Bootstrapping in France (Baptiste Jamin from Crisp)

An interview with Baptiste Jamin, the co-founder of Crisp. Crisp is affordable, high-quality customer support software.

Justin: Bonjour Baptiste!

Baptiste: Merci beaucoup (thank you very much!)

Justin: Comment ça va?

Baptiste: Très bien (Thank you, thanks a lot)

Justin: Alors, vous êtes à Nantes en ce moment ?

Baptiste: Absolument! Shall we continue in French, or...

Justin: J'ai besoin de pratiquer un petit peu parce que je n'ai pas beaucoup d'opportunités

Baptiste: Your French is very good. It is like 10x or 100x better than all of the American people who watched "Emily in Paris" on Netflix. [laughs]

Justin: I'm glad I got a little chance to practice.

[Intro music]

Hey, welcome to Build your SaaS. This is the behind-the-scenes story of building web apps in 2022. We talk about bootstrapping startups, building your own thing.

I'm Justin Jackson, one of the co-founders of

Today on the show, I have Baptiste Jamin, who is the co-founder of Crisp:

They do live chat, customer support, ticket software, and help desk software.

They compete with massive companies: Zendesk, Help Scout, and Intercom. And they're seriously one of the most impressive product companies I've come across. The product itself is super high quality, and its prices are super affordable. We switched to Crisp from Kayako and we just can't believe how good it is.

You're gonna get a ton out of this conversation. You might not have heard of Baptiste or Crisp, but they are seriously impressive in terms of how profitable they are, how many customers they serve, and what they've been able to achieve.

They're located in Nantes, France.

Let's get into this conversation. It's great.


So Crisp is basic. We use it as customer support messaging. You have a live chat with it. Okay. And then it also. Uh, has an email component. So you can email support at Transistor and it goes into the live chat interface, and we can respond to those emails in the same interface, and then it has a ton more.

But how did it get started? Did you and your co-founder know each other before? What was the beginning of Crisp?

Basically, before doing Crisp, we did several side projects. I mean, I wouldn't say startups, but really side projects. He and I started coding when we were teenagers.

I started coding when I was 12, doing some video games, and he started coding when he was 16. He was working on a messaging platform; it was like an open-source Facebook basically. So we worked on those projects when we were teenagers. Then we did some projects that worked; some others failed.

We met each other in a computer science school. We were apprentices. So we worked in big French companies. I used to work at Orange, which is the biggest French ISP. And, he used to work at Erickson, the telecom company. And basically, we got bored of our jobs.

Working at these big companies and we had this insight: basic customer support and messaging is the core of any company for like thousands of years.

When you think about good customer support it's similar to when you go to the same restaurant every time, it's because they give you a nice feeling. It's the same for any kind of business.

And we felt, okay. Something is happening in the startup ecosystem, more and more companies are going create be created in the next years. So we need to have a tool allowing for those companies to get in touch with their customers, something which is super cheap, reliable, and has a nice feeling. We wanted to create the "Apple of customer support."

Justin: Yes. The "Apple of customer support."

So we, we tried doing that building something really minimalistic. So the first Crisp version was messaging, like a simple chat widget. Just a simple chat widget. It had no file upload, no emojis. The core was text messaging with an interface to reply to all customer queries.

So were you quite young when you were figuring all this out? Were you still in university or you were still in your, just working your first jobs?

Baptiste: We were like 21 or 22, something like that. Yeah.

Justin: You were quite young! And this was in 2015?

Yeah. 2015. Yeah. And, and so we did that, so we did Crisp just because we really felt that we had to do this. Uh, and, and we didn't like had any vision, like 10 years vision. Uh, I mean, I, I didn't know what SaaS was about. I mean, SaaS, um, mean Software as a Service. Yeah. An investor told me. Okay, so Crisp is a SaaS software, right?

Yeah. SaaS what I, I, I didn't know that. I didn't know about all the competition, et cetera. I mean, we wanted to do Crisp and we did Crisp. And I think because of all our previous experiences, I mean, we did different messaging software before. So by doing Crisp, we knew what we had to do then the kind of features, I mean, we knew how to do a great chat software, so it saved us a lot of time .

Justin: Because you'd built you you'd built some chat software before.

Baptiste: Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Justin: I'm, I'm, I'm really curious. as a couple young guys in France. How aware were you of the startup ecosystem of, like you said you hadn't heard of SaaS before, but had you heard of like, had you heard of Intercom, had you heard of any of that? Were you reading tech crunch?

Baptiste: I wasn't reading Techcrunch. Basically, uh, so obviously I knew some competitors, but not in the com when we started Crisp, I didn't know about in the com at all at all. I mean, we didn't, um, do some benchmark or whatever we did Crisp. I mean, we did Crisp without thinking about all the rest. We, we did something opinionated and about the, the French ecosystem.

Uh, I think, uh, it really started like in. 2012. Okay. Um, we started to have a strong ecosystem, uh, some podcasts in French. Um, so we had like, um, um, a startup, uh, called Z family who basically translated, uh, all the articles from Paul Graham and translated everything in French and did some PO French podcast.

Okay. About all the, the YC, et cetera. So thanks to that. Um, we had all the, basically all the knowledge from the, the Silicon valley, but in, in a French way. And it helped a lot, um, all the, the, the French people, uh, building startups. Okay. Because we, we came from, we came from now. Yeah. Uh, and now we have a pretty strong ecosystem in France, in, in France.

