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Chris Cardell

Interview with Grégory Lefort (Azendoo)

Azendoo is a social task management solution.

I interviewed Grégory Lefort, Azendoo founder to find out more. This is the hundred and seventy fifth in a series of DW startup interviews. Big thank you to Grégory!

How would you describe Azendoo in under 50 words?

Azendoo is web and mobile teamwork application. Built as a collaborative task management solution, Azendoo is designed to make your work much better, faster and easier to achieve. We help our customers reduce their email and get things done.

What made you decide to start working on Azendoo?

Are you normally pleased with the amount of work you actually accomplish in a week vs what you planned on doing? Probably not. The reason why is that you spend less time getting things done and more time reading or writing emails, looking for information and staying in sync with your teams, partners, boss, etc.

Plus, typical enterprise software is boring, cumbersome and outdated. Azendoo breaks the rules and defines new collaborative applications: web, mobile and intuitive.

How long did it take to put together the initial version?

It took us 6 months to put together a minimum viable product. We were extremely pleased to share the Azendoo beta with our very first users. From day 1, they helped us shape our application to bring an awesome value to teamwork.

6 months after that, Azendoo was officially launched. We still work hand in hand with our rapidly growing user base and Premium customers. Recently, they asked us to combine Azendoo with Google Apps, Evernote, Dropbox and Box. Naturally, their wish was our command, and we developed it right away.

What is the story behind the name Azendoo?

Our ambition is to reinvent how we relate to our work. We develop a better way to make an impact as a team.

The name Azendoo is a summary of our vision, of how we see the work environment moving forward: Agile, Zen and productive (A-ZEN-DOO).

Why did you decide to offer a free version for up to 5 users?

We intend to disrupt the collaboration application market with a brand new way to let people organize and manage their work together. We know that our innovations and our visions are spot on. The best way to prove that is to let people sign-up, try it out and share it (if they are happy with our application of course). Since we are a collaboration solution, we had to let people build teams, many of them, free of charge. That’s exactly what we did by offering up to 5 free users, per workspace, for as long as they want.

We also believe that selling software for insane amounts of money, before proving or delivering value, is wrong. More and more employees will introduce software to the business place. That’s how we penetrate our target market: we let personal use proliferate and evolve into professional use.

That way, with Premium features like admin and project functions, we’re in a great position to propose Azendoo to larger teams and organizations that already get a great value from our application.

Who do you see as your target audience? How are you reaching them?

We’re fundamentally a B2B company, even if our communication resonates to our personal lives. Our sweet-spot is small and medium businesses, even if we often get called on by larger organizations. We see a lot of these companies signing-up to Azendoo so that they can get work done in teams and enjoy a network of users in 160 countries.

SMB’s usually have no objection to SaaS and are already avid users of web partner solutions like Google Apps, Evernote, Box or Dropbox. Our subscription pricing (4€/user/month) is well adapted to these types of companies and enables our customers to only pay for what they use.

In terms of usages, we’ve been blown away by the many ways our users benefit from Azendoo; be that in Marketing, Sales, R&D, or admin in every type of business sector.

You employee over 10 people, have you had any difficulties in finding talented developers?

Finding talent was tough in the beginning when Azendoo was relatively unknown and a risky choice for stable employment. But that handicap turned out being an advantage. The people that we managed to attract were not only great developpers, but also entrepreneurs. They saw the opportunity to grow with and to be a part of our story.

After that, it became much easier to build our team because great people attract talent. Today, we have an awesome group of people that’s certainly our biggest asset.

Do you have any new features in the pipeline?

We have so many ideas to make Azendoo even greater, a lot of them coming from our users, that we almost don’t know where to start.

We’re working towards integrating even more of your favorite apps, like cloud storage, business apps, etc.

We want to focus on making your work easier. Mobile platforms are on our priority list for the coming months. We already have a mobile and tablet app, but we’re working on some great ideas to improve them.

We’ve just released a brand new interface that makes overall navigation easier. We want to continue to invest our time and effort shaping a solution that stays simple, beautiful and useful from day 1.

Do you use Azendoo within your own organisation?

Absolutely! We used Azendo as soon as it was operational. How can we claim to improve everyone’s work-life if even we are stuck in emails.

Using Azendoo enables us to be more agile and share objectives in the best possible way, which is the key to our company.

Also, being our own customer helps us spot issues or find new ways to improve our application.

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

You’re seconds away from saving lots of time for you and your company, every single day. We’re talking about months of saved time at the end of the year!

For the rest of your time at work, you’re back in control, more focused and more efficient.

Finished reading? Check out Azendoo!

Interview with John Hurley (Smartfile)

Smartfile provide secure file storage and transfer for businesses.

I interviewed John Hurley, Smartfile founder to find out more. This is the seventy third in a series of DW startup interviews. Big thank you to John!

How would you describe Smartfile in under 50 words?

SmartFile is an online file platform that allows businesses and developers to securely send, receive and manage files and the users who have access to them. From Fortune 500 companies to the one-man enterprise, people trust SmartFile to move big data in a secure environment.

How did you meet your co-founder Ben Timby?

Ben and I met in early 1998 while working together in tech support at a local ISP (Local Internet Service Provider). Ben was 19 and I was 22. Upon meeting Ben, I was completely blown away by Ben’s technical ability and I, myself, wanted to learn web design.

With a few books and Ben’s coaching, I started to design a few web sites. I focused on graphic design and Ben worked on making the pages actually work. Soon after, Ben and I were doing all of the web design/development work for the business clients. About a year later, our company was sold and the web design portion of the business was phased out. After several conversations, I convinced Ben that we could take the work and start our own company. In December 1999, we started our first company called Webexcellence and the rest is history.

What influenced you to start working on Smartfile?

FTP hosting was something we always did. We understood how valuable it was to setup a server so you could send and receive large files. In 2002 we registered ftphosting.net with the intent to start selling FTP hosting services on a large scale. Unfortunately, our web design business got in the way so the domain was left doing nothing. That was until 2008, when I put some analytics on the site to see what kind of activity it was getting. When I saw we were getting several thousand page views, I knew I had to do something. That was when FTPhosting.net was created and we later renamed it SmartFile.

How long did it take to put together Smartfile?

The initial product took us about 4 months, but like all SaaS providers it is never fully put together.

Who do you see as your target audience? How are you reaching them?

We identify our customer as the “hands-on professional”. Any business that stores or shares files internally or externally is within our market.

All of our business is generated with people finding us on Google or other search engines. We focus all of our marketing efforts around creating great content that is engaging to our target audience and then pushing it throughout our marketing channels.

What technologies have you used to build Smartfile?

SmartFile utilizes Open Source software for both development and operations. In cases where existing Open Source tools are not a good fit, SmartFile often chooses to develop an Open Source solution. At the heart of our open source technology is Python and Django.

What was technically the most challenging part of developing Smartfile?

Our storage pods became the most challenging part of our system. These are storage boxes we designed in-house to store our customers’ files. The goal was to take PC grade components and design the systems to fail by adding lots of these boxes to our cluster. This sounds easy, right? The problem was we designed it with inadequate power, which kept causing us to corrupt data. This is a major problem if you are in the file hosting and sharing business. So after many nights of swapping hard drives, mother boards, and memory, we finally figured out what the problem was. The lesson we took from this was: Don’t pinch pennies when it comes to your power.

