I thought I ought to do a follow up post to update on progress since my post a few weeks back on our aborted fundraising exercise.
I can’t believe that was only a month ago. So much has happened since.
The frustrating thing was that I knew what we needed to do to really step things up a few gears and massively grow and improve the business. But I needed the capital to do it.
I sat down with my chairman/co-shareholder/mentor, Lord Young, to discuss the plan and he agreed to fund it himself.
That was on 30th June – see my jubilant tweet (and speculation from others)
Since then I have hired a CTO to manage a big technology project (see below), a Head of Design (something we’ve never been great at) and most importantly a COO with years of experience in the industry (press release to follow in a couple of weeks). I’m not good at the day-to-day stuff, he excels at it. So it’ll be done better, and free up more of my time.
But on to the exciting stuff, the technology plan. I’ve always preferred the “Delight and Surprise” method of releasing new features rather than pre-announcing everything and risk over-promising and under delivering. But on this occasions I’m just too excited about what we’re working on to not share it.
Some background: KashFlow was one of the first SaaS accounting apps. When we started there was only one other I was aware of, and it hasn’t gone on to do very well. The term SaaS wasn’t being widely used – we were SaaS before SaaS was SaaS. If I wanted to be big-headed about it I’d use the word “pioneer” : )
There have been lots of benefits to be one of the first in the market – not least of which is still having more customers and more revenue than any competitor. But the downside is that your technology ages before the shiny newcomers do.
Whilst the database element and the business logic layer is all fine and dandy, our user interface (UI) – the bit customers interact with all day – is built using something called Classic ASP which is a technology that first debuted about 13 years ago. It’s served us well to date and we’ve done some cool stuff with it behind the scenes.
But it’s not the ideal platform to build a world-beating application with in the 21st century and isn’t much use for attracting top-notch developers. For example, adding multi-user permissions (whereby you can create additional log ins with limited access) is a BIG job. It’s not much of a bigger job to re-write the entire user interface.
So that’s what we’re doing. We’re going to totally replace the user interface from the ground up and incorporate multi-user permissions. As I mentioned above, all of the business logic and database design is just fine – so the usual risk of re-writing an entire application is totally avoided. It’s just the customer-facing aspect that we’re re-writing.
Making that decision was incredibly refreshing. It meant we’re not restricted by what we have in place already and can go back to the drawing board and choose the best, and most current technologies to work with. And ofcourse incorporate all of the lessons we’re learnt over the years from speaking to our customers and seeing what works and what doesn’t.
For the non-techies – this translates in to a great experience for you. Much faster responses when using the system, many new useful features, a much nice interface. The interface will be easily deployable to other platforms such as iPhone, Android, Blackberry, etc. And it will be much easier for other software providers to integrate with us.
We’ve also come up with a bunch of technical tricks that will deliver some ridiculously good stuff. It’s these that the title of this post refers to – they’re game changers. I genuinely believe some of the stuff we’ll be providing once this project is complete will become must-haves for any SaaS provider. And no one yet has them. So I’m not going to get into specifics, we’ll just aim to delight and surprise instead.
I’d love to say we’ll have this all delivered next month – but that’s not going to happen. It’s gong to take a little time to get this right.
We’ll start by releasing the new UI with just invoice-related functionality and permissions. So you’ll be able to set up sub users and set their permissions – but the only permissions available will be invoice related. Next we’ll add another chunk of functionality – perhaps reports, and let you set permissions on those too. And so on until all functionality is included in the new UI – at which point, logging in to the new UI with full permissions will be the same as logging in to the current system.
There’s lots of work ahead. So tomorrow I’m going away for a long overdue family holiday to get fully recharged, meanwhile the development team will be working away on the first phase of this project and I’ll be
interfering getting involved on my return.
Enough talking – we’ve got work to do.