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LiveAgent: Over $250K monthly recurring revenue with a spin-off project (failory.com)
87 points by nicoserdeir 4 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 36 comments

"Do you want to grow your business? With GenM you can get free marketing from an apprentice as part of their training. The student will work 40 hours per month creating content, increasing SEO rankings, carrying out advertisement campaigns..."

'The student will work'?

So they just straight up admit they're exploiting students as unpaid employees? Students aren't supposed to work, they're supposed to learn. Damnit, America.

> Students aren't supposed to work, they're supposed to learn.

Why not both? Don't get me wrong, I think its shady to make money off someone without paying them. I personally just had a really positive experience working while I was in school, and never really stopped learning just because I left school. Curious why you think this is actually a bad thing?

As a matter of principle, for stuff that already makes money, you ought to expend your precious Internet character capital only on stuff that’s 100% unimpeachably good.

That would be bringing about a world where students don’t have to work or in this matter, be exploited.

It’s not useful to equivocate or find nuance in these things. After all, I doubt the students who wind up working for them will think kindly of the random Internet person who was like, “I think it’s shady” and then equivocates.

That’s like saying, well at least the illegally below wage people have a job. Usually those people begrudge the equivocators. You should be able to see why.

Why aren't they paid?

If they produce value for a company, what exactly precludes them from being compensated?

The fact they've willingly decided to work for free? I feel like higher education is even worse than this where they've convinced people paying for a 3-year degree is the only option.

In many countries it's not legal to willingly work for free when others are getting paid for the same job (this can be due to minimum wage, binding union-negotiated contracts, etc.)

> Damnit, America.

Hey now, they're based in Bratislava.

That's an advertisement for a company called grsm, not for LiveAgent.

Damnit, America!

I think that is an advertisement for an other company, completely unconnected to LiveAgent.

Pretty big worry if a bunch of readers at HN haven't worked that out yet. I only figured it out because I didn't think that was what LiveAgent did.

The student might be still getting paid by the company. I see no admission of them being unpaid...

> you can get free marketing from an apprentice as part of their training

You can do free websearches on google.com, that doesn’t mean nobody gets paid.

> paid by the company

They might be getting paid by someone else, but the comment I quoted specifically talked about getting paid by the company.

Unpaid internships are a lot more common than some people appear to believe. I initially believed it as well, because my internships were well-paid, but then I realized our industry was the exception rather than the rule.

According the the DoL, it looks like there's nothing wrong with what they're doing. As long as they only work on the free marketing projects, it thier work would just count as training.


The current DOL rules may not specifically speak to it, but federal courts have established the 'primary beneficiary test.'[0] If the primary beneficiary of the 'internship' is the company organizing it, it's illegal free labor. This seems to be the case for this company.

[0] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/...

It wouldn't count as training unless there is some formal training program put on by the company. Additionally, the customers are paying money -- they're paying $49/mo to receive the work of an apprentice.

This sort of stuff happens all the time. Its surprisingly common for unpaid interns to operate in a grey area. Can't really say this company is doing anything illegal without actually knowing what the program looks like for the apprentices. Every company I've worked at has decided its better to just pay them something, even if just minimum wage, to avoid risk of lawsuit. I also just think thats the right thing to do.

The company offers training and various courses to the apprentices. The students are generally studying things not related to businesses or digital marketing. They are only interested in these topics and want to learn. So while they watch the courses and read articles, they practice working inside real businesses.

I don't think it's a bad idea, as in many times the real knowledge comes from practicing and using all the techniques you have learnt. But agree that working for free sucks.

It seems odd that apprenticeships would prohibit the apprentice from working on activities that make money. I don't think that's the case anywhere. Maybe there's some special apprenticeship model where that's forbidden? It wouldn't make much sense since the purpose of most companies is to make a profit.

It doesn't explicitly forbid this, which is where the grey area tends to come into place. The official policy is to consider:

> The extent to which the intern’s work complements, rather than displaces, the work of paid employees while providing significant educational benefits to the intern.