You recently started a competition described as a ‘bake-off’ in which students are encouraged to undertake a Smartfile related project to win a share of $17,000. What are you hoping the students will achieve both for your company and for themselves?

Our first goal is to promote open source technology to the student body. We are firm believers in open source and without it, SmartFile and many other companies would not be here today. This is also a great opportunity for these students to show the tech community what they are all about by showcasing what they are working on and also adding to their portfolio.

We are creating the first online file platform for developers that allows them to easily, quickly and securely implement file storage and sharing within their application or internal system. To kick things off, we saw this as a great opportunity to get developers using the platform and getting immediate feedback.

Which site or app do you check first when you wake up?

The first thing I check when I wake up is our internal analytics program. I see how many trials we got overnight and how many conversions to paying customers we got. I never get tired of seeing new customers come aboard.

If you had the knowledge you have now what would you have done differently with regards to the start-up?

I would have looked for more money early on, rather than take an organic growth approach.

The economic climate at the moment obviously doesn’t lend itself to expanding a business; with this in mind do you foresee considerable growth in your own company?

We have seen amazing growth in our company, but this is because businesses are forced to do more with less. IT is being squeezed out and we are able help to fill a part of that space nicely. What use to take servers, security and an IT person can easily be done by anyone that has a credit card and knows how to operate a computer. This gives us an amazing opportunity to capitalize on this market.

How have Dropbox and Google Drive affected your business?

Even though these are single and/or home user products, the popularity of both Dropbox and Google Drive has increased people’s trust with storing files online. So when these same users are trying to find a solution that is designed for business, we can focus on features and functionality, not fear of the unknown.

What do you think puts you ahead of your biggest competitor in the eyes of your clients?

There are two features that really set us a part from our competition. The first is our rich branding. Our clients can change the logo, color scheme, domain, and even the system emails to make it seamlessly integrate with their brand. The second thing that sets us apart is our 24/7 live support. Even if our clients don’t use our support, it is nice to know there is human on the other side of the screen.

What are you most excited about at the moment?

I am most excited about the launch of our new platform. We have spent over a year redeveloping our entire application to offer the most complete API in the file sharing industry. This API, or platform (as we are calling it), has been designed by developers for developers.

The intent is to provide developers a simple tool set to rapidly integrate file storage and sharing to an existing or new application. With a few lines of code, a developer can add file access, file permissions, file auditing and even search to files. Almost every application has some file component and we believe that our application will become the premier application for developers.

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

SmartFile was built specifically for businesses wanting an easy and secure solution to send and receive files of any type and size. Within 60 seconds, you can have an FTP site setup and ready to use, all without having to spend a lot of time learning something new.

Finished reading? Check out Smartfile!

Interview with Simon Grabowski (GetResponse)

GetResponse is a email marketing platform for the SMB sector.

I interviewed Simon Grabowski, GetResponse founder and CEO to find out more. This is the hundred and seventy second in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Simon!

How would you describe GetResponse in under 50 words?

GetResponse is the world’s easiest email marketing software. I realize that’s a big claim, but with our Email Creator you’ll find it a breeze to design awesome email campaigns, autoresponders and landing pages. Once you’re done with the design process, you click “Send” and track results as they pour in!

You first created GetResponse when you were just 17 with only $200 to invest. Two years later in 1999, you established Implix in an effort to give SOHO and SMB owners a suite of online tools to promote their products like large companies, without the hassle and cost of infrastructure. What were the main influences that led you to start up at such a young age?

Growing up in Poland, I’ve always been sort of a rebel. I never really saw myself working for someone else, so I turned to entrepreneurship as my only salvation. During my high school years I immersed myself in reading. I’d devour any book about business and personal development that I could get my hands on. When I was about 17, I read Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich” (cliché, I know…) and tried to set up my “circle of influence” with friends. Everybody thought I was nuts, or part of a religious sect… or both.

My first online venture was a travel website, and it had a nagging problem — one I badly needed to fix: I needed software that would automatically email my subscribers then “drip” more marketing content to them over time. There wasn’t a product like that on the market at the time, so I started coding it myself. Somewhere along the way, lightning struck, and I thought, hey, what if other people have similar problems? As it turns out, my hunch was right.

What sets GetResponse apart from other autoresponder services?

We pour our efforts into several areas. Consumers expect great design, so we make it easy for our customers to deliver an email marketing campaign that enhances their image. In fact, any new improvements have to be easy to use, because busy people lack the time to learn complex software and want to see immediate results. Our philosophy of “easy-to-use” was the driver of our conceptual re-design of our major feature rolling out soon and our Developer Zone, which has produced 88 API integrations within the past year.

So new customers are attracted to us because of all of these innovations but stay with us for two main reasons: first, we treat deliverability as a mission-critical responsibility, having achieved a consistent track record of 99.5%, tops in the industry; and second, our support system, which includes an array of self-help resources and a customer service department that has been retooled and retrained as a Customer Success Team.

You’ve been travelling a lot recently to ad:tech Sydney and ad:tech San Francisco. What did you get out of each of the events?

We’ve seen a great response to our marketing in those two markets: North America and Australia. So this was a chance to meet new clients face to face and to tell our marketing story to new prospects. We learned that our message resonates and spreads in these markets for the reasons I mentioned: ease of use, design capabilities, marketing automation, unparalleled deliverability and world-class support.

You recently launched website versions specifically to serve the UK and German markets with new domains and sites. Any plans for other markets?

We now have customers in 183 countries, and we want to make sure we provide the support they need and deserve. As soon as the economics in of our markets begin to make sense, we begin rolling out programs to provide local support. As far as specific plans, I’ll only reveal one thing — it’s a big world, with lots of opportunities.

Has your initial vision changed since launch 14 years ago?

The original vision is still relevant: bringing big-company capabilities to small business operators. Of course, we’ve refined the vision in many ways, thanks to feedback from our user community and great efforts by our team of talented technology, design and marketing professionals. Because of the pace of change, we constantly invent new ideas about how to deliver on that vision. But the original vision will continue to be our North Star for a long time to come.

What was technically the most challenging part of developing GetResponse?

GetResponse is a work in progress. We released a ton of innovations recently and have big projects in the works right now. Our challenge is to put ourselves in the shoes of our users and ask, “How can we make it easy for users to implement quickly, and how can we deliver a big benefit to our users right away?”

How long did it take to put together GetResponse?

I completed the first release in about one year. After that, we paid attention to business trends and innovations in technology and we responded to the needs of our user community. Along the way, we designed improvements to solve user problems, make their email marketing more effective, and make GetResponse easier to use. We’re still doing those things today.

Do you have any new features in the pipeline?

Yes! Relationships thrive on kept promises and nice surprises. So our plans include plenty of both. But we’re not releasing any details. After all, it’s only fair to give our competitors an opportunity to think of their own ideas ;)

What do you wish you’d have known 14 years ago that you know now?

If I could hop into the Delorean time machine with Doc and Marty, I’d go “back to the future” to 1998 and whisper three words to my younger self: Google, Facebook and Apple. Wouldn’t we all? But seriously, I can’t say that we were missing any key parts of the puzzle. After all, we were helping chart the course in the evolution of online marketing, as we still do today.

