BizSpark Startup of the Day – Liaise

The BizSpark startup of the day is Liaise, based in the US. Below you will find an interview with Sidney Minassian, Founder & Chief Liaison of Liaise. All the best to them and congratulations for being the startup of the day!


Tell us who you are and your role in the company:

I’m one of the founders at Liaise and go by the title of Founder & Chief Liaison.

I look after Customer Acquisition, Business Development and Strategic Partnerships. I also work very closely with our CEO, Ray Villeneuve on corporate strategy as well as my co-founder and CTO, Alon Novy on product direction.

What did you do before creating your company?

Before Liaise I founded two other companies. One was a software company where we built and sold project management and workflow software to enterprise customers.

My other company was a consulting business - providing services to Banking, Financial Services and Professional Services industries on strategy and post M&A integration projects (products, people and technology).

Before that I worked at KPMG in their consulting group and at the Industrial Bank of Japan in their Risk Management division.

How do you feel being the most promising ‘Startup of the Day’ per Microsoft BizSpark?

I feel great and so does the rest of my team.

This is personal to us, we’ve put in a lot of effort to get to where we are. To be named ‘Startup of the Day’ on the same day as announcing the commercial release of our product is just awesome. We’re very excited and thankful.

What is your company’s mission?

I love our slogan and think it also sums up our mission very nicely….. “Turn words into action”.

Through our technology and service, we’re helping our customers turn their words into action.

It also helps that ‘turn words into action’ nicely describes how our technology works. Liaise identifies commitments, people, dates and priorities in your communication system (initially Email and in the future IM, Web & Mobile) and automatically turns it into action items;

In 140 characters or less, tell us what your company does:

Our value proposition is to empower collaborating teams and individuals to get control of who's got what, due when.

Recognizing that work gets done via communication and collaboration tools (Email, IM, Web), Liaise intelligently captures the ‘action items’ buried in these systems and automatically updates management portals, dashboards, calendars and reports, so you can be on top of your teams, projects and outcomes.

Our customers are typically managers and teams from Fortune 3000 companies, working in Projects, Sales, Marketing and IT.

How did you get the idea for your company?

Given the amount of time my co-founder and I spent working in and consulting to enterprise customers, we observed a repeating pattern.

Irrespective of the different types of systems that customers tried implementing, from simple spreadsheet to multi-million dollar project management, CRM, Sales or workflow systems, it seemed people were not motivated in any way to enter information into these systems.

Consequently these systems did not have ‘real time’ nor ‘complete’ information for decision making so management were either constantly asking for updates or making decisions based on ‘out of date’ information.

We did notice however, that when directly asked for updates (usually via email), people happily and quite often quickly replied with the requested information.

It was at this point that we thought we need to find a more intelligent solution that can take unstructured information from a communication/collaboration system (Email, IM, Web), turn it into something structured and then integrate it with a management system so outcomes could be better managed.

That was the inspiration for Liaise and the start of our journey. We have since spent a lot of time on expanding the vision and the IP. What we’ve launched commercially today is the first phase of a greater plan.

Tell us about your funding history. Are you currently looking for funding? If so, how much?

We’ve raised $5.5M to date and are now looking to raise another $6-7M.

How many employees do you have? How many developers?

We are team of 12 with 8 developers.

Are you hiring? If yes, what are you hiring for and where?

We are always looking for superstars in development, product management and sales.

Which platform are you building on? Why?

Liaise is built on the .NET platform. From our experience, .NET has been a solid platform that’s easy to work with.

Where do you see opportunities today in the Software/Internet area?

I see plenty of opportunity right here where Liaise is playing.

Broadly speaking, communication and management systems need to become more integrated to better meet the needs of enterprise customers.

Just look at what some of the industry giants are doing: Microsoft’s SharePoint 2010 supports new collaborative features and is more tightly integrated with Outlook. IBM continues down their path of connecting the inbox with corporate data. Cisco recently announced their new collaboration platform, Quad to help ‘dispersed teams’. added collaboration to their management platform with the introduction of Chatter.

Given this trend, there are many opportunities for niche plays as well as solutions that add value across the board.

What do you think about the BizSpark Program?

We are a BizsparkOne partner company and the program has been very good for us.

We’ve gained a lot exposure from BizSpark’s social media activities announcing our win at DEMOFall’09 and from our participation at events such as SharePoint 2010 SocialFest and Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in DC this year.

I’ve particularly enjoyed working with our Partner Manager from Microsoft, Lynda Ting. She’s been very supportive but at the same time unafraid to challenge us, two important attributes of a great partner, thank you Lynda.

Do you have any advice for young Software entrepreneurs?

Not sure I’m qualified to give advice, but here are some thoughts (or advice I’d give to my 2 younger brothers… I’m qualified for that).

Pick an area you’re passionate about… life’s too short to be doing something every day you don’t love.

However don’t let your passion alone dictate your judgment. To avoid this, firstly surround yourself with mentors or advisors. Create a formal advisory board, meet monthly or have informal catch ups with people who will tell you how it is and not people who will tell what you want to hear.

Secondly, engage with customers early and be open to the feedback. Iterate your solution until it solves your customer’s pain. Early change or abandonment of your strategy is much better (and cheaper) than a late failure. Sounds simple, so many of us miss this. Check out Steve Blank’s book, Four Steps to the Epiphany, he covers this really well.

It’s ok to fail. Learn, then get up and have another go. Most of all, enjoy the journey.

Who’s your role model?

At a personal level, the two people who’ve shaped me most are my parents. I highly respect their priority on family and their work ethic. Additionally I get inspiration from a wide variety of people. I see leadership, courage and success demonstrated by many both younger and older than me, there are some great people out there to learn from.

What’s the ONE THING you would like readers to take away from this interview?

I invite you and your teams to check out Liaise. Download a trial of Liaise for Outlook (2003, 2007 & 2010)

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