Opportunities in the “Usage Economy”

November 20, 2016

Given my location in New Zealand and all the earthquakes that have occurred here recently, I’m not sure if it’s in good taste for me to talk about “seismic shifts” in business, but that’s certainly how I would describe the enormous change in consumer behavior that’s been evolving over the last decade and which is still evolving rapidly at this time.

The Cloud and smart phones have influenced customers’ attitudes and expectations. Consumers now expect a more immediate service experience and they are more inclined to subscribe to services than in previous decades. I refer to this as transition to the “usage economy”.

The “usage economy” is that which is based on consumers paying to use a product or service. Rather than buying an asset, they are more inclined to just pay for the use of that asset. The amount they pay is usually based on how much they use the product or service. This is the fundamental business model of the Cloud, on-line services, IoT, utilities and many other business categories (both new and old). This is the “usage economy” and this is where fast business growth is happening.

An interesting development within the “usage economy” is the emergence of service re-sellers. These re-sellers are businesses that typically have existing customer bases, maybe they are I.T. service companies or support organizations, utility re-sellers or agencies. These service re-sellers have the opportunity to aggregate numerous complementary services within their offering, to become a one-stop service shop – in the same way bricks & mortar shops sell numerous products to a defined customer demographic. Combining services, gives them more sales traction, more opportunities for increasing their sales margin and differentiating themselves from their competitors.

My company, Datagate is in the business of Usage Billing for Re-Sellers. We provide a white-label, on-line billing and reporting portal that connects to usage information and generates bills and reports that can be accessed by the re-seller and their customers via on on-line, re-seller-branded portal. Today we provide this essential service to re-sellers of telephony, utilities and on-line Cloud services, but the growth of the wider “usage economy” is bringing in new opportunities for us to service an increasing range of usage-based businesses.


Datagate’s “Ecosystem-as-a-Service” Strategy

October 13, 2016

The path to value creation in business is very much about managing and balancing your tactical everyday decisions with the strategic big picture of where you are heading.

A year ago, I took on the CEO role at Datagate, an exciting fin-tech start-up, after spending over a decade as CEO of a larger business group. In an early-stage business, this balance between tactical and strategic is even more critical, because your decisions will shape the nature of your business for (hopefully) many years to come.

Datagate as a business and a Cloud service, can (like many technology businesses) be described at both a tactical level and a strategic level;

Datagate at a Tactical Level; Datagate is a white-label, Cloud-based billing and reporting portal for service resellers. We connect to all sorts of different service usage data (mainly from Telco’s, Electricity companies and Cloud services) from which we produce invoices, reports and customer portals for resellers of those services and their customers.

datagate-diagram

Datagate at a Strategic Level; Datagate is an “Ecosystem-as-a-Service”. We are building our base of service resellers and our base of service suppliers and enabling them to work through each other to strengthen their business reach and profitability. As we add more resellers and suppliers, the strategic value of our ecosystem increases dramatically.

  • We are strategic to our service resellers because we enable them to sell a range of services from a range of suppliers and combine or bundle them on to a single offering and/or a single invoice. For example we enable Telco resellers to sell Telephony combined with Electricity.
  • We are strategic to our service suppliers because we enable them to sell through our channel of resellers, who all use the Datagate billing portal.

ecosystem-as-a-service-v2

On a day-to-day basis it’s easy to get entrenched in the important but tactical demands of your business, such signing up deals, building revenue etc, but it’s important to keep in mind where it’s all heading. Do the suppliers, deals and customers you’re signing up fit with your strategic long-term view of the business? In my case, Datagate is building a valuable ecosystem through our product and the partners we sign up – and that value will become more self-evident as the business grows.

At the start it is a visualization, but over time it becomes a reality.


Five changes in the market that underpin the value of Datagate

May 18, 2016

I get asked why I stood down from my role as CEO of Enprise Group and diverted my focus and investment to Datagate, which at the time, was the newest and smallest of Enprise’s businesses.

I did this because I recognised the very strong demand for Datagate by companies that sell IT, Telco and/or Utility services, driven by five big changes that are happening right now in the marketplace, as listed below;

  1. The rapid rise of Cloud computing is leading IT Companies of all sizes to shift their business models towards selling services (instead of selling hardware). Subscription service revenue instead of product sales revenue. For IT Companies, this has progressed through selling data circuits, Internet connects and on to SIP / VOIP Telephony. Datagate makes this type of subscription billing easy.
  2. Computers and Phones have become one and the same. Businesses of all sizes are deciding that one supplier is preferable to provide their IT and Telecommunications services, because the technologies have merged. A relationship with fewer service suppliers is easier and less expensive to manage, whereas having more suppliers is more complex and costly to manage. Datagate enables resellers to aggregate multiple service types such as Telco and IT services in their billing and portal services.
  3. Power companies are starting to sell broadband successfully. At the reseller level, we are starting to see an emerging pattern of convergence between electricity and telephony (at least at the broadband level at this stage). Telephony & IT resellers are interested in selling electricity to their customer bases – essentially it’s just another on-line service to add to data services. Electricity companies are interested in selling broadband and other Telco products. Datagate provides billing and portal services that can combine different services types, such as Telco and electricity.
  4. Billing of telephony and electricity is complex. A product like Datagate is needed to make this billing easy. Furthermore, it’s even more complex when you try to mix different service types. Standard accounting and billing systems cannot handle this complexity efficiently. A specialised product, such as Datagate is required.
  5. Further to billing, customers’ service expectations are increasing. They expect immediate on-line access to their bills and reports analysing their consumption of services. The large established electricity and telco vendors all offer on-line analytical portals and so have already set the market expectation. Resellers of these services therefore need to offer similar on-line portals. This requirement becomes more complex when the reseller is selling a combination of services, such as electricity and telephony. Datagate is built to handle this requirement.

