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Launch HN: UpKeep (YC W17) – Basecamp for Facility Maintenance Teams (onupkeep.com)
80 points by ryanchan001 on Jan 25, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 60 comments

Hi everyone! My name is Ryan and I am a founder at UpKeep (www.onupkeep.com). I am a bit of an HN noob, so please excuse my noobiness :)

I started UpKeep in 2015 to mobilize and modernize maintenance software. I used to work in the manufacturing industry where I saw this type of software being used, but all on a desktop. Technicians, as you may know, are always out in the field, but the software they used was all desktop based. I started UpKeep to give technicians the ability to record their field data from anywhere without needing to be tied to a desk.

If you got through that full paragraph, you rock! Most people think maintenance is boring, but I tend to think it’s pretty awesome—heck yeah.

Anyways, I am happy to answer any questions!

We are currently in the Winter 2017 YC batch. And if you aren’t in the maintenance industry or have any facilities to manage, here are some things you can ask about that I think might be more interesting to you!

-I am a solo founder in YC (there are some in YC so it’s definitely possible!)

-I was a chemical engineer turned iOS developer

-When I first started UpKeep I literally had no idea how to code, but I learned over the last 2 years (it was slower for sure)

-I worked on UpKeep during the crack of dawn hours while I still had a job to pay the bills for about 1.5 years before jumping into it full time about 7 months ago

-I was working out of my mom’s garage for the past 2 years until YC (now I am working out of my girlfriend’s parent’s guest room—I would say that’s an improvement)

Hi Ryan - Congratulations on a maintenance management software. I currently support Maximo for a 1,500 person organization with 100 facilities technicians/supervisors using Maximo on three different shifts.

I'm glad you're working on a mobile app (iOS & Android) because enterprise is really slow to make a product that is usable for technicians. EzMaxMobile & Interloc could be your competitors.

Who do you think your competitors are?

Do you have a product roadmap for what you plan to build out as features? Will this be based on customer requests, or do you have market areas you're clearly trying to target?

Having some test items, assets, and locations would build out the demo/starter a little more.

For Time screen, bigger increments might be better such as 6 minute (0.1 hour) or 15 minute (.25 hour) increments.

Having screenshots and explanations of each role would be useful. I logged in as Admin, but I'm curious what a technician sees on smartphone. Also, how does a requester submit requests?

I can see mom-and-pop shops that might use this for their small business, invoicing, and sending automated updates to requesters (customers). You might consider a stripped down version for individuals.

I gave you a plug on the Maximo LinkedIn discussion group.

This is an awesome comment. Maximo is pretty much the gold standard for asset management in enterprise. I don't see Maximo as a direct competitor today, but we'll get there! Watch out IBM :)

While I've never personally used Maximo before, I've seen it be used by several of my colleagues and friends in the industry. Whenever I see them use it, it hurts a little bit to be honest. I have a friend who actually works for LA county and she is their Maximo manager. She basically takes calls from technicians out in the field and inputs it data in for them. I recently asked her to pitch UpKeep to her boss about trying out a mobile solution (apparently IBM stopped developing new tech for their mobile solution for some reason). The response she got from her boss was that field techs are aren't tech savvy enough and the only reason she has a job is because of that. Definitely upset me a bit to hear that, but it also gives me motivation to see how much more there is to improve in this industry.

I think our most direct competitor in the small to medium sized business industry is Fiix software. I think they have a great platform, but I am hoping we'll win out because we are almost fully invested in creating a mobile-first product for field technicians. At the end of the day if field techs input better data into the system, managers will have higher quality, more reliable data to make informed maintenance decisions.

Regarding our product roadmap, we do 1-2 week sprints given the need at the time. Right now we are still focused on making a better tool for field techs. The next big thing on our list is making inventory management within UpKeep seamless. I think we have a great work-management tool, although we are constantly improving, but there are some things on the inventory management side that I think we can improve a lot on. In regards to industry, my background is in manufacturing, but we actually have a pretty diverse market for UpKeep. Right now we fit really well with small to medium sized facilities. Restaurant franchises really love us, clubs, and smaller industrial manufacturing is our sweet spot!

Our goal for UpKeep was to really streamline the request process. We hear from a bunch of our customers that they are tired of receiving a request via email, phone call, text message, whatsapp, what the so many different ways! So we tried to consolidate that all into UpKeep. A requester can open up UpKeep, go to the requests tab, and hit the big "+" button to create a request, they can set up email forwarding so emails they send go directly into UpKeep, they can go to a URL that links to the company's UpKeep account, and more!!!

