Skipmenu CEO Gabriel Chan - "Talk To Companies That Don't Want To Talk To You"
Everyone knows IVRS systems are painful to use. Finding a human customer care executive hidden behind the robotic voices of IVRS is nothing short of a treasure hunt; with no guarantee of success. Navigating our way through mindless options like "Press 1 to ...", "Press 2 to ..." is not only time consuming but also annoying. Gabriel Chan realised that this is a problem worth solving; and created "Skipmenu". Skipmenu is a free app that will let you skip through all the automated voice menus and directly talk to the human customer care executive. Skipmenu says it speeds up the entire process by up to seven times.
Check out our exclusive question-answer session with Skipmenu founder and CEO Gabriel Chan. He's got interesting stories and experiences to share -
Gabriel Chan, Co-Founder & CEO, Skipmenu
CE: Tell us about your family background and growing up years.
Gabriel Chan: We're from Guangzhou region of southern China, but grew up in Toronto, Canada in a multicultural immigrant neighbourhood, and learned to appreciate different cultures around the world. Many school mates were from Punjab, both sides of the border. Immigrant parents sacrificed a lot to give their children prospects of a better life. This was the major motivation for me to always work hard and never take anything for granted.
CE: You are System Design Engineer from University of Waterloo. Tell us something about memories from your engineering days?
Gabriel Chan: Engineering at Waterloo is very intense. School terms were divided into 4-month blocks, alternating between academia and internships. Our program had at least one design project every academic term, with quizzes, labs and exams every week, and we learnt to work very efficiently. The work terms were considered vacations or breaks, even with a full-time internship. This dichotomy produces a very deep rooted exploratory and entrepreneurial culture. Very lucky to have met lots of foolish, hungry friends.
3 months after the deadline and without any prerequisite courses nor any fluency in German, I applied to the exchange program with the Technische Universität Braunschweig in Germany. Fortunately, I had one term to take one prerequisite course, and successfully negotiated with the exchange program co-ordinators to let me go if I could pass the proficiency exam. That summer, I switched all my online and electronic devices to German, aced the course, passed the proficiency exam, and made it to Germany! However, it took 4 months of immersion to become truly fluent.
CE: We learned that you were a part of founding/leading team for lot of startups like - Soeie Inc, Thinkpanda, MathDojo, SportsChimp, NoteWagon, Coursemodo,etc. Tell us more about this journey.
Gabriel Chan: My parents have always told me that there are two types of people in the world: leaders and followers. Only leaders could control their destiny. At Waterloo, I was encouraged to explore many different career paths through the five work terms we had. Together, I decided that a fulfilled life was a life I made for myself. What I realized was control is an illusion. Through resourcefulness and initiative, we could tease the odds in our favour.
Engineering school prepared me well for execution, but not marketing and business development. Eventually, through many failed or abandoned projects, I picked up the repertoire of experience required to successfully run a startup. Classroom management platform Coursemodo was the cumulation of the previous chapter of this journey, which ended in a lucrative buyout.
My advice for entrepreneurs: fail fast, fail often, fail cheap and watch others fail. Humans were born an empty slate, waiting to be coloured by experience. The faster you accumulate experience (by learning from failure), the faster you can be of service to yourself and others.
CE: What is the motto behind creating Skipmenu? How it is useful for users?
Gabriel Chan: Skipmenu helps you talk to companies who don't want to talk to you. Skipmenu makes it easier to resolve issues with faceless corporations. People could waste up to 15 min navigating phone menu trees, including misdials, misunderstanding, and other mishaps. Skipmenu guarantees speed, clarity, and an overall pleasant experience getting you to the right place.
CE: What are your stats in terms of downloads per month and monthly growth?
Gabriel Chan: 11.88% week-to-week growth in installations (which is better than downloads), but keep in mind that we've only publicly launched a couple months ago, so we have noisy and perhaps statistically irrelevant data.
CE: Who are other people behind Skipmenu success? How do you go about hiring at Skipmenu?
Gabriel Chan: Skipmenu's head of growth Chloe Chan has been running multiple e-commerce businesses since she was a teenager and has accumulated 100,000+ hours of customer service experience. Skipmenu CTO Amine Haddad is an accomplished software engineer, cybersecurity expert, and seasoned startup tech lead, who has built voice-recognition and automation systems since he was a teenager.
Many people think soldiers would make sacrifices for their country, but actually, they would not think twice to die for their squad mates. We have the same culture. There is no point hiring the best people if you can't work with them.
Chloe Chan, Chief Growth Officer
CE: Tell us about your expansion and future plans.
Gabriel Chan: This is also a secret. We've received a lot of interest from all over the world. What could unite humanity more than the love of food and the hate for bad customer service?
CE: What do you love the most about being an entrepreneur? What is your advice to those who are just starting up?
Genuine value creation and not wasting my time on things that don't matter.
Advice to those starting a business, startup, school club, anything: our lives are very short, don't waste time, be honest, but don't be brutal. Relationships matter most, if you want to get things done. There is inherent risk in starting new things. It's your job to remove the biggest risks as quickly as possible.
CE: Any message for aspiring engineers?
Gabriel Chan:In school, they said ERTW: engineers rule the world. No, engineers *built* the world, and salespeople rule the world. The art of presentation is among the most valuable skill in the world.
A skilled salesperson can sell something of no value or even negative value. Engineers are inherently value creators, but generally poor at explaining value. Do yourself and the world a favour and please learn the art of the sale!