Chennai based Freshdesk has acquired social customer support tool, Airwoot for an undisclosed amount.
This is the fifth acquisition made by FreshDesk. Earlier, the company acquired 1CLICK, Frilp, Konotor and Framebench.
“With the social integrations within Freshdesk, we were able to allow businesses to monitor posts that were relevant to them. We focused on building a ticketing system which would help support teams keep track of customer issues reported on social media.
What we soon realized was that most brands found it difficult to set up these filters and rules. Since the social media space is continually evolving, the language on it does too. These filters and rules needed constant manual updates, which was not easy for most teams. Airwoot’s Artificial Intelligence technology has been instrumental in helping brands do this effortlessly. Harnessing the power of machine learning, Airwoot filters out the noise and marketing chatter from your social handles and allows you to respond to customer queries, then and there, ” said the company in its blog.
Airwoot will continue to support their existing customers, and function as a standalone product. The Airwoot team will focus on enhancing Freshdesk’s social offering.
Freshdesk has acquired Konotor, a mobile first user engagement platform. The acquisition accelerates Freshdesk’s mission to deliver exceptional omnichannel customer service and comes on the heels of acquiring video chat and co-browsing platform 1CLICK and social recommendation app Frilp.
Konotor helps businesses engage with users in a proactive and contextual manner through features like rich two-way messaging, in-app support and marketing automation. The company’s list of customers includes Target, Zomato, Times Internet, Faasos, and BankBazaar.com, among others.
“Mobile-first companies face a unique set of challenges in customer support and user engagement, creating the need for a different solution. Konotor has demonstrated significant early success in addressing this need, by enabling marquee apps to engage better with their users. The addition of Konotor to our product suite will help us create powerful customer experiences ” said Girish Mathrubootham, CEO, Freshdesk.
Mobile is fast emerging as the primary channel for customer service. Businesses with a mobile-first strategy are much more adept at meeting the needs of their increasingly mobile customers. FThis latest acquisition will further help the company serve an increasing number of mobile first businesses.
As part of BigAugust campaign*, NextBigWhat brings to you, an UnPluggd view of some of India’s high-growth product companies. The bigger agenda is to showcase company culture, hear from the founders, employees and answer ‘how does it feel to work with you’.
Girish:Company Culture for us means how most of us (if not all of us) react to everyday situations in the workplace. For example we believe in genuinely being nice to people, in doing things without being told, in doing what is right for the customer and learning new stuff and constantly setting the bar high in anything that we do.
When we started the company, we had about six people in the team. A little over a year ago, we were around a hundred employees. Today, more than 275 people work from our Chennai office.
With Google Capital participating in our most recent funding round, we became the first company in India to be backed by the VC arm (and their only foreign investment so far). Freshdesk now has customers in more than 120 countries, we’ve more than doubled our customer count since we announced our 10,000 milestone last September. We also launched Freshservice, an ITIL service desk in January this year.
Do you have a stated set of cultural values? What is the grounded purpose behind it?
Girish:We try to create a happy work environment for everybody where relationships take precedence, and work comes next. We hire smart people, try and match them to the right roles and let them learn by doing when they get to work. That way, they get to have fun at work, and make a lot of difference to the company at the same time.
Thanks to this whole idea, there are a lot of young people at Freshdesk and a lot of them are home grown into specific roles in different teams. For instance, until we hired our 69th employee, we hadn’t hired a single programmer who already knew Ruby on Rails (which is the core language we use at Freshdesk)
I spend a lot of time talking to different teams and telling us how we are trying to build a world class product company from Chennai. I understand that we are in it together, working towards the same goal, irrespective of our position or what we are working on.
Can you describe the environment in the company?
Girish:We provide everyone with operational freedom and a fun work environment where they can learn everything they need for the job at the job. At Freshdesk, we collaborate, discuss ideas and build stuff together without sitting through formal meetings. Today, people walk around and talk to people to get things done.
We have hackathons every now and then, there is a club which takes care of organising internal parties and events. There’s also foosball and table tennis for anyone who wants to take a quick break from work and relax.
How often does the staff meet?
Girish:We’re about 270 people now but we’re still a small company and we try to make sure that we don’t get in anybody’s way with meetings. Instead, we let the team managers take care of things themselves and have biweekly standup meetings where they bring everybody else up to speed on what’s going on.
