Mixing SaaS and OpenSource, A Case Study…

One of my favorite posts was written over two years ago, back when I was still trying to tie down this SaaS thing. In my post I called for an approach by SaaS vendors to recreate parts of the OpenSource ethos in order to build their customer base and even their product. I said in my post;

Imagine if you will a situation where a revenue generating SaaS product builds a community of such committed users that they become the salesforce, an integral part of the development team and the PR gang.

I was talking recently to a SaaS vendor who is starting to think about how best to build multi-lingual capabilities into his product. It’s a difficult call for this particular startup – they’re self-funded, have the unfortunate situation of having a widely spread geographical base and are limited in terms of available development time. No easy answers or so it would seem.

Enter Zendesk, a great company that I’ve written about many times in the past. Zendesk had this problem a couple of years ago when they were still a small Danish startup (before, that is, the post that allegedly started them on their meteoric growth curve ;-) ). As a small company they didn’t have the time or resource to create their own multi lingual capability. What did they do? The built the functionality and then turned to the customers to populate the actual language data. I talked to CEO Mikkel Svane who commented that;

Within just a few weeks of releasing the Zendesk internationalization tool we had support for more than 25 languages, and hundreds of customers had already enabled the new languages on their support portals. We see this as a trend that clearly shows companies are amenable to living with minor inaccuracies in favor of agility and speed

 multilingual

But here’s where it gets interested – Zendesk didn’t have to invest hundreds of developer hours or thousands of dollars to do this – they merely went out to their existing userbase, and the wider social media community and asked people if they were keen to help. The image above shows just how many foreign language speakers are happy to share their knowledge – and all for the simply price of an (admittedly very cool) Zendesk t-shirt.

It’s yet another reminder of the value of the community, letting your userbase feel some sort of ownership and, quite simply, reaching out. So there ya go Dave, there’s an opportunity for you to do similarly.

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