Varun Shoor is the founder and CEO of Kayako, a company offering advanced helpdesk management software. Varun steers the overall direction of the company and as customer experience fanatic and lead product architect, takes an active role in the design and development of Kayako. One of Varun’s greatest passions is design. Applying modern, consumer-like design to stuffy business helpdesk software was Varun’s brainchild, and with it he founded Kayako in 2001.
Sramana: Varun, let’s start with your personal story. Where are you from? What is the backstory to Kayako?
Varun Shoor: I was born in Jalandhar, a city in Punjab. I have had no formal education. I started Kayako when I was 17. My family background is industrial by nature. My father is into manufacturing, primary tools such as hammers.
Sramana: Does he work for himself?
Varun Shoor: He is also an entrepreneur. He grew his business into what it is today. He works for himself and he owns his factory.
Sramana: So you grew up in an entrepreneurial environment?
Varun Shoor: Yes, and it goes back even further. My grandfather immigrated from Pakistan, and he came over with absolutely nothing. He had to support a big family and grew his business from nothing. When my father started the business, he grew it from the foundations laid by my grandfather.
Sramana: Entrepreneurship is very genetic!
Varun Shoor: It’s funny you say that. I was recently reading an article that debated the merits of entrepreneurship being passed down genetically or being a learned characteristic.
Sramana: I have done enough research and stories to tell you that there are a lot of first-generation entrepreneurs. However, those who come from entrepreneurial families have a higher probability of becoming an entrepreneur. They have grown up in an environment where risk is OK.
Varun Shoor: I will completely agree with you.
Sramana: I am an entrepreneur’s daughter as well. I was 16 when I decided I was going to be an entrepreneur. I did not start right away and did my formal education first. You decided to start your company straight away at 17. Can you tell me a bit more about those circumstances?
Varun Shoor: It’s a crazy story. This company was started with absolutely no cash. When I was 16 I was experimenting with a few different websites. There were various websites where you could go and test your latest code. I ran into a community called Web Hosting Talk, which is still quite active. Anyone looking for web hosting goes there.
I saw a company that sold customer support software for $2,000. When I saw the product, I thought it was something I could make in my sleep. I did not see anything special about it. I had a lot of free time on my hands, so I decided to write this software and give it away as an open source project.