Blinkbid was first released in October 2003, and it was immediately popular, says Lesko. "Our sales increased, and we needed a way to keep in touch and keep our databases accessible to everyone who would eventually work for us." With a staff spread out across California and a programmer in London, paper trails were difficult to maintain and even more difficult to share.
Lesko says the first CRM package they considered was Salesforce. "They didn't return our calls," he says. "Since we were a small company, they decided we weren't right for them." Then Lesko's sister recommended iRadeon's open source CRM solution. She said, "I think you'll like these guys.'"
She was right. Lesko appreciated the fact that iRadeon On Demand CRM is open source. "I've known about open source for a long time," Lesko says. "I've known a lot of programmers. When we were developing Blinkbid, our programmer reached out to a huge community." Blinkbid is based on the Filemaker database program and open source extensions, Lesko says, and he's been "thrilled" to share some of the insights he and his programmer discovered while they were getting the software ready for market. "The community was just extraordinary and responsive, so when I heard iRadeon is open source, it made me happy because there was a certain confidence that went along with that -- that I could support an ideal I believe in."
So why isn't Blinkbid open source itself? "We're all trying to make a couple of bucks with our product," Lesko says, "but because of the open community we used to get our project going, we were able to keep our costs a little bit lower, so that everyone can use [Blinkbid], from students to professionals. Blinkbid doesn't lend itself to open source. There's a mentality among photographers that they want to pay for something and receive something. They want to feel that there's some sort of connect with tech support and that kind of thing."
iRadeon's On Demand CRM is based on SugarCRM software, with service and security add-ons. It took about three weeks to install and configure the software to Blinkbid's satisfaction. Lesko says the biggest challenge in the three months that the system has been running is the learning curve. He said, "We asked iRadeon probably some of the most moronic questions on the planet, but they never made me feel stupid. When I was playing with the layout, I completely screwed something up, and they didn't charge me for it."
The iRadeon CRM has helped Blinkbid see major improvement in internal and external communications. "With the CRM established, we were able to keep track of what was happening bug-wise and tech support-wise," says Lesko, "and verify users as having paid or not paid. It's all in one place and accessible by everybody."
Customers are happier, too. "Before CRM was available, we had a typical tech support response time of six to eight hours," Lesko says. "Now, we've shaved it down to two hours."