Eager / Customer Support / Canada

How I started a Help Desk and Customer Support App - Story of Eager

Hello ! Who are you and what are you working on?

Hi! My name is Simon, and I’m from Toronto, Canada.

I’m working on a SAAS called Eager.app Help Desk and Customer Support. It’s an affordable alternative to other existing solutions like HelpScout, GrooveHQ, and Zendesk. Later on, there will be chat and customer segmentation added as well, so it’ll be in the same space as Crisp and Intercom.

Other than being a help desk, it was built with the idea that a business owner may be running multiple businesses and have team members assigned to each specific business. So the whole technology solution is aimed at owners who are running multiple businesses and want to consolidate their customer support software under a single account.

What motivated you to get started with? How did you come up with the idea?

I used to operate a freelance agency, as well as run multiple apps on the Shopify app store. For each of these services and products, I always needed to set up a separate inbox and documentation site.

I’d also have to bring on new team members, and assign permissions so that they have access to some parts, but not others.

What happened often was that the help desk system I used didn’t scale up easily. Sometimes I needed to add an extra inbox (to test a new product idea that month). Other times I needed to add an extra team member.

Existing helpdesk support software seemed quite stingy when it came to available inboxes or adding team members. I wanted to create an app that had an affordable pricing structure, while at the same time being a well crafted piece of software.

Can you tell us the story of your business from idea to where you are now?

Eager.app was an idea I had for a few years now. I was already involved with several other ventures. It wasn’t until 2019 when I was finally able to start.

I’ve been building Eager.app myself as a fully bootstrapped business around August 2019. While I was building it, I was fortunate enough to be able to have my existing team migrate to it and to essentially become its first users.

For a large project like this, it was key in making sure the system was robust enough to sell as a service.

The biggest challenges in building anything that’s email related is that you need to make sure it’s dependable in the email delivery. It took about 2 to 3 months to get it right. I learned a lot in how to make sure the emails that Eager sends lands in the inbox and not spam, for example.

The other thing that took a lot of time was getting the user interface right. I was lucky in that the UI for help desk systems is fairly standardized, but I wanted an interface that was super fast and responsive.

Based on the feedback from my early users, the user interface ended up getting rewritten three times.

Since October 2020, Eager.app was launched in an open beta. We’ll be in beta until at least January 1, 2021 as some other components will be rolled out, including a native mobile app for iOS and Android. On launch day, we actually had 3 trials that converted to paid subscriptions, and have steadily increased that since.

What has been your biggest failure or struggle?

Probably the biggest challenge with Eager is knowing which part of the infrastructure I want to build in-house and which to outsource.

I’m not venture funded, and so the way I look at this is that everything that’s done for this venture needs to make economic sense. Although the project does have bootstrapped financial backing, over the long run our bills can’t be subsidized by an external investor.

Because of this, infrastructure costs can be enormous if too much of it is outsourced. I think in the startup community, there’s the sense that it’s better to use external services as much as you can because it helps you launch faster.

However, Eager.app isn’t operating in a space that’s new. It is a help desk software with some innovative features. I think speed is less important in this case than to ensure that we own our infrastructure and can make changes to it without worrying about cost changes.

For example, we own our entire outbound email relay and have developed techniques and processes to automate the creation of new email servers, warming up IP addresses, and checking for spam and viruses. This is now internally available technology that allows Eager to offer adjacent services in the email space without worrying about rising transactional email costs or deliverability.

How many hours a day do you work on average & can you describe/outline your typical day?

I currently work about 6-7 hours a day, pretty typically 5 out of the 7 days a week. I may work 1-2 hours on the two days that are on break, just to check in on things and to plan out my week.

My days are full of interruptions as well.

And what has been your biggest achievement or success?

I didn’t start my career in technology. In fact, it was in biochemistry. I never took a programming course or anything like that.

When I was in my early 20s, I picked up a book on PHP and created my own ecommerce store. Within a year, it had revenues over $100,000 per year.

Since then, it never left my mind that it was possible to make a living online.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Word of mouth has definitely been the biggest distribution channel so far.

I haven’t done much marketing for Eager.app. Instead, I wanted to focus on the product to make it better before onboarding more people into the app. Help desk software is not a space I’m worried about finding product market fit. What worries me the most is presenting a mediocre product.

In terms of retention, the pricing plan we have at the moment is for a yearly plan. There isn’t a monthly plan. The pricing is also created so that our customers can immediately realize that there’s no better deal out there.

This was one of my mission in starting Eager.app -- to create an affordable help desk solution.

Describe the process of launching the business.

I think at the beginning of any idea is to consider what the business case is for that business to exist.

There are companies who have certainly figured it out along the way, and it seems to be the ethos that exists in startups, especially those in Silicon Valley for example. However, I’m a bit traditional in the sense that I’d like to know what the revenue model will look like before anything is started.

Once you have an idea and a path to profitability is identified, next you’ll need to figure out if there are people who want the thing you’re selling at the price you need to sell it at.

Sometimes if it’s a new product that doesn’t yet exist, you’ll need to do some market research and MVP validation.