Datagate exists to help IT, Telco & Utility resellers capitalize on the opportunities that these changes in the market are driving.

We are experiencing fast uptake of Datagate by resellers in the New Zealand market and we plan to take Datagate to overseas markets, where the same market changes are happening, in the very near future!


The World as a Service

April 6, 2016

The “as-a-service” approach to business is gaining more and more traction across many industry sectors. Consumers are developing a preference for subscribing to services as opposed to buying things.

The Internet, Cloud Computing and mobile apps have been high-profile influencers on people’s buying patterns, which have promoted an “as-a-service” mentality. XaaS (anything as a service) is regarded as a new “disruptive” approach to satisfying consumer demand, even though the subscription business model itself has been alive and kicking for centuries in industries such as newspapers, magazines, telephony, insurance and leasing, to name a few.

XaaS_globe

We are now seeing professional service businesses that traditionally charged by the hour start to charge by fixed subscription instead. This is shown to greatly improve productivity and effectiveness in delivering value to customers. Customers are more inclined to engage and use their subscribed services, rather than hold back to avoid hourly charges. Questions and arguments about billing are significantly reduced. The subscribed model invokes an on-going partnership instead of a series of one-off transactions or interactions.

I.T. businesses that used to sell servers and other hardware items have moved to selling on-line subscriptions to hosting services and have extended their businesses to sell subscribed telephony and data services. They have learned that subscribed business is regular predictable business that they can rely on, so long as they look after their customers. Subscribed business is the best kind of business for the customer and the supplier!

At Datagate, our specialty is enabling service re-sellers to efficiently process, report and bill measurable subscription services, such as telephony, data circuits, hosting, Cloud & mobile apps, electricity, water, gas etc. All of these billing models include a combination of monthly fixed and variable billing. The variable component of the bill is normally derived from a data feed from the supplier of the service that details the service consumption quantities.

I find it interesting that we are encountering many new “as-a-service” businesses that fit Datagate’s fixed and variable subscription model. Some of these are “traditional” as-a-service businesses and others are revolutionary and disruptive approaches to markets formerly served by product or time sales.

At the coal face we see the shift to an “as-a-service” world is very real.

  • SaaS – Software as a Service
  • TaaS – Telephony as a Service
  • IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service
  • PaaS – Platform as a Service
  • MaaS – Monitoring as a Service
  • DBaaS – Database as a Service
  • XaaS – Anything as a Service

“Internet of Things” (IoT) offers exciting business opportunities

March 14, 2016

Lora_logo

As part of my work with Datagate Innovation, I enjoy helping our clients investigate and monetize new billing opportunities.

Datagate provides a comprehensive Cloud platform for billing recurring charges, plus variable charges for measured consumption of services – and it’s amazing how many on-line businesses and new business opportunities tend to fit this model.

One of the most interesting subjects I’ve investigated recently (that fits the Datagate billing model), is the level of maturity and viability that “Internet of Things” technology is currently reaching. New cost-effective, low-power consumption devices are now being produced that can run for up to ten years on a built-in battery and be used to remotely measure and report on all sorts of things. These devices connect to a standardized LoRa radio network which will soon be widely available in New Zealand and around the world.

LoRa networks are cost-effective, low-bandwidth and can reach areas that traditional cellphone networks can not. The LoRa networks are in-turn connected to the Internet and enable Internet applications to access low-cost measurement devices in remote locations.

To my mind, the technology and the levels of standardization are reaching the point where new viable high-growth business models are now within reach.

Business and consumer applications for IoT devices and applications seem limitless, especially in areas where remote monitoring and reporting is required. These include applications for security, agriculture, automobiles, medicine, military – to name a few. Official estimates for future take-up of IoT are astronomical. 50 billion IoT devices on-line by 2020…

This is definitely a fertile space for application-developer entrepreneurs – …and Datagate‘s billing model.


Flying Kiwis invest in Datagate

February 6, 2016

FKA logo

This month I am very pleased to welcome the Flying Kiwi Angels as new investors in Datagate.

The Flying Kiwis have invested $242,000 of new capital in to the business. In addition, they bring a wealth of business experience and valuable industry contacts for Datagate.

This investment brings Datagate near to completion of our current investment round where we sought to raise $1.5M of new capital in order to expand and accelerate sales of Datagate’s Cloud Billing & Customer Service Portal. The Flying Kiwis’ investment brings us to a total of $1.46M raised in this round.

