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DoesWhat

Interview with Gary Bury (Mediaburst)

Mediaburst is a leading provider of SMS, MMS and mobile marketing services.

I interviewed Gary Bury, Mediaburst Managing Director to find out more. This interview is the hundred and tenth in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Gary for the interview!

How would you describe Mediaburst in under 50 words?

A great place to work, my job and my hobby all rolled into one. We’re a text message provider, we sell text messages and web applications to businesses.

Describe yourself in one sentence.

I’m a nice guy and pretty easy going.

What brought you to Mediaburst?

I was taken on as Finance Director in 2006. There had been a stack of regulation changes through which the company lost a huge chunk of revenue and profit. It was a tough time because we had to restructure the company to the changing circumstances pretty quick. Although most than half the employees were made redundant those that remained were really committed, without them it might have been a different story.

Tell us about some of Mediaburst’s products.

Textburst is a simple app for sending text messages. It’s a bit like a Gmail account but sends text messages. Ideal for SMS marketing and sending out customer service updates.

We also have a text message API. If you are not techy it won’t mean much, it’s a mechanism for software developers to link their own apps to Mediaburst so they can send text messages.

We also have a new product launching now, it’s called Timetastic. It’s an online staff leave planner. It replaces all your paper holiday forms and wall charts, it puts your company holiday system into a web and smartphone app. We’re very excited about this, it’s a very small simple application but very useful to small businesses.

You were shortlisted as a finalist for the Fast Growth Business Financial Director of the Year Award in 2008. What sort of growth did Mediaburst experience under your tenure?

If I recall the awards were based on a wide range of criteria; items such as profit and revenue growth, cash and debtor management, raising funds, and my overall impact on the strategy. Text message volumes increased by over 150% and revenue growth was over 100%. The cash management was a significant factor, we had to restructure the company and it’s tax position, this freed up a significant amount of cash which made the company viable.

You were part of the management team that bought the business in 2006, and you were promoted to Managing Director in 2008. What challenges did you face in this new role, and how did you overcome them?

Yes and Yes. The biggest challenge (and most enjoyable) has been getting to grips with marketing the company. As an accountant I’m naturally conservative with our marketing spend and yet we’ve re-branded entirely and spend an increasing amount online, both in advertising and design work. Getting a good understanding of digital marketing and which channels are right for your business takes time. I hardly spend any time doing accountancy now, it’s all about marketing.

Congratulations for winning a Big Chip Award for Best Public Sector Project and a Dadi Award for Best Use of Mobile with your healthcare application, Florence, in 2011. Where did the idea originate for this application?

The idea originated from within the NHS. They were using very expensive equipment to monitor people with heart disease at home. The equipment took their blood pressure, heart rate and blood oxygen levels 3 or 4 times per day and automatically sent it to their doctor over their landlines. Although effective the cost of the communications hardware meant they couldn’t roll it out. What they do now is give them normal blood pressure and heart rate kit and get the patients to text their results in. It’s a fraction of the cost and the patients love it because they’re no longer tied to their home.

Who are some of your other customers?

Effectively the NHS. It’s still early days but we have over 20 different NHS trusts using the system.

Do you have any new applications in the pipeline?

Timetastic is our current project, we’re in public beta phase now, it’s goes fully live on 1st July.

After that we have a huge branding exercise going on with our Text Message API. It’s going to be called Clockwork and will introduce some improvements to our systems and allow a free signup mechanism. We also have a number of plugins and extensions in the pipeline for content management systems like Wordpress.

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

I’d love to have understood digital marketing earlier, I think the company would have started to grow better from an earlier age.

Who would you say is your biggest competitor?

We don’t care, not that I mean that as any disrespect to any of our competitors. I’ve met with and friendly with many of them. But we don’t analyse them or worry about what they are doing. I like to think we plough our own path and our strategy and decisions are unaffected by what they are up to. You can get bogged down watching your competitors.

What does a typical day in your life look like?

My kids wake me up too early, I can’t function until I’ve had a shower and a cup of tea. I spend most days in the office and I’m in by 8:30. Because we’re a small company I get involved in anything and everything, you’ll find me responding to customer service emails and sales leads, I’ll be speaking to web designers and writing web copy. Although I’m not a developer I’m a sounding board for many of the decisions made in our technical department. My day can be very varied. I’m generally away by 17:30. We don’t work late. We don’t have that kind of culture, and I don’t think it’s necessary if you get your priorities and strategy set right. That said I do a lot of web research and reading at home in the evenings.

What’s currently your favourite app?

In terms of use I spend a lot of time on the new Basecamp, and Zendesk for customer support. Although I don’t use it much I think the new Barclays app Pingit is a big step forward for banks. Over the years they have become increasingly difficult to deal with, Pingit is very simple, I’m a fan of simple things.

Who did you last send a text message to?

It was to my Dad, it said, “How’s your sting?”
He got stung by a bee yesterday, (fathers day).

Before that I texted “Go” to 84433. It’s a short demo of Florence our healthcare app and we’d done some tweaks to it today.

What are you most excited about at the moment?

Timetastic. We’ve built it completely separate of all our other systems so it gives us greater flexibility to try different styles of marketing and technical provision. We’ll use it to try different things, learn new things, then take what we learn and put them into our text message products.

I’m also excited about the designs for Clockwork, we’re working with an agency called MarbleMedia, they guys there are great and the designs very cool.

Can you convince the reader to start using Mediaburst in under 50 words?

