A Q&A with Tello founder and CEO Joe Beninato. The Palo Alto–based company was founded in 2010 and recently raised $2.7 million in Series A funding.
SUB: Please describe what Tello is, and the value proposition you offer to consumers.
Beninato: Tello is an innovative Software-as-a-Service and mobile application company committed to improving businesses everywhere by applying the latest mobile technologies to everyday customer interactions. People use Tello’s mobile applications to provide instant feedback to businesses via their mobile devices. Businesses use Tello for Business to monitor customer feedback and resolve service issues that can have a direct effect on sales.
SUB: What are your target markets?
Beninato: Tello’s target customers are physical businesses of any size and location. Since most businesses rely on repeat customers to expand their business, understanding customer feedback is a key component. Our target customers cover everyone from big name retailers, airlines, event venues and small mom-and-pop shops.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Beninato: Tello’s primary competition is traditional firms that businesses use to obtain feedback from customers, including secret shoppers and customer survey companies.
SUB: What differentiates Tello from the competition?
Beninato: Tello helps businesses improve by enabling customers to provide instant feedback, and businesses to respond back immediately. Unlike typical receipt survey data, Tello can get feedback from non-purchasers which is often more valuable. Tello is also not a reviews site like Yelp where customers rate the experience and quality of food, hotel, etc. We are focused on quick and easy thumbs up or down ratings and feedback that can be completed on a mobile device.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Beninato: Tello was founded in 2010 and launched in February 2011 with a ratings service for consumers. In February 2012, we launched Tello for Business, a new service that helps businesses of any size improve by enabling instant feedback via customers’ mobile devices.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Tello? Was there an “aha” moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Beninato: I am a lifelong entrepreneur. My first entrepreneurial experience was watching my father and grandfather run a successful restaurant in Chicago for more than 50 years. I have worked with more than 15 startups in roles ranging from founder and employee to investor and advisor.
I got the idea for Tello after reading one of the “How Am I Driving? Call 1-800-…” bumper stickers on the back of a truck. I thought it would be really great if every interaction with a customer service representative from any company had one of those bumper stickers. After combining that ‘aha’ moment with the proliferation of smartphones, location-based apps and crowdsourcing, Tello was born.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Beninato: Hiring great talent has been an issue. In Silicon Valley, we are competing with the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Google for talent.
SUB: You recently raised $2.7 million in Series A funding. What are your plans for the funds?
Beninato: We will use the money to aggressively grow the user and business marketplace, pursue meaningful partnership opportunities, and expand the Tello team.
SUB: Do you plan to raise more outside funding in the near future?
Beninato: We are always interested in speaking with great investors, but are not in the midst of a funding search right now.
SUB: What are your goals for Tello over the next year or so?
Beninato: We hope to continue to make our customers happy, grow the customer base, and expand the Tello team with more great people.
Tello – www.tello.com