Benjamin Dyer is CEO and co-founder of Powered Now, an award-winning mobile app that enables small trade businesses to streamline admin tasks, from documenting notes and photos with a client, through to quotes, managing the job, invoicing and taking payment.
With a background in product development and commercial operations, as well as running both large and small businesses, Benjamin was keen to create a business around these skills. It was while going through his own home renovations that Benjamin noticed an opportunity to provide a solution for field-based companies struggling with their business administration. Together with his business partner, Chris Barling, they launched the Powered Now app in April 2013 after two years of development work.
Here’s what Benjamin has to say about his experience starting his own venture.
There is such a thing as an ‘ah ha!’ moment
Chris and I had spent a lot of time researching the field trade industry (e.g. builders, electricians, plumbers, etc.) and we both believed that this was one of the last great sectors yet to benefit from the IT revolution. However, the real ‘ah ha!’ moment for me was when I had some work done on my house.
We’d decided to build an extension and there were two building firms involved. The first presented me with a fantastic quote on printed letterhead paper, but he confessed that admin takes him ages. The second gave me the quote hand written on a piece of paper. To top it all off, the paper was ripped from a Disney notebook; it was the first quote I’d ever received with Tinkerbell embellishment! Each of these firms were at the top of their trades, but they both found managing their paperwork and workflow really hard.
At the same time Chris and I were tracking mobile and tablet adoption. Both of these businesses are fundamentally mobile, so we saw a huge opportunity and Powered Now was born.
Test the water with market research
We spent a long time talking to both trade companies and their customers. It wasn’t easy, as this is a market that can be hard to get hold of. However, we persisted and built a very early prototype that we iterated quickly while focusing on the feedback.
In April 2013, we were lucky enough to be selected to take part in the Microsoft Startup Rally at The Next Web conference in Amsterdam. We launched our product live on stage with King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands. It was a surreal moment and especially gratifying as we won best mobile app while the software was still in beta.
Make sure you meet a real need
There’s a single truth to B2B products and adoption – you have to meet a real need. You also have to do it better than it could be done previously.
The incumbent solutions for small businesses just don’t map across to an industry that is predominantly mobile. For instance, there are many products that treat builders like book-keepers. Remember these are companies that are fundamentally good with their hands, not admin. This is a central part of our philosophy and it resonates with our users.
There’s a secondary benefit as well; by being in control of the workflow and admin we make our users more productive and ultimately more successful. I’ve heard first hand from many customers just how Powered Now helps them win more work and save costs at the same time.
Our research shows that those businesses that invoice quickly and provide a range of payment options get paid faster. As such, offering this has been a key part of the technology from day one.
Our marketing strategy is as secret as the KFC secret formula
Did you know Colonel Sanders carried the secret formula for his Kentucky Fried Chicken in his head and the spice mixture in his car? Apparently even today the recipe is locked away in a Kentucky safe and only a handful of people know it. Well, that is very similar to our marketing strategy!
This is a great market to be in and it’s one of the largest and most diverse sectors of the economy. However, marketing and selling to SME businesses is traditionally very hard. We’ve been doing it for years so we know how to reach these businesses. At the moment our average customer has between one and 10 staff, but we have plans to tackle the bigger construction companies in the future.
Our greatest success so far has been crowdfunding nearly £600,000
We were also crowned Best Start-Up by Crowdcube, the equity crowdfunding platform we used to raise £585k from 159 investors. Crowdcube sees hundreds of young businesses every year and to be recognised by those guys is a great honour.
It’s about challenging preconceptions
We’re changing an industry that is surrounded by incorrect preconceptions. This made fundraising quite hard, even with a great track record and a fantastic product. When you’re pitching to a room of investors, a workflow product for builders isn’t as sexy as a Bitcoin wallet for African hipsters, regardless of opportunity.
We’re a start-up and our ability to be agile is one of our biggest advantages. We run a very lean business, continuously measuring and learning and then implementing the lessons. Businesses that stand still get overtaken.
Find time to look after you
Stay fit and healthy. Building a start-up will probably be the hardest thing you ever do and it’s easy to worry more about the business than yourself. Here, I speak from first-hand experience. The truth is in the early days YOU are the business, not a product. So eat your broccoli, go to the gym and don’t complain about it.
Find out more about Benjamin and Powered Now by visiting: http://powerednow.com/
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