So the email continues to live on even though it has been pronounced dead many times! Where do you see GetResponse in another 14 years time?

Think of the “funnel” model for marketing. Tools such as search and social media feed the widest part of the funnel; you can broadcast your marketing story to unbelievably wide, diverse audiences. But at some point, you must build a relationship with those at the narrow end of the funnel. I don’t know about 14 years from now, but for the foreseeable future, email marketing is the ideal tool for building those relationships. And we intend to be at the forefront.

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

Entrepreneurs always start with impossibly huge dreams, and I was no different. But I was also realistic about the time it would take, so I committed to the long term.

From the very beginning, we built strong marketing into the company and we took great care of our Customers. As our user community grew, it gave us more and more credibility, which made our marketing more effective.

So I’m pleased with our feedback and growth and feel we’re poised for even more.

Who would you say is your biggest competitor?

We don’t position ourselves against any specific competitors. Instead, we focus on executing our basics: taking care of customers, opening new markets, and creating innovative technologies.

However, we do face stiff competition in hiring; there’s a demand for the caliber of people we need for programming, design, marketing and customer service. So I would say the technology industry itself might be our biggest competitor. But as our reputation grows, we’re finding it easier to attract the right people.

What in your opinion is the biggest mistake email marketers make?

The biggest mistake I see is the failure to make email marketing the centerpiece of your overall marketing plan. You should use search, advertising and social media to attract fresh prospects then nurture those relationships with your email marketing program.

Your sales funnel needs to close business, and it can start with an autoresponder series to do the heavy lifting of educating the prospect, explaining the value, answering objections and even closing the sales.

And every sale creates more opportunities to serve the same customer with up-sells, add-ons and additional products and services; email marketing can do that too. Even your customer service department can use email marketing to educate and build stronger relationships.

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

Time management. I’m totally involved with the day-to-day operation of my business. I’m a family man and enjoy spending time at home. And I stay involved in my community. Balancing all of that is a challenge, but I wouldn’t give up any of it.

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

Entrepreneurs are changing the world like never before. And the pace of change makes fast rewards possible. But don’t be tempted to act like a fast-buck operator. Take the time to build relationships with your audience. As you figure out ways to be of service, the business will come.

What other projects are you currently working on?

As you know, Implix is the parent company of GetResponse and three other businesses.
ClickMeeting is our videoconferencing solution, the most advanced and affordable on the market.
GetResponse Enterprise is a high-volume email marketing solution using the GetResponse platform and enhanced with consulting and advisory services.

What are you most excited about at the moment?

We’re gratified by our success with expanding into the U.S. and Canada, so we’re excited about becoming a greater presence in those markets . . . and others. And I’m excited about some of the amazing enhancements our developers are working on right now.

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

GetResponse puts the world’s most powerful marketing method, email marketing, at your fingertips in the most user-friendly format. We make it affordable enough for any organization and give you a risk-free way to try it for 30 days, no credit card. You’ll love what it does for your business.

Finished reading? Check out GetResponse!

Interview with Kirk Simpson (Wave)

Wave is a web based invoicing, accounting and payroll application.

I interviewed Kirk Simpson, Wave co-founder and CEO to find out more. This is the hundred and seventy first in a series of DW startup interviews. Big thank you to Kirk!

How would you describe Wave in under 50 words?

Wave is a fully integrated suite of innovative, easy to use tools that help you run your business better. Invoicing, accounting, personal, reporting, payroll and payments all in one package. And we talk the language of small business owners. And did I mention, most of our tools are free.

Why did you decide to make Wave completely free? What’s your revenue model?

We originally intended to charge for Wave, but quickly changed our mind when we came to better understand our target market. People who are running a small business don’t have an extra cent to spare, especially for complicated software that they generally don’t like to use. Let’s face it, small business owners would rather do what they do best and that generally doesn’t include accounting. So we set our minds to innovating on the traditional pricing model.

Wave has two revenue models. Primarily, we show non-intrusive offers that are targeted to small business owners in all of our free products. It’s an ad-based model, but even our advertisements are great offers, designed to save the small business owner money for products that they would have to buy anyways. We also offer some paid products, most notably our payroll tools. But even with our paid products we are innovative on the pricing model – for instance our payroll is an all-in-one, no nickel and diming flat fee per employee.

You doubled your user base from 250,000 to 500,000 in just 6 months (May-December 2012), which marketing channels have you used to grow so quickly?

Our marketing team has been really smart at identifying opportunities, including building resources for niche markets where Wave is a natural fit. We’ve also created a robust social media presence, utilized great SEO practices throughout the company, used paid search, and created really valuable content to drive traffic to our site.

Most importantly we’ve invested in the product so that our users want to spread the word about Wave. You also can’t underestimate the power of free.

You also nearly doubled your team in that time to over 70 people. Have you had any difficulties in finding talented developers and managers?

Our goal from day one has been to surround ourselves with smart, creative, energetic and passionate people who care about our customers and the problems we are trying to solve. So we have invested a lot of time, energy and resources into finding those people. And when we do we go out of our way to try and recruit them by telling them the Wave story and drawing out what the future of Wave will look like. In a way each of those interviews is like a mini investor pitch. They are going to make a big difference to the success and failure of our company so we spend the time to sell them on the benefits of working at Wave.

Other than being completely free, how do you differentiate from your competitors?

Firstly, we have a laser focus on small business owners – typically nine employees or under. We don’t try and straddle small and medium sized businesses because they act very differently. That specific focus allows us to be very methodical about the tools we build and those we won’t. In return the small business owner gets a tool that speaks their language and is uncluttered by bells and whistles that only the medium sized business would need.

Secondly, we believe in building integrated tools within the same app. With Wave you don’t have to be using several different apps (all with different logins, user interfaces to learn and API’s). You can get invoicing, accounting, personal, payments, payroll and soon receipt scanning all in a single app, where everything works together seamlessly.

Finally, we are a true double entry accounting system. Different than some of our competitors who believe the only way to be simple is to remove that important fundamental, a Wave user is ready for tax time or to work with an accountant because with Wave you can get out to a proper balance sheet.

You acquired Vuru, a stock research and investment tracking application August 2012. What was the process like and has it been helpful in growing your business?

This acquisition process seemed natural, as we had been doing quite a bit of mentorship with the team at Vuru. We saw the clear value they could add to our suite of tools, the personal finance tools in particular.

But most importantly it was about Cam and Yoseph, the founders. We knew they were incredibly strong and could add a lot to the Wave team. We haven’t been disappointed – they have come in and added a tremendous amount of value in a short period of time. They are an important part of our future.

You have users in over 200 countries, have you come across any cultural or technical barriers?

We built our tools to be highly customizable, so you can input your own tax codes and create your own products, which is what has allowed us to see this kind of growth.

Of course, we’re still getting requests for language translations, and have run across a few areas where people have requested new areas to be customized, such as invoice headers, but we’re handling all of these on a per case basis. International growth is an important part of our future.

What is your primary focus in terms of new developments at the moment?

Without giving away too much, I can tell you that we’ve recently changed Wave’s structure, so it’s easier than ever to bring new tools and functionalities to our customers. There will be lots of exciting developments coming down the pipeline in 2013, so stay tuned!

