Former 99er weighs in on building a company from the ground up

Kelly Inglis

Our beloved former 99er, Mikey DeWildt, was working on an exciting project when he came across a roadblock — so many customer support emails to answer and so little time to develop his product! After searching for a solution to the never-ending influx of support emails, he found there was no efficient and effective one. Thus, by identifying this problem came the idea for another business, Influx.com.

We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Mikey on his new business. Check out his insights on identifying a problem and working hard to provide a solution for businesses around the world.

influx versions-03

– Where did the inspiration for Influx come from? The idea for Influx came along quite organically from my frustrations of finding someone to help me with customer support for my “WordPress Backup to Dropbox” plugin. I’d end up coming home from a big day of creating awesome features for 99designs to spend hours answering emails before even getting to coding fixes and features for the plugin! All I needed was for someone with some technical skills to knock out a few emails each day so I could focus on making the plugin better.

I tried to find someone to help out on an outsourced freelance marketplaces multiple times. The first few job ads didn’t yield anyone remotely skilled enough and when I finally found someone, I dedicated almost a month of my time to train him, only to have him quit without notice.

At this point I started to ponder. Surely someone has searched the world for a bunch of smart, technically savvy and friendly customer support people that I could pay a fixed monthly fee to answer a small volume of emails? A service that could scale up or down with my varying email volume and could answer support emails from my customers in their timezone. After bouncing the idea off of a few industry heavyweights here in Melbourne, Australia, I made the tough and very emotional decision to leave 99designs, a company that I loved, to create the service that is now known as Influx.com.

– You sure are missed here at 99designs, but we’re excited to see where this adventure takes you! Where do you hope to see the company in a year from now, and/or five? By then, Influx will be handling the email volumes of some of the world’s best online businesses and tech startups with a global team of customer support specialists. Actually, specialists is an understatement — I’m talking the best I can find in the world. People that genuinely want to live and breathe customer support! Is there a word for that?

MichaelDeWildt

Logo design by Gmind.me

– Sounds like the word you may be looking for is Support Superhero! Why should a company outsource their customer support, anyway? I think we are in the early stages of what I like to call “modular businesses,” where it’s now quite common for specific business functions to be handed over to teams that can do them better than the business itself.

Let’s take an ecommerce business for example. You’d be insane to build an online store from scratch instead of using a service like Shopify. To ship your products you might use Shipwire. To take payments you’ve got Stripe and PayPal, and for accounting there’s Xero. Influx fits nicely into this model because we can handle the global customer support emails, allowing the business to focus on creating more awesome products.

– Who do you see as your target audience? Where is the need for outsourced customer service the biggest? That would be online SMBs, startups, and even developers with successful side projects when they are looking for help with their email volume. They each have different reasons for partnering with us. For example, a small business or side project might want to do the Tim Ferris “4 hour work week” thing by turning their business into a passive income.

In comparison, a larger business or startup might want to augment their in-house customer support team with an elite global team that can fulfill emails in the timezones where their customers reside.

office

Influx HQ in Melbourne

– What kind of learnings have you taken from your time at 99designs? 99designs has a top-notch customer support team and I learned a lot about how to provide good support. Also, being a developer before entering customer support has given me a good perspective of what needs to be done to reduce friction between the development and support teams that I am building into Influx.

-What advice do you have for others starting a business? Starting a business is hard work but there is no better way to learn than to start.

So if you find yourself with an endless queue of support-related emails, check out Influx for some assistance. It will help you focus on what’s really important — developing your product!

The author

Kelly Inglis
Kelly Inglis

Kelly works for the marketing team at 99designs. A graduate of UC Berkeley, Kelly lives in San Francisco where she can often be found eating cheetos, playing ping pong or frequenting one of the Bay Area's many parks and cafes with a good book.

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