, users can talk about anything from new job postings, to braze product features and even discuss their growth strategies for better marketing and/or customer management.

Starting with a very personalized message, Braze gives you a warm welcome into the community.

A personalized email from braze

The intros in the community are fun and encouraging. Check this out 👇

Member introducing themself

Every week, Maggie Brennan, who is the Community Manager at Braze, talks about all that has happened in the community like - customer jobs, upcoming events in the community, and even welcoming the newest members.

Maggie Brennan being a great community manager 🙂

Braze documentation

Braze is a comprehensive multichannel platform for making the best of customer engagement. It offers a complete 101 guide of using the product for a wide variety of applicability.

  • User guide

Complete documentation that covers everything from introductions, onboarding, and data to data-driven decision-making and intelligent tools within the product.

Introduction to braze
  • Developer and API guide

User guide but for developers to work with technicals and integrations with API.

Developer’s guide

Braze Firebrands

This is a celebration of customers for leading the charge on change within their organizations. By becoming a member of Braze Firebrands, customers can take part in industry-wide activities that will help:

  • Make you a part of their community of thought leaders, experts, and collaborate with Braze executives.
  • Tell your success story by talking to people in the community and growing your network.
  • Measure the impact of your efforts to help you gain insights within your company.
  • Elevate your relations with Braze to gain invite-only opportunities in their local communities and get beta access to the latest features.
  • Get in the spotlight by letting Braze tell your story.

Learning at Braze (LAB)

Become a customer-relationship expert with Braze by exploring real-world use cases, improving your skills, and testing your progress.

  • Get certified

Let the world know about your skills with Braze by completing various certifications offered by Braze.

Certifications to complete from Braze
  • Virtual training sessions with the instructor

In a 3 hour class, a Braze marketing expert guides you through marketing technology concepts, working with Braze, and state-of-the-art strategies to make the best of the platform for better customer enablement and management.

Instructor-led training sessions
  • Learn at your own pace

Braze has an e-learning platform that allows you to explore the product concepts on your own at your own time and pace.

E-learning curve with LAB

Braze for Impact

Braze for impact is a digital marketing podcast series brought to you by Braze. Each episode features industry experts from around the world who discuss current trends and future possibilities. You can listen to podcasts featuring CEOs, Managers, Executives, and more.

Braze for impact - A podcast series

FORGE

FORGE is an annual event at Braze that highlights the essentials of marketing to make the best of digital platforms in a mobile-driven world. To help brands leap to better marketing, Braze puts together marketing leaders and customer engagement experts to host a conference. With more than two dozen sessions, innovators from brands like Delivery Hero, HBO Max, IBM, and more share insights on how to break down organizational silos and improve experiences as well as strategies.

Here’s a glimpse of what FORGE 2020 looked like👇

Webinar and events

Virtual webinars and in-person events about everything Braze. These events include featured guest speakers from leading organizations, or even Braze executives speaking about marketing tips and tricks, customer engagement, and even product releases.

For instance, the Grow with Braze series features leading experts to see how their organizations improved marketing and customer engagement, and experience. Here’s the recent webinar featuring Tim Hortons and Branch.

Check out the On-demand webinar

Braze yourself

Braze hasn’t just bridged the gap between people and technology, but between customers and community as well. They want the world to realize the importance of customer relationships, especially now more than ever. Since the last two years, there has been a dramatic increase in customer expectation and hence has altered how brands handle customer engagement. Braze realized the power of community and how can it help its customers make quality conversions by not just using Braze as a product but also as a platform for making human connections.

What’s next for Braze is more webinars, community events like Bonfire Book Club and Long-term Relationships (LTR) conference just accounts for the ideas that Braze brings to the table to make marketing and customer engagement easier catalyzing community. Needless to say, their future looks bright in terms of community-led growth, so, Braze yourselves!

All the love


To Summarize

How it started

  • Bill Magnuson and Jonathan Hyman meet Mark Ghermezian and quit their jobs.
  • Understand that mobile tech and social space are new and unexplored.
  • Decide to start a company and call it Appboy.
  • Get $2.5 million in seed funding.

So much more than a quirky name

  • The idea behind Appboy was to create a product that bridges the gap between quality products and the customers that can benefit from the product.
  • What was Appboy and how did it help developers drive more engagement while making better data-driven decisions.
  • The growth of Appboy and raising millions in funding.

An iconic rebranding - From Appboy to Braze

  • Realizing that being just an ‘app’ does not justify what Appboy had in their minds.
  • Rebranding from Appboy to Braze - a six-month-long journey.

Reaching for the stars 💫

  • Braze became a multichannel marketing and customer engagement platform.
  • Explosive growth and IPO.
  • Listing on the Nasdaq.
  • The current state of Braze - customers, and milestones.

Welcome to the Braze Community

  • Putting the ‘unity’ in community.
  • Braze Bonfire - A slack community for people to share experiences and insights.
  • Braze documentation - A comprehensive guide to working with Braze.
  • Braze Firebrands - Be a part of the community and let your story be told.
  • Learning at Braze (LAB) - Become an expert with certifications, courses, and training.
  • Braze for Impact - A digital marketing podcast series.
  • FORGE - An annual event at Braze showcasing insights from industry experts.
  • Webinar and events - Virtual and in-person events.

Braze yourself

  • The future of Braze community

All the Love

  • Community showing love to Braze.

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2022 comes with more community events than ever. Presenting Threado Community Hour - an hour-long panel discussion with some of the most successful SaaS community builders and networking sessions to help you learn the best engagement tactics, grow your network, and get answers to the questions that matter to you.

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