Interview with Shalin Jain (HappyFox)
HappyFox is customer support and ticket management software.
I interviewed Shalin Jain, HappyFox founder to find out more. This is the two hundred and nineteenth in a series of DW startup interviews. Big thank you to Shalin!
Describe HappyFox in under 50 words.
HappyFox is a cloud-based help desk ticketing system, with a built-in knowledge base, support centre and community forum. Coupled with a beautiful interface, HappyFox’s features offer businesses the easiest way to provide great customer support.
Describe yourself in one sentence.
A creative introvert entrepreneur who loves building highly usable products.
What made you decide to start working on HappyFox?
We were shopping for a good help desk application in 2005, but in vain. Getting into building a customer service & help desk product came out of our own internal needs.
How did you come up with the name?
The goal of every company is to keep their customers Happy. Custom Support traditionally is seen as a cost-center and as a stressful job. But when equipped with the right tool, it is fun, improves customer retention and above all makes everyone happier. Our name is inspired by the role our product plays. HappyFox carries that thought to every customer. Customers love the name and are relieved that it’s not another something+desk.
Where are you based?
I am based in Irvine, Southern California.
You decided you wanted to own your own business at the age of 18. How did you make your dream come true? How did it all begin?
Writing music, learning to code and designing interfaces was all I focused on during high school. I had two jobs before starting on my own. The latter one was in a 100 member technology company. I was influenced to bring my focus back to my academics and grades, so that I could make it to the Ivy League schools. So, I quit. But within 3 days of moving away from work, I felt incomplete. So, I thought starting on my own would give me the perfect balance that I wanted.
I started building advertising banners for a company, for free – I wrote the storyboard, designed and animated it. I had 200 customers in 6 months. From then I started charging customers but very soon I realized that my interest did not lie in services. I was passionate about building products. Turning ideas into usable, useful products was what I wanted to do. My experience in composing music probably groomed me so. I hired my neighbour and gave him everything that I had earned so far to build a product. In a couple of months I made back all the money and the growth I saw was insane. It was a dream come true. I was chasing a passion and making money off it at the same time.
What appealed most about being your own boss?
Being your own boss is a lot of hard work but comes with a perk which can otherwise be hard to find: great co-workers. I love the fact that I can actually choose the people I want to work with. I love working with people that have multiple passions. We have singers, marathon champions, play writers, electronic DIY lovers and boxers. These are people who have lived with different passions at every level of their life. It has a huge influence on the culture of our company and has personally helped me grow manifold. It inspires me, motivates me and lets me have fun everyday. The mere choice of being able to hand pick each one of these people and have them come together is such an experience; Like building your own league dream team.
What technologies have you used to build HappyFox?
We primarily use Python, Postgres for Database and Amazon Web Services for our infrastructure.
What was technically the most challenging part of developing HappyFox?
Live Reporting. We store millions of emails, web requests and updates. The volume of data is overwhelming. We still believe in live reporting and having no restriction on reporting intervals or number of reports.
How long did it take to put together HappyFox?
HappyFox gets its roots from our successful on-premise help desk. Originally when we started building the product, we had our first version out in 2 months. Not knowing what the competition is and what they do, an MVP like that was made possible. It did very little and we were even embarrassed to release it initially. We thought this would not sell, but we were proved wrong.
How have you marketed HappyFox? Which tools and techniques have been most successful?
Our marketing team is very lean. All of our leads are inbound. People mainly find us through search, our reviews or customer references. Our biggest marketing investment has been on our customer success.
How did you decide on the pricing plan?
We started with bundled pricing. Fixed the price for a range of help desk staff members. It had its challenges and we were quick to switch to a per-agent price.
We have also carefully segmented our price plans to appeal to very small businesses and provide true value for money for our larger customers.
What do you wish you’d have known ten years ago that you know now?
Managing multiple products is like managing multiple businesses at once. It is much easier to do this later than earlier.
Where do you see HappyFox in ten years time?
We want to stand out as a company that knows and has everything your business would need to have a support platform and still keep it fun and different. We want to be an Apple in the world of Microsoft and IBMs.
Has HappyFox got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?
Absolutely. We have grown exceptionally well. Our product is loved, is dependable and has roped in all the good feedback from our customers promptly.
Who would you say is HappyFox’s biggest competitor?
Our biggest competitors are Zendesk and Desk.com, owned by Salesforce.
What advantage does HappyFox have over its competitors?
HappyFox is simpler, more flexible and has the most unique interface in the industry. We also are high on emotion – happiness.
What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?
My biggest hurdle was not delegating or hiring soon enough. That sure slowed us down at times.
Who helped you get to where you are today?
I have drawn a lot of inspiration from other entrepreneurs. Gautam of Conceptworld, Sreeram of Claylabs and Viresh Bhatia, ex-CEO Installshield.
Which entrepreneurs do you most admire?
I admire Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. I think I can relate to them more because both of them have an eye for creating the best.
What one piece of advice would you give to other young startup founders?
Make everyone in your startup participate in customer support.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
We have seen our biggest quarter-wise growth. We are doing things differently as a bootstrapped company and growing as fast as a funded one.
We are launching two new exciting products built around HappyFox in the next two quarters. One for mobile app developers and other is for large consumer enterprises.
Can you convince the reader to start using HappyFox in under 50 words?
Got customers? Get HappyFox. HappyFox is a simple and complete help desk software for your business. It is unbelievably affordable and backed by fantastic support.
Finished reading? Check out HappyFox!