The BizSpark startup of the day is evly.com, based in South Africa. Below you will find an interview with Eran Eyal, Co-founder of evly.com. All the best to them and congratulations for being the startup of the day!
Tell us who you are and your role in the company:
Co-Founder and Director of Business Development.
What did you do before creating your company?
I have owned a few small businesses in the tech space before and even a few fashion stores! Most notably: In 2001 I raised about R250 000 to pursue my industrial design project : The Mobile Phone Re-evolution : a whitepaper and solutions challenging the manner in which mobile phones are manufactured, marketed and perceived. The creative side of the project challenged the poor ergonomics and layouts as well as use of materials, with the marketing aspects examining interesting brand alignment that filtered back down to the product phase. I also presented 16 prototypes to remedy the issues illuminated in the white paper. In 2002 I travelled Europe presenting the project, findings and solutions to most of the top handset manufacturers as well as attending CeBit Hannover. In 2003 I was headhunted by iiyama Benelux to launch the Japanese corporate foothold in South Africa as well as set up their distribution channels and partnerships. In the following years Eric Edelstein (Co-Founder of Incubeta, Traffic Synergy, Yola.com, Clicks2Customers, Crowdtech Holdings: Springleap.com, evly.com, eKomi.co.za) and I launched a few startups ranging from MobileQandA.com, eSquared Fashion to Springleap.com and eventually evly.com.
How do you feel being the most promising ‘Startup of the Day’ per Microsoft BizSpark?
It’s a privilege and an honour to have been selected for such an accolade. On the one hand I am extremely keen to deliver on the promise of our offering at evly.com, but on the other feel humbled by the people with whom we share this space.
What is your company’s mission?
To develop and deliver state-of-the-art platforms that empower users and businesses to tap into the power of crowdsourcing and online communities with the underlying belief that the access to this level of technology should be a right rather than a privilege.
How did you get the idea for your company?
We were initially inspired by crowdsourcing via Threadless.com and decided we would like to open a platform where anyone could have access to this sort of technology in a White-Label fashion… at the same time Facebook’s and Ning’s models intrigued us… the decision was made that we would blend these all together in a unique fashion to form the world’s first Crowdsourcing Social Network.
Tell us about your funding history. Are you currently looking for funding? If so, how much?
Eric and I initially funded the business in the form of cash and massive effort. In late 2008 Paul Simon (founder of YDE) injected further funding into the company followed by Lord Duncan Barratt who invested R4m in late 2009 to allow us to build the beta for evly.com. So all angel rounds till now.
We will be launching beta 0.5 in 7-11 weeks. Currently we are looking at raising up to US$5m to develop a lot faster, open a US-based office and market the platform. Depending on how much we raise, we have different models for the scaling of the business.
How many employees do you have? How many developers?
In Crowdtech Holdings we employ 23 people. That covers all the brands. Of these we have 3 very senior developers and one front-end developer. This is the section of the company we want to bolster the most.
Are you hiring? If yes, what are you hiring for and where?
We are always looking for interesting CVs for everything from marketing to development. Right now we are mostly looking for intern positions in marketing and office admin but as soon as we raise our next round, we are soon going to be on a serious hiring path.
Which platform are you building on? Why?
We are building evly on .Net. We had a choice: go the open source route, Java or .Net. We chose .Net after many meetings with Microsoft as we wanted a partner on the software side to help us build our vision. The more we met with the Microsoft teams, the more we found that there were huge benefits for the future of our company’s growth both in terms of building a solid well supported platform as well as the business itself.
Where do you see opportunities today in the Software/Internet area?
I believe that the future of Software/internet lies in providing people with the tools to achieve their goals and to charge for accessibility and scaling rather than on developing bespoke software and solutions.
What do you think about the BizSpark Program?
Outstanding. It was one of the key deciding factors for our decision to go the Microsoft route. We have been provided with so much assistance in terms of support, software tools, licenses, tokens and more that has helped us avoid bearing the brunt of huge costs and learnings. It has also lead us to network with other people on the BizSpark Program on everything from development, marketing to even potential avenues of funding.
Do you have any advice for young Software entrepreneurs?
• Take the time to really consider WHY you are doing what you are doing. Why are you building software? Is it to fulfill a need other than your own desire? What is your core driving motivator? Then assess the value of what you are building and how you will monetize your business. The time of the “if we build it, they will come” mentality has passed. Building software is about building a business that provides solutions. Businesses need to sustain themselves and grow. Figuring this out is as imperative as to understanding how you are going to build your amazing software.
• Attend networking events regularly and don’t be scared to not only try new platforms but also to revisit old ones that you have avoided due to misplaced skepticism.
• Speak to us – evly.com is a powerful system and you could well be working with us sooner rather than later, powering your clients with our solutions or developing apps to sell in the 3rd-party app marketplace.
Who’s your role model?
In business I have 3. Steve Jobs, my brother, Aviad Eyal – CEO CURA and my business partner and life-long friend Eric Edelstein.
What’s the ONE THING you would like readers to take away from this interview?
The marketplace is moving back to ROI’s and KPI’s. Crowdsourcing taps into the heart of this. Evly.com is building a platform of PROactive users rather than the reactive sort one finds in many social media platforms today.