Background: I’m Valerian Saliou, CTO and co-founder at Crisp, the Customer Support platform for everyone. My day job consists of designing & building Crisp products, and maintaining the infrastructure that makes everything run. I have tens of other project ideas, some of which are planned to be started at some point in a near future.
Through history, the way businesses talked to their customers (and vice-versa!) has greatly evolved, and tends to become vastly more efficient (it is much less time-consuming for both the consumer, and the business that responds support requests; this results in needing less workforce and thus reducing customer support costs). Coming from human-to-human interactions for centuries (ie. merchant-to-consumer, craftsman-to-buyer), people started sending letters to businesses, then using their phones, to end up on Internet-based platforms (eg. social media) and finally, live-chat. Live-chat is no invention from the Internet; it was already fashionable on the French Minitel in the 80s (though it was used for human-to-human casual chat).
With the rise of SaaS (Software-as-a-Service), we’ve seen great growth over the last decade in the products businesses consume as a service. Slack is the most well-known example for this trend. We think that as this transformation goes on in companies already consuming SaaS, more and more businesses that previously were all-offline will tend to connect themselves to Internet services and start consuming SaaS services to stay competitive (though, they are coming late into this trend). Those “laggards” consider SaaS services to be a commodity, and expect the product they consume to be easy-to-use, lightweight, fast, polished and overall, they expect not to spend a penny.
There comes the freemium SaaS model. SaaS is a critical transformative investment for businesses if companies want to stay on the edge of competitiveness; as it cuts inefficiencies in managing owned software and servers and frees human time to build more value for their core business.
As customer support is a pillar activity of any B2C and B2B business, those new and old companies joining the SaaS user-base will start using customer support live-chat platforms first. Great customer support has became the platform for a profitable business.
Making Customer Support a Commodity for Everyone
Crisp initially came up as a fresh alternative to existing bloated live-chats platforms. We built Crisp from the ground up to be a live-chat platform with a focus on a consumer-level messaging experience for businesses (we aimed at replicating the Messenger consumer experience and push it to the B2B market). We never raised funds, and despite tens of investment proposals from reputable Angels and VCs, we declined them all. Staying independent and 100% team-owned is critical if we want to understand our customers: SMBs.
While Baptiste and I were attending school back in France in 2015, we succeeded building & launching Crisp V1 with very little means. We did just that: deliver a simple product people wanted, for free. Crisp V1 was very functional and super-straightforward for small businesses to setup on their website and apps. Yet, they wanted more features, and they were right. Messaging is not enough by itself to deliver great customer support. Still, Crisp V1 was a good technical experiment for us: we spent a great deal of time building a solid technical basis for the Crisp Platform, which we’re still running on as of today. The life-or-death challenge for Crisp V1 was to lower the marginal servicing cost per user as much as possible; as to make our competitive freemium model possible.
Knowing the limitations of Crisp V1 and the needs of our users, we initiated Crisp V2 in end 2016 with the goal to integrate more features that people required in addition to Messaging: Automation and Marketing. Competitor platforms sold those for a (very) high price to large and well-funded companies; they were keeping it out-of-reach of small companies. Coming from the SMB world, we thought there was no reason those features were being kept out of reach of SMBs and startups. With a plan for Crisp V2, we worked super-hard for 6 months; the design & developer team scored north 90 hours of work per week, consistently. Upon release in March 2017, it became clear to us that Crisp V2 was an amazing success. Over the next 6 months, our Crisp V1 customer base grew 400%. At this time, we are still steadily growing the Crisp V2 customer base, with a growth of 60% every 6 months. We could stop there and keep on maintaining Crisp V2, but we felt there was more to be challenged. This tremendous growth would not have been made possible without the focus on technical scalability in Crisp V1.
Today, 100k businesses from Brazil to France power their Customer Support with Crisp. We’re proud to help so many human beings grow their small business on a path towards independence in their lifes.
Bringing Customer Support to Non-Tech Savvy Companies
Here we come to Crisp V3.
We’ve found out that the typical Crisp V2 user was technical, or was already used to the complexities of SaaS products and worked everyday on a computer. We are aware that we’ve been criticized for the powerful products we built: things got too complex to configure and use for some users. Crisp V3 will solve this.
- Crisp V2 has been about building all the features our users needed, and testing out what worked and what did not in terms of how we design the product.
- Crisp V3 will be about rebuilding all Crisp from the ground up, and improving the UI and UX in the process. We want non-tech savvy people to be able to use Crisp as easily as they would use Facebook. We want to democratize Customer Support in companies of all kinds. We want the cobbler down your street to be able to respond to customer questions using Crisp on his phone.
Our team will keep pushing and striving to build the most user-friendly cross-platform Customer Support service one can find on the market. Crisp V3 will bring new iterations of Crisp Apps (Web + Desktop + Mobile), Crisp Chatbox and Crisp Helpdesk improvements.
Using the Proceeds of Crisp to Fund Important Projects
Being a problem-solver, there are still a lot of issues in today’s world that tickle me. I feel that my contribution in the world should all be about reducing inefficiencies in an existing market.
By using and paying for Crisp, you will contribute to funding our to-be projects for the years to come; which we think are important to the future of society:
- Space: fund young entrepreneurs or open-source maintainers who founded space-related projects they are passionate about, which have the potential to help accelerate even by a tiny bit access to the colonization and commercialization of space, starting with a settlement on the Moon (my goal would be to invest at minimum 1M EUR each year);
- Communication: build an open-source alternative to current centralized messaging platforms (starting with businesses, then consumers); Instant messaging and calls have gotten more centralized than ever with Facebook and Slack, respectively. People deserve open apps and federated protocols;
- Energy: contributions to the transition from fossil fuel to green electricity (energy production + storage + delivery); I think the priority should be somewhat set on emerging countries, as so many new human beings in those markets are starting burning fossil fuels, and they are so much more than in the developed countries;
- Robotics: grueling physical work done by humans should be automated (we want to pave a way for robotics coupled to AI to free human resources for more interesting activities); I think this could void the high cost of certain tasks, eg. renting mason time to build a house, which could port the commoditization trend from the world of bits to the physical world;
To sum up
- Transform every small company with Customer Support via Crisp (we’re on a good path to achieve this);
- Fund young space entrepreneurs, who could help humanity build a settlement on the Moon in the next 20 years (using the profits of 1);
- Create a non-profit to build the new standard of Real-time Communications (using the profits of 1);
- Fund a green electrical Energy Production & Storage & Delivery business (using the profits of 1 & 2);
- Fund a Robotics + AI business (using the profits of 1 & 2);
🇫🇷 Written from Nantes, France.