What to Build When You Have a Choice

I’ve always been a builder.  As a kid it was computers, and simple electronic gadgets.  In high school it was my debate team.  Then in college I learned to build circuits and software.

I moved on to more complex projects such as building CAD tools as an R&D Engineer at Synopsys, and then SaaS (software as a service) for consumers at Mint.com.

I like to build in markets that I see are being underserved, where I have some level of expertise, and a network of peers whom I can brainstorm ideas with.

I joined on Mint.com during the era of social networks: FaceBook, Twitter, and Ning were the big emerging companies for young engineers.  People encouraged me to join, but I wanted to work at Mint for a couple reasons:

  • I’ve always been interested in finance, economics, and with the recession looming I knew it was a product that would shed some light into people’s financial situations.
  • I also enjoy working on projects that are timeless, and with Mint there was a clear value  proposition, “seeing where your money is going”.

A Passion Project

Before I started BizeeBee I was playing around with various ideas that ranged from voice recognition to image processing.  While these all seemed like really “cool” tech ideas, I just couldn’t get excited about them, and I feared that I’d like the urge to jump out of bed everyday.  So I thought long and hard about what I was passionate about, and a problem that I knew I could work on for the long haul.

I knew the two things I loved where engineering and yoga.  After practicing yoga for nearly 8 years, volunteering and doing some tech consulting for studio owners I started to see a few patterns:

  • Struggles of Small Business Owners. These were all small businesses that were struggling with keeping their customers, getting paid on time, and understanding how technology could benefit their business.
  • Lack of Products. The ubiquity of smartphones and consumer internet had made small business owners more tech savvy, but they did not have many options when it came to running their business.
  • Companies Optimizing for Revenue vs. Results. Tech companies that were building small business products were more concerned with monetizing off of small business owners instead of building products that were going to give business owners the results they needed to stay in business and grow.

Why I Chose to Build for Small Business

When I started BizeeBee in January 2010 people advised me to stay away from building for small businesses.  Stating that distribution would be an uphill battle, and monetization past a certain point would be another.  Or if I was going to build then I should focus on being a Groupon clone…  I listened to everyone, but stuck to my gut.  I had 2 convictions:

  • A Growing & Underserved Market. The number of entrants into small businesses continues to grow but access to capital has been diminishing.  Hence business owners need to cut costs, and increase revenues.  Technology is one of the easiest ways to reduce costs in terms of overhead like administrative staff.
  • Domain Expertise. I had been following this market for nearly 7 years, I knew how business owners thought, the challenges they faced, and what products they would be receptive to.

After 2 ½ years and investing nearly $200k of my own personal life savings into BizeeBee, I’m going to continue building this product and company.

Challenges

There will always be challenges in a startup: recruiting, revenues, competition, positioning, and product revisions.  I know what the challenges are with BizeeBee:

  • Distribution is the #1 push back when it comes to selling to small businesses.  But myself and my team have a couple tricks up our sleeve, and we’re always experimenting.

Benefits

  • Defensibility despite what most people think.  Building a simple product and a team that is dedicated to constantly improving it is the best what keeps people buying.
  • Monetization people will pay if there is a clear value proposition.
  • Loyalty because you’ve built a product that people actually need.

Who’s Choosing BizeeBee

Being a engineer I have a lot of freedom to choose what I want to build and for whom.  Out of everything, I’m sticking to my passion by supporting entrepreneurs especially small businesses.

When I decided to dedicate my time and talent towards building to support small businesses, I focused on recruiting people who also bought into the vision of building simple products that support small businesses.  This vision took it’s first breath two years ago as the beginning of BizeeBee.  Today the product helps small businesses that offer memberships keep their customers coming back, and get paid on time.

While there were some solutions prior to BizeeBee, none of the solutions considered the needs of owners:

  • Limited Time. Push button solution that doesn’t require setup or installation.
  • Simplicity. They don’t want to sit through training or have to train their staff.
  • Clear Value. Need to understand the ROI, how the product will increase sales or cut down on costs.

BizeeBee has been listening, building, and championing these owners.  We believe strongly that this is an underserved market, and our users certainly agree!

Have I peaked your curiosity?  Come to my talk at Groupon: Think You Know the SMB Owner Mind?  Guess Again.

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About the author: Poornima
Poornima is the founder of Femgineer.

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