Balancing the Grind with Josh Haynam, Co-Founder at Interact

In an era where the buzz of AI integration into business models is louder than ever, Josh Haynam, Co-Founder of Interact, offers a refreshing perspective on embracing technological shifts without losing the human touch.

From the early days of bootstrapping without external funding to making a bold pivot towards AI, Josh shares insights on the challenges and triumphs of growing Interact. He also discusses the strategic thinking behind their AI-first approach, the impact on their business model, and the importance of listening to customer needs.

Josh, starting and growing Interact for over a decade is no small feat, especially without outside funding. Can you share some insights on how you navigated the challenges of bootstrapped growth and what kept you motivated through this journey?

I think what’s unique about bootstrapping is you get fewer opportunities to miss. If you aren’t laser-focused on moving the bottom line in the short term and the long term you will lose. As a result, our entire team has become very perceptive, using both data and intuition, to increase our win rate across the board.

Whether we’re talking about new features to add, marketing initiatives, or how to spend time, we are dialled in. Unless you get really good at that I think any business won’t survive, and especially if you are bootstrapped.

As far as staying motivated, the uniting factor across our company is that we want to be helpful. Throughout our 11 year history we’ve accumulated countless stories about how our product has helped people build their business, reach their goals, and even achieve their dream lifestyle. That’s the coolest thing and super motivating. 

The pivot to an AI-first approach in just 14 months is impressive. Could you walk us through what sparked this significant shift and how you managed to execute it so effectively?

Our software product is a quiz maker. But until AI came along, customers had to make their own quizzes. Writing a quiz is not easy, and it was always our #1 challenge. When ChatGPT hit the scene in November 2022 we immediately took action, and worked non-stop across our entire team until we released a public-facing, free, AI quiz maker in February of 2024. 

The way we executed so quickly was that we built in steps. We would build a simple AI builder, test it by working with customers, then go back and implement changes. We went through those cycles in rapid succession throughout those 14 months, and ended up with an AI quiz maker that has an 80% satisfaction rating on the first try. 

In the world of tech startups, pivots can be make-or-break moments. What were some of the key considerations and strategies that guided your decision to reposition Interact as an AI-first company?

Honestly it comes down to knowing what your customers really need. When AI came out, no one asked for an AI quiz maker, but we knew from our 10 years of experience that if the AI could write a first-draft quiz that people could then make edits on it would solve a massive problem for our customers. 

It’s a gut instinct thing, and if it weren’t for the 10,000+ conversations our team had had with customers before we built the AI I don’t think it would have worked. I would say once you know beyond a shadow of a doubt in your own mind then you are ready to pivot. 

How has the transition to AI impacted your business model and customer interactions? What changes have you observed in terms of client engagement or market response?

It has been incredible, churn is down, satisfaction is up, support tickets are down, growth is up. Everything is moving the right direction. The biggest difference is that instead of starting from a blank page and having to be creative right out of the gate, our customers (and our team) can start with a really solid first draft that the AI creates. It changes everything in the right way. 

With AI being a buzzword but also a real game-changer in many industries, how does Interact’s AI-powered quiz software stand out in the market? What unique value does it bring to your users?

Behind the scenes we control so much of our AI. It uses LLMs but we also infuse databases of our own examples for the AI to pull from. When we built the prompts we also went down to the word level, then mapped out the interactions between sentences, paragraphs, and the overall quiz, so it’s purpose-driven at every level. Most AI tools I see today are relying almost exclusively on an LLM, whereas ours has a lot more granularity and specificity that comes from our own proprietary knowledge. 

Looking back at Interact’s evolution, what would you say were the most valuable lessons learned about innovation, customer needs, and staying ahead in a rapidly changing tech landscape?

I’d say two things. 

  1. Listen more than you talk. Whenever we deeply listen to what our customers are saying, the answers to questions about what to do in our business present themselves. 
  2. Iterate rapidly. Things change always, that’s the only constant. Don’t trap yourself by over committing to something you can’t change later. Think of your business as a constantly evolving entity rather than a static solution. 

Finally, for entrepreneurs and startups who might be considering a significant pivot or adopting new technologies like AI, what advice would you give based on your experience with Interact’s transformation?

Get feedback as you go. AI is just another tool we can use to build companies, if you think you can do it all in a vacuum you’ll make the same mistake companies have been making forever, which is to think they can get all the answers without talking to customers. 

About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.