Sramana: When did you learn to program?
Varun Shoor: I learned to program when I was 13. We had x286 and x386 computers, so I started learning FoxPro and Visual FoxPro. This was in 1996. My father had a spare computer from his factory, so he gave it to me. I did not get a computer because I was interested in it. However, once I got it I became very interested in it.
Sramana: So you decided to create a customer support software package and make it open source. Why did you make that decision?
Varun Shoor: I had tried making money before and I had failed. I had wasted 75,000 rupees of my dad’s money doing web designing. I was in love with programming and creating products, so I decided to give it away as an open source project.
It took me about six months to write the product. When it was finished, I decided to try and sell it as well. I went to my dad, presented my product to him and then, asked him for more money. He told me to focus on my studies and did not give me any cash.
I still believed that there was an opportunity. The product was working, and it was better than anything else out there. I went to some chat rooms and started asking people for a free domain name. Out of the blue, a guy told me that he had Kayako.com available. It was expiring in three months and he had no use for it.
I still needed two more things to start this as a company which was hosting and the ability to process credit card payments. I had a friend who ran a hosting company, so he hosted Kayako.com free. Getting the ability to process credit card payments was a lot more difficult. By this time, my father had incorporated a company in my name, so I had a company with all of the paperwork done. I found a company that could act as a third-party payment processor and they would wire me the money. The catch was that I had to pay them $50, and my father refused to give me his credit card.
I decided to go back to the chat rooms and explain the situation. I then offered to sell the software to someone for $50. After posting at more than a dozen different locations, a guy came up and told me that he ran a web hosting company and that he was looking for that type of solution. He asked for a demonstration of the product, so I gave him a demo. I had him sign up for the account at the third-party payment processor and give me the username and password.
Once that was completed, I had all the pieces I needed for an e-commerce business. I created a very nice website and hooked in the payment processing code. Before launching, I knew that people had to know that I existed. Three months before I launched, I created 20 different identities on Web Hosting Talk from different IP addresses. I started helping people out with those different identities and establishing credibility of those user identities.
The day I launched, I used one of those identities and posted a thread about how I was looking for a customer service product and asked for recommendations. I then went in and answered my own questions from my other alias accounts and answered that Kayako.com was a new company that had just launched and recommended trying them out. I carried on that conversation with a few different alias accounts. Two days after launching, I received my first order. That person went back to the website and told everyone how awesome it was. I was able to use all of my user accounts to keep the thread bumped up on top. That is how I got started.