Pair home alone with the Milk

Pair home alone with the Milk

Lessons from a web 2.0 venture.

Late last year, Omar Kilani quit his job as an IT consultant to focus full-time on three-year-old start-up Remember the Milk. Mr Kilani started the web 2.0 venture - a high-end task management tool that has about half a million users - as a university research project with partner Emily Boyd when both were at the University of Technology, Sydney.

"I am very excited about it," he said. "It's very hard to do a nine or 10-hour day [at a regular job] and then you come home and you have this other job to do. And it's not just the time, it's also the brain space that's required."

Based in Dee Why, on Sydney's Northern Beaches, the pair has eschewed investors and external funding in favour of independence.

"Finding funding takes a lot of time," Ms Boyd said. "People have contacted us in the past, but it wasn't a good fit and it took months of going backwards and forwards."

Mr Kilani added: "We don't have months to play with. We need to keep developing the product, and it's kind of hard to balance that with the need to look for funding."

Remember the Milk is integrated with Google's Gmail product.

It is also available on Apple's iPhone, and was one of Apple's "star picks" for iPhone applications several months ago, resulting in a big spike in traffic for the site, which is hosted in the United States.

The venture pioneered the use of Google Gears, a set of software tools that allows web applications to function without an internet connection. The Gmail integration, and Remember the Milk's experience with Google Gears, raises the question of whether it is an acquisition target for Google or another big web company.

Gmail lacks high-end task management facilities, and Remember the Milk has built in those features despite Google's lack of documentation for the service. "Maybe tasks are a niche product," Mr Kilani said, speaking of whether the venture had been approached by companies wanting to buy the technology. "It's just not a big focus for us right now. We are happy with the independent revenue."

Remember The Milk's revenue model follows that of other high-profile web 20 ventures such as US-based photo sharing site Flickr.

There's a basic level of service that's free, and for many that's enough. There's also a pro-level account for customers who want iPhone integration, as well as to synchronise Windows mobile handheld devices with the task management service.

"When we started doing this we didn't plan for it to become a business, but it just took off," Ms Boyd said. "It grew to the point where we were spending all our time on it, and so we made the decision to add the pro accounts."

The pair won't disclose how many of their users have opted for the $25 a year pro accounts.

Ms Boyd handles design for Remember the Milk, while Mr Kilani does the programming and server support. They work from home.

"You wake up in the middle of the night and find yourself checking email - as well as making sure that the site is still up and running," MsBoyd said. "It's a full-time job."

© Fairfax Business Media

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