The BizSpark startup of the day is Keystroke IT, based in Australia. You will find below an interview with Minas Casiou, owner of Keystroke IT. All the best to them and congrats for being the startup of the day!
I am the business owner. I am looking to establish the business into one that delivers community-oriented business solutions.
I am an IT Solution Architect. I’ve largely worked in the finance sector for the majority of my professional career (over the past 17 years), covering Banking, Insurance, Government and Big 4 consulting. I’ve also done my time in research – both in official and unofficial capacities during this time.
BLOODY AWESOME! I’m honored to be selected as a Microsoft BizSpark “Startup of the Day”. Apart from being an absolute honor, I’m hoping this will result in some good exposure for Keystroke IT and garner some momentum around its key initiatives such as
o ESB.NET – www.codeplex.com/KeystrokeEsbNet
o BizPlex solutions
o To provide profitable community & multi-party business solutions in areas where automation is usually cost-prohibitive.
Solutions built on the platform would all be sources of revenue, usually via subscriptions to the solution for the services it provides.
Implementing & customizing architecture to larger organizations would also provide consulting revenue.
A common, well/widely understood abstraction (effectively a DSL) over technology that further narrows the divide between Business & IT would permeate through the IT landscape. It would allow new capabilities to be introduced & made available to deliver common business requirements. It would be transparently delivered through multiple hosting capabilities such as self-hosting & cloud.
o To provide a sound reference architecture for delivering software services to general business requirements, backed with a framework that supports implementing that architecture.
o To make this architecture widely understood and have it become a de facto standard in the industry. The framework to support it would be accessible to all with a low barrier to entry, and a marketplace to foster value-add to the platform.
o To also be able to leverage the above to help communities that need help most.
The diagram below shows an overview of the planned business model.
I've been involved in large, complex projects including CRM, BPM & large scale integration. I've constantly battled trade-offs between general business requirements and good architecture in this space (it's generally the same patterns at this level), vs. the constantly evolving technology, off-the-shelf packages, changing toolsets and technologies etc. So, I set out to develop a reference architecture, and a framework that would help establish simple governance and adherence to this architecture. The idea is that businesses who adopt this approach have :
o A proven model that works, scales over time/complexity/performance/versioning/, and,
o Delivers basic information required for troubleshooting, auditing, service metering and billing, decisioning & planning.
This business is a startup, in which I work on part-time. Funding has been a major issue, often slowing down or sometimes even holding back initiatives. I am currently looking for funding to:
Build vision, platform & revenue models
($500k over 6 months)
Initiation & Solution Development
Generate interest in the relevant communities (Weddings/functions, Conveyancing and Building industries).
Sales & marketing
($100k over 3 months)
Market solutions to relevant industries & get an initial user base
Crack the respective markets & prove/pilot the business model in production.
Begin to realize return on investments
We currently only have 1 part-time technologist, and two part-time business analysts (Weddings/functions and Conveyancing industries). We will need 1 more developer to begin with, and down the line another 1-2 BA’s that would also have the skills to act in a sales/evangelist capacity to effectively promote the solutions.
At the moment, further hiring is based upon securing investments.
o As such, we’re currently looking at a freelance developer to join the venture as we cannot afford salaries at this point.
o We’re also looking for a business analyst or domain expert in the building industry to join the venture. It’s important they’re well connected in the industry. Our Business hinges on our business analysts practicing and being in touch with their respective domains, looking for emerging opportunities to make the processes in their respective industries more efficient, and to continue to add tangible value to the customers we provide the solutions for. They would use the solution themselves and be advocates of it.
We’re building atop ESB.NET, the Microsoft Azure hosting platform, and Microsoft technologies. These are proven platforms, used very widely, and hence pose very low risk to the business. Their TCO is also second to none, and as such, won’t eat into the bottom line of the business. We also support self-hosting of the solutions if customers choose to do so for a particular segment. The technologies are very flexible here architecturally, and the cost of hosting these technologies is very affordable. Many organizations will already have most or the entire required underlying infrastructure in place. Depending upon industry (eg. The Wedding/functions industry), self hosting may be a viable option, and we’re considering it for that industry.
Both self-hosting and cloud hosting are truly viable options, and depend on the industry as well as certain agility requirements. We’re considering hybrid solutions where we self-host & cloud-host. Based upon customer segment, dynamic throughput metrics and availability of services and networks, we’ll route traffic through local or cloud hosted infrastructure for services, trying to get the best user experience in terms of availability and system responsiveness. This domain of responsibility lies with ESB.NET. ESB.NET will run on the web/app servers to do its thing. Anywhere any type of services/integration is required, ESB.NET will be employed to make it happen.
We’ll be using the cloud for the Conveyancing industry, using self-hosting for initial pilots & development only. Main driver here is that there are many parties involved and the cloud acts as a middle-ground in terms of who runs the show. For the wedding/functions industry, there aren’t that many key players, and so self-hosting is also viable. Likewise for the building industry are current thoughts. The underlying technology allows us to change this fairly easily, so switching services is not a big deal. The main web application endpoints are slightly trickier, but this too can be handled with some simple server-side magic.
The Microsoft BizSpark Program is great! I hope Microsoft keep it up & extend it over time.
o Simply put, it allows me to establish my business, and help me quickly get to the point that I’m making a profit & can sustain the costs related to subsequent development and hosting.
It gets me access to the Microsoft technology tools and resources I need to get the business up & running.
It helps get my small business exposed in ways I would otherwise not be able to.
It also gives me confidence that Microsoft is looking to grow its customer base by way of lowering the barrier to entry to the MS platform.
Without BizSpark, we’d have to look to completely open source alternatives. In the case of my business, I simply would not be able to get up & running as I don’t have the capacity to get all those disparate and badly (in comparison to MS support across the entire technical platform) unsupported tools & technologies working together.
Well, other than spend quality time with your family/be good to your mother type advice… not too much really. My only bit of advice – which is more of a “this is what I do as I’m risk averse…” – is to establish your business model and build it up whilst you have an alternative sustainable income. As with all businesses, getting started is a risky proposition, one that requires some investment up front to get going. Just as important is having mitigation strategies in place during this critical period to help endure any delays.
Probably very typical – Bill gates. He was great at software, great at business and now is looking at how he can use his fortune to make lives of the unfortunate more …well…fortunate. Outside of my own personal life, I have always wanted to do that in my professional career. I’m a big fan of getting profitable business out of charity work, as it’s then self-sustaining. Challenge is in getting it established in the first place.
I’m hoping that these community/multi-party related initiatives can make the lives of people dealing with them more pleasant. After all, they’re all supposed to be exciting ventures, but ask anyone buying/selling/building or getting married/hosting a big function, at what headaches they go through to get it all done. For the day to day users (involved organizations), they should realize improved efficiencies as the solutions will be cross-organizations. As such, the usual inefficiencies of human communication will be removed.
I’m hoping that with the above initiative in place, I’d have the foundations in place to not only sustain my own family income & that of employees, but to have a platform & funds in reserve for which we can provide charitable solutions to those that really need it.
Microsoft BizSpark is a great opportunity to those looking to start up a new business. Make the most of the opportunity whilst it’s there! It’s not often you win the lottery!