How to get your domain suspended in 2 easy steps

March 20, 2018 / by Morten Poulsen

This is a letter from our CEO and founder Morten Poulsen where he explains the rollercoaster February we had here at Plytix and how we were brought to our knees by 12 bucks, and an expired email address. 

February has been a super weird month for us at Plytix. To say the least, it has been an emotional rollercoaster and I am still recovering mentally.

On a high note, the new people we’ve onboarded in December are all amazing people. These young all-stars are going above and beyond for each-other and for our customers. Customer happiness is probably our most important mantra to live by, and the new guys have really gone all in.

We can see their all-star potential in our growth numbers for February too. We grew our clients by 41% over January, and client conversion rate is around 6% within the first 14 days of their trial. Over a 90 day period that conversion rate jumps to 19%.

Also different from past months, we now see more and more customers coming in from referrals. This is exactly the network effect that we have been hoping for, and here I will again have to applaud our customer success team because I know a lot of this is a direct result of their outstanding approach to customer service.

And speaking of customer success and support, February was also a month where the team was put to the test.

So I was in the Brussels airport on my way back from the Master’s of Digital conference where we received the 2018 DIGITALEUROPE SME Award when I got a phone call from Alex, my co-founder:

“The website is down Morten. All of it, the tool, our emails - EVERYTHING!”.

Holy shit.

This was a Saturday so we had to frantically rally our senior developers to work on deploying our entire tool and website to a new domain: Plytix.net.

Meanwhile I spent the next 8 hours negotiating the release of our domain which I argue was held hostage by our provider.

What happened was this: (Disclaimer: this is not an excuse, simply an explanation)

  1. Back in 2014, as a brand-new founder and CEO of a startup, I bought the Plytix.com domain with my private credit card.
  2. That domain billing was linked to an email address that I now do not have access to.

So when I changed my credit card a year ago, our provider couldn’t charge me the 12€ to renew the annual subscription. Then they sent notification emails to the email address that was out of use. No phone calls. No insistence. In two steps, I had created a ticking time bomb and I was blissfully ignorant of what was to come.

One year later, I am holding my phone dumbfounded on a Saturday wondering what the hell happened.

Can you imagine? Because of a failed payment of 12€ for an annual subscription, hundreds of our customers couldn’t access their data in our tool.

We’d been hacked by my own stupidity.

The word spread quickly and we needed all hands on deck. Some colleagues were out trekking, others were having lunch with their families or at a bachelor party, but a few hours later, we were all in the office taking calls and reaching out to all of our customers.

Apart from having the best colleagues, we also have the best customers in the world (one of them even sent us pizza!).

Even though this was a huge mess-up from my side, we were met with cool attitudes all around. Some were understandably upset, some thought it was kinda funny or barely noticed, but most of them felt really sorry for us.

I can’t even begin to describe the chaos we went through, but one thing I think we did well here was to be completely honest about the situation.

We could’ve tried to cover it up with a stupid lie, but that’s not our style. Our customers are used to us being transparent and open, so it would have made zero sense to start communicating like scared children during this crisis. Instead we “live broadcasted” the entire incident through Twitter, our platform’s changelog, regular email updates, and video calls.

Needless to say, we also learned a lot from this. I think my main takeaway as CEO is that, when we are growing as fast as we are, it is easy for me to forget and neglect things. I thought everything was taken care of when I changed my credit card, but 12€ slipped through the cracks and brought our business to a halt.

That is why, going forward, we have established better processes and multiple fall backs so we will never end up in a similar mess again.

We eventually recovered our domain and our system had a total down time of 4 hours on a Saturday. For someone outside the situation, this might seem like small potatoes, but for us and for some of our customers, this was a huge cluster-fuck!

We had people who were relying on us for business critical software, Saturday or not.

The quick deployment to plytix.net meant that roll back wasn’t going to be easy, and we are only now in this very moment deploying updates that will eliminate the last aftershocks of this nasty quake.

So with all of my heart, I want to sincerely apologize to those of our customers that have been affected by this. I also want to say thank you to our clients for their patience and understanding and of course to my colleagues who have been busting their asses for our customers.


Morten Hellesøe Poulsen

 

 

Topics: Plytix, CEO, Behind the scenes

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Morten Poulsen

Written by Morten Poulsen

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