You have been very successful with smaller businesses, any plans for the enterprise market?

Absolutely not. By trying to tackle every market, you end up with a muddled message and muddled products. You can’t be everything for everyone, but we can be the best suite of tools available for the small business owner, who represent approximately 90% of businesses in North America.

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

Try out our 100% free invoicing, accounting, and personal finance tools. Once you’ve seen them, you won’t need any convincing.

Finished reading? Check out Wave!

Interview with Jeroen Maljers (Swydo)

Swydo is a project management and reporting application for online marketers.

I interviewed Jeroen Maljers, Swydo founder to find out more. This is the hundred and seventieth in a series of DW startup interviews. Big thank you to Jeroen!

How would you describe Swydo in under 50 words?

Swydo is a reporting, alerting and workflow suite for online marketers. Swydo provides a holistic view on KPI’s that are fed by online marketing metrics like Analytics, Adwords, your own work/tasks and other sources. With Swydo online marketers work better and report more easily.

How did you meet your business partner Bert Catsburg?

We met via a mutual business friend.

Swydo is a very unique name, how did it come about?

Swydo is an Acronym for Show What You Do Online. I thought of this name because our Agency customers used to ask us every month: “what did you accomplish this month and what did you do”. Exactly the problem we now try to solve with our software.

What gap in the market did you discover that persuaded you to share Swydo with online marketers in 2011?

There are a lot of really good task management and project management tools out there. But they all focus on projects that have a start and an end, you know like building a house. You even see it in the testimonials of the PM tools that they are used by wedding planners, architects etc. But online marketing is not like that. It never ends. It’s an continual process of improvements based on results. We could not find a suitable solution to facilitate such a process, so we started to make it ourselves. We really facilitate recurring projects. Next to that we saw that native reporting in Analytics, Adwords is really fragmented and unsuitable for agency needs and online marketers needs.

Swydo was originally built in 2009, how does the current version differ from the original?

Our initial version was just to scratch our own itch. It was not built for third parties. We completely rebuilt it last year and the current suite is state-of-the-art, scalable and fast.

You have a growing team, are you looking to expand further?

Yes, we need more colleagues. We will expand in customer support, programming and marketing.

Swydo has 5 different pricing packages, which has been most popular?

The free one :) But seriously. People are migrating slowly up in the pyramid of our plans, starting with free and then choosing a paid plan to fit their needs.

You claim online marketers work better with Swydo, how do you differentiate yourselves from your competitors?

We focus on 2 problems we solve: reporting and workflow. Other tools do not have the workflow but focus on research/editing and on reporting. In their tools you can, for instance, edit adwords campaigns or write blog posts. That’s not our vision. We think you will always better manager adwords campaigns in the adwords system or write blog posts in Wordpress. But to have a good workflow and reporting across these different tools is managed best with Swydo.

In January this year, you launched “the new Swydo”, what feedback did you get and have you had to roll back any changes?

We received a lot of positive feedback first of all, but also requests to included more channels like Bing, Facebook and LinkedIn. We are working hard to accomplish that soon. Next to that we really received a lot of detailed input to make the reporting and task management even smoother.

What is your primary focus in terms of new developments to Swydo at the moment?

We focus on 3 tracks in development at the moment:

1. Reporting should be a joy. The online marketing reporting part should be like a hot knife through butter. It’s good but can even be better.
2. A mobile app. See all your online marketing KPI’s while drinking coffee at Starbucks.
3. More channels like Bing and Facebook.

You also own an agency, do you find any difficulties spreading your time evenly?

I divide my time between Swydo and our small, local boutique agency. It’s good to have our small agency, because in that way we eat our own dog food. We invest all we earn in the product at the moment.

Because time is scarse I really have to weed out all other, distracting business activities and to be honest: that has been hard but has a positive effect. I hardly go to trade shows, conferences and am very focussed on spending my time right. Sometimes I would like to focus more on just one venture. We’ll see what the future brings.

What has been the biggest obstacle for Swydo to overcome so far?

We really had to make a transition from making a system like you make a website to making a really scalable suite.

I mean, the initial version had to refresh for every page and had a self built polling mechanism. Then our hosting provider called us to say that there was almost coming smoke out of our server. Hmmmm, then we discovered frameworks like Spine and Node.js and had to rewrite literally every single line of code. We were experienced marketers, but had no experience in building scalable software. We’ve learned a lot since then.

What’s the startup scene like in Amsterdam?

It’s good. Venture Capital is scarce (we are 100% bootstrapped), but there’s a good scene with friendly people that help each other. There’s a good conference (TNW).

What advice would you offer to any soon to be startup founders out there?

You really have to have a good mix of tech, marketing and action. In the B2B area, where we operate, the central question is: “What problem does our software solve for our customers”. If you don’t have a good answer, go back to the start.

Where do you see Swydo in 5 years time?

Either we will be a healthy independent bunch or part of a larger player. Since our customers are 99% from outside of the Netherlands, an international office will be mandatory.

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

The online marketing space is maybe the fastest changing profession to be in. This is great but also creates a challenge to stay organized and accountable. Online marketers who want to stay in control and want to be accountable to themselves, their colleagues, clients or boss should try Swydo.

Finished reading? Check out Swydo!

Interview with David Hunegnaw (AboutOurWork)

AboutOurWork social network site for business’ and their contacts

I interviewed David Hunegnaw, AboutOurWork founder to find out more. This is the hundred and sixty ninth in a series of DW startup interviews. Big thank you to David!

How would you describe AboutOurWork in under 50 words?

AboutOurWork is a B2B recommendation engine for small businesses. Just like Amazon connects us with the next best book to read and Netflix with the next-best movie to watch, AboutOurWork identifies next-best opportunities between small businesses then automates intros for them.

How did you meet co-founder Brooke Paul?

Brooke and I met a few years back right around the time we both were exiting our startups at the time. Once I sold my business I started dabbling in some local projects (including the creation of a coworking space and a bike share…) and when Brooke sold his business, he immediately started putting together plans for Founders Factory, a Columbus, Ohio-based startup accelerator. I can’t remember who approached who with the idea for AboutOurWork but knew we wanted to work on a startup together.

By the way, Brooke is quite literally at the center of the Columbus, OH startup scene and is deeply involved in the community as the founding partner at Founders Factory, serves as a program lead for the 10X Accelerator at The Ohio State University, and advisor/mentor/investor to many Columbus-based startups.

What gap in the market did you discover that persuaded you to launch AboutOurWork late 2011?

AboutOurWork was created because even with the advent of social, small business networking (particularly those focused on the service sector) has remained the same which is a mostly offline networking process. Hundreds of small business networking events take place and are attended by thousands of business owners every single day. We believe that AboutOurWork can augment or enhance the process of networking for small businesses.

It says on your website that you love the challenge of building businesses and are rarely seen without your laptop. How did this interest come about?

I’m pretty lucky to be surrounded by a group of entrepreneurs that love the challenge of identifying opportunities and building solutions to address those opportunities.

How long did it take to put together the initial version of AboutOurWork?

About 6 months.

How have you funded AboutOurWork?

Brooke and I self-funded the early days and once we saw some traction, reached out to Founders Factory for additional funding. We’re now in the process of preparing to raise an angel round.

What was technically the most challenging part of developing AboutOurWork?

