Startup Advice

(I) Let Customer Service Inform Your Early Business Model

By: Shan Lian | April 13, 2015

For young companies, top-notch customer support creates the most value.

It’s no easy feat for a seed-stage company to find a business model that suits its founders, employees, investors, and, most importantly, its customers. The right business models are most often a result of trial and error, continuous implementation and response to customers’ needs.

I gave a talk about this at the Women 2.0 How-To Conference last fall here in San Francisco. Many of the women in attendance were early-stage entrepreneurs, like myself, who had also recently launched their own companies. Now, as Shippo has passed its first anniversary, I’m reflecting a lot on the early days of Shippo and the business models we iterated on to get to where we are today.

In its most basic form, a business model is a plan for the successful operation of an enterprise. It’s also an architecture crafted around the core value proposition. All startups go through frequent business model pivots. Some are minor, some are monumental, but they’re all a part of honing in on figuring out what your company is going to be the very best at. I believe that for young companies, top-notch customer support creates the most value – both for your company and your customers.

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http://sf.women2.com/

Over the past year, I’ve been asked many questions about how we’ve managed to grow Shippo as quickly as we have – since the first label created on our platform in Feb ‘14, millions of packages have now been processed using Shippo’s software. Despite people’s guesses, this phenomenal growth came not because we landed on the right business model on day one. It’s also not because we released an amazing product on day one. In fact, in hindsight, our product and growth at the beginning were not impressive. But the reason we have the traction we do now is because we went out of our way to provide the best customer support experience possible for our earliest customers. Our learnings equipped us with knowledge we needed to define our business model element by element: our target customer, their key pain points, and the core of our solution, all towards the end of determining the foundation of our value.

Customer service remains to be the backbone of our business. We continue to sharpen our customer toolkit. I want to share our learnings and insights with you through a series of posts about customer service on this blog. I’m excited to start the conversation and look forward to hearing your perspectives in the comments!

LBW, CEO & Co-Founder of Shippo


Shippo is a multi-carrier API and web app that helps retailers, marketplaces and platforms connect to a global network of carriers. Businesses use Shippo to get real-time rates, print labels, automate international paperwork, track packages and facilitate returns. Shippo provides the tools to help businesses succeed through shipping.

Shan Lian

Product Marketing at Shippo

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