Ask Nicely

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Measure and manage customer happiness in real time.

asknicelyDo you really know how much your customers like your product or service? Really? If so, you’re probably measuring your Net Promoter Score (NPS), the global standard for measuring customer loyalty.

If you’re not familiar with it, NPS is the result of asking your customers a one-question survey: “On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend?” Promoters are people who rate you 9 or 10. Passives are people who give you 7 or 8. Detractors are people who give you 6 or less. Simple equation: NPS = % Promoters – % Detractors. As a business, you want your NPS to be as high as possible. Apple recently scored 47, and Citibank -41. Smart companies employ NPS as a board-level metric.

Ask Nicely is the Auckland-based startup that is leading the world in measuring and managing NPS. They launched in December 2014, and are already taking the market by storm, with thousands of users in over 80 countries. They’re growing at 25% month-on-month, with over 90% of this growth coming from the US.

They are the classic well-focused startup – they do only one thing, but they do it extremely well. They can get you up and running and measuring and managing this critical metric in minutes. Their customer list is very diverse, including household names like Seagate, Rackspace, Xero, as well as an NBA franchise and the world’s largest network of phone-based psychics. It would appear that even psychics value independent assessments of customer satisfaction.

John Ballinger and Aaron Ward
John Ballinger and Aaron Ward

The idea for Ask Nicely was conceived in a late-night session in a Ponsonby cafe in April 2014 when co-founders Aaron Ward and John Ballinger decided to “do for surveys what Twitter did for blogging”. In true Lean Startup fashion, John built a rough prototype over the next couple of days, and they knew they had a viable business when 11 out of 12 companies they showed it to said they’d pay for the service. From idea to validated MVP in a fortnight – stunning.

For much of the next two years, the company operated out of John’s garage in Ponsonby. They are mindfully building an Exponential Organisation (XO), using external resources for as much as possible and focusing on the hard bits where they add the most value. And like an XO, they integrate with a wide range of products that exchange data with systems their customers are already using. Currently, these include Salesforce, Intercom, Slack, Klipfolio, Mailchimp, Mixpanel, Desk.com, Zendesk, Groove, Helpscout, Freshdesk, Shopify, Zapier, and Geckoboard, with a number of others in the pipeline. They see integrations as one of their key growth channels. The other main growth channels are pay-per-click advertising and content marketing. Aaron claims that their cost per acquisition is very low compared to the average customer lifetime value. Organic referrals also play a significant role.

The team has expanded to five people this year, with two sales people based in the US, and another dev in Auckland.

The users clearly love it. Ask Nicely has the highest satisfaction rating for its category on G2Crowd. Their main competitors, Satmetrix and Medallia, are enterprise solutions with price tags that can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars, while Ask Nicely starts at USD 49 per month. Given that they’re the only serious tool in their bracket, they’re on the way to owning this category.

Over the last two years, they’ve raised two small seed rounds from ICE Angels, AngelHQ, K1W1, NZVIF, and a few others. Last month, two years to the day after coming up with the idea, Aaron and John returned to the Ponsonby cafe for another late night session, this time plotting their Series A raise. They’re preparing to build out their team and accelerate US momentum. If you’re a member of an angel club, keep your eyes open for this opportunity when it comes round.

Ahead of the Series A, Ask Nicely are looking for a PHP dev to accelerate delivery of an ambitious product roadmap and architect the platform to perform at massive scale.

Aaron says the big goal is to tackle a meaningful global problem, helping businesses achieve better results by delivering great customer experiences, owning that category, and doing it from New Zealand.

You could say that with Ask Nicely, New Zealand is yet again helping to make the world a happier place.

 

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Job Well Done

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Making child’s play of household chores.

job-well-doneNobody likes doing household chores, especially kids. But a team from this year’s Startup Weekend Dunedin has figured out a way to make the allocation and completion of chores fun and rewarding for both kids and their parents, while at the same time bringing families together.