Uh, with like a many, many, many different startups being created. Uh, and now I think France is the biggest startup ecosystem in Europe. Oh really? In fact Brexit helped us a lot. Okay. Because in, in a sense that, because UK is no longer a part of. Yeah, you, we, because we were like the sec, the second, um, solid ecosystem.

We are now the first one. Wow. Thanks to, to Brexit, but yeah, still it, it's still a, a, a pretty big ecosystem.

Justin: And, okay. So, and so the family was like a, uh, an accelerator, like a tech accelerator, similar to Y Combinator.

Baptiste: Yeah. Yeah. It was like the French

Justin: Y. And did you participate in that? Did you end up taking funding or did you self fund Crisp?

Baptiste: So we self funded, Crisp, uh, so Crisp is still like fully bootstrapped and self funded, yeah.

Justin: And how did you do that? As a couple of 20 guys in their twenties? Uh, fresh outta university?

Baptiste: So in fact it was not crazy complicated because what's called building a startup. When you're a student is, you know, you don't have any wife, you don't have any kids.

You don't have any house. Yes. So your life is pretty cheap. Mm-hmm so being Ramen profitable. I mean, you don't need so much money to, uh, to, to be like in life. I mean, to, to succeed a company, when you started, you are a student is not crazy complicated. So using like a hundred bucks, you can stay alive. And it's what we did.

Uh, it's what

Justin: we did. And what, what, what infrastructure did you use when you started? Were you on Amazon web services? Were you no, no,

Baptiste: no two. So a w vs is like too expensive and, um, the value for the money is pretty bad. Yeah. So we did, we did some benchmarks and we figured out that digital auction servers were like the best value for the money.

I mean, the, the servers were back in 2015, we were like 10 times more efficient. so for like five bucks per month, you can like host the entire Crisp in fashion. Wow. It's it's not possible anymore, but we, we try to optimize everything because we were students. We really wanted to have a free new model. We wanted to have a, a free plan because we thought it could, it could give us, um, a lot attraction users.

So we used the free plan, like as a marketing. And, uh, so we, we had to optimize everything and, um, the servers, et cetera, everything was super optimized. So basically it was easy to get started because hosting Chris costed us like 50 euros per month, something like that. Yeah. And we knew how to. To create Crisp.

I mean, technically how to create Crisp. Uh, we try to do the marketing ourself customer support. So during like one year and a half, we didn't have any employees, et cetera, pretty lean. And, uh, we, we started to be profitable, just being very, and I, uh,

Justin: Doing just the two of you. I mean, what's interesting is you had this insight, even having not heard of Intercom, you had this insight, that customer messaging was gonna be big that every business needs some form of messaging.

And you said, um, maybe you noticed this at restaurants, like restaurants with good customer service. Yeah. Restaurants that, uh, you know, but was that like, were you, were you thinking of when you were observing these things, were you thinking of a restaurant that answers the phone or you just thinking of a restaurant that onboards clients into the restaurant itself?

What were your observations that made you feel like this was worth pursuing?

Baptiste: So when we started Crisp, we felt okay. Maybe we could sell Crisp to restaurants. Yeah. Having something, handling email, phone calls, chat, et cetera. And, and messaging chat was just the first step of this plan. And when we started with just chat, we, the market was so huge that we had to do so many things, so many features.

Yes. So many stuff was going on. So, uh, going to chat took us a lot of time, but because the, the market is so big. Um, and then in fact, in terms of massaging, uh, and in terms of customers, you had two kind of customers, the customers who phone companies first. And the, the customers who want asynchronous messaging.

So nowadays most of the people who are under like 35, maybe under 40 were born with internet and iPhones, et cetera. So for them, they prefer to chat with companies. It's quite a thing for them. They want to chat with companies. They don't want to do phone calls, et cetera.

Justin: That's right. Like if they'll avoid, they'll do anything, but getting on the phone, like don't make me call.

Yeah. They're, they're,

Baptiste: they're, they're scared of taking phone calls, but boomers love it. Uh, they. Yeah, exactly. And the openness in the opposite, the boomers loved, uh, phone calls.

Justin: And so you had this, this insight. How did you know the market was big? Like you, you put Crisp out and you just started seeing traction right away.

What were the indicators that the market was big? That there was a lot of potential customers there. And when you say the market is big, were you still thinking of restaurants or were you thinking of just any company on the internet? So

Baptiste: basically when we started Crisp without to, we don't know anything about the market.

So to get started, we're gonna try with solopreneurs, freelancers. We are gonna try using this market first, and then we are gonna collect all their feedback and we are gonna upmarket. So small startups, SMBs, and then bigger SMBs. And it's what do we did? Every try, we upmarket. And now we are selling to.

Enterprise customers. So when we started Crisp, we had maybe 10 initial users. Okay. And we focused on those 10 initial users. Those users gave us a lot of different feedback. Yeah. So rather than focusing on traction acquisition, we just focused on retention. Got it. To make those 10 customers happy. And what we figured out that is that those 10 users talked about Crisp queue other companies.

And we started to have 15 users than 20 then 50, then 100. And then one of those initial users featured us on Product Hunt. Okay. Yeah. And by, so in 2015, Product Hunt was a closed community. And the guy didn't tell us about that. And, uh, on Sunday we, we were on Crisp. Answering some users and boom. So all the analytics, et cetera, everything went crazy.


Justin: really crazy, um, like traffic, like people coming in, people asking questions. Yeah.

Baptiste: Yeah. We had, we had two buzzy days. Mm-hmm so I had like two to work during nights and my colleague during days. And we did like, shifts like that. Oh, wow. So yeah, we could like handle all the traction and then, uh, we tried to collect all, all the feedback and to, to make all the users happy about that.

