Tiago Paiva, the Founder and CEO of Talkdesk, sat down for an interview to tell the story of how Talkdesk was born.
Let's start from the beginning. How did you conceptualize Talkdesk?
Well, it started when I was a high school student in Portugal. Ever since then, I dreamt of founding a startup. My goal was to make a product that would dominate an industry and change the world. The problem was, back then there were no startups, VCs or mentors in Portugal. So I started teaching myself how to code. I read books and blog posts and listened to podcasts to learn about the startup scene in America. I also took a part-time job at Procter and Gamble where I got my first taste of the corporate life.
After graduating with a masters degree in engineering, I decided that I just wasn't built for the 9 – 5 life. So instead of getting a corporate job, I worked on a few projects that generated some revenue, did some freelance work online and started focusing on product ideas that I could turn into a company.
One day, I saw that Twilio was giving a MacBook Air as a prize to their hackathon. All you had to do was build something using their newly released Twilio Client. I was 24 years old and I had an old PC and no money to spare – I wanted that MacBook.
So I spent the next 10 days building what is now Talkdesk. The idea was to create a cloud-based software that would allow companies to provide better customer service to their callers. Talkdesk would show companies everything they needed to know about the caller before they answered the phone. It would integrate with other systems and synchronize data with all systems in real-time. It would be simple to setup, use and maintain.
So, did you win the MacBook?
I did. After 10 days the first version of Talkdesk was created. I submitted a YouTube video of Talkdesk to Twilio and ended up winning the contest and the MacBook Air.
You have your MacBook Air. What happens next?
After winning they invited me to present Talkdesk at TwilioCon. I remember getting the email – it was Sunday night and I was watching Benfica play at the stadium and they asked me to be in San Francisco on Tuesday. I had no passport, no money and knew no one in the United States. With the help of my parents, I was able to fast track my passport at the Embassy and I was on a flight out to the United States Monday night.
I presented Talkdesk at TwilioCon and won first prize – a $10,000 investment. I remember being on stage when they announced the winner, I thought, "This is it. I'll create my entire company with this money and never have to raise again." I had no idea.
After winning, did you move back to Portugal or stay in the U.S.?
One of the judges at TwilioCon was Paul Singh, a partner at 500 Startups. After winning, he invited me to join 500 Startup's third batch. I said, "Sure when does it start?" and he said, "Two weeks ago." So I went home and packed my bags and flew back to San Francisco. I've been living in America ever since.
Wow, that is a great story. From the first version of Talkdesk that you presented on stage at TwilioCon five years ago to today, how has the product changed?
In 2011 our focus was on the SMB space. What happened was, some of our earliest customers were hypergrowth companies and they kept adding more and more agents. So we built Talkdesk in order to continue to meet their needs, to scale with them. So what started out as an SMB product, is now a product that supports SMB, Mid-Market and Enterprise companies. It is more robust, but the premise is still the same as the version I presented on stage. It is still simple to deploy and maintain, integrates seamlessly with over 40 business tools and allows companies to provide a better experience to their customers.