The game is played with physical cards, and works like this: at the beginning of each week, a family holds a game of Job Well Done. There are thee packs of cards: Tasks, Actions, and Rewards. The Tasks pack is pre-loaded with all of the chores that need to be done around the house – vacuuming, sweeping the decks, cleaning the kitchen, etc. Parents have to play too. At the end of the game, each family member has their list of chores that need to be done by the end of the week. Action cards let you do things like swap a task with another family member or receive a reward for a completed task. There’s one Butler Card in the pack which lets the player assign one of their tasks to another player, and they have to do it.

There are two types of rewards – family rewards (“go to the movies together”), and individual rewards (“have an ice cream”). But some of the rewards are actually booby prizes, such as “eat a new kind of vegetable that you’ve never had before”.

In their testing during the weekend, kids loved the game and got the idea immediately, and kids were even able to explain it to other adults.

As in other Startup Weekends, the team formed organically from three people who were all attracted by the idea of a game to motivate kids. It started out as a game to determine pocket money, but after the team got out of the building early on Saturday morning to validate the original idea, they quickly learned that a much bigger pain point for parents was getting kids to do household chores. They also learned from their interviews that any such game should meet these success criteria: consistency, clear expectations, small but meaningful rewards chosen by the child, and that the child should be able to wield some negotiating power. And so the game was born.

There’s a big potential market for this game – in their interviews of 85 parents, 68% of them said they had problems getting their kids to do chores. With 1.1m families in NZ, if the interviewees are a representative sample, that means there are over 750k families in NZ who might be attracted to buy this game. And with 52m families in the English-speaking world, the potential market size is over NZD 1.3b at a unit price of $25. The hard part, of course, is reaching them.

Anna Schmid
Anna Schmid
Ivan Mason
Ivan Mason
Hannah Sinclair
Hannah Sinclair

CEO Hannah Sinclair is an occupational therapist by trade, with an interest in motivation and behavioural change. She’s joined on the team by CMO Anna Schmid and Head of Game Design Ivan Mason.

Ivan has a blended family, and says that when faced with conflict over household chores, it can be easier to just disengage and do the chore yourself rather than being the bad guy and coercing kids to do their fair share. The trick, he says, is to have the game impose the rules, which puts everyone on the same footing. Hannah adds that while she doesn’t have any kids herself, she’s looking forward to using the game with her flatmates.

During the weekend, the team designed the game play, outsourced design of the game material to a UK-based designer who produced the goods overnight, printed the game materials for a few prototypes, and put together a Facebook page, a PledgeMe campaign, and a Shopify online store. The PledgeMe campaign has attracted more than $400 in less than 12 hours.

The next step is to get enough games out in the wild to test it properly and improve the game design. They’ll then know whether they are really onto something or not. They’re considering expansion packs, building in virality by adding trading card features, and partnering with organisations like supermarkets for distribution. They could seek investment, but this is a business that could bootstrap.

As for now, they’re immediately looking forward to getting some sleep after “running, running, running” non-stop over the weekend.

“Startup Weekend has restored my faith in humanity,” says Hannah, “I’ve never heard so many people in one place saying ‘I’m here to help'”.

There are lots of Startup Weekends coming up this year around the country.  Check out the Startup Weekend NZ web site for details if you’re interested in having a go yourself.

If you have kids and want to improve their participation in household work, do support the team and buy a the Job Well Done game on their PledgeMe page

I’ll leave you with their pitch deck from the Startup Weekend Dunedin Finale.

And that’s a job well done.

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ThisData

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Harden your security with two lines of code.

thisdata-logoThat’s right, add two lines of JavaScript onto your login form and you’ll be making your web site, and the world, a much safer place.

paypal-phish
It’s convincing, until you look at the From address, view headers, and mouseover the button to discover a bit.ly link

An astonishing proportion of the web server traffic from which you’ve just fetched the page you’re reading now is script kiddies attempting to break in through brute-force password attacks. An even bigger problem for high-volume transactional sites like Paypal and Kiwibank is phishing, where attackers email you and lure you into entering your login credentials into a bogus site. The obvious and common solution to this problem is mandatory two-factor authentication (2FA), but it makes for a clunky user experience and is laborious to implement.