The Datagate shareholder-base now includes NZAX-listed Enprise Group, the Ice Angels, NZVIF and the Flying Kiwis, among others.


Datagate welcomes new investors and a new director

December 5, 2015

Datagate

Today I am very pleased to announce that Datagate Innovation Limited has signed up two new shareholders, Ice Angels Nominees Ltd and NZVIF Investments Ltd, as well as gaining a highly-respected non-executive director, Malcolm MacDonald.

The new shareholders have invested a total of $569,000 of new capital into Datagate, bringing the total capital raised in Datagate’s current investment round up to $1,219,429 so far.

The investors were led by Malcolm MacDonald, a successful IT entrepreneur, having been a founder of BankLink, a major New Zealand based accounting software success story, that was sold to MYOB in 2013 for $139M.

Malcolm joins the current Datagate board, consisting of Dr. Jens Neiser (representing NZAX-listed Enprise Group Ltd) and myself. I am extremely pleased to be working with Malcolm and Jens as fellow directors, who are both very knowledgeable, experienced and successful individuals in their own right.

I am also delighted to have the Ice Angels and NZVIF join Datagate as investors. The Ice Angels’ members have already been very helpful to Datagate and myself with strategic advice and valuable introductions.

Datagage is expecting to be able to announce further new investors within this round, in the very near future.

NZAX:ENS Enprise Group’s market announcement


Enprise moves to a tighter focus

November 7, 2015

This has been a momentous week for Enprise Group, with the sale of Enprise Software (our SAP-aligned software development business) and getting shareholder approval to allow new investors to invest directly in to Datagate (formerly a 100% subsidiary of Enprise Group).

These changes bring about a much stronger and sharper focus to each of the current and former Enprise Group businesses.

Enprise Solutions is the only business remaining 100% within Enprise Group and it is tightly focused on selling and supporting MYOB Enterprise software solutions to mid sized businesses in New Zealand and Australia. It has nearly 1,000 customers in total across both countries and is the clear market leader in New Zealand. Enprise Solutions is a strong, growing and profitable business that gives excellent support to its customers.

Enprise Software is now part of ProjectLine, a very successful North American SAP partner that is dedicated to sales and support of SAP Business One. That puts Enprise Software into a home much more aligned with it’s core business, which is Enprise Job for SAP Business One.

Datagate Innovation is now the master of its own destiny, with its own board of directors and its own shareholder base (including Enprise Group). My own personal focus is on working with the Datagate team to make this business a winner on a global scale. Datagate is all about monetising on-line services, the Cloud, billing and customer portals – an excellent focus for building value!


Datagate gains new shareholders, new board and increased independence

November 7, 2015

Datagate Innovation Ltd

On Wednesday this week, Enprise Group held a public meeting of shareholders to approve resolutions to allow Datagate Innovation Ltd to issue up to 2.5M new $1 shares to new shareholders and to allow me (as a director of Enprise Group) to buy shares in Datagate at a pre-money valuation of $1.5M. This allows investors to invest directly in to Datagate and for Datagate to become its own more-independent vehicle.

As soon as these resolutions were passed I wasted no time in buying Datagate shares, along with two other investors. More investors will follow in buying Datagate shares in due course, bringing even more new capital in to the business.

This has changed Datagate’s shareholder composition from being 100% owned by Enprise Group to being partly owned by Enprise Group and partly owned by other shareholders (including myself). As of today, Enprise Group owns approximately 70% and other shareholders approximately 30% of Datagate. This will of course change further as other shareholders come on board.

Datagate’s board of directors currently consists of Dr. Jens Neiser as chairman (representing Enprise Group) and myself. Other directors will be added in due course.


Enprise Software sold to ProjectLine, Canada

November 5, 2015

Derin_Elliot_1

This morning Enprise Group announced the conditional sale of its SAP software business, Enprise Software to Canadian SAP partner, ProjectLine.

I see this as a very positive move that will benefit the customers and partners of Enprise Software, whilst enabling Enprise Group to consolidate its focus on its two remaining businesses, Enprise Solutions and Datagate Innovation.

ProjectLine has been a very active reseller of Enprise Software products in the Canadian market and their team has a high level of expertise in Enprise products as well as the North American SAP Business One market. Their branches across Canada put them in the right time zones to give superior support to Enprise Software partners and customers right across North America and beyond. All current Enprise Software staff members will be retained within the business and Enprise Software Inc. will be a separate entity within the ProjectLine group.

Most of Enprise Software’s partners and customers reside in North America, so will be better off by having more localised support. All of Enprise Software’s partners and customers will benefit from the bigger team now backing the Enprise products.

Derin Hildebrandt (pictured) and his team at ProjectLine are high quality professionals, with a lot of experience in the SAP Business One market. They have an excellent reputation and I’m certain that Enprise Software and its team, partners and customers are in good hands. I wish them all the best!

Elliot and Derin
Elliot Cooper and Derin Hildebrandt
Derin Hildebrandt and Mark Loveys
Derin Hildebrandt and Mark Loveys
Derin and Cathy
Cathy Masters and Derin Hildebrandt