Probably not! I’m no sales man and don’t do much face to face. Everything we do is on the web. Potential customers find us, we just try to show them how easy texting your customers is and how simple our applications are to use.

Finished reading? Check out Mediaburst!

Interview with Edward Lujan (Setster)

Setster is a web-based application that gives service providers and teams of professionals the ability to accept appointments online using a widget that can be embedded on any website.

I interviewed Edward Lujan, Setster founder and CEO to find out more. This interview is the hundred and ninth in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Edward!

Describe Setster in under 50 words.

Setster is a scheduling platform used by professionals to manage their availability and appointments within their real time calendars. We provide this mission critical SaaS scheduling solution to businesses in all parts of the world and in almost every industry.

Describe yourself in one sentence.

Entrepreneur with pockets full of ideas, a head full of dreams and a heart hungry to see them come true.

Who uses Setster?

What is amazing is the range of businesses that use Setster. Besides the obvious ones like massage, spa, health, dental, accounting and fitness, we have priests, tutors, dog walkers, plumbers, home inspectors, computer repair, human resources, universities and the government.

Setster integrates with PayPal, and Quickbooks and Freshbooks for invoicing and keeping track of payments. Was this feature present from the start?

While not all features were present from the start, we did have a roadmap that laid out these features from the beginning. The development path was intentional in that we wanted to combine other value added services into our offering without changing anyones habits.

Congratulations on the release of an appointment scheduling API for DailyDeal companies. Has this been a long time in the making?

Thanks for your kind words. We saw an opportunity early on where deal marketers were bringing an extreme amount of business to our clients in a very short period of time. It was obvious that the merchants needed the platform but we needed a way to get it directly in their hands. The API was the proper solution.

What technologies have you used to build Setster?

I may get heat for this but let me tell you the technologies that I personally used to build Setster.

As a team, we use BaseCamp to manage our tasks and priorities down to the individual. Salesforce is our CRM and ZenDesk we use for customer support. I manage my daily tasks with OmniFocus which syncs to BaseCamp, iCal and my iPhone. I also use Dropbox and Evernote to communicate with team members. All are synced together. We use Mac’s keynote to mock up designs and from there; task the details to the engineers and graphic artists to make it look and work exactly as we intended. What tools they use to create the end product changes constantly.

What was technically the most challenging part of developing Setster?

There are hundreds of puzzles in this technology. Behind the UI are algorithms that dissect availability from objects that need to be filtered between multiple locations, multiple services and availabilities within a synced calendar. Add on top of that add daylight savings time (some states and countries apply, some do not) and you’ll see that it’s many a sleepless night.

How long did it take to put together Setster?

This is version 3.0 of a 4 year old product. Our initial build was a simple widget that pushed .ics files back and forth into a flash calendar. Over time, we’ve adapted our technology to meet the needs of our evolving market. The current version reflects years of product development as we’ve fine tuned the offering to reflect where we believe the market is headed.

Who is your biggest competitor?

We compete in two markets, SaaS and Enterprise. We’ve found that because our architecture straddles both, we are running with both packs.

We are a little more expensive than other scheduling apps who are less feature rich. At the same time our enterprise level clients requires a more robust platform and development capacity. I believe that because we service both clients types within the SaaS environment, we have the advantage of being in both worlds.

We’ve done radically detailed studies on this market and every company in the space. From that research, we know statistically exactly what market share each of our competitors has in each industry. I can say with confidence that there is not one company servicing both the small business or enterprise solutions side, that has taken a definitive lead in this race.

How did you decide on the pricing plan?

We worked out a mathematical formula that treats all clients that grow with us equally. The best model was the one that was the most logical.

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

Would I really like to know now what I will know in 5 years? Wouldn’t that knowledge shift my experience and ultimately be my undoing? This is more of a philosophical question. From a practical standpoint, since I am happy where I am, it’s better to stay aware of my present and learn as much about the things I don’t know now so I reduce the odds of living in world where I have regrets.

Has Setster got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?

Setster came out strong being the first company on the web to offer widget based booking, then appointment overlays, then payments for appointments, then invoicing and true calendar syncing. We’ve been fortunate that by leading with these innovations, we sparked great press coverage and have been able to achieve significant growth since launch.

What is your strategy for further growth?

We are focused on mobile and supporting it with our API’s. There are endless ways you can adopt appointment setting into an application. I’d like to see Setster integrated into more than one application on every cell phone in the world.

Where do you see Setster in 5 years time?

Our API is the standard that all applications deploying a scheduling solution use to publish into mobile, social and proprietary applications.

What does a typical day in your life look like?

I’m usually up by 5am, off to the office by 7:30am and heading home between 7 to 8pm. I spend many late evenings reviewing and planning for the next day. I truly enjoy the process of building a company to the point where the lines between hobby and work have blurred out completely.

When you’re not in the office working, where can you be found?

I’m lucky. I live near a trail head in Hollywood so I start or end my day hiking up a 1,300 foot high hill with amazing views of LA. My offices are 10 minutes away in West Hollywood in an area where technology, design, fashion and commerce intersect. Living in LA is great, there is always an adventure around the corner.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone starting up?

Get the company to generate cash fast and make sure you have the personal runway to hold on until you do. I’ve seen too many ventures fail because the founders can’t give up their lifestyle for the future of the business. Expect that for at least a while to humble yourself and live as frugally as possible. Invest back into the company, push hard and hold on with everything you have.

What are you most excited about at the moment?

