The company takes a fast-deployment, low-risk approach when it works with new customers.
Seneca Systems, which sells a fast-deployment constituent services platform for local government, has raised a $3.5 million seed round led by Initialized Capital.
The move, which brings Seneca’s total fundraising amount to $5 million, comes amid a growth spurt for the company. Though it was founded in 2014, it didn’t really start business development until 2016, when it went through the Y Combinator program and started taking on early customers.
It’s only been pushing its flagship product, Romulus, in earnest for a few months. And it’s scooped up some customers in some big cities quickly, including San Francisco, Houston, Chicago and Miami, according to CEO Nick DeMonner. They have customers in 33 departments, agencies and offices in 21 cities.
The core idea behind the platform is to log communications coming in from constituents, track the interactions by constituent and issue, and then allow for data analytics and report generation for the work being done. Seneca is far from the first company to take a stab at the issue. But it has a somewhat unique approach — a fast one.
Those customers aren’t big, multiyear, agencywide or citywide contracts. Seneca sells Romulus at $80 per staff member per month, flat. And they designed the platform to be integrated quickly with very little work involved.
Typically, it takes a day to get it all set up. First they take a voter file and load in constituent data. Then they hook up the user’s phone and other communication channels like email and social media.
“Phone calls are huge — they’re still the vast majority of constituent engagement,” DeMonner said.
Seneca sets up a phone number with a local area code and directs calls and texts sent to that number to the user. Because those communications go through Seneca’s number, they can auto-log everything that happens without doing any back-end integration work — beyond the user running a four-step setup wizard, that is.
The user training session takes an hour.
“The way we designed the system, it augments rather than replaces what is currently there,” he said. “So we integrate with things automatically.”
The resulting user interface looks something like instant messaging, and a government employee — a councilmember’s aide, a city manager’s office staffer, a public works assistant — can respond to a text or email with a keyboard.
It turns out that feeling heard is pretty important for people calling in to the city, according to DeMonner.
“We’re now covering … 2.3 million [constituents]. We have seen a lot of stuff come through, and the No. 1 indicator of whether a constituent was satisfied with what happened had actually nothing to do with the resolution,” he said. “It had everything to do with how quickly and timely the cities responded to the constituents and kept them abreast of what was happening.”
And because the system logs all interactions, it can easily spit out numbers for which office members are doing what, and how much. It can also generate the kinds of reports on constituent issues a boss might want at a weekly meeting.
“Before, in order to compile those reports they used to have to go through manual stuff … [There’s] a ward in Chicago that we have where [a customer] got nearly 20 percent of her time back per week just by adopting Romulus immediately, even though their volume of stuff actually went up because now they were accessible in more ways,” DeMonner said.
It also allows users to pull together messages from multiple constituents about the same subject and track sentiment changes on that issue over time.
The seed funding round also included the Govtech Fund, Cowboy Ventures and Y Combinator.
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