a look back at helpspots first 6 months of sales

Now that HelpSpot has been out about 3 years I thought it would be fun to look back at the early days. I always get a lot of questions about how I started UserScape, how long it took to get rolling, what the process was like, etc. I think a look at these numbers might be interesting for new software entrepreneurs. Enjoy.

Month 1: October 2005
HelpSpot was released on October 24th 2005 (my birthday, yeah!). For 4-5 months before that while I was in development I really focused on building up some semblance of a beta group. I think I got about 80 companies to sign up for the beta, though since it was over a long period probably only about half actually participated (I don’t remember really). I offered a 50% discount to the initial beta group which I think worked out really well. Many of the people who participated provided invaluable feedback, even some who didn’t buy it. The sales numbers below reflect the 50% discount:

October 24, 2005 $872.96
October 24, 2005 $179.00
October 25, 2005 $1,599.50
October 25, 2005 $89.50
October 26, 2005 $447.50
October 26, 2005 $89.50

I was pretty ecstatic over this first week of sales. While it’s hardly huge money, it gave me some validation that the ideas in HelpSpot were what at least some in the market were looking for. This is one of the big reasons I think startups shouldn’t hide what they’re building. Startups should use their development time as an opportunity to market themselves and build up a group of interested individuals. Otherwise, you have to do all of that after you release and it means you’re not going to get any sales for months after you release which is going to be extremely discouraging.

Month 2: November 2005
I knew this was going to be a rough one. Most of the beta people who were going to buy had done so and now I was going to have to build up my trial users. Since the trial is 45 days and most companies take a while to pick their help desk solution, November was bound to be slow and it didn’t disappoint!

November 2, 2005 $626.50

Yikes! Even though I knew it was coming, a little fear did set in.

Month 3: December 2005
Sales picked up a bit here, though one sale a week is a little nerve racking. On the up side though it gave me time to continue to improve HelpSpot which I did. Some of the 1.x releases were the most important as they really added core functionality that was flat out missing.

December 2, 2005 $1,969.00
December 7, 2005 $875.00
December 13, 2005 $1,140.00
December 29, 2005 $179.0

Month 4: January 2006
Again I suspected sales might be weak in January due to the Holiday’s in December which limited trial sign ups and I was right. January was light.

January 22, 2006 $895.00
January 27, 2006 $358.00

Month 5: February 2006
Things started to pick up in February again and it’s really from here that it started to take off. After this month sales climbed higher and never really looked back. Here you also see the number of transactions starting to increase slightly. Given that I don’t do any advertising having more transactions means more customers talking about the product which is really key for HelpSpot.

February 2, 2006 $773.28
February 14, 2006 $179.00
February 16, 2006 $494.19
February 18, 2006 $193.99
February 21, 2006 $1,074.00
February 26, 2006 $1,253.00

Month 6: March 2006
Ah, spring time. Finally a nice up tick in transactions and revenues. You can also see the nice mix of customers that are starting to appear. The little 1 and 2 man shops along side the 10-20 user licenses.

March 1, 2006 $456.45
March 1, 2006 $179.00
March 2, 2006 $358.00
March 6, 2006 $1,586.40
March 8, 2006 $358.00
March 8, 2006 $402.75
March 9, 2006 $179.00
March 15, 2006 $179.00
March 16, 2006 $179.00
March 22, 2006 $194.43
March 22, 2006 $1,074.00
March 29, 2006 $179.00
March 29, 2006 $3,199.00
March 29, 2006 $179.00

This month also has some of our first transactions where customers are purchasing additional licenses. This ends up being a major revenue source as companies start using it in just one area, but expand to others or expand to more staff in the same area.

Wrap Up
I hope this was interesting. I don’t think I’ve seen a B2B app break down their initial days like this, hopefully it’s another useful nugget of information and motivation for the would be entrepreneur.

what should i do with 50 ipods

Apple sent me an interesting email today. They have a special program for companies that want to buy iPod’s in batches for use with promo programs. The minimum order is 50 and it can be any iPod type or even a mix of them. I’ve never been big on promo’s though. On the other hand with the discount I don’t think it would be a ton of money to buy 50.

So do you have any ideas of a promo that could be run? Ideally it will help build HelpSpot brand awareness in some way, but I’m not doing anything sleazy like just giving them to people to who link over or anything like that. Perhaps you’ve seen some well done promo’s along these lines before? If nothing else I thought it might be interesting to kick around so let’s hear some ideas.

helpspot 24 beta is out

Whew, this release has been a bit more work than I intended. I think it’s a really strong release though. It’s one of those releases where on the surface it’s not much different but there’s a lot of meat just below. If you’re interested you can find the full release notes here: http://www.userscape.com/helpdesk/index.php?pg=kb.page&id=190

There’s a bunch of performance improvements with filters and I think I’ve finally got the javascript caching down. All the javascript libraries are now minified, gzipped (if available) and cached. In addition, the browser now gets complete caching headers which should force long term caching. This should prevent them from being re-downloaded in some troublesome browsers 😉

Some of the more requested features that are in 2.4 include the ability to set the inbox as the default for a category, a customer login for checking request history, round robin auto assignment for completely even workload distribution, and improved loop and stuck email protection.

If you’re a HelpSpot customer or trial user and you’d like to participate in the beta just enter your email in the form below. I’m going to collect names for the next few days and then send out another round of beta emails.

follow me on twitter

Just an FYI, if you haven’t subscribed to me on Twitter please do. I still write here from time to time, but it’s hard to find the time for full blog posts these days. The low commitment level of Twitter allows me to normally post several times a day. You’ll also get more details about ongoing HelpSpot development than here as I sometimes Twit about what I’m working on right then.