Benjamin Jamin, CEO at Crisp joins Hammad Akbar in this episode of Launch Legends Podcast
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Hey Baptiste. Thank you very much for coming on the show. Crisp, great product. I've been using that for a while as well. Yeah, you've been around since 2015. Yeah.
You have got 200,000 websites with your code installed and you were telling me you've got like 120 million visitors that visit those sites all together.
And then you've got 5,000 plus customers. And the best thing is you are bootstrapped and you only got 10 team members. So that's great. I would love to know who you are, where you came from.
Yeah, so we started Crisp back kinda like five years ago. So I founded Crisp with a friend. I was in engineering school and back in the time we did like several side projects and we really felt that we were lacking a good chat product for startups, like for small companies.
Back in the time we already had chat software but they were super expensive to be honest. So we wanted to combine a very cost effective solution to have a freemium model. And on the other hand, have a super slick user interface.
So we wanted to make crisp looks like a WhatsApp or Facebook messenger and to get this a B2C experience and to bring that to B2B customers.
So when you started working what year was that?
So yeah, we worked on that like five years ago. And we did that for a couple of months. So we worked on an MVP design, et cetera.
So we really wanted to have something called a minimum lovable product because nowadays most people do minimum viable products.
Yeah. I said they only understand the word minimum and not viable products. And so we made a minimum lovable product to make something that people really love.
So we had a private beta for like a few weeks. So we started to have 10 users and. Those 10 users gave their feedback.
Like every day we chatted using Crisp to those early customers. And we implemented their feedback. We improved Crisp step-by-step.
So how did you get that private beta?
How did you get those users to come and work with you?
Like. Easily to be honest. What we did is like we cold emailed companies like, Hey man, you have a website and you don't even have a live chat. You should have a live chat.
We are a new company. I'm going to bring you our live chat for free, just use this, Crisp.
And how many did you manage to get?
Oh, like to start a private beta, you only need like 10 companies in so many companies. What you only need is a few companies that will still use your product amongst later.
You're right. But I think what I've noticed in my previous experience and by talking to other people is that you have a lot of people who would sign up, say a hundred, 200, maybe a thousand, but only a very small fraction would actually end up using the product.
Did you notice that you got a bunch of people signed up, but never used it?
And then what we made is really, really focused on those 10 early customers.
It was very important to keep them in the long-term. And now five years later, we still have those 10 early customers.
And why they're still with us is because we really made the product around them. And because they felt we were listening to them and because we made the product around them, they thought, okay, This product is great.
I would talk about Crisp to other companies, et cetera. So we came with 10 users initially, and then we had 20, 30, 100 et cetera.
Apologies. I'm just cutting you. It's very interesting. You said you worked with those 10 companies very closely where you were chatting to them using your software, which is great.
Those 10 companies, were they from the same segment, same sector or they were just separate, you know, different companies.
Yeah, we had e-commerce websites obviously, but we had SaaS software as well, many different kinds of websites.
But in our own case, I guess the sector of the business doesn't matter so much, but yeah, it depends on what you do.
Because most of the business books I've read and I follow a lot of people and they always talk about finding your segment, having the real persona and really keep going deeper and deeper into that persona, where you really have the perfect customer for yourself, and then focus on that particular persona and then expand from there.
Did you notice that when you started working with the 10 people, then you added 20, 30, 40, 50, you started to build your ideal customer?
Mm, not really. But they liked Crisp, because it was super easy to use. User interface was really great.
Yeah. They were super productive when they were using Crisp and it's exactly what they liked. So we improved crisp using this method.
Right. So let's talk about when you first gave those 10 people your product and you added more people along the way.
How long after working on the product, the product was ready for prime time like expanding into Product Hunt or something.
So we launched Crisp in September. So we launched in September with 10 companies. In November we had around 500 companies using the crisp already.
And it was all organic. Like we didn't have, back at that time, a blog something like that. It was pure organic.
Wow. Wow. That's really good. And that's very quick as well. From September to November 500 people came.
One of our early users featured us on Product Hunt five years ago. Product Hunt was still a private system. So for a company to feature on Product Hunt, you need to be invited, et cetera.