If you walk down your main street right now, you can take a count of the total number of business that use online scheduling compared to how many of them should have online scheduling. Notice that there is a lot of room for growth? Recent success with daily deal and performance based marketing has shown these businesses that the internet can give actual results. The toolsets that provide and support these services are maturing and within that evolution sits Setster. Our time has come.

Can you convince the reader to start using Setster in under 50 words?

Automated scheduling is like a phone service into your business. If you are marketing online, scheduling gives your clients an immediate direct connection allowing booking an of an appointment when it is convenient for them. It’s a 24 hour personal assistant that schedules, handles cancellations and sends reminders automatically.

Finished reading? Check out Setster!

Interview with Richard Oerlemans (Socialgimme)

Socialgimme is a web design app that let’s you easily create Gimme pages without coding.

I interviewed Richard Oerlemans, Socialgimme founder to find out more. This interview is the hundred and eighth in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Richard for the interview!

Describe Socialgimme in under 50 words.

We help people express themselves in an fun and elegant way. No tech, no coding, just a creative mind and an interesting subject. We provide the tool so people can go and create (and monetize) content rich pages, not in hours, not in minutes but in seconds.

Describe yourself in one sentence.

Family guy, enjoying life itself. Embracing the lovers, avoiding the haters.

What is your background? What made you decide to start working on Socialgimme?

In the recent past we have built a number of websites, amongst others a social network for sportsmen in the Netherlands. Socialgimme is a spin off of a tool we created that enabled these clubs to create an online weekly sportsmag for their members.

Who uses Socialgimme?

Our platform is used by individuals who just want to create a nice page about their interests, and businesses who want to create a professional online presence. People don’t read websites, they scan them. And since over 35% of all internet traffic is generated through a mobile device, people need a way to express themselves in a way that fits the bill.

Gimme pages are responsive, so they look great on any device. Nobody reads 6 columns, 12 menu-items websites, those days have long gone (if ever). You need to catch peoples attention in seconds, and we feel that should be by creating easy to read, enjoyable and entertaining pages.

What planning did you do before you started up?

We do visualize our goals. I have learned that if you do that, and you can see it, feel it and experience it, go for it, then it’s already there, you just have to walk the walk to get there.

If on the other hand, you are visualizing the heck out of it, but you just can’t see it, leave it, it’s not for you.

In terms of planning, this meant that we dealt with a lot of things like crossing a bridge when coming to it ;-)

Where are you based? Who is the team behind Socialgimme?

Socialgimme is based in Amsterdam, we are Dutchies ;-) Just a small team of myself as the creator and co-founder, Sander Voorn as our developer, Jurjen Damste as the co-thinker and angel behind the scenes. Further more we have been able to mobilize some friends with a graphic background to hop onboard now and then.

Who came up with the name?

That was me. Hope you like it ;-)

Is it free?

The service is free for everyone to use. We do have a premium version of our service, but that’s if you want to include banners, analytics, adsense and have an unlimited number of Gimme pages. If you just want to create a Gimme page, the free version is a great choice.

How many users upgrade to the Premium Plan. What’s your philosophy on converting free members?

I believe that the service should cover a complete package as a free version. We like to convert the more professional users, who are able to monetize their Gimmes, or use it as support for their online business.

What was technically the most challenging part of developing Socialgimme?

As the late Steve Jobs used to say: “Good technology is invisible”. With this in the back of our minds we created Socialgimme. Users shouldn’t be bothered with programming and coding, since that will limit their creativity and feed their frustration.

So whether it’s the setup of a contact form, embedding a video, including Facebook or Twitter feeds, it’s literally done in seconds. We make sure that our users have to go through as little steps as possible, and the steps they do have to make, are extremely simple.

The challenge was building the technique that supports this.

You are very close to launching a Facebook app that you say ‘will rock the online landscape like nothing else’! Tell us more.

I promised my team not to elaborate on this, but all I can say is that we will revolutionize the way companies can create pages on facebook, and the way they interact with their friends and likers. A liker is a liker, but we are providing the tools to convert those friends and likers into customers.

The timeline rollout has got a lot of companies thinking. They have included Facebook in their on and offline campaigns, and are wondering what it brought them. Our app will make them see that Facebook as a marketing tool has been worth the effort. Well, this is what we hope ;-)

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

How great it is to have a kid!

Has Socialgimme got the feedback and growth you expected since beta launch?

We have only been in public beta for a couple of weeks, and that means a shift in our mind set, from developing over the last 18 months, into PR and marketing in the coming period. But we did manage to get great coverage on websites like Arctic Startup, Crunchbase, Feedmyapp, Mediatapper, MakeUseOf and that’s only the beginning. Twitter is picking up right now, we are talking to bloggers, so things look quite promising.

Where do you see Socialgimme in 5 years time?

In 5 years, I see Socialgimme as a permanent part of the online landscape. We did not just try to create another tool to build websites, but more like a new way of expression, and engagement with an online audience.

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

Managing the growth of our company. We seem to manage this alright now, but we have to stay on our toes to keep up with all the developments. But if we manage to stay alert, things should work out fine.

What does a typical day in your life look like?

Drinking immense quantities of coffee, the good stuff ;-)

What are you reading at the moment?

“Winnie the Poo” and “Name the farm animals” to my 16 month old son Dean ;-) And I am a big fan of Michio Kaku, theoretical physicist. The way he can visualize the crazy world of quantum mechanics is just awesome.

What one piece of advice would you give to startup founders?

