Think of Salesforce, and typically what comes to mind is tracking info on sales leads and marketing automation. Turns out, the tech company also has tools to launch an app.
Perhaps this reporter is late to the game here, but in talking with Rich Wiklund recently, I was keen to learn that the entrepreneur built and launched BenefitsApp using Salesforce tools.
Wiklund, who started his first web development company in 1994, saw the need two years ago for a platform that allowed a company to give employees access to health benefits and policy info on a mobile device.
BenefitsApp is built around the idea of being the “last mile” of getting that important info to employees — in other words, “getting the information to the employees when they need it,” Wiklund said. The idea is that the app has access to information that’s contained on a card, plus the employer-sponsored benefits that they may forget about over the course of the year.
Building using Salesforce, the app takes data gathered by that platform and allows employers to provide tools like calendars and forms to connect with employees, as well as direct communication tolls like push alerts to get info to the right people.
As with many entrepreneurial journeys, arriving at this platform took some adjustments along the way. For one the product didn’t start as a single app on Salesforce. Wiklund initially set out with a license from a platform called AppMachine.com that enabled creation of customized apps for each client, and those were released on the App Store. But a change in Apple’s terms of conditions was detrimental to the model.
“Last August when Apple changed their terms and conditions, we could’ve gone out of business. We had 50+ apps on the market, and we were looking at no ability to update those apps. Apple basically turned us off,” Wiklund said.
But Wiklund hit on the idea to have a single app, rather than many different ones. He also had some fortuitous luck when he found the domain and name for BenefitsApp was available. “That’s a huge asset for the business because it’s an easy name to remember and it’s meaningful,” he said.
With $350,000 in angel investment funding and Wiklund’s 18 years of experience with Salesforce to draw on through his other company Avideon, BenefitsApp was built out over four months between this past November and February.
“We are for a very small amount of money competing with companies that have raised tens of millions of dollars,” Wiklund said. “We can compete not only on value but we can compete on price as well.”
Salesforce essentially provides building blocks that are designed to scale, allowing companies to use what they need to fit their business model. Building on Salesforce means that the company hosts its app on the Salesforce platform. This provides infrastructure and security, as well as a customer-facing environment called lightning communities. Startups often have to figure out each of these, as well as development.
“That takes all the pain away so we can focus on product service and delivery,” he said.
Salesforce has also allowed new features to spring up fast: With COVID-19, BenefitsApp released a feature that companies can use to screen employees for their health status, as well as contact tracing with a “close contact” alert. At another point, a client requested a digital signature for specific policy documents, and Wiklund said his team was able to install it.
“The ability to have that capacity and be able to do it in a matter of days or weeks is only because we’re on the Salesforce platform and the salesforce ecosystem,” Wiklund said.
Based out of Hampden, Wiklund said the company has three full-time employees in Baltimore to handle production and development, as well as marketing. Now the focus is on growing the client base. With a recent run of signing three to five per week in the summer, he’s aiming to have 100 clients by the end of the year.
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