AboutOurWork was built around three key pillars:

1.) Our company profile that helps our small business members get found online
2.) MatchUp, which automates the process of identifying business-to-business opportunities, and
3.) Connected, which allows our members to promote their business visually through existing connections.

The challenge for our team was how to design and build the product in a fully integrated and seamless way to ensure a positive user experience. We still have some work to do in this area but I am happy with the progress we’re making.

Do you find that many clients use AboutOurWork to supplement their current websites, or do many replace their original sites with their page on your website?

Allowing our members to use their company profile as a website is a relatively new feature that we built based on our discovery that over 60% of small businesses (with fewer than 10 employees) don’t have a website.

Who do you see as your target audience? How are you reaching them?

We identified small businesses with fewer than 10 employees as our target user because they’re often ignored by major social networks and they’re also often the very companies lacking financial, technical, or human resources to identify alternatives to the offline networking process. In order to reach this audience, we have identified and established several channel partnerships with many of the local chambers, associations and other trade groups that focus on serving small business.

What was the inspiration behind launching your MatchUp service, and what added edge does it give your clients?

MatchUp is the recommendation engine that automates introductions between businesses. We were inspired to create MatchUp because our discovery that within the small business community, the process of networking and connecting largely has remained the same for over 100 years… the traditional networking event. While networking events can be highly productive, it is a process that doesn’t scale. Small business owners simply do not have the resources to attend every event and “shake every hand in the room” in order to identify the next-best business opportunity.

Small businesses are busier than ever and in today’s competitive environment, need the right tools in order to grow. MatchUp gives our members exactly what they need and can’t get anywhere else online – targeted and qualified next-best business opportunities delivered to their inbox. No status updates required.

Has AboutOurWork got the feedback and growth you expected since launching November 2011?

We spent a large part of 2012 validating our concept through interviews with small business owners, chambers of commerce, and associations that focus on small businesses in order to ensure that we were on the right track. Now that we’ve validated the business and model, our plans for 2013 are focused on growth.

How much flexibility does the site offer for clients to tailor the website to their companies needs?

We provide 6 themes/templates for our members to build their company profile, each of them are fully customizable. We even allow them to use their company profile as their website, removing all AboutOurWork branding. No other network or directory provides this for their members!

What is your primary focus in terms of new developments at the moment?

From a product standpoint, we’ve built a pretty solid base. Our focus now is to refine our product to create a better user experience. In addition, we’re focused on business development and adding members through our channel partners.

Which site or app do you check first when you wake up?

First things first, I check my emails for any important issues with the team, technology, etc. Next, I scan Twitter for potential support issues with AboutOurWork.

After I check emails and twitter for important issues, I go to my Reeder app to scan the daily news and updates from my favorite blogs including AVC, PandoDaily, Techcrunch, Techmeme, etc.

Where do you see AboutOurWork in 5 years time?

97% of businesses in the US are considered small with fewer than 10 employees and unfortunately, they’ve long been ignored by the major networks and platforms. Our mission for AboutOurWork is to be the hub for this community, powering the networking opportunities and connections between small businesses around the world.

It’s a lofty goal for sure but we’re lucky enough to have a the right team, technology, vision and overall opportunity to execute on our mission.

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

Access to capital which is a hurdle not only for AboutOurWork, but for many startups in Ohio and throughout the midwest.

What advice would you offer to any soon to be startup founders out there?

Solve a real problem.

Using AboutOurWork as an example, we all know that there isn’t a single company on this planet that can stand alone and be successful without the support of other businesses – whether they are clients, vendors, advisors, or collaborations with other businesses. Before AboutOurWork, there wasn’t a network or technology built to solve that problem which is why we decided to build the business. AboutOurWork is solving a real problem for small businesses.

There’s an often quoted question in the startup community… “Is your startup a vitamin (a nice to have technology) or a pain killer (a got to have it technology)?”

I believe AboutOurWork will evolve into a painkiller “got to have it” technology for the small business community and my advice to new startup founders would be to find and build their own pain killer.

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

Are you a small business? Then join AboutOurWork, the first recommendation engine that identifies next-best business opportunities. In only 5 minutes & 5 clicks, you’ll increase exposure online & MatchUp will identify the right opportunity at the right time, delivering those opportunities to your inbox. No status updates required.

Finished reading? Check out AboutOurWork!

Interview with John Skorick (MyAKA)

MyAKA is a mobile phone privacy protection service

I interviewed John Skorick, MyAKA founder to find out more. This is the hundred and sixty eighth in a series of DW startup interviews. Big thank you to John!

How would you describe MyAKA in under 50 words?

MyAKA enables customers to protect their private information by adding a second number to their phone. This number is not tied to their personal details and can be used publicly or in situations where they do not wish to use their real number.

Tell us the MyAKA story, why did you decide to launch early 2012?

My background is in eCommerce and I had several clients who ran online dating sites. Eventually I began attending online dating conferences as I saw it as a growing and interesting market. I was at a conference in January of 2011 when some colleagues invited me to sit in on an app development meeting with Brendan O’Kane, the CEO of messmo and OtherLevels.

Following the meeting, Brendan and I spoke in more detail and I learned that messmo had created an anonymous text messaging solution which used short codes. I’m a very private individual. I do not care for the intrusive nature of Facebook and even less for the many sites collecting data and selling access to it to anyone with a credit card. But, I digress.

My curiosity was piqued and over the next couple of months we exchanged ideas for taking a short code texting application and turning it into a full blown privacy product. We moved from short codes to real numbers, added calling in addition to texting and several privacy features such as number blocking and do-not-disturb.

How long did it take to put together the initial version of MyAKA?

Due to the pre-existing text messaging functionality, some of the technology already was already in place, but we started the enhanced system, web development, affiliate and billing systems in April 2011 and entered beta in November 2011.

Do you target individuals or businesses? How are you reaching them?

MyAKA is certainly a B2C company. I was recently approached by a colleague to create a spin-off which targets enterprise level customers but we felt that there are already companies operating in that space, whereas options are limited to non-existent in the B2C privacy market.

Additionally, while I would be more than happy to outfit a large companies entire sales staff with MyAKA numbers, for example, a big part of our product is the message and cause behind it. We work to raise awareness to a number of privacy and safety issues and I feel that is certainly a individual based approach.

As for reaching individuals, we have direct integration with dating sites, affiliate marketing campaigns, social media with a presence on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Pinterest, and also work with a company who writes our privacy news section. This section helps our goal of raising awareness to privacy and safety issues and is highly valuable for our extensive SEO efforts.

In addition, in January of this year we partnered with Break the Cycle, a nationally recognized non-profit which works to end dating violence and domestic abuse through youth education and peer support. Our respective audiences were a natural fit and we work together to raise awareness to these issues and MyAKA donates $1 from every sale to Break the Cycle.

Did you have two mobiles before launching MyAKA?

Actually, I did not. We have a large number of business professionals who use MyAKA to manage business calls vs. personal. Not only do they want the privacy of giving a second number to clients, they are able to place the number into do-not-disturb mode when they wish to not receive business calls, such as during family time.

eCommerce never sleeps so coming from that background I simply had it ingrained to always have my phone on. However, I now have a MyAKA number which I use in any situations where I believe my information could be made public (business cards, filling out online profiles, press releases, etc…)

Has MyAKA got the feedback and growth you expected since launching in January 2012?

