Archive for the 'Multi-tenant' Category

The billion dollar CEOs – lessons in SaaS.

February 18, 2018

IMG_0778Last week I attended SaaStr Annual 2018 in San Francisco, the world’s largest SaaS industry event, with over 10,000 SaaS founders, VCs and executives in attendance.

The presentations were given by a selection of very successful founders, CEO’s, executives and investors from around the global SaaS industry.  I found myself referring to many of the CEO/founders who had achieved business valuations in excess of $1B as the “Billion dollar CEOs”.

SaaStr spanned three days, and I attended on behalf of my company Datagate Innovation as part of a 100 person delegation of SaaS entrepreneurs from New Zealand, organised by Callaghan Innovation and NZ Trade & Enterprise.  Our delegation also attended some excellent presentations from New Zealand SaaS business founders that have physically moved to North America and were generous in sharing their experiences of doing so.

For me, the value of participating in this delegation and attending this type of SaaS industry event, covered three main areas;

  1. Recognizing the common patterns, challenges, ups and downs of starting up a SaaS business. Despite my own experiences, it’s still good to hear of the billion dollar CEOs going through the same or similar challenges and reaching a massively successful outcome.  The value of this kind of psychological reinforcement cannot be overstated. In any industry it’s important to know what is normal and what is not, on the path to success. It also helps to know that you’re not alone and others face the same challenges as you on a daily basis.
  2. Learning new concepts, strategies, common metrics, KPIs and how the SaaS industry operates internationally.  It’s easy to get caught up in your own business, in your own locality without seeing the bigger, wider picture.
  3. Making new industry contacts.  I was fortunate to gain new American contacts at SaaStr and New Zealand contacts from within the Kiwi delegation itself.  Conferences like this are ideal to widen your business network, because you have so many people with a common interest from all over the world, in one place, at one time.

The New Zealand SaaStr delegation, meeting at the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center, prior to SaaStr.


A few of my favorite take-outs from SaaStr and the American-based NZ SaaS businesses (that happen to apply to my business Datagate) are as follows;

“Nail It before you Scale It” 

The short concise sentence above sums up how SaaS companies should transition from their start-up stage to their growth stage.  I think in many ways it encapsulates the essence of SaaS.

During the “Nail It” stage, the focus should be on understanding your customer, building your minimum viable product (MVP) that addresses the needs and wants of your customer, determining your unique selling points, your messaging and your sales strategy.  Ideally you should work with a small set of early-adopter customers to refine your offering based on their real-world feedback.  Focus on understanding and maximizing the value you are creating for your customers, aim for minimum churn, maximum customer satisfaction – before you even start focus on major revenue growth.

Setting aggressive revenue targets too early will drive the wrong behavior from your team.  You don’t want to cut corners to get on to the next sale until you’ve nailed your product and your service offering.  Once your offering has reached “nailed it” stage, there should be no need to cut corners when you get to “scale it”.

Aggressive revenue targets should be applied only when you reach the “Scale It” stage, once you’ve nailed your product or service offering.  If you scale too early, you are effectively damaging your reputation and your future potential.

This “Nail It before you Scale It” approach illustrates why SaaS start-ups require such strong support from their investors in the early stages.

Notes from several of the Billion Dollar SaaS CEOs

It’s extremely important to “know your customer” and ensure that the messages you are putting out in sales & marketing resonate well with them.  One very successful serial CEO said that when he moved into a new business, one of the first things he would do is personally spend time with customers and end users to get a better understanding their needs and what value they were (or weren’t) getting out of his company’s product.

A lot of the on-line sales processes today are heavily automated. There are tools to track the on-line activity of prospects and keep them updated regularly with a stream of sales & marketing material so they won’t forget you! The amount and depth of research that can be done on prospects automatically on-line is staggering.

Sales & Marketing work differently in the SaaS world than in the conventional scenario. In SaaS, marketing operates more in parallel with the sales team.  Prospects bounce between marketing and sales throughout their buying journey.  The two functions, sales and marketing must work tightly together with a common unified message and strategy.

