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Startup Feature Profile: Nominal

By Gareth Rose on Monday, March 28th, 2011

Nominal is an Australian startup on iPitch.  They have built a good product and are currently growing their customer base.  We were interested to feature Nominal because they provide a great example to the iPitch community about a fellow startup facing typical startup challenges and working hard to succeed.  Here’s the interview with Uri Maimon of Nominal:

urimaimon1iPitch: What problem is your business or idea trying to solve?

Nominal: Micro Australian businesses require a minimal set of bookkeeping tools to manage their businesses, they may need to produce a pay slip for themselves but don’t really need a payroll solution, they may need to manage a simple stock but don’t need an inventory system. Most existing solution try to be all things to all people, they focus on small businesses with a more diverse set of requirements and not on the micro businesses with a simple set of requirements.  When a micro businesses uses a bookkeeping tool which was built for a bigger businesses it will too complicated and/or too expensive for his needs.

iPitch: What’s your solution?

Nominal: We provide simple accounting software that allows Australian micro businesses do their bookkeeping by themselves. Micro businesses don’t know much about bookkeeping and don’t have time to go on training, they also don’t need complicated features but still need to do things like submit their BAS, create payslips and keep GST records.  We provide a simple solution that makes it easy to get started and still includes all the features a micro business needs.

iPitch: How long have you been in business for?

Nominal: About one year.

iPitch: Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?

Nominal: Uriel (Uri) Maimon immigrated from Israel about 9 years ago with my family, has been a programmer since the age of ten and worked in IT for about 18 years doing everything from customer support, development, project management, team leader , professional services and now an entrepreneur.

iPitch: How much traction do you have in the market? Have you had any ‘big wins’ so far?

Nominal: No big wins yet, just slowly growing our customer base, we have passed the thousand downloads this week and made it to first page in Google! We’ve been invited to demonstrate Nominal in Kochie’s small business builder as guest of the government’s SBR program.

iPitch: What’s the end goal / exit strategy for your business?

Nominal: We want to build a software company that will create good product and solve real problem by keeping our customers happy.  Our vision is to become the third largest accounting software supplier for Australian small business within five to ten years.

iPitch: Are you looking to raise money?

Nominal: Not at the moment. But we don’t know what we don’t know….

iPitch: Personally, (for the directors or employees) what challenges have you faced in establishing and running a Startup?

Nominal: When I started my own IT consulting business I was shocked to learn the limited number of accounting solutions available to Australian businesses, they all seem to be complicated, expensive and use ancient technology. I’ve actually went through the process of trying a few of them before I started to realise that something is wrong, it shouldn’t be that hard.

I have been a programmer since the age of ten… and I have always loved creating good software and have done so for many companies in here in Australia and overseas.

So when the idea of creating my own small business accounting software came to me, I was very excited to make it come through. Nominal accounting was made to be simple, every feature or button, which we’ve added to Nominal or more importantly left out, was decided based on this simple principle – will it be simple enough for our Australian Micro business customer? Who, like myself, is not a bookkeeper or accountant, and just wants to focus on his business.

By far the biggest challenge is marketing, everything from strategy, lead generation, branding, positioning, pricing, lead conversion, advertising & so much more.

My initial naive thinking was that if a product A cost X and is of a certain feature and quality and product B cost less and has better features and quality, than it should be easy to sell at least some product of B. The error of my ways soon hit me: No one is going to care about a product which is a little bit better and/or a little bit cheaper unless we find something they care about.

I’ve gone, and still going, through iterative process of learning more about the category, learning more about my target market and ideal customer, further focusing the niche market, clarifying our message, coming up with an identity, trying to match the messages with the brand, figuring out where our customers hang out, hang out there with them, tell a compelling story, tell a personal story, get them to trust us, try our software, and only then they might consider buying from you.

Our current challenge is around the message, we‘ve narrowed it down to ‘simplicity’ Nominal is all about focusing on Micro businesses bookkeeping needs and un-cluttering their lives. This is at the core of our brand, we now have to go back to everything we say and do and make sure we look at it through this lens –that means going back to our website design and ripping out everything we can until it shouts – simplicity.

Obviously we still didn’t nail this down and I am starting to have a feeling that marketing is going to a little bit like software QA and the task will never end.

iPitch: Have the founders had any Startups in the past (either successes or failures)?

Nominal: None.

iPitch: Is there an opportunity you’re looking for to bring your Startup to the next level? This could be: investors, joint-venture partners, directors or employees with specific capabilities, outsourcing companies etc. If so, what is it? (ipitch might be able to help connect you!)

Nominal: We have a very big awareness gap which we’re looking for innovative and cost effective ways to close.  Our website has X visitors/month, out of which 10% download the trial versions, out of which 50% try the software, out of which Y% actually but the software. Our main challenge is to increase both the X value and the Y value of this vital statistics of our business. This has been done before and we can use some help with it.

Check out Nominal’s iPitch profile and follow them here

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