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Investing time and money in SaaS start-ups

Stephen Bell | March 5, 2013
Q and A with investor and CEO of GeoOP, Leanne Graham

A lot of those companies, especially the local ones, have come up with a good idea; they're very technical and smart; they've built a piece of software and put it online; but how do they scale it? I think there's massive lack of knowledge in these small startup SaaS companies on what they need to turn themselves into successful scalable organisations.

So you will be supplying that sort of expertise yourself?

Yes, the investment is not just money. It's a mix between money and time. I think my time and expertise is far more valuable. Between time and money, I've invested half a million, and I've taken 20 percent of the organisation.

Who's leading that organisation?

It has been led by Nick Bartlett, who's one of the founders. [Now] it'll be led by me; I'll be the CEO and do two-and-a-half days a week. I'll continue to work with Nick and the team to get the people and partnerships in place to get it to scale.

How long do you think that'll take? When will you be looking to exit?

I've committed to the next two years with the team. I absolutely want to see it through to being the standard for mobile workforce; I' m committed to that.

How does the GeoOP application work?

When you go into GeoOP, you get a schedule, a map and it shows you where your jobs are and where all your people are. You pick up a job and drop it on a person because they're in that area; it comes through to the person and straight away on their phone they can see exactly what's going on -- they know the time they need to start.

Actually 50 percent of the take-up is not using them on [smartphones] because they're big-fingered men; they're more comfortable with tablets.

We've developed [the application] native to the device -- either Apple or Android. That's allowed us to put smarter features around the GPS integration, automatic notifications and audio and video on-site.

It's a rich application; and it's straightforward so the tradie who's not technically minded can use it.

What else are you planning to participate in?

I'm down here in Wellington talking to another company. I'm doing my best to space them out a bit, because there's a lot of effort in getting the base structure right. I kept my departure from Xero very quiet but I was still inundated. That's exciting, but frustrating. It's shown me there are awesome products out there and they're screaming for help.

I had a more pessimistic view from a recent discussion at developers' forum Unlimited Potential. They said there's too much emphasis on the consumer market; developers are trying to produce the next Instagram or FourSquare.


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