Abram Olmstead  | February 3, 2014

On Cloud Nine: WalkMe is a Cloud-based Startup Success Story

Seeing his mother struggling to complete a task while online banking one day gave Eyal Cohen an idea. Why not create pop-up balloons that would provide step-by-step-instructions?

With that, WalkMe was born. The cloud-based startup launched in 2012 as an interactive online guidance system for businesses to simplify their customers’ online experience.

WalkMe likens itself to a GPS for websites, guiding users with simple instructions for completing tasks. For example, a bank might use WalkMe to show customers how to transfer money from one account to another so they don’t have to call customer service.

But WalkMe, which has over 50 employees in offices in San Francisco and Tel Aviv, didn’t stop there. The company gathers a lot of data that resides on Amazon Web Services, and it analyzes the information to see how users are using a site and where improvements might be needed if a step isn’t clear.

“If we have a walk-through [guide] with 10 steps and we see that users after the fifth step don’t continue, we can check and see if the task we put in task five isn’t clear or we made a mistake,’’ said Nir Nahum, vice president of research and development at WalkMe. “So by using analytics, we can improve our walkthroughs.”

The cloud is increasingly becoming a way for small- and medium-sized businesses to remain competitive with their larger counterparts. A 2013 forecast by IDC found that SMB spending on cloud solutions would grow by almost 20% annually over the next five years.

Some small companies view cloud computing as a shortcut to getting what the business needs.

“When we started we didn’t have much funding and using the cloud we were able to start a platform, which is very scalable,’’ said Nahum. “Now we have very big customers and are still scalable [for] a relatively very low cost.”

The cloud can also provide a quick way to access the software they want when IT doesn’t necessarily have the expertise for the application they are looking to deploy. “We’re software people, we don’t know much about building a big IT infrastructure,” said Nahum.

In fact, like many small businesses, WalkMe doesn’t have any IT people. It relies on Amazon’s cloud service for most of its technology needs. For its big-data analytics, the company is working with Xplenty, which offers a cloud-based version of Hadoop, a database-management platform.

WalkMe is using analytics to see how many page views a customer’s site gets, from which browser, and what geographic location, as well as whether a user has completed a task with or without WalkMe.

“If users are approaching [a site’s] chat or phone support too much, this kind of support is costing [the company] money. WalkMe is here to reduce those kinds of costs,’’ said Nahum. “So by analyzing how users use a website and when they approach support, we can build better walkthroughs that will decrease the use of human support.”

The company also studies which of its widgets — the menus that allow access to all of WalkMe’s features, such as the balloons, videos and articles — will be used the most. Testing has shown that how the widgets are worded, as well as its shapes and colors, can have an effect on how many people will click on it.

From Nahum’s perspective, there’s little reason for small companies to pour money into its own on-premise IT infrastructure. While it may make sense for larger companies having applications in-house, “the cloud is the only way to go” for startups.

“I think WalkMe will always be in the cloud,” he said.