My dear colleague Adriana Iordan had the pleasure of chatting with Andy Brice back in 2007 (time flies!). I’m taking the relay here and talking with Andy again. A well-respected man in the world of software start-ups, I wanted to get his perspective of how this world has changed in the past seven years and what’s predicted to come next.
Andy, please start with a quick intro about yourself and then we’ll get cracking!
Andy: My main business is PerfectTablePlan, a software product that helps people planning seating for events. I have been working on it for over 9 years now. I am currently working on a new release. I have also recently released Keyword Funnel, a software product that helps people add 100s or 1000s of keywords to their Adwords campaigns. I do some consultancy to other software companies, mostly related to marketing. I also run a 2 day training course for developers who want to start their own software business.
DE: First of all, how have the past 7 years been for your business – give us a snapshot of opportunities and challenges.
Andy: PerfectTablePlan continues to do very well. It now has all sorts of powerful and sophisticated features it didn’t have 7 years ago. There is also significantly more competition than when I started. But I try not to worry about that too much and just focus on providing a great service for my customers. I passed the threshhold where I had to register for VAT some years ago. It was nice to reach that threshold, but VAT is a pain. Especially when you have customers all around the world. I switched my payment processing from PayPal to Avangate at the same time, and Avangate now takes sorts out the VAT for me.
My main challenge is not having enough hours in the day to do all the things I want to do. I decided not to take on employees. That limits how much I can do, but it also gives me a wonderfully flexible and stress-free work life.
DE: Your buyers are consumers and businesses that have to put together table plans for any sort of function – how have their needs changed along the years – I’m thinking of engagement across touchpoints/ channels, need for accessing the product on various devices, etc. What pressure is there to keep innovating?
Andy: I am always trying to innovate. It is what gets me out of bed in the morning.
The latest version of PerfectTablePlan can now automatically assign seating across multiple events, so that no two guests sit together twice. This will be a huge time saver for people planning networking dinners. It has been quite a challenge to do. I’m not aware of any other software that can do it. I’ve got lots of other ideas. It is just trying to find the time to implement them.
DE: Everyone’s talking about Cloud and SaaS – how is the Cloud impacting your business? Do you see your product evolving that way? (If yes, why, if not, why not?)
Andy: The grass always looks greener on the other side. But SaaS has disadvantages as well as advantages. I wrote about that here. For example, some of my customers are seating events with royalty and heads of state. They really don’t want that information stored on a third party server. But event planners do love their iPads. So I have added the ability to export a table plan from PerfectTablePlan to a web app that can be accessed from iPads and other web enabled devices.
DE: You have a consultancy business for software start-ups – what are the biggest pain points that people have today & what do you predict for tomorrow (any different than 7 years ago?)?
Andy: Developer tools have improved a lot over the years. This has changed the main challenge from ‘can I write the product?’ to ‘can I market it?’. There are millions of other businesses out there vying for people’s attention. Trying to get some attention for your product with a limited marketing budget is a non-trivial problem. I don’t see it getting any easier. Sure we have social media now, but all your competitors have access to social media as well. You are also having to compete against Facebook, Netflix and a thousand other distractions. This is particularly a problem for techies with no marketing background. That is part of the reason why I started my training course.
DE: We’ve asked this question before, but it’s always one that people want to see an answer to – without stealing business from “Start your own software business” course, can you share one piece of advice for your fellow software entrepreneurs?
Andy: If you aren’t embarrassed by v1.0, you didn’t release it early enough!
Thanks, Andy, it was a pleasure!
P.S. Check out Andy’s blog on Successful Software. Lots of interesting stuff, from hands-on advice on AdWords campaigns, bootstrapping, running a software company from around the world or even fun and geeky things to do with kids (I’ll probably comment to that one!).