The argument would be made that since the company is charging for work from unpaid interns to be fulfilled only by unpaid interns, it would be displacing the work of paid employees as opposed to complementing them. Of course, there's a lot more to it than just that going into the litmus test.

Yes, it's definitely a grey area. All it would be needed to have it not "displace work of paid employees" would be for a paid employee to have supervision responsibilities to review the final work, even if that would be 0.1% of all the work done. I think that's a valid concern, thanks for raising that point.

It actually goes the other way, the litmus test is something like this:

- is the student doing something that tangibly contributes to the business? - is the student doing something that you would normally pay an employee to do?

If the answer to either of those questions is yes, you should pay the student/intern. Of course, IANAL, and this only applies to the ISA, but that is how acquaintances who are self-employed handle their interns.

The only time you can have an unpaid intern is when their work is substantially education, and does not contribute to the bottom line.

It has nothing to do with the article. It's an ad.

> including LiveAgent in software directories

Many many years ago I used to produce internal business plans for a big ISP - and if you had to quickly justify a proposed purchase, you always needed some competitor analysis so you had to go find competitors to the product you are looking at.

Yellow pages don't really cut it, but a great source was "Analyst reports" where there would be some bubble diagram showing market share and competitors.

What I think i am saying is that in the B2B space, above a certain price tag, the best thing you can do is to identify the biggest dogs in your niche, and do all you can to have PR stories out there saying "$YOURCOMPANY, unlike competitors bigdog and biggerdog ..." or better still (but harder) "biggestdog, like competitors biggerdog and $YOURCOMPANY"

You're talking about Gartner reports, although I'm sure there are other companies which provide similar research data.


Yeah thanks - could not remember the name. Forrester was another who had locked into this idea, but these days a google search for "competitor x" probably will work as well.

Curious that google casually disrupts even that

I usually do either/both of:

- Search for 'better than [x]'

- Type '[x] vs' into Chrome's address bar to see what autocomplete provides

I do that all the time, usually for software, although it can be a bit more difficult for under-marketed things like open-source software without a marketing budget.

Does anyone else has good tips on how to find competitors? I am doing this right now and I am struggling

Good interview as usual on Failory. He posts lots of them on Barnacl.es, too. Gotta poke at this:

"On the other hand, no software is perfect and if somebody says, their software is bug-free, they are lying."

Strawman to dismiss folks who argue for high-quality software. If they think it doesn't exist, they probably didn't know about Cleanroom Software Engineering and Praxis' Correct-by-Construction:



There's a difference between accidentally being buggy because the problem is that hard and intentionally leaving it buggy for faster iterations. They're doing the latter. Which is fine in their situation. They could probably adopt some proven approaches to increase their QA results on the cheap, though. Easiest route is some slice of design/code reviews plus contracts (esp pre-conditions) with contract/property-based testing and fuzzing. Catches all kinds of problems.

I think the title (intentionally) suggests this was some amazing overnight/fast success. While it is successful for sure, I think the fact that it took four years to go from 20 to 250 is significant.

It's still good growth, but I expected it to have all happened in one year based on the title alone.

Slightly off topic, but it's not the only thing fishy about the article. In the "Backstory", he talks about his first (failed) venture and this really stood out to me (emphasis mine):

> We were kids and we were selling virtual server space for games like Counter Strike or World of Warcraft to other kids.

Blizzard has never sanctioned third party or self hosted servers, if you're hosting WoW on a private server you're breaking ToS and risking a hefty lawsuit. I have to wonder if that contributed to the failure of his first company, or if perhaps it was just a poor choice of game title to embellish his story. Either way, it smacks of dishonesty.

I'm also surprised Salesforce hasn't tried to shut them down, considering it has a product named "Live Agent" as part of its Service Cloud: https://help.salesforce.com/articleView?id=live_agent_intro....

Could they have meant the RTS Warcraft games?

I'm curious how LiveAgent's recent lifetime deal affected their recurring revenue.

Probably lost some current users to that, but in the long-run, it probably increased it by a lot.

Since they where smart enough to only offer two users and more users are set at top-plan pricing.

Having worked in customer service for many years, I've used LiveAgent's chat products at multiple companies and was not impressed with the actual software itself.

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