Select Page
Ask Nicely

Ask Nicely

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,, 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.




Take control of your personal finances.

pocketsmithThe standard New Zealand startup playbook goes something like this:

  1. Come up with a great idea to solve a problem whose market pain you have experienced personally
  2. Form a team of cofounders
  3. Build a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
  4. Get initial traction
  5. Raise investment
  6. Go global
  7. Exit

Most investors I talk to hope that the entire process will complete, from go to whoa, in five to seven years.

PocketSmith, a great startup out of Dunedin, formed in 2008, got to step 4 (initial traction), and decided that the global market for personal finance wasn’t really ready for their product. So they’re waiting for the stars to align, and meanwhile will surpass NZD 1m in annual recurring revenue (ARR) this year, without having spent any money on marketing. The vast bulk of their 110,000+ users are are in 200 countries, with the majority in the US, then Australia and the UK, then NZ, and they’re growing at about 8% per month. They’re biding their time, waiting for the optimum moment to strike. They know that if they went as big as possible as fast as possible, they would have missed the boat. It’s all about timing, and that time is now.

PocketSmith answers basic questions about your personal finances: What’s my net worth? How does my power bill vary over the course of a year? What would happen if I trimmed my entertainment budget by $100 per month? How do I manage accounts in multiple currencies? This is all done with a very slick, easy to use interface, which automagically pulls data from your bank and credit card accounts, and cleverly classifies your transactions with not much intervention.

Jason Leong

Jason Leong

Cofounder Jason Leong says the product is centered on your relationship to your money. “For most people, budgeting is right up there with dieting and going to the gym – we want to make it fun and interesting to be in control of your finances. Our overriding goal is for people to have a better relationship with their money.”

It’s changing people’s lives. A high point for the team recently was when a user commented:

James Wigglesworth

James Wigglesworth

Bridie O'Leary

Bridie O’Leary

According to Jason, the product is just where it needs to be now, and so they’re starting a big international marketing push. They’ve hired a Growth Manager – Bridie O’Leary – to increase signups and conversions to the paid product, and are establishing a formal presence in North America through an agency. 2016 will be PocketSmith’s year. Co-founder James Wigglesworth spearheads a development team that continues to refine and innovate upon the core software.

Lance Wiggs

Lance Wiggs

Although they took in a small investment a couple of years ago from Lance Wiggs, they have yet to spend it; their strategy is to continue to fund growth out of cash flow. Lance loves their capital efficient parsimonious approach.

Jason believes that Pocketsmith is well placed to become the centrepiece in a personal finance ecosystem. Just imagine what you could do with an automation layer on top of your inflexible online banking access. Think IFTTT or Zapier for your money. They already have a developer API going – they invite you to give it a shot. As PocketSmith becomes the platform for personal finance, they are aiming to become a $100m+ company in the next few years.

I’ve watched these guys with interest since their humble beginnings, and I like what they’ve achieved. I use PocketSmith myself for my personal finances, and would recommend that anyone concerned about how they’re spending their money give them a go.

You can sign up for free at: