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Interview with a Successful Startup Founder

Turning a Personal Problem into a $100k/mo SaaS

Usman Butt
Usman Butt
October 15, 2020
Category of startup
Software & Hardware
Country of startup
Pakistan
Revenue of startups
$100k-$500k/mo
Interview with a Failed Startup Founder

Turning a Personal Problem into a $100k/mo SaaS

Usman Butt
Usman Butt
October 15, 2020
Category of startup
Software & Hardware
Country of startup
Pakistan
Cause of failure of the startup

RepairDesk is a repair management software. Usman came up with the idea when working at his brother’s cellphone repair shop. He developed the software himself along with a web design company he teamed with. His main takeaway from growing this SaaS to +$1M in AAR is to make friends with your customers.

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Hi Usman! Who are you and what are you currently working on?

Hi, my name is Usman Butt, and I am the founder and CEO of RepairDesk. I am 34-years-old and I hail from Pakistan. I graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Information Technology and by profession, I am a salesman, a marketer, a businessman, and most importantly, a friend.

RepairDesk's logo

I worked with my team to create RepairDesk in 2014. At that time, I wanted to make a repair shop POS software that gave store owners peace of mind. Fast forward to today, RepairDesk has grown exponentially. We’re currently one of the world’s leading repair management software, and our core ethos has remained the same all the way.

My role in developing RepairDesk is basically giving my team direction on what to make and insight on what our customers would like to see in our software. To that end, I keep my communication with customers on-point; I believe if you’re going to create something for a person, it should always be solving a problem. Talking to my customers gives me the best idea of what they want, and how we can give it to them in a neat little package.

Of course, the best way to deliver consistently is through a subscription model. Customers who pay us every month essentially fuel our company and keep us running with ideas. The way I see it, we’re essentially lending our services to repair shop owners in helping them run their business better.

RepairDesk's dashboard

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

RepairDesk was conceived out of a need that I felt was prevalent in the repair industry. The idea came to me when I was working with my brother at his cellphone repair shop. We had many repair jobs coming in, a lot of inventory to go through, and needed a system to manage it all. Being an IT-qualified professional, I wanted to solve this issue with technology. So, I got cracking with my idea and started looking for people who could help me out. That's basically how it all started.

Thanks to working at my brother's store, I was able to get a fix on what a repair store needed and used that knowledge to build on my idea. Repair jobs assigned needed to be logged, customer records needed to be maintained, inventory had to be kept in check, etc.

All I needed was the opportunity to work with a team and develop it. Fortunately, I had already started up a web design company, so I had people who could get things done. I pitched them my idea and we devised a plan on what we needed to do and how to go about it. Before we knew it, we had started work on what would eventually be the first build of RepairDesk.


How did you go from idea to product?

When we started out, I had no idea where the journey would lead, but I was as excited as I am today to go down that path. I remember the routine that we had back in the early days - always on call, staying up late at night to fix issues, scraping together whatever we could to improve in the next update. What started off with a team of 5 people (myself included) quickly began to scale and grow, and that motivated me to keep pressing on. I’m really happy that some of our first hires are still with us today.

The initial prototyping phase was about 4-5 months, as I remember. Every day, we'd be reviewing over what we'd done, perform audits, and have discussions on what worked and what needed fixing. Once we were confident enough in what we had, we went into a beta launch with some of the prospects that we were talking to. It was an immense joy to learn that in the first month, we had 6 people sign on for our software. That had to have been the happiest moment of my career! It was an incredible feeling.

RepairDesk's UX

We built RepairDesk on the LAMP stack because of its ability to rapidly develop and deploy applications. Our developers use PHP as our server language, and the frameworks used are Laravel and Yii. For front-end, we're working on a SPA with Vue.js and Bootstrap. Initially, we used SVN for our versioning, but once we were made aware of Git and AWS cloud deployment, our team made the transition to it. As an addition, we've been using Atlassian for their management services in both Jira and BitBucket.

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Which were your marketing strategies to grow your business?

Since starting RepairDesk, my main focus has always been to give our customers the best. That meant the best customer service, the best features, the best whatever. Our efforts turned out to generate very positive feedback and organic growth. To that end, I believe our close connection with customers has helped immensely since we always kept an interest in the challenges and issues they faced, and how we can provide a solution for them to reach new levels of success.

RepairDesk on different platforms

While our initial focus was targeting small home-based repair shops, we wanted to grow and expand and start playing with the big guns. For that, we consulted many SaaS experts, figuring out how we could provide the best service in a single platform and make it profitable. We then worked with the best I.T. professionals in our area to make improvements to RepairDesk and build on it even further. In two months, we had more than 100 repair stores that used our cloud-based POS software. That was a major win for us, being able to target all these cell phone repair shops. Still, we wanted to be better and make more improvements, so we used our knowledge and experience, along with valuable feedback, to develop our software to fit any type of repair need worldwide.

