Kayako’s CEO on building a bootstrapped business

Kayako isn’t a new company — the bootstrapped business has been around for 16 years — but it does have an interesting story. Kayako is a unified customer service platform, meaning that companies use their software to manage customer feedback and support across multiple platforms, including phone, email, Twitter and Facebook. With fewer than 100 employees (barely), Kayako has never taken outside funding. It has offices in three countries, is profitable and continues to grow. How, you may ask? TechCrunch visited their London headquarters to chat with founder and CEO Varun Shoor to hear about Kayako’s history and his unconventional path to success. You can read highlights from that conversation in the Q&A below.

TechCrunch: What are the biggest mistakes companies are making in the customer service space?

Kayako: Treating it as a transactional experience is what I would say the biggest mistake is. So companies are still in a situation where they use tickets, as a means of just solving that problem, rather than going beyond tickets and thinking about the entire customer experience. And thinking about what is next after that problem to make sure not only customers are satisfied but that you turn them into advocates and promoters.

TechCrunch: Can you tell me a little about scale, funding and where you guys are in terms of business?

Kayako: Yes. This is one of the most interesting aspects about this business. We’ve never raised any external venture capital. So as a company this has been bootstrapped for the last 16 years. I’ve never been to college. I’ve started this and dropped out of high school with no money. The name Kayako was something that I got when I was literally begging for domain names. I didn’t choose the domain name. The name chose me.

TechCrunch: Obviously, the company is doing fairly well. If you have this office, you must be profitable. Can you talk a little about where the company is currently?

Kayako: We have close to 80 employees across three different locations. The company’s main entity is in Singapore, and we have offices in India and in London, which is our operational entity. And we also have people working with us remotely in locations like Ukraine, Belgium and Canada. Our revenue is in the multi-million dollars and as a bootstrapped company you don’t have any choice but to be profitable. Otherwise, if you are not profitable, you can not survive.

TechCrunch: I know often a company just wants to hunker down and build in a vacuum and then that becomes the tendency. Does your platform help them do that?  

Kayako: It brings feedback from all platforms into one unified view and helps these companies who are hunkered down building their product really make sense of the entire interaction. You can literally go on to Twitter today and see customers complaining about how they keep having to repeat themselves. And that is a symptom of the problem, which is in the market right now. The reason they have to repeat themselves is all these organizations are using separate platforms for feedback and they don’t know what the problem is. The customer might have called before, they tweet, they may have emailed multiple times and they just don’t know. This is what Kayako solves. It brings all that information together in one stream of communication.  

TechCrunch: So basically it solves the problem that anytime you need customer support, you tell five representatives what is wrong. What are the most common integrations of your product?

Kayako: It depends on the industry. There was a time when this product was treated as an IT help desk. So you generally had IT teams in big companies using it to solve tickets. But now anyone with customers internal or external needs a product like this. Automotive companies are tying this up with their ERP systems. Online startups are integrating the product with invoicing systems. And we have traditional companies who use a CRM product using us to integrate with that. So it totally depends on the context, but the product integrates with close to 600 platforms.

Shoor saw a pain point and spent over a decade building a product to solve it. He found customers where he could and adapted to a market that moved online. By being flexible, he opened opportunities for himself and his company. There is no clear path to success and stories like his show that the strength of your idea and how you go about growing it are also key to a building a company that lasts.

Watch the video above to learn more about Kayako and how the platform helps companies offer better customer support.