Having already had a string of successful tech startups in the early years of the last decade, including web development company Zartis, and game developer Upstart Games, John Dennehy is well placed to chart the challenges and opportunities ten years of technological advances have made to creating a startup business, as he builds his latest venture, Assembly Point Ltd.
Assembly Point’s two products, human resources application HR Locker, and a recruitment application also called Zartis, are sold as a Software as a Service (SaaS) model, and John sees the global market as being far more accessible than it was in a decade ago.
“The primary difference between now and then is that people are now willing to spend money on online services. Previously there was a lot of hype around Internet services, there was a lot of hype around companies who were bringing out new products in that space, but ultimately two things weren’t happening.
“Firstly, everybody wasn’t using it and consuming those services, especially from a business point of view, and secondly, now there’s an acceptance that you pay for those services online so there’s a whole industry that’s evolving at a massive rate. It’s a massively fast rate in Software as a Service, and it’s companies developing products locally and selling them globally.”
Assembly Point’s first product is HR Locker, a human resources application that allows small to medium enterprises to manage information like annual leave, timesheets, employee records and compliance-based documents, and even to publish a staff handbook and have staff sign it online. “It keeps all the data in one safe, secure place and they pay a low cost annual fee for it”, explains John.
Zartis.com is John’s recruitment application. “We want to help companies hire great people without going to recruitment agencies. The cost of our service works out a €600 per year, the cost of the average hire through a recruitment agency is €6,000. So you could hire one person through a recruitment agency, or use our service for ten years, and that’s a comparison I want people to think of.”
For both products, John has deliberately made the signup process as quick as possible; with the sheer wealth of information on the web, he is aware that people’s attention spans are limited.
“Sixty percent, typically of the people who land on the front page of your website will leave and they never actually go any further than that, and that’s across the sector.
“Visitors are very transient, it’s a very ephemeral attention span people on the web have, so you have to catch their attention immediately and you have to try and have a compelling call to action and convert them into a customer as quick as you possibly can. Every single time barrier and obstacle that you put in their way, you will see a fall off.”
As a participant in Microsoft’s Bizspark programme for startups, both the Zartis and HR Locker applications are hosted on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, and John believes that moving to the cloud has allowed him to focus on the important elements of his business.
“Essentially what cloud computing does, is it removes the platform layer as a distraction from us so we can focus on building our application, working our marketing message and managing our customers.
“We no longer have to worry about scalability, we don’t have to put NTR architecture in place with multiple web servers and multiple databases and hardware accelerators, you know? Nobody should ever have to worry about that.
“There’s probably about five companies in the world who will take care of that in ten years time. It’s probably going to be the Microsoft’s, the Google’s, the Amazon’s, and the IBM’s, and that’s what they’re very good at, providing that platform. We want to build our application on their platform.”
Security is a frequently voiced concern when a move to the cloud is mooted, but as John points out, the platform provider has access to a far greater level of security resources than a small software developer does, and this again allows the SME to focus on their product and their customer.
“Security is a key issue for us, we have a very sensitive data so we went with the Windows Azure platform, largely because of the security around that. Microsoft has spend over $20 billion rolling out their data centre; they look after the firewalls and the software upgrades.
“They can provide attention to detail and security resources that no medium size company could put in place. So security is absolutely essential, it’s a very important thing, and in choosing which provider to go with you have to rely on a partnership with them to provide that world-class security.”
“Your competitors are not local guys. People always look over their shoulder to see who’s their local competitor; that’s no longer relevant.
“To compete effectively on the Internet, you have to be absolutely top of your game, because if you’re not giving the best service, somebody else will, so that’s a pretty profound change.”
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