What does it take for someone to be successful here?
Girish:Ownership and Initiative.
We look for people who are passionate and can get things done. We don’t focus on academic credentials and we have a relatively flat hierarchy, so the more they go out of the way and show what they’re capable of, the better credibility they earn.
What are your expectations from your employees?
Girish:We don’t micromanage people at Freshdesk. We have always believed that hiring passionate people and giving them big things to do is a great way to go forward when you are building a team. It helps employees set their expectations themselves and watch and learn from people around them.
At the end of the day, if you do what’s good for you and what’s good for the company, we don’t mind letting people work the way they want.
How do you reward your employees?
Girish:We reward our employees with competitive pay, a fun work environment, Freshdesk Stock options (in high demand in the VC world!) and cash bonuses for spectacular efforts. Team managers also celebrate releases and revenue milestones with team outings.
What do you look for in a potential employee? How do you evaluate the softskills?
Girish:When we try to hire people, we look for passion and ownership in candidates. We also look for a high level of emotional intelligence. We like people who get shit done without burning bridges.
How do you onboard new employees?
Girish:We do not have a formal onboarding process or entry level training programs. We have a friendly environment and the teams usually take care of onboarding the new employee. We also have an acclimatization champions team who take care of ensuring that newcomers to Chennai settle down comfortably.
Are there special activities you do to promote teamwork? Are they voluntary?
We have a Freshclub and there are cricket and football teams, we conduct regular quizzes and meetups to discuss books. There’s even a series for inspiring talks by employees where we people get to talk about things they’ve done and their adventures. We sometimes go together on weekends to watch movies.
What policies does the company have on day today activities (e.g., dress code, work hours)?
Girish:We don’t really have dress codes or working hours. Apart from a few customer facing roles, pretty much everybody at Freshdesk work on their own time, and there are no strict policies on a day today basis. We give employees all the flexibility they need, and we trust them to use it wisely.
Do supervisors have an open door policy or the employees need prior appointment for a meeting with the seniors?
Girish:We really pride ourselves in having a flat hierarchy, and everyone is just a few steps away. Top management sits in open cubicles and are accessible. I sit in a room (with open doors of course) only because there are too many meetings and many times with external people.
Is there a HR team to help the employees? Or is it driven by founders?
Girish:Yes, we have a HR team in place for talent acquisition and retention, and other administrative functions.
Srividya Sriram, exGoogler. Now UX Designer at Freshdesk.
“I had always assumed that the best and the most interesting work in tech happens in the Valley. In fact, even when I left Google, I had set my mind on NOT working for an Indian company. Because come on, I could never live a Silicon Valley life in Chennai, right? But this notion was pretty much shattered when I came to Freshdesk.
It feels amazing to be part of a company from Chennai that is sharing the stage with world class companies as an influencer, not only in terms of the quality of work but also from a culture perspective.The people here are supersmart.
There is literally no hierarchy. I have a great work-life balance. I actually think I’m producing my best work till date right now at Freshdesk.”
“I belong to a team that develops cutting edge products. We look at the latest design trends and see how we can best use them in our app. We learn everyday from our customers, and from our peers. Everytime we see our code getting implemented and watch our product being used by thousands of people, I feel gratified. And the fact that I’m contributing to build a world class product is a dream come true.” Girish Koundinya, Mobile Developer at Freshdesk
What has been the biggest learning that you’d want to share with fellow entrepreneurs?
Girish:I used to think that people are either aggressive or submissive. I was very aggressive always pushing hard to get the things I wanted to get done. My ex-boss (Mr. Kumar Vembu currently Founder & CEO of GoFrugal Technologies) told me you can be aggressive externally in pursuing your sales or marketing targets etc. but when it comes to people (especially team mates) he said that I was being abrasive.
He told me that while I was getting stuff done, I was breaking the gentle fabric of relationships which is irreversible. From that day onwards I realized the importance of people relationships and I have taken care to treat everyone fairly and focus on building relationships. The lesson has proved extremely valuable as many of Freshdesk’s early employees are people who have worked with me before, who came and joined a startup because they valued the relationship.
How do you resolve team conflict? Could you share an example?
Girish: Focus on the issue, ignore the person. We let people talk to themselves as mature individuals.
What tools do you use to enhance productivity?
