CASE STUDY: LIVELINKCONNECT – EVERYTHING E-MAIL
Founders: Jason Roberts (CEO) and Craig Pownall (CIO) • Business: LiveLinkConnect• Website: http://www. livelinkconnect.com • Industry: ICT • Business Location: Auckland• Founded: 2008 • ICEHOUSE Programme: Incubation & ICE Angels • Joined ICEHOUSE: 2010 • Exit from ICEHOUSE: 2012
While working together for a global sales company Jason Roberts and Craig Pownall often experienced challenges around effectively communicating sales and marketing messages electronically. They realised there was a growing, unmatched need for tools that would enable companies to improve email communications, improve sales closure rates and deliver marketing messages more effectively.
Serial entrepreneur Jason quickly realised there was an opportunity to build a business around this problem. Combining Jason’s background in sales and marketing and Craig’s web development experience they founded LiveLinkConnect.
“It was knowing that I needed to do better this time. And I had a lot more on the line this time, too“.
However, having a number of start-up attempts under his belt, Jason understood very well that a good idea alone does not make for a successful business. After previous start-ups were not as successful as Jason had hoped he wanted to make sure he wouldn’t be in the same situation again. He explains: “It was knowing that I needed to do better this time. And I had a lot more on the line this time, too“. He adds: “I realised there were a few things I would need help with including market validation, sales leads and business opportunities, mentoring and access to funding“.
Jason had heard of The ICEHOUSE before and knew it was a place where he could get the help he needed to turn the idea into a successful business. Jason and Craig presented to the ICEHOUSE Screening Committee in May 2010 and were accepted into the Incubation Programme. Jason also decided to take a desk at The ICEHOUSE to be even closer to the support system. At this point the business was still at a very early stage. They didn’t have any customers, money, software or people. Just a good idea.
With Jason full-time and Craig part-time working on the business they started the ICEHOUSE journey with their EiR (mentor) Mark Hardie. Mark helped them set up the foundations of the company, develop their business model, clarify the messaging and develop sales strategies. Jason points out: “Mark was extraordinarily valuable. Without the mentoring we might have figured it all out eventually but we wouldn’t be as far ahead as we are now”.
“About 30% of my customers have come through the ICEHOUSE“.
In addition to the mentoring LiveLink also especially benefited from the ICEHOUSE Network. Having a desk at The ICEHOUSE meant Jason got to meet a lot of people and was able to leverage the ICEHOUSE team for lead referrals. As Jason states: “About 30% of my customers have come through the ICEHOUSE“.
But it is not just about sales leads. Jason explains: “The ICEHOUSE has been really good for connections. You need to be around enthusiastic and supportive people. If you’re isolated it is so much harder“, and adds: “The ICEHOUSE for me is also about resilience. The people help you get through tough times”.
Another important factor for LiveLink was access to funding. While Jason and Craig both invested personally in the business they realised they would need external funding to be able to develop the kind of business growth they were aiming for. Jason says they were lucky in that they found an early seed investor that enabled them to get the business of the ground. But for the next stages of business development they needed more significant capital from angel investors. Getting ready for angel investment was a difficult and lengthy process. Jason explains: “The guys are putting their money on the line without emotion. You have to prove that you can make them money. That’s a really important process“.
“It was much harder than I thought. I didn’t know what to do half the time. The ICEHOUSE has been extremely helpful during the funding process.”
It took LiveLink almost 1 ½ years to get the business to a point were it was angel investment ready and then another 6 months to get all the documents in place and legal details sorted out. Jason points out: “It was much harder than I thought. I didn’t know what to do half the time. The ICEHOUSE has been extremely helpful during the funding process.”
The ICEHOUSE funding team helped Jason with the processes and made valuable connections to investors and legal experts. They also helped Jason with the valuation and the preparation of required documentations. At the end of a 6 months process LiveLink was able to secure angel funding and moved into the next stage of business growth. This included bringing on two more full-time staff, further developing and expanding their product offering and expanding their customer base locally and internationally.
While raising the funds was challenging and time consuming Jason believes it will give them the best shot at success long-term – And developments in the 6 months since strongly suggest that he was right. Jason also points out that the investors they have on board now not only bring money but also experience and wisdom and make valuable connections for them.
In May 2010 when LiveLink joined the ICEHOUSE they didn’t have any customers, no money, no people and no defined product. But they did have great ideas and a vision. During the first six months with the ICEHOUSE they put the fundamentals in place, refined their initial product, secured some seed funding and started to win some customers. After six months they started to see some income and at the end of year one they were about to break even but then reinvested to accelerate business growth.
During the second year they expanded their product offering, acquired more customers, including some overseas, were able to secure angel funding and are now breaking even again. When LiveLinkConnect graduated from the ICEHOUSE in September 2012 they had seven different products on offer and a team of four full-time staff. They now have around 100 customers in New Zealand including well known brands such as Jucy, AASmartfuel, Partners Life, DNZ, Newpark, Konnect, REINZ, GrownUps and many more.
“The mentoring we received, the connections that were made for us and the support during the capital raising process have enabled us to get to where we are today.”
As a next step LiveLinkConnect is planning to expand locally as well as internationally. They already have two international partners and a third one looking very likely. According to Jason The ICEHOUSE has been instrumental in achieving all this. “The mentoring we received, the connections that were made for us and the support during the capital raising process have enabled us to get to where we are today. I’m not sure I would have been able to achieve this on my own or at least it would have taken a lot longer“.
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Find out more about LiveLinkConnect: http://www.livelinkconnect.com
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