29 April 2020

Why we launched a new product in the midst of a global pandemic.

For free.

Current mood: 😥 anxious, but excited.

Launching a new product is never easy.

A software release in the middle of a global pandemic? Sounds flat out insane. But that’s exactly what we did.

We launched our brand new scheduler, TimeSync just yesterday.

Welcome to the Lost & Founder blog. It serves as Novocall’s founders’ diary, to chronicle our start-up journey, share our successes (and failures) and most importantly our learnings. The start-up world is tough, and we don’t always have the answers. But in true startup spirit, we won’t stop till’ we find it. Here’s to future startups that might tread the same path.

     L&F entry written by

    Huang Jing Jie (JJ)

     Founder, CEO, Thinker

First, a small segue; our team at Novocall is a lean one, and we’ve easily transitioned into full tele-commuting for every employee, due to COVID-19 measures restricting non-essential movement.

Not every business had it as easy.

They had to not just adjust how their team worked, but also how they conducted business in a new reality of everyone being home, facing challenges in sales, marketing, and customer servicing.

Back to TimeSync. It is a scheduler purpose-built with features to help businesses ease remote communications, by removing a pain point exacerbated by remote work: scheduling.

I hear you thinking; really, a scheduler? Isn’t the space already filled with options, why did we do it? Hear me out.

TimeSync was never meant to aspire to disrupt entrenched software players in scheduling.

In our initial product roadmap, we intended for TimeSync to be a complementary and natural extension of our core call-back automation product. It has been something our customers have been asking for, and it was supposed to be just that.

Until we saw an opportunity in a few simple facts. That, we’re actually building a scheduler here. Then, don’t all schedulers function inherently the same?

We got excited, as start-ups do, in thinking of the what else’s. The Hows. The Whys.

After analyzing the market feasibility of it all, we found the risk of resourcing to build a full-fledged scheduler, could prove worthwhile if we made it market competitive.

At the time of this realization, competing schedulers charged for basic integrations with critical teleconferencing software like Zoom and Google Hangouts. They locked extensive integrations behind costly plans. Free options came with ads, that is, if you were lucky to find a free one that gave you fair access to essentials for scheduling.

Most critically, none of these schedulers features true set-and-forget automation, which we could make a reality with our automated, scheduled, direct-to-phone call-back.
We were onto something.

Then the coronavirus happened.

How to launch a new product in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic, when companies are cutting non-essential software spending.

The team was forced to reassess what we were on the crux of launching. We went back to speak to customers, to hear about their plans. We heard from our customers who kept their core Novocall subscription going. We spoke to those who chose not to.

Through these conversations, and through our own sleuthing, came to find the following:

1. Small businesses like ours, needed business continuity now. Not just measures for now.

2. The verticals we service in sales, marketing, and customer success, were like us, also adjusting to the ‘new normal’ of remote work.

3. We saw competing solutions we once hoped to challenge, react half-heartedly with temporary free extensions, extended trials.

These information points provided us with yet another aha moment. Why don’t we go back to the drawing board, to fine-tune our product for this new reality in which we have to operate within.

And why don’t we do it better than anyone else.

We built a smarter scheduler, tailored with exclusive features for remote meetings, for teams who need them now.

We quietly released a beta for some customers. We gathered additional feedback and data. Then we began building, what we believed (and researched!) were standout, exclusive features to help remote teams conduct smarter, more efficient meetings.

We included real-time-qualification into our booking flow. People could share, embed, or just make public their unique meeting links, and have the system qualify users as if they were doing it themselves.

Qualification questions designed by the schedule owner could ask a series of questions, to determine whether someone should be getting on a call, before they actually do. If they don’t, the system directs them out of the booking flow, to customer-determined information.

We also discovered that one pain point our customers have is exacerbated by the COVID-19 situation. It was hard enough to schedule calls when people worked out of offices. It’s harder now that people are tele-commuting. We decided to offer generous trials of our call-back automation, already baked into the software, instead of charging for it. That way, people can try for themselves, and determine whether it’s a function they need.

But even if they don’t… wait for it;

We made TimeSync free. With everything you need to schedule productively.

Probably not as impactful, since it’s my post headline, but I believe it worth repeating. No other competing product at our price point does as much as TimeSync will. We also made all key integrations needed as basics to scheduling meetings and calls (like Zoom and Google Meetings), free. Forever.

At least for people who sign up for TimeSync in 2020.

We’ve always set out to build a product that helped people remove friction in doing business. With the launch of TimeSync, our vision remains steadfast. Only now, it’s a suite of products.

I will be back once the team and I are past the usual product launch craziness, to hopefully share some headways we’ve made.

Until then,

Jing Jie

Welcome to the Lost & Founder blog. It serves as Novocall’s founders’ diary, to chronicle our start-up journey, share our successes (and failures) and most importantly our learnings. The start-up world is tough, and we don’t always have the answers. But in true startup spirit, we won’t stop till’ we find it. Here’s to future startups that might tread the same path.

     L&F entry written by

    Huang Jing Jie (JJ)

     Founder, CEO, Thinker

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