I made it a point to focus squarely on maintaining great customer relationships. Talking to people was always my strong suit, and I relished in getting to know more about the people that bought RepairDesk and understanding their needs. I feel that the more you talk to a customer, the more you learn the inner workings of their circumstances. I wanted to be able to know everything that bothered them and help them find a solution for it.

My desire to learn more led me to attend the Consumer Electronics Show, the world's largest tech expo, in 2019. I went to Las Vegas to attend the 'All Wireless & Prepaid Expo' and touch base with my core audience, putting a face to the name. The physical appearance at these two big shows gave us a lot of positive outreach, and we met potential customers, discussed their problems, and provided them with a quick demo of our repair shop POS software.

RepairDesk on CES

Working with customers however wasn't the only thing that helped us. I used my people skills to also reach out for partnerships with cellphone suppliers in the market. The repair industry goes hand-in-hand with the repair parts industry, and we decided to start promotions in partnership with leading suppliers in the market. Our collaborations with MobileSentrix and Injured Gadgets boosted our customer base and resulted in many quality conversions for our business.

Our team is constantly learning and experimenting with marketing strategies, figuring out how we can break new ground to reach out even more. That's the essence of SaaS-based businesses. We're now looking to add some PPC campaigns in our marketing plan and are hoping it will help RepairDesk grow even further.


How are you doing today and what are your goals for the future?

I feel where we are is absolutely fantastic. The past so-many years have certainly been exciting, and I feel like we’ve got a lot more potential with what we have. RepairDesk is an excellent software that continues to grow and improve, and I am so proud of the work that we’ve done.

For the future, we’re working on many fronts using the OKR goal-setting framework. Each quarter, our departments have a list of objectives and key results that we set out to achieve, and we’re religiously working to meet them each week. All our teams – sales, business development, engineering, QA, business analysis, design, human resources, customer support & success, marketing – we’re all stretching ourselves to do the most that we can and help grow the software.

We plan on introducing more integrations into RepairDesk, improve on our platform security, and achieve revenue across both our subscription software and our payment platform, RepairDesk Payments.

Since starting RepairDesk, what have been your main lessons?

Make friends with your customers, period.

The more you talk to your customers, the better you'll run your business. Talk to them frequently to see how they are doing and find out their pain points. If you provide them a solution to all their problems with your product or service, you've gained a follower that will tell others about you. Use the organic approach and let your customers be your voice; it's the best way to capture the hearts and minds of everyone you want to do business with.

What were the biggest obstacles you overcame? What were your worst mistakes?

I think one of the greatest challenges we faced was launching on to the global market from a place like Pakistan. Anyone will tell you that coming from a nascent country and making a mark on international business is really tough, and we did face a lot of troubles along the way. Our country wasn't really in the best position at the time, and we didn't have many of the conveniences that people in the West enjoy.

Targeting cell phone and computer repair merchants in the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and other international borders has been difficult. People are often very skeptical of you if they learn you're from somewhere in South-East Asia. Building that first pool of customers was certainly a rough patch, but with enough perseverance, we've managed to break barriers and obtain the trust of merchants worldwide.

One recent challenge that we faced was when one of our initial investors wanted to make an exit from the company. With the sudden news of our shareholder making their exit, we had to scramble to deal with acquiring their share and tailor our financial roadmap. It was certainly a tough time, but we managed to make the most of the situation, and I feel we did pretty good for ourselves.

If you had the chance to do things differently, what would you do?

If I had the chance to go back, I’d probably do it all over again!

The journey we’re taken so far as a team has been an incredible one, and I’ve learned a lot from the experiences I’ve had. Everyone faces challenges, sure, but I believe that those challenges are what help you refine yourself and become truly special. After all, even coal turns to diamond after tons of pressure.

There are a couple of things that I would have altered in my journey, had I had the chance to go back. I think greater foresight would have really been helpful, and being able to assemble my team faster would obviously have been great. But the way the journey has turned out so far, I feel the best is yet to come.

To my younger self, I would say this: keep going, tiger! Keep pushing forward, keep following your passion obsessively, and never look back. The world is so much bigger than what it seems right now, and you’re on the right track to make it big. Always remember where you come from, and never forget to be thankful for everything.

RepairDesk awarded

What tools & resources do you recommend?

There are some great resources out there that have helped me immensely. Some tools that I’m really fond of are Intercom for business communication. It’s a service that allows me to connect in real-time with any customers on our website. My support team uses it, and I love how you can streamline every conversation in it easily.

Another tool I really enjoy using is InVision for prototyping. It helps me quickly mock up any ideas I have and share it with my team. Then, they can get to work on creating them exactly to spec.

Where can we go to learn more?

Want to learn more? You are always welcome to RepairDesk.

We keep our followers posted with the latest cell phone and computer industry trends, business tips, and our new features on our Blog page. 

Our social media pages Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest also provide active updates on a daily basis.

Finally, I always love hearing from people and answering questions, so if you touch base with me on any social media platform, I’d love to connect.

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