Open Source, Innovation and Service – Story of Crossloop

Before I started my first company in 2000, I was involved in implementing customer relationship management solutions for large enterprises in United States and Europe. I had an opportunity to watch people support their customers up close and personal. A big problem with support is that customers don’t tell everything that they have done that leads up to the current problem. If you want an analogy, think that the customer is only explaining the last 15 minutes or the climax. The support person is now in a suspense and wants to know what really led to the climax. Sometimes it would take more than thirty minutes for the support personnel to get to the bottom of the issue. Things become simple when the support person CAN access the user’s computer remotely and see what exactly is happening. The life of support people became simple once they had access to tools that would help them remotely access their customer’s computer.

Think about it – this problem is not restricted only to support centers. There is need for these kinds of tools for the common man too. You want to help your non-geek friends, parents or anyone who is not very familiar with all the nuances of hardware and software, a simple remote access software is valuable.

So I was really excited when I came across CrossLoop which exactly does what I mentioned above. This was fascinating for me as it is also demonstrates the power of Open Source (I was one of the co-founders of CIGNEX, a leader in open source content management solutions) Crossloop  builds on an open source software called TightVNC. TightVNC is great but you need to be at least a part-geek, part-human to use that software. Crossloop has stripped the “geek requirements” and has made it extremely simple to use and it is available for free.

To see how simple it is to use, please see the section – how it works. It is the shortest “How it works” section I have seen 🙂

After installing CrossLoop, you will see a welcome screen with two tabs. Select the Join tab if you would like to connect and control a friend’s PC. Select the Host tab if you would like to temporarily share access to your PC.

It is one of those ideas where after you see it, you will think “I wonder why anyone did not come up with this before” It sounds too obvious. I am always interested in getting to know the roots of a company because most of the time it is extremely interesting.

1) Think eBay – started when Pierre Omidyar wanted to help his girl-friend with Pez dispenser collection

2) Think Netflix – started when Reed Hastings was REALLY tired of paying late fees for video rental stores.

Now, here is the story behind Crossloop

CrossLoop came about when Tom Rolander’s father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He needed a VERY simple and easy piece of technology that enabled him to reach into his parents PC over the Internet and drive various applications like photo slide shows to help his father with his memory, free communication tools powered with webcams like Skype to communicate visually and visit with him regularly. This would then also empower the entire family to always be ‘in front’ of the father even though all were geographically many miles away. Hence with CrossLoop, there is no learning curve or knowledge of technology required. With one click – one can securely and privately share screens!

Since this is closely related to several areas of my interests – open source, startups and customer support I went deeper and asked a few more questions. Here are the responses from Mrinal Desai, who wears many hats over there including that of Business Development.

RS: Mrinal, Crossloop looks great and the story of its founding is fascinating and heart-warming. First, I want to wish the very best for Tom’s Dad. Now, coming back to the business of Crossloop, what makes this a viable business? The features that you offer will be sufficient for 95% of the market. Out of the remaining 5%, how many do you think will pay and for what features?

MD: Rajesh, one of CrossLoop’s core values is relationships – relationship was its genesis and we want to see all our users being empowered similarly. We are here to empower our users and in order to do so, we are geared to listening and interacting with them. We love people.  

Having said that and since we do not know it all, we are hoping to get a lot of feedback from our users over time in what brings success and smiles for them. We call this collateral success internally – if we make our users successful, we believe we can grow to continuously support and bring them things they care about. We intend to build features that our users value and want to pay for it. What and how much is too early to tell for such a young company – if your readers have thoughts or suggestions, they can contact me directly at mrinald@crossloop.com

RS: If Crossloop is wildly successful, what kind of company would it be?

MD: I believe we are already very successful Rajesh since we first define success as having fun in what we do and making a difference in people’s lives. We are emailed some of these stories and some are on sites like Digg, for example. We are living it now and we are enjoying the journey. CrossLoop, as a company, is focused on people – employees and users – and having fun at what we do with a lot of passion.

RS: What are the biggest risks for your business as you see them?

MD: Our biggest challenge today is creating awareness and disclosing this “best kept secret” to users worldwide – in developed countries as well as villages and remote towns to enable them to harness the Internet. One of our favorite quotes is “Give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and you will feed him for life.” We want to empower millions to teach millions how to make the most of the Internet!

RS: Last question – about yourself. With this venture, you have demonstrated the power of investing in long-term relationships. Can you please comment on that?

MD: Sure – I met Lee Lorenzen, our key investor and a serial entrepreneur, in about 2000 when he was a guest speaker at one of my classes in B-School at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. He said a lot then that echoed with my personal core values and I knew there and then that I was going to make an effort to make him my mentor – my first from the “real world”. I was fortunate that Lee invested time in me as well over time and now 6 years later, here we are working on something very exciting as a team. Neither knew this was going to happen.

There is nothing more enriching than a trusted relationship for life – personally, professionally and with customers! Suddenly, the journey is so engaging and you are “busy being born” – a good destination is guaranteed!

RS: Thanks Mrinal. Wish you the very best!

I want to wish Crossloop the very best!