Your team dynamic, your culture and your brand are extremely important to the success of your business.  Don’t retain people who damage your team dynamic or harm your culture, regardless of how well they might perform on their own.  You will find it easy to attract good people to your business if you have a good culture, reputation and brand.

Diverse teams work better than mono-cultural, single-gender teams. Research has proven that on average, businesses with more diverse teams perform better. The top performing companies seem to have the highest diversity.  SaaStr themselves have their own diversity and inclusion program and claimed to have 45%+ women speakers at SaaStr this year and over 60% women + multicultural speakers.


Entering the US Market from another country (such as NZ)

Seek to partner with a larger, established American business that targets the same customers as you do, but has a complementary product to yours (definitely not a competing product!). Make your product work well alongside their product and attend their trade shows to meet their customer base.  This is the quickest, easiest and most cost effective way to get direct access to a lot of your target customers.

Americanize your offering by working with your first early-adopter American customers to ensure your offering works well and is valuable for them. Every country has subtle (and not so subtle) requirements that differ from other countries (in the case of my business Datagate, we’ve had to do a lot of work with taxation and regulatory requirements for the American market).  Publish case studies of American customers using your product.  Testimonials from customers outside America are not as effective as American ones.

You need to build an American credit history by working through American banks and/or other institutions.  Credit ratings from outside America don’t count inside America.  Opening a bank account for your NZ-owned company can be difficult without an American credit history. It was suggested that it’s easier to open a personal bank account and use that first, to build up some history, allowing you to open a business account later on.

Due to the larger market size, you can be more focused on a narrower vertical market in America than you than you need to in a smaller economy such as New Zealand, where you tend to have to go wider to get enough sales volume.

It’s almost essential that the CEO of an American-focused business is located in America, in order to be taken more seriously by American customers, investors and banks.

American work visas can take a lot of time and effort to obtain, even if you are providing your own employment and employment to American citizens.  Don’t leave this until the last minute!

There might be challenges in getting into America, but it’s a huge market and well worth the effort.

The Age of the IT Service Re-seller

December 19, 2017

New business models appear as the technology landscape evolves.  Most of the sales and service companies within the ICT sector have now evolved into service re-sellers, or service aggregators.  This is a direct result of the Internet and Cloud computing.

Inspiring productivity with a wealth of technology

Businesses today have access to a huge range of cost-effective, scale-able, public-cloud computing and communication resources, available on subscription or usage-based pricing plans that can scale along with business growth and demand. “Everything as a Service”.

What do businesses need to make productive use of all this readily available ICT resource?

Most businesses need external expertise and support to provide a service layer over the top of these on-line resources to produce functional business solutions that perform correctly for the business’ requirements.

This service layer of expertise and support is typically provided by Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and in some cases, Value-Added Re-sellers (VARs) that focus on particular business applications, such as ERP or accounting software, CRM solutions, communications, inventory or production solutions.

MSPs and VARs typically have a good understanding of  their customers’ business models, workflows and processes. They are able to recommend, advise on, design and sell business solutions to suit the customer’s business requirements. These solutions are often hybrid, meaning that some parts of the solution might be their own services, while other parts may be on-line services wholesaled by other suppliers.

Convergence of IT and communications (computers and phones have merged) means that IT-focused MSPs are now being looked upon to provide voice solutions, such as VoIP, virtual PBX and mobile along with data and connectivity services.  We are even seeing electricity sales converging with telephony, to add to the mix.

Businesses customers are showing a clear preference for simplicity and buying their ICT and on-line services from a single supplier, who can be held accountable for their entire technology framework, including voice and data connectivity – maybe even electricity as well.

What is the biggest challenge for MSPs re-selling services and hybrid solutions?

The biggest challenge of the Service Re-seller is to combine a collection of services from any number of suppliers (both internal and external) and then bundle, price and present it all to the customer in the most simple and easily understandable form – a single bill. This is no easy task because often the services involved have a different pricing basis, different display requirements, different suppliers and may need to all be bundled together on the same invoice.

