Straight Up Startup Featuring Matt Wilbanks, CEO Of HelpSocial

Matt Wilbanks is the CEO of HelpSocial, the social platform for customer care. HelpSocial users can monitor social networks for customers and connect teams around the business for real-time response. HelpSocial provides relevant information about your customers with their social posts so you can quickly make the decisions needed to serve them best.

Matt co-founded HelpSocial while employed at Rackspace on the Social Media Support team. He and his team incubated their customer support software on the job in San Antonio, Texas. And, with funding from Mark Cuban, HelpSocial became reality.

A true cloud computing solutions specialist, entrepreneur and social media practitioner, Matt took some time out of his busy startup schedule to talk with the Rackspace Startup Program about using a real-world application to eliminate the pain points that exist with real-time social customer support at scale, and about creating a disruptive technology that businesses really care about. What follows are Matt’s thoughts on garnering information, intelligence and insight from your network of supporters and mentors who have walked a mile in your startup shoes:

What business lessons were learned building HelpSocial?
We came out of Rackspace with a product that was already a great fit for the job of social customer service. By doing that job ourselves for so long, we had first-hand knowledge of the pain points that exist with real-time social customer support at scale. Our challenge was figuring out the extra pieces that teams depend on that would help them build HelpSocial in their processes vs. structuring features in a way that would force them to adjust their processes to fit around the HelpSocial UI. That’s tough to do because everyone has different procedures they go through during the support process. Lots of feedback, demoing and trials from a lot of companies have helped us fine tune the feature set and focus on the pieces that businesses really care about.

What business wins has your startup achieved?
Through all the feedback and testing during our early access period, we were able to clean things up with a new user interface. This put the most important items front and center while keeping the workflow extremely fast and user-friendly. The goal was to give our customers something they could begin using without receiving any training, speed through actions and see all important data about a customer’s tweet or post at a quick glance.

What best practices did you incorporate into HelpSocial?
Everything comes back to our customers. Constantly asking what was working or not working. Where do they see social headed in their business? What’s preventing them from getting there? Constant communication with the customer is paramount.

What were the ‘To Dos & Not To Dos’ while building your startup?
Do: Get your product into as many hands as possible as early on as you can and start charging for it ASAP. Asking someone to use it for free is great and produces awesome feedback, but asking someone to pay for it, and hearing “no,” will focus your attention on the things that really matter to your customers.

What were the good, the bad and the ugly of establishing HelpSocial?
THE GOOD – we had amazing support from Rackspace and all our investors and advisors in getting going. We had an enormous community to turn to with questions.

THE BAD – can’t think of anything bad.

THE ULGY – there are only 24 hours in a day, but there are an endless number of things that need to be done to get a startup going. It can be frustrating at times to feel like you’re moving too slow because you just can’t work fast enough. The silver lining in this is that it forces you to focus on only the things that really matter.

What’s THE most important thing to be working on right now? Whatever it takes right now to bring in another customer win coupled with revenue.

Did you encounter any stumbling blocks, pivots and/or failures while establishing your business?
No significant pivots yet, but our customers definitely highlighted an area that we didn’t expect to be as big of a deal so soon – the API. From the beginning of pitching HelpSocial as an idea, everyone wanted the API. Businesses want to get social data and social functions into the hands of more employees, but they want something that will work well with existing software tools. Our API does this better than anything else available.

What kind of support would be most helpful in the early days of HelpSocial?
Finding product/market fit as quickly as possible is so important. Support from others who have been in your shoes is invaluable. Build a network. Reach out to everyone and learn from mistakes they made.

What straight up business advice would you give to a startup?
Hire a sales person immediately. Don’t fall into the trap of, “we don’t need a sales person – our product will sell itself.” There is so much work to be done getting a startup going. Any time you spend on anything other than sales, is time not spent figuring out what your customers will buy, won’t buy or use. Having someone focused on selling, or trying to sell the product, brings more feedback and helps decrease the time to the first dollar of revenue.

The Rackspace Startup Program thanks Matt for taking the time to enlighten us on how communication with your customer is paramount, as all things come back to the customer. For more insight on hosting your startup on the Rackspace Managed Cloud backed by Fanatical Support, contact the Startup Team today.

John McKenna loves startups and was a Space Cowboy with the Rackspace Startup Program. He also crafted customer stories and produced really cool videos for the Customer Reference Program. John enjoys telling stories through his writings…and loves the beach, the ranch, his dog Blue and most of all his three beautiful daughters.

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