Girish: Most Google Apps, Trello, 1Password, Dropbox.
Freshdesk is currently hiring for its Chennai office. Here are the freshest openings. You can apply using your LinkedIn profile.
» Mobile developer – iOS Overall 2+ Years of Experience in developing iOS platform.
-Experience in iOS SDK Development.
Strong in Object Oriented concepts, SOA experience is required.
» DevOps Lead 5 years of work experience in operations. Responsibilities include :
– Setting up our NOC team and manage them
– Automating the Operation tasks
– Working with engineering team to make informed decisions
If you are a company hiring/and willing to talk about your culture code, talk to us.
“We were not looking for fresh funding till the end of this year but investors were willing to offer significant premiums, so we took it” [Girish, Freshdesk Founder]
Given that Zendesk went public this year, Freshdesk funding is definitely a big signal towards creating the second big player in this crowded space. From $7mn last year to $31mn – well, there is definitely a premium that investors are betting for (this is Google Capital’s first investment in any Indian startup).
Zendesk , Desk and Chennai based #freshdesk topped the ratings on help-desk services by G2 Crowd, a crowd-sourced business software review site.
Freshdesk scored an 89 while Desk and Zendesk scored 86 and 77 respectively in the satisfaction category. In the G2 score category, Desk topped the list with a 75 while Freshdesk and Zendesk scored 71 and 70 respectively. In the market presence category, Desk topped again with 65 while Zendesk and Freshdesk with 64 and 54 respectively.
The G2 report was based on the survey of 350 software buyers on various help-desk services and what worked and didn’t about them. The top-rated performers were also compared to each other.The top comparison is Freshdesk versus Zendesk, followed by Zendesk versus Freshdesk, followed by Freshdesk versus TeamSupport.
Ticket creation was voted the best feature at 90 percent average satisfaction. Social integration was the lowest voted feature at 76 percent.
[Edit Notes: Three year old startup #freshdesk built out of Chennai, is now clocking 70 million app views per week. The company is growing fast. In this post, its operations head Kiran talks about how they scaled the technology backend.]
Every startup’s fondest dream is to somehow grow exponentially but still stay nimble and super efficient. However that’s easier said than done. The 32GB RAM that is more than capable of handling the load today is going to look like a joke a week later. And with the financial freedom of a startup, you can only take one step at a time.
At Freshdesk, our customer base grew by 400 percent in the last year. And the number of requests boomed from 2 million to 65 million.
These are really cool numbers for a 3-year-old startup but from an engineering perspective, it’s closer to nightmare than dream come true. We scaled left right and center (but mostly upwards) in a really short amount of time, using a whole bunch of vertical techniques. Sure, we eventually had to shard our databases just to keep up, but some of these techniques helped us stay afloat, for quite a while.
We tried to scale in the most straightforward way there is, by increasing the RAM, CPU and I/O. We travelled from Medium Instance Amazon EC2 First Generation to High Memory Quadruple Extra Large. It effectively increased our RAM from 3.75 GB to 64 GB. Then we figured that the amount of RAM we add and the CPU cycles do not correlate with the workload we get out of the instance. So we stayed put at 64GB.
The Read/write split
Since Freshdesk is a heavy read application (4:1; end user portals, APIs and loads of third party integrations tend to do that to you), we used MYSQL replication and distributed the reads between master and slave to accommodate them. Initially, we had different slaves getting selected for different queries using a round robin algorithm, but that quickly proved ineffective as we had no control over which query hit which DB. We worked around this by marking dedicated roles for each slave. For example, we used a slave for background processing jobs and another for report generation and so on (Seamless Database Pool, a Rails plugin, should do the job but if you’re an Engineyard user, I’d suggest you check out this cookbook).
As expected, the R/W split increased the number of I/Os we performed on our DBs but it didn’t do much good for the number of writes per second.
MySQL 5 has a built-in partitioning capability so all you have to do is, just choose the partition key and the number of partitions and the table will be partitioned, for you, automatically. However, if you’re thinking about going for MySQL partitioning, here are a couple of things you should keep in mind:
1. You need to choose the partition key carefully or alter the current schema to follow the MySQL partition rules.
2. The number of partitions you start with will affect the I/O operations on the disk directly.
3. If you use a hash-based algorithm with hash-based keys, you cannot control who goes where. This means you’ll be in trouble if two or more noisy customers fall within the same partition.