When we launched in January 2012 we immediately targeted strategic partnerships with online dating websites. I had solid contacts in this industry and it seemed like a natural fit but we found that there was a lot of hesitance to add a “safety” product on the part of the website owners/executives.

Although we were successful in integrating with some dating sites, the hesitance we met from others did set our projections back and caused us to quickly change our marketing approach. We moved to a heavy focus on the privacy news, SEO and social media marketing efforts, while at the same time maintaining an affiliate program and working direct integration here and there.

We also found that there was a bit of an educational process with customers, as MyAKA was a foreign concept to most. It took us some time getting the message across properly and in late 2012 we changed our model to allow a free 7 day trial without entering a credit card number. Naturally this resulted in a tremendous increase in adoption and usage and also gave customers a no commitment opportunity to learn about the product.

That is a long way of saying growth has been slower than expected but feedback has been tremendous. We work with a call center which handles all billing inquires but I receive and respond to everything sent to the feedback loop. We have integrated new features due to this feedback and I have also had customers tell me how helpful MyAKA has been for them.

How have you funded MyAKA?

MyAKA has not raised any angel or VC funds. We are 100% bootstrapped, as they say.

Do you have any competitors?

There are a few apps which offer some services similar to MyAKA and we are often compared to Google Voice but there is a myriad of differences between our two solutions. There are similarities but many important differences as well.

We are the only second number solution which does not require an app or calls to forwarding lines in order support incoming and outgoing text and call protection.

What is your primary focus in terms of new developments at the moment?

We have several new features in the pipeline but it seems new priorities are constantly popping up. Such is the nature of technology.

We just released enhancements to our voice mail system, are working on an incentive program to encourage and reward customers for referring their friends and we are overhauling our mobile tour.

Many immediately think of MyAKA as a product for mobile traffic. I understand why this is the case, we are enabling mobile privacy after all, but due to the fact that this is a new concept to many, we are much more successful at converting customers on our web tour, where there is more real estate. This led us to focus on the web tour and web traffic and our mobile tour is mostly a landing page to convert trial users. Our mobile traffic is growing and this is not effective. We will be launching a new mobile tour within the next two weeks.

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

I think the biggest hurdle is the fact that there is so much saturation with new products and technology that it can be difficult to standout and get attention. This is true for both consumers and traffic partners or journalists we want to work with.

Saturation is only going to increase but the best products will get discovered eventually.

What advice would you offer to any soon to be startup founders out there?

I don’t know that I’m in any position to give others advice. There have been more than a few moments where I’ve wondered if I were a few bricks shy of a load, so I’d be hard pressed to tell others I have all the answers.

I believe people know themselves best, need to trust themselves and their instincts. And be passionate because once you start down the path you’ll need that passion to drive you.

What are you most excited about at the moment?

I’m excited about the fact that I look forward to Mondays. I don’t have a traditional weekend as there are no days off at this point but Monday is still Monday and I’ve come to be excited to start a new week, take on whatever challenges come our way and, with luck, hear from a customer or two about how they feel about MyAKA. Sometimes I should be careful what I wish for but the vast majority of the time these are very positive interactions.

One of my mentors, who is now a close friend, ran the company I first moved to LA to work for. He would tell others that if they ever woke up and dreaded going to work to talk to him and he would personally help them find other employment if they were unable to resolve the situation. He’d say we spend far to much of our lives working to be miserable at work and it’s something I took with me and use to this day.

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

I would simply suggest that they Google their phone number and take stock of the number of companies who provide personal details based on phone number searches. Our goal is to render these companies non-existent.

Finished reading? Check out MyAKA!

Interview with Steve Goodman (Bright)

Bright is a job searching tool for both employers and prospective employees.

I interviewed Steve Goodman, Bright CEO to find out more. This is the hundred and sixty seventh in a series of DW startup interviews. Big thank you to Steve!

How would you describe Bright in under 50 words?

Bright unlocks the power of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data to establish a one-to-one signal between job seekers and successful placements.

What gap in the market did you discover that persuaded you to launch Bright early 2011?

We noticed that the Internet had democratized the job application process to the point where employers now receive 6x more resumes than just 10 years ago. Companies like Coca Cola now receive over three million resumes a year, while just a few years ago it was less than 500,000.

The Internet has made it almost too easy to apply for a job. How do employers quickly surface the best candidates from a pile of three million resumes? Bright set out to solve this problem. Bright provides what’s akin to a GPS for job seekers – guiding them to apply for the jobs where they are qualified.

You employ over 30 people. Ironically, have you had any difficulties in finding talented developers and managers?

As of March 2013, we employ about 35 people (and we’re hiring). We haven’t had a hard time attracting great talent. Bright.com helps people find jobs. We are making a substantial impact on people’s lives. We aren’t here to simply sell widgets or make money, we’re on a mission to move the labor markets faster.

We don’t pay top dollar for talent; we are interested in working with people that want to make a difference in the world. If you are singularly focused on earning top dollar, there are plenty of opportunities in Silicon Valley. If you want to impact the world by helping people find work for themselves and their families, we’re a pretty good spot. This value prop attracts the talent we need to forward our mission. Our interviews are as much about culture fit as nailing a few lines of Python.

How long did it take to put together the initial version of Bright?

Over a year and a half. It took about 15 data scientists and engineers, over 100 talent recruiters across industries, and the largest scientific resume to job description study in history. Inputs included over 2 M resumes, 8 M job seekers, and more than 20 M job descriptions.

How much of your development time has gone into the machine learning algorithm ‘Bright Score’?

Most of it. The Bright Score algorithm looks at hundreds of features in a resume (i.e., gaps in resume, time in job, working at a competitor to the company the job seeker is apply to) against a job description. We’ve logged almost 75,000 man hours into development of the algorithm. We’re altruistic with its development and it learns on its own over time. There’s very little manual scaffolding supporting it. The more resumes and job descriptions it sees, the stronger it gets. We’ve now processed more than one billion Bright Scores.

What technologies have you used to develop Bright and which were the most technically challenging development problems?

Lots of challenges. We are building something that hasn’t been developed before. The biggest challenge is reducing an N-squared matching problem to a manageable dilemma. The Bright Score matches N candidates against M potential jobs. We need to apply appropriate intelligence to make this tractable.

Most of our work is steeped in statistics and inferences, but processing unstructured text in a timely fashion that can provide an accurate Bright Score in moments is hard to do. We use standard development / storage technologies, but building the machine learning algorithm is the root of our challenges. On the data science side we use SciPy, NLTKs, MATLAB, Lucene, and Hadoop’s MapReduce. LAMP stack for the website and then CouchDB, and non sql database Neo4J.

Do you feel your company is more useful to the employers by helping them short-list applicants or for prospective employees?

That’s like asking Match.com if they do better for men or for women. Our goal is to create an efficient marketplace, and there should be meaningful balanced value on both sides.

You’ve received $6M in venture capital, how long did it take to secure the funding?

Not long. Our team has a pretty good track record of raising money and building good businesses in Silicon Valley. We’ve worked with top tier VCs and angel investors in the past.

Do you have any features in the pipeline to make job searching even easier and more efficient than you have already made it?

