This is an interview with the Founder of our Startup of the Day, Mark Burch, about his upcoming "hands-free invoice processing app." It is not yet out in the app store, but you can monitor their blog for updates.
Do you build for scale first, or for revenue? How are those things related in your mind?
We built InvoiceSmash while thinking about two conflicting goals, avoiding startup death by premature scaling and setting our architecture right so that when scaling becomes a priority we can do it quickly. We think we’ve got it right, but we haven’t been tested yet.
Do you make reasonable predictions about how you are going to achieve revenue and then test them out, or do you start with a business model and deploy it, to see if it brings in revenue?
We are bringing automation and integration to an area where there is still a lot of pain and friction. The addressable market is large and there is scope to take our technology and ‘pivot’ in many directions depending on how things unfold. So, to answer the question, we started with a business model and hypothesis and we’re going from there.
What questions do you and your technical co-founder / engineering team feel are the most important to solve about the business aspects of your company?
- How to get customer acquisition right.
- How to get the UX and customer service right.
How much of what you are building is based on leaving a legacy and how much of it is based on technical challenges, or the ability to make something just for fun? In other words, where do you fall on the seriousness scale? For fun, for profit, for life?
A little bit from each I think. To my way of thinking, ‘for life’ comes after you’ve achieved success at ‘for profit’. ‘for fun’ comes in the journey to ‘for profit’ and beyond. I think for a lot of developers, ‘for fun’ programming can be a pitfall. Just because some particular software engineering challenge is fun to program and is interesting and stimulating for a developer, it doesn’t automatically mean you can build a business off of it.
Mark Burch, Founder, InvoiceSmash
When did you decide that you were “startup material”?
I decided I wanted to be in business when I was 14 before I knew what a startup was. When I became aware of startups in the dotcom boom, I was drawn in this direction even though I had little access to this world at that time. It’s taken a couple of ‘tours of duty’ in the corporate and enterprise IT worlds, but now I’m firmly in startup land.
What impact or legacy do you hope to make in the market and in the business world?
It’s a bit premature for us to be talking about legacy, but I hope that our impact on the market will be to have brought B2B automation to some of the millions of small and medium businesses out there who are drowning in needless and inefficient paper work (invoices, bills, purchase orders, expense receipts etc).
What are some of the challenges you face as a founder or developer at a startup, when it comes to dealing with family life, or socially? Does working on a startup change the way you associate and interact in these areas?
There is no doubt that being in a startup is intense. There are big impacts on the other areas of life…There is no off when doing a startup. You’re always on, always thinking about customers. Always thinking about funding. I’m lucky to have a very supportive wife, but it is a hard journey.
Can you describe the relationship that you have had with Microsoft in building your startup?
Mark Burch the founder of InvoiceSmash is an former Microsoft employee at Microsoft Australia, runs a Microsoft Gold Partner company called Burch Technologies and is currently a member of the Microsoft VTSP program (like the MVP program but more focused on business/sales). So it’s fair to say, we’ve had a very close relationship with Microsoft over the years.
Tell us about your Azure based solution.
InvoiceSmash was born in Azure. Right from the outset the business model and architecture was built on the idea of using Azure for unlimited scale and flexibility.
How is Azure implemented in your solution?
- Our solution was designed and built for Azure.
- We’re currently using Azure VM roles,
- Azure Websites for hosting our official blog,
- And Azure PaaS for hosting our SaaS solution.
- We have plans to use Service Bus extensively for cloud to on premise connectivity.
How did you get excited about Azure?
I first started getting interested in Azure when it was Microsoft internal project codenamed ‘Reddog’. It was pretty clear to me back then in 2007/8 that the promise of unlimited scale was a huge step forward for startups. The idea of being able to start up a company with a business model designed for scale and not have to worry about large capital expenditure for hard ware was (and is) a game changer.
What were the Azure features that prompted you to decide to build on Azure?
The concept of using a PaaS to abstract away the complexity of scale (or at least postpone it until we know we have a winning business model) was the clincher that made it a no brainer for us. The capability of the Azure Service Bus and the flexibility of the VM Roles were also key features that made the story complete. We’re pretty sure we can achieve pretty anything we need to with the current feature set of Azure. The fact that more features and lower costs are the trends is just an added bonus.