Auckland-based ThisData lets site owners take a different approach: continuous authentication. Only ask people to validate their identity if and when there’s a reason to doubt they’re really who they say they are. So for example if I have a usage pattern of logging in from the same city, with the same IP address, on the same browser, using the same cookie set, and do the same again, there’s an extremely good chance I am who I claim to be. On the other hand, if I suddenly log in from a different continent using a different operating system, or through TOR, you might want to double or triple check my credentials.

All of this is done with the addition of two lines of JavaScript on your login form, which hides a sophisticated back-end analysing geolocation, behavioral analytics, and secret sauce IP. For app and site owners, implementation effort is trivial with enormous and immediate payback.

Pricing starts at $99/month for 500 users, and goes up in usage tiers. They’re considering introducing a free usage tier to get people going. But it’s early days, and they’re still refining the pricing model.

Rich Chetwynd

Founder Rich Chetwynd has run the full startup cycle before. After founding educational software company Litmos in his bedroom, building it into an international concern, and selling it to US-based Callidus Software four years later, he decided it was time for a well-deserved break.

“I got bored though,” he says, “I wanted to ride the rocket again”.

So Chetwynd started Revert.io, a cloud backup solution. But very quickly he recognised that backups are the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, and the much bigger and less well served opportunity was to prevent break-in and data loss in the first place.

Nick Malcolm
Nick Malcolm

He pulled in CTO Nick Malcolm, one of NZ’s top Rails devs (and erstwhile cofounder of 2011 Startup Weekend Wellington legend usnap.us), and the dream team was born. You’d have to call the change from Revert.io to ThisData more of a reboot than a pivot, but it was a definitely the right move.

Chetwynd’s rocket is about to reach orbit. After the reboot in February 2015, they went on to raise $1.2m from a number of local and offshore angels alongside the Punakaiki fund, did a zoom-out pivot from working specifically with Google apps and Salesforce in February of 2016 to bringing this intelligence to any app. They’re now monitoring over 10,000 end users for a variety of customer types, and are about to onboard another 50,000 for their first big enterprise. They’re architected for scale on AWS, and ready to go much, much bigger.

As great as it sounds, they’re not at the stage yet where the solution sells itself. Building your customer base and distribution is always hard work, especially from New Zealand. Chetwynd spends roughly half his time in the US, and the rest of the time running the team from GridAKL.

Their overarching mission is to make the Internet a safer place for everyone. There are hundreds of thousands of insecure apps and sites in the wild. Chetwynd’s asks app and site owners to ask yourselves, how valuable is the data is your app or site protecting, and how adequately are your users protected?

Ask yourselves: how valuable is the data your app or site is protecting, and how adequately are your users protected?

If you’re a dev and want to give ThisData a spin, check out their easy-to-follow documentation, and then give it a go. You won’t regret the hour or so it will take you to implement.

If you’re the owner or investor in a transactional app or web site and your team is not protecting your company against attacks using a solution like ThisData, I’d want to know why.

The bottom line is that you can put on a sad face if you’re a script kiddie or spear phisher, but the rest of us will sleep easier at night.

Legendary seed investor and SoftechVC founder Jeff Clavier looks for companies to invest in that have “three asses”: A smart-ass team with a kick-ass solution in a big-ass market. ThisData are on a steep trajectory, with an all-star team with a simple-to-implement but difficult-to-replicate solution to a highly painful problem in a massive market.

Watch out universe, here comes Rich Chetwynd riding the ThisData rocket.

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Good Bitches Baking

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Baking the world a better place.

gbblogoThere are few things more powerful than selfless love. When we are at our lowest points emotionally, receiving a loving gesture from someone, even a stranger, especially a stranger, can be life changing.