And, um, yeah, in the next product was something big for us because it really helped, um, to get traction.

Justin: Yeah. And that, that was fairly cuz that was also in 2015. So. You launched, by the way, how did you find those first 10 people? Where did they come from? So

Baptiste: I had a friend who contacted like a few companies called emailing, basically telling them you don't have any customer advice.

I mean, your contact form is broken. You should use Crisp. Wow. And the next day, the next day we had 10 users.

Justin: Wow. That's a good friend.

Baptiste: Yeah. Very good friend. Yeah. Yeah, because initially Crisp, I mean, no one could sign up on Crisp. I mean, with we were typical, typical engineers now it's not perfect yet. Yes.

It's password protected. So the, the homepage was password protected. And um, so this friend told me, but can I sign up on Crisp? No, you can't. It's password protected. Oh man. Give me, give me the password. And I told, okay, could, could we maybe. Stop, uh, password protecting Crisp and yeah. Okay. Let's remove that chair.

so yeah, nowadays many people, uh, had a look to the, the movie about Facebook. Uh, I don't remember the name, uh, the social network, the social network. And most of the people think that launching a company is like emailing thousands of people and then boom. Yeah, your company is, is created and you get, you have traction.

Yeah. But in fact, starting a company is like launching your company every day during. Few weeks. Yes, there is no Dday yeah. Yeah. It's a slow, uh,

Justin: opening, slow opening. And, and you felt like, did it feel like, you mean like every single day you came in and you were like, okay, well, like today we're going to take off the password protection and that's going to be like another launch.

Is that what you mean? Yeah, yeah. Yeah. It's

Baptiste: not even a launch. I mean, it's just one more step. Yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, so we moved the password and the next day, boom, 10

Justin: users. It's, it's really interesting that you got started with the cold emailing. If you think about it, was that a hard step for you to get somebody to help you with that?

Did, did you have any kind of sales or marketing inclinations?

Baptiste: No. No. I mean, we were like two typical engineers, developers not knowing anything about marketing SEO. Et cetera. Not wanting to talk to people. Yeah. At all. Yeah. So yeah, when we started to, had to have users, we had to split the roles and my colleague F more doing code, doing more code and me doing more marketing and growth.

So I, I try to learn everything about marketing draw

Justin: fing. So, and even today, if I look at your about page, there's you, and is it Val? How do you say it?

Baptiste: Valda yeah. Yeah. In French, you, you pronou the Arabic in English, I think you would say

Justin: Val. Yeah. So you two, so he's more technical and, and then you have Antwan, who's also doing marketing and sales and then you have some more software engineers.

So, and then a content manager. So did that sales and marketing grow over time. So,

Baptiste: uh, we went from zero to. Hundred K tomorrow just being the two, two

Justin: of us. Wow. How long did that take? Uh,

Baptiste: three years.

Justin: Zero to a hundred K in three years with just the two of you. And how did let's just stop there for a second?

How did that feel? So you launch, you got 10 customers, then someone features you on product hunt. How many customers do you think you got out of product hunt? Uh,

Baptiste: 5,000. Something like

Justin: that. 5,000.

Baptiste: Wow. Yeah. Yeah, but not all the users were paying for Crisp,

Justin: but okay, so you had some free

Baptiste: users then five? Yeah.

Yeah. 5,000 users is still lot. And when, when we talk about product, we, we talk about people who have a big impact in the startup industry and talk, those users are really different to, um, regular SMBs. I mean, they they're gonna spread the world about your product. So initially yeah, maybe 5,000 users, but thanks to all the, the, those users, we had a lot more,

Justin: uh, yeah, you must have started getting a lot of word of mouth.

Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And I mean, it, it's nice that at this time, 2015, you know, the SaaS ecosystem is much more mature. Customer support ecosystem is much more, uh, mature. There's Zendesk there's, you know, all these big players in that space. And so now people are looking for alternatives and you folks come in, what's always been interesting about Crisp is the price.

You start free and then you, you give an incredible amount of value for the price that you charge. Um, how, what was your instinct there? Like, why make it so affordable? Why, you know, cuz you know, Intercom is thousands and thousands of dollars per month for, you know, um, they do different things, but you know, that's what people are often comparing.

You must get a lot of people switching from Intercom to Crisp. I'm imagining we failed.

Baptiste: We need to reduce the decision making for users, wanting to use a product like Crisp you initially we had four different plans and you had a different usage level between all the, the plans. So we had the free plan.

We had Crisp pro Crisp business and um, Enterprise, maybe of, we had like two different plans and we tried to reduce decision making by just having a free plan, a cheap plan and like a more expensive plan. But with all the features included yes. Included, which was the Crisp, unlimited plan. Yes. And when we released the Crisp unlimit plan, we had like four times more users on this plan.

Got it. all the users were choosing this plan rather than, uh, the Crisp pro one. So, and we had a few friends doing any France doing unlimited plans. And in fact it worked a lot for them. Yeah. Um, and in France, uh, we did that because in France we have. It, I think the unlimited usage, um, is quite popular in, in, in France.

Yes. Uh, for instance, he started with phone and, uh, basically it was like crazy in France, uh, when he did that and internet went popular, thanks to that. And we wanted, we really wanted to do the something similar, but for SA and we thought, okay, if we want to make Chris popular, it needs to be a no brainer dealer.

So if you don't have any money and just, you start a company, just Chris for free, because anyway, you don't have the money to pay for any SaaS, so better give the product for free. And anyway, maybe you're gonna be successful one day and, uh, it's how it works. Yes. And then we try to have a plan. For any kind of

Justin: company for Jon and I, this is exactly how it worked because, you know, we started just the two of us, just like you two and we're bootstrapping this we're self-funding it?

