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It keeps getting bigger

There has been some commentary from the US lately that the consumer and small business space is no longer appealing for internet based businesses.

We note there were similar conversations only 18 months ago saying the world would no get any more big new social networks (this was just prior to pinterest taking off) and subsequently commentators globally realising a whole huge market segment (mainly female and those who think visually) had simply been missed or underserved. A fairly large oversight.

We prefer to side with Dave McClure’s view on this one. His recent post ‘the internet keeps getting bigger’ is very informative, especially once combined with insight from others on usability, communication and marketplace formation which shows that our goals here at coinr are meeting truly enduring needs and have never been more achievable.

Back Again

Sorry about that, we went quiet for a while. We haven’t posted on the blog for weeks, we are not ignoring you, we have certainly not been on holidays, we have just been really busy seeking insights and doing SydStart and other events and reconfiguring our business.

Seeking Insights

A fair bit of progress being made, some changes and a lot of insight in recent weeks.

The key insights we have had were triggered by Startup Weekend and Lean Startup Machine weekend, both of which were hosted in our building by Fishburners and both draw a lot of material and key concepts from the amazing Lean Startup movement started by Eric Ries.  We have been following Eric’s work since the outset (along with other spin off initiatives of substance like Startup Compass and Startup Genome) and really enjoyed seeing him in person in Sydney recently thanks to Verner Vogels and Simone Brunozzi and team from Amazon Web Services (AWS) which we use and often recommend.

We are not newbies to Lean. On the contrary we mentor people in it. But the appealing aspect is the more you learn the more you gain and hence want to learn more. The Lean movement to me is about accelerating business building by testing assumptions, validating your decisions faster and hence cheaper which lowers risk and speeds time to market of meaningful products.

We have been watching our competitors closely for over a year now while we quietly built some foundations but even though we have been (highly in my view) productive there has been a nagging concern about speed to market.

Lets put this in context, the market needs I am talking about (information management, customer engagement, financial management) are long term issues for small and medium businesses. Generations of people have come and gone through small business without substantial progress in many industries.

Sure you can grab an ecommerce site and basic payments easily but anything mildly distinctive requires a much more material investment of time and money using integration platforms like zapier, iftt and onesaas or custom database tools and enterprise resource management (ERP) or enterprise information management tools like salesforce.com, force.com, quickbase from intuit and similar. Sometimes you need all of the above plus of course the accounting system like xero or saasu or quickbooks or SAP or netsuite.

Needless to say your average small business owner is time poor and if they are lucky enough to grown into a medium size business they are often even more time poor.

To compound the issue, investing in applications is not an obvious move since the landscape is constantly moving and the risk of picking the wrong thing is clearly going to be much larger than continuing to cut down the tree with a less-than-sharp axe.

The good part is our brand continues to be suitable and appealing to the segment and people trust it and draw some (surprisingly accurate) expected positioning statements from the visual identity even though we have done little to communicate or refine it. Words that keep getting used are simple, finance, financial management, stores, customers, payments. All of which are in the zone. So hopefully once the platform is more developed the education burden will be lower than most startups.

Another great part is our segment is still under served. Despite more innovation than SMEs have ever seen in mobile technology, native apps and web apps the space is still wide open. One slide from SydStart (reproduced above with credit to Matt Barrie CEO from Freelancer.com) shows the cross border flows we how to also leverage from as small businesses realise that technology can not just serve them in isolation but enable their seamless participation in markets and in fact over time this will be critical to survival. Further the number of social networks continues to grow (Pinterest and Instagram are remarkable examples) and businesses large and small continue to struggle to use channels customers prefer.

Insights Lead To Reconfiguring

So we haven’t really pivoted in the classic tech startup sense of the word but the above insights (and a lot more industry specific  vertical ones I can’t discuss for competitive reasons) have lead to a reconfiguration. It has meant a bit of soul searching but the outcomes have been worthwhile. I hope we can keep that rate of learning up.

So our main insights were seemingly obvious, focus and simplify.

We have cut the modules from 50+ to under 20 (with more to go) and the use cases from 500+ to under 200 and falling.

More importantly we have made the user paradigms less abstract and much more real world using terms that relate to physical things and non-physical but plain language things all from the real world. This might sound obvious but when you are dealing with horizontal services (we want to be the next yammer + salesforce + paypal) then you have to avoid getting bogged down in narrow use cases but still stay close to ‘the problem’.

The result has been a dramatic simplification of the user interface and hopefully also the user experience. It has resulted in some additional implementation complexity but the underlying themes, data structures and operating principles are now much more elegant and robust from design to implementation so we are all pretty happy with the results.

