The 8th participant is Invoiceplace.

Invoiceplace - Easy Invoicing and Quotes from Anywhere. It provides a service for businesses to save time preparing invoices and quotes keep track of overdue invoices and record payments received. It provides free, fully functional accounts for up to three customers, and twenty customer subscriptions start at $15 AUD a month.
Scott Carpenter created this in 2006 with the help of some very talented contractors whom he worked with.

Let us explore a bit further how Scott and Invoiceplace are going:

Q. How long it took before it was up and running?
A. Invoiceplace was launched in November 2006 and was in development and testing for a year before the launch.

Q. What stage of your start-up is, stealth mode, beta mode or fully functional?
A. Invoiceplace has launched.

Q. What is the main objective/mission behind your venture?
A. To provide a simple and easy-to-use service that enables businesses to take control and save time with quoting and billing.
What services it provides for consumers or customers.
Essentially Invoiceplace provides an easy way to manage billing from any computer connected to the internet. Specifically, it provides a means to:
  • Save time preparing invoices, quotes and tracking payments;
  • Create products and track available inventory/stock;
  • Keep track of unpaid and overdue invoices;
  • Create invoices in different currencies;
  • Email invoices directly to customers as a PDF or Microsoft Word attachment (makes it easy to save a copy and print);
  • Easily convert quotes/proposals to invoices;
  • Include taxes and discounts on individual line items (so can have a mix of tax-free items on the one invoice, and discounts applied on specific items only).
  • Record postage and handling, with tax.
  • Record partial payments/retainers.
Q. What is unique about your venture?
A. The most significant factor is that Invoiceplace is a SaaS offering, and is typically a very different solution to what our customers currently use. Most customers have used desktop accounting software or manual invoice or quote templates previously, so this is a very new way of managing their business.

Q. What market segment verticals you are targeting?
A. Small business from one to ten staff typically.

Q. Type of customers you are targeting?
A. We help small businesses, consultants, contractors and freelancers. Particularly those businesses engaged in export or who need to bill in different currencies.

Q. What age group of people will benefit most?
A. I haven’t found one particular age group that has benefited over others.

Q. How many users are using your services?
A. There are over 700 businesses using Invoiceplace from countries including the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Greece, India, Singapore, South Africa, and more.

Q. What sort of marketing you are using to spread the word?
A. I use a combination of Google Ads, being part of online communities such as the Joel on Software forum, and commenting (but not spamming!!) on blogs.

Q. How are you measuring the success of your venture? Are there any special mechanisms/tools in place to monitor the progress?
A. The most significant measures are sales, and the number of free account signups.
We also track visitors to the site using Google Analytics and watch the results of Google Adwords campaigns carefully.

Q. What is the monetizing/revenue model? Is there any new model, which is being tried?
A. We provide monthly and yearly subscriptions (yearly offer two months free).

Q. Which are the main competitors or major players in this market segment?
A. The main competitors are the established desktop accounting and invoicing software vendors and other SaaS services.
One of my largest competitors is actually Microsoft Office since there are a lot of people using a manual invoice/quote template in Word or Excel.

Q. What are the main technologies used behind this start-up?


Q. What has been the easiest to use, out of the box and helpful technology?
A. I have found the Eclipse IDE a very useful, stable and time-saving tool.

Q. Are you using a lot of open source tool sets for this?
A. Yes, particularly the jUnit unit testing framework.

Q. What is your operating environment (operating system) and what type of database you are using?
A. We use the Linux operating system CentOS, and MySQL database.

Q. How often do you catch up with others trying similar things and where do you catch up. Do you have dedicated communities in your city?
Mostly by being a part of online communities such as forums. I also keep in contact with friends with start-up ventures so that we can learn and encourage each other by sharing our experiences and tips.

Q. How much money is needed upfront to start a venture?
A. Assuming that you need to buy a computer the cost is anywhere from $1000 to $100,000.00. It depends on how fast you want – or in some cases need – to launch your venture.
If customers are willing to pay for a certain solution you can be sure that you won’t be the only one to recognise the opportunity. This doesn’t mean that if you can’t build and launch a commercial product in three months you will fail, but a product that takes five years to develop working nights and weekends may be ready two years too late, and a competitor has been able to step in early and earn enough market share to leave your product unsustainable.

Q. What are the main barriers in general for people to start their venture in Australia?
A. I think a major barrier is that Australia is a very small market. To put this in perspective in 2007 the population of Australia was just over 21 million. The City of Los Angeles had a population of almost 10 million in 2006. That’s almost half of Australia crammed into one city.
Since Australia is a small market many ventures export – but that is expensive given the internationalisation effort of adapting software, gaining trade contacts, marketing and dealing with the physical distance between Australia and major markets such as the United States (i.e. travel to conferences/trade events). Internet-based ventures are able to offer their service worldwide but it’s not just a matter of building a site and waiting for the sales to pour in! Marketing is hard work and it is made more difficult when you are selling in a different country.

Q. What are your thoughts on the future trends of your service and the market segment you are in?
A. I foresee growth in my market segment due to three factors:
  • From the positive feedback I receive from Invoiceplace customers, and the number of new customers received from word-of-mouth referrals;
  • By the policy decisions and actions by the government and the telecommunication industry to improve the availability of high-speed internet access; and
  • The focus and market shaping traction of major software vendors such as Google offering services such as Google Apps that provides hosted word processing, spreadsheet and other applications.
Q. Do you have any advice for people who want to start their venture?
A. Be patient, passionate and prepared.
Be Patient – most successful ventures take time to build, gain recognition and growth in customers. There will be times that you feel that you have wasted your time and money, have received scathing negative feedback or even worse a complete lack of interest from others. Don’t give up.
Be Passionate – you need to be excited about how incredible your product is because initially, no one else will care. Friends, colleagues and family don’t count – unless they are paying customers. It’s a big world, with start-ups launching (and closing?) by the hour and when you start out nobody will know you exist to even show a tiny glimmer of interest in your product.
Be Prepared – so that you can build your product and business. Don’t spend months writing a voluminous business plan – but know what you are building, an estimate of how much it will cost to build and promote ($1,000, $100,000 or $10,000,000?), the customers who need it, and how much they would be willing to pay.

Thanks, Scott for sharing your thoughts. We look forward to hearing from you on the progress of Invoiceplace. All the best.


Anonymous said…
Thank you for providing the opportunity to be part of the carnival Vishal!