Uh, Jon, especially doesn't like spending money, so anytime he can save money, he likes it. And we started with Kayako and go, and we started with Kayako because it was free. So it was like, are, are we gonna use Intercom and spend whatever it was hundreds of dollars per month. It would've been more than our hosting bill or are we gonna start on something that's free?

We started on something that was free. The problem with Kayako is that the price was low, but the product quality was quite low. It was just always had bugs. We were always having downtime. We were always having trouble. And then we're looking for alternatives and every, you know, like we would have downtime and then every three months we'd be like, Yeah, you know, should we look at something else?

We'd look at Intercom and then we'd look at help scout and you know, all these other tools. And it never felt like, right. Like, uh, a lot of the tools didn't have good live chat, which is what we wanted. And then we found Crisp. It got recommended to us. And I just remember like looking at it and going, there's no way that we're gonna get all of this for this price, but we signed up for the free plan and tried it.

And we're just like, this software is solid. Like this is really good software and it's so much more affordable than the alternatives and you're right. It was just a no brainer. And I think what's interesting is in the startup ecosystem, there's a lot. A lot of, um, ideas about maximizing your price. So like Intercom is maximizing their price.

Yeah. But for SMBs, that's the wrong answer. If you're looking, if you're trying to serve SMBs, it's the wrong answer because we, we can't afford Intercom prices and it's way more likely we're gonna recommend you to other people. So I've recommended Crisp so many times just because it's like, this is an amazing software and you won't believe the value you get for the price.

Like it's just a no brainer. You've gotta get on it. And so it, it I'm interested to know like, have, do you feel like that trade off is paid off of you? Just get way more word of mouth, way more uptake because of the price.

Baptiste: Yeah. I think raising your price, like. Two times per year can work for VC funded companies.

Mm-hmm for a reason is they have so much growth that they just don't care about paying two times more for, for what they paid before. Yeah. And it's even not their money. I mean, it's the VC's money. So to just spend, spend on the people, spend on the software, spend on ads, the spend basically. So I think comes customers are mostly VC founded companies and just, just, just don't have the time to switch.

Yeah. So, okay. The pay, the pay, but SMBs is quite different. And at Chris, we really. Craft a software for SMBs. Now we start to have enterprise users. Yeah. But really Crisp. What met us is SMBs. I mean, regular SMBs, not technical startups. Re really, um, we are talking about German, uh, industry, um, three, um, I mean regular

Justin: SMBs.

I mean like, like main street businesses could, so not necessarily tech companies, like, yeah. You're talking about like retail stores, restaurants,

Baptiste: regular e-commerce okay. Yeah. Many, many different, many different companies. Uh, you wouldn't. even think about. So for instance, during COVID 19 pandemic, we started to have like funny, uh, usage of Crisp, for instance, churches using Crisp

Yeah. Because churches were closed and people couldn't confess anymore. um,

Justin: physically they would just jump on. They would jump on Crisp with the priest. Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Baptiste: Wow,

Justin: exactly. Yeah. Just start confessing their sins and, and, and the thing is the priest could, uh, use your magic tool to look at what they were looking at on their browser and see how sinful they really were.

Baptiste: Yeah. Yeah. And we also have a video. We also have a, a video, uh, chat system with Crisp, so they can do a live conversation as well. Okay. So it's a big confession. It, it, it, it won't work with chat. Let let's call, let's do a call. Let's have a, a video

Justin: call. That is hilarious. Yeah. So do you find, is it difficult having such a wide variety of users?

Um, because there's definitely, um, companies in the, the knowledge base space and the customer support space and the live chat space that goes specifically for technology companies. So you have all sorts of customers using in all sorts of different ways. Has that been a challenge or does it not really matter?

Does it not really matter what they're using it for? So

Baptiste: sometimes, uh, for those users, they're the first SaaS software they're paying for. Yeah. I mean, they never paid for any software before. Yeah. So they don't know stuff like what the seats are. For instance, in the live chat industry, they used to pay proceeds.

So they, they don't, they're not familiar with that. And so we tr it's why we, we've tried to make Crisp as Crisp, as possible, as simple as possible it's to satisfy this kind of customers. And, and, uh, now we have, um, a few integration, uh, a few integrations as well made for this kind of industries. Okay. For instance, we have a few integrations for like niche software, uh, for instance, uh, CRMs for specific industries.

And now Crisp tends to be the iPhone of the customer device. I mean, it's a tool where you can plug apps that can multiply the experience of customer device. So you can like, uh, connect your strip account on Crisp. And when someone ha has a chat with you, you can immediately. Find all the invoices. Yes. Um, and we are now connected with different invoicing system, including, uh, niche systems.

Uh, and it's how we try to tech, uh, industries.

Justin: Yeah. How, cuz you have a pretty small team still. How, how are you able to ship so much at this quality level? Like you, you have probably, you, you might have a hundred times less employees than some of your customers. So how are you able to build this quality software and keep releasing this?

Like whenever I get your newsletters, I'm always like, how are they shipping so much? Like how are they doing all this with such a small team,

Baptiste: but it it's because we are a small team that we can achieve, uh, great things. Uh, I don't think, and it's not possible to do a baby with. Nine women in one months, it's the same for features.

Yeah. I mean, it's not by bringing more developers solving the same issue. You're gonna reduce the amount of time required to solve the problem. Because there, there is some decision made, uh, making some meetings required, unit tests, uh, you know, scaling people is hard. Yeah. So we try at Crisp, you find T-shaped, uh, people.

