An entrepreneurial state of mind

An entrepreneurial state of mind

Some lessons on moving from start-up to serving the SMB markets - across the globe.

Linus Chang was ready to give up his business, providing backup software for Windows platforms, when he made his first sale – to a cemetery. It was his third attempt to start a business. He had quit his job to concentrate on this latest endeavour, but was beginning to think nothing would come out of it.

"I never thought I was going to make a sale," he says. "I [just] stuck it up on the web."

Then he made the first sale, to the Canberra National Cemetery Trust. A few weeks later, the business, whose original HQ was a bedroom in his parent’s place - made more sales.

Today, his company Cortex IT, is selling the BackupAssist software to 124 countries including New Zealand, and has around 23 staff.

This year, he is ploughing back A$1 million for research and development in the areas of providing backup software and other services for SMBs. The company has also recently released an iPad and iPhone App.

Chang, who started software programming at the age of 12, says timing is critical when starting a business. He has developed the flagship software for what was then a “less mature market”.

He says the first two businesses he set up were in partnership with other people “who weren’t as entrepreneurial” and “who weren’t as willing to take the risk as I was.”

When he was working on BackupAssist, he quit his job. "I did it on purpose so I would have to dig myself up [after] that.”

"You take things differently when your back is against the wall," he concludes.

TravelSIM: An end to roaming mobile phone bill shock

Wade Heggie, general manager, TravelSIM, admits a number of the company’s customers go to it after getting a “shocking” mobile phone bill incurred after an overseas trip.

The worst story so far? A customer turned to TravelSIM after getting a $6000 mobile phone bill following four days spent in Singapore, he says.

The Queensland-based company provides a mobile phone service for international travellers, which reduces roaming costs dramatically.

The company also offers a call diversion service that charges 21 cents a minute to receive a call. Today the service covers 190 countries.

“It makes it a lot cheaper. You don’t have to tell everybody your phone number. There is also a toll free number that families and friends can call to get in touch with you,” he says.

TravelSIM is a prepaid service so there is no surprise when you get home, and the rates are published on the website.

Data service is turned off unless people ask for it. “Data is an open pipe” with today’s smartphones, he explains.

At the same time the customer is given a few tips on how to deal with the data roaming issue.

While TravelSIM’s initial customers were in the consumer space, the company is now moving to get enterprise customers.

Heggie says an internal review of customer usage showed the service has reduced the cost of the voice bills for its customers by A$26.2 million in the past 18 months.

He says the company aims to differentiate itself through customer service and support. The customer support staff aim to phone customers within a certain period of time.

They also guide customers to ensure their phone is unlocked and check that their phone model will work in the country of destination. They also talk to the customers about the rates and number of options, like having a ‘Personal Assistant’.

This concierge service, operating 24 x 7, provides travel information and support, business services, medical assistance and emergency help services to travellers while abroad and live language interpretation services in more than 70 languages.

Heggie says a large number of the company’s customer service staff are students from nearby Queensland universities, Bond University and Griffith University. "We get the right people and training systems."

He says the training manual came from a template that was used by the owner and founder of the company, Jamien Zimmermann, when he was the sole employee.

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