Hiten Shah – KISSmetrics 1 of 2

“Speed doesn’t kill startups. Founders should find a way to work faster.” KISSmetrics provides a person-based analytics platform to improve online businesses.

Matthew: Hi, this is Matthew Wise with FounderLY.com. We empower entrepreneurs to have a voice and share their story with the world, enabling others to learn about building products and starting companies. So I’m very excited today because I’m here with Hiten Shah, the founder of Kissmetrics. Hiten, we’d love for you to give our audience a brief bio.

Hiten: Yeah. I have a company called Kissmetrics. We do analytic stuff and I like helping other founders. So that’s probably the best bio I can give for this.

Matthew: And have you always been an entrepreneur?

Hiten: Yeah, since I know. I’ve only had one job in my life. It was an internship over the summer in high school at a medical devices company. I’ve never had a job besides that that I got paid for.

Matthew: Excellent. And so what makes Kissmetrics unique, who’s it for, and why are you so passionate about it?

Hiten: Right now it’s for online business, specifically online businesses that are making money from their customers. So we don’t really focus on companies that are ad-driven and making money on that. And the reason I do it is because I want to help other people and it was my way of helping other people and making money while doing that.

Matthew: What are some of the technology and market trends that currently exist and where do you see things developing the future for your space?

Hiten: We’re seeing people focus more on the customer, or the person that’s coming to a site and that’s primarily because we’re seeing a shift from advertising based business models to direct monetization. We’re actually taking money from customers on your site. And that’s resulting in a lot of the analytics tools that existed before to start becoming less useful.

Matthew: What’s the story behind Kissmetrics? Was there an aha moment? Did you do research that led you to the opportunity? How did you come up with it?

Hiten: We have or had a previous product called Crazy Egg. It creates heat maps where people are clicking on a page and as a result of that, we had a lot of knowledge about analytics. Prior to that, we ran a consulting company doing internet marketing, so we also used pretty much every analytics tool on the market and then some, even a lot of the obscure ones. So Kissmetrics came out of just seeing those needs and then wanting to sort of build another product. 

One key trend we say before we build Kissmetrics was that people were building analytics tools and data tools in house and we thought that that was something that had happened in the past and that’s how some really successful companies like Omniture had been built and we think that as a result of people doing that again, we thought that there was an opportunity in sort of this next wave of web companies.

Matthew: Are you the sole co-founder?

Hiten: No, I have a co-founder and we’ve started all of our companies together, from the consulting company to the many tried attempts at starting other companies to Crazy Egg and now Kissmetrics.

Matthew: So when you were looking for a co-founder, what qualities or skills were you looking for and how did you know your co-founder would be a good match?

Hiten: So, for me it was a little bit accidentally. I was actually dating his sister at the time when I got out of college. And the story I like to tell on that is, he had one customer paying him $3,500 a month for SEO and he was still in high school. He was right about to get out. I was out of college at that point. I just got out and we started the consulting company together. So it was by accident in my case. Things I like to talk about in relation to co-founders is that it’s good to have one. I know some of the interviews you’ve done in the past they don’t have a co-founder and I have a lot of friends who don’t have co-founders and they found companies on their own and they think that it’s always more valuable to have a co-founder. 

Qualities I look for are complementary to yourself, so my co-founder Neil and I are a lot different. He parties a lot more than me. I have a kid, but even before I had a kid, I was not as much into partying. I was more into sort of thinking about product and development, like engineering and stuff like that and he’s much more into sales and marketing, which takes a little bit of a different mindset, skill set, and personality.

Matthew: From idea to product launch, how long did it take and when did you actually launch Kissmetrics?

Hiten: Yeah, because we practiced a lot of the lean startup principals and customer development, we were always launching. In terms of official big launches, we haven’t really done anything like that. Anytime that we try to get PR or any kind of launch like thing on TechCrunch or whatever, it’s because we want more customers. It’s not because we’re trying to launch our product. 

So just to give you some quick details, before we were really practicing customer development and applying the lean startup principals well, the first two iterations of Kissmetrics took months to actually get released to customers. The last one, which is what the business is based on today, took one month from scratch basically. From oh we want to change what we do and we have this customer and we want to solve this problem to it’s in customer’s hands and they can start using it.

Matthew: And in that process, if you don’t mind sharing, can you maybe highlight an experience or a moment that profoundly impacted your understanding of building a solution for a problem?

Hiten: Yeah. So we had our second iteration of the product, which was very similar to a business intelligence tool where it would just let you graph and chart data and from that tool, we had a bunch of people that came to us that actually didn’t want to use it. And our biggest learning was understanding why they didn’t want to use it. One thing they said is, when a customer comes to our site and we tell you their gender, why don’t you remember it forever? Why do we have to keep telling you their gender over and over again?

We were sitting there like, wait? That actually does make a lot of sense. If we know something about your customer, why do we keep telling you to tell us? And most analytics tools actually, you have to keep telling the analytics tool hey, this person’s male. This person’s male. This is the person’s gender or a number of other things that are basically persistent about a person. And so that was probably a big epiphany that we had and now our whole backend for Kissmetrics is all based on actual people and customers. So if you tell us something about one of your users or customers or visitors, depending on what your paradigm is, we’ll remember it forever.

Matthew: Excellent. That’s great. Thank you for sharing. Are there any unique metrics or social proof about Kissmetrics that you’d like to share with our audience?

Hiten: Not really. There’s nothing. I mean, it’s a great product. We’re growing. We have a lot of new stuff that we’re working on to add onto what we’ve built. I guess the big thing is that the next wave in analytics that we believe is coming, based on all the data we’ve seen and a few people starting to enter the market and stuff is that it’s basically a person-based analytics. We actually help you track people, not just page views is what we like to say and we’re pretty sure we’re not smoking crack on that anymore. And it’s a big opportunity.


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