Yes. People with an entrepreneurship mindset, uh, and it's, it's a lot easier mm-hmm because you don't need to like, spend your time doing, uh, calls, et cetera meetings. Yes. Just we get the things done. Okay. There is a problem. Let's solve the problem. I mean, you are in charge of solving the problem alone and it's all it works

Justin: and it, and it's worked so far.

And when you say T-shaped you mean somebody who is deep in one area, like as deep knowledge in yeah. Um, programming or whatever, but is also broad in that they could also understand customer support. They might also understand some marketing. They might under the

Baptiste: design, et cetera. Yeah,

Justin: exactly.

Interesting. And, and so right now your team is how many engineers on your team? Eh,

Baptiste: we are four engineers for engineers, including uh .

Justin: Okay. And then it looks like you have. Another you have Anto and Le on content. And then you've got Leia whose partnerships is that like figuring out enterprise deals? Not

Baptiste: only, but we start chat agencies.

Uh, so we have a lot of different agencies using Crisp freelancers, et cetera. Okay. So we try to figure out who could recommend Crisp for clients and, um, having special, special deals, uh, for

Justin: that. Got it. In terms of marketing, what has been, have there been some other things that have really worked for you, like where you've pulled the lever and you're like, this is, this brought us in a whole new.

Uh, group of business that we wouldn't have had before. Is there anything like that or is it just gradual? Like, is it mostly word of mouth? Where are you really focusing your marketing and energy these days?

Baptiste: It changed a lot, uh, over the time it changed, uh, a lot. So when we, we sort of, Chris, basically we didn't have any strategy about marketing, et cetera, just like a few users using Crisp word of mouth.

And we tried to like ate Crisp on the, about all their needs. Yeah. Then we, we started to have traction, more users using Crisp, uh, to using the free plan and recommending Crisp. So we, we worked a lot on the product. and especially around onboarding to better understand what the people needed. Yes. And what was in their mind when they wanted to use a tool like Crisp mm-hmm

So we did the bottom of the funnel I mean, all those people needed a chat software right now. Yeah. It was their job, finding a chat software to get the things done to date. And it's what we offer then, uh, by simplifying the user experience, when the users, uh, sign up for Crisp and we tried to optimize all the steps, so you could get the things done immediately and it worked a lot.

And we figured out by, by doing that, uh let's so 50% of the users were still using Crisp the next day.

Justin: Wow. I, I mean, that insight is. Interesting is that instead of starting with a marketing tactic, you said, first of all, let's just figure out where people are at when they land on our doorstep. Yeah.

Baptiste: Crisp is still about product led growth

it's still, but with some, uh, magic sauce, spicy modeling. So around it, that makes a great multiplier around. I think marketing is a great multiplier. So if you have a good traction like that using your product, I mean, succeeding a company is all about product market feed and having a great product for an audience.

If you have that, okay, you're gonna have some traction yeah. Marketing I is doing from that to that. Mm-hmm, something like that. Yeah.

Justin: It's an amplifier.

Baptiste: An amplifier. Exactly. And, and so we, we achieved doing that until. A hundred K. So I, I used to arrive at plateau of knowledge. Mor marketing is, was not like my thing.

I did that because I had to do that, but it's not my passion. So we tried to find people in Tron who joined the team in, uh, 2018, um, to solve, to, to, to reach the next milestone. And, uh, we started to work on SEO back in the days with no SEO at all. Mm-hmm I mean, no SEO. So, uh, we had to iterate on a lot of stuff.

We tried paid advertising as well, uh, cooperating, um, and, uh, yeah, but still the bottom of the funnel. Yeah. And now as we grow to more enterprise deals, More, um, users willing to pay more. Yeah, we need to, to have a better branding around Crisp. So users not requiring to use a, a, a support system right now, but maybe in six months, a year mm-hmm can know about our brand.

They can know that Crisp is good for them. And maybe one day they're gonna use a tool like us. And they're gonna think about Crisp

Justin: of, of those levers SEO. Uh, ads, has anything worked better or worse? Like for example, we've at Transistor, we've never really been able to make ads work for us. Uh, what's been your experience with ads, SEO.

What's been working the best. I think it's complicated.

Baptiste: Mm-hmm, , um, very complicated and expensive. Um, SEO is like magic. I mean, magic in the terms of, it can be, uh, super good in terms of growth, but it's super dark in the meantime. Yeah. I mean, the way it works for me, it's still not a hundred percent. I, I still don't understand everything.

Yes. And even people working a hundred percent of the time on ACO, they don't understand. what's going on. Yeah, what's in the dark box, but there, there, yeah, yeah, yeah. But there is still things to do. I, I don't think you need to focus a lot on SEO at the beginning, uh, to, to succeed, uh, something, but at some point, you know, SEO is like the multiplier, the amplifier.


Justin: Yeah. I think that's such a key insight. And again, just to go back to this insight of you realized that when people landed on Crisp, they needed to make a decision today. It was their job to find customer support software today. Hey, Janet, I need you to go and research the best ones and just choose one.

It, it was similar for Transistor too. It's like, you know, the third time Kayako went down, we were like, that's it like, today's the day I'm gonna go and research all of the possibilities. I go in three different slack groups. I say, Hey, what is everybody using for live chat? Crisp gets mentioned in that list.

I go check it out. I sign up for a free trial and now I'm in and I've, but I also wanna close the loop fast. I don't wanna be deciding what software we're gonna use forever. I just wanna make a decision and move on and getting in the customer's mindset the way you did understanding that if you can improve that initial experience and that onboarding that's the piece, that's so much software doesn't get, they don't understand where are customers at?

