The BizSpark startup of the day is Circle 7 Software, based in the US. You will find below an interview with Colin Mason, President and CEO of Circle 7 Software. All the best to them and congrats for being the startup of the day!
I am the President and CEO of Circle 7 Software and also play the role of Chief Architect and visionary.
I was an independent web application development consultant.
It’s a really great honor to be recognized by Microsoft and the BizSpark team. I’m humbled by the nomination and proud of our company.
Our latest product, Local Kidz Stuff, is a perfect example of our more general mission. Parents didn’t have any quality sources for hyper-local information about family-friendly events and children-focused businesses (like nearby day care centers, birthday party spots, sports organizations, etc.). My daughter was 2 at the time I got this idea and I had a heck-of-a-time looking for that kind of thing for her. It feels good to solve community problems. More generally, the company’s mission is to identify niche markets for have pain-points and to solve them with SaaS applications. Helping people to solve problems and providing a valuable service or tool is our core belief.
For Local Kidz Stuff, it was by daughter, who was 2 at the time, that served as my inspiration. I had trouble finding a “bounce house” – a place I could take her to bounce on inflatables – and I got very frustrated looking. I also had issued finding local day cares and a pediatrician for her. I would spend 30 minutes on the web and on sites that promised to give me that info, and because very disillusioned.
For our ProbationComm product (http://www.probationcomm.com), I was contacted by Liberty County, TX department of adult supervision and asked to solve a problem for them. They had more and more people coming into the probation system and had trouble finding and keeping good probation officers. They also had a very limited budget and couldn’t hire the number of officers they needed to do the work. There was a huge paper system in place. Each probationer must file a report, make a payment, and communicate with their officer, usually on a monthly basis. We developed a SaaS application that would allow probationers (people on probation) to fulfill their requirements online instead of paper reports and money orders, and for probation officers to manage the reports and payments electronically.
We have taken about $45,000 from an angel investor friend of mine, but have bootstrapped the company the rest of the way. We are looking for seed-stage investments in the $200,000 - $500,000 range.
We have 3 fulltime employees, and 2 independent sales reps. Only one developer at this time.
Currently we are only hiring independent sales reps for positions all over the country. These reps are responsible for selling the advertisements available on LocalKidzStuff.com.
All our applications are currently built on version 2.0 of the .NET Framework. We are using Windows 2003 servers and SQL Server 2005. All applications are built using Visual Studio 2008. We are investigating to possibilities of moving to .NET 4.0/Windows Server 2008/SQL 2008. We chose the Microsoft platform primarily for the outstanding tools, support, and community around them. .NET 3.5 wasn’t compelling enough to warrant a change, but 4.0 might be.
I still see big improvements to web applications in the use of AJAX. To the developer’s world, AJAX is old news, but you still don’t see enough sites that are using it yet. There are still many untouched markets in the area of SaaS applications and I see huge opportunities in capitalizing on them. We hope to have a total of 5 SaaS applications within the next 2 years.
I think it’s fantastic. For a startup that is self-funded and bootstrapping, the deferred payment structure makes it possible for us to have the software and tools we need to make our business a success. We must be very capital efficient in these early days and are grateful to Microsoft for giving us this opportunity.
My main advice is to bootstrap the company for as long as you can and to wait to seek funding until they are generating revenue. Also, I recommend that new software companies doing work in web applications own their own web servers and co-locate them with a data center provider. Having unrestricted access to your server is very important.
That’s difficult to say. I have many mentors, but I’m not sure I have many role models. If I were to pick any, they would be Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Burt Rutan.
Well, to be self-serving, if they are parents, I want them to discover LocalKidzStuff.com.
Additionally, that we are company that is not bank-rolled by big investment firms and we aren’t millionaires ourselves. If you have a great idea and the talent and are prepared for the hard work, you can build a cool company…and perhaps it will be a successful one. It really bothers me to hear of someone that sold their company for countless millions and are seeing angel and VC funding. Whether you’re rich or poor, put in as much of your own money and sweat equity as you can. If you don’t bet on yourself, how can you expect others to do so?