Des Traynor

Chief Strategy Officer & Co-founder, Intercom

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON December 07, 2015

Discussion

Des Traynor@destraynor · Co-founder Intercom
Hey, I'm Des Traynor, Chief Strategy Officer and co-founder of Intercom. Intercom is a fundamentally new way for internet businesses to communicate with customers, personally, at scale. We've raised $66M, we have have over 8,000 happy customers, including the good folks here at Product Hunt. (Look in the bottom right of this page :) ) You can learn more about Intercom here: http://www.intercom.io I write and speak a lot about making products, specifically how to think about product strategy, and how to manage a product once it's out in the wild. You can see some of my writing here: https://blog.intercom.io/author/... - I've also authored 3 books on product management, customer engagement, and customer support. Ask about them if you're interested. I studied computer science in college, am a designer by trade, and of late I've worked on all sorts of areas include: Marketing, Events, HR, Recruitment, Product Strategy, Company Values, and much more that I've forgotten. I mix my time between San Francisco, and Dublin, though I consider the latter 'home'. My favourite/only hobby is soccer. Please don't ask what my "regular day to day" is, as there really isn't one. Aside from that one, go ahead and ask me anything!
Alex Flom@alex_flom
Hi Des, I am the maker of AddCharts.com , a free Intercom add-on that adds charts & metrics to Intercom. We use intercom in our startup(kilometer.io) , and first created AddCharts for our own use, then decided to release it publicly as a free tool. I have two questions: 1) AddCharts is used by 400+ intercom users, while it is still in private beta, and looks like there is a huge need for analytics inside intercom, are you planning to add such features? 2) A strong eco-system of apps built on top of Intercom can make your tool even better, any plans about building an "apps center" or something like this? Thanks!
Des Traynor@destraynor · Co-founder Intercom
@alex_flom Hey Alex, re: 1. I know all about AddCharts, I added it to this page :) https://docs.intercom.io/buildin... re:2. When we have anything to say here, you'll definitely hear about it. To anyone looking to do what Alex did and build a product of interest to any of our 8,000 customers, you can start here: https://www.intercom.io/developers Regards, Des
Lukas Fittl@lukasfittl · Product Hunt
@destraynor Hi Des, great to see you on here! Big fan of your work over the years - the Intercom blog is pure gold :) How do you think "Lifecycle Messaging" (e.g. through Intercom's Auto Message feature), will change in the next few years? What are some old best practices that (soon) don't work anymore?
Des Traynor@destraynor · Co-founder Intercom
@lukasfittl Hey Lukas, Thanks for your feedback, really glad you like the blog. I think we’re at “Peak Behaviour Driven Email Software” to paraphrase Eoghan, Intercom CEO ( https://twitter.com/eoghanmccabe... ) - and most of the new solutions are barely incremental on the existing solutions, which is such a waste of human capital. I think this is a case where better targeting will continue to drive results, and better contextual messaging will out-perform “ye olde ‘day 3’ mail”. So I think in the short term we’ll (hopefully) see badly targetted messages, or emails that should have been in-apps, start to drop off as companies learn that there are far better ways to engage customers and prospects. Speaking of customer engagement, here’s a book we wrote: https://www.intercom.io/books/cu...
Andreas Klinger@andreasklinger · Tech at Product Hunt 💃
Another Q: Which product patterns currently really excite you - and which are under appreciated patterns that could have a comeback/breakthrough?
Des Traynor@destraynor · Co-founder Intercom
@andreasklinger Hey Andreas, Do you mean design patterns? What’s an example of a product pattern? (is it X for Y? ) Regards, Des
Andreas Klinger@andreasklinger · Tech at Product Hunt 💃
@destraynor yes as an example - but usually those stand proxy for the actual ux/product pattern - like "swipe left/right", "p2p market places", "usage of technology x", "realtime… etc" thinking of it might be a very vague question ;)
Topaz Tee@topaz_tee
How did you get your first 100 paying customers?
Des Traynor@destraynor · Co-founder Intercom
@topaz_tee Hey Topaz! Hmmm, our first 100 specifically is kinda easy. We asked people we knew through the industry. Prior to Intercom we had a consultancy (Contrast), and a product (Exceptional), and had built an audience for our old blog (now gone). So I think our first 100 customers came from the audience we had been building since ‘08. However we didn’t start charging straight away for Intercom, so if you mean the literal “100 people who paid us first” it’s harder to tell.