Billing of voice and mobile services is already complex, let alone when it is combined or bundled with other types of services.

What solutions are available to help service re-sellers manage the complexity of combining multiple services?

A new generation of Cloud-based billing solutions, such as Datagate, is designed to simplify and automate the job of combining, rating and billing different types of services from any number of suppliers. Datagate will also present usage data and invoices to end-customers via a white-label, end-user portal. It also integrates with most common accounting or ERP systems, such as Xero, Quickbooks, MYOB, SAP, Sage, Microsoft and others, meaning invoices get passed through to the re-seller’s accounting system, without the need for any re-keying.

Where is this all heading?

Worldwide, across so many industry sectors, there is a growing trend towards subscribing to services and paying based on usage of those services. This behavior is being driven by the dominance of the Internet (or Cloud), which itself has a predominantly service-based business model.

Service re-sellers are the way of the future!



MSPs are Trusted Advisers, Solution Aggregators

October 9, 2017

The ever-increasing economy of scale of the Cloud is driving the business computing world towards fewer, larger vendors offering massively scale-able public-cloud platform services, while at the same time also driving a trend towards tighter specialization of on-line applications (“Apps”) that work together to provide integrated business solutions.

Computer media and internet communication concept

The role of the MSP (Managed Service Provider) is evolving towards the following areas;

  • Providing strategic advice and planning for business IT and communication requirements. Helping clients decide on what technologies, platforms and applications are best suited for their needs and which will work together in a coordinated, integrated solution set.
  • Brokering Cloud services – aggregating solutions.  Sourcing, acquiring, integrating and optimizing applications and services to build cohesive, well integrated and economic business solutions.
  • Management, optimization and support of business applications, services and platforms; regardless of where they are located – public or private Cloud.
  • More focus on business processes and the solutions required to support them.
  • Recognizing new adjacent sales and service opportunities, in order to provide more value to clients and thereby maximize potential revenue per client.  For example, many MSPs have recognized that the convergence of phones and computers means that MSPs can extend to providing VoIP, broadband and other traditional telco solutions to their clients – becoming a single point of supply and support – which is increasingly attractive to end-customers.

MSPs are well suited to the role of trusted adviser and solution aggregator, because they typically have a much closer relationship and understanding of their clients’ business processes than the larger telcos, application developers and public cloud providers.

The challenge to MSPs is to recognize and lock in these new recurring revenue services whilst maintaining their own brand & identity, gaining differentiation & competitive advantage – and also keeping their own business complexity down to a minimum.

This is where white-label, cloud billing systems such as Datagate, capable of billing numerous telco & utility services on a single MSP-branded invoice and end-user portal are ideal.  The services, no-matter where they are sourced, appear together on the invoice and portal under the same MSP branding, thereby minimizing complexity and maximizing MSP brand exposure to the end-client.

MSPs that evolve and adapt to this new service-based, knowledge-based environment will be those that lead and win.  Recognizing, locking in and monetizing new adjacent opportunities is key to this success.

MSPs champion Telco sales

April 3, 2017

Managed Service Providers (MSPs) are making major gains in the business and government telephony markets, as customers show a clear preference to buy their IT and telephony services from a single source.  This stands to reason, as phones have become computers and computers have become phones.  The two product lines have converged, making it nonsensical to continue treating them as separate service lines.

Most of the tier-1 Telecommunications providers around the world have now established Wholesale business units to cater for “indirect sales” as they are seeing an increasing proportion of their business and government market shifting away from their own direct sales, in favour of those who have a closer relationship to – and knowledge of the target end-customer.  A sensible and logical business strategy for the Telco’s is therefore to provide a wholesale offering and pro-actively build a channel of re-sellers.   Those re-sellers are in most cases, MSPs.

Examples of Telco’s with Wholesale business units are; Spark, Telstra, Optus, TELUS and Verizon, to name a few.