A part of the community and this guy was really well ranked on Product Hunt. And he didn't warn us about that.
And during a weekend, like we got featured on Product Hunt and our servers started to be crazy. And in like a few days we went from 500 Users to like 10 times more. So from 500 to 5,000.
So Baptiste you gave it to 10 people in September, you launched in November. By that time you had 500 people. I mean that's tremendous, tremendous growth.
Even back in 2015, I would say this space was very, very competitive. First of all well done for actually creating something that's so huge right now, but what was so special about the product at that point, that caused 500 companies to join and start using it.
Many people think that the key to build a successful company or a startup especially is acquisition, but the key is not acquisition.
I don't know if you know them, the growth aching framework, which is called AARRR framework is for acquisition, activation retention, revenue, and referral. And most people think that acquisition is the most important thing, but it's not.
What cares is retention. And because if you have retention, then you will have more traction because people talk, people talk a lot about your product.
So you retain customers more. You will activate customers more. You will have customers come again and again and again. So you really need to work on onboarding.
You need to have a good product, but the onboarding process is very important. It's very important that when someone signs up to your solution, then the user starts using the product immediately and for that you need to onboard a customer because it's very important to understand what we call the aha moment.
That moment is the key moment where the user or your lead understands the value proposition of your system.
For instance, when you do your first tweet on Tinder, first it's going to be when you match the first person and on Crisp, it was when you installed Crisp on a website.
So it was super important to make everything to work the best as we could to make you install Crisp on your site. It was like 50% of our job is to make you install Crisp on your own site. Traction gets easier.
Would you say it was purely word of mouth? You went from 10 customers to 500 users within two months. So you did create a great product.
So what happened after you got 5x customers, 10x customers after you've launched on the Product Hunt? What happened?
What they were saying initially is when you work with 10 users and you make sure to have a good product around them and if you go to 10 to 500 you have something which is called the product market fit. It means that your product is made for the right targets.
And if you continue this way, if you attract more people, you would continue the growth even more so when we had the 5,000 users from Product Hunt we had even more, that the growth increased even more because as we already worked on improving the onboarding, et cetera, when we got the 5,000 people, the traction was already there.
Right. So I was watching one of your, I was reading, like, no sorry, was listening to one of your interviews.
And one thing you said that was incredible was that you guys are still not doing any proper marketing. It's all organic and word of mouth still.
And given the fact that you had launched in 2015, and from there, you've got over 200,000 websites using a product and you've got over 5,000 customers.
Let's talk about that. How did you manage to get so many customers over and over again without any proper marketing?
So now I can say we do have a marketing team but it's pretty new to us. Like we've started to have people working in a marketing team like a year ago. So for four years, we didn't have any marketing team.
And I was doing the marketing job. So at Crisp, what we did is we worked a lot on customer support because when people talk to customer support.
It's very important to solve them. And nowadays the new marketing is really the customer support. Customer support is the new way to utilize your users to use your product in two or three years.
So what we did is we worked on customer support driven development. It's a fancy name, but the idea is to make everything you can. So people don't contact you on the customer service.
The best customer support is when people don't need support, when people don't have any problem. So what we did is everybody at crisp, even developers, even people who are now from the marketing team do customer support.
It's very important because when everybody talks to customers, everybody feels the pain because when customers are complaining about stuff you really want as a human to solve that. And it shouldn't be possible.
Because if you have different teams doing that, the customer support team will solve the problem by talking to customers, but the developers won't solve the bug because they don't even know the bugs are there.
So you make sure that developers talk to customers, that will change the way the code, because having in mind that if I do this bad, people will complain. Talking to the customer support is gonna cost us a lot of time, money and their reputation as well.
So give me one specific example where you were getting similar kinds of complaints and then you resolved it by developing around it, making sure that you just resolve the problem.
For instance, WordPress as I explained before onboarding is very important and nowadays we still have around 50% of websites or 60%, maybe more made with WordPress.
In our position, it's super important while studying Crisp with WordPress. It's very important that it's easy to install Crisp with WordPress.
