Meet Paras Chopra, Visual Website Optimizer Guru
I’ve been a big fan of the work of Paras Chopra and crew since they took their first baby steps with Visual Website Optimizer. Today, thousands of people across the world use the product. I should have done it earlier, but finally I’ve taken the time to interview Paras.
First of all, congratulations to making such a great tool in such short time. Your work has impressed me since the early days of Visual Website Optimizer. How many customers do you have now?
We do not reveal the exact number of customers, although we do reveal the total number of accounts that have been created so far (both trial and paid). The figure exceeds 10,000 now.
I read in an interview that you said to focus on market first, not idea. Could you elaborate on how you have done that?
As an individual, I had no background in web analytics and optimization. I hadn’t worked in this capacity at any previous employer. So when I chose to start my own company, I made a list of all markets that had an open opportunity. A/B testing is the market I thought needed disruption. So, in essence, I didn’t begin with A/B testing as an idea, but rather as a market, which needed a better tool.
From writing first line of code, how long did it take you to get a commercial version of Visual Website Optimizer on the market?
The beta, with just a couple of features, took about two months of writing code on weekends and on evenings—after I got back from my day job. From beta to final paid plans, it took about five months (50% of it was part-time, and 50% full-time, work).
I believe you where the first to introduce a simple WYSIWYG editor for creating tests, though I could be wrong. Since then alternatives like Optimizely and Reedge have popped up. Why should someone who’s selecting a testing tool today choose Visual Website Optimizer?
There are some alternatives available in the market today, and it is good because they recognize the concept of visual A/B testing that we made popular. So, in a way, this validates our product. However, since WYSIWYG editors will become common in all testing solutions out there, it won’t be the only differentiation. We differentiate ourselves in four ways:
1) Customer support. The engineers who actually work on the product provide our support. So, it is top-notch, and always to-the-point. Our customers love the support we provide, and we know many of our customers by name now. That is the level of closeness we have with our customers.
2) Focus on educating the market. Without knowing what to test, an A/B testing tool is worthless. So, it is our job to come up with tools, articles, and case studies that help our customers design the right kind of variations in a test. That’s how they successfully increase conversions and sales. We want to tell them what to test so that they maximize the chance of a successful result.
3) Ease of use. In the last year, we have brought many interesting features: heat maps, segmentation, revenue tracking, etc. However, with all these powerful features we haven’t sacrificed our basic philosophy of usability and ease of use. In fact, we keep getting better at it. Only last month, we did a complete revamp of VWO user interface and made it even easier to use.
4) Going beyond testing towards targeting and analytics. We won’t just stop at testing. There are many interesting products and modules that we are currently working on, that will provide immense value in addition to testing. These modules and products will be integrated with VWO.
Your company, Wingify, is not just about Visual Website Optimizer—what share of development hours do you put into other products?
Currently, all of our focus is on VWO, however, we are starting to build other relevant products and features. Our company vision of helping businesses make more money online is broad enough to make great tools in many other relevant industries.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced with Wingify and/or Visual Website Optimizer? How did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge is press noticing your company. Since we are bootstrapped (no VC/angel funding), and are not in a hot industry like daily deals or social gaming, getting press notice us is always a big challenge. We try to prove ourselves worthy of coverage by citing all the success our customers have seen and how we are able to confidently compete with big solutions out there (like Google and Omniture).
Another big challenge is hiring. Our standards are very high, and we hire only the best software engineers, meaning that interviews and evaluation can take a lot of time. Right now we are a team of 6 people, but want to grow to 10–12 people within next two months.
Finally, what tip would you like to give to other entrepreneurs?
As you mentioned, I am a big believer in the market-based approach to choosing startup ideas. I summarize most of my viewpoints in a blog post that I wrote, but the key point is that having competition is good. This tells you that people are paying for this. Many times entrepreneurs choose to do completely new things, which may be good from an innovation point of view, but customers are usually lazy and if they cannot quickly understand your offering and relate it to their previous experiences, you are going to need a lot of time convincing them.