A major stumbling block for MSPs moving into selling Telco services, such as VoIP, data circuits, mobile, MVNO etc is the billing process.  Telco billing can be very complex, especially in the areas of mobile, tolls, toll-free and other usage-based services.  Billing complexity and the time & effort needed to produce Telco-style billng and reporting is often the barrier to sales and success in this space. This is the problem that my company Datagate solves for re-sellers of Telco services (as outlined in this brief YouTube video).

With a suitable billing solution in place, MSPs are adding significant extra recurring revenue to their businesses, by selling and providing the data connectivity, VoIP and mobile solutions that they source from their local Wholesale Telco provider.  This is also good news for the end-customer, who gets a full-service offering from their MSP, less bills to pay and access to better analytical reports and information via an on-line portal.

Read more from the perspective of Spark Wholesale and VoIP HQ.

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 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.


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.

Enprise acquires Datagate Innovation

April 3, 2014
Datagate acquisition

Mark Loveys and Tim Mulcock

This week Enprise announced its acquisition of Datagate Innovation Limited, which is a Cloud Software Developer that specializes in on-line reporting and billing portals for Hosted Service Providers, Telco’s and Utility Companies.

Following the acquisition, Datagate’s founder, Tim Mulcock is staying on to lead Datagate in the role of Managing Director and he also becomes a significant shareholder in the wider Enprise Group.

Prior to founding Datagate, Tim was a co-founder of EMS Cortex, a global Cloud Control Panel provider for the Cloud/hosting industry – which was acquired by Enprise and subsequently sold to Citrix Corporation in 2011. Tim also has extensive industry experience, gained from working within Telecom New Zealand and also as a co-founder of Bizo – a New Zealand hosted service provider that was later sold to Orcon.

I’m enthusiastic about the synergies between Datagate and Enprise. Datagate will leverage Enprise’s extensive international contacts within the hosting industry (from our time with EMS Cortex) and also leverage our strong background in Business Management and ERP Software. Already, Datagate and Enprise Solutions are talking in unison with common potential customers.

Enprise will also benefit from Datagate’s laser-sharp industry focus on Cloud and Hosted Service Providers – which is a strong global market vertical that Enprise can apply to its international sales channel and ERP-based partnerships.

Specialisation is so important when you’re operating in the large global markets. This will be a strong new focus for Enprise.

Enprise Invests in Cloud Solution Accountability

August 20, 2013

This week Enprise Group announced its investment in Melbourne-based Cloud Solution developer, Accountability Access Pty Ltd.

Accountability is a Cloud-based Job Management and Accounting solution designed specifically for creative and communication agencies. Its customers are typically multi-branch, multi-national businesses in the creative, communication and advertising industries who want an easy to use, pay as you go, Cloud solution to process and track the accounting and billing of their projects. The solution includes a full browser based client, an iPhone/iPad applications and is built on the latest Microsoft technology with multi-currency, multi-lingual capability.

I am excited about this investment, as it signals the start of another global sales partnership for Enprise Group with Accountability. Accountability is a superb product with huge market potential and Enprise has the experience, capability and global footprint through its channels in North America, Europe, Africa and Australasia to significantly boost the existing Accountability sales channel.

A new business unit will be set up within the Enprise Group specifically to market and support Accountability. It will be able to leverage the resources of the group, including the depth of accounting and job costing expertise of our team, plus our branches in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Sydney, Melbourne and Pretoria.

Take the bus or the car… multi-tenant versus single-tenant software

May 19, 2013

A BusIn today’s world of the “Cloud”, I frequently find myself explaining the difference between multi-tenant and single-tenant software, where both are hosted or delivered through the Cloud.

I like to illustrate the difference by comparing it to the difference between a bus and a car.

A bus, like multi-tenanted software, is shared by many customers in order to reduce the cost per customer. It is driven by one driver, a trusted professional who dictates the path and direction forward. There is little flexibility in timing or journey per customer, because they all share the same bus and it can only be in one place at a time. The main benefit of a bus is cheaper travel at the cost of inflexibility.