What brought them to your site today? Like what brought them there? What mindset are they in? And once you understand that you can configure your, your onboarding to best just like get them in the product and get them paying. That's a lot of the battle because you could have a huge funnel with tons and tons of people coming in, but if you're not able to make those key moments.


Baptiste: And for instance, I think regular industries, for instance, if you think about the food industry and chocolate borrowers, have a break, have a KitKat it's such great, um, tagline, because I think it was creating 50 in the fifties, 57. And the idea about that is what the users, I mean, the, the people buying our product are doing when they buy our product mm-hmm

And in fact, if you think about chocolate bars, people try to achieve a task. They are hardworking in their company. They try to solve a bug. Uh, they try to, uh, lawyers. doing, uh, paperwork mm-hmm et cetera. Yeah. And they want to get the things done. Yeah. And they go to the machine. They, they, they use, um, $1 to, to get the product and boom, they eat the product in like five seconds and boom.

They are, they go back to work. It's not about the taste. It's just about doing the, get the food.

Justin: That's right.

Baptiste: And it's, it worked so well. I mean, have a break, have a KitKat. It's just a chocolate bar, but it it's a great tagline because the marketing guys thinking about that knew the customers and what the customer software.

What the, what were their, the goal? Yeah.

Justin: What they wanted to do, the context, this is, uh, in the jobs to be done. Uh, they call, they say, what are people hiring the product to do? And there's so many layers to that. Like if, if you're in a company and let's say it's a 20 person agency, and your boss says, we need to get live chat software for this customer, and then says, Janet, you go research.

You know, the live chat software, the job to be done is different for different people in that organization. For Janet. She wants to look good to the boss and to the client. So what does that mean? It means I've gotta make a decision. It's if it's more affordable, that's always good. They're gonna be saving money.

If it's a good software that doesn't make me look bad. That's a good thing, right?

Baptiste: Exactly. Yeah, exactly. And it's the customer and they're scared about they, they just don't want to fuck up the decision because it's how their colleagues gonna think about their role. I mean, at the end, it's just choosing like a, a software costing like a few bucks per month, but it's like their, their, their job is all about this and they could be fired or whatever.

Yeah. They, they, they want to mess up about this.

Justin: Yeah. And even in small companies with a co-founder you see this dynamic, if it's my job to choose a tool or make a decision and I fuck up, and it looks bad to Jon, my co-founder, it, that does affect me. That's a part of my calculus, right. Is like, I wanna make good decisions.

Even in a, even in a small company, in a co-founder relationship, you don't wanna fuck up. Like, there's that old saying, like nobody got fired for choosing IBM, right? Like there's always this idea of what's the safest choice I can make that will make me,

Baptiste: we had a, a, a, an easy trick. And I learned this trick by working from a French company, a small company, having like normal clients and in a decision making process, you have the people choosing the software and the, the people going choose if gonna choose this software, another one, and then maybe the, the billing department who gonna pay for the software.

And what they did is just. A PDF and they, they gave you a PDF and then you could forward this PDF to your boss, to your colleagues. So you could convince them that this is the right decision. And we made the same horse, just a PDF, resuming everything in 20 slides. That's so smart, very easy, super easy to process features.

And three key points about what to think and super like. It's super easy. And at the end, it just what, who we are, uh, the Crisp customer survive, Crisp SLA. I mean, Crisp is never down. Um, we have a good customer support and what's the cost. And if you have any question, email us just very easy and it works so great because they can like, okay, boss, this is the document.

This is what we need. And the boss is not having the time. It needs to, to, to make a decision like quickly and using this document, it can do the right decision. It is not, he is not having to go to the website. Maybe having an account, et cetera, is having a PDF. It's like buying a house. You know, when you buy a house, once you buy a house, you have a PDF with photos, et cetera.

Uh, the, the, the, the cost. Yeah. Uh, the agency, et cetera. Yeah. Contact boards. Yes. This is the same. Yeah.

Justin: That's such a key insight again, cuz it, it gets in the psychology of someone buying a product. How do people buy products? And unless you're just selling to a solo entrepreneur and there's different dynamics with solo entrepreneurs.

But as soon as you have two people in a company, I have to convince Jon to buy this product. So what am I gonna do? I'm gonna be selling him on it. I'm now the salesperson. So equip me. As the person who wants to buy your software to sell it to the other people in the organization. And that's such a key, like a great way of doing it is the, is the PDF.

Um, there's this is also the same insight. Uh, we, a lot of us in SaaS have had about reports. What, why do you want reports? Give me reports so that I can look good to my boss in a meeting. Hey, uh, Janet, how are we doing in terms of customer support? Oh, well we've had yeah, 81 more conversations this week. Our response time is down and we've had more visitors.

Perfect. Thanks Janet. Like you you're equipping people to have the answers so that they look good in a meeting. So key. Yeah. And once you understand. Why not everyone is hire like for podcast hosting, not everybody is hiring podcast hosting. For the same reason, the marketing team has their goals. The boss has their goals.

The, you know, everybody has their goals. The individual employee who's in charge of purchasing has their goals. Right. And nobody wants to fuck up. Everybody wants to look good. Yeah. Help. Exactly. Yeah. Then make a decision that makes them look good. Make it a no brainer. And this is why. Definitely. Yeah. This is why you need, like on another thing you guys do great on your page is you just, you kind of systematically show people like here's the product it's built for customer support, marketing and sales altogether, and then you have 300,000 brands are already using Crisp.

