A notable changing of the guard is afoot at Intercom, the unicorn SaaS startup that powers the ubiquitous smiley customer service bots that sit on tens of thousands of company homepages: the company has reappointed co-founder, and current chairman, Eoghan McCabe as CEO. He’s replacing Karen Peacock, who is taking an advisory role for the next six months. McCabe will also stay on as chairman, and the change is effective immediately.
McCabe, you might recall, stepped down from the CEO role in July 2020. That move came about 10 months after a story broke alleging harassment and other misconduct on his part.
But in an interview today, McCabe stressed that the two events were not connected: his departure was long-planned, and by that point his name had been cleared by the board and an investigation body.
“In the very early days I made an advance on someone,” he said of the dark history. “I was naive… I was 26 when I started this company. But it was thoroughly investigated, first by HR and then the board and then outside lawyers, who determined no action against me and voted unanimously to support me. It was closed and my departure took place the best part of the year after that.”
McCabe said that his decision to return was due to the board recently approaching him and asking him to do so.
“I could never really stray too far from the company,” he said of the time away from the CEO role. “Intercom was a vehicle to express and prove myself, and I continued to care about it.”
The company notes that when McCabe stepped away the first time, it had annual revenues of about $100 million. It’s not clear how much Intercom grew under Peacock, but it’s been feeling the same pinch as a lot of other tech companies in the last several months. Most recently, the company announced a big software overhaul on the product front. But it has not been immune to restructuring, too: it downsized and cut 5% of its workforce last month.
The company has no plans, he said, to raise more money beyond the $239 million it’s picked up so far from Kleiner Perkins, GV, Index and others that have backed it to date. Its last valuation was $1.2 billion back in 2018 and McCabe said it’s been “on and off” cashflow positive status since then, and the next step on that front, it seems, will be an exit either as a public company or through a consolidation plan .
For now, though, the plan is to take on the task of bringing Intercom into a new phase of business, specifically to look for revenue and business beyond the chatbot that has made it famous, and is in use by some 25,000 companies globally. McCabe says he wants to take on Zendesk with a deeper move into the wider world of customer service.
“The next step is to get more specific,” he said. “We want to pick a lane. Customer support is a giant space.” He describes Zendesk as the “dominant player” in the mid-market. “We will come after them,” he added.
That will be a tall task — Zendesk is by no means the only company in the world of customer support. Salesforce, McCabe himself pointed out, currently makes more money from customer support than from sales software.
Still, with over 25,000 customers — with names such as Atlassian, Amazon and Lyft Business among them — using its platform, amounting to 500 million+ messages per month and interactions with 600 million monthly active end users, that is an audience that it will be able to leverage to aim to do so.
“Intercom has transformed the customer support industry, and Eoghan’s creativity and drive will help usher us into an exciting new chapter,” said Ethan Kurzweil, Partner at Bessemer Venture Partners in a statement. “Eoghan is an outstanding leader, so we’re very positive about his plans for the future of the company, and we will benefit from Karen’s continued role as an advisor to the board.”