Arpit Gupta@arpitgupta · Product Manager
@destraynor if you ever to DJ in front of employees at Intercom then what would be your opening song?
Des Traynor@destraynor · Co-founder Intercom
@arpitgupta It would depend on the occasion, naturally. Specifically the job-to-be-done of the song if you like. That said, if I ever ended up DJing in front of Intercom people, it's a safe bet something has gone sideways :) I think I'd go with In Bloom by Nirvana (as my safe choice) and **** * ** * **** *** ****** as my non-safe-for-work choice ;)
Topaz Tee@topaz_tee
If you weren't involved with intercom what other 'area' do you see need distrupting/solved?
Des Traynor@destraynor · Co-founder Intercom
@topaz_tee I guess it comes down to pains I experience frequently that I think I can imagine a solution to. For example, I like to watch soccer, and that whole world is a shit show right now that someone is gonna come in do a Spotify on. I've long thought, and tweeted that "Spotify for Soccer" is a great idea, and honestly I'm surprised it's taking so long for someone to get on it. I think it's likely related to the fact that it's only a small % of, for example, SV, that would appreciate the challenge (as they likely don't watch/play soccer) and the scale of the opportunity (it's not very well known that soccer is way bigger than any other sport) But the opportunity, to me, is this: The biggest sport in the world can't easily be watched online, so the vast majority are turning to piracy and dodgy sites to watch instead. The parallels with music pre-iTunes are pretty staggering. Regards, Des
Arpit Gupta@arpitgupta · Product Manager
@destraynor @topaz_tee I share the similar pain for when I want to watch cricket live.
Andreas Klinger@andreasklinger · Tech at Product Hunt 💃
Hey Des first of all thanks for all the advice and help you gave me in the last years - highly appreciate. From my pov you are one of the best product people in our industry - but i wouldnt be surprised if you are not that much known in SF because of the inwards looking mentality they kinda have here. Q: Is there typical mistakes you notice done by product makers - and more importantly do you notice different typical mistakes in EU / rest-of-US and SF / rest-of-world? thanks in advance andreas
Des Traynor@destraynor · Co-founder Intercom
@andreasklinger Hey Andreas, You are more than welcome :) Product makers biggest strength is that there is nothing they believe a better product won’t solve. Product makers biggest weakness is that there is nothing they believe a better won’t solve. Every strength is a weakness. I think what this means is that they focus way too much on over-polishing something, when the key to a successful company might lie in unlocking something else. Sometimes it’s sales, marketing, support, finance, etc. I don’t really know how to answer your second question, but, at a basic level, I think the biggest difference is the scale of thought is much bigger in SF, and again that’s a strength and a weakness. Not every product idea needs to be scaled to change the world on a global level, and many break when you try to force that. But if you have a very big idea, I think SF is the right place.
Ciara Coughlan@ciaracirl
We're looking at integration of a partner like Intercom. How much customisation is there in iOS, could we customise e.g. branding and UX for our various clients?
Des Traynor@destraynor · Co-founder Intercom
@ciaracirl Hey Ciara, Short answer is yes. We 100% appreciate that our mobile solutions need a great degree of customisation so we fully support it. Mail team@intercom.io with specific questions and you should hear back quickly! Thanks! Des
Ciara Coughlan@ciaracirl
@destraynor @ciaracirl Cool thanks Des, good news and we'll follow-up with the team contact and give them more context for the request. Appreciate it.
Barry Magennis@barrymagennis · SEO Manager
Hi Des, Just read loads of the blog on intercom today - fantastic content. Fellow Irishman here. I had a few questions if that was OK. In your experience and knowledge would you recommend any idea validation method above all others? What steps did you take to gain initial traction? What would be your recommended approach if you were to do it again? What marketing channel did you find worked best for intercom in order to get the word out there at the start and bring in paying members? Did you start with any free plans, why/why not? Thanks so much in advance! Barry
Des Traynor@destraynor · Co-founder Intercom
@barrymagennis Hey Barry, Nice to hear from you. 1. Honestly I don’t believe in pseudo science around idea validation, so this answer might disappoint, but generally it’s some version of “understrand the crap out of the problem” and then “build a solution and bring it to people”. That’s all we did, we directly personally experienced a problem very well frequently and built the best solution we could think of for us. Turns out we weren’t alone :) 2. If we were to do it all again I think the only change is that I’d advocate is to add a bit more reluctance to build or do anything that solves a problem we don’t yet fully understand. 3. We launched free, on Hacker News, back in 2011. We were free for a year. I’ve answer the “first 100” question else where. Hope that’s useful! Des
Barry Magennis@barrymagennis · SEO Manager
@destraynor @barrymagennis Hi Des, Thanks very much for the answer :) Very useful indeed. Barry
neeharika sinha@neeeharika · Google, Threadchannel
Hey Des! Any great tips on growth strategy for product that is just coming to market?
