We talked to Pascal van Opzeeland, Marketing Director at Userlike to learn more about the great tool they came up with in 2011.
Related: Interview with Steli Efti, Close.io
Who are you and what is your startup Userlike about?
We are a startup from Cologne, Germany, founded in 2011. We offer live chat software for websites, allowing website owners or service teams to chat with their website visitors. Through this, we enable businesses to make meaningful connections with their visitors in a fun and easy manner. Our mission is “to help businesses increase profitability and customer satisfaction through state of the art technology”. We believe genuine customer connections are the key to success for online business, and we offer the tools to create exactly that. This way, on the one hand, we help businesses to offer a better service and value proposition and to increase their success, while on the other hand, we have a positive impact on the overall joy of online shopping.
Userlike was founded by Timoor Taufig (CEO & Sales) and David Voswinkel (CEO & CTO). The core team consists out of them, Peter Geller (Design & Front-end developer) and Pascal van Opzeeland (Marketing). During our 20 months on the market, we added Marta, Minh, and Camilo as part-time sales and marketing colleagues: https://www.userlike.com/en/team
How did you come up with the idea for Userlike?
Timoor had built up quite some experience with e-commerce during his university years. He ran his online shop, and next to that managed the online shop of his mother. He had tried out several live chat tools already but wasn’t satisfied. After Timoor and David met and found that they shared the ambition of starting up a tech company, this issue came out in their first brainstorming sessions. They were convinced that they could make a superior live chat tool, which should look very good and should be blissfully easy to set up and use.
With that and the fact that they’d be targeting one of the world’s fastest growing industries, e-commerce, they made the decision and started building.
What are the core beliefs and values of your company?
We believe that customer service is the best marketing because nothing is more powerful than Word-of-Mouth. You can spend a lot of money on AdWords, banner marketing, etc., but none of these will be as effective as a friend sharing a great experience. Our tool is aimed at 1) providing the best possible service experience, and 2) offering the option to share this experience with your friends.
Userlike is built on two cornerstones: usability and design. It should be a joy to work with both for the service employees and for the website visitors. We believe you should never compensate on the usability of your tool in favour of some specific feature.
Who are your competitors and how do you differentiate?
We consider our biggest competitors to be Liveperson and Olark. LivePerson is a complete solution more aimed at enterprise customers. Their functionalities are impressive, but they take on quite a different approach than Userlike. Liveperson is such a complex solution that the average user cannot set it up by himself, it generally requires consulting and training. We on the other hand aimed for a solution for which the user can subscribe himself on the website, after which he can set up the basic chat within 5 minutes.
Olark is our main competitor from America. Their approach is more similar to ours, but we strive for a more professional style as we found this to be valued more in our home market, Germany. In general we don’t aim to be an all-in-one solution, but instead, we focus exclusively on live chat and maintain an open system through our open API.
An important factor in our development was that we grew in the time that the online privacy regulations were getting increasingly stringent, especially in Germany. So we were forced to pay extra attention to this and come up with solutions, such as the data privacy settings in our chat widgets. This was very important for our growth within Germany, and as other countries are following with more strict regulations, we see that we gained a competitive advantage in these markets as well.
How do you drive adoption and growth for your service?
For the major part, our growth depends on the use and referrals of our customers and users. We pay a lot of attention on creating good relationships with our customers, and this pays back manifold through the referrals they send us.
The type of customer is also very important here. We are of course very grateful and happy with whatever customer we get, but we are especially proud that we are being used so relatively much by other software providers. On the one hand, it’s a direct compliment because these are the most tech-savvy users who know good software, so it’s a great natural seal of authority. On the other hand, their users and customers see us on their page, get interested and might try us out.
Related to this is our focus on attracting users from the startup community. These are also tech savvy users, and whenever they use us, they provide us with the best tips and feedback. Of course, startups do not have the resources to pay for every tool they use, which is why we have a startup deal where they can use our team version one year for free. This also greatly expanded our user base. Next, to that, we think it’s important to do a bit of everything: AdWords, SEO, partnering, PR, etc.
How is Userlike funded?
In 2012 we had a crowd-funding round of Seedmatch, the largest crowd-funding platform in Germany. It was a great experience for us. We were backed by around 170 investors. Many of these investors were quite experienced in various industries themselves, and they have been a great source of feedback, tips, and ideas. And of course, they also refer users to us. At the moment we are evaluating future funding options for further expansion.
Which other success stories of startups inspire you?
37Signals is a great source of inspiration for us. By building simple but great products and generating quality content, they managed to grow so big with such a small team. They also work in a very different way, often remotely. Also, Kissmetrics is very inspiring for us, especially their content creations. They have such a large and high-quality output, we are looking on how we can pull something like that off ourselves. Finally, we must admit that we are all Apple fans, and we like to think that we mirror their elegance in design and usability in our software.
What would you wish you’d have known at the beginning of the year?
The bitcoins exchange rate of course! We would have installed bitcoin payment in our system and wouldn’t have had to think about external funding anymore.
Where do you see Userlike by the end of the year?
We have now established ourselves firmly in Germany, and we’ve begun expanding abroad. By the end of 2014, we aim to have gained a significant foothold in the Netherlands, Spain, France, the UK, and the USA. Concerning the software, we plan to expand the business intelligence factor (when and how the chat interacts with the website visitors).
How would you convince me to start using Userlike within 50 words?
If you’re are data focused you will like the following stats: Userlike customers report an average conversion increase of 19% and yield 21% cart values. Harder to measure but one main reason to start with Userlike: Your customers will be thankful and build long-term relationships with your business.
Finally, one thing every entrepreneur must know?
The idea by itself is less than 1%. What really matters is the execution. The idea behind Userlike is not new but anybody trying Userlike for the first time notices that this tool is quite different to other solutions. A lovely and user friendly design paired with a wide range of great features makes Userlike take the lead on the market. We are curious to see them grow in 2014!
Editor’s note: The Userlike team has grown from 4 people working remotely to a 25 person team based in Cologne. There clients include among others Daimler, BMW, Lufthansa, Harvard University, and more (17 Oct 2017)