Anyways, thanks so much for your comment and thanks for the plug on the Maximo LinkedIn discussion group! Would love to chat more and hear your experience with Maximo and your thoughts as a Maximo user and what we can do to improve!

> Inventory

In Maximo, there are different storerooms you can have with bin assignments within each storeroom. Not sure if you need that kind of granularity (bins) depending on how often technicians actually add materials to a work order (wo) or add parts to an invoice.

> streamline the request process.

I think you guys have done a great job here. Service request status checks by e-mail without a password makes it really simple. Enhancement could be custom header & footer with customer logo. CNAME so Requestor page looks like it is part of the company's web site.

Suggestions: Include completion notes and the technician(s) responsible for the work. Especially with residentials, the tech has permission to enter your home and you may not be present to view/supervise the work. The notes help fill that gap. Maybe include status change date stamps too. Maximo has a WMATL (Waiting for Materials) status which is useful if a required part is backordered and work can not start immediately.

> Maximo

A very complicated suggestion but if you built an UpKeep module to work with the Maximo MBO (API), then you could market the iOS or Android app as just a proxy client. Since Maximo's front-end is a visual mess, providing an optimized workflow and screen adds great value.

Congrats on your launch, this looks really cool! And I love your story!

Did you do the design, too? What's the tech stack? How do you stay motivated?

Regarding how do I stay motivated...

Won't lie, there's been some dark days. Especially in the beginning with zero users, negative $$$ (basically supporting UpKeep with my paycheck), and working alone in mom's garage.

But what kept me motivated through this period was just this idea that I was learning SO much in such a short period of time. I loved it. I basically asked myself if I'd rather pay to go to a bootcamp and learn to code or do an MBA or try and start my own thing and learn with UpKeep! I chose UpKeep and I just tried to learn something new and challenge myself every day.

Now, I am really motivated by our current customers using UpKeep. Watching them use our software and seeing how it actually has a significant impact on their business and workflow is awesome. I wouldn't trade it for anything else. When people say they actually "love" UpKeep it gives me all the warm fuzzies :)

Thanks!!! So I basically did v1.0 of the design myself and it was.... VERY different hahaha

Let me try to dig up a screenshot: http://cdn.appcrawlr.com/imageService/aHR0cDovL2E0Lm16c3RhdG...

This is what I designed. After we gained a little bit of traction, I asked one of my designer friends to help out with the designs (she's way better than me)

Because I started out on my own, basically learning iOS myself, I used Parse. I am so so thankful for Parse and what they have done because that is honestly the only way I could have gotten to where I am right now. It was sad to see them shut down, but we wound up migrating from Parse to our own node server after we heard the news.

Anyways, a big part of this for me was that I really wanted to create native applications because enterprise sort of gets the short end of the stick for apps and new technology. I really wanted our enterprise users to have a slick app they actually enjoyed using!

On Firefox the footer overlays atop the pricing table. Not sure why though: http://i.imgur.com/O1ost32.png

That aside, looks interesting. Some of the language could be improved. Off hand it's not apparent what differentiates "Request User" and "Requester User".

What's the A/B consensus (asking HN crowd, not you specifically, as this should be a solved question) on the testimonial links at the bottom of the page? As someone with a tech background they make the entire site look cheesy to me though I can understand if non-tech people (i.e. the majority of your market base) may think otherwise.

Is "UpKeep Maintenance Management 2015-6" the name of the company or a copyright disclaimer? If so you're missing the (c) and it's already out of date.

Dang. Okay yeah we need to fix that... All of that! In respect to what differentiates the two users.... Not too much (except my grammar). Sorry for the confusion.

These are all awesome points. Would love to hear people's thoughts on the testimonials link as well

I'm not an actual potential customer, but my 2¢ is that I was impressed when I saw Hilton and Chick-Fil-A. (Came to report the same issue, but on Safari.)

That's awesome. I am always skeptical of putting big brand names up there because I feel like it really takes away from our product. I get that we need some market validation, but I've always had this thing where I just really want people to try out UpKeep themselves to tell for themselves how awesome it really is!


Another question, hope you don't mind but find this app interesting.

Question: who's the primary user who submits the work request?

E.g. What user would be taking the photo found below from your app screenshot


Would the technical be the person who initiates the work order? Or is some random employee of the company the initiator? I ask, because if it's the later - does that imply that every random employee of the company then needs to install the UpKeep app. E.g. Secretaries, marketing people, etc - all need to install UpKeep. If that's the case, isn't that prohibitive for use?