Random acts of kindness are a thing. In fact, New Zealand claims to be the only country in the world with a National Random Acts of Kindness Day. Good on us! But harnessing such a powerful force deserves more than randomness.

Nic Murray and Marie Fitzpatrick
Nic Murray and Marie Fitzpatrick

Nic Murray and Marie Fitzpatrick are the Good Bitches Baking. They have a very simple recipe for spreading happiness throughout society: bake someone a cake, just when they need it most. Recipients include women in refuges, homeless people in shelters, elderly folk in hospice, and many more. Some of the recipients have never tasted home baking. It sounds almost twee, but the universal appeal of receiving something sweet and made with love when you feel you can’t cope, and helping lift an unfortunate stranger out of a shit situation is extremely compelling. I met these Bitches at TEDx Wellington, where I thought they stole the show. Their idea isn’t only worth spreading, it’s running away with them.

It’s so compelling, that in the last 18 months they’ve set up 10 chapters of Bitches in New Zealand from Whangarei to Invercargill, and have another 18 chapters waiting to form. They’re struggling to cope with demand. They have no plans to expand overseas at this stage, but are happy to share their intellectual property with anyone who wants to take their model global.

The Good Bitches philosophy is based on the simple ideas that “doing something is better than doing nothing”, and that everything turning to shit is not an inevitability. We all have the power within us to positively affect the world around us, and the Good Bitches provide an easy to use template for making people happy.

Doing something is better than doing nothing. Everything turning to shit is not an inevitability.

Nic says, “Baking is something people enjoy doing anyway, it’s not a hardship. There’s a widespread desire in the community to ‘do good things’, but people don’t know where to start – they don’t know if they have permission to do something personal for a stranger.”

Marie adds, “Just doing something leads onto doing other things too.  There’s a common story for Bitches: it all starts with a batch of scones, and then they find other needs that they can fill in their community. It gets people thinking about ways they can help others, beyond putting money in a box or even baking.”

The Good Bitches system is designed so that people can do as little or as much as they can fit into their lives. They feel like they’re contributing to their communities, but also to something much bigger. And the connection that Bitches have to each other helps strengthen the community too. When bitches get together, there’s lots of storytelling and heartfelt discussion – shared purpose for a good cause.

They are changing peoples lives – and it’s a virtuous cycle. One Wellington recipient was recovering from domestic violence in a Women’s Refuge, and said that the notion that a stranger cared enough about her to bake her a cake just to cheer her up was life-changing. Since then, she’s become a Bitch herself, and now bakes for others – this has been an important part of her healing process.

They’ve now reached an inflection point where runaway growth is threatening to outstrip their ability to service their community.

“We’re staffed by volunteers, who can only spare a few hours per week each,  and sometimes they bite off more than they can chew. In people’s busy lives, especially women juggling careers and whānau, volunteer work can’t always take top priority. As we grow as an organisation helping thousands of Bitches do great things in their communities, we need a professional coordinator or two being paid for their efforts so that this work gets the priority it deserves, and keep up our standards for the quality and timeliness of the support we provide.”

Having a paid coordinator would free up the founders to focus on outreach, growth, and telling the story.

Nic and Marie know all about juggling. They both have full time jobs as project managers.  Nic works with ACC and NZTA on young driver safety, and Marie helps organisations to be compliant with the new Health and Safety legislation.

But hiring paid staff requires funding. Their dream is to be sustainably funded through a combination of grants, government funding, private donations, and branded merchandise. Running a social enterprise is tough, even when you’re clearly making as big a difference as the Bitches are.

Marie says, “to some extent, we’ve been making shit up as we go along, but we’re continually lifting our game. The future is really exciting, but to grow and really make the most of this opportunity we’ll need to be strategic, plan carefully, and support our chapters well.”