Never lose your spirit. Not one of the biggest companies in the world became the biggest, if there wasn’t at least one person in that company with the ambition to become the biggest.

What are you most excited about at the moment?

The launch of our Facebook app, and the growth we are experiencing with Socialgimme. Just watching people use our system and loving it is an absolute thrill.

Can you convince the reader to start using Socialgimme in under 50 words?

If you want to express yourself online, in the easiest and yet most elegant way possible, then Socialgimme is the thing for you. Just hop along for a test drive and create your very first Gimme page. You won’t be disappointed, and we’d love to have you.

Finished reading? Check out Socialgimme!

Interview with Jan Senderek (Popset)

Popset is a photo album app that tells the story of an event with friends.

I interviewed Jan Senderek, Popset co-founder to find out more. This interview is the hundred and seventh in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Jan for the interview!

How would you describe Popset in under 50 words?

Popset makes it easy for you and your friends to turn your adventures into photo albums.

What was the inspiration for founding Popset?

My interest in photography started when I was 16 and studying abroad in Japan. I was immediately pulled into the photography culture in Japan, where taking and sharing photos is always a social activity. It’s actually sort of an icebreaker—you get to know people through their photos. When I got back to Germany I had a stack of 25 different photo albums, each one telling its own little story. Since then, I’ve always had a camera on me to capture the stories my friends and I make every day.

Back then, I had to carry a camera with me. Now, smartphones have made us all into photographers. Instagram is great at taking and sharing a single photograph, but one photo is just a fraction of an experience. I wanted to make something that would tell the whole story.

That’s Popset. We wanted to create an app that does three things right. First, we wanted to make it easy to create and enhance entire photo albums Second, we wanted to let friends share their photos in real-time, no more hunting for photos on Facebook or emailing them afterwards. Finally, we wanted it to be able to upload entire albums to Facebook with a single tap.

How did you come up with the name?

Finding a good name is a very tricky thing. It has to be simple and snappy, but it also has to be something that you feel comfortable with, that represents not just your product, but your users as well.

Some people start with a name, but that wasn’t us. We were already several weeks into our beta when we realized we couldn’t put it off any longer. So we locked ourselves in our office for days while we came up with lists of names. Most people probably don’t realize how painful the naming process can be; first you have to come up with tons and tons of words and then you have to try sticking them together. When you find a combination you like, you check to make sure someone else isn’t already squatting on the domain. Even among all hundreds of names we were trying out, Popset had a quality that stuck. It was simple, easy, and it had a slightly onomatopoetic quality—you pop a photo to make a set and you’re done.

How is it working with friends? Had any big arguments!?

You have to do your startup with friends. It really is something like riding a rollercoaster. The ups are really great, but you need friends for the moments when you feel your stomach about to drop out. Those downs are the moments where startups can easily break because if it doesn’t go as expected nothing keeps you together as a team anymore. That’s where friendships come in. You won’t let your friends down.

I couldn’t imagine building a startup around a business relationship. You’re in such close contact, especially during something like YC, that you have to be friends with the people you work with. When things get tough, you need that friendship to fall back on.

At the same time, you can’t let your friendship only be about the work. One of the ways we relieved stress was to find new hobbies together. We never really played basketball in Germany, but we needed something to get us away from our computers and playing ball for an hour or so every other day became a great way to let off steam.

What was technically the most challenging part of developing Popset?

The concept and interaction design were the most challenging things. The idea of a group photo album seems so simple and obvious, yet no one is doing it because it is so hard to get right. But we cracked the code with simplicity, a good single-player mode and great interaction design.

However there were technical difficulties as well of course. What separates us from every other photo app out there is our emphasis on entire albums rather than just individual photos. So it’s been a huge challenge to optimize shooting and uploading multiple photos with the iPhone. But now we’ve worked hard on it and now we have the app with the fastest camera burst mode on the App Store!

How long did it take to put together Popset?

We’ve been a team for quite a while, almost a year now. We worked on a lot of other ideas before Popset, going through lots of failed prototypes and product iterations. The hardest part is getting a concept that’s simple enough that people can understand it right away, but also robust enough that it does something they actually want. One of our earlier ideas was supposed to be a social app that helped people find parties and other events based on photos their friends were uploading. We dropped that idea because it was too unwieldy, but we knew we were on to something with our photo component, and so we decided to build a great user experience around that.

Do you have any new features in the pipeline?

A ton. Users are constantly asking for new things, which is a good sign. However it’s pretty difficult to prioritize. Being heavy users ourselves can bias our perceptions. Obviously it’s important for us to want to use our own product, because that’s where so much creativity and drive originates, but we can’t only build features that we want ourselves. At the same time we love our users and want to keep growing, so every update has to balance those competing desires.

Right now we have a couple of things we’re very excited for. We want to get an Android version out soon, so that even more people can start using Popset. We’re also working hard on developing a full web version so that people who use Popset a lot have an easy way to access, manage, and save their photos on the web or their hard drives.

You have quite a background in startups! Tell us how you got to be where you are now.

I’ve always loved the idea of building new things. While I was supposed to be studying media economics as an undergrad, I started looking for opportunities to work with entrepreneurs in internships and part time jobs at startups. Eventually, I scored my first job as a product manager at an incubator in Germany called Betafabrik. That job gave me a lot of good experience, but I still needed to feel like I was creating things. So during my free time, I started designing websites and taught myself web development and eventually I moved to London to do a Masters in Technology Entrepreneurship and there I started working on little projects with friends which eventually led to Popset.

