….. and I’m back. It’s been a while since my last post. I took a year off blogging to try Twitter instead. I don’t think I will stop tweeting but I find I need more words to express myself. Let’s see if I can find the time.
VendAsta is a software development company. And like most true software development companies we are always thinking about what’s next. And when you are driving forward so fast that you never have to check the rear view mirror it is easy to lose sight of how far you have come. Glancing up at the rear view mirror it is apparent that 2011 was truly an inflection point for us.
The Early Years
Sometimes in order to understand the future you need to examine the past. 2008 was our first year of existence. We started by doing consulting work for Ritchie Brothers and building a business plan to raise money for MyFrontSteps. MyFrontSteps was to be a social network for home owners to get inspiration and ideas by sharing their homes with friends and family, but most importantly to be able to find service providers (lawyers, Realtors, carpenters, painters, plumbers, etc.) that their friends had used and recommended. For service providers, MyFrontSteps would provide a free reputation management tool and a connection to customers.
We closed an A round of financing for 3M in summer of 2008 and got to work building MyFrontSteps. We found out early on that people didn’t want to share their home online as much as we thought they would. However, we also discovered that there was a huge demand for reputation management.
Unfortunately for us, our funding was based on milestones and product deliverables tied to the MyFrontSteps product vision. Due to a series of complications these milestones were essentially non-negotiable. So, to make a long story short we spent the bulk of 2008, 2009 and 2010 building (burning dollars) a product we knew we could not make work. However, we knew we had a winner on the reputation management side of MyFrontSteps, so we focused on sales, business development and software development in this area.
By mid 2010 we had developed a reputation management product that rivaled the functionality of the expensive tools for brands, but provided the additional functionality needed for local businesses, and we did it at a price point these businesses could afford.
Because we are a software development company we chose to build our service as a white label platform that media companies and publishers could use to resell reputation management software to their customers.
2011 – The year of Sales and Integrations.
Glancing back at 2011 it is easy to see that it truly was an inflection point for us. We signed and integrated a truly humbling number of partners of the highest quality.
Winter – Integration
Most of January and February of 2011 were spent integrating these partners. We learned a lot and laid the ground work to make future integrations smooth and painless for new partners.
Spring – Sales and New Partners
In Spring we watched as our new partners found success selling reputation management to local businesses. The success of our partners and the realization by business of the need for reputation management drove incredible demand. Here is a partial list of customers we signed in the spring: Immersifind, which includes our products in its platform and whose customers include: Pinnacle, BestlocalSearch.com, Comporium/MakeitLocal.com,Directory Publishing Solutions, IE Yellow, Southern Directory Publishing, Georgia Local Search, and Search Local. We also signed Pioneer Newspapers ( 9 papers), Gauss Media (with 20 media outlets), LMS Max, XL WebServices and The Social Business.
Summer – New products and Partners
There was no summer break. Demand continued to increase for our product. We also explored new avenues and uses for our core reputation management platform.
We developed National Brands, a way for franchises and businesses with multiple locations to view and explore the reputation of their businesses at a national level and enable them to drill down by region and right down to a specific location, becoming the only reputation management solution to provide national brands and franchises with actionable feedback at national and location specific levels.
Our partners also indicated a need for a platform to provide Mobile Sites for their business customers. According to the Kelsey Group only 1.25% of small and medium businesses have a website that is mobile or mobile friendly while at the same time 50% of all local searches are being performed on a mobile device. Further, mobile users are generally looking for a subset of data: directions, hours of operation, menus, videos, photos. So, in conjunction with DirectWest, one of our partners, we developed a mobile solution that is SEO friendly, easy for consumers to use on mobile devices and is generated from existing partner directory data. In this way these sites are always up to date, require no fulfilment and encourage business to purchase enhanced listings (photos and videos) from our partners.
We also continued to bring on new partners like: Morris Digital ( Jacksonville Times Union, The Augusta Chronicle, Online Athens, Savannah Now, Lubbock Online, and the Amarillo Globe-News), MediaNews Group (Taponix.com – 56 properties), LocalBizNow (provides reputation management for Ford and Chysler) , PowerSports marketing, PinPoint Local, Metroland Media’s Goldbook.ca , Maine Today Digital and Impressions Media.
Fall – It’s all about our Partners, Partners, Partners
Given our new products and rapid growth of partners we developed “Partner Central”, a one stop all access point combining resource centers for our products and administrative access under one roof. This allows our partners to access reputation management, national brands and mobile sites with one user name and password. We also added sales and marketing tools to help our partners sell more products.
December shows no signs of slowing down. We have a lot of exciting opportunities in the hopper!
We have continued to do exciting work for a small number of companies in areas where we have industry and subject matter expertise that allows us to provide quality product and perform services at the high level. We continue to work with and are committed to providing these services to Ritchie Brothers, Potash Corp and DirectWest.
We love our consulting customers and it is safe to say that they love us. 2011 was a banner year working with these partners. I can’t say too much but I can tell you that we have already expanded the scope of work we will do with these partners in 2012.
2011 also saw us move into a new location. We loved our previous location and were very concerned when we found out that we couldn’t stay when the building we were in was sold to SIAST. We went to a lot of trouble to make sure that our new location was the perfect fit for our crew. Having been here since October 1st we can safely say that our new location is more fantastic than we could have hoped for.
In Summary 2011 could not have been more exciting or more of a whirlwind for VendAsta. We are all looking forward to continue growing in 2012. If you think you might be a good fit or you know someone who would, please make sure to get in touch!
I want to extend a personal thank you to all involved: co-workers, customers and partners. I look forward to working with all of you in 2012.Brendan King, CEO VendAsta Technologies Inc.