And back in the times, if it wasn't so easy, like you need to copy paste your widget code and to paste it in your WordPress Plugin, essentially.
And people were complaining about that because even if it was a cookie based thing, it's easy but people don't understand what HTML is, et cetera, they have some troubles doing that. So we really changed the complete way to install crisp with WordPress and we made it in one click.
Basically you click on install Crisp on WordPress and crisp is installed when you do that, users are happy and they don't have issues anymore.
So they don't contact customer support. So every day we have people having bugs, et cetera. And we really make sure you solve the bugs immediately this way.
We reduce the sort of customer support requests because when our user complaints, maybe you can have 10 times more or 20 times more people having the same issue.
So it's super important to solve each issue by improving the product.
Yeah. Right. I think it's great. I think I agree with that where the whole team basically works on customer success and makes the customers happy.
But the question that comes to my mind is that you've got 200,000 plus websites using your application.
That must mean a lot of people just sending out messages, any complaints and stuff that probably results in a lot of time each developer, each team member that has to, you know, spend on that, does that not really impact it?
Not really. Because since we started Crisp obviously we have many more chat requests than we used to have.
At the beginning, it's obvious. But using this method to optimize every day stuff, it tends to be flat or flattish.
So we don't like if we have two times more users, we won't have two times more chat quests because we really, really make sure to optimize.
In that way people just don't have issues. So people then don't contact us at all.
And how much of your developer's time goes into just catching up with the customers per day?
Catching bugs is the most important thing. It's we prioritize this over the rest. First we prefer to have the perfect product and the perfect user experience rather than adding stuff every time, because when you add new stuff every time, you will make your products more complex and more difficult to use.
It will have more bugs as well. And we don't like that. We prefer to optimize everything and to make the user experience perfect. And then we add new stuff, but it's important to us that we do that in the right order.
Great. So let's go back. I mean from 2015, from 5,000 users to 200,000, that's a huge jump.
You said word of mouth has been the main growth channel for you. What else has worked for you? Any integrations, any other things you did, any PR?
So initially Crisp was very simple chat software and people were requesting more features. And what we did is we stacked all the requests and we saw, okay. What could be crisp version two.
And we worked for six months on a very big release when we changed almost everything. Website, the user interface, the products, the core products and we added many new stuff.
So we added many integrations. We allow users, our customers to connect with other tools such as Facebook messenger or Twitter, emails, SMS this way.
We wanted to allow our companies to only use Crisp to handle all their customer support channels. So no matter if you contact us from Facebook, you end up all the requests from Crisp. And then we added many other features, such as a CRM, a built in CRM, a feature on Crisp.
This way when you talk to customers, you already know who they are. So we need that. It was called Crisp two, we changed the pricing model as well. By making a plan called the crisp unlimited. We were the first company in the SaaS markets to build an unlimited plan.
It means that no matter how many chats you sell, how many leads you have, how many agents, your teammates, what matters about those numbers is you will pay the same price. It's $25 per month.
And we were back at the time, the first company doing that now some other SaaS companies are doing the same pricing model. So we released Crisp two on Product Hunt and it was a huge success.
I mean we doubled the revenues, we doubled the customers, we doubled everything the growth as well, just by changing the products, the branding, pricing model and because we really implemented what users wanted. But this way we handled our products and launched ourselves.
I mean, we featured on Product Hunt.
So how many leads did you generate from that particular launch?
Okay. On this launch, probably like 10K to 20K users, something like that, many more than the first one.
Wow. So a lot of SaaS companies, they go down this route where they do a launch on product hunt and eventually they do another launch on AppSumo as well, but they look to get some cash injection. Did you think about going down that road?
No, we didn't do it on AppSumo because they contacted us about that, but we don't want to discount our product so much.
I mean it's destroying value in my opinion. We already had good pricing, a super good pricing. And we do have a free model.
We don't want to Cut prices as much as they requested. And although AppSumo is taking around 70% of all the sales and sorry.
No, wait you don't take 70 or 80% percent of sales. No way. So when I knew that I told them okay, we will stop the deal and we won't do that.