What motivates you?

Creating something new and watching other people come to love it. Whenever I have downtime, I open our app and browse through my friends’ photos. It makes me happy to see them having fun with something I helped make.

I also need a lot of uncertainty. By the time I signed my contract with my first employer I felt ready to leave again. I need to be in a situation where I don’t know what’s next.

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

I wish I’d known then what I learned during the last year of creating a startup. Maybe most importantly, I wish I’d understood how to identify and eliminate noise the way I do now. I think that’s going to make future projects a lot easier and faster.

Has Popset got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?

Yes! We have great organic growth, our users love Popset, and they tell their friends about it. On average, our users open up Popset about six times a day, and they’re also sending in great feedback and ideas for new features. We’re really excited to see a real community develop around our product.

Who would you say is your biggest competitor?

Photos are the internet. Ten percent of all the photos that have ever been taken were taken in the last twelve months. That’s because the internet and smartphones have made us all into mobile photographers. With that many photographers and photos, there are a ton of ways to take and manage pictures. Obviously, the biggest photo apps right now are Facebook and Instagram, so they’re our biggest competitors. However we’ve really found our niche: we believe that when people take and share photos, they’re really making and sharing stories, and we’ve built Popset around that idea. And obviously a lot of people respond to that, because we’re getting so much feedback and growth even though our competition is so big and omnipresent.

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

When you’re a startup there’s a new challenge every day. Each phase (idea, concept, prototype, alpha, beta, fundraising, team building, relocating, etc.) brings its own hurdles. But that’s the thrill of running a startup.

Right now we’re trying to find ways to engage potential users on the web. Even though mobile apps are becoming increasingly important, people still spend a lot of time in front of their computers.. So the challenge is creating a web presence that engages users and makes them think, “I need this app,” before they even open up the App Store.

If you could only give one piece of advice, what would it be?

While working on Popset the most important thing I’ve learned is to stay focused and think simple. No matter how big your goals or ambitions might be, start with something small. Focus on one problem, solve it, build a great experience around it, and publish it. Pay attention to user feedback, and then move on.

Where do you see Popset in 5 years time?

I want Popset to be the app that captures all of the exciting moments in your life. Think of the connection people have to their old Polaroid cameras—I want our users to feel that way about Popset.

To do that, we need to build a fun company with a great culture and a great team. We need to build a great product that our users continue to get excited about even if they’ve been using it for five years already.

What are you most excited about at the moment?

We have an extremely talented team with a long and wide open road ahead of us. Like I said, it’s really exciting to not know what we’re going to be building in the next three months. There are a ton of opportunities for us to improve our product and expand our portfolio.

Can you convince the reader to start using Popset in under 50 words?

Are you tired of rooting through thousands of photos on your phone just to organize them into albums and find the ones you want to send to your friends? Then meet Popset, your mobile solution for photo albums.

Finished reading? Check out Popset!

Interview with Filip Molcan (MOREDAYS)

MOREDAYS helps organise your life and save your memories in a fun and simple way.

I interviewed Filip Molcan, MOREDAYS founder to find out more. This interview is the hundred and sixth in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Filip for the interview!

How would you describe MOREDAYS in under 50 words?

We believe that people are bored will all of today’s applications and will use only something that they enjoy. So Moredays is a productivity tool based on using pictures and stamps to organize your life. Using a productivity tool can be fun.

What made you decide to start working on MOREDAYS?

I have always been very interested in all productivity tools and methods like GTD, 7Habbits etc. but there was no productivity tool that I’d use and no methodology I’d be able to use effectively. So we decided to make something different. Something that anybody can use without reading a book and something that’s easy and fun to use.

How did you come up with the name?

No science behind it. I created a mind map with words corresponding with our product. And then I looked for combinations that could be used and if the .com was free.

Who is the team behind MOREDAYS?

I was working for 10 years in my first company blue.point which creates web-based applications for clients and also supports handicapped people. More than 60% of all blue.point employees are handicapped developers. So I love to connect business with helping people. That’s also the reason why I started Moredays – we want to help people live better lives.

And we have a great creative designer Daniel Maslo, great lead developer Stanislav Musil and also other designers and developers in our team. We’re all young guys who loves to work on something great.

What technologies have you used to build MOREDAYS?

We have our web application running on Google App Engine and we’re working on our mobile apps for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. We use different technologies for different platforms because we believe that people love the user experience that you can only get from native apps.

What was technically the most challenging part of developing MOREDAYS?

Synchronizing everything between all the devices and systems.

How long did it take to put together MOREDAYS?

We’ve started about a year ago.

Who do you see as your target audience?

All young active people who like gadgets, using their mobile devices and appreciate great design. We have a lot of girls and women using Moredays.

Any plans for iPhone and iPad applications?

Our iPad app is available in the App Store for free and our iPhone app will be released in a couple of days. So we’re just starting our journey…

What do you wish you’d have known 5 years ago that you know now? Where do you see MOREDAYS in 5 years time?

In the last 2 years I’ve spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley’s ecosystem. I wish I’d had this opportunity earlier.

I’d love to see hundreds of thousands of happy Moredays users in the next few years. I’d love to see people finally have something that fits their needs for a productivity tool.

Has MOREDAYS got the feedback and growth you expected since beta launch?

