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Chris Cardell

Interview with Chris Byers (Formstack)

Formstack is an online form builder that provides an easy way to design and create powerful web forms without any programming or HTML knowledge.

I interviewed Chris Byers, Formstack CEO to find out more. This interview is the thirteenth in a series of DoesWhat interviews. I put together an overview of the first week of interviews three weeks ago. Big thank you to Chris for the interview and to Erica for setting it up! You can follow Chris on Twitter.

How would you describe Formstack in under 50 words?

Formstack provides businesses of any capacity a simple way to develop, design, and manage online forms with little to no HTML knowledge.

Users can create any type of online form desired, start collecting data, share data with others, use our API, and integrate with other third-party applications.

How long have you been Formstack CEO?

My job as CEO started in March 2010 so I’ve been at it just over a year.

How did you get the position?

My start with Formstack actually goes all the way back to College. The Formstack founder, Ade Olonoh, and I started a software company together back in 1998. Though we went different paths after selling that company, when Ade decided to raise money for Formstack, I was a part of one of the initial company investors. So, when Ade launched a successful personal Q&A service, I asked if he needed some interim help. That turned into a full-time role at the company.

Formstack launched just over 5 years ago. Has Formstack’s vision changed since launch?

Five years ago, Formstack was set out to solve the hassle and tedious work of creating online forms. It turns out; many people really liked the service which allowed it to grow. Today, we are focusing on being the best way for businesses and non-profits to collect and manage data online. In addition to form building we determined that many of our customers need to create quick micro-sites or landing pages to collect data. So recently we moved to create a new product to serve that need. Our hope it to me a tremendous business utility for customers.

How have you marketed Formstack? Which tools and techniques have been most successful?

Our marketing tactics to date have included a focus on in-bound marketing strategies. The strategies we use include PR, Social Media, Blogging, Paid and Organic Search, as well as great word of mouth from our terrific fans and customers. All of these strategies allow us to be found when someone is searching for an online form builder that will meet their needs.

Who is Formstack’s biggest competitor?

There are several online form builder applications doing similar things we are doing. Of course, just like any tool, you have to find the right one for you. Wufoo would probably be a big competitor of ours but the reality is, there are still many small businesses and organizations who are still using paper or Word forms to collect data. We still consider Word, PDF, and paper documents to be the biggest barrier/competitor to getting small businesses, non-profits, and other organizations to start using our product to begin collecting data online.

What gives Formstack a competitive advantage?

While every form solution has its advantages and disadvantages, we’ve found great success in our integrations with third-party applications such as Highrise & Constant Contact, our WordPress plugin and widget, our Joomla extension, and payment integrations.

We also provide the opportunity for our users to connect with us. We pride ourselves on being one of the more available web apps out there in our space. We can be reached by email, live chat, or phone. Most of the time, people are surprised because other web services are not as easily reachable, especially by phone.

What advice would you give to your past-self on becoming Formstack CEO?

Be more aggressive. Sometimes in the past I have held myself back trying to be conservative in the way I run the business. I forget that only 7% of small businesses last year used cloud services and to be at the forefront of that market, I need to aggressively get in front of the new cloud users every day.

What’s the most interesting tech article you’ve read this year?

It’s actually an article from MailChimp on going free – one year later. Going Freemium: One Year Later

The reason this article stands out is how much it represents the world today. I am thankful to work in a very transparent industry. People don’t mind sharing their successes, failures and being pretty detailed about the thoughts and actions they take. This is super-helpful as we consider our business.

What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?

The largest hurdle is by far figuring out how to grow into the future. Business is good but we always want to be improving and gaining without loss of the fundamentals that got us here.

What are you most excited about at the moment?

I am pumped about the fact that so many businesses have yet to use cloud services. As they adopt more not only can we play a part, but so many awesome new web tools are coming. Business will play-out on a day-to-day basis as we make these tools accessible to all.

Can you convince a reader or business to use Formstack in under 50 words?

With our online form builder, web designers can create powerful forms in just minutes. The opportunity to customize the look and feel of the form using CSS or HTML as well as the ability to add third-party integrations provides endless opportunities that otherwise might not be available.

Finished reading? Check out Formstack!

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011 at 2:38 pm GMT. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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