This Entrepreneur Interview is with Nick Holmes a Court, founder of the Australian startup BuzzNumbers. BuzzNumbers was the winner of the 2010 iPitch i10 Awards, it’s a very high potential startup that’s causing plenty of buzz…
We go into detail about building a business that solves a big problem, getting a co-founder, raising capital, the direct sales strategy of BuzzNumbers, acquiring big name customers, bringing on staff and much more.
The full interview, (in audio) can be downloaded here: Entrepreneur Interview – Nick Holmes a Court - BuzzNumbers.
The full interview on video is here:
If you prefer text, here’s the Summary Notes:
- Nick had a quite a few other startup projects prior to BuzzNumbers. The challenge and lesson he learnt from these earlier projects were that the businesses were not solving big enough problems to warrant users to provide credit card details over the internet and allow sufficient traffic to allow for paid advertising
- They didn’t get enough traffic – lost traction and subsequently interest
- Be aware of difficulties in operating in the tech space because things are moving so fast – if you solve something today, is it still relevant in a years time? You need to pick the market ahead of the problems that the future will find.
So what’s different about BuzzNumbers?
- It solves a big enough problem that large corporations need to solve and are therefore willing to pay for a solution out of their budget
- Disclaimer – this was never a particular goal in building BuzzNumbers compared to Nick’s previous businesses.
- It was more that BuzzNumbers fell into the right category for a viable business model to be sustainable itself – this was what pushed BuzzNumbers from being a hobby project like his previous startup attempts, to a real business
What is BuzzNumbers?
- Problem – With so many different channels on the internet like blogs, facebook, twitter, youtube etc that allow people to voice their opinions about your company, how do you make sense of it and how do you keep up with it all? You don’t even know all the sites that such information is being posted on!
- Solution – take all of that online content and bring it into one place and provide business intelligence on that data so that it can be analysed and dealt with appropriately
- The idea came about through cross-pollenisation between Nick’s passion for the internet and his profession in providing business intelligence through analysing sales and marketing data – Nick downplays any ideas of ‘lightbulb’ moments leading to great ideas. Its all hard work and experience.
How did BuzzNumbers begin?
- Firstly built initial prototype
- Took to market asking whether it would provide customers with solutions to problems
- Initially targeted PR firms as they were a logical fit for a program like BuzzNumbers
- Nick was met with opposition as marketing and communications managers were not so focussed on social media and the internet back in 2006
- Nick did however get some customers which provided some early stage validation
- Went part time developing for about 6 months to get the program properly off the ground
- Brought on an angel investor as co-founder, then BuzzNumbers became a real business
- Nick says it is very hard to start a business by yourself with both the quantity and variety of tasks going on
- While Nick ran the business initially himself, he actively sought a co-founder with opposite yet complementary skills to himself – completely non-technical with very little internet knowledge but much experience in sales, people and HR
- This way the business can move at a far greater pace and have broader experience and tools to deal with problems quickly
- Cold call with pitch, demo the software to show first hand its value, offer a short term 3 months trail subscription to purchase
- Online downloads for web software sales was not chosen – Nick says it sometimes allows customers to “hang” themselves in confusion
- BuzzNumbers employs a direct sales strategy in working closely with the customer to deliver them exactly what they are after and achieve optimal results
- Noted that the most effective marketing strategy revolved around sponsoring events and speaking at industry functions – you have a concentrated audience of potential clients who you can build credibility with and they can tell other interested individuals about your product. Advertising can only do so much.
- Chase customer groups who derive the most value from the product – to target all customers including the less likely types is less efficient and too much work for a startup
- Tremendous value in having a great CRM strategy – many customers who initially said no were slowly converted into paying clients through maintaining the connection over time
On getting big name clients
- BuzzNumbers is unique in having the software that solves a problem that other people can’t
- First mover advantage in solving this problem means the customers who have this problem don’t have much choice but to purchase
- Low risk product – no exposure to the brand, SaaS means no installation on company hardware, no IT setup, no servers, no physical presence
Staffing and Running the business
- Setting an A grade culture so that the business runs itself efficiently and those that don’t achieve are exposed
- Set 3 month goals for the business
- Daily standup where all staff in the company state what they’ll achieve today and tomorrow. This helps to keep a understanding about what’s happening across the business
If you haven’t already, you can download the full audio interview here: Entrepreneur Interview – Nick Holmes a Court - BuzzNumbers
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