Why we're building another Customer support tool


7 min read

We've been building products with Antoine for more than 15 years now, and we had our fair share of successes (Voilanorbert, Transferslot, PDFShift, and ImprovMX to name a few). Around three years ago, we were heads deep on growing ImprovMX and were facing the harsh reality of email forwarding when we had a talk about our ideal product.

We spent the evening discussing what "ideal" would mean for us, and we came up with the following key elements we believed matched it:

  1. A consequent market size

  2. A specific, unique selling point

  3. A non-critical service

Defining success

The first thing we need to talk about is defining what success means.

For some, it's getting funded with millions in the bank, a team of 100, 1000 employees, a big company, and a shot at being a unicorn.

For us, it's the opposite. We aim to get enough monthly revenue to not stress about tomorrow. We aren't looking to have a multi-million dollar company.

That's what we call success: enough MRR to have a decent salary and the liberty to do what we want, how we want, with our company.

With that in mind, here's the key element we defined to build our ideal service:

A consequent market size

The Customer support market is 44 billion USD Dollars in 2023. We never had the big ambition to become the leader in a market, but we thought that if we could attract 0.1% of that market, we would be in a really great position to do what we love with no economic issues in the foreseeable future.

This isn't our first stunt in trying to attack a big market. Around 2012, we started working on 2Lead.in, a CRM tool that was using new javascript features at the time (Backbone.js! Old time!!). We built something really nice, well-designed, and ... dare I say ... complete, but we never had the courage to officially release it.

It turns out that at some point, we had the idea to go on the Wikipedia page to see the list of competitors we were up against, and when we discovered there were hundreds of alternatives, this discouraged us, and we closed the product.

Looking back, we both regret not publishing the product. Granted, it wasn't certainly complete, but it was definitely nice and well done, and could have grasped some market share.

If we had released it, we would have kept on working on it, and iteration by iteration, we would have made the product better, and grew up in that massive list of hundreds of competitors, grabbed some market share. We're now both confident to say that we would have managed to have a product generating a nice income.

But our lack of experience made us scared, and we shut it down for good. It stings a bit to talk about it.

It is with VoilaNorbert that we realized that the principal point of having a successful product is to first release it. You'll never make a dime if you never publish anything.

But that's not all. If you decide to go against a big market, you'll need a unique approach, something to separate you from the others, something to put you aside from the noise.

A specific, unique selling point

You can't compete with hundreds of other services in the same market if you don't stand out. Your gut might tell you otherwise when you start working on that new, shiny product you have in mind right now, but take a step back and think about it.

Would you prefer to use a well-established product or a newcomer for the same service?

If your counter-argument to that is "I'll lower my prices", you are just creating a race to the bottom. In a market where you might grasp some customers at first, you'll have trouble raising your price because your customers will eventually move to that well-established competitor you initially went against.

Another way is to offer something different, something new that will make you stand out. You don't need 100% of the market you are going into. You just need enough for you to live.

That's what we decided for Fernand with Antoine. Instead of going with a generic customer support service, we decided to build a customer support service specifically for SaaS companies, that is fast and focuses on giving a calm experience. We're aware we are limiting our reach (SaaS companies that resonate with the "calm" experience), but we are also aware that the market is so big that this will be enough for what we want to achieve (again, not an unicorn)

This leads me to the last point of our ideal product:

A non-critical service

There is a lot of market you can take a shot at. We tried that with VoilaNorbert (an email searching tool), Transferslot (a marketplace to sell and buy SaaS products), PDFShift (API to convert HTML documents to PDF), and ImprovMX (an email forwarding tool). All of them have their specificities, but some of them are extremely important to the users.

Specifically, ImprovMX is so important that we can't allow any downtime or outage to occur, and when they do, it's always hard for us to handle any outages while knowing we might be losing our user's email.

This puts constant stress on us, and we spend a fair amount of time to ensure everything is working fine.

If I recall correctly, the discussion we had about the ideal product started exactly after an outage at ImprovMX. We were exhausted from fighting the problem, and once it was solved, we were almost ready to sell it. As of today, I believe that the email market is a world where you do need investors' money, a consequent team to ensure 24/7 engineers are ready to jump on any issues, and great teams of developers and sysops to ensure the best reliability possible.

In contrast, a Customer support service is less critical. Of course, it still requires to work well anytime, but compared to losing emails, if the app is down for an hour, it won't be that problematic.

All products have an important, critical aspect

Plot twist, all the service have their critical elements.

For Fernand, it's receiving emails. We can't afford to lose any incoming emails and tell our customers that the very important email one of their customers sent was never received by us. That is not possible. At all.

But we are clearly aware of this, and we've implemented a ton of foolproof and redundant ways to ensure this doesn't fail. Our code works with both Amazon SES and ImprovMX to receive emails, in case it goes down. Every email is saved before being processed in case our server fails for some reason (like the database). Finally, we have checks in place to ensure any emails saved are properly processed in case our tasks system fails to process a specific email for some reason.

We uncovered what is our critical point, and we've made 200% sure that we can't miss an email.

When we settled to do a customer support service with Antoine, our initial assumption was that having an app wasn't as crucial as forwarding email. The worst case scenario would be that the app is down for some time, so the customer agents can't do their job, but once it's back, they haven't lost anything.

But in retrospect, that is not the case. If we're down, we still need to ensure we can receive emails.

And you, what is the critical point of your service?

(If you answer "nothing," I recommend you to check again. What about the database? The third-party service you rely on?)


After discussing the whole evening with Antoine about what kind of product we could build that would be in a big market, that we could have a unique approach to it, and where it wasn't absolutely critical, we realized that the customer support landscape was a great market to try, and this is how Fernand was born.

I hope this was interesting to read. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comment; I'll happily answer them!