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Scalable support solutions for tech unicorns

Helping tech unicorns scale faster by taking care of customers | Daria Leshchenko - SupportYourApp

About SupportYourApp

Daria: SupportYourApp is a SaaS company, but in another definition, as a SaaS, because what we do is support as a service. So we provide customer and technical support for other IT companies worldwide in 55 languages.

I would say that the biggest challenge and problem that we solve for our clients it’s scalability. You can imagine your product launch using Product Hunt or a huge marketing campaign. Then you have many requests from your users, whether potential clients or existing clients asking you questions about these new features or about the product itself 24/7.

So, the user base can be from different countries, and here we are. Basically, we solve this problem, this challenge. We provide our services 24/7, 365 days a year, and in 55 languages. So I would say that it’s the main focus for us.

What services do you offer?

Daria: I would say that the biggest would be customer success and customer support services. We also do technical support, whether it’s at different levels. It could be level one, level two, or level three. We could also do KYC services, as well as data entry or data annotation services. So every BPO service – business process outsourcing.

Why should companies outsource their support?

Daria: We are not just another company for our clients; I would say that we an extent. We sometimes work very closely with their internal support teams for internal teams. So, for instance, they could have level three support, very technical, customer or technical support team in-house.

However, for 80% of requests, they don’t need to have this sophisticated team. That is why we always say we are an extension of their existing team. And we always work as partners because there are many, many processes that we can improve, and we only work side by side.

Every client is unique. For some of our clients, I would say that we take care of 100% of their support and operations. But for some of our clients, it could be only 60% or 70%. So it really depends on the, on their size, on their requirements.

SupportYourApp pricing

Daria: Many, many criteria have an impact on the price structure. Again the team size, whether you need one person or 100 people. Maybe a Hebrew-speaking person, maybe you need a Japanese-speaking person or bilingual, for instance, German and English.

Again, their prices will also differ whether it’s 24/7 or during business hours. Or extension to business hours on night shifts. Also, whether it’s with a technical background or just a customer care level one, where it’s based more on soft skills like empathy rather than on technical background.

Taking into account all these criteria, we always give them a proposal and try to make it tailor.

How many people work at SupportYourApp?

Daria: Currently, we have more than 1000 people. So I would say closer to 1200 already. We have our people internally because we have our different internal procedures. For instance, before the person joins our team, we have the interviews, but it’s not only one interview. We have different stages of interviews. So we have two interviews at least. And then for some of our clients, we also have introduced our people to them because clients would like to know whom they will work with.

So then we have this extra interview process, the interview stage, when we agree to work with someone. And the person says I will be happy to join your team. So then we have the KYC procedure to ensure that this person is loyal in carrying information.

Because sometimes we work with the FinTech industry and have access to sensitive or financial data. So that is why we need to ensure that the people we work with can rely on us.

How do you manage 1200 people?

Daria: I founded this company together with my partner 12 years ago, but every year, every month, I would say there is something you also, you know, you learn basically about people, about managing, and unfortunately, there is no silver bullet to manage those people.

Based on this experience and the years we’ve been growing, I would say that you need to be an example for your people. You can’t tell them your company has values if you do not feel them on your own. So as well as other things, basic things like respect or how you talk to people, or if we are talking about service orientation or if we’re talking about clients first, you need also show your attitude towards the clients and many more.

So there are many different practice techniques, but I would say, again, to be an example. We also have something called standard operations procedures; when we have some processes inside, I try to make sure that our team writes everything down because if we are going to grow, we are talking about scalability; if you write everything down, you didn’t need to ask someone to spend time with you and explain how everything works.

You have everything on paper. So it’s something that I really like. And we have many of those documents because they help us.

What software do you use to keep all your documents together?

Daria: We use an enterprise account for Google, allowing us to have different folders. Of course, we’ve previously used Wiki for a Creative Knowledge base for our clients. Currently, we use BookTax. Some of the people on our team use Notion. So it also depends on our client’s preferences.