So the boss is gonna want to know why should I trust these people? Well, 300,000 brands, including Boston university call hippo, Jon Deere are all using this product.

Baptiste: Yeah. And, and, and in fact, if you switch to a different language, so if you switch to French, if you switch to Portuguese, I'm

Justin: looking down German.

Oh yeah.

Baptiste: It gonna change it gonna change. So you, you, you know, BR those kind of brands.

Justin: Yeah. So you're doing it. You're, you're, geolocating, you're making it even more salient to potential customers to say, Hey, well, if you're in France, let's, uh, we'll show you, uh, B and B hotels. You know, that's a brand that you might know and recognize.

That's so smart. Like, are most of your customers from Europe or from north America? And what's it like being a technology company outside of north America? Do you feel like that has made anything harder or is there a huge opportunity in the EU that you've been able to take advantage?

Baptiste: So us, it is only 30% of our revenues, so it means that we take our revenues all around the world and outside, uh, thes.

Uh, so I don't think there is any issue, uh, for us customers buying a product, not made, uh, from the us mm-hmm in fact, it's why, if you look at the future on the, on page, it says, uh, made, uh, meeting friends, something like that. Initially, I, I didn't want, uh, to add this tagline. I mean, we don't want to sell us as a French company.

But if you look at to the trends, show that, uh, American customers have a good feeling about French, uh, made product that's right. Yes. So, so it's why we show that. I mean, I, I don't think it would be the same if it will, would've been India or I don't know, but when, if you look at the trends and it's even better than showing USA

Justin: made in the USA, I mean, there's, there's definitely like certain brands that you see that you go made in France has this feeling of quality of maybe craftmanship of higher quality luxury.

Yeah. Yeah.

Baptiste: It it's the same for Germany. If you think about German cars. Yes. When you, you close the door, it makes special sound. It's perfect. So a company, I mean, a country can have a perception about how, how they do product. It's why there is this tagline, uh, made in France, uh, in the future. But at the end, you know, there are great software developers all around the world, so it's not making any difference in, uh, so yeah, it's not a problem for,

Justin: um, is your whole team located in not

Baptiste: no, no, no.

So Crisp used to be a remote company. I mean, we didn't wait it for COVID 19 BIC to, to know what remote is. Yeah. Uh, we started Crisp by, by being a hundred percent remote and, but. We want like to have our families. So being nomad was not easy because when you travel all around the world, you have not, you have, you don't, you are not doing any long term relationships.

Yeah. So by going to, uh, the west of France, near our families, friends, et cetera, it was easier. So we made a team in not but still half. So 50% of the team is all around the world. I mean, we have people working at Crisp in different countries, so all the slack, um, so we use slack every day and all the people on slack.

we speak English altogether. Okay. And, um, but, but half of the team

Justin: is French. Oh, interesting. So, but during the day, the language that you use for like work is English.

Baptiste: Yeah. Not at the office is obviously,

Justin: and the other thing I think you've done well that I think we're trying to think about too, is it's so easy because so much of the SaaS market traditionally has been north America.

It's easy for us to have blinders on. And so like, if I, I would say our, it goes us first, then maybe UK, Germany, Canada, France, and Australia. Those are our top markets. Um, We know that, you know, in Spanish speaking countries, podcasting is getting big. And so one thing that's been interesting about Crisp is you have that auto translate feature, and we have people all the time.

That is, it's almost like you built the product. Just assuming that you're gonna have a global audience. So you can see right away, this person likely speaks Spanish. Do you wanna live, translate this right at all at once? Do you think that's helped you as a company get into markets that you wouldn't normally have, have reached into?

Like, is there, are you seeing uplift in Spanish speaking countries or in Asia

Baptiste: as we come from Europe? So people in the us and especially all the in America think that Europe is Europe. Yes. I mean like the USA, but it's not working like that. I mean, Europe is. 30 different countries, even more. And we all speak different languages.

We all have different cultures, different feelings, uh, et cetera. And as France comes, we are French people. We come from Europe. So we knew that, okay, if we want to be global, I mean, France gonna be a market for us because we're French. So we need to translate everything in French. We're gonna be global first, so English first, but then we gonna localize everything.

So we're gonna localize everything in French, everything in Spanish, Portuguese, German, et cetera. And this strategy were great because, uh, the Crisp live chat widget is translated in more than 60 different languages. And actually our users translated. Everything. We didn't do anything. Oh, really? For that just, yeah.

So all the, the chat widgets are translated by the users, uh, because they wanted to use Crisp in their own language. So yeah, here is the translation file, uh, translated. And we gonna make Crisp compatible with, uh, finish with, uh, Danish with whatever. And it's what we did. And by doing that, in fact, we had the, a huge traction in countries.

We never thought where we, we would have a chance for instance, Finland. Okay. Chris was translated in Finn, slated in finish. And thanks to that. We had a YouTuber, uh, doing a blog article, uh, in, uh, Finland. Yeah. And this guy was super popular and, and like in a few months we weren't from zero to market leader in, uh, Finland.

Justin: Wow. That's incredible. It, it ma does make me feel like, I mean, this is something we talk about at Transistor, but going, we, in some ways inspired by Crisp we decided to localize our podcast websites feature, and we have a developer, Jason, who really pushed this. He said like, we really gotta do this. And so we localized it into I think, five or six languages to start.

And it's interesting because you do just as soon as people see, for example, that you can have your website in your language for your country, it does just bring in a bunch more attention. And so demand customer demand that you might not have been aware of. Kind of shows out

Baptiste: it's complicated to think for nature, English, people.

