Help Scout
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TechStars Demo Day: Our Pitch

Our team spent the last three months in Boston, MA taking part in TechStars, a truly amazing startup incubator. All our time was spent working on Help Scout. I plan on writing about our TechStars experience in detail, but here's the short version: apply, it will change your life and your company in extraordinary ways.

Last week was demo day; an event where the 12 companies in our group present to roughly 500 investors, friends and family. We've had a lot of people asking to see it, so we've embedded the slides and video below. Sorry the slides aren't in the video.

Help Scout
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LAUNCH: Help Scout

Help scout logo

About 10 months ago we had an idea. We blogged a lot about the process of making that idea a reality (27 posts). Over the last couple of months we've been working with beta companies and building more features. Today we get to release the first iteration of our idea to the public, called Help Scout!

Why build Help Scout?

Sharing an email inbox is hard. Help Scout empowers any team of two or more to stay on the same page when sharing email. We don't host your email; we just sit on top of it and bring a lot of value-added tools to the mix.

For us, Help Scout is a great way to communicate with our customers and stay on the same page. It works much better than email because you can delegate, add notes and see the customer's entire history on a single page. It helps us support customers faster, and hopefully it will do the same for you.

Whatever your experience with Help Scout is, we'd love to talk to you about it and make it better. Try it out and let us know what you think. Thanks for all the kind words and feedback over the last several months, folks!

Help Scout
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Two Big Announcements

Today we're excited to announce a couple things. First, our new product Help Scout is part of the 2011 TechStars Boston program!

TechStars

If you aren't familiar with TechStars, it's a mentorship-driven program for technology startups. Nearly 700 companies applied and we were selected as one of the final 12. For 13 weeks, we will be working alongside the other companies and nearly 70 experienced mentor entrepreneurs to refine our product, launch, and demo it to investors at the end.

We packed up and moved to Cambridge ten days ago. Help Scout is already a much better product as a result of being here and we're excited to work hard and keep improving. For more about the other companies we get to share an office with, check out this article from the Boston Globe.

Secondly, we launched a new HelpScout.net website today! We're still working hard on the right messaging for the site, but this is the latest iteration. There's no better way to test the design and content than to put it out in the wild, so that's what we are doing.

We're getting really close to launching Help Scout publicly. There are over 40 companies using it in private beta now and we're making great progress. Stay tuned, as we'll announce the launch on the blog first.

Help Scout
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Is Help Scout a "Help Desk"?

Since we started building Help Scout, we've fiercely denied that it's a help desk. We even mark it with a big red line on the current landing page for extra emphasis. Why? Because most help desks are mammoth, complicated platforms for large customer support teams to deal with customers through one of several channels (email, forums, knowledge base, social media, etc.). They require a lot of setup, configuration, re-branding and have a steep learning curve.

Obviously, we chose a different direction for Help Scout. We focused on one channel (email) and are taking a different approach from others in the help desk space. Setup takes a few minutes and there is nothing to re-brand or customize for customers to see. Forward a copy of your email to Help Scout and you are all set to start using it.

We've recently learned that despite Help Scout being a completely different experience than other products in this market, it's clearly a help desk. Even if we can build the world's smallest, smartest help desk, we're still a help desk nonetheless. Denying what the product is just creates confusion.

We've seen a lot of products make this mistake and still managed to screw it up. We put Help Scout in a bubble, pretending it justifies a product category of it's own because it has so many use cases. In reality, that point of view is a bit naive and silly. It paints a dismal picture for people and creates more questions than excitement. Twitter and Facebook are completely different platforms in most every way, yet they still fit in the same category. There's nothing wrong with that.

So we're a help desk and proud of it! Our copy will have to be adjusted accordingly. Today we've got over 35 beta companies using Help Scout and we can see light at the end of the tunnel. We won't be posting much more about Help Scout until launch, but rest assured we are working really hard and are SUPER excited to show it to you.

Help Scout

Help us improve Help Scout

While we feel very confident in the direction we're headed with Help Scout, we also value our customers' feedback (even when we don't have any yet). So I'd like to hear from you ... in person. If you or your company is thinking about giving Help Scout a good look when launched, I want to talk with you for 10 minutes. Why?

  1. To find early beta testers for the product
  2. To gain a better understanding of what problems Help Scout may solve for your organization
  3. To understand what other features you would find useful

If you can spare 10 minutes, we'll do our best to make it worth your while. 