Yes, of course. But I’d have to kill you (and I’d be killed by our PR team) if I told you what they are.

Has Bright got the feedback and growth you expected since launching in February 2011?

Far exceeded. From a standing start of zero visitors less than two years ago, in March ’13 over 4 million unique job seekers will visit Bright.com. 20,000 job seekers a day register with Bright. And we’re almost profitable while sustaining our strong growth. Our business outlook is strong.

How do you differentiate yourselves from your competitors?

The Bright Score and our people. Over the years many companies have developed keyword matching systems. For example, LinkedIn uses a nice keyword matching system. The problem is that when a talent recruiter searches on “Java”, returned results will include people who took a class in Java, people with between zero and 20 years experience in Java, and even Barista’s that work at Starbucks!

Boolean search tools used by talent recruiters are really poor funneling systems. The Bright Score fundamentally solves this problem because it looks at the whole resume against the job description. It saves time and money for talent recruiters. The other major differentiation is our team: not just the pedigree and academic backgrounds, but the passion and effort they put into the business. Bright is woven into the fabric of our lives.

When watching the news do you find yourself relating stories back to how they will affect your business?

Every day. What are the top stories in the news these days? Jobs, the economy, employment trends etc. Our business could not be more on topic to the state of the economy or current events. Just check out Bright Labs to see how.

What is your primary focus in terms of new developments at the moment?

Similar to Google, our algorithm is the core of our business. We focus like a laser on it. Google’s algorithm is substantially stronger today than in 1998 when they first started. And Google continues to invest most of their R&D dollars into it. We do the same thing. Our Bright Score is only going to continue to get better.

Has the high unemployment rate increased interest in your company due to more people looking for jobs, or hindered the company due to less companies looking for new employees?

Neither. We are a technology innovation in the labor market regardless of the state of the economy and employment levels.

Where do you see Bright in 5 years time?

We are a core algorithm / technology company first and foremost. Ultimately, the Bright Score will be part of every job application evaluation process by talent recruiters. Similar to a FICO credit score in the credit industry. Obviously job seekers get a different Bright Score for every job, but the comparison to the FICO score is that it’s an industry standard. Before a bank reviews a credit application they check the applicant’s FICO credit score. The same should happen with employers and the Bright Score. Why waste time on a job seeker’s full application if they aren’t at least minimally qualified?

With the knowledge you have today, would you do anything different if you were to start-up Bright again?

The Bright Score coupled with the social graph is where job placement results are accelerated. But we spent a bunch of money and time on the hypothesis that “social recruiting” by itself was a big breakthrough in HR. We realized that it wasn’t true.

The social graph is important for sure, but just because you’re friends with someone on Facebook doesn’t mean you’ll recommend them for a job. In fact, are most of your Facebook friends really in that small circle of trusted friends that you would even tell you’re looking for a job? We’re huge believers in the social graph, but it’s not the only, or even best, factor in identifying whether someone is qualified for a job. It needs to be coupled with an algorithm like the Bright Score.

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

Building a startup is like hitting from an erratic automatic pitching machine. You have two choices: swing or duck. Keeping everyone in the batter’s box, focused on the ball, and swinging at the best pitch is the constant struggle for us and all early stage companies.

What advice would you offer to any soon to be startup founders out there?

Try something, fail fast, try again. If it’s not working try something new. Fast. Think 20-30% of the time, execute 70-80% of the time. That is, stop thinking, and start doing. Revenue is the best deodorant. Get customer feedback early and often…Read Steve Blank’s product development stuff (Lean LaunchPad)…Hire people smarter than you in their areas of expertise. Surround yourself with smart capable leaders and get out of their way…Hire someone to call bullshit on your bullshit. Work your ass off, don’t take yourself too seriously, and make sure you get to your kid’s baseball game.

What are you most excited about at the moment?

My kid’s baseball game at 5:30 tonight.

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

Job seeker? Looking for a new opportunity? Click on this link. Recruiter? Looking to find the job seeker that just clicked on that link? Here’s one for you.

Finished reading? Check out Bright!

Interview with David Robins (Binfire)

Binfire is an web based project management application.

I interviewed David Robins, Binfire founder to find out more. This is the hundred and sixty sixth in a series of DW startup interviews. Big thank you to David!

How would you describe Binfire in under 50 words?

Binfire is an online project management and collaboration application designed to enhance productivity in both traditional and distributed teams by improving planning, collaboration, communication, coordination and monitoring. All pages in Binfire are live and all data is available to each team member in realtime for effortless online collaboration.

How long did it take to put together Binfire?

It took us six months to put Binfire together. At first the company was providing consulting services for project management and data storage, but in the late 2010 we pivoted and started in earnest our software development for project management and collaboration application.

What made you decide to start working on Binfire?

We have extensive experience managing multi disciplinary projects involving software, hardware, mechanical and manufacturing engineers who were located in several sites around the world. These experiences made me realize that the current tools available for managing projects like MS project or Skype are not sufficient to make a team collaborate and innovate. Unique tools are needed to manage and enhance communication, collaboration, coordination and accountability in both traditional and distributed teams.

Due to globalization, more projects use distributed teams than ever before. The recent advances in internet technology (speed) and new hardware and software enhancements have made it possible to create virtual offices to improve productivity of project teams by enhancing the collaboration and communication inside the team and with outside actors like clients and suppliers.

What was technically the most challenging part of developing Binfire?

The real time aspect of our application which is the central part of Binfire was the most challenging part of our development. We needed to develop a unique communication engine that can keep all users updated in real time at all times wherever they are. All project members in Binfire, have access to the same data as it changes in real time. There is a huge benefit in this. Everybody has access to the latest data at anytime without any action required by anybody to make it happen.

To illustrate this point, the interactive Gantt in Binfire is updated in real time, so if somebody changes a task, all other users who are in the Gantt page see this change in real time. In addition the application sends notifications to those who need to know about the change. The person the task is assigned to, the task owner, project manager and anybody on the team who has chosen to follow that task is notified automatically.

Who do you see as your target audience?

Any small to medium size team working on projects which involve multiple tasks assigned to different people and need coordination and collaboration. Our software specially helps new project managers to start their projects with confidence. Due to flexible nature of the application, different project management methodologies like WBS, Agile or scrum could be deployed.

What technologies have you used to build Binfire?

The most important part of the application is the real time communication engine. The core application is based on Python, C and PHP on the server side. On the client side we use JavaScript. For native mobile applications we use java.

How flexible are you to different companies needs with regards to the set plans you offer?

The application is built with the understating that not all teams have the same requirements and issues. The project manager can setup the project the way she/he wants by using the permissions in the project dashboard. We offer several plans to fit team size and its requirements.

Do you have any features in the pipeline?

Yes we are working on native mobile applications for both Android and IOS platforms. We are also adding custom reporting features plus calendar sync with Google and outlook. We are also working on offline application for all platforms. This lets users work even when they don’t have access to Internet like while flying or when the Internet is down.

With offices all over the world, do you use Binfire to manage the development of Binfire?

Yes, from the beginning we have used Binfire for our own projects. These include software development, quality testing and business development. The entire team in Binfire is using the application to manage all tasks and projects.

If you had the knowledge you have today, what would you have done differently since starting up in 2008?