You can make a personal donation on the Good Bitches Baking’s Givealittle page.

Don’t miss the other TEDxWelly 2016 Videos – they’re well worth watching!

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Banqer

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Fun financial literacy for kids.

banqerBack in August 2014, a standout team won the competition at Startup Weekend Education in Wellington, solving an important societal problem – raising the financial literacy of school children. Over the weekend, they built their Minimum Viable Product (MVP), a gaming platform for kids to earn virtual currency (funny money) at school, and then save, invest, trade, loan, borrow, buy virtual goods, and generally learn how to work with money in a safe environment. They validated the riskiest assumptions in their plan, explored partnerships with banks, and brought on their first customers.

Since then, they’ve gone from strength to strength. They went on to win the BNZ Webstock Startup Alley competition in early 2015, launched in New Zealand schools, and are now used by over 7,000 students in nearly 500 classrooms, mostly in NZ, but with a handful overseas.

Even more remarkable is that this growth has been driven mainly by word of mouth and teacher referrals within the school system. They haven’t needed to take in any investment. Other than the $20K prize they won at Webstock, they’ve had no non-revenue cash inputs. They’re currently profitable, and they continue to grow at a good clip.

Banqer lets students earn virtual money through a number of means. The most common method is to get rewarded for completing tasks, doing good deeds, and exhibiting responsible behaviour. For example, if you’re want to be the classroom rubbish monitor, you might have to apply for the job, and then you’ll get paid in virtual currency. Students can spend their virtual money on privileges, such as selecting a movie to watch in the last week of class, preferential classroom seating,  or “owning” virtual goods. Some teachers even let kids buy their way out of doing non-critical homework. Students save their money to earn interest, or invest in their classmates’ virtual businesses. How students can earn or spend their virtual currency is entirely at the discretion of the classroom teacher.

In 2016, one of Banqer’s main focus is building partnerships with players in the financial services and allied industries. As an example, working with their partners in the real estate sector, they recently released a real estate module. Students can buy and invest in virtual properties, for which they might need to take out (virtual) mortgages, and then earn rental income to pay off their borrowings. They might need insurance though, in case of a virtual natural disaster like an earthquake or volcano eruption.

Banqer’s revenue model is simple: after a 30-day free trial, students pay $3.50 per term, which drops to $2 if they sign up for multiple terms. They have a retention rate of over 70%.

Banqer have just announced a partnership with Kiwibank, which will cover the costs of Banqer for students whom the subscription fee would present a financial hardship. Good on you, Kiwibank, for helping uplift the financial literacy of those who might need it most.

Kendall Flutey

Kendall Flutey is the inspiring leader who pitched the idea at Startup Weekend, pulled together an all-star team, drove progress, and went on to bootstrap her startup to widespread adoption, profitability, and international expansion over the last year-and-a-half. She has a fascinating back story, which you can learn more about at inner.kiwi. Kendall is a contemporary hero: she received a BCom in accounting and a Masters in Entrepreneurship from Otago, learned to code in the first cohort at Enspiral Dev Academy, cut her chops as a dev at Abletech, and founded her first startup, all before her 25th birthday.

Ben Wigley
Ben Wigley

Her team includes Ben Wigley (CTO), Mark McHardy (Designer), and Micah Hocquard (Educational Specialist). These guys are no slouches and are all at the top of their game.

Overseas expansion is squarely on Banqer’s radar in 2016. Due to similarities in the school systems, it will be straightforward to enter the Australian market.

But the big opportunity is the USA. As part of the Webstock prize, Kendall spent some time based at the Kiwi Landing Pad exploring the US market. She learned that financial literacy is more of a focus in high school in the US, and that group is where the real opportunity lies. As it stands, the current Banqer product is designed for primary school students, and it would be difficult to extend the product in a way that both primary and secondary students would find suitable. So much of the focus in the second half of 2016 will be building a new product from the ground up, suitable for high schools.

