Recently we managed to catch up with Ben Congleton, Co-Founder and CEO of an awesome startup called Olark. During our interview, Ben introduces us to Olark while sharing advice abut the business plan process and applying to an accelerator program. Olark is a graduate of the Y Combinator accelerator program.
What is Olark all about?
Talk to your customers. You’ll sell more, faster. Olark Live Chat helps thousands of businesses connect their sales and support teams to the customers browsing their website so they can drive more sales and make happier customers. You cantry it FREE at Olark.com.
How did you come up with the idea for Olark?
In the late 90s Roland and I ran a web hosting company called Netherweb. At the time live chat was essential to our business, but all of the products in that space were designed for big call centers, and none of them met the needs of a small team. 10 years later we looked around the market, and nothing had changed, the same players were creating the same horrible software. We saw a huge opportunity to bring the power of live chat out of call centers and to the hundreds of thousands of businesses that use the internet to sell their products.
What were some of the challenges that you faced starting a company?
Starting a company is incredibly hard. Building a founding team is incredibly hard. Firing people is incredibly hard. Bootstrapping to profitability is incredibly heard. Starting a company is one challenge after another, if you don’t love solving problems you are not going to like being an entrepreneur.
The founding team of Olark changed at least four times before we found the right set of cofounders to build this company.
You took part in the Y Combinator accelerator program, what difference do you feel being part of an accelerator made to your company?
Above everything being part of Y Combinator gave us a community of like minded individuals to hang out with. Doing a startup without a community can be incredibly lonely. With Y combinator we have a huge community we can reach out to for help.
What advice would you give to an entrepreneur looking to get their company into an accelerator program?
If you really want to be an entrepreneur, you do not need an accelerator program. Ask yourself a question, would you quit your job for this idea if you didn’t get into an incubator? If the answer is no, you are not ready to be an entrepreneur.
Your job as an entrepreneur is to start executing and make accelerators afraid that they are going to miss out on you. There is nothing an investor hates more than missing out on something. Accelerators do not make successful companies: they just pick them first.
What advice would you like to give to an entrepreneur thinking about writing their first business plan?
Most business plans are completely useless. (http://37signals.com/svn/posts/1671-study-finds-business-plans-a-waste-of-time) Instead of a traditional business plan, approach your business as a set of assumptions that you wish to prove. Prove or disprove these assumptions as fast as you can. It will save you a lot of time.
A massive thank you to Ben for taking the time out of his busy schedule to put down some awesome answers to our questions. We look forward to catching back up with Olark early next year to see how things have progressed. In the mean time, check out their site. You can also follow them on twitter!
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