We caught up with Pascal van Opzeeland, the CMO of Userlike, to talk all about the business…
Why Was The Business Started?
The founders Timoor and David met in 2010 in Cologne, Germany. They were both interested in starting something for themselves. David already had 15 years of experience in software development. Timoor just came out of university, but he had some eCommerce experience from managing his mother’s online cosmetics shop. It was in this project that he got in touch with website chat software. David and Timoor both liked the concept but they saw a lot of potential for improvement. That’s how Userlike was started.
How Are You Different?
To the best of my knowledge, we are the first and only live chat solution that allows businesses to chat with their customers both over their website and through messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and SMS.
Mobile messaging has revolutionized the way we interact with each other in our private lives. Userlike is out to bring the comfort of mobile messaging to B2C communication. We believe the combination of website chat and mobile messaging is powerful. There are strong synergies between those channels. As a business, your website will still be your most important piece of digital real estate for many years to come. But customers have switched most of their online time to mobile apps.
With Userlike, businesses can offer their customers the convenience of messaging support both on their website and within their customers’ favorite messaging apps.
We realize, however, that the unique advantage that we currently have will be temporary. That’s been an important lesson for us: features alone aren’t enough to build an unfair advantage. Such an advantage is possible, but it takes an integration of vision, company culture, product development and marketing. It’s the integration of these things that is hard if not impossible to copy. You cannot rely on one element alone.
What Have You Learnt?
Many things… I guess the most important thing we’ve learnt is that learning is the most important thing. The essence of a startup is that you need to learn fast enough to get to profitability. If you don’t, your business dies.
Another important lesson has been to focus, which is related to learning. Once you learn what drives your business, you need to focus all your efforts on those drivers. Whether that’s in terms of target market, marketing channels or product development. Resources are very limited, especially for a bootstrapped startup like ourselves. Being more focused than your competitors is the only way to make it.
What Are Your Plans For Growth?
I see roughly two axes for growth for the coming year. One is related to the product, and that’s expanding the number of messaging channels that can be connected to Userlike. Currently we have WhatsApp (through its Business API), Facebook Messenger, Telegram and SMS. We are looking to expand to more messaging channels like WeChat, Line, Instagram, Twitter, and Apple Business Chat. With each of these new channels, we become more interesting to a new segment of businesses.
The second growth axis is geographically. Or, more accurately, linguistically. We offer our entire product in seven different languages (English, Spanish, German, French, Portuguese, Italian and Dutch) and we also do active marketing for these languages.
While places like the UK, Germany and the United States are already advanced in terms of eCommerce development, countries like Spain and Italy are running a few years behind in terms of technology adoption like website chat. We expect to see a lot more growth in these regions over the coming years.