Last month, as we prepared to hold the ZOL Jumpstart Challenge 2012, we contacted the winners and finalists of the challenge in 2011 to check on the progress of their products and companies. The 2011 winner was Mukela Travel, a startup building an online reservation and hospitality management platform. The runner-ups were Softwarehouse with a product called Hardware Inventory, and Sadomba Mahari who were working on 3D animation software.
From interaction with the Zimbabwe based leader of the Mukela Travel team, Takudzwa Mhlanga, the startup has not made much progress commercially since 2011. According to them, they have had difficulties raising money to proceed at the pace they should have.
We didn’t get a response from the Sadomba-Mahari team on the state of their project. We did manage to get in touch Matthew Hood, founder of Softwarehouse, and below are the responses he provided on the state of the product and the difficulties they have faced so far.
What is the state of Hardware Inventory now?
Softwarehouse is doing well, unfortunately we have not had the time or man power to dedicate to making Hardware Inventory (rebranded NetSnitch) the success we feel it can still be. Softwarehouse is currently involved in a number of very exciting projects for clients in the horticultural and financial services sectors, unfortunately NDAs mean I cannot go into details on any of the financial products at this time. We have also released a Premium and Micro Finance application and a Procurement and Stock Handling system, both of which have started being adopted by clients here and replacing their existing systems.
With so much on we have unfortunately not been able to push NetSnitch hard to the market. We have however made a few sales and it is currently running on a couple of hundred machines at various organisations. We found the most interest from an IT support individual who maintains a number of Private School’s IT infrastructure, their main need was to monitor hardware changes and easily create asset registers for their regular audits and budgeting sessions. Based on his requirements we are working on a number of improvements to the system and added further functionality, when time permits, for example monitoring all printer usage by user on the network. We are hoping to have all the changes completed by the end of the year and still want to push sales of NetSnitch in the new year.
Up until now our main business has been focused on bespoke, one off development and while there is a great need for this service in Zimbabwe we, as a company, are starting to move towards Software As A Service as a more profitable long term model, we have a number of applications which would be suitable for resale in Zimbabwe and externally, NetSnitch included, and are now in a position to take this plunge, probably in a partnership with another Zimbabwean company better suited to the sales and support side of a Software As A Service business, the exact arrangements are not finalised but we are very excited about the possibilities.
What are the challenges you have faced growing it? How have you overcome them?
Probably the biggest problem we faced was trying to devise a pricing structure. We wanted to bill NetSnitch on an on-going license basis and keep the per machine cost very low so it was available to any company. However such a model is only profitable when you have a large install base. This highlighted our next challenge, as a small software development house we did not have the time and personal to handle sales and support effectively, it is also a big commitment to hire such staff without the guarantee of revenue to support them. This is one of the reasons why we started offering IT support companies the option of being a reseller and earning a commission to push sales and handle installations. We feel, due to the size of the company, forming partnerships with others already capable of filling the roles we cannot is a prudent move.
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