I would have done the switch from consulting to software development for project management much sooner.

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

We have a growing paying customer base which keeps the company in black. We are in a crowded market space with competitors spending heavily in marketing. Even-though we don’t spend any money marketing yet, we are gaining market share.

How do you differentiate yourself from your competitors?

We provide the best customer care available anywhere. The advanced features include interactive Gantt chart, burndown chart, Subtasks six levels deep, group chat, Searchable data and a secure twitter like status reporting page for each project. No other application offers the wealth of the features which Binfire provides plus the ease of use it brings to both experienced and novice users.

What are you most excited about at the moment?

The mobile applications which we are working on right now will make collaboration a lot more universal and comprehensive. In addition, a lot of universities are using our software. This gives us a unique opportunity to interact and collaborate with really bright people and learn from their experience. We are working with several teams which use Binfire for large projects and we are measuring the productivity improvements that these teams are achieving. The improvements are astounding! It reaffirms that the approach we have taken in developing the application is helping teams to be more productive.

Where do you see Binfire in 3 years time?

We will be one of the 3 big players in the project management and collaboration space. We plan to provide everything a team needs to finish a project on time and on budget. This space is growing at a very fast paste. Our goal is to offer the application to large enterprises by 2015 in addition to SMS’s.

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

We have captured years of experience working on hundreds of projects to create an application that helps both traditional and distributed teams to collaborate and be more productive. Try Binfire and see for yourself how Binfire can improve your team’s productivity. On average productivity is enhanced by better than 40%

Finished reading? Check out Binfire!

Interview with Jorge Armanet (HealthUnlocked)

HealthUnlocked is a social network made up of communities for self-managing health.

I interviewed Jorge Armanet, HealthUnlocked co-founder to find out more. This is the hundred and sixty fifth in a series of DW startup interviews. Big thank you to Jorge!

How would you describe HealthUnlocked in under 50 words?

HealthUnlocked is a patient-focused social network for health that provides social and self-management technology for patients of all shapes and sizes. We have 200+ health and wellness communities where patients can connect with others, learn about their condition, and manage their health.

The world is increasingly becoming more health focused, is this what inspired you to create HealthUnlocked in 2009?

Not really. It was actually the lack of social technologies within the health space and the slowness in which the industry was reacting that grabbed my attention in the beginning. Health has always been a concern for everyone. What you’re seeing now is that concern find it’s way into a social-technology setting. I was inspired by the possibility of making huge advances in efficiency in an area that affects all aspects of society.

Do you find people are increasingly turning to HealthUnlocked rather than going to the doctors?

Our aim is to facilitate communications between patients and doctors. In doing so we provide an environment where patients can learn about their condition before even seeing a healthcare professional. We don’t want to displace the doctor appointment. We want to make them more efficient and useful for both the patient and the doctor. In that sense, yes, we do have evidence that patients using HealthUnlocked get referrals earlier, are better diagnosed and, in general, have a better understanding of what is going on with their health.

Do all ages use HealthUnlocked or do you target it specifically at a certain age group?

Currently, the average age of a HealthUnlocked member is 48. That is an effect of us having focused more on chronic conditions in the past but also because of the simplicity of the system which allows an older population to interact easily. That being said, HealthUnlocked is for everyone. We have a wide spectrum of users ranging from very elderly to very young, with the younger population primarily focused on wellness, rather than disease, issues.

Each user at HealthUnlocked has their own profile, allowing them to communicate and manage their health. Can you tell us more about the profile?

In 5 more weeks we will be launching a whole new HealthUnlocked platform. In this latest version the profile becomes incredibly relevant. Each user will be delivered information from both the platform and the web that is tailored to their health needs. It is a bit like what you see when you land in your LinkedIn profile, but obviously around health issues. You will also be able to track your symptoms, conditions, and treatments from both a mobile app and the desktop version.

You provide visual aids to users such as graphs, did this technology take a long time to create?

Although we have put good effort into their design, our current visual aids are technically very simple. The new platform, however, will offer various APIs which third parties will be able to develop specific applications for. And, we will keep providing templates for visual aids that are now going to be slightly more sophisticated. This means that users will have not only beautiful visual aids but also more specific information for whatever their health needs may be.

How did you build up your health communities?

It took at least 15 months of hard work before a number of communities came on board and began to see some success (we now have over 200). However, now that we have proven the model and demonstrated to charities and patient organisations that having a HealthUnlocked community increases membership (and thus donations), awareness, and support, they have begun to seek us out. It’s now normal that a charity would have a group on Facebook for marketing and a community on HealthUnlocked for support.

For the past 18 months, you’ve been growing 16-25% month to month. Did you expect such significant growth when you started out?

We always knew that HealthUnlocked would have to be very big in order to be sustainable and successful. We have been growing at those rates for a while now, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg to get us where we plan to be. Last January we grew over 40% in all our KPIs. By the end of 2013 we aim to have around 5 to 6 times more users and traffic than what we have now.

Where do you see HealthUnlocked in 5 years time? Do you think HealthUnlocked has the potential to be a leading social platform?

Yes, it does have the potential and that is the aim of everyone working here. I think of HealthUnlocked in 5 years time as the natural destination for health in the web. It will be the node for you to find whatever you need with regard to your health, whether you’re asking a question or sharing your symptoms electronically with your clinician.

HealthUnlocked is Europe’s fastest growing social network for health, how do you feel you have achieved this success?

It is about aligning the right vision with the right technology and the right strategy and a lot of work. We have been supported by investors that have trusted our vision, and we have a team that is deeply committed to working hard to achieve better technology and the perfect strategy for its deployment. The focus now is to be sustainable and to grow so we can reveal the potential of what we are doing.

Your mission is to be the leading online global destination for health, when do you hope to reach this mission by?

We aim to have a good presence in more than 20 countries over the next 12 months. And we want to do it with the engagement levels that we have here in the UK (ie. 40% of our active members come daily for more than 30 minutes). That would give us a leading global position. But, that’s just the beginning. To be the global destination for health is a never-ending process.

As you are currently experiencing exponential growth in the UK, are you considering going global?

Yes, HealthUnlocked is going global. We are opening the platform up to an exponentially increasing number of very engaged users all around the globe. We launched communities in India 4 weeks ago (we have 8 communities and more than 15k members already) and are now starting in Brazil, LATAM, China and Germany. We already have a presence in several other anglophone countries like Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, South Africa and others. English speaking countries have been the focus up to now, but with the launch of our platform, the new semantic engine will allow us to work in 11 languages from the start.

What advice would you offer to any soon to be startup founders out there?

Get as much clarity as possible on what you want to do. With that, get the best investors you can to back the size of your vision and ambitions. Then build a team with people better than you. Work hard and be critical and executive.

What are you most excited about at the moment?

We have for the first time the type of technology that we were envisioning three years ago. We have a very clear strategy and plan to follow. And we have an awesome team that is ready to be scaled. On top of all that, we are seeing how what we do affects both positively and directly the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. This is the most exciting moment so far and I think it will get even better.

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

94% of our members have said that HealthUnlocked has been “life changing” or “useful” for them. 91% feel “better supported”. 82% said that they can “manage their condition better”. Go to www.healthunlocked.com and find out what can we offer for your specific needs.

Finished reading? Check out HealthUnlocked!

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