Black Cabs
Compare this to single-tenanted software, which is like a car. A car is flexible as it can take you on the journey you want at the time you want. People who ride in cars instead of buses can dictate their own journey and schedule. Travelling by car is generally more expensive than travelling in a bus, but the benefit is flexibility.

Cars can be privately owned where you can drive them yourself, or they can be taxi-cabs which are driven by a trusted professional under your instructions as a customer. Taxi-cabs are similar to hosted single-tenant software, driven by a professional under your instructions, whereas private cars are similar to single-tenanted systems, run on-premise and controlled directly by the customer.

Obviously buses, cars and taxi-cabs all have their place in the world and each is better suited to different types of users for different purposes.

In the world of accounting and business management software, where my business Enprise operates, multi-tenanted software is generally better suited to smaller or simpler business requirements, where low cost is more important than flexibility. Single-tenant software is generally more suited to mid-sized and larger businesses that need more control and flexibility with their systems.

I notice that many multi-tenanted business management systems available on the market today are not that much cheaper than similarly specified single-tenant systems, in fact many work out to be more expensive. To my mind this is clearly a case of over-pricing and the vendors in question only get away with this due to the “smoke and mirrors” and hype surrounding the “Cloud”. I advise customers to look carefully at running costs compared to flexibility when choosing between single-tenant software such as MYOB EXO or SAP Business One and multi-tenant software such as NetSuite.

Empowering the Customer – so many choices

May 10, 2013

As time moves forward in the world of business and commerce, we as consumers increasingly get offered more and more choices and options. “Empowering the customer” is what it’s all about.

A case in point is the financial and business management software industry where I work through my role at Enprise Group. Today there are exponentially more options than ever before in all aspects of designing, configuring, consuming, delivering, accessing and paying for software and related services. In addition, there are significantly varied choices of software vendor and choices in the type of expert services to help and guide you in the use of your selected system. I think this abundance of choice is great and the different options work well for different types of businesses in different situations.

Let’s look at the different choices and I’ll offer you my opinion of the relative pros and cons;

    1. Choice of Financial Software

Your choice of financial software is critical because you want to know that the software will be around for the long-term to grow along with your business. My advice is to stick with strong market-leading vendors who have modern technology platforms & development roadmaps, decent market share and are profitable growing businesses themselves. My recommendations for Australasian businesses are vendors like MYOB, SAP and Microsoft. These are sound and proven long-term operators that have innovative, future-proof offerings. The heart of your financial system is not something to take undue risks with in my opinion. Your choice of software vendor has long-term implications. Strong, established vendors will also tend to have a strong and established channel of service and solution partners that can ensure that you get the best performance and add-on solutions for your system.

    2. Cloud versus On-Premise

Financial software in “The Cloud” is a valid software outsourcing/management, delivery and financing option for many businesses, but it is being over-hyped at this time in my opinion. It is the right option for some businesses, just as on-premise is the right option for other businesses. A clear and logical view is required to see through all the smoke and mirrors to make the right decision for your business.

“The Cloud” for financial software refers to a combination of options, including; multi-tenanting, outsourcing, hosting and subscription pricing or “software as a service” or “pay as you go”. Let’s look at the pros and cons of the individual options and remember that each of these can be selected individually or collectively when buying financial software solutions these days.

    • Multi-Tenanting:

    This is where many different businesses share the same instance of an on-line software package. It is a very good way of getting a large number of customers to share and thereby reduce costs, but that in turn comes at a cost in terms of a loss in flexibility. It’s a bit like riding in a bus instead of your own car. It costs a lot less but you have no control over a lot of things, such as when upgrades, fixes and changes will happen to your system and the ability to pilot-test for workflow issues in a new version on your data before you commit to an upgrade. There is also the limiting of options with regard to connecting to other software or devices. This is potentially scary stuff to medium or large businesses with more complex workflows, but of little concern to smