Building a product
Up to 1999, as Group CFO, a part of my role was to ensure that the customers (our employees), across 10 locations and multiple countries, received the highest level of service, which included getting paid on time and the correct amount!
Technology only became really available in 2004. I was enthusiastic and determined, and started Expense On Demand (EOD) – a SaaS application (www.expenseondemand.com), to manage employee expenses over the internet. Until 2011 I did the building of the application and selling on my own. The idea was to prove that a market existed and I could do both the build and sell on my own!
My ego was satisfied, and this journey proved to me two points; One, I could build and sell against the best in the world. Two, the model was not scalable.
To scale and make it world class, a team was necessary. Fortunate for me, our success attracted others, who were smarter than me in product development, selling, marketing, finance and administration. Slowly, they took over these roles from me. Strategy is the only area where I am now actively involved. The immediate result of getting others involved was the start of the re-furbished EOD, and laying the foundation of a new product called Solo Expenses (www.soloexpenses.com).
Both products are aimed at different markets, i.e., EOD at the enterprise and Solo Expenses at small businesses. Solo is the result of multiple minds and 10 years of experience, and therefore far sexier; whereas EOD is the labour of one person.
Like any enterprise product, EOD is “heavy touch”, requiring teams to sell, implement and roll out. Whereas, Solo Expenses is “zero touch”, agile, and available over the internet, with a 45 second implementation and rollout time!
Over the last 10 years, many lessons have been learnt. With EOD being used by users in over 70 countries, one of the key lessons learnt was about user behaviour. This aided us in designing Solo Expenses, which appears to be a runaway success, because within 6 months it has been downloaded and adopted in 29 countries.
Part of my challenge now is to make EOD, “lighter touch”, which has been happening over the past 2 years, where an “out-off-the-box” implementation will take a few hours and not months. At the same time, we are extending (by May 2015) the Solo Expenses franchise to also cover upto 100 user businesses (with simple approval and a sophisticated expense policy function), with a 30 minute implementation!
The period has been challenging. In the early days I was the only one riding the rollercoaster. The rides were much steeper – both when climbing and then coming down. Today, we are still on the rollercoaster, but with the team, the rides are fun and full of laughter. We still look forward to the climb, and I am less scared of the sudden rush from coming down.
Most entrepreneurs are called mad. Perhaps, I am one of those, who in his madness still saw the need to re-invent himself by getting a team of more competent people, re-building the product and introducing another product for the bottom of the pyramid.
CEO & Founder