I mean, people, uh, who have always been used to speak English in their life because they think they think like that. But you know, right now I'm doing this podcast in English. It needs, even if I'm good, I think I'm good at speaking English. Mm-hmm but it's not my main language. I had to learn this language at school mm-hmm and right now my brain CPU need to translate in life, everything.

And it's, I mean, even the best, not English, native speakers need to think when they, they read something, et cetera. Yeah. So if everything is translated in your mother tongue, it has an immediate impact on your thought. It it's something that you are not thinking about, and even like English, people not thinking about that, but it's, it's a big impact to convince people.

Justin: Yeah. Because you feel like you're home when, when you see your language a larger, the film podcast on

Baptiste: yeah. You have some kind of a Quebec accent!

Justin: Bain...

Baptiste: Now. Yeah. But for instance, people in Quebec because Crisp, uh, is transla stated in French, they love it. Yeah.

Justin: It makes a big impact. I mean, yeah. The, that we noticed that right away because we get, we would get a lot of customer requests from Ottawa and from Quebec and in Ottawa, that's our capital.

Everything has to be bilingual and, um, In Quebec, everything has to be bilingual. Definitely, but you know, leads with French and yeah. As soon as we have those French language translations, one of the first customers to use it was the Canadian government, because they need to have podcasts in both languages.

Yeah. So, yeah, I think it's a great insight and

Baptiste: it's a great way as well, to differentiate with competitors at Crisp. We care about that. We have features and for instance, Crisp is translated in Arabic. No one cares about every Arabic, et cetera, because it's RT. Everything is in the opposite way. Yes.

Reversed. Yes. And we do, we do care about that. And, uh, and, and when, yeah, when they see Crisp wow, they're, they're the only kind of company taking care of us. So then they love us just

Justin: because of that. And, and some of those markets could be bigger. Has there been a surprise for you? Like is, is, are some of those markets again, like when I talk to SaaS companies in north America, it's always the same five or six United States, Canada, Germany, France, Australia, UK ger.

Uh, yeah, those are the ones. So is there a country where you've seen a lot of growth, uh, customers wise that surprised you?

Baptiste: So there, there is definitely something huge happening right now in countries you never think about. So for instance, in south America, there is something huge happening right now in Brazil, in Asia as well.

Uh, there is a big startup ecosystem happening. Um, if you look at, uh, Indonesia, Um, Vietnam, something is going on here and you, you, you see real startups, it, uh, interesting launching,

Justin: but are you see, are you seeing an influx of customers from those locations? Yeah.

Baptiste: Yeah. And, and, and also, um, so definitely something is going to happen is now nowadays all the people can use smartphones computers.

The, the knowledge tends to be cheap and affordable. You can learn anything on internet and you can, for instance, there are more and more startups coming in Africa as well. Uh, for instance, there are some comp countries like Kenya with, uh, big startups ecosystems. So the, the world where the USA were, the first software, consumers and producers.

As ended. And we are now in a new world where like internet is global software usage and making is global and it's totally changing right now. Mm-hmm

Justin: big opportunity. Well, thanks so much Baptiste for this. This was really great. I love so many of your customer insights are, are so interesting. Uh, I think we'll have to, we should do this again because, uh, I know I'm gonna have more questions as soon as we hang up, but is there anything you want to, uh, let our listeners know?

Are you hiring, do you wanna, uh, any, anything in particular you wanna let folks know before we leave?

Baptiste: Yeah, so we, we, we hire any kind of T-shaped people. So if you. looking like for company offering. So at, at Crisp, we don't hire people for roles. We hire people because we think those people are great people.

Yes. And we try to build roles around people. So if you're a developer liking a bit of marketing, Crispus for you, if you're a developer liking design plus, uh, uh, design plus support, plus whatever Crispus made for you, if you are, you want to talk to people, but also code Crispus made for you. For instance, we have Dennis in Portugal study that Crisp doing customer support after doing, uh, um, audio engineering school.

and now is shifting to customer to, um, development, because he's so good at it. Yeah. So Crisp is T-shaped people. And if you are this kind of person, you can, uh, reach us anytime, uh, on Crisp block chat.

Justin: Awesome. Well, thanks again for doing this. Thanks for staying up late to, to do the phone call. Thank you for engaging in English for an hour and 14 minutes and using all those CPU cycles.

I hope I didn't make you. My, my

Baptiste: CPU is overreaching.

Justin: Yeah. If I had to do this whole thing in French, it would be, it would be a, you have to think so. Hard to think. Uh, how do I say this in French? It's it's just, I, I , I appreciate you doing the whole, the podcast and yeah, we'll do it again. Thank you very much.

Have a good day. Let's give a shout out to our supporters on Patreon. We've got Jason Charnes, Mitchell Davis, Marshall Folley, Alex pain, bill condo, Anton Zen Harris, Kenny Ole kig, Ethan gunk, ward Sandler, Russell Brown, Nora Colin, gray, Austin Loveless, Michael sipper, Paul Jarvis and Jack Ellis. Dan Buddha, Darby fray, Adam du Vander, Adam du Vander, Dave Giunta.

You know, Jon Buda found a bottle of Giunta wine the other day. Giunta wine, we're gonna have a team retreat. We've gotta, we gotta have some June to wine while we're there. And Kyle Fox from get If you like this episode, share it with a friend. Reach out to Baptiste on Twitter. Let 'em know that you liked it.

And I will talk to you next time. Bye.

Bootstrapping in France (Baptiste Jamin from Crisp)
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