Right. So Baptist, one more question came to my mind. And then you said something earlier, which I think is great, but you said that we focus on not building too many features.
And obviously you get a lot of requests for features, but you want to make sure that your product is not too heavy.
There's no feature crap. And I was talking to another great founder a couple of weeks ago, and she said that it would be four to six months, they go through the product and actually actively take out on the features, which are not being used that much anymore. I thought that was so great.
And then you're doing something very similar where you just don't build too many features that gets you too heavy.
Sometimes we do that. We already removed features that were not perfect enough and that were only used by 20 people.
So we just remove the feature in that case and nobody complains about it. And yeah, one time we removed a feature because it wasn't as perfect as we wanted to make it.
So we removed the feature first and six months later we completely rebuilt the feature from scratch.
But we usually do, we are the first users of Crisp because we use crisp every day. We really know every day what is missing in the product. So when we really feel that, we will need that.
We implement that. And usually it's always a great success because we use the product every day, we really know what's going on and how to use it and what could be implemented.
Great. Have you ever not built a feature where you were getting a lot of requests from the customers, but you decided not to?
Yes. For instance, people always request more features, always. For instance, we released a Crisp analytics feature a year ago.
And we worked a lot on this feature. Our users were happy about that, but we started to have customers requesting even more features in this analytic stuff.
And we told them, okay, now we won't do that because Crisp, we never compete with products like Google Analytics, Mixpanel, et cetera.
We are not an analytics platform. We can do analytics. So you can analyse all your conversions, customer support effectiveness, et cetera. But we won't compete with Mixpanel, et cetera.
So it's wrong to have information about how many people come see this bit, what page they visited.
So we have people requesting some kind of features, but in our opinion, it doesn't make sense.
Right, Baptiste. One last question. I know you were young and you built a great company. Like I said, I'm a customer myself.
Imagine someone's listening to this and they think, okay, I need to build a business or they're in the process of building a business.
What advice would you give them?
I think that doing company when you're young is super good because you're lacking experience. And usually we think the experience is good and should make the company.
But I think it's not because when you want to create something new especially in a competitive market, being new and having a fresh mind is a great asset and I think it's why Crisp had this success. It's because I didn't even know what SaaS is.
Like when we started, I didn't know some of our competitors, I didn't know what was the acronym for SaaS? Etc. We just wanted to make a very good chat software. And you had a lot of companies using this software.
And yeah, when you are young you don't need money because you don't have any wife, kids, house et cetera, all those expenses stuff, you don't have that.
So you are just free to succeed, to fail and easily create some new stuff. And, I think that nowadays students really should do companies.
So imagine a young person starts his company. What's the first thing you would tell them to do.
So I know what they should not do. So what they should not do is raising money because It's not needed immediately. You can do a company without raising money.
You shouldn't incorporate your company immediately as well at the beginning. I mean you can sell your product for like a thousand dollars.
Nobody cares, if you don't pay your tax, like nobody. So no bank, no corporation, no phone thing, like no VCs. And what they should do is just build a product and just focus on just doing the best product they can.
You don't care about what framework I should use? Should I use their React.ds, Angular js etc. we don't care about should I use Amazon? Should I use the Microsoft Azure, Google cloud platform?
We don't care about that. Many many young people are spending a lot of time by doing that, choosing the infrastructure, et cetera. What truly cares when you do something new is just the product and just what's the best as you can on the product, just the product.
And then you can find a name. You can like build websites et cetera, but yeah do the product first.
For instance, when you do software, many young people start doing a SaaS product by doing the signup and the login.
You don't mean that, just do the product immediately and then do the signup and then do the login. You will have way more time by doing the product immediately without doing the rest.
Yeah, I think one thing you missed, which you did yourself is focus on the product, building it and talking to the customers as well.
So don't just stick in the background and just talk to the customer.
In my opinion, rather than talking to people immediately, take some time to have a very good product and once you are confident enough to release it as an alpha or beta, just do it.
But it's important to have the minimum lovable product and a minimum of shitty software.
Great, thank you very much. Thank you for coming on the show and I hope to see you again and good luck for the future. Thank you.