PieSync is in its infancy, existing for just 2 months. The initial excitement of having just sold our product online for the very first time the month before is diminishing and it is clear that a lot of work still has to be done. The three of us are still fully focused on development, but we are trying to make our first steps towards building a network of like-minded people (eg. bryo). Certain frustrations are also starting to show caused by working from home for the last 8 months with limited communication. Luckily we learn about the iMinds incubation project with a co-working space.
We are selected to present our business pitch at the iMinds spring call. Our vision is focused on creating an online marketplace for synchronization, comparable to IFTTT but focused on B2B applications and keeping data connected rather than one-time events. We get selected to join the iStart program. In order to gain more exposure for our synchronization solution between Highrise and Google Apps, we come up with the idea of sending custom chocolates to 37signals, the company behind Highrise, in Chicago.
We finally have a company space, even while it’s an open space shared with a few other companies. It includes a reception desk, meeting rooms and free coffee. We also hit the 1 million mark on the amount of contacts we are keeping in sync between Highrise and Google Apps and get to celebrate in our new office.
We finally launch private contact sync. It is the first time that synchronization is executed on a per-user level rather than at company scale making it possible to keep personal or group-based (eg. for departments) preferences into account.
May & June 2013
These two months were mainly focused on getting two-way synchronization up and running. It was a daunting task and required a lot of rewriting and rethinking existing core logic, but it was all worth it after finally seeing it in action with our clients. It is also during this time that Mattias came up with a dream architecture that he sees the PieSync platform evolve into. It consists of a lot of moving parts, each focused on solving one core part of the problem. This allows it to grow organically or that certain parts can be switched out by custom (or even external) logic based on customer preference.
It is the first time we start to think about the importance of sales after a sales workshop organized by iMinds. We get our first experience with cold calling. A dreadful week, but Ewout clearly rose to the occasion. Don’t worry, we are still mainly developers, but we start getting the idea someone should perhaps focus on sales 1 day a week. We also reworked the website. We got rid of all the patterns and the borders to give the design more place to breath and generally make it a more relaxing experience to read.
We hit the 2 million mark on the number of contacts we are keeping in sync. After launching the new website, the old logo did not really fit within the design anymore. We could not come up with any creative ideas ourselves, so we decided to outsource it. We chose to go with 99designs. We got the Silver package and upgraded it to a private contest for a total of $538. 141 contributions made by 31 different designers later we finally decided upon the winner. The whole process is quite time-intensive, but to this day we are very happy about the end result.
Taking advantage of the entrepreneur in residence program from iMinds, we start an intense cooperation with Dirk, an entrepreneur veteran. The main focus is on setting up a sales strategy, nailing down the business & financial plan and setting the bar towards international sales. After dipping our toes in sales before, this is the first time we fully invest in it. Ewout changes his role from (almost) full-time developer to full-time sales. We now have a clear separation of responsibilities: Ewout is sales, Mattias is development and Simon is marketing.
Ewout and Dirk manage to lock down our first local deal: synchronizing Salesforce contacts with Google for iMinds themselves. This deal gives us the perfect proof of concept to show off our new platform using internationally known applications. Ewout now has a new angle for sales meetings. He can invite interested parties who are not yet fully convinced to join our event in March where we will showcase the new platform using the iMinds case.
The PieSync workforce expands. We have found the very first external PieSync ‘employee’. Tijs will aid in development starting January 2014 as a freelancer. To aid the local sales, the Highrise centered homepage is replaced with a version focusing on our long term vision: creating the all-in-one synchronization platform for all business applications. In order to step up our marketing, we revived the blog and reinvigorated our social media efforts. We also added a general section to the website allowing users to show their interest for synchronization in any application.
Ewout now has an average of 5 sales meetings per week, compared to a company total of absolutely zero 3 months before. This has resulted in a lot of interesting market contact and has given us a lot of options towards what direction we want our company to evolve into short and medium term. We also received the first design of the mapping screen of the dashboard responsible for making it easy to create any kind of custom mapping between any two services.
Going forward in 2014
If you have read all this way, you will know quite a lot has happened in 2013. It has become quite clear that we have two complementary strategies going forward in 2014. First we have the local sales, focused on finding strategic partnerships. Companies that make a partnership beneficial in both directions typically fall within one of two categories: they either provide custom integrations in a consulting structure or they offer their own application and their customers need it to integrate with their existing software in order to get the most out of it. Now you have an idea of our most important events in 2013 and what we will focus on in 2014. Be sure to post your most important business event of 2013 or your new year’s resolutions in the comments. Have a prosperous business year in 2014.