by Shalin Jain, founder and CEO of HappyFox
Some entrepreneurs look for a problem in order to develop a product that solves it. My company’s history is different: I already had a startup, but we couldn’t find the right customer support software that met our needs and we created it ourselves. The problem found us and we solved it so well that we started offering our solution to other companies. The rest is history.
My company recently reached a major milestone: $ 10 million in recurring annual revenue in just seven years after we launched without raising a penny in borrowed funds. We didn’t need outside funding to grow about 70% year over year over the past three years, expand our team eight times, and generate demand while spending less than 6% of sales on advertising. We have remained profitable in every phase. So how did we do that?
Bootstrapping is not for everyone.
First off, it’s important to say that while we’re proud of the company’s bootstrap journey, this trail is not for everyone. Every product and line of business is different, and some are better suited for bootstrapping than others. In our case, we didn’t need outside funding as our products made immediate profits. Our lean team keeps overheads low and we have in-house skills to develop products without hiring engineers or designers first.
I think the bootstrap approach is possible in most startup situations, but not easy. It worked for us because we continued to focus on the product and focused on creating customer value in all of our decisions. We started with a feature set designed for small businesses and then expanded it for midsize and enterprise customers to accelerate our go-to-market plans and meet demand.
Staying lean was definitely an important factor in our Bootstrap success story. At the beginning of our trip, the product team also acted as marketing and sales people. They hosted webinars and created other types of content to raise awareness of what we have to offer and generate demand. Another factor that keeps costs down is the speed at which our product can be delivered – which shortens the sales cycle.
Building a high-performance team.
Our team has grown significantly in the seven years from starting ARR to $ 10 million. We kept marketing and sales lean, mainly through sales automation. When sales reps come on board, we provide extensive product training so they can act as trusted advisors to help the customer, not just make a sale. Sales automation allows them to focus on high value tasks.
We also strive to adjust our pace and processes as the team grows. When recruiting, we put talent before experience. We invest time in training and offer opportunities so that our employees can grow with the company. Everyone in every position is focused on making customers happy. In this way we achieved a CSAT of 96%.
We have great customer support software, of course – we built it ourselves with the automation and escalation features we couldn’t find anywhere else. Another factor that makes our team unique is that literally everyone has customer support. From the engineering team to other business areas, we all participate in the support process instead of putting customers in a silo.
Find your focus.
Whether or not you choose to bootstrap, it’s important to find a way to focus on a single product and goal. This was the best advice I’ve ever received from a mentor when I was just starting HappyFox and trying to manage multiple other products and ventures at the same time. I took his advice and put all the focus and discipline I could towards one goal and it was life changing.
In the years since then, I’ve learned something else about focus: We should all focus more on our strengths rather than worrying about our weaknesses. I would give this advice to budding entrepreneurs as well – don’t be afraid to learn new things, but remember that you don’t need to know everything. Find your business focus and leverage your personal strengths and you can find success booted or not.
Shalin Jain is the CEO and founder of HappyFox, a software-as-a-service support platform (SaaS) that offers a help desk ticketing system for businesses and an intuitively designed live chat software. HappyFox serves over 12,000 companies in over 70 countries spanning education, media, e-commerce, retail, information technology, manufacturing, nonprofits, government, and many other industries that have an internal or external support role.