An Update on Snappy

Ian Landsman • March 11, 2015

UPDATE: We've found a great new home for Snappy and we won't be closing. You can read the update here:


Effective today we’re won’t be allowing any new signups for Snappy. We’ll continue to run the service until May 15th, 2015 to give existing customers a chance to move to a new platform, perhaps our other help desk software app, HelpSpot.

The tl;dr Why

We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and everyone should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it.
—Steve Jobs

The Long Version

Just under three years ago we started building Snappy as a tool for small support teams. Our primary product is an enterprise help desk software app and I thought a small light SaaS app to go along with it would be a good fit. While HelpSpot is often used by very small teams, it has a lot of tools and features which an individual or small team doesn’t need. Wouldn’t it be great to build a tool just for them?

It would also be a chance to try some new things, experiment in ways that aren’t possible with an established existing application and explore a new UI paradigm.

We have an outstanding team at UserScape, and they put tremendous effort into the project. What we’ve created is a great application, but it’s not a great business.

To be even more specific, it’s not a great business for us. We’re a small team, and we already run a very profitable product in HelpSpot. Nearly three years in I expected Snappy to be able to contribute in a more significant way to UserScape’s revenues, but it’s just not there.

Part of this may be the long slow SaaS ramp of death, but even if that is the case we simply can’t continue to devote our limited time to Snappy. At some point, the tradeoff between adding even more great improvements to HelpSpot vs continuing to build up Snappy just doesn’t pay off.

The reality is that finding customers for Snappy for $30/month average sale is as time-consuming as finding ones for HelpSpot that go for thousands. It’s also just as competitive at the low end of the market where Snappy is vs the middle where HelpSpot is, but far less profitable.

For our business, the middle tier of help desk software apps is also just a better fit. They're more enterprise oriented, and that’s an area where we just work a lot better.

We understand how to navigate the committee making the purchasing decision, how to deal with PO’s, how to walk customers through one on one demos. And, once those customers choose your product (for a much higher price) they stay for a very, very long time.

So, it’s not so much about Snappy as it is about us as a company. With five people you can only do so much. One of my biggest errors has been thinking we could do more than we can or should. That’s something I’m trying to rectify.

I feel terrible for the customers that have chosen Snappy as a solution. I know it’s not easy to pick a help desk app and that there’s often training and integration issues that make it a bigger commitment than other applications.

I hope providing this advanced notification will provide enough time for people to transition to HelpSpot or another solution. I’m happy to speak with customers who may need more time and make accommodations for them as we can.

I know people will have a variety of questions. I’ve kicked things off with a few below if you have more please comment below or ping me with them on twitter.

Q / A

Where do you think things first went wrong?

I’m 100% to blame :) I let the scope creep from the original vision. The very first idea for Snappy was to make it extremely simple, essentially an engineering as marketing effort to lead people into HelpSpot.

Along the way I got excited about some of the new possibility building this from the ground up allowed. That was a huge error.

If it’s making some money and growing why close it?

There was an interesting post over on the Baremetrics blog about this. The first two elements there are very relevant to Snappy.

Essentially, Snappy has a very low average monthly revenue per user. Not as low as his example of $20, but not that far off. At those levels, you need a lot of customers to make the app worthwhile. And again, in our case when Snappy makes less in a month than HelpSpot makes in a day it’s hard to justify it after you’re already a few years in and the growth curve isn’t hockey stickish.

His second point in that post is also very relevant. Snappy has a pretty hard cap on how much it can earn off any single customer. Given it’s designed for small teams, medium/large teams are essentially blocked out.

We’ve had a few customers of large size, but the vast majority are 1-3 users. So again, at those levels you’re forced to find a huge number of them over a relatively short period to make the finances work.

Would you sell it?

We did reach out to a few people who I thought might be a good fit to take it over, but nothing panned out.

This type of app is mission critical; I’d be very nervous to put it in the wrong hands. It’s better to close it than to sell it to the wrong person.

So, I wouldn’t say it’s impossible that we’d sell it but it would have to happen pretty soon, and it’d need to be someone I really trust.

Why don’t you just let it run indefinitely and see how it goes?

This was my A plan for the past few months. However, it’s just too important an app to the businesses that use it to leave it like that. It’s also not a simple application to manage. There’s a lot of moving parts, email, servers, widgets, integrations, etc so “just running it” can be more complicated than it sounds.

While it overall has been an extremely stable and reliable application things can and will go wrong. It’s not fair to the customers to not be 100% on top of it.

Is UserScape in financial trouble?

Not at all! This is a business decision though there is of course a financial component. Primarily, it came down to if we want HelpSpot to continue to subsidize Snappy’s development costs. At this point I simply don’t think that’s the best use of those dollars.

Why was starting a second product a mistake?

While we do run some other side projects like LaraJobs, having a full on second product that requires continuous development was not a good idea for us at this stage.

I overestimated my energy to take on such a massive endeavor. I also thought as a company we could take on more and that wasn’t correct. In the end, it was too much of a distraction and financial undertaking for our small crew.

Will you open source Snappy?

I’ve kicked this idea around a bit. I think the problem as with most SaaS apps is that it’s very much tied into a variety of other services. It would be impossible to run Snappy without at least several hundred dollars in services a month outside of hosting.

I think it’s hard to open source an application like that. Also, simply dumping it in the GitHub open source bin without taking on the continued development and management of it doesn’t seem that useful to anyone.