Des Traynor@destraynor · Co-founder Intercom
@neeeharika Hmm - it really depends on the product. There's no generalisable "growth strategy", or at least there's none I know of. If someone tells you they have one, they're likely trying to sell you something, or promote themselves. Caveat Emptor. Regards, Des
Jason Meeks@jasonkristofor · Making vision a reality @ISMConnect
Hey Des, I saw you talk at LaunchSCALE last year and was inspired by your insight on products and business ( I actually think you got voted "Best Presenter" if I remember correctly ). Who is one person that you've looked up to and been inspired by, and why?
Des Traynor@destraynor · Co-founder Intercom
@jasonkristofor I'll assume you mean outside Intercom, though honestly I look up to the team here more often. Outside Intercom, I haven't many new names to add to my list, so the usuals are : Jason Fried, Ryan Singer, Bret Victor, etc. There's absolutely loads of folks though, and I already feel bad about folks I've not listed.
Des Traynor@destraynor · Co-founder Intercom
Hey everyone, Thanks so much for your questions, was great fun :) If you want more structured thoughts in a less time-compressed manner: blog.intercom.io ;) Regards, Des
Leo Faria@lhfaria · Founder @Saasmetrics
@destraynor Thanks for doing this!
Kingsong Chen@kingsongchen · Founder at Scanate
How do you convince companies that Intercom is a service they need? What pain point do you emphasize that you can solve?
Des Traynor@destraynor · Co-founder Intercom
@kingsongchen Hey Kingsong, So, there’s a long answer and a short answer. The short answer is that I would use a specific instance of a pain point that Intercom solves, and to find this I ask the person about their role, their product or site, what type of things are frustrating them or limiting their growth. Most companies have similar problems (at the right level of abstraction). They struggle to acquire, or engage users, or they have a hard time delivering great support. Once we talk through their main pain points, I’ll introduce how we tackle those problems explaining our products, which are called Acquire, Engage, Support, Learn, etc. I guess the reusable lesson here is understand your customers pains and then, to paraphrase Billy Corgan, “speak to them in a language they can hear”. HTH Des
Jourdan Bul-lalayao@jourdanb21 · Co-Founder & CTO, Jobox
Hey Des! Thanks so much for chatting with us here on Product Hunt LIVE! My question for you is intentionally vague as I'd love for you to answer based on your interpretation of the question :). If you had only one tip to share with entrepreneurs on how to build a successful startup, what is your absolute #1 tip?
Des Traynor@destraynor · Co-founder Intercom
@jourdanb21 Maintain a relentless focus on solving a clear problem that - you understand very well, - and you know exists for a lot of people who you can reach, - and who are actively attempting to solve it today There’s lots in there to chew on, but a piece people miss is #3 there. They solve problems that people don't really want to solve, or problems people just don't really care about.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
Thanks so much for joining us today! During your career to date, what is the best piece of advice you've ever been given? Flip side - what's the worst?
Des Traynor@destraynor · Co-founder Intercom
@ems_hodge Good question. So as a disclaimer, I don’t really believe the quality of advice is unrelated to the situation you’re in. I really believe, as Clay Christensen says, “Questions are places in the mind where answers fit”. So you can really only receive advice when you’re in a position to do so, on a topic that you’re actively concerned about. I think I’ve received lots of gems, here’s a couple of recent ones that don’t get praised enough. https://signalvnoise.com/posts/3... This post resonated with me, because at the time I was chasing something, simply because I had said earlier I wanted it. (a PhD). I was seemingly hell bent on pissing away the best years of my life, simply to make good on a declaration made three years ago, rather than pursuing something I actually wanted. 2. http://sethgodin.typepad.com/set... This single sentence blog post by Seth Godin is very powerful, and taught me many lessons through out my career, both as a founder, and as a consultant.
Yoshi@dnxx28 · Student
Hi Des! Pleasure to meet you. I'm Japanese Yoshi who is engineer and aim to be entrepreneur. 1 : So I think Intercom can make relationship with angel investor or VC ? 2 : What is your favorite strategy?
