There are over 4 million apps in the App Store and Google Play as of 2016. Some apps are very popular and have a long lifespan, while most others has never seen the light of the day. There are many reasons why apps fail and never make it to the user’s hands, but we believe what often sways their fate is how well the company understands their users.
Today, ChatWork announces its integration with Instabug, a service that helps mobile app developers improve the customer experience with an app feedback mechanism. App developers that integrate the Intabug SDK can now collect feedback through ChatWork’s platform and collaboratively share and discuss user feedback within teams.
To learn more about Instabug, we interviewed Omar Gabr, CEO of Instabug, and Toshi Yamamoto, CEO of ChatWork, about their product and entrepreneurial journeys to Silicon Valley. Both men started a company in different parts of the world and decided to relocate to the hub of high-tech corporations and startups known as Silicon Valley.
Q : Would you tell me about your product?
Sure. We help mobile apps make their apps better by enabling them to communicate directly with their users. We offer an easy-to-integrate SDK that enables users to send feedback, ask questions, or report bugs without leaving the app This helps apps fix bugs faster and dramatically decrease negative reviews. We launched four years ago, and now we have tens of thousands of apps using our product including over 25% of the top 100 apps in the App Store.
ChatWork is a business chat platform that combines messaging, task management, file sharing and video conferencing. We help business professionals to connect, communicate and collaborate effectively both internally within their organization and externally with other businesses. We launched our product back in 2011, and now we have over 110,000 companies using our platform.
Q : When did you come up with this product idea?
Back in University, me and my co-founder are both studying computer science, and we had an idea of building a mobile app. It was a simple location based social event app. When we just about to launch the app, we thought we should test before launching it. So we went online search for tools that would help us test the app, but we didn’t find a set of tools that we need. As engineers, we thought we should build that tool by ourselves, and when we built that, we loved more than the app itself. Soon later, We launched that on Hacker News, and the developers loved it, we kept adding and iterating more features on that.
The idea of chat for business came to my mind over a decade ago. Back in 2000, we used to use ICQ for internal team communication, and switched over to MSN messenger first, and then moved over to Skype. Instead of email, we used Skype’s messaging function as the main communication tool with our clients. But Skype was a product for consumers, and focused on video chat, so we asked Skype Japan to improve their features to make it easier for businesses like us to communicate. Unfortunately Skype told me they weren't not planning on updates for businesses so we became determined to build a solution on our own.
Q: Who is using your product?
Our users are mobile developers, PMs and support people. We’re super focused on mobile apps, and try make integrating our SDK really fast. One of the good things is that our team is split between SF and Cairo, so we nearly cover all the time zones, which means there is always someone online to support our users .These small things help us grow organically through word of mouth.
We have broad range of companies from every vertical and industry, such as law firms, consultants, ad agencies, hospitals, factories, universities, and even farmers. Now we have more than 110,000 companies using our platform, and the majority our customers are from organic growth and referrals by other users. Since we’ve seen a lot of growth in Asia, we are now looking to expand into the western markets.
Q: What is the most challenging thing about growing a business in the U.S. market as an international startup?
Prior to developing ChatWork, we were reselling different software tools to help companies become more productive. Also, we provided consultation services to many small and medium-sized businesses to help them increase work efficiency through IT. When we launched our own product, we already had an existing customer base that we could directly sell to, and they became our advocates who spread the word to other businesses.
Up until last year, we were a bootstrapped company. Although we were profitable, we always needed to think about cash flow and how we could sustain the business. These constraints limited us to invest in more human capital and to scale the business, so we decided to raise funding from VCs. We raised about three million dollars for the first round, and 13 million in our second round. Our team has grown from 30 employees to 80 within one year, and because of our rapid growth I needed to adjust my management style. Managing a company from the U.S. and growing internationally is definitely very challenging.
When we first launched our product, we posted it on Hacker News and then we answered a few questions on Quora and Stack Overflow. We didn’t realize that would put us in the center of Silicon Valley, but that was what just happened and our first customers were from San Francisco and the Bay Area. Honestly, we didn’t know much about Silicon Valley at the time, these were just the websites that we browse daily. We didn’t do any kinds of marketing in terms of targeting that area specifically.
Other than that, coming from Egypt was a really good story for us to help us promote Instabug. When we actually launched in 2013, it was a few days after the second revolution, and actually people wanted to meet us to learn more about the revolution rather than Instabug.
We used this to our advantage. It was like; “Hey! We’re building this new tool for mobile apps and we’d love meet up and get your thoughts about it. Also we’re visiting from Egypt, so we can tell you exactly what’s happening over there.“. Because there was such a huge buzz around Egypt and being a company that build dev tools in Egypt was really interesting thing, so it made getting meetings much easier.
Q: How was your experience being a Y Combinator alum?
We’ve always been huge fans of Y Combinator, the Hacker News community, and partners like Paul Graham and Sam Altman. It made a lot of sense to apply to Y Combinator at that time.
There is a tremendous value when you sit down for 30 minutes with someone like Sam Altman, Paul Graham or Jared Friedman. They are really focused on how to take your startup to the next level. They’ve seen thousands of companies that went through YC and failed, or became unicorns. Having their expertise on our side definitely helped us a lot. And through the YC demo day, we were able to raise 1.7 million from Accel Partners and others last April.
Q: What do you think are the key components of a successful startup?
I think it’s the team -- the people you actually work with on a daily basis and believe the mission that you are pursuing. Choosing the right partner to start with is the most important thing and everything could just follow, whether it’s user acquisition or product, everything just follows. The choice of whom you are going to partner with is the best and worst decision you can make as an entrepreneur.
I totally agree with Omar. If I were to add to that, I would say the team should also have great “vision” and "power of execution.” I think these are the key components of a startup’s success.
Q: Do you have any comments for app developers?
There are millions of apps and thousands of apps are released in the app store every day. It’s very competitive and the user’s tolerance to bad apps are extremely low. You just cannot provide low-quality application, your app cannot have bugs, cannot crash because user will instantly delete the app or the app will get bad reviews and dead forever. That’s why it is very important to be really close to users, get feedback, engage with them, make sure that there is no bugs, take extra effort to collect and fixing any bugs they find.
Among the 4 hours of average mobile usage per day, apps like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are all competing for the users’ attention. All apps fight to grab a few minutes of the users’ attention every single day, so you really have to deliver a great product!