The past 18 months has been a huge rollercoaster ride for Kendall. Her advice to entrepreneurs?

Entrepreneurship is not a walk in the park. I question what I’m doing all the time. Taking risks and dealing with uncertainty are daily activities, and go hand-in-hand with sleepless nights, self-doubt, stress, foreign situations, pulling yourself out of your comfort zone, fulfilling the expectations of strange audiences, and laying down the train tracks as you’re driving on them. But it’s all worth it when you can see the positive change you’re making in the people around you.

You can help raise the financial literacy of our tamariki in New Zealand, and help the Banqer team by recommending Banqer to anyone you know in the education system. If people learned how to manage money from an early age, our society might be a much happier place.

If you’re interested in learning about how to launch a startup, there are plenty of Startup Weekends coming up round the country this year. Also, you might like to check out Kendall’s reflections on her experience at Startup Weekend.

Here’s a precis of what Banqer does:

 

And check out the Kendall’s interview with the fine folk from Access Granted:

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Mish.guru

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Your Snapchat business dashboard.

mishSnapchat is a brilliant concept – it created an entire market in visual ephemera. The genius is in the longing that it creates once the moment has passed, for something that can never again be recaptured – which makes that moment all the more precious. So simple, compelling, engaging, and easy to use.

If you’re a brand trying to get your message out, however, Snapchat is a nightmare to manage. Enter Mish.guru, a system that makes it easy for brands to manage their Snapchat presence. Without tools like Mish.guru, you have to manually manage your Snapchat client base individually on your phone – imagine your dream come true, and you have 100,000 followers – you’d have manage them individually – on your phone. Ouch!

Mish.guru provides basic information that is absolutely critical to any business running a social media campaign. You can easily see how many followers you have, how many people have viewed your story and snaps, and a number of other metrics. You can also automatically rebroadcast selected user generated content to help build your campaign, and automatically track customers from initial engagement though to product purchase. Think of Mish.guru as the missing Snapchat feature set for businesses.

They’re currently working with some big name brands in New Zealand and overseas, like Spark (snapsparknz on Snapchat) and Paramount Pictures (ParamountFilms).

They currently have a mixed product and service-based business model. Snapchat is new for many businesses, so there is a significant market helping businesses conceive, establish, and run campaigns – you could say that Mish.guru are their own first customer in this respect. But they see the big game in providing a subscription-based product that enables businesses and agencies to manage their own campaigns from cradle to grave.

Their current revenues from this hybrid model are nearly NZD 1m per year, and their product revenue is averaging growth of 20% per month.

Tom Harding
Tom Harding

I first met their CEO Thomas Harding in Lightning Lab Digital in Wellington in 2014. Their original business was called Cavaltech, and produced 3D-printed horseshoes specifically made for individual horses. We called them “Zappos for horses”. Unfortunately, while it was a great concept, the technology just didn’t perform well in the field – they had problems keeping the horseshoes stuck to the horses’ feet. So eight weeks into the twelve-week accelerator, they rebooted their business as Mish.guru, and have never looked back.

I asked Tom what the key to survival was across such a massive pivot. “Resilience”, he replied, “that’s the single most important quality in a startup team.”  Their current team has Tom, a CTO, four devs, an intern, and sales people in Australia and NZ. They’re looking to hire another sales specialist on the US East Coast.

Mish.guru has scored investment from AngelHQ, Sparkbox, ICE Angels, NZVIFBen Young, and a few other individual angel investors. They’re using this investment to transition their main revenue stream from service to product as they build their market. Their product revenue is growing at 20% per month, and that growth has been achieved without any spending on marketing. Snapchat’s growth is still exploding – Snapchat recently passed 100m users, and those users are watching over 7 billion video clips a day.

The trick to a great Snapchat campaign, Tom says, is inspiring and then making the most of user generated content – let the users tell your story for you, rather than bombarding them with advertising. But to do that, you’ll need some great tools, like Mish.guru.

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