Yes, definitely. We have a lot of early adopters and a lot of happy users and beta-testers. But the most important part of our growth will come in the next few weeks when our mobile apps will be out and ready. People cannot use a productivity tool without having it in a mobile phone or tablet. So, we’ll see in a few weeks or months…

How will MOREDAYS generate revenue?

We’ll introduce a premium model this year with some great features and also, you’ll be able to buy content in our app – stamps, pictures, photos and even new features.

Who would you say is your biggest competitor?

We have a lot of competitors. All the todo-lists apps and time management tools. But there is not so much all-in-one apps with good design and there is nobody using pictures and stamps to help you organize your life.

What does a typical day in your calendar look like?

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

It’s very hard to find really great people to join your team. That’s the biggest hurdle for all the 10 years I’ve been an entrepreneur.

You founded several successful organizations and companies like OSS Alliance, NikonClub, blue.point Solutions and others. What one piece of advice would you give to startup founders?

Don’t talk about what would you’d like to do. Do it. Some ideas will fail, some of them will be successful, but you’ll gain a lot of experiences with every attempt.

You’re a keen photographer. Do you get much time to indulge your passion?

I live in really beautiful region in the middle of breath taking national park, so I can take photos on my way to the city, it’s not so hard :-). And when I travel, I enjoy taking some street shots with my Leica camera.

What are you most excited about at the moment?

I have a great family at home and a job I love. That’s all you need to have to be happy.

Can you convince the reader to start using MOREDAYS in under 50 words?

Throw out all your books about productivity. There are only a few people who can use methods like GTD effectively. If you are one of them, you’re lucky. If not, try to use something that you’ll enjoy using. Organize your life in style.

Finished reading? Check out MOREDAYS!

Interview with David Roth (AppFirst)

AppFirst is an application performance management solution for IT problem resolution. I interviewed David Roth, AppFirst co-founder to find out more. This interview is the hundred and fifth in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to David for the interview! How would you describe AppFirst in under 50 words? AppFirst has built the […]

Interview with Daryl Bernstein (RightSignature)

RightSignature is a web-based application that allows users to sign documents using their mouse.

I interviewed Daryl Bernstein, RightSignature co-founder and CEO to find out more. This interview is the hundred and fourth in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Daryl!

Give us the elevator pitch. How would you describe RightSignature in under 50 words?

RightSignature is a beautifully-designed, all-in-one solution for getting documents filled out and signed online. You can upload a document and send it for e-signature in seconds, and your recipients can apply a legally-binding, hand-drawn electronic signature in any web browser or on an iPad, iPhone, or Android device.

How does it actually work?

Users upload any document or grab a file from our integrations with Google Docs, Dropbox, Freshbooks, Evernote and other file sources. They enter the name and email of each signing party, place any required text fields or signature boxes on the document, and click Send. RightSignature has proprietary navigation tools to walk signers step-by-step through filling out and signing the document online

RightSignature also has a powerful feature called Reusable Templates, which are documents set up for frequent use. These can contain merge fields, to enable users to merge data into a document before sending it out for signature. Another powerful new feature is Online Forms, which enable users to embed the RightSignature online document signing experience inside their own websites.

You are a self-proclaimed ‘born entrepreneur’ who has been launching and running different businesses since you were was a kid. What sort of businesses did you dabble with? How successful were they?

Yes, I joke that I emerged from the womb with a business plan in hand. When I was a kid, I spent my time playing baseball and launching startups. I tried the proverbial lemonade stand and quickly realized I build bigger businesses by fulfilling more pressing pain points. In the span of a few years, I tested and shuttered a dozen startups. This was the rapid pivot (before pivot became a strategy).

When I was 12, I founded a company on my kitchen table that I grew into the largest distributor and producer of educational videos for the K-12 market. It was acquired by a publicly-traded education company when I was 24.

How did your interest and specialty in software-as-a-service develop?

I’m passionate about the online software revolution. Installing and maintaining desktop software is generally a pain in the a#@. Years ago, I recognized that if businesses could handle everything in a web browser and let other people worry about software maintenance, they would do it in a heartbeat. I began investing in business SaaS about ten years ago and continue to invest in and advise innovating SaaS startups today.

What was technically the most challenging part of developing RightSignature?

While RightSignature functions in a simple, beautiful way on the surface, there is a huge amount of technical complexity in developing and maintaining an online document system at scale. Most SaaS products, CRM being an example, are data repositories. In contrast, RightSignature processes user-uploaded documents and makes them viewable and actionable online. Like YouTube or even Facebook photos, whenever you’re taking in user-provided files in a variety of formats and trying to normalize them, there’s a significant technical challenge.

Are signatures obtained via RightSignature legally valid?

Yes, documents executed on RightSignature are legally binding in compliance with the US ESIGN Act, UETA, and international laws. Completed documents include a Signature Certificate, which includes signer authentication data and an audit log.

Do you have any new features in the pipeline?

Our pace of innovation is one of our greatest strengths, and we are always adding cutting-edge features to our service. In addition, we continually refine the user experience to ensure the process of sending and signing documents is as elegant and intuitive as it can be on all browsers and devices.

Where do you see RightSignature in 5 years time?

Our goal has always been to become a key tool for modern businesses. To run a company, you need an email provider, a website, a CRM program, accounting software, team collaboration software, file sharing, and online document signing. We will have accomplished what we set out to do if, in 5 years, for most businesses around the world that online document signing service is RightSignature.

Who would you say is your biggest competitor?

Our biggest competitor is paper. On any given day, most of the world’s contracts and forms are still printed, signed, and then faxed, scanned, or snail mailed.

