Torque IT Solutions Limited was founded by Frederik Dinkelaker and a group of what he calls an "accomplished experts from within the financial services industry" to re-create solutions for the IT industry in a way that addressed business thinking..
"Coming out of the industry, we were dissatisfied with the system solutions provided by IT suppliers. We felt that there was a disconnect between the business objectives and the IT solutions provided by suppliers who did not truly understand business needs," says Frederik.
"We decided to assemble a strong team of individuals who can make a difference delivering superior IT solutions for financiers. We do not replicate legacy processes in our systems but rather design our systems based on best practice processes. We do not only provide you with superior IT solutions but also offer business and process consulting for you to run your business most efficiently."
One of the examples of this thinking and this work together is a Windows Phone app called Basic Azure Table Storage Explorer, a little app they made themselves to make working on data easier.
They are currently working on a solution for Azure called Dealer Performance Management System. The group has not announced when they will be launching this in the store.
"We offer DPMS as SaaS to our customers worldwide, so it is important for us to be able to scale the application easily. Azure Cloud Services (PaaS) were the perfect starting point for us. We then kept adding more and more Azure features into the mix, from SQL Azure for our main application DB, over Azure Storage for log files and DB backups to Azure Cache for session caching and CDN for faster connectivity wherever you are in the world," says Frederik
The three founders bring to the company over 30 years of experience in financial services, and are further supported by an advisory board of current and former Managing Directors, CEOs and Professionals with international and diverse company experience (including Toyota FS, Volkswagen FS, Ally FS, GMAC, Daimler FS and KPMG). Our team has been handpicked by the founders, and our main development centre is based in Auckland, New Zealand. We pride ourselves in using only the latest technologies and in our best-of-breed development processes.
Frederik Dinkelaker, co-founder
A brief description of your Windows 8 or Azure Application if applicable:
Our Dealer Performance Management System (DPMS) is a holistic dealership performance tool covering the Sales, Finance & Insurance, Service & Parts areas with focus on the automotive sector.
Microsoft technologies that you are using in conjunction with the development of your application (and if you’re using Windows Azure, please highlight that):
As part of our DPMS solution we are using asp.net MVC on Windows Azure with SQL Server and SQL Server Reporting Services.
Do you make reasonable predictions about how you are going to achieve revenue and then test them out, or do you start with a business model and deploy it, to see if it brings in revenue?
When we started our business we knew that there was a market out there. Coming out of the industry we saw the need for good systems that support the business. There were/are systems out there already, but nothing that fully supports the business needs and is structured in a way so that it can be easily changed according to changing business needs.
I guess not every startup will be in this situation, but we started out with a clear expectation of the market situation and prepared our revenue predictions accordingly, rather than just creating the system and seeing whether there was a need for it.
What questions do you think a startup non-technical founder needs to answer when considering a cloud architecture for his or her startup, and I am thinking specifically here during the business model generation period?
I think it is very important to understand what “cloud” means – which is hard given that the cloud market changes all the time. The cloud is great and certainly helps us to deliver our solutions, but it is not the most suitable option for everybody. You should think about your target market. Are you trying to sell your systems to companies with lots of regulatory and data sovereignty issues? This would not rule out the cloud, but certainly would require you to investigate upfront whether you will be able to comply with the customer requirements.
Also, try to think about how you want to delivery your product: do you want to offer SaaS, or on-premises installations? Or a combination of both? The feasibility of using cloud technology (or at least the extent to which you will use them) might change depending on what your products are.
Where do you include technical members of your team during the building of your business plan? As a provider of IT solutions, and especially cloud based IT solutions, the technical aspects of our solutions were very important to us from the very beginning. From the start we had technical discussions and tried to analyze and plan for technical challenges and how they would impact our business plan.
How much of what you are building is based on leaving a legacy and how much of it is based on technical challenges, or the ability to make something just for fun? In other words, where do you fall on the seriousness scale? For fun, for profit, for life?
We are in it for fun, profit and for life. We started this whole business because we wanted to make a difference and provide game changing software for the automotive and asset financed based industry. We didn’t found Torque ITS to grow it and then sell the company, but we wanted to create something that lasts for a long time. At the same time we obviously also want to make profits, and have fun at the same time (who doesn’t?).
When did you decide that you were “startup material”?
I never really thought of myself as “startup material” in the past, but over the years we grew more and more unsatisfied with the existing solutions in the market. So it was either continue complaining about what doesn’t work or trying to change something about it. We sat together and discussed our options, and then the thought of creating something of our own from scratch became more and more attractive.
What impact or legacy do you hope to make in the market and in the business world?
We want to provide game changing solutions in the automotive and asset based finance market. We don’t want to become yet another software company that creates a piece of software that satisfies the bare minimum requirements, but we want to establish ourselves as a company that provides holistic solutions including software that is able to adapt to changing business needs and also training and consulting to supplement the software systems.
We hope to prove ourselves as a company that helps our customers achieve their business targets through our solutions, and hopefully will be able to inspire other IT companies to follow suit and try to truly understand the business and not just provide code based on requirements documents.
What are some of the challenges you face as a founder or developer at a startup, when it comes to dealing with family life, or socially? Does working on a startup change the way you associate and interact in these areas?
The line between business and private line are certainly more blurry than they were when we were working for corporate companies before. In a startup you are associate with your business pretty much 24/7. That doesn’t mean that you are necessarily working all day and night, but it is certainly a different way of working and thinking about work when it is your own company. Also the relationship with employees/colleagues and also other business partners is different in a much smaller setup.
Can you describe the relationship that you have had with Microsoft in building your startup?
Microsoft has been a great partner for us, especially in the early stages. The Azure benefits that we receive as part of the BizSpark program were (and still are) a tremendous help and saved us lots of time and money that we would have spent on development infrastructure setup otherwise. It also helped us being able to ask technical questions directly to the local Microsoft guys.
Why would an entrepreneur turn to Microsoft for help in building scale, a team, or using software?
When founding a new start-up there are a million things to consider and do, and when you start from scratch then this can become quite overwhelming. Microsoft does a good job at taking out some of the hurdles that start-ups would otherwise face, like providing infrastructure resources, giving advice on technical and market/sales aspects and trying to connect you with local talents. It’s hard to imagine a start-up that wouldn’t benefit from that.
Tell us about your Azure based solution.
How did you get excited about Azure?
When we first joined the BizSpark program we didn’t plan to build DPMS as a cloud application, but the Azure benefits that come with the BizSpark program triggered us to give it a try. It was so easy to provision new instances and deploy our application (rather than having to manually install/configure local servers) that we decided to do a more in-depth analysis of Azure’s capabilities and finally decided that it is a good fit for us.
What were the Azure features that prompted you to decide to build on Azure?
Azure Cloud Services (PaaS) were definitely the main deciding factor for us. Cloud Services made it so much easier for our developers to spin up new instances for development/testing. Especially with a limited budget in a start-up situation the benefit of having almost unlimited instances available whenever you need them gave us a big productivity boost.
What advice do you have for companies that are thinking about building in the cloud?
Anybody who is thinking about building in the cloud should try to implement “cloud concepts” (multi-instance, plan for failure etc.) from the very beginning. These concepts really help to build robust applications even in an on-premises deployment scenario. Any and all of these concepts can be implement into an existing application, but the earlier in the lifecycle you consider them the easier it will be.