I’m a busy, busy Beetil

October 18, 2008


When we first set up YouDo (vote for us here as a top 10 startup), our long term goal was building successful products, as opposed to just focussing solely upon services.  

Having managed some pretty critical IT systems in my previous life, I could never find an effective tool that helped me manage across the whole IT service management lifecycle.   We had evaluated numerous products out there, but they were either too simple, too complex, too expensive, too unusable, or just downright rubbish.   A lot of other people I know find this.   And a lot of people end up building their own – but that just gets too expensive and unmaintainable in the long term.

We were unsatisfied.

So we did something about it.

So I’m pleased to announce that we’re not too far away off of opening up a beta of our first product:

Beetil – service management without the pain.

We’ve got quite a few alpha users on the site at the moment, and pretty much “they can’t live without it”.  We’re using it to manage our own services.  And we love it.   If you’re interested in taking part in the alpha programme please feel free to give us a yell.

It’s a fun time.

At Webstock 2008

February 14, 2008

Nat at Webstock08

Cool.  Here at Webstock 2008 – the premier get together of NZ web dudes and dudesses.
Great session this morning from Mr Torkington about future trends – and fantastic ad libbing because the laptop he was using “didn’t have the right font”.
Good sessions from Peter Morville (Ambient Findability!) and Cal Henderson about how they look after Flickr (build stuff to make your life easier – less risk, more ease, more agile)
More to come later. 


Big thanks to the dudes over at Webstock for putting on another great Webstock Mini last night.

It’s fantastic, and so refreshing, to see such a bunch of passionate web professionals really having a good time – truly loving what they are doing. If only more “business” was approached with such vigour and energy. If there is anyone out there that loves the internet then make sure you get yourself along to the next webstock events that are scheduled for October and February.

The victorious Phil and MiramarMike both have coverage on their respective blogs.

When the video recordings are made available on the Webstock recordings section I promise you that you’ll die laughing when you see Mike Brown’s presentation. Pure quality. I won’t spoil it for you.

100pcI use a great little web app called Site24x7 to monitor a couple of our websites.  For free!

Site24x7 has two plans, free (up to two sites) and professional (unlimited sites).  It can monitor sites every 5 minutes.

I’ve been using it for a good few months and its fantastic.

I’ve also been a beta user of FiveRuns, which is a more comprehensive systems management platform.  Very impressive indeed, and if you have no operational tools in place, you probably can’t go too far wrong.

Xero IPO

May 13, 2007

Xero IPOSo, the Xero IPO is among us. It will be really interesting to see how this one goes.

On paper, it appears like they’ve valued the company just upwards of about $50m which, considering the actual income earned to date, is a bold move. The word “bubble” is having its fair share of exposure in the rumour mill.

I’ve been a user of Xero for a couple of months now, and there’s no doubt that it is a great web based accounting package. It’s Web2.0 interface is right up there with the best. But is a slick interface, and the ability to share data with your CFO, enough to prize enough market share of the MYOBs, Netsuites and Intuits of this world? Not to mention our beloved Excel spreadsheets. Xero costs $50pm for up to two users, $100pm for unlimited users. So that equates to either $600 or $1200 per year. That’s a lot of money for small businesses. As a rough comparison, MYOB or Quickbooks will set you back between $300 and $500 – one off.

I personally signed up for Xero because it can automatically pull my bank transactions from ASB – that in itself will save me an hour a month, so the $50 per month just about stacks up. Our company is also about building quality web apps, and Xero is a shining example to aspire to.

They’ve assembled a rock-star team which no doubt can deliver the goods, but rock star teams don’t come cheap. And whilst they have a couple of uber-star investors onboard, which will raise huge interest, it’s not as if they are short on cash.

I’m gonna keep a close eye on this one, and its going to be interesting to see the coverage over the next few weeks. Xero themselves acknowledge that this is indeed a “start-up” investment, and reward rarely comes without risk.

I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for them, as I think it could be a great success story, and will likely inject further belief into the local IT community – which is always a good thing.

Will I invest? That’d be telling 🙂



Tim makes some good comment on his Silicon Welly blog.  There are indeed some big name directors onboard, and this does provide a) a big vote of confidence and b) the right kind of expertise needed.

I took my car for a service the other day. I’ve been taking it to the same place for years.

The guy asked me “when was the last time you had an oil and filter change?”

To which I replied, “I haven’t got a clue. I’ve been bringing it here for years so you should know.”

At that point the car mechanic quickly swung around his PC screen and within a few keystrokes had pulled up my cars details – all the last 10 years of service history. He was brilliant at getting around this app – all keystroke driven. And it was fast, fast, fast.

THIt dawned upon me that I’ve never seen a web app (even one served internally) that operates anywhere near even a tenth of this speed.

The trend is for everything to move towards web based apps at the present, but can we ever get response times like the good old client server? I suspect there will always be the need for both.

The tortoise beat the hare in the long run. Will web apps win out in time?

Joost I got an invite to Joost today, and had to say that I was pretty excited.  There’s been a bit of
buzz around lately so I was keen on giving it a test drive.

The interface is fantastic, more akin to something on the PS3 or the XBOX360 as opposed to something you’d expect on the web.