Please fill out the 4-question form here and we'll email you to schedule a phone/Skype call: http://brightwurks.wufoo.com/forms/help-scout/.

Update: Thanks for your interest in the Help Scout beta!! We've gotten tons of response and the form is now closed.

Help Scout
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One Feature

Over the weekend I was reading an interview with Tim Ferriss and this excerpt really stuck with me ...

One killer feature

When working with startups, Ferriss sees one problem popping up over and over. “The biggest weakness I see is companies getting focused on implementing new features ... They have a viable product that people are paying for and instead of identifying their cheapest avenue for acquiring profitable customers or focusing on polishing the product they already have, they focus on adding ten new features."

“Mike Maples is one of the angel investors I most respect in Silicon Valley. He says the startup that perfects their one feature and is the best at that is usually the startup that wins. It’s not the startup that’s an 8 out of 10 on 10 features. It is the startup that is 10 out of 10 on one feature — that just kills it."

David Cohen touches on the same thing in Do More Faster ...

"If you're early in the life of your startup, do yourself a favor and figure out what one thing you're going to be the best in the world at doing. By all means, don't stop there. Just spend some time to think about how you can cross the finish line and avoid throwing in the kitchen sink."

In a nutshell, this is why we're building Help Scout. We think it can be the best in the world at email ticketing, email collaboration, email for teams or whatever you want to call it. We're passionate about the problem, believe a lot of other people have it too, and believe we know how to fix it. This is what keeps us working hard every day to get it launched.

Help Scout
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Help Scout Marketing Site

Designing the Help Scout marketing website has been a challenge that's now spanned more than three weeks. Finding the right voice and brand for this app has not come easily, as evidenced by all the changes since we started this journey.

We've created about 20 different variations of the site so far. Although it might go through a couple more iterations before launch, we're really excited about where it stands now. Below we have 7 of those variations for you to see, including the final one on the bottom.

It wasn't the original plan for the entire site to consist of one page. But as we kept cutting things to keep the copy clear and objectives simple, it sort of evolved that way. For the first version of a web app, few companies need more than a page to make their point. If you need more, you probably should have launched earlier.

Two notes before you look at the comps:

1- The plans and pricing are not final yet. I hesitated to show the plans/pricing before finalized, but we're happy to get your feedback now. Again, nothing is final until we launch.

2- The logo continues to evolve. We've had so many iterations of the logo that I lost count, but we're definitely narrowing in. Subtle details of the ribbon and medal have changed, as well as the typeface. We feel like the new type matches the shape of the mark a little better and feels more professional. Here's a quick comparison of the two:

One Month Ago

Old Logo

Today

New Logo

Marketing Site Comps

Help Scout Marketing Site

Help Scout Marketing Site

Help Scout Marketing Site

Help Scout Marketing Site

Help Scout Marketing Site

Help Scout Marketing Site

Help Scout Marketing Site

Our creative breakthrough came right before the final comp, when we moved on to design our first newsletter. It turned out to be the perfect medium to simplify, start with a clean slate and come up with some stuff that we loved. It's funny how things can come together when you change the scenery and work on something else.

We're all putting in late nights to keep up great progress ... more to come!

Help Scout
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Help Scout Design Updates

We've been living with an updated Help Scout design for the last several weeks and are ready to show it to you today. We got rid of some extra space and gave it the look and feel of a more native email client. Aside from minor details, this is the final UI we'll launch with. Here are 6 new screenshots:

Help Scout Screenshots Tickets View

Help Scout Screenshots Individual Ticket

Help Scout Screenshots Previous Ticket Popup

Help Scout Screenshots Ticket Reply

Help Scout Screenshots Users List

Help Scout Screenshots User Settings

In the last couple of weeks we've also launched two big website updates: an updated pre-launch site for Help Scout and an all-new Brightwurks.com. Brightwurks was a much-needed visual refresh and Help Scout was a lot of new copy. We hope potential customers will get a good idea of our priorities for Help Scout by reading it.

Next week we'll finally be freed up from other projects and hope to be working on Help Scout 100% again. Our team is busting it to launch as soon as possible. I'm hoping to reach out to some folks on our mailing list about trying beta accounts, so signup now!

Help Scout
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Help Scout Video Update #2

We're about three months into the process of building Help Scout and are downright giddy about it. It's so exciting to see the vision for this product come together and to be using it more and more. We've made a bunch of progress since the first video update, so I figured we are due for another one. Check it out and let us know what you think!