If you ask our CEO & Founder Francois Nadal why he created OneUp (originally called myERP) nearly 5 years ago, he’ll tell you he did it to start a revolution.
That may sound like a grand statement, but since then the team has created a product accessed by hundreds of thousands of people, all by focusing on using cloud software to automate accounting, invoicing, and inventory for small & medium sized businesses.
“Business operations like accounting, inventory, and invoicing should be as simple as possible. There are 500 million+ business owners around the world , and the vast majority of them don’t want to become experts in those things, they want them to work flawlessly so they can focus on being passionate about their business and their customers.”
He’s right about the need for simplicity. While 68% of business owners polled in a recent survey by TD bank said they love talking with clients / customers, a majority cited finance & finances, business growth, and business management as their top worries.
And, perhaps predictably, nearly half, 46%, cited bookkeeping as their least favorite task, with marketing, banking, and handling finances tied for their second least favorite task at 22% each.
Those statistic represents the overwhelming challenge for most small business owners: they simply don’t have the expertise or time to learn how to use expensive and complex applications, and there’s an intimidation factor to core business operations like accounting, invoices, and inventory.
Passion and business operation at odds?
Michelle VanAllsburg is one of those business owners.
She purchased a hair salon nearly 10 years ago, and immediately found herself overwhelmed.
A couple of years ago she wrote to the NY Times Small Business Blog, describing the struggle she went through and stress of trying to stay ahead of bills.
I have now owned it almost eight years, have made no profit, and have a family that I want to focus on. How on earth does one try to sell a business that doesn’t really profit but just pays the bills and has some money left over?
Oddly enough, after trading emails with Jay Goltz, a speaker, author and business owner himself, it turned out she WAS paying down her debt, but simply didn’t have enough visibility into the overall financial health of her business.
This is a fairly common occurrence, and it reflects the difficulty and the promise of streamlining business operations via cloud software. If the cloud is to help small businesses, it has to also be conscious of overwhelming them, and that requires real change not just repackaging the complex applications that are available to businesses with hundreds or thousands of employees.
The Small Business [R]evolution
That radical change is exactly what the product & support teams at OneUp are focused on.
The product was originally launched as free software that anyone could sign into and use, in the process building an impressive user base and learning about the pains that business owners faced. A partnership / integration with Google’s apps marketplace quickly accelerated growth, in particular uncovering how important flexibility on mobile and tablet devices was to most small business owners.
We knew mobile was important – roughly 60-70% of emails are opened on a mobile device – but we discovered that business owners were also struggling to balance applications built specifically for the web / desktop vs. those that were part of marketplaces like Apple.
– Travis Ames, Product Manager
So OneUp did something different. Instead of defining functionality separately between a web version and an app, the team, led by long time product manager Travis Ames, simply created a web version that could be used in a nearly identical way on a phone, and then let that lead their development for Android and Apple devices as well.
It’s a surprising move, but so far remarkably successful, and one that suggests how serious they are about starting what they call a small business [r]evolution.
Now that they’ve demonstrated they can solve a real need the product team is moving quickly, and Nadal is determined to reach the market of 500 million+ small and medium size business worldwide who want their accounting, inventory, and other core business practices to be readily accessible via the cloud. In addition to a partnership with small business payments processor Square, he has other high-profile deals lined up.
But he is also pretty straightforward that the revolution isn’t about OneUp, it’s about helping customers level up their operations.
Ultimately, we won’t be the judges of the revolution. The cycling shop owner who is passionate about teaching the sport, the entrepreneur who starts a 3D printing business, the hair stylist who decided to create her own business, these are our customers who will decide if it’s revolutionary or not. Our job is to help them do what they do best.
The next 6 months, he says, are exciting. The plan calls for rapid growth, and while there is never a lack of pressure in the Silicon Valley startup environment (where he is based in addition to Paris), his intention is for that success to be defined by customers, and not by the company.
As long as that’s happening, he expects the company to do just fine.
This post is also available in: French