When you’re not in the office, where can you be found?

Taking a walk or run on the beach. It’s where I clear my head and sort the dozens of priorities that we balance every day as a growing company.

With your background in startups, what one piece of advice would you give to someone starting up their own business?

Almost everyone I meet has a startup idea in the back of their head. They spend way too much time thinking about the risks and obstacles, talking to advisors, and pondering the right time to get started. Every business has challenges and pitfalls, and there is a lot you can’t know until you are in the game. My advice is start now (even if that means staying up really late after work), deal with the issues as they arise, and learn as you go. Starting a business is the adventure of a lifetime.

What are you most excited about at the moment?

After years of hard work, RightSignature has reached a point of ubiquity, with solo professionals, small businesses, and enterprises around the world using our service. Our next chapter is all about managing growth and scaling, which are exciting challenges that define truly great SaaS companies.

Can you convince the reader to start using RightSignature in under 50 words?

Sign up for a free trial of RightSignature to streamline your business, impress customers, reduce costs, and close deals faster. You can set up your frequently used documents as Reusable Templates or Online Forms, so getting NDA’s, new hire paperwork, and sales agreements signed becomes a one-minute task.

Finished reading? Check out RightSignature!

Interview with Justin Laing (MerchantOS)

MerchantOS is a web based point of sale and inventory control system for small retailers.

I interviewed Justin Laing, MerchantOS co-founder to find out more. This interview is the hundred and third in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Justin!

How would you describe MerchantOS in under 50 words?

MerchantOS makes a cloud based point of sale and inventory control product for small retailers. We concentrate on making an easy to use product and service. We provide top notch phone and email support. And we work hard to delight our customers.

What made you and Ivan decide to co-found MerchantOS? What roles do you both play?

We both wanted to start a company. Ivan had a prototype point of sale system built in Access that was running at the bike shop he worked for. I joined as an equal partner and built the first version of the web based point of sale. I did the programming, and some marketing, while Ivan did all the testing, support, and business stuff.

Who is the team behind MerchantOS?

We are now 18 people, 17 in Olympia, WA, and Ivan is down in San Jose, CA. We’re pretty laid back and casual, but we all work hard to give our customers the best product and service possible.

Who came up with the name?

Our original name was BikeSoft, but that cornered us into just the Bicycle market. We changed our name to MerchantOS pretty early on so we could sell our services to all kinds of specialty retailers. I’m not sure if it was me or Ivan that came up with MerchantOS. We had a long list of potential names.

How many businesses currently use MerchantOS?

The count as I write this is 1,562 store fronts from 1,237 separate businesses.

What technologies have you used to build MerchantOS?

We’re on the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP). We recently migrated everything over to Amazon EC2 which has been awesome. We also use Javascript (JQuery), Memcache, RabbitMQ (moving to SQS soon), Chief, Git, GitHub, and Airbrake.

What was technically the most challenging part of developing MerchantOS?

Scaling the system to be in use by thousands of concurrent users while preserving real-time write/read and keeping it all super fast. The other big challenge is knowing what features to implement, and what to leave out. We have a pretty complex problem space and get hundreds of feature requests, many of which are very reasonable.

How long did it take to put together MerchantOS?

It took us 1 year to beta test. 1 year to sign up our first 10 customers. And 7 more years to sign up the other 1552 customers. We’ve been growing pretty steadily at 3-6% per month for a long time.

How do you promote MerchantOS?

We started out just going to retail trade shows (like Interbike for the bicycle industry). A few years into things we discovered SEO and got some traction with that. Currently it’s a mix of SEO + Adwords + Word of mouth + Trade shows. Over time the SEO + Adwords are growing faster than the others, though word of mouth is definitely important. Trade shows are really about helping the word of mouth campaign.

Do you have any new features in the pipeline?

We’ll soon be releasing an iPhone add on to our product that will allow stores to do sales on their iPhone/iPod. It’s synchronized with our main system in real-time, which will allow people to seamlessly switch back and forth. We’re very excited to get it out there and see how people use it.

What do you wish you’d have known 8 years ago that you know now?

Make your product simple. Don’t take on a problem that requires a lot of feature complexity. Build something simple that is applicable to a broad spectrum of people. And don’t worry about meeting everyone’s needs. And…

Marketing is very important. Just building something useful isn’t enough (at least not in this market). You have to get it in front of a lot of people, and you need to do that in a repeatable predicable way.

Where do you see MerchantOS in another 8 years time?

In 5 years, I want to see 10,000 retailers using MerchantOS. And I think we are on a good path to achieve that goal. In 8 years, maybe we’ll have 20,000. That would be awesome.

Has MerchantOS got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?

It was a lot slower to start than I initially had hoped. But we had never grown a business before and really had no clue what we were doing. The growth and feedback we get now is overwhelmingly positive and we’re definitely on a great trajectory.

Who would you say is your biggest competitor?

QuickBooks Point of Sale. But we don’t really care that much about the competition. We sorta watch what they are doing, but we know where we want to go and we are working on that. Our success depends on our execution, not our competition. This market has a lot of space for competitors.

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

Keeping the product simple, and moving it forward in the direction we want. Marketing is always a challenge, but as long as the product is moving forward the rest can be solved. Scaling is always a challenge, but we’ve handled it pretty well (knock on wood).

When you’re not in the office, where can you be found?

I’ve got a wife and two kids and I love to surf and ski. So you’ll find me with my family, out in the line up, or on the mountain.