Sure! So here's the most common use case

Employee A notices that there's a broken piece of equipment and wants to submit a work request. This is typically someone who is not involved in the day to day maintenance of the facility. Instead this is normally a employee, cashier, executive, marketing, operator, etc.

For companies that have a lot of employees, we provide them with a dedicated URL, what we call their "Company Request Portal", to submit work requests. So, like you said, they don't need to create an UpKeep account for every single user which would be super prohibitive. Instead they take this link and either embed that web-page in their company website, or have that link saved somewhere all employees know where they can submit a work request.

Regardless of whether the request was made via the "portal" or through the application, the tickets get funneled into UpKeep. It sends a notification to the "Admin" of the group which then has the option to "Approve" or "Reject" the request. When they approve it, they are typically assigning the work order to one of the their maintenance technicians. When the maintenance technician updates a work order, both the admin and the requester are notified about the new status of the request :)

Follow-ups questions:

1. How do companies educate their employee base on where this portal is? I imagine this is something that many employees will never use in their entire lifetime at a company.

1b. Isnt is more intuitive for an employee to simply call their helpdesk and report a maintenance issue. Shouldnt the focus of your product be to have help desk employees submit the work request on behalf of Employee A? Since I imagine most employees are just conditioned to call their help desk for any type of issue they have. In which case, now you'll have to compete against competitors like ServiceNow who dominates in help desk software.


Please don't take this as me hating on your product. I don't. Quite the opposite. I'm just really fascinated by what your created. Hope you succeed and interested in reading your response.

Thanks and don't worry 1 bit! I love this conversation and the insightful questions you are asking.

1 - Email blast! And it depends on the type of company. If you are a property management company with lots of employees you're right a lot of people won't use it. Then UpKeep becomes a more internally facing tool for admins to enter in requests and dispatch jobs out. BUT if you are a maintenance heavy company (industrial, manufacturing, etc) you are used to submitting work requests and tickets in every single day.

1b - Yes! So basically the requester normally has the most information. If they can take a picture and send it in with the work order, it is soooo much more descriptive and helpful to the admin user. They can also call it in, and UpKeep works in both ways. But it adds additional overhead to the admin users to be manning the phones at all times.

At the end of the day, UpKeep works in both scenarios and it really depends on the workflow of the company! :)

If someone calls, you can pretend to be a requestor submit a service request on the caller's behalf using his/her e-mail and phone you ask over the phone.

The confirmation e-mail can reinforce:

1) check request status online 2) create new requests online

Customers that prefer to call will continue to call, but those that prefer the portal will save you time and submit online.

When the business is closed, customer can submit non-emergencies online as well.

Another idea to consider testing:

Simplify your pricing page by eliminating the "enterprise" column and replacing it with text, like:

"Our ENTERPRISE SOLUTION has everything in the Pro solution, PLUS a robust Enterprise Dashboard and Custom Integration / APIs"

@ryanchan001, Congratulations on your very good progress.

Consider A/B testing the home page with your A+ clients, like Mercedes, at or near the top of the page. These alone might be enough to keep someone on the fence reading.

Best of luck.

Hi Ryan

I'm confused by the pricing.

I went the pricing page and it wasn't clear to what, if anything, the service cost.

Just FYI.


Edit. I really like the intro video by the way. https://youtu.be/oX7Lak7o0qI

Oh man! Okay that's definitely on us--we are trying to through a design update to fix that up.

But here's the 411

We charge only for technicians and the admin users-so that means you can add as many people to your group that submit requests (ie. hey the HVAC system just went down). We've got a free trial which is based on usage (first 25 work orders are free).

Sorry if that's not as clear as it should be and thanks for your input!

How much ($) do you charge per technican and admin user?

Our plans basically start at $25 per technician/admin user per month. We go up from there, but most small businesses can get away with our "starter plan". It sometimes seems expensive for a lot of small businesses, but then very very inexpensive for a large enterprise.

What does "Here's the 411" mean?

Good sir, I believe I may be of assistance: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=411

Haha okay yeah maybe I didn't make that up in my head!

Yeah so maybe that's not a very common term..... Or maybe I might've just made it up in my head hah. Just trying to explain our pricing and give you some additional information

I think it's one of those local slang terms -- because I knew exactly what you meant.

Thanks lol! I grew up in LA so maybe I heard it there hah

My biggest issue with the pricing page is the sheer amount of stuff on there. There is WAAAAAYY too many features listed to cross reference between four different ones. I feel like you'd get a much greater response with simplification. Less is more.

Yeah I think the most important thing I am hearing from everyone on HN (and it is very much appreciated) is that we need to do better on our pricing page.

