Perth startups delivering solutions

29/05/2017 - 15:37

SPECIAL REPORT: From storage to bookkeeping, Perth’s startup scene has found solutions to a range of problems many small businesses grapple with.

Perth startups delivering solutions
Instatruck founder Siobhan Lancaster says the app has initially been started to help struggling owner operators at the end of the mining boom. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Need warehouse space in a hurry? Then Kevin Forcier and his Storekat startup might have a solution for you.

Mr Forcier has used his experience in resources sector logistics as a launching pad for the online portal, which locates excess warehousing capacity for businesses needing to store equipment and inventory on demand.

His move into the startup space evolved from an issue a few years ago, when he was required to store a large amount of equipment at short notice due to a project having been put on hold.

Mr Forcier told Business News that storage-finding expedition had been frustrating.

“I had to rapidly find, from my office, all the storage options available, and I actually couldn't find any,” he said.

“We had about 100 graduate engineers working for us at the time, (and) I quickly stuffed a lot of things in people’s company garages because they were in company houses.”

Mr Forcier’s startup went through the Curtin Accelerate program in 2016, and now has dozens of Perth storage companies using the service.

“What Storekat does is aggregate storage options, such as commercial facilities and warehousing, into one simple portal,” Mr Forcier said.

About 10 or 15 per cent of the company’s users were retail business, he said.

Mr Forcier said the benefits of the on-demand model for businesses included lower costs and improved productivity, with storage used as required rather than through longer-term, more significant outlays.

Leederville-based Instatruck is another technology application that provides a service on demand for businesses, using existing spare capacity.

Founder and 2017 40under40 winner Siobhan Lancaster said the platform connected owner-operator drivers with businesses needing to move goods.

“Our aim is to make transport easy,” Ms Lancaster told Business News.

“Currently, transport is quite tricky for people to organise, it can take a long time to get a truck.

“We do it really quickly; we can often get their truck there within 15 minutes for the smaller vans and utes.”

She said other benefits of Instatruck included traceability of goods during the transit and the ability for suppliers, drivers and end users to contact each other using the app.

“We’ve got the ability to consolidate loads for a business; (it) reduces the amount of time that business needs to spend to consolidate their loads from several hours a day (to become automatic),” Ms Lancaster said.

“It basically optimises their loads for them using our system.”

Instatruck was launched in the Perth market, but Ms Lancaster said the business was considering a move to the east coast.

“We thought that Perth was a really good testing ground for this sort of a business, and it’s the perfect sized market for us to test as much as possible and change our technology to fit in well with businesses,” she said.

“When we first started (the idea) was to try and create a bit of work for owner operator truck drivers, who were basically struggling to find work post mining boom.”

Another local startup in the same space is Bustle Supply, which provides supply chain management using free blockchain data and features an auction-based pricing model where users can compete on price.

Business News reported the launch of Perth-based Bustle last year, with the company now having 400 vehicles using its service.

For businesses needing a simple service to keep track of their accounts, Donna-Lee Vincent founded Hard Hat Bookkeeper, which she said was focused on sole traders and small businesses.

Hard Hat is a bookkeeping app designed to be easier and cheaper to use than major accounting programs, much like an old fashioned T ledger in a book, Ms Vincent said.

She said the app had hundreds of users in Perth, including lawyers, engineers and Uber drivers, all at about a quarter of the price of major competitors’ offerings.

Ms Vincent said the important point was that bookkeeping ability had no correlation to industry or intelligence, but having a simple system in place to do it would save small businesses hundreds of dollars per month.

Busybot founder Damian Broandis says the bot has gained a huge amount of traction. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Some businesses have found narrowing their market or product to a niche offering has been the key to sustained growth.

That has been the case with task management software Busybot, founded by Damian Bramanis.

Busybot emerged about 12 months ago from the web-based project management tool TeamAhoy, although the original software has now been decommissioned.

Mr Bramanis told Business News Busybot took many of the principles and ideas of Team Ahoy.

“Busybot is a project management tool that works inside Slack,” Mr Bramanis said.

“Slack is an enterprise messaging tool.

“Where a company has their conversations, has their meetings and discusses ideas and things, Busybot remembers the decisions, the actions, the tasks and keeps track of their projects directly inside Slack.”

Busybot has been particularly successful in the Slack ecosystem, and is ranked as the number six Slackbot in the world, he said, with about 14,500 companies actively using it.

“We launched Busybot about a year ago, (in) early beta stage back then,” Mr Bramanis said.

“We’ve had a huge amount of traction, far more than we could have expected right at the beginning.”

He said the move from TeamAhoy to Busybot had been driven by a desire to focus the business on its strongest feature and doing that better than anyone else.

“Team Ahoy was a lot more of a broad piece of software, it covered things like a directory of what was happening within your team, manager/staff member communications and keeping track of tasks,” Mr Bramanis said.

“There was a really broad range of things that it did.

“We realised that there was one particular feature that had a real hook.”

Prezentt founder Justin Davies has also finetuned his company’s approach.

The software is used for people making presentations, and enables audience members to ask questions and view slide packs in real time.

Mr Davies said his target market for the app had narrowed to training organisations, which had the biggest need for collaboration in presentations.

That fills a gap in the market that exists around learning management software, he said, although the program was also useful for people working in sales.

“For those guys we’re quite a good fit,” Mr Davies said.

Prezentt was launched about three years ago, and Mr Davies said it took some tenacity and certainty of vision to stay with it.

It was similar to a rock band, he said, where becoming an overnight success would take years of work to achieve.

Similarly, Storekat’s Mr Forcier said he had refined his approach after the offering initially had a greater emphasis on storage in garages and non-commercial locations.

A range of other applications has been developed locally to tackle common problems.

For example, the Tamad Technology is designed to ensure customers are available to receive their package/parcel by providing driver location alerts in real time, while StrykeTax helps people process their tax return.

Stryke is now an add-on for accounting software Xero.

A further product, Docmosis, provides document-reporting templates for integration into custom-made software applications.

Docmosis is one of Western Australia’s older software players, with the company founded in 2006.

In the time since, it has expanded to include cloud services.

Paytradie was a mobile invoicing program launched in Perth in August 2015.

It will be closed down from June 1, however, according to the business’s website.

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