4. You need to make sure that every query contains the MySQL partition key. A query without the partition key ends up scanning all the partitions. Performance takes a dive as expected.
Post-partitioning, our read performance increased dramatically but, as expected, our number of writes didn’t increase much.
Some objects like support agent details change only 3-4 times in their lifetime. So, we started caching ActiveRecord objects and as well as html partials (bits and pieces of HTML) using Memcached. We chose Memcached because it scales well with multiple clusters. The Memcached client you use actually makes a lot of difference in the response time so we ended up going with dalli.
Another way we try to keep the response time low is by using different storage engines for different purposes. For example, we use Amazon RedShift for analytics and data mining and Redis, to store state information and background jobs for Resque. But because Redis can’t scale or fallback, we don’t use it for atomic operations.
Scaling vertically can only get you so far. Even as we tried various techniques, we knew it was only a matter of time before we scaled horizontally. And the rate at which we were growing didn’t give us much time to ponder over whether it was a good decision or not. So before our app response times could sky rocket and the status quo changed, we sharded our databases. But that story’s for another day.
Chennai based online customer support and helpdesk solution company #freshdesk has raised nearly $7 mn $ from venture capital firm Accel Partners and Tiger Global in a fresh round of funding. In a form D submitted to the US SEC, Freshdesk disclosed that it has raised $7mn $6.999930 mn (Freshdesk founder, Girish mentiones that they lost $70 in wire transfer :)) from the two investors.
Being a startup dad isn’t easy. You slog many hours and while you definitely try to keep family updated about the current status of your startup, the truth is that kids do not get it. They don’t need to. They are as demanding and lovable as they are meant to be.
While the same is true for all working professionals, startup dads are ‘special’ because they do not bring the moolah, they aren’t able to afford fancy stuff that kids want (or are ‘made to want’ thanks to peer pressure/ TV commercials).
On the occasion of father’s day (June 16th), we are bringing perspective from startup dads and the challenges/joys of being one*.
Here goes the first installment – An UnPluggd conversation with Girish Mathrubootham, #freshdesk Founder
NextBigWhat: How many kids do you have? How old?
Girish Mathrubootham : Two boys – Charan(will turn 9 years next month) and Sanjay (7.5 years).
NextBigWhat: Being a startup dad, how do you manage your startup-life balance? What are some of the key challenges you have faced?
Girish Mathrubootham : There were/are many challenges. The worst was working on Saturdays. My younger one would simply not let me go to work on Saturday. He would hug my legs and refuse to let go. Many days I have left him crying and went to work with a heavy heart. Nowadays I take weekends off.
NextBigWhat: Truth is that most of the entrepreneurs often earn less than *uncles around*, which translates to the same old car, house, lesser fancy stuff @home etc etc. Kids often build perception on these – how has been your reaction? How have you managed this?
Girish Mathrubootham : This happened in early 2011 when we had just started. When I quit my previous company I had to forego my company provided Honda Civic car. I had a second car (a Ford Figo) which then became our only car. One day when driving back from dinner at a restaurant the kids tried sleeping on the back seat. (They always do that) Both of them were not able to sleep as there was not enough space and they were talking to each other saying that I should have had the Honda Civic which had more space. I sold the Figo, took a loan and bought a new Chevrolet Cruze even though we had not raised funding. I figured that a car loan is not going to make/break freshdesk.
NextBigWhat:One of the psychological theory mentions that kids often believe that ‘dad does nothing’ 🙂 That’s because they see mom doing a whole lotta stuff- but not their dad. Experience?
Girish Mathrubootham : For my kids, their dad is always tired, prefers lying on the bed and taking rest whenever possible or working on his laptop. I feel guilty (but tired) and try to make up by taking them to the pool or playing with them. Nowadays they have several friends and prefer to play with them so I have managed to escape.
*If you are a startup dad, willing to share your experience (candid/UnPluggd fashion), please share here.
Cloud based customer support platform, Freshdesk has launched a new “Forever Free” plan for small business and startups. The company previously offered a juicy “first agent free” across all its plans is now offering three full-time agents free forever on its Sprout plan.
The biggest change is the increase of freebies on the Sprout plan. There’s now three free full-time support agents on the Sprout plan. Of course, the new Sprout plan DOES NOT have a couple of features in the old one (now called Sprout Classic).