I love the feedback though! I always feel like I want to keep adding details to try to make it more clear, but I can see that we've come to a point where it may be having the opposite effect.

Okay yeah, anything you like that you think was designed really well I attribute that all to my friend Irene.

Definitely not my strong suit! I am always astounded by the designs that she creates and I'll let her know!

Does Irene have a blog/website/portfolio?

How can someone contact Irene in case they would like to hire Irene?

Okay yeah, send me an email at ryanchan@onupkeep.com and I'll forward you her contact info! She's actually my high school friend's girlfriend so we are really close and she is always looking for new gigs!


From my iPhone, pricing on the pricing page doesn't display at all.


For an app that's going to be used predominately from a mobile phone, you might want to double check your entire website from a mobile browser to ensure its displaying correctly.

A+. Thanks for pointing that out. Pretty embarrassing on our end, but yeah we still have some work to do :)


One more thing. On the last page of the PDF pricing page


For the "billed annually" pricing option, it's saying it only cost $40. That implies is only cost $40 for the entire year.

I think that's a typo. $40 billed annually is not what I think you mean. I think you mean $40 x 12 months = $480.

Because it reads as if it'll only cost $40 total for the entire year when I think you mean it'll cost $480 but you save if you buy up front.

I totally get you. It's kind of embarrassing because that actually is our second most visited web page and we've got a few bugs on it.

I really really appreciate your feedback though! I think all of this is super helpful for us to improve and better communicate with our users.

Hey Ryan

Congrats on the launch! Super impressed by what you have accomplished as a solo founder. Keep up the good work! What would you say has been the most difficult aspect of flying solo? Have you been leveraging platforms like UpWork or a PaaS/BaaS to help with development on so many different platforms?

6 Days late but I'll toss this question out anyhow... What programming languages did you focus on?

What is your customer acquisition strategy? Who is your typical customer? I am curious how, as a single founder (initially) working on this on the side, you were able to both build and market your service?

Awesome Q. Believe it or not, this is a pretty crowded industry with a lot of legacy solutions that have massive marketing budgets. I knew that I couldn't compete with them on a dollar per dollar basis trying to buy clicks through adwords and marketing towards managers, so I haven't bothered to go down that route... yet. Instead I have been playing to UpKeep's strengths. We created a tool for technicians and have a beautiful easy to use mobile application to go with that. So... We've been trying to drive all of our traffic to our mobile applications and encourage bottom-up adoption (technicians tell their boss there's this awesome new app called UpKeep! We should use it). I think marketing it this way, just out of the nature of our strategy, led us in the hands of lots of small-medium sized businesses, or smaller silos into large enterprises where they get more governance over the tools they use. We've seen a lot of successful users in the facility management space from coworking spaces, restaurant franchise owners, and smaller manufacturing groups.

A common use case for UpKeep is that someone sees a broken piece of equipment, pulls out their phone, opens up UpKeep, snaps a picture, and sends it off to the technician for repair. The technician now has a prioritized list of his/her tasks for the day and can easily follow up with requests!

In terms of how did I both build and market with a full time job... I didn't do any marketing for UpKeep in the beginning. I had the most common misconception that "If I built it people would come". In the beginning, UpKeep was a free application for everyone, and I viewed it more as a hobby as I was learning to program. It slowly started gaining popularity in the "free to use" category for business applications and it was fueled all by what a cool app that's completely free.

Now... If you ask about the transition from a free product into a paid service... I felt so so bad doing it because we actually upset a lot of users during that transition. But yeah that's a whole new story :)

Hey Ryan,

This looks pretty awesome. How many times did you apply for YC before getting in :)

I actually only applied once and got in. I still had a full time job when I applied, I had no connections to the YC community prior to applying... and I don't know if the YC partners know this, but I actually did the entire application + video in <30 minutes.

I remember doing the app from my mom's garage when my girlfriend was like, "hey Ryan, don't you think you should spend some more time on this before you send it in if it's important?" My response to her was that there was probably no way I was going to get in so I didn't want to put that much effort into the application.

I might be speaking for YC, but I think the thing that was more interesting was our actual product and where we'd gotten it to more than a beautiful polished application and video.

Congrats on the launch Ryan! Upkeep looks great.

Did your previous employer know that you were working on this for such a long time? How did you pull it off?

Basically the story behind that was that I used to work as a process development engineer at a manufacturing company. I always wanted to start my own thing and learn how to code, so I took a community college class about iOS after work from like 6PM-9PM 2-3 days a week. In all honesty, the class didn't really help too much, BUT it set some pretty hard deadlines that I was forced to meet. I think I told my boss that I was taking some programming classes at a community college, but he didn't really ask too many questions about it. He probably thought I was crazy cause it didn't have anything to do with chemical engineering.

