Meet FollowUp Founder, Chris Keller
Over the years many of FollowUp.cc users have interacted with Chris Keller for support issues, but Chris is a lot more than support staff…he is the founder, developer and first user. Chris sat down to talk about FollowUp’s development and his next projects. Here is what he had to share.
Hometown: Fairfax, VA
First car: VW GTI
Last vacation: a wedding in Cancun
Food indulgence: Taza 80% dark chocolate (local Boston company)
Favorite website: Suppversity.com (feeds my quest for real health & nutrition science)
Most valuable business tools: Aside from FollowUp.cc? Recurly, Wistia, HelpScout, Litmus, HubSpot
Recent good read: Antifragile
You have spent the last several years developing FollowUp, what were some of the obstacles along the way?
I think the biggest thing was time management. As a sole founder, the transition from making a product for yourself to turning it into a business requires a lot consideration on how you’re going to spend your time. As the business grows, every piece starts to take more time and you realize that you have to decide what’s important and focus on that. I definitely prioritized responsive customer service instead of outsourcing it or hiring someone part-time because it helped me keep an intuitive pulse on both what new users & existing customers felt without trying to extrapolate their behavior from data only.
Related to time management was building new features. I’m not one to add features for the sake of it, but when I saw a small improvement, I’d do it asap. However, as the system got bigger and the elements more intertwined, it definitely became much harder to plan out and develop new features. I’ll be the first to say that my architecture and design wasn’t perfect (I built the first version in June 2007, so you can imagine how many times I wanted to rebuild the whole thing), but again, as the business got going, the first priority was making sure that the system was reliable and lived up to user’s expectations. The good news is that the new team has rebuilt FollowUp.cc and is ready to evolve the app at a much more rapid clip than before! I’m looking forward to seeing all the things I’ve wanted as a user myself come to life this year [My friend Rob and I working from a cafe in Paia on Maui last winter]
Lastly, I want to point out the emotional toll of being a sole founder. Running a startup has its ups and down, sometimes within the same day. The best thing you can do is have someone to talk about what’s going on, vent to, slap a high five, whatever is going on, it’s great to have people around you. Balance that against being productive, but make sure it’s there when you need it. Your sanity and blood pressure will thank you later!
Were you surprised by FollowUp’s success? or did you expect it?
I think I initially underestimated how helpful it would be to some people and how much people would use it. I obviously used it quite a bit myself, but when users started to blow past me in usage, I started realizing that I couldn’t even consider myself the most active user and started to get requests for improving the system at their usage level. That was an eye opener to the success that FollowUp might have.
However, the biggest indicator was probably before I started charging for the service. I was on vacation in Costa Rica with 7 other guy friends and 75% of them told me to start charging for the service because they found it useful enough to pay for it.
[Giving a talk on nutrition to the Paleo meetup group in Boston last summer]
What is the best piece of business advice you have received?
Show the world what you’re doing! 90% of the time, you will be far better off talking to the public about your business than not. Build trust with your audience about the way you think and why you do things the way you do. It like a 360° feedback session and something I’m trying to do more of in my career.
Any advice for other entrepreneurs?
Make sure your business can thrive without you. There are some exceptions depending on the type of your business you run, but the point is to build a system that other people can run over time, it shouldn’t rely on you. This means that your business can scale but you can also choose how you want to spend your time working.
[Dancing a jig with my high school friend at his wedding reception in Cancun last fall]
You have some other projects in the pipeline, anything you want to share?
I’m interested in exploring the health, nutrition & fitness space to see what I can solve there. If anyone reading this is in that space, I’m curious to hear what you’re up to. In addition, I’d love for all of you that have enjoyed FollowUp.cc to let me keep in touch about what I’m up to via my newsletter I’ll send out in the future:
Hope everyone continues to enjoy FollowUp.cc and how it’s going to evolve this year!