Des Traynor@destraynor · Co-founder Intercom
@dnxx28 1. That's not quite what Intercom does, I'm not sure about your question 2. Rather than get into specifics of strategies, I'd really encourage everyone to read Michael Porter's "What is Strategy" : https://hbr.org/1996/11/what-is-... It's a fantastic, must-read in my opinion, Regards, Des
Jamie Lawrence@ideasasylum · 💻 📈 🏊 🇮🇪 🐠 🐈
Hey Des! You're well-known for your public speaking over the last few years. What have you learnt from speaking at so many conferences? I get the impression you weren't always a natural. Any advice for others who struggle with the stage?
Des Traynor@destraynor · Co-founder Intercom
@ideasasylum Hey Jamie! Hmmm - I’ve learned lots of things: avoid flying through Heathrow. OHR in the winter is tough. Learn how to pack your toiletries well. Jokes aside, whilst I speak at many conferences all over the world, I rarely get a chance to fully immerse myself in them in such a way that I can really learn from the other presentations. Typically I’m working on slides up until I speak and then after I speak I’m talking to attendees. I’ve started to ease off the fancy dinners & after-parties as it’s not a healthy lifestyle when you do it very often. I don’t really know if I was a natural or not. But fun fact: I started as a lecturer in Maynooth University (as part of an abandoned PhD, which I left to start a tech. career) , where I would regularly speak to 2-300+ teenagers. Lecturing is a great way to prep yourself for a conference stage as it puts you in the hardest position you could imagine, You have 300 folks in a room who’d rather be partying, or sleeping, or doing anything other than being in the room. So you have to make it interesting. So when you go to a conference, you have people who’ve flown & paid to see you on stage, it’s a different environment. Aside from that, rule one of a great presentation is that it doesn’t start with slides. It starts with a good story, or set of stories, or principle or set of principles. Slides should be the very last thing to happen. Regularly I’ll see people freak out about their slides two weeks in advance, when in my opinion they should freak out about their content first. HTH.
Leo Faria@lhfaria · Founder @Saasmetrics
Hi Des, thanks for being here, big fan of Intercom. There's a frequent discussion in the SaaS space that companies are charging too little for their products. To be honest, even Intercom seems not to be charging enough. My first questions is: do you think you can build a $100M run rate business with a $500 ACV? And: what you believe is a good strategy to change that/raise prices? I see Intercom's pricing plans scale with the number of customers you have. Is that working fine for you guys?
Des Traynor@destraynor · Co-founder Intercom
@lhfaria Hey Leandro, Thanks for being a customer, really appreciate it. It’s a hard answer re: $100m run rate with $500 ACV. It all comes down to your market size & GTM model. There's no physical law that says you can't, and I'd suspect there are a few companies who have done so already. If you have a large market with a blended high-touch/no-touch model I think you can go pretty far, but I’m not the right person to answer such questions about this in detail. One thing I consistently see is people underestimate the amount of internet business that exist today and will exist in the future. For example, Intercom can sell offerings to literally every website and software there is, and all the future ones too. It’s a big big big market. I wrote more about pricing here: https://blog.intercom.io/four-pr... Regards, Des
Leo Faria@lhfaria · Founder @Saasmetrics
@destraynor @lhfaria Awesome Des, many thanks for answering.
Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
@destraynor thanks for joining us today. Love your product and your team is A+. Can you share with us your perspective on the role that teams and culture play in building great products? And what do you think one of the most important ingredients is in creating a healthy and productive culture?
Des Traynor@destraynor · Co-founder Intercom
@corleyh Hey Corley, I agree, our team is A+ In terms of the role that teams & culture play, my answer is honestly "all of it". We're a product first company, the team build the product, the team build the culture. Weak team = weak product and weak culture. I've never seen otherwise. And the reverse is usually true. Quality is fractal. For more about what it's like to work in Intercom, try here: http://intercom.io/careers I think the biggest mistake start-ups make is they mistake culture for perks, and this becomes a negative feedback cycle. They ignore what the experience is like when you're actually working (i.e. the majority of your working day hopefully), and thus they fail to provide what makes this great (good environment, easy to focus, great teammates, rewarding work, self-actualization, all the equipment you need etc). Instead they focus on things that are easy to Instacart (fancy snacks, drinks, etc). Of course the more they do this, the worse the work gets, and as a result they try to make up for it by going even harder on perks.