On week days at lunch often you’ll find me at the local Taco truck.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone starting up their own business?

Don’t give up! Keep working on it. And care about your customers and product. Really, really care. Don’t settle and serve up crap. Keep working to make things better. You’ll figure out the rest.

What are you most excited about at the moment?

I’m exciting about working with an awesome team and really digging into our product to make it more awesome. I love to build things.

Can you convince the reader to start using MerchantOS in under 50 words?

Our customers are our best sales people. Ask one of them how our product is working out for their business. Or go and try our product for yourself. We don’t do the hard sell here. We love our customers and product and let them do the talking. Thanks!

Finished reading? Check out MerchantOS!

Interview with Todd Eccles (ServiceSidekick)

ServiceSidekick is a web application that allows companies to track leads, estimate and manage jobs, and invoice clients.

I interviewed Todd Eccles, ServiceSidekick founder to find out more. This interview is the hundred and second in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Todd!

How would you describe ServiceSidekick in under 50 words?

A simple and effective SaaS product for small to medium businesses to manage sales opportunities, jobs and generate invoices. We provide a highly effective way for any company to increase their revenue flows while simultaneously making their company more efficient. We also sync invoices to Quickbooks (both Online and Desktop).

Describe yourself in one sentence.

I am a passionate entrepreneur that loves to solve problems.

What made you decide to start working on ServiceSidekick?

After working at a service company with my family for 20+ years and having helped develop software there to run the company, it was an easy decision (after selling the company) to offer what we developed over the years to other small businesses around the world.

Who is the team behind ServiceSidekick? Where are you based?

Our corporate office is in San Francisco. Our team is made up of Matt Bradley and I who manage the business. The rest of the team is comprised of a very talented group of Ruby on Rails engineers and one of the finest customer service teams I have ever seen.

You started your career in the service industry back in 1992 working at your family’s plumbing company. What valuable lessons did you learn that help you today?

I learned that it is best to apply the KISS principle in business if you want to implement solutions that drive visible results to both your customers and everyone on your team. It keeps your customers happy as they are able to see immediate value in your product and also gives the team a feeling of continued success supporting the product. It is a total win-win.

There is always an inertia and a market pressure to add more and more features to a product. However, it has been serendipitous that we have focused on refining our core features rather than blindly adding new ones. In practice, while our competitors have added extra bells and whistles in their products, when it comes down to it most customers have chosen to use (and stick with) our product for its simple user experience. Chiseling away at a diamond takes time, and patience.

What technologies have you used to build ServiceSidekick?

We have a great stack of resources. We use Ruby on Rails and host our software on the Amazon Cloud (AWS). We use some great apps that help us run our business from ZenDesk, Xero, MailChimp, Totango, Sprint.ly, and Trust Commerce. Also, we are a big believer in eating our own dogfood and use our own app to manage our sales, work, and invoicing. It has been a great way to learn valuable product insights.

What was the most challenging part of developing ServiceSidekick?

The most challenging part of developing the business was solidifying the product direction early on. It took many tests to fully understand how to make our product have all the features that were required and still be easy enough for even a non-technical user. Once we learned what our customers really wanted it gave us a clear vision and made life much easier.

How long did it take to put together ServiceSidekick?

We started doing user tests as far back as October of 2006. We started selling to customers in 2007, but mainly focused on getting feedback and continuously modifying our user experience. In 2008 we officially launched. Although the product has been actively used by customers since that time, I feel we have been ‘putting it together’ in earnest since that date and will continue into the future. We learn how to make the product better every day.

I hear 2012 will be an exciting year for your customers as they will experience a new and improved application. How is development going?

It is going great. We have tried to focus on building a foundation on which to build our future. We are adding some improvements in on the CRM side that has already earned tremendous feedback from our beta customers. We are very excited for the release.

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

I feel as our development path for our product (and our business) has been one one of constant learning where we have put in a lot of effort to gain knowledge. It is a slow process. We could have spent our time much more effectively if we had already known what the basic rules are that govern how companies successfully develop winning products. I wish that I had understood the idea of being lean (and agile) 5 years ago, and not had to learn as a rite of passage.

Where do you see ServiceSidekick in 5 years time?

In five years I would like to see our company as a clear leader in the Service CRM market, providing the SMB with the best platform for their companies to easily manage their businesses. I would like for us to remain focused on a simple user experience that drives value far beyond our competitors.

Has ServiceSidekick got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?

We planned for a somewhat slow launch, where we deliberately spent time trying to understand what we could build that our customers would get excited about. We labored over the first 25 customers, and their feedback was instrumental in helping us refine our product and marketing so we could gain addition customer traction. Now with 500+ customers and growing rapidly, our expectations have grown.

Who would you say is your biggest competitor?

We have seen many competitors come and go in the market. It might sound kind of corny, but I feel like right now we are our own biggest competitor. I look around and see companies in our space that have taken tons of funding and still have products that lack the fundamental user experience needed by the service market.

What one piece of advice would you give to new startup founders?

My one piece of advice would be this: Dogfood. Use your own software. If you do not use it, and cannot stand in your customers shoes, you will not know how to build what they need.

Can you convince the reader to start using ServiceSidekick in under 50 words?

Our original customers still use the application after 5 years. Their businesses have grown, and we have grown with them. Over $500 million per year pass through our system from small to medium sized businesses, and that number is growing. That has to make you just a little curious, right?

Finished reading? Check out ServiceSidekick!

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