No Custom Domains: First, you can’t map your custom domains to your Freshdesk account on the new Sprout plan. You’d have to use something like yourcomany.freshdesk.com.
One Mailbox: You could add unlimited incoming and outgoing mailboxes in Sprout Classic. The new Sprout plan has a cap on one support mailbox.
Branded Footer: The new Free Sprout plan has a teensy footer that says “Refreshing Support Powered by Freshdesk”, and that’s not editable.
The company recently unveiled its new logo and had earlier announced Future Fund, a $10mn that will provide 501 startups and incubations with $10M worth of Freshdesk’s cloud based support solution for one year.
Cloud based customer support platform #freshdesk has launched MobiHelp, a free mobile software development kit for Apple’s iOS developers. With MobiHelp, developers can integrate their Freshdesk help desk to apps with a line of code.
Developers get to use all the customer support capabilities in Freshdesk to automate workflows, identify critical issue areas and complete the conversation loop with their users.
App makers often rely on reviews on the iTunes store to tweak their product. With Freshdesk integration, in app customer support can be used to get feedback from app users.
The Freshdesk MobiHelp SDK is free. The company presently has a freemium pricing model where the first agent is free and app developers can get started without paying anything.
Freshdesk converts user feedback into support tickets where developers can mark status and manage their progress. Further, MobiHelp automatically pulls in the user’s app and device ID so that developers receive fine-grained details about the user’s environment.
The system also monitors crashes and sends automatic crash reports to the developer. Developers can use Freshdesk to support users through email and their website.
Developers can add a link or customize a “help” button within their app, and users can access the knowledge base for FAQs, how-tos and recent updates with a single click, all without leaving the application.
Customer support isn’t a sexy job, but #freshdesk is attempting to bring some freshness to this industry with the launch of Freshdesk Arcade, a gamified approach to helpdesk.
Agents with the most fresh points for each achievement in a month get to collect trophies like “Sharpshooter”, “Speed Racer” and “Customer Wow Champ”. The overall top scorers win the “Most Valuable Player” badge for that month. However, agents can also lose points when they get negative reviews from a customer or violate service-level agreements.
Freshdesk Arcade also allows support teams to create specific games, aligned to their business goals, through quests. For example, support managers can offer agents additional points or special badges for updating the knowledge base with new solutions, or for stepping on the pedal and clearing the ticket backlog. By creating new quests, support agents can encourage their teams to focus their support efforts on the areas that need the most attention, all while rewarding them for successful behavior.
In terms of pricing, Freshdesk Arcade will be part of its new Estate Plan at $49/agent/month. However, all existing customers in Freshdesk’s Garden Plan will have access to Freshdesk Arcade for the same price they have been paying all along.
Unlike other online help desks solutions, with the FreshMobile app, Freshdesk allows support agents to create, save and reuse templates for replying to tickets on the go. Since typing on a mobile device can be clumsy and difficult; these reusable “canned responses” come as a great help. FreshMobile also brings “Solution Suggest” capability in Freshdesk to the mobile phones. With this capability, Freshdesk suggests the most likely solutions from the knowledge base, corresponding to each ticket.
We have earlier debated on whether products should take HTML5 route or build Native Apps (read: HTML5 Vs. Native App Debate – Here Is What You Need To Know) and an important point to keep in mind regarding HTML5 app is that they are difficult to market and mostly (free) ride on the traffic of the main property, i.e. the website.
Freshdesk recently announced the launch of Future Fund to provide $10mn in online helpdesk support to 501 startups worldwide. The company raised $5mn from Tiger Global Management and Accel Partners in the month of Apil 2012.
With the Freshdesk Future Fund, startups (with under $1M in revenues) can get up to three full-time customer support agents on Freshdesk’s Garden plan free for an entire year. The plan includes multi-channel support capabilities with which startups can support their customers through email, phone, their website, Facebook and Twitter, all from one place. The plan even includes community management capabilities through which startups can engage customers in discussion forums and allow their early adopters to suggest and vote on ideas. Entrepreneurs with multiple brands or product lines can support all brands from a single Freshdesk account.
Freshdesk has also teamed up with leading technology incubators and angel funds including: YCombinator, YouWeb, Tandem Entrepreneurs, Internet India Fund, 500 Startups and Proudly Made in DC.