When did you start SupportYourApp?

in 2010, so basically on October 1st. We will turn 12 years. And currently, we have two more spinoffs. We have two more companies. The first company that does annotation services for AI, computer vision and NLP is called LabelYourData. And the third company, OutstaffYourTeam, is staffing developers for other IT companies. So very similar names

Why did you start your company?

Daria: 12 years ago, to be honest, I didn’t have any idea. I was a student, and I was very young, but I knew I wanted to grow. I knew I wanted to develop myself and become a new version of myself. So I came to work in the customer support department of one IT company.

One friend of this company, where I was a customer support representative, came to us and asked – okay, guys, you already have a big support team. We are launching our product to the USA market, and we didn’t have phone support. Can you please help us with this application?

And we said yes, but we even couldn’t. You know, figure out what kind of price we should suggest, how we can, like, organize everything. But we just said yes. And by the way, this client has been working with us for 12 years, and the company is called MacPaw. They have this application CleanMyMac; if you have Mac, you probably tried them because they’re very well known. There have many other applications right now. But yes, back 12 years ago, they were our first clients.

We just bootstrapped it, and I couldn’t say we grew rapidly, and I would say that it took us about four or five years for the first 100 people on the team. But after that, we started growing and working with more well-known bigger companies everyone knows now.

Have you raised any funds?

Daria: We didn’t raise funds like you’d imagine investors and funds. Again, 12, 10 years ago, we also started creating and developing our software. It’s our CRM system for managing phone calls, emails, and live chats. So, for that purpose, we raised a small amount of money, but within two or three years, we returned them back. So basically, I can say or couldn’t say that we are raised. We returned the money back because we wanted to take back our shares in the company. And they accepted, but of course, with interest; it’s business. I think it was a good, good deal for both sites anyway.

How to get advisors for your startup?

Daria: Currently, we have advisors. One advisor is Dan, he was a former Google marketing director, and we attracted him to become our one power advisor. What we are doing right now is reinvesting in our ideas and the spinoff companies like label data or art staff and your team.

If a company would like to attract advisors, I recommend attracting them beforehand before asking.

Before, even they would think there was a point in attracting money earlier in advance because usually when you need the money, you can decrease the price. After all, there is an emergency to raise some money. So you must always have a good relationship with advisors, firms, and other organizations. Also, it isn’t easy to find your differentiation point, but you need to really find why your company, product, or service would be better than competitors.

Last, but not least, it’s the team. Also, what I figure out is very important for investors is to understand that the founders have a very good relationship. You know, like each other and know they don’t have other focuses. So founders should focus only on this project because sometimes I also met some, like very young startups, who reached out to me and said – can you invest money? And I do have some companies that I also invested something in because I realized that here I could give my advisors, I can give my mentorship, but I see that these people, they basically leave these companies, they didn’t have like side projects, side jobs or something like that.

What was your biggest challenge?

Daria: I always say the same answer to this question; I think it keeps the same because my motivation is also my challenge. You know, when my team has some successes, I am super proud, and I’m super, super happy, and super motivated. But sometimes, when my team has some failures or something’s going on wrong, it’s a challenge to retain people, manage people, ask or make people think independently, and make decisions independently. It isn’t easy.

Has the war in Ukraine affected you?

Daria: Of course it is; it’s still in process because you can’t leave and not think about it. I’m currently in Kyiv, and a big part of our team is also in Kyiv, even though we have many different hops worldwide. So we have hops in Eastern Europe, we have hops in South Africa & South America. The war, of course, was, I couldn’t say that it was predictable, everyone was talking about it, and we started even creating different business continuative plans and different disaster recovery plans beforehand. But you know, when you just, it’s a theory, it’s one thing, but when it happens in the real world, in real life, you always like shocked because it’s a completely different life.

In 2020, I believed we re-arranged our processes in March and went online a lot. So when the war started here in Ukraine on February 21st, we were prepared because the pandemic taught us how to work and operate remotely from different parts of the world.

