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 30,000 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 over $12.7 million.
Q: What would you like to see your team accomplish in 2019?
My vision for every single team member that joins the team is to provide them the opportunity to make a meaningful impact on our customers’ lives, be challenged to learn something new every day, and have an incredibly rewarding (and challenging) experience of a lifetime they won’t regret. These are directly affected by our company’s values:
- Commitment to customer
- Dedication to progress
- Gritty resourcefulness
My vision for UpKeep is clear— I want to impact the millions of people in maintenance related industries around the globe, and I want to work with a team to grow and develop themselves and their careers. Seeing this impact on our customers and our employees are what brings me the most joy every day.
Q: What were the most challenging areas in the early stages of the company’s growth?
A challenge, in the beginning, was knowing who to hire. For a very long time, up until our Series A, I was very focused on just building the best product for our customers and was hesitant to hire anyone in sales because our product sold itself. We had tons of free customers or free users to sign up for our free platform. During our Series A, our investors recommending hiring one or two salespeople.
After taking their advice, we started seeing our revenue increase. I was entrenched in my idea of how I purchase software that I got confused about how the rest of the world purchases software, especially in a blue-collar workforce environment. Bringing on a sales team was something that allowed us to get to where we are today because that’s when we started seeing tremendous growth.
Q: Who is your role model or hero?
My dad is someone who is a role model for me. He taught me there are always two roads to take –one is easier and one is more difficult, and always to take the harder route. It builds character.
Q: What is your favorite book?
I like the book 5 Temptations of a CEO.
Q: Do you use any specific method or system to run daily operations?
I meet daily with my Chief of Staff, who helps me prioritize day-to-day operations using Trello. We want to ensure that every decision we make is guided by our core values – customer commitment, dedication to progress, and gritty resourcefulness. Our values come from our origins as a mobile-first CMMS software, built with the end-user in mind. All decisions we make here are done with the customer experience as top of mind.
Q: Why did you choose your present industry at this time?
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.
Q: What is the best/worst moment you can remember in your career?
Some of my most satisfying moments in business have been hearing the stories of our customers and appreciating how they are revolutionizing their businesses with UpKeep. One of our early customers was a guy named 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. I’m so inspired by Thom because he views his role as helping people. 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.
Q: Looking back – if you could advise a younger version of yourself to do something different – what would it be?
Three pieces of advice I would share about my startup journey are talk to customers, realize hiring is not easy in the beginning, and find your motivation. Talk to customers: Get in front of customers as much as you can. I was working nights and weekends doing everything from customer support and sales, but I never got to go to a customer’s site to see UpKeep in action.
My first experience on-site with a customer was at Universal Studios in Orlando. This visit was eye-opening because being there in person is very different than typing to someone on chat. The only real-life application of UpKeep I had seen, or only imagined, was at my previous job. The workflow at Universal was SO different than my old company. Getting facetime with customers where they are, at their job, in their actual day-to-day work is invaluable. Hiring is not easy: I didn’t understand the difficulties and nuances of hiring. It’s all about building a team. It’s not just about hiring “the best” people that you can find — that’s only half the puzzle. It’s essential to find the right people at the right time. Different people will be great at a different time in your company’s life.
For example, hire generalists over specialists in the beginning. What you find when you have someone who is “the best” at one job function, but your team is only five to ten people, you’re stuck. You need that person to be doing more than one job function and, even though they’re great at what they do, they may not be the right fit at that time.
Find your motivation: I have figured out that my motivation in life is to have unique life experiences with people that I like and love. I wish I had realized what motivated me earlier in my career. For me, entrepreneurship is an opportunity to have unique life experiences with people I care about. I love UpKeep and what I come to work every day to do, and it’s so important that I’m doing it with my friends, my family, and my team.