  • Coinr Cards (Unique identifiers and profiles for real things like – Offers/Deals, People, Businesses, Payment authorities, Services, Products, Tickets, Touch Points)
  • Coinr Boxes (Smart and Simple collections of Coinr Cards)
  • Links (Relationships between cards)
  • Channels (apps and web apps and physical enablers such as RFID or QR codes of the above)

I won’t let the cat out of the bag by talking in too much detail here but sufficient to say we will be doing more user feedback and testing workshops soon.

Events

The events have largely been ones that just happen at this time of the year, we stay involved because it keeps us close the community. They are a distraction strictly speaking but a worthwhile one in the long term, it is amazing how many business opportunities get generated for us from these events.

I mentioned SydStart earlier, this is something that is now officially amazing, 1,000 tech startup entrepreneurs in one place listening to some of the best in the world and then those vying to be the next winners. Forty speakers and amazing networking. Pitches. An expo with dozens of companies. It was huge.

We also ran the internal visioning sessions for Fishburners and similar ones for the major stakeholders (Google, Optus, City of Sydney, UTS) and are also working on refining the brand before the next phase of growth. Fishburners recently became the largest in Australia and is well on the way to regional and global significance in the tech startup scene.

I attended the inauguraal engagement session with City of Sydney reaching out to tech startups as one of only twenty leaders in the space. It is early days but the focus is worthwhile, learning is being shared and a lot more to come here.

I attended the NSW Govt ICT Ministerial forum with briefings from the Deputy Premier, Andrew Stoner and Finance & Services Minister Greg Pearce with panel sessions from the industry leaders helping them. Their breadth is remarkable and encouraging and it is great to see NSW as a leader in the local industry but we still have a great deal more to do with tech startups a the state level and the federal level including getting our Prime Minister Julia Gillard to realise we already own the (now nearly five years old) brand Silicon Beach Australia so calling for it to be started is demonstrating lack of awareness at best. The good part is we grabbed it before the cities of LA and Rio who are recent ambit claimers of Silicon Beach.

I also hosted (master of ceremonies) at SydStart and TiE Conference Sydney, attended various investor briefings (tech startups and incubators only) and conducted the usual extensive mentoring and coaching sessions for startups and corporates alone, as part of Cooper & Co (rebranding from Cooper Sydney) and within the accelerators I am involved with in the ecosystem. Plus of course the usual guest speaking and lecturing gigs. This is *all* now being trimmed back and having gatekeepers applied  so we can all focus more on the delivery phase of coinr.

Wrapping Up

On Insights – We hope to continue these, especially better customer problem assumption validation. We recommend you try Lean Startup using the links above.

On Reconfiguring – We are confident we are on an even better more direct track even though it is probably not a big pivot.

On Events – The key message is over 50 events last quarter will become about 5 this quarter as the focus strategy gets implemented.

Back to the grind stone. Cheers, Pete.

The world's easiest way to save.

The Private Business Platform

Coinr The Private Business Platform is coming.

Owners and other stakeholders in all small and medium businesses rejoice!

Our vision for coinr was always to provide hundreds (if not thousands!) of useful information services for you and your business in an easy integrated way so time-poor business owners can get on with innovating while we handle all your information systems needs with minimal or zero customisation.

Lots of people out there provide e-commerce software and basic accounting software but we are aiming for the stars, a simple to use yet comprehensive platform in one website that handles your specific needs with a simple ‘click-to-customise’ approach you can be up and running in minutes then gets better suited to your needs every day.

We don’t want to reinvent the wheel, so coinr will integrate over time with your popular services.

Realistically such a huge range of services takes time to build and integrate smoothly, so we didn’t expect to be telling you about this for some time, probably not until mid 2013. But we are (a little) ahead of schedule.

Already we have twenty core services all with responsive design so they work on mobiles, tablets, laptops and desktops.

Some of the core services we have developed provide messaging, authentication, third party authentication, security layers, page publishing, analytics, short links with a/b testing, payments, anonymous social connection, notes, geo location, contacts, info snippets and a lot more.

We are just starting to pilot these services with wholesale customers. They are all medium size businesses or small businesses that aspire to be medium sized or even large one day. You can see our own internal pilot program using some of these services (which many people thought was a core product but really it is our first ‘retail demo app’ we call the coinr box web app.

A web app works on all devices and looks like an app, you can even easily add an icon to your phone’s home screen, but you don’t need to go to the app store or app market place to download it, just browse to the coinrbox.com site.