Anyways, after starting the first version of UpKeep and leaving my job as a process development engineer, I got my first real job as an iOS developer by showing my interviewer (and my future boss) this awesome new app that I was making! My bosses were always very supportive because it pushed me to learn more (plus I have a feeling they thought it was going to fail). Now it's time to show them what we're made of!

Congratulations on the launch! This is amazing, and what's more amazing is your ability to do this as a solo founder - keep it up!

Thanks! Being a solo founder definitely has its positives and negatives. I think everyone's situation is different and we always make the most out of it regardless if you're a 1 person operation or part of a big big team.

Hey thanks for sharing this! I'm curious about what your experience is like as a solo founder in a program like YC

So full disclosure: I just started YC and we are only about 3 weeks into the program out of 12 weeks. So.... What I am about to say is without the full picture, but here's what I can say so far.

It's not too different than before :P. YC is very very hands off. I went to a pretty large public university and it sort of feels like that. There's a bunch of really awesome people, but there won't ever be anyone to hold your hand to make sure don't jump off a cliff. You or I need to seek out the right people and make sure to connect to those that would be best suited to help the business!

So, with all of that being said, I guess what I can say is that the experiences of being a solo founder are pretty identical to the experiences of being a solo founder in YC.

I'll elaborate more about some of the challenges I went through and some that I still do go through! But if I have bored you by now you can stop here hah.

I think as a solo founder you just go through different set of struggles, some easier and some more difficult than having multiple cofounders. At the end of the day we always just make the most out of our situation regardless of what that is (ie. don't force yourself to have cofounders or not have cofounders if the stars aren't aligned). To give you an idea of some of the struggles... I worked completely alone in my mom's garage for almost 2 years! I had a remote offshore team helping out with some of the work as we grew, but for a long long time it was just me. I actually hired my first in-house employee 2 weeks ago and he's been super awesome so far--what a game changer!

Anyways, going through this path was the first for a lot of things for me. I made a ton of mistakes that sometimes I wished I could've just bounced ideas off of someone else with from time to time. It was the first time I had ever programmed, so even getting my development setup took way longer than it should have, trying to market, sell a product, price a product, set up HR, design, legal, omg I am getting overwhelmed just thinking about at all of the stuff that I learned. But anyways, it was super rough at times just not knowing.... and having conversations with myself about whether or not I am making the right decisions. But the caveat to all of this was that I learned a tremendous amount in a short period of time and I made really quick decisions without ever feeling paralyzed by discussion. A lot of the time I made the wrong choice, but I learned! And for that... I am super grateful :)

Fascinating! Thanks so much for sharing!

Yeah of course!!! It's been a crazy journey and it's just getting started!

Congrats Ryan! Site looks great.

Thanks!! I always think there's still so much room for improvement, but I think it's one of those things that if you look at anything for too long, it'll start looking funky. It's really cool/nice to get positive feedback though!

great work!!!

Off topic, but is "Launch HN" now a thing? Or is this some reserved namespace for YC companies? Been seeing this last couple of days on HN front page and curious.

It's a new thing we're trying out for YC W17, and we're still fiddling with it. This is the third one so far, the other two being https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13366964 and https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13474042.

The idea is to occasionally replace job ads (which have been the content of YC's reserved slot on the front page since forever) with YC startup launches. Since startup launches are more interesting than job ads, and since freshly-launched startups are typically too new to need job ads, this feels like a win/win: HN's front page gets more interesting, and YC's reserved slot can benefit more startups. We'll make sure that there isn't both a job ad and a launch post on the front page at the same time, but that's not done yet.

Edit (years later): In the end, that list bit never happened. Our first implementation put Launch HN posts on the front page similarly to the posts in the second-chance queue (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11662380), and we never ended up changing it. So indeed there are sometimes both job ads and Launch HNs on the front page at the same time, since the two mechanisms operate independently. No one has ever complained about this, but I still worry about it, especially on the occasions when we have two Launch HNs on the front page at the same time, which we try not to do often but which happens during the stampede towards Demo Day in a batch.

Congrats Ryan! Glad to see another face from OP in the Bay Area

Thanks! If you are who I think you are, it's been a while! :)

"Basecamp for Facility Maintenance Teams" sounds like straight from some "Startup idea generator".

Yeah.... I get that it sounds a little bit gimmicky. But the main point is to really give people a quick 5 word summary so people have a good idea of what it is we do!

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