Introduce yourself and tell us about UpKeep?
I’m Ryan Chan, CEO, and Founder at UpKeep Maintenance Management. I am a Chemical Engineer from UC Berkeley and named one of Forbes 30 Under 30 for Manufacturing in 2018. Also a part of the Official Forbes Technology Council.
I started UpKeep out of passion and frustration by the lack of mobility in today’s maintenance management software. UpKeep has created a modern and intuitive mobile software that is simplifying work orders, maintenance requests, and inventory/asset management across multiple industries.
We’re focused on remaining the most innovative and collaborative CMMS product on the market by constantly improving the ways we empower the world’s desk less workforce. We are backed by Y Combinator and Emergence Capital, and raised $13M in funding from some of the top VC’s in the world. We currently employ 50+ amazing people who all work together to support over 160,000 global users.
What led to your interest in starting UpKeep?
I began working in the manufacturing industry after graduating from UC Berkeley. I was a process engineer in a chemical manufacturing plant. At my company, I grew frustrated with the way employees had to collect and re-enter data several times over throughout the workflow.
All of the software we used was desktop-based, even though every employee carried their phone with them in their pocket. I saw the potential for a mobile solution and created UpKeep with the end-users in mind. I got into this industry because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I knew that I wanted to do something where I could keep learning and challenging myself.
What is your startup’s unique selling point?
The biggest differentiating point for us is we came in with mobility as the core. A lot of our competitors started out decades or multiple decades ago. So their entire tech stack is based on the desktop. We came into this market saying we’re going to build for our end users and just put a relentless focus on having the best experience with UpKeep. That’s really what has separated us apart – both the tech and also our relentless focus on our customers and their experience with the product.
What sacrifices have you made to become a successful entrepreneur?
I love our customers and am obsessed with improving the way technology is used in the maintenance industry. So for me, everything that I had to do along the way to build UpKeep has been completely worth it.
When I first started UpKeep, my girlfriend, at that time – my wife now – got into UCLA medical school. I had to make a big decision. Are we going to try to do long distance? Am I going to quit my job and move down to Los Angeles with her?
I made the decision to quit my job in Santa Barbara and move down to Los Angeles to take on a new role as an iOS Developer. This also gave me an opportunity to continue building out UpKeep. While I was working as an iOS developer, I just continued building UpKeep on weeknights and weekends. I honed my craft as an iOS developer, and I just continued to iterate on the UpKeep product.
One day, I quit my job working as an iOS developer. I decided to dive and head in for this company called UpKeep. I had a little bit of money saved up, but otherwise bootstrapped UpKeep living on a shoestring budget.
Though there were days at the beginning where we weren’t sure where UpKeep was going, some amazing coincidental and extremely lucky series of events started happening. We had this amazing free user base that basically followed my and UpKeep’s progress over the past two years, who eventually became paid users. And that’s when UpKeep started to take off.
How are you marketing UpKeep?
Though many of our leads come from organic search and Capterra reviews, we’re marketing and promoting UpKeep in unique ways. We are using social media at UpKeep to grow and engage our pipeline of customers. We are using Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter to communicate company updates and how we are improving our product.
Each Friday, we post a video to Linkedin sharing new weekly features. These videos bring our product to life and get people excited about new features as they launch. We also share customer stories on our social media accounts and company blog. We recently launched a community group on Linkedin of maintenance professionals to share tips and stories with one another.
At UpKeep, we want to build more than a product — we want to revolutionize the future of maintenance and technology. Social media allows us to create a platform for customer feedback and build a community.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
I started UpKeep as my first project at a coding class that I took on late evenings at a community college while working a full-time job. This iOS programming class is the very first programming class that I had ever taken. It was from 6 PM to 10 PM, three times a week. That was my very first introduction to programming. I never thought it was going to be a big thing. I never thought I would turn this side project into a full-time career; let alone a company that it is today.
I just started building. My advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to just start building. If there is a single pain point and there is no product on the market addressing this need, then you can make the change happen. I know it’s corny but my favorite quote is, “If you can believe it, you can achieve it.”
This quote embodies a lot of the things that I believe and what motivates me. One of those things is proving that the impossible is possible. It goes back to my belief that you can achieve anything that you set your mind to; the only thing stopping you is you. It’s often said that comfort is the enemy of growth, and I can see that to be true.
What is your favorite business book? How has it helped in your business?
My favorite business book is The Five Temptations of a CEO. It really puts perspective on the day to day choices that we all have to make. It’s very similar to our core values at UpKeep: progress over perfection, customer commitment, and gritty resourcefulness. The book argues — when we make decisions and say yes to something, it’s often saying no to others, and these are the tradeoffs we have to make.
What do you like best about being an entrepreneur?
I like that every day is different and that I get to work something that I’m super passionate about. I get to have new life experiences, which is what motivates me every single day. It’s so exciting to work on a mission-driven product that empowers maintenance teams to become twice as productive and allow them to receive recognition for the meaningful work they do that is often lost in a paper trail.
The stories of how UpKeep has impacted real people in meaningful ways is what keeps me going. Take for example Matthew Craig, an employee at the Oklahoma Department of Corrections of over 7 years, who was not only recognized for his work but also was promoted to Director of Technology for overhauling the maintenance and reliability at the facilities across the entire state, by using UpKeep.
What have been your most satisfying moments in business?
Some of my most satisfying moments in business have been hearing the stories of our customers and appreciate how they are revolutionizing their businesses with UpKeep. One of our customers was Thom Knudsen. Thom’s changed companies since we started working together, but he’s still an absolute UpKeep champion and so supportive of us. Thom now works as the Maintenance Coordinator for American Blending and Filling, a beverages/consumables manufacturing company in Illinois.
We were talking recently and he said, “We fill bottles and I’ve never felt closer to the community than I do now because the bottles that I support and help make end up at stores right next door to me. I can go into almost any store and find the products that have been made on the machines that I worked on…It’s like making something and giving it to your friend and then they pay you for it — except now I have a lot of friends. I consider the people who trust my work as a mechanic to make the machines make the things they use.” Thom takes his job to heart and I love it. He views maintenance as a way to spread joy, by making things people can rely on and fixing things in ways that people can trust.
Ryan Chan is CEO and Founder at UpKeep Maintenance Management. Ryan started UpKeep out of passion and frustration by the lack of mobility in today’s maintenance management software. UpKeep has now been deployed to over 1,000 businesses and is a leader in mobile-first maintenance management software.
Today, UpKeep has grown to $10M Series A, with fundraising led by Emergence Capital with support from existing investors including Battery Ventures, Y Combinator, and Mucker Capital, bringing our total funding to $13 million.
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