So small and medium businesses can soon rejoice, we expect to have some more services and apps out soon.

Throw away that paper

Need a notepad? Need a pen or pencil? Not any more.

Still sending yourself texts when you need to remember something? Not any more.

Still keeping bits of paper in your wallet? Not any more.

Now you can drop bits of information into Coinr Box anytime anywhere on any device.

You don’t even need to sign up or sign in to save information in coinr.

It even works offline when you have no internet.  Amazing huh?

If the coinr add page is already in your browser you don’t even need to have internet access to save information, we store it in local storage inside the browser of your desktop, laptop, tablet or phone.

Your information is safe.  

If you close your browser window it will still be there.

If you close the browser entirely it will still be there.

Even if you turn your device off or upgrade your browser software or operating system it will still be there.

When you are connected to the internet, the next time you use coinr, we will sync your information up to the coinr cloud (and store it on resilient servers) so your data is even backed up in the event you lose or break your device.

The next time you sign in to coinr your information will be saved into your coinr account.

Images can also be attached to coinr drops (they get stored in your dropbox account) and information like expenses can be intelligently pushed to your other apps on the web.

Startup Entrepreneurs Productivity Booster

Startup founders and co-founders have started adopting Coinr Box as part of their daily routine because it helps make them more organised with just one app not ‘hunting and pecking’ around dozens of apps.

It is as simple as sending a –

  • text message on your iPhone or Android a
  • status update on Facebook or a
  • tweet on twitter…

But ‘coin drops’ on coinr are so much more useful, they are automatically connected to popular services on the web like –

  • Github.com issues (track bugs or new feature ideas for apps or web sites, ideal for tech entrepreneurs) – use tag #bug
  • Dropbox.com for images and docs (your drop box not ours so you keep control) – use tag #file or drag-and-drop the document or image into your browser
  • your accounting system (now only Saasu.com but looking to add more) – use tag #expense
  • lots of built in coinr services (like dynamic lists to capture #ideas, #iou, things #tobuy, things #todo etc
You can even combine the above, for example –
  • add a screen shot with the bug or
  • add a receipt image with the expense
  • add a person’s name to a todo so you can remember to pull up the list for @patrick next time you are talking
With coinr you are not constrained by complex names like –

  • @petercooper2012red46 or @pc0 you can just use the natural names we all prefer like @pete
  • @lauramagic12345 you can just use the natural names like @laura or
  • if you know more than one girl named (say) Laura perhaps try adding their surname initial or something else to keep it simple @lauram and @bluelaura
and then tell coinr later if you want it to link to their facebook or twitter. You never have to remember funny twitter handles or online names ever again.
Best of all coinr is private so information is only see by others if you specifically tell it to make it visibile for example –
  • #public makes your coinr drop a public page, add an image to make it more interesting (useful for setting up a simple web page)
  • #share (coming soon) to share with a specific list of people
In fact you can create your own tags too, try #toread or #tobuy or #bars #nearby or even #fuel or #journal. And all your coin drops are saved with who, what, where information so you can track all the details around them to meet compliance needs or simply to prompt your memory later.
So you can see why the innovative (and busy) sweet tooth people like it –

Coinr is amazing! It will revolutionise the definition of being organised! I will definitely implement this for Leanik crepes.

– Nik from Leanik.com

If you would like to have your quote and your business featured here in our next blog post and reach thousands of coinr users give coinr a try and let us know what you think in the comments.

Get Attached Yet Remain Independent

So you want to store a picture on Coinr Box? Just use #file (or tap the camera icon or drag and drop).

Perhaps it is a picture of an expense receipt.

Maybe it is a product picture from a competitor you want to share with colleagues and publish with a short link and analytics and social marketing tools.

Perhaps it is a marketing campaign idea or a new creative idea for a store you have just opened?

Just drag it onto the browser when you are making a coin drop (go to coinr.com/add) and type a little bit of text then drag on the image.

For example –

#expense $25 lunch with @dan

Then drag and drop an image on to your browser (before you hit save) and it will look like this

#expense $25 lunch with @dan #file receipt_image.png

The above creates a private purchase transaction in your accounting system (e.g. saasu) and a contact (if it doesn’t already exist) and pushes the image to your drop box.

Or to make it public just add #public to make something like this very high resolution image that some find a little humorous – https://www.coinr.com/public/3Ikykpax0p

Don’t forget you do need to have at least a free dropbox account plus maybe an account at saasu for your accounting and setup credentials at coinr.com/credentials