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"What! You have revenue?!" Surprising high points along the way to launch.

So last week I flew over to Oahu and had brunch with Daniel Leuck (whom you all know if you read TechHui).  It was a great trip, but one of the highlights of it for me was his absolute surprise we had revenue.  Apparently this is a big deal.

He had to explain it to me, because I was clueless.  Daniel is of course one of the most (if not the most) connected tech guys on Oahu, and he admitted it was extremely rare that local startups achieve any level of revenue - and absolutely non-existent on Maui.  Yet here we are, 2.5 years after raising $651,000 on the very last day of Hawaii QHTB availability (which is a whole other article), with actual revenue; not much, but real honest revenue from people who tell us they love our service.

I didn’t think much of it.  At the time it was just another minor milestone along the incredible path we’ve been on, but you know, it was really nice to realize how far we’ve come, and Daniel’s surprise made me smile.  It was a cool moment.

We’ve had a number of those as we built Cheqbook, an online accounting service designed to replace QuickBooks.  Of course that day we actually got funded was the first, especially since we came so very close to missing the QHTB boat entirely.

Another great moment I should have celebrated more, but which came so early and with so much yet to do was the day Ben Ward, our CTO joined us.  He had already built and exited two startups, almost single handedly, and was slumming on Maui doing websites for local activity companies.  Yet he believed in my idea for how to fix online accounting, and came aboard.  When I look back (and don’t let this go to your head Ben) that is clearly the second most important event in our company’s short history.

Now if this was a movie, the music would start playing, and there’d be a vignette of scenes as the lead characters got to work, which is what we’ve done since then.  We’ve worked really, really hard.  We’ve also endured a hundred doubters for every true believer, most of whom insisted we were dead money.  Well, we’re about to have our public launch, and we still have money in the bank, thank you!

More importantly we have a great product.

It’s great because we fix a problem people didn’t realize they were having.  Online accounting has such incredible promise: it connects to your bank, downloads, and automatically categorizes transactions for you, which should be amazing.  However, as a technologically adept CPA who tried them all, I found they simply didn’t work.

Those algorithms which are supposed to categorize for you simply aren’t that accurate, and even if only a small percentage are wrong, you still have to search through all transactions to fix them.  It’s less time consuming to just key them in manually in the first place.  Fortunately we found a better way.

By showing you (in our case with color codes) which transactions need your attention, you can quickly review and approve those the system did for you.  It works marvelously.

However, enough about that…we’ve had many other moments, both good and bad, but the next biggest one came early this March.  To understand the importance of this one I have to set the stage a bit regarding a patent we filed for this method almost two years ago.

A little known fact about patents is that you file blind.  All patent filings are kept secret for 18 months afterwards, so you simply don’t know if someone had the idea before you.  You must pay your patent attorney big bucks, cross your fingers, and wait.

In our case we were especially worried: we saw an incredible amount of recent patent activity in cloud accounting.  This was clearly a very quickly evolving space and when I read those recent applications I could see that some of those inventors were very close to solving this problem.

So we waited, and then this February - when we could see that 18 month window - we ordered a new patent search.

This milestone didn’t pass quietly like so many others.  When the news came I thrust my arms in the air and screamed “Yes!”  All the work we’d done, everything we’d slaved over for two years, could have been crushed right then, but instead we owned it.  We didn’t miss the chance to celebrate this one; I couldn’t get the smile off my face for two days.

Mind you, we don’t have a patent yet, that won’t come for 4 more years (or so), but this news when it came was great.  It will take a long time for Cheqbook to catch on, realistically people change accounting software about as often as they change spouses (which is not very often).  However now we have a strong competitive advantage that will allow our small Maui startup to compete.

If there’s a lesson to this story for everyone else in the TechHui, it’s probably this: try and notice those smaller successes that would otherwise pass quietly by.  It’s hard work starting and running a company, you need a few smiles along the way.

-Doug Levin

 

You can learn more and signup now at Cheqbook.com if you’re curious.  Use this link to get a 90 day free trial instead of the usual 30 days.  I’m also available to answer any questions you may have, just message me on TechHui or doug@cheqbook.com and I’ll be happy to respond. 

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Comment by Daniel Leuck on May 16, 2013 at 6:20am

Its great to hear a story about a Maui SaaS startup using a local team to successfully move through the steps from funding and development to first revenue. We hear a ton of talk about ideation, presentation and funding, but without execution none of that matters!

I wish you success as you move toward big revenue, great new tech and creation of more local jobs. Gambatte!

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