I personally don’t like to do things that way. Validation can sometimes be wrong, because customers don’t really tell you what they would actually do when you interview them. The only real validation is when you have a real product in front of them and they decide whether they’ll pay or not.

Instead, I’d look at markets that already have a lot of customers willing to pay, and then to figure out if there’s a clear market leader. If there isn’t a clear market leader, or if customers complain a lot about that market leader, then it may indicate there’s room for you to enter.

After that, it’s just a lot of hard work to get the first working product to market and to build a growth strategy behind it.

It’s just a lot of experimentation, trial and error, and patience.

Did you use Betalist or PH or other Startup Launching Platform for Launching ? How was that experience?

I didn’t use any of those services. I have applied to Betalist, but I don’t think they listed Eager.app yet at the time of this interview.

What’s your business model, and how have you grown your revenue? 

Eager.app’s business model is software as a service.

Revenue has grown primarily through word of mouth, resulting in trials, and some of those trials converting to paid subscriptions.

Currently, we’re in our early access pricing tier. The pricing will evolve as time goes on to reflect new features we add and the maturity of the product.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles you’ve overcome? What are your goals for the future?

I think the biggest challenge, at least leading up to the open beta launch, was wondering whether anyone would find Eager.app’s solution compelling enough compared to incumbent apps.

Of course, that’s answered now, but before the launch, I was actually a little nervous.

Even though this isn’t my first SAAS or online business, it doesn’t really get easier. There’s always a little bit of self doubt amidst the confidence.

My goals for the medium-term future is to grow Eager.app into being a major help desk software option for new businesses. I’d like startups and ecommerce stores to think of Eager as one of their top 3 choices when choosing a help desk solution for their business.

Let’s talk about your marketing strategy -- how do you market Eager and grow the service?

I have a few ideas on how I want to market Eager in the next several months.

I think a major area we’ll be focusing on will be engineering market (as described by Weinberg in his book, Traction) in the near future.

There’s also a longer term SEO strategy in place as well I think this is actually a big missed opportunity for a lot of new companies. Not just posting a bunch of blogs, but really focusing on creating pages that’s specific to the search queries of their potential customers.

Finally, we’ll probably have an affiliate program starting some time in mid 2021.

Do you have a model to get product feedback? What’s your favorite way to get product feedback? Did product feedback help you get the results you hoped for

Eager.app is lucky in that it’s a customer support software, so it uses its own app throughout the product itself.

Customers can send a message to provide feedback at all points of contact within the onboarding as well as when they use the app.

In the first 2 weeks of usage during the public beta, our users have provided a lot of great feedback and reported bugs or UI friction points that I didn’t catch in earlier testing and user interviews.

So yes -- it’s been very useful!

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Having been a bootstrapped entrepreneur for my whole life, I’ve been opposed to the idea of getting funding.

In building Eager.app and speaking with a few friends who are running larger SAAS businesses, I’ve come around to thinking that not all funding is bad.

I hate to say things in absolute terms, but it’s almost a necessary step if you want to reach a certain stage or pace of growth. Capital is necessary regardless of whether it’s generated internally (ie. bootstrapped) or externally. Investor money can sometimes make sense.

At this point, I’m still quite focused on running my business as a bootstrapped operation, but I’d say the thing I learned in all of this is keep an open mind. What makes sense today in terms of funding and capital structure may not make sense once the business is larger.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We use Stripe and PayPal for payments. Other than that, our customer support and CRM stack is built into Eager.app, so we use that. Our landing pages are custom made in basic HTML and CSS. The rest of it is pretty basic with GSuite and their set of software (Google Docs, Sheets, etc).

Who’s your most inspirational CEO or founder?

I would say Mark Zuckerberg. At one point he had the opportunity to sell Facebook to Yahoo. I believe he remarked that one of the reasons he didn’t want to sell it was because he didn’t really have any other business idea he wanted to work on, and that if he sold, he’d just go and create another social network.

I feel the same way about Eager.app. I’ve worked on many SAAS products in the past, both as a developer, CTO, and founder. I am very excited about Eager.app and have some great ideas on how to improve the customer support space.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Startups for the Rest of Us by Rob Walling and Mike Taber. I’ve been listening to their podcast, starting around episode 100 or so.

They have had some of the most honest conversations about startups and how to get started, especially if you’re not part of the Silicon Valley startup community.

What’s your advice for fellow aspiring entrepreneur who are just starting out?

There’s a lot of advice flying around social media, blogs, podcasts, and books these days. Just remember that advice is just advice. What worked for someone else may not work for you.

At the end of the day, this whole entrepreneurial thing is a dynamic exercise. Things don’t repeat themselves exactly. This is a creative business, so be creative and don’t blindly follow the advice of others.

If you want to connect, the best place would be on Twitter. I can be found as @geetfun on there.

About The Author : Binu Mathew

Binu Mathew is the CEO of itmarkerz technologies. It has been catering to the custom software needs of SMEs in India and abroad since March 2011. Binu started his programming and freelance carrier at the age of 17. over around 13 years of experience in startups, startup visas around the globe, and Blogging. You can reach him on Twitter or LinkedIn