Measure and manage customer happiness in real time.
Do 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
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.
Appointment booking for service businesses.
Here are the top six pieces of advice I give to startups: Love your problem. Know your market inside-out. Delight your customers. Start by picking one thing, and do it really well. Be global from day one. Don’t settle for less than the best cofounders, employees, investors, and advisors.
Timely never needed this advice – they just went hell for leather from the start.
Timely provides really simple cloud-based appointment booking aimed personal service businesses like hairdressers, massage therapists, and personal trainers. Customers’ clients can book and manage their own appointments online. It surrounds this basic calendar functionality with great features like pre-appointment reminders, point-of-sale billing, and integration with popular accounting systems like Xero and Quickbooks Online.
They make money by charging users a monthly subscription. At $19/month in NZ, it’s great value. Users claim that it pays for itself on the first day of use. Like previous Startup of the Week Debtor Daddy, the key value for users is in freeing up their time to focus on charging clients for doing the work they love, rather than on tedious administration of their businesses.
Timely now has customers in over 70 countries, but they’re concentrating on three key geographies: Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. They have over 4,000 customers and are growing by roughly 10% month-on-month with a very low churn rate. Their growth strategy is based on inbound marketing, working with trade associations and partner networks. But they’re getting a lot of business coming through the door by reputation, social, and SEO/SEM which is great. There’s a lot of competition in this space, but once a customer is in, they’re hooked. What makes Timely stand out is dead-easy user experience.
What’s the secret to success? Know your market inside-out. Delight your customers. Start by picking one thing, and do it really well. Be global from day one. Don’t settle for less than the best cofounders, employees, investors, and advisors.
Ryan, Will, and Andrew
Timely’s CEO Ryan Baker has been round the block a few times with his cofounder Andrew Schofield. Their previous venture, BookIt, provided booking and payment services for the travel industry, and was acquired by TradeMe in 2010. The third cofounder, Will Berger, also worked on BookIt after it was acquired by TradeMe and became TravelBug. Their team is a “who’s who” of the Dunedin entrepreneurial scene, and the stellar lineup is rounded out with directors MOD (the artist formerly known as Michael O’Donnell) and Rowan Simpson, along with legal counsel Sacha Judd. Timely sets the benchmark for team quality.
I asked Ryan what their biggest challenge is as a startup and he told me without hesitation that it is overcoming obscurity. “There’s a big global market out there and we know our customers love us. The challenge is reaching them. If your readers are looking for ways to help NZ startups, get them to recommend us to their friends in NZ and overseas. Next time you’re getting your hair or nails done ask the stylist if they’ve
heard of Timely.”
Although the nucleus of the team is in Dunedin, the rest of the 27-strong team are spread out across New Zealand and around the globe. They don’t have a formal office, but instead all work from home (or anywhere) using a “remote first” philosophy. Great tools like Slack, Hangouts, gdrive, 15Five, Trello, and Help Scout encourage constant communication and team cohesion, but the real trick is creating and maintaining a culture where everyone feels they are playing in a team, and have an impact on the success of their business.
The “remote first” nature of Timely’s business culture resonates with their target market, many of whom are small businesspeople juggling work-life balance. As more New Zealand startups expand globally, and more people generally adopt portfolio careers, I suspect this fully networked business model will become much more common.
Timely are always looking for good people to join their team, and the good news is that you don’t have to be based in Dunedin to join this great group of people making life easier for small business owners around the world.
Debtor Daddy provides credit control as a service, and is one of a very few companies for which you can truly say – switch on their service, and the money will start rolling in. They’re currently based in the Lightning Lab Christchurch accelerator programme.
Mark this date in your diary: 5 November 2015 – Lightning Lab Christchurch Demo Day, Jack Mann Auditorium, University of Canterbury. If you’re an eligible person, that’s where you’ll get to see Debtor Daddy and nine other new companies pitch for investment. More on this below.
If you’re a business owner, Debtor Daddy integrates with your cloud-based accounting system (Xero, MYOB, or Intuit), trawling through your accounts receivable (debtors), identifying who’s late in paying, and then sends a series of automated reminders to pay, and can ultimately refer recalcitrant debtors to collection agencies. They even provide an optional service to automatically have a real person phone up your debtors and encourage them to pay. This improves cash flow and also frees up a significant amount of time and mental energy by automating and outsourcing a job that nobody enjoys. Debtor Daddy claims that debtors reduce on average by 43% after 30 days of use, whilst freeing up two to eight hours per week for business owners. They’re the top ranking add-on in the Xero Marketplace debtor tracking category, and the reviews are truly stellar.
One of the things I really like about this business is that it’s antifragile – turbulent economic conditions make Debtor Daddy even more valuable, and a potential anticyclical hedge investment.
They already have over 800 customers, the vast majority of them outside New Zealand in 20+ other countries, and are growing mostly organically an average of 20% per month. There’s clearly a massive opportunity to greatly accelerate this growth, which is why they’re in the Lab.
Cofounders Matt McFedries and Mark Haussmann have extensive startup experience and finance industry experience. This the third company Matt has founded, and Mark has been his right-hand dev straight through. They’re a tight team, and have a strong understanding that especially for this business, UX/UI is critical, both for the user and the debtors from whom they’re trying to collect. These guys are very focussed on metrics, and I had a great conversation about their Pirate Metrics, so good in fact that I asked them to present their dashboard as a case study for the rest of the Lab participants when I was in Christchurch recently giving a presentation on startup metrics.
They want to get the word out about the product. They offer a 30-day free trial (no credit card info required), and after that, NZ Startup of the Week subscribers can get a further 50% discount of their first three months by using the discount code SOTW. They’re also giving away a practical free e-book on growing your business, not your debt.
They’re also looking for a Rails dev, if you’re interested, apply here.
And of course, they’ll be raising money on Demo Day, 5 November 2015, along with the nine other companies at Lightning Lab Christchurch. I’m hoping as many investors as possible reading this blog will come down to Christchurch that day. If you don’t have an invite yet, and you’re an eligible person or eligible investor, please contact Michelle Panzer at the Lab directly to request an invitation.
Christchurch has reached an important inflection point, just in the last few months. There are now more cranes than bulldozers, more concrete mixers than dump trucks. I’ve compared the CBD to a once-beautiful tree that’s been hard pruned – it’s a shadow of its former self, but you can see the new growth sprouting up, and it’s clear that what Christchurch is becoming will be even more impressive than what it was. Rather than the backward looking “more English than England”, I’m hoping that it can become the most connected, collaborative, creative city in the world. Young people and immigrants are playing a large part in driving the agenda, and especially in the Lab, the results are stunning.
So please do your bit, and come down and see the results of Lightning Lab on Demo Day. We’ll see you there.