People also moved away and went to Polland, Europe, and the USA, and we already had all the systems, computers, and laptops available. However, we have some clients, as I mentioned before, we have FinTech clients, for instance. They require a secure environment. So, for those clients, for instance, we have teams.

They still work in the office, and we have shelters in the office. Because for instance, if it’s a company like MasterCard, we can’t work remotely because we have different compliances that we also have in place, and we also have different certifications. So people can work remotely if we are talking about eCommerce projects, SaaS projects, or hardware companies.

For some projects, we have infrastructure and environment in the offices, and people work here in Kyiv and other countries and cities. They still work from term offices; of course, it greatly impacted all of us.

But I would also say that we became very organized and united regarding what we do now and what goals and aims we put in. Until the end of the year because we help a lot to gather this victory because we believe we will win. So we are trying to do everything possible and impossible. That’s why we are eager in what we are doing and trying to ensure that they have jobs tomorrow in one month, whether they live here in Kyiv or in other cities. So Ukraine’s definitely a very brave nation.

Why didn’t you leave Ukraine?

Daria: I moved in the beginning for one and a half months, but then I returned. I love Kyiv; I love the country. Every person I love and my relatives stay here, so I decided to come back.

Daria is a member of the Forbes Technology Council

Daria: To be honest, I became a Forbes Tech Council member four years ago or so. And I was the first Ukrainian woman to be accepted here. I couldn’t say that I currently use it very actively; like in every community, it’s totally up to you what kind of benefits and what kind of trust you’ll get because you can be registered. It’s only up to this person how great the contribution will be, how big the impact will be, and what it will be like a return on investment and, in this case, investment. It’s time.

Being a mentor at hackathons

Daria: I help different hackathons, but not just women directly; I also want to grow their startups or companies or people who have ideas and would like to turn them into real businesses. So usually, there are different formats if we’re talking about hackathons. Luckily I am helping those teams, like a small startup, that I spent two or three days in a row just validating their ideas, and it’s great.

On the other hand, you have experienced people in different industries who can advise and help you. So I like that you can get from an idea to an MVP quickly. These hackathons it’s a very cool initiative of different countries and companies or organizations to support this entrepreneurship spirit. So I really love it.

Advice for founders

Daria: My advice is never to give up. Because based on my experience, in the first four or five years, as I told you, we were very slow. And every month, every week, I told myself that, okay, one month, and that’s it. And you know, like it’s when you’re knocking on the door, someone will open you. Same as here. If you believe in your idea, try knocking and surround yourself with people who believe in you and think you’re doing the right things.

And also I think that the second thing I’d also like to advise is, whatever happens, very, very good things or very, very bad things, you know, just let it go. I mean, do not be very frustrated if something very, very bad happens. And do not be super happy if something good happens because everything changes. So you need to control things when it’s bad and very good because it’s just life, and something can change tomorrow.

People also always ask me why I am not frustrated. In the last couple of years, I’ve told myself that my relationship with my companies is playing a game. Try not to dive emotionally into all the situations. Still, whenever I feel tired, I always allow myself to take a break for at least a couple of days and turn off the phone because it’s also very important.

I still have this challenge; I can’t find a person who will be my mentor. I’m searching because I need to have this very authoritative person. After all, I have specific questions and can find them. The people I work with are lucky because they have me, but sometimes I would like to have someone.

What’s your favorite software?

Daria: If we’re talking about iPhone, I love an application called Day One. It’s a diary application, and I have my diary from 2012, so I can open it and see exactly what I did eight years ago on this day. And it’s cool because you can reflect on your previous life and your past. Some people also use Notion, but what I like at Craft is that I can have different pictures and backgrounds in the notes I have. So I use Craft specifically for everything, private and work notes.

Software that the SupportYourApp team uses

Daria: If we’re talking about also CRM systems, for instance, we use Intercom, Freshdesk, Groove HQ, and Zendesk. And there are many more; if we’re talking about just a business-related application, number one will be Slack and Asana.

Connect with Daria