The BizSpark startup of the day is Assessment Portal, based in Australia. Below you will find an interview with Paul Antony Collins, founding member and CTO of Assessment Portal. 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:
I am one of three founding members and the current Chief Technology Officer responsible for the ongoing design and operation of our SaaS assessment portal.
What did you do before creating your company?
My business partners and I were all practicing IT Service Management consultants with too many years to count of experience between us. Most of us started our IT careers in the late 70s and early 80s.
How do you feel being the most promising ‘Startup of the Day’ per Microsoft BizSpark?
Firstly I should point out that Microsoft BizSpark has been an excellent forum for us to access resources and information. With that said it is particularly exciting to have the opportunity to reach a wide audience and explain our vision and potential.
What is your company’s mission?
To revolutionise the assessment market by offering the widest range of SaaS delivered, robust business assessments. So that customers and their partners/vendors can focus on driving valuable improvements rather than on just determining “where you are today”.
In 140 characters or less, tell us what your company does:
We offer a SaaS portal which contains a range of assessment ‘cartridges’ (eg ITIL, Cloud readiness) to address the needs of organisations who are embarking upon an improvement initiative.
How did you get the idea for your company?
The foundering members collectively realised that many organisations that need an ‘as-is’ and gap analysis before starting an improvement initiative often spent too much on the assessment and then had limited funds for the actual improvement. We equally saw that much of the assessment process was repetitive and open to individual interpretation - We knew there had to be a better way. We looked at self assessments, which appear relatively low cost, and concluded that the results did not stand up and could easily be skewed by the limited and subjective nature of the data captured. So, we developed an ‘engine’ that combined the rigour of interviews and proven research techniques with the delivery capability of Web2.0 and SaaS. The result is a portal that has an ever expanding list of assessment types covering a wide range of business situations that not only calculates relevant scores but also analyses the results and generates recommendations to improve. In effect, capturing the knowledge of the consultants within the portal.
Tell us about your funding history. Are you currently looking for funding? If so, how much?
Our original funding was provided through one of the initial shareholders which allowed the development of a prototype and the opportunity to test our concept in the market over a period of several years. We have since developed the production Web2.0 portal that went live in early 2010. Over the previous 18 months we have been deliberately self-funded based on revenues generated through our increasing partner base. In 2011 we will look for funding to cover an increase in sales and marketing as we seek to extend our reach to a worldwide market. For this we would be targeting $750k – $1M of investment allowing us to really drive success. Additionally we would like to fast track the upload of additional cartridges in order to extend our diversity and market reach. Relative to the amount and the terms we would also be looking to bring forward our migration to Silverlight and move the portal to the Azure platform.
How many employees do you have? How many developers?
Our model is to be the experts of our engines workflow – NOT experts in every assessment standard that we bring to Market, for this we partner with professional organisations with a proven track record in delivering that particular assessments type – we then automate this (and make it more robust). So today we are a team of 3 direct employees but have a collaboration team of about 40 across the 10 partners we have built assessment ’cartridges’ with and the development organisations we partner with.
Are you hiring? If yes, what are you hiring for and where?
Yes believe we will need to hire in the next 6 months. Funding and geographical spread will drive who and where, at this stage we would most likely be looking for geographical coverage in the US and UK first.
Which platform are you building on? Why?
We built using .NET and WPF. Our development partner is expert in these technologies and we could see the flexibility and reliability it offered….we have not been disappointed!! Although end users mainly see aspx screens we have plans to move the management console to Silverlight from the dedicated .NET UI that it currently uses.
Where do you see opportunities today in the Software/Internet area?
We believe we are well placed to take advantage of the increasing acceptance that some consultancy can be delivered via SaaS. And, as the breadth and depth of business information we capture increases we see huge opportunities in offering this intelligence to our partners and clients to better inform their strategic decisions. Of course, this would be achieved whilst maintaining the highest levels of privacy and data protection.
What do you think about the BizSpark Program?
It has been amazing value for us. As previously mentioned, the ability to access resources and relevant information for anyone who delivers through a Microsoft platform is invaluable.
Do you have any advice for young Software entrepreneurs?
What can I say that hasn’t already been said? Well, from personal experience I would say “no one has the monopoly on good ideas”. Therefore, listen and assimilate and give it go. Nothing happens as fast as you would like or think it should. Build your business plan timeline then make sure you can fund your business for 50% longer than you anticipate.
Who’s your role model?
Difficult to single out one person. But I really appreciate ‘great thinkers’, people who are presented with seemingly impossible challenges and work tirelessly to find the answers.
What’s the ONE THING you would like readers to take away from this interview?
Technology is great for some tasks and humans are great for others………..but do not think that the boundaries are fixed.