Have you ever had an innovative idea and thought this would make a great business? Here some newcomers share their startup journeys and the secrets to their success.
Kounta is a revolutionary cloud-based Point of Sale Software company that aims to make customer’s lives easier by eliminating pain points and adding value to businesses. It was launched in 2012 after founder Nick Cloete realised that existing software couldn’t do what people needed it to.
“It was difficult to update and support and couldn’t come close to catering to the requirements of today’s online, mobile and connected world,” he says.
With backgrounds in hospitality and retail, Kounta’s team focus on customers and experience to build an accessible, value-driven platform that is intuitive and easy to use.
The Lesson: Design for customers
Cloete says they started building a very simple and easy-to-use software solution and platform for point of sale, however they soon realised that customers preferred a cloud-based system.
“Retail and hospitality is a demanding space, the software and service has to be accessible and available 24/7 and it has to do a lot,” he says.
“We were able to react and learn from the customers, and work with them to develop the platform into the successful model that it is today.”
Sharesight is revolutionising how investors track and monitor stock portfolios. It was started by father and son Tony and Scott Ryburn in their lounge room in Wellington, New Zealand, in 2007. The idea for the cloud-based portfolio management tool came after years of spending countless nights buried in Excel spreadsheets, keeping account of their shares.
Sharesight enables self-directed investors to say goodbye to ‘shoebox syndrome’ and connects them directly with online brokers.
The platform has doubled in size in the past year and has more than 40,000 members, as well as 200 accounting and financial advice firms using Sharesight Pro to transparently track clients’ investments.
Sharesight has a Sydney office, with chief executive Doug Morris overseeing international expansion – it’s launching in Canada and has plans to go to the UK and Hong Kong.
The Lesson: Outsource to experts
“Don’t build it yourself. This can apply to many different areas of business where the company looks to solve all problems rather than outsource to an expert,” Doug Morris says.
“An example for Sharesight is in invoicing. We built our invoicing system which integrates with our software platform, but if we could go back we’d look for an SaaS specialist. It takes our developers time to upgrade and maintain this service, time they could be spending focusing on our core product.”
LegalVision was founded in December 2012 by Lachlan McKnight, Evan Tait-Styles and Ursula Hogben. The company hired its first employee, ex-Googler Andre Weyher, as the head of marketing and started as an online platform providing customised legal documents.
In February 2014, the company established an incorporated legal practice. Today it provides legal advice to SMEs through the platform for a fixed, upfront fee, as well as continuing to offer free legal documents.
LegalVision was initially privately funded in January 2014 to the tune of $300,000 which was raised by a revenue loan. This investment was supplemented in February 2015 with more than $1.2 million raised in Series A investment.
Growth has been phenomenal in the past 1.5 years and has seen the LegalVision team grow from three to 39. LegalVision’s customers range from microbusinesses to small and large businesses. It has published over 1300 legal articles on the website and received over 48,000 unique visitors a month, increasing 15% month on month.
The Lesson: Stay realistic
“As LegalVision has grown our founding team has learned the importance of going above and beyond for the business. At first it sounds romantic, but for a startup to grow and innovate, there needs to be a culture of flexibility and commitment from each member of the team,” LegalVision chief executive Lachlan McKnight says.
“We’ve also learned the importance of a realistic outlook in terms of goals and growth, which is more important than wishful thinking. Part of our success has been in our approach to measuring every possible metric, and in being pragmatic when it comes to planning. In other words, always being prepared for the worst outcome.”
Velpic was launched in July 2014 by founders Russell Francis, Patrick Connell and Glen Moora when they realised there was a gap in the market looking to conduct staff training. Velpic allows businesses to create training presentations and inductions in-house and to deliver them online via video lessons.
The founders have spent more than $2 million to build the platform and is now in the next phase of growth, undertaking a reverse takeover with ASX-listed International Coal with a view to raising between $3 million to $5 million. It plans to use the funds on product development and expanding into the rest of Australia.
The Lesson: Get the funding model right
Co-founder Russell Francis says it’s very important to hire the right people for the business to flourish and that there is no way business can grow without investment.
“We needed to be well funded to take the next step and that next step is turning from a private company to a public company,” he says.
There is no doubt that creating a startup can involve late nights and a keen eye for staying a step ahead of the pack but as these newcomers show, having a good product, commitment to customers and an ability to pounce on growth opportunities mean innovative ideas can become a tangible business reality.