Baptiste is the CEO and co-founder of Crisp, an easy and effective way to chat with your website visitors.
Davis Baer: What’s your background, and what are you working on?
Baptiste Jamin: My name is Baptiste Jamin, and I’m 24, and I’m CEO at Crisp. My passion for hacking things started when I was 5: My brother taught me how to boot our family’s Windows 3.1 computer using DOS. Then, when I was 12 I started coding by joining open source projects as a developer. We made indie video games, 2D games engines. At this time, Github didn’t exist and it’s crazy how we made projects as teenagers just by searching for knowledge on internet. This how my passion with entrepreneurship came.
Then, after being fired in High School because I hacked the network system, I joined a networking school. I also joined Orange the biggest ISP as a developer as a part-time job, did some freelancing, and joined few startups as a developer. During this time, I also did few side projects: Some succeeded, others failed.
Later, I met Valerian, my now co-founder at Crisp. When I met him, he was working on an open source messaging solution using XMPP which was used by NATO and 60K users. On my end, I was working on trash mail system, which was popular in France also.
From our previous side projects and startup experiences, we truly felt it was crucial to communicate with customers to succeed instartups, and at this time, most tools were outdated, complex and expensive for small companies. So we made it easy for startups and small companies to chat with their customers and to unify all their customer relationship in one place. They can add our chat on their website, manage all their customer email, Facebook Messenger queries, from our tool.
Now, around 70K websites are using Crisp, around 60 million people are chatting every month on the platform.
What went into building the initial product?
In 2015, we kickstarted Crisp in three months in my cofounder’s flat in France. First, we designing the platform on Sketch, and then literally coded the platform in a few weeks, using a micro-service architecture and an AngularJS app. It was my first time ever working with this new co-founder.
Then we started getting our first users. The fun story about this, is that a good friend of mine wanted wanted to try the platform, and it was password-locked. He asked me to remove the password lock. So I did. A day later, we discovered that around 20 users were using the product and were happy with it!
This friend had been sent an angry email because they didn’t have any customer support chat, and they wanted to use Crisp to solve this. A bit later, one of those customers posted us on ProductHunt, and this is how our growth started.
At this time the product was free, and I guess it helped to get an initial traction and to learn about the market. When you are free, customers are also a bit more tolerant about the lack of features on the product.
Being free also forced us to optimize everything, because at this time we didn’t have any money. For instance I had to sell my car and few other things I had so I could focus on Crisp full-time.
By optimizing, we had to optimize each dollar, and we coded internal tools like our own help-center, status page, financial tools. The funny thing is our customer loved those tools, and asked us to release these as products later.
We also had to go really fast because the competition was also moving quickly, so we had to implement a ton of new features in a small amount of time. We were a really small team(two founders — developers), and thanks to all our previous experience we were able to move fast.
We also chose to bootstrap instead of fundraise. Thanks to this decision, we are 100% independent.
How have you attracted users and grown Crisp?
After we got our first traction thanks to my friend and ProductHunt, we did a lot of growth hacking. We had to optimize our landing page and our app to convert visitors to long term users. For instance we discovered that when people implemented Crisp onto their website after signing up, 51% were still using the platform after 10 weeks. So we doubled down on how to make people install Crisp on their website. It was a big technical and UX challenge.
What helped a lot as well, was the “Powered by Crisp” logo under our chatbox that amplified the growth as well.
Finally, the most important advice to entrepreneurs is to focus on customers and customers support. This is the most important thing to grow. Thanks to customers, you will learn how to improve your product.
What’s your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?
As explained earlier, we started by being free. The free customers helped us to know what were the most imported paid features to build. A year after launching Crisp, we released Crisp 2.0 on ProductHunt with our new paid model with the new paid features (we still have a free plan). In a few days, we had a huge success.
Crisp has a very international base, so we had to implement most of payment providers out there. This is why we are using both Stripe and PayPal as payment options.
The key of our success is we adapted our pricing for startups, and we have a plan for each situation, from new startups to succeeding companies.
What are your goals for the future?
Currently we are working on a new release on Crisp that should be out there soon. The goal is to double our annual revenue and customers in the next few year.
Personally, we will also start being sedentary again, after being nomads for so long. Crisp is still a small team (we are now 5), and bootstrapping our company allowed us to be nomads.Over the last few years, we moved to several different locations. Sometimes we are with each other, sometimes we are not. I also lived with my cofounder for several months.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles you’ve overcome? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
The biggest challenge was clearing how to build a big platform in a small amount of time. If I started Crisp again, I wouldn’t change anything, even mistakes can lead to luck, and that’s what happened.
Young entrepreneurs who are doing their first project don’t even realize how it helps to know nothing (yet) about the subject you are working on.
Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
We had some help and knowledge about The Family. I would say it’s the French YC, which we were a part of. It helped us to meet interesting people and to focus on growth. For instance, I didn’t even know what SaaS meant before meeting people from The Family.
What’s your advice for entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
The best advice is to work hard, and to build to the best of your abilities. I also think that young entrepreneurs should build side projects to get some experiences before building a startup.
You can build really successful projects, that are not startups, but that could be in the future. I think it’s what happened to Crisp.
Where can we go to learn more?
Don’t hesitate to comment this post if you want to know more about us.