The down side of a higher profile

Our profile has been raised significantly over the past 6 months. There’s a number of reasons for this.

Firstly the whole of “software as a service” as had a lift thanks to being endorsed by Barack Obama’s CIO and because it’s being widely acknowledged that SaaS will benefit (and be beneficial) in an economic downturn. Oh, and Salesforce.com breaking the $1bn barrier helped too!

KashFlow specifically has benefited hugely from beating all of the desktop-based accounting software providers on their own turf and from the publicity handed to us on a plate by Sage due to them reporting us to Trading Standards.

All of this has been reflected in our web traffic, in sign ups to our free trial and in our bottom line. But there is a down side to all of this publicity.

I’ve realised that when you become well known, you become a target yourself. Especially if you put yourself as an individual out there in the firing line instead of just a name and logo. Already this month there have been 3 attacks on us/me that would never have happened if we’d stayed a small and relatively unknown company.

1 – Dragging up the Past
I posted a couple of weeks ago about the help I received from the Princes Trust when starting KashFlow. I alluded to having been in trouble with the police in my youth. Within a couple of days this appeared in The Times. It was followed very quickly by a comment to my Princes Trust blog post referencing The Times and insinuating I shouldn’t be trusted with thousands of businesses data. The IP address of the person posting the comment was an exact match for the IP address of someone on UKBF who works at Sage. They also used the same first name.  Not conclusive evidence as its a dynamic address from a big ISP, but quite a coincidence.

My chairman responded over the weekend. The general consensus is that it all goes in our favour. My KPIs for this month agree.

2 – Role Reversal
Before I launched KashFlow, there was another company in the UK also providing web-based accounting software. Hardly anyone outside of the industry has heard of them as they’ve not done particularly well at marketing themselves. Nor do they have a great hamburger.

They tried to rectify this by contacting a journalist and suggesting we had certain technical issues with KashFlow. If it was true, it would have been a good great story for the journalist in question. Thankfully he got his own independent specialist to check us out which resulted in a clean bill of health for us and no publicity for the poor ol’ also-ran.

Even so, I certainly had a little taste of how Sage must have felt when I’ve climbed on their back waving my flag in the past!

3 – Stitched up on Twitter
Unless this is the first post you’ve read on this blog, then you’ll know I’m not one to keep my thoughts to myself. I’m often accused of “attacking competitors” when what the accuser actually means is “attacking Sage”. In my eyes, I’m just vigourously defending myself – but I concede that I can be rather enthusiastic about my defence.

Although I guess there’s something hostile about building a bonfire from our our old-fashioned disc-based competitors’ software.

If you follow me on Twitter then you’ll also have seen me be complimentary about my competitors and even recommend them on occasion. More than most of them would dare do for me. So I guess I’d say I’m just quite vocal and outspoken rather than specifically aggressive.

One of the people that regularly tells me to leave Sage competitors alone and stick to the knitting is Dennis Howlett. I’d have thought that the number of blog posts he’s made that mention KashFlow or our API users over recent months would show I’m perfectly capable of running and growing a company whilst ‘enthusiastically defending myself’. But he decided I wasn’t listening closely enough and decided to teach me a lesson by attempting a complete hatchet job on me. The detailed how it unfolded here on UKBF.

So a busy month defending myself! Something I wouldn’t have had to do if I’d kept my mouth shut and head down. But how boring wold that be? Our turnover, user numbers and profile would certainly be lower if I were more conservative.

For me personally, I’m pleased about The Times article. My past has always been in the public domain if you searched hard enough. It didn’t help that  I discussed it in detail when I met Bill Gates last year which resulted in a less than flattering headline and even worse photo in my local paper. I was always worried that my background  might come back to bite me on the behind one day. So I’m pleased it’s now all out there and I can stop worrying about it and move on.

If anyone ever tells you that software or accounting are boring, suggest they spend a week in my office.

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