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Chris Cardell

Interview with Dominic St-Pierre (Bunker App)

Bunker App is a simple project tracker and invoice generator for freelancers.

I interviewed Dominic St-Pierre, Bunker App founder to find out more. This interview is the seventy eighth in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Dominic!

You are the founder of Focus Centric Inc. which is the developer of Bunker App. What’s your background? How did you get to where you are today?

Before starting Focus Centric I was a 9-5 developer working mostly in the commercial credit industry. Having a growing entrepreneurial mindset, I decided to start my company and build software from my home office. Since October 2007, I tried to build countless products in the hope to stop contracting and work entirely on the product. One of the most successful one was In 2009 I became a member of Micropreneur Academy run by Rob Walling. That help me a lot in sharpening my non-existent marketing skills. I’m still learning and trying to get better at marketing every day.

What made you decide to start working on Bunker App?

Every one was telling me to pick a niche product. “Pick a niche based on your hobbies or domain knowledge”. For me, it was simply not working. I have a strong credit analysis background, and I even build my own software for collection agencies. That market is unsuitable for a company of my size. I had the idea of building a tool like Bunker from a very long time. One day I just decided to do it, that’s what I like, I knew I could do it and most importantly I can speak to and understand my potential customers, so why not.

What technologies have you used to build Bunker App?

If I had more experience with RoR (Ruby on Rails), I would have loved to build Bunker App with that stack. I preferred to choose technologies I have mastered. Microsoft .NET, ASP.NET MVC, C#, JavaScript and SQL Server. It’s deployed via AppHarbor as the PaaS (Platform as a Service). Being a huge fan of Git, AppHarbor seems the right fit. It’s heavily using Amazon Web Services as well for storage, emails and background processes.

How much do you charge? How did you decide this?

I’m really proud of our pricing plans. The main target being freelancers and small businesses, $5/month (freelancer), $12/month (small team of three users) and $20/month (unlimited users) are our plans. I remember when I started as a freelancer, there were weeks even month where I was not having a single contract. After that I could have four projects at the same time, you know when you cannot say no to a contract ;). I would have loved to have prices like that. I seriously think that $60/year is a fair price for a single freelancer, especially for a starting one.

You recently announced the early preview of Bunker’s proposal module. Tell us more.

From the beginning, I was heading toward being more than a project management and invoicing software. Letting customers build proposals is one way to enlarge Bunker’s horizon. The module at this stage is fairly basic. More features are actually in development. At the same time, a simple client access area was also released. This allows clients to collaborate on their projects and view their invoices.

Do you have any other new features in the pipeline?

At this time of writing, all efforts are currently invested in improving the usability of the product. We also release a desktop time tracker today! There are lots of ongoing developments, being a developer, I would say that I tend to put more time into developing the product than marketing it. It is something I have to fight every day! In the mid-terms, investigating basic CRM functionalities is on the table.

What do you wish you’d have known 5 years ago that you know now?

If you are to start a business, a product, etc., do what you really want to try. Do not fear failure. There is too much competition in that market, so what? There is full of restaurants in your area, yet you pick the one you love. There is no magical niche where it will be easy to start a business or product. So just do what you like and what gives you energy when doing it. If I had thought like this in the past, I would have done so many things differently.

Where do you see Bunker App in 5 years time?

Nothing less than a serious contender to already established products. Currently, I have a 24 months plan regarding development and marketing. After that I must say it’s all speculations, but we will do anything we can to get as much traction as we can.

Has Bunker App got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?

Yes and no. We’ve got really good feedback from customers. The fact that we release update every week is something exciting for everyone. On the other hand, we should have invested more hours into usability tests and making sure the app was clear enough to everyone. Six months after launch we realize we have lost a good number of opportunities. We are working on that as we speak though, so hopefully the growth will get back on track.

Who would you say is your biggest competitor?

That would be easy to say the following, Freshbooks. However, I’m not convinced that would be accurate. I have lots of respect for them, and I have been a customer for a long time. Their pricing point is so high, that I cannot believe a solo freelancer would pay that much each month. I will be totally honest; I’m not sure which product is a direct competitor, and I don’t care. I did not do any market research. I simply wanted to build my own tool to help me accomplish project management and billing. I would say that Solo and GetFlow are probably competitors since they are also targeting freelancers.

What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?

Mobile development. I would love to offer a native mobile experience since everyone (except me) owns a mobile phone. It’s just so hard to accomplish with all the other things to do. However, we will get there eventually. In the meantime, we have a mobile web app.

Finished reading? Check out Bunker App!

This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 21st, 2012 at 10:52 pm GMT. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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