Where did you grow up and what did you study at uni?
I grew up in a little town called Ebden which is just outside of Albury Wodonga.
When did you have the idea for Invoice2go and what sparked it?
I started Invoice2go after getting back from a snowboarding holiday in Canada. I went back to software freelancing and the first thing I had to do was create an Invoice to get paid. I was always on the lookout for business ideas and when I couldn’t find any easy to use Invoicing product the idea struck me.
How long did it take you to build a minimum viable product?
It took 12 months to build a MVP. I wrote most of it in my spare time on the weekends and holidays and while on a two-hour commute travelling to and from my freelancing gig.
When did you launch; what was the response?
Invoice2go launched in 2005. The initial response was really positive. I got over 200 installs on the first day and I even made my first sale. It was very exciting!
What were the key challenges to making sure it met growth targets?
The growth challenges change at every phase of the company. When you are a one-man-band, the challenge is to find the time to create the MVP. When you have launched, the challenge is get enough users to give you crucial feedback and encouragement. When you have gained traction, the challenge is to to keep existing users happy while you add new functionality to attract new customers. When you take on investment, the challenge is to find the right people and processes to take the business to the next level. So overall the biggest challenge for me was just adapting to the change itself, which accelerates as the company grows.
In 2013, the company received a $35 million injection from private companies, one being Accel Partners, which invested in the likes of Atlassian. Was it crucial?
No, because the company was already profitable and growing steadily. I took the investment because I wanted to take the business to the next level and I didn’t have the experience to do that at the time. I didn’t want to waste the opportunity to create something substantial. I knew that if I didn’t make a move then someone else would come into our space. So it was more about bringing on the right people through Accel’s extensive network and I had always admired the Atlassian guys so that also swayed me towards Accel.
You then handed over the CEO position and became a senior advisor and headed up product division. Was that hard?
The CEO who joined us and is still with the company is a class act but it was still way more difficult than I ever imagined. I stayed with the business for three years after the new CEO joined. I handed over each of my responsibilities one-by-one, hiring a specialist for each of the hats I was wearing. It’s very hard handing over your baby but at the same time, I really did need a change.
Your app is number one on the ITunes app store and on the Apple watch. Does it ever feel surreal?
Yeah it does feel surreal seeing your logo on the big screen at the Apple Conferences. I consider myself very lucky to have have found the right people to join the team at each stage of the journey.
How many users does your company have now?
Invoice2go is used by over 350,000 companies in over 20 countries around the world. It is translated into 10 different languages and over 2 billion dollars in Invoices are sent through it each month.
You will speak at Startup Stories on October 5 in Newcastle. What about?
How creating a successful startup is more about an attitude than anything else. You don’t have to move to Silicon Valley or get an MBA, you just need to start doing something you love doing and keep going. Start-ups are a lifestyle. If you're not thinking about it morning, noon and night then get a real job.
What do you pin Invoice2Go’s success to, and how has it kept the lead?
Three things helped us to be successful. Firstly, we didn’t rush into marketing. We always focused on the user first and getting product market fit. Secondly, Invoice2go was extremely lucky to find the right people to join the team at each pivotal stage of the journey. Finally, we just never gave up. It’s not about building an app then relaxing. It’s about constantly improving things.
Hardest lesson to learn?
To accept the stage of a business that brings out the best in you. Some people like later stage companies. What I learnt was that I like early stage companies, that are searching for product market fit and need to stay scrappy to survive.
Start-ups are a lifestyle. If you're not thinking about it morning, noon and night then get a real job.Chris Strode
You have said that business is not about money but relationships with those that share your vision. Still hold true?
You can put a value on the amount of recurring revenue and market share you have but at the end of the day you cannot put a price on just how much those staff relationships mean to you. When you're working in the trenches with each other year after year, humour and friendship is what keeps you happy.
Bookings for the free StartupStories on Chris Strode are mandatory via three76.eventbrite.com.au