Product Review


Reviewed by: 
CRM Idol Primary Judges - EMEA

Without question the presentation and demo from Zestia covering the Capsule solution was one of the more impressive and also surprising we saw on CRM Idol EMEA. Capsule is a solution aimed at providing simple CRM to small businesses and sales teams. The company is a relative newcomer to the CRM market, founded in 2008 by Duncan Stockdill (CEO), Philip Haynes (CTO) and Wendy Rule (FD). They are a small, UK-based company with only a handful of employees but explosive growth of 1200% in 2010 prompted the company to expand and they are now hiring 3 more developers as well as customer support, infrastructure and UI roles.

The Capsule product was launched in beta in November 2008 and then went to general availability (GA) in March 2009. It does what is says on the tin which is provide basic CRM functionality for small businesses online to help them keep track of relationships. The pricing model is simple and represents good value for money with a Free edition and a Professional Edition. The Free edition provides a solution for up to 2 users with 10mb of storage, 250 contacts and unlimited opportunities and cases. The Professional edition, priced at £8 (or $12 usd) per user per month gives 2GB of storage, 50,000 contacts unlimited opportunities and cases and integration with a number of pre-defined services e.g. Kashflow, MailChimp.

The product has been built on a modern architecture with an HTML5 / Javascript front end, Java / SCALA middleware, deployed on Amazon EC2 and delivered as a SaaS solution. From a usability perspective the UI was one of the cleanest and most intuitive UIs that we saw in the competition: uncluttered, highlighting key information to the user and pulling in social data to supplement account information:

In the demo we saw basic capabilities, focused on a small business service provider, covering contact management, task and opportunity management and pipeline forecasting. The things the vendor showed they did well but we also recognized that features / functions were very basic – we saw nothing you would not expect to be in most CRM for SME solutions – for example pipeline forecasting shown below. The out of the box functionality would most likely not meet the needs for larger, more complex organisations who might want verticalised functionality or multi-language support (only English language is supported at this stage).

However, a few things surprised us about Capsule. Firstly, the developers have taken a mature and forward-looking approach to services integration. They recognize the functional limitations of the product and have ensured that it is very easily extendable. First with a simple ability to add fields and second with a range of integrated services including Mailchimp for e-mail marketing, Wufoo for web forms, Quoteroller for quotations, Freshbooks for invoicing and Google Apps for mail / calendar and apps. In particular the Google Apps integration we saw had been executed extremely well. We saw a demonstration of the creation of a new sales contact and lead from within G-Mail, directly into Capsule:

The company plans to continue this services based integration approach to Social CRM, partnering with best-of breed tools rather then building their own capabilities. We admired the way in which the vendor was able to get scale from a small development team by partnering with like-minded and complimentary providers and not trying to own every piece of functionality themselves. In this way they have developed their solution much faster than had they chosen to build everything themselves.

The second thing that surprised us was that the company has already built an HTML 5 app that we saw demonstrated live and working on an iPhone (see screenshot below). The app works both online and offline and provides basic capabilities for account, activity and opportunity management.

Finally we were also surprised at the level of international growth that Capsule has already experienced. Most contestants on CRM Idol EMEA had focused on their home market first and were now looking to break into an international market. However, only 25% of Capsule’s customers are based in the UK. The largest market for Capsule was the US & Canada, accounting for 40% of customers, with AsiaPac and Continental Europe 12%.

The go-to-market approach for Capsule had clearly been well through out and already strongly executed. The company has already signed up 500 affiliates. These range from traditional IT and Consultancy firms, to (rather surprisingly) customers, who the company incentivizes with a  generous 20% royalty to act as recommenders for their product. The company also places a strong emphasis on the Google Apps market place where they are ranked number 3 in the CRM category.

Overall, the Capsule presentation and demo left the judges feeling positive about the Capsule product. This is not a solution for those with sophisticated CRM requirements. However, for a young company, entering a fairly crowded market, we felt that Capsule had come a long way very fast. For a small vendor, they showed surprising maturity in both their product development strategy and their go to market approach and we applaud them for that.