Setup is easy.  Finding content is easy.   You can definately understand why some people are wetting their pants over this one.

However, I had two major gripes, which means for me that the jury is still out.

  • Too slowwwwwwwww.   I’ve tried it on my iMac.  I’ve tried it on my Macbook.  It just feels a little bit too clunky.  Not only did I find the interface sluggish, I found that my broadband connection was not fast enough (I’m supposedly on a 2MB download speed). 
  • Crap content.  I don’t care if you have the worlds biggest plasma TV on your wall with the highest resolution and the best surround sound.  If all you can watch is the Guinness Book of Friggin’ Records then it just ain’t gonna cut the mustard.   I have enough crap TV through my cable.  Why would I want more?

I think once the broadband speeds sort themselves out, and good content gets itself onto Joost (or any other on demand IPTV initiative) then we’ll see some real traction.

Until then, it’s just a geek toy as far as I’m concerned.  Albeit, a very nice looking geek toy.

On my recent bus journeys into work, I’ve been listening to the Future of Web Apps (FOWA) conference podcasts. A great and productive way to while away your dead time.

DropsendI was listening to Ryan Carson about how much it cost them to build DropSend – a fantastic little web app used to get around sending large files by email. They spent no more than 30,000GBP (about 80,000NZD) to build this great little business.

The speech was given over a year ago now, and at that time DropSend had over 10,000 registered users (this was two months after launching)! Their pricing plans range from free, through to a full business service costing US$99pm.

And then this morning, I came across Telecom’s billing analyst service. Effectively it is an online web app to view your Telecom bill. Great, I thought! Something they should have done years ago, but better late than never. Not rocket science, or anything revolutionary though.

Billing AnalystThen, imagine my surprise shock and horror, when I was informed that, as a valued Telecom customer, there is a $250 setup fee and a cost of $99 per month! Now, our company already pays Telecom (literally) thousands of dollars per month for services – but to be hit with this as an additional charge is taking the p*ss.

Now, look at the numbers. These are crude, but hopefully lead me to my points.

  • let’s assume 3,000 businesses need this function
  • at NZ$99pm, AND a NZ$250 setup fee, that’s NZ$4.3m per year
  • Telecom tell us that billing analyst was “off-the-shelf”. It looks nothing special to me – but let’s take the Telecom factor into account here and assume it cost them five times what it cost DropSend (5*NZ$80k = $400k)
  • Year One Profit = just under $4m

My Points

  • Telecom should be looking after me as a customer, not charging for what should be a given.
  • Either Telecom are shafting my bottom line and making theirs much fatter, or it cost them millions upon millions to install their “off-the-shelf” product – I imagine both! (something sound familiar)
  • If I am right about my second point above, big corporations are incapable of doing anything cost effectively, and
  • That buying products “off-the-shelf” saves you bugger all money at all.

At the end of it all, though, we’re still gonna sign up and pay since Telecom bills are harder to understand than a Chinese encyclopedia, so anything upon anything will help. But it kind of feels like you’re paying them more money to fix what is a crappy billing system in the first place.

They’re a funny bunch! I can’t wait for the day that these big dudes see the light.

This is post number 54 on the Up North Down South blog.  It’s been going for almost six months.

So is it worth it?  Well, yes.

I’ll be honest, I don’t get gazillions of readers, but I know I have a few – which is better than none.  Thanks all of you for reading – your time is very much appreciated.

The missus and I also run a blog for our family which we’ve been running since mid 2003 but we get far fewer visits on that – I found that surprising.

Here’s my thoughts on why you should blog:

  • It’s a brilliant way of collecting your thoughts.  I spend a lot of time going back over old posts (often thinking “what the hell was I on?”)
  • It provides a good record of your favourite bookmarks, and the blog text usually tells you why you like them!
  • It feels good to contribute and share.   If you’ve done something good, or have a tip to share, then why not.  The world will be a better place.
  • It improves your writing.  The more you do it, the better you get (at least it feels that way!)
  • Sometimes it’s just good to get things off your chest.
  • For your family, a blog makes a brilliant online “scrapbook”.  A blog is so much more than just a photo album.   The missus is now Chez Lee’s chief blogger.

If you haven’t already tried blogging then I’d thoroughly recommend you give it a shot.  Both Blogger and WordPress are good starting points.

Web Two Point Xero

February 21, 2007

Rumour on the street is that Xero aren’t far off a formal launch.  I hope that it will be a great showpiece as to what Kiwi’s can bring to the world.

Xero is a SaaS accounting application.  Except you know it’s going to be more than that.  You know you’re gonna get something a little special when Rod is involved.   Sure, you can get other accounting SaaS apps, but none of them are really “Web2.0” and harness the collective intelligence held within these systems.  You know what will be in an accounting SaaS application.  But what will be in an accounting web2.0 application?

Imagine what you could do:

  • benchmark your costs against other similar companies
  • share cost saving tips
  • share tax saving tips
  • share corporate goals and tips towards achieving those goals
  • collective buying
  • social tagging
  • cross payment between customers

I’m really excited to see what Xero will bring.  There’s not many web 2.0 apps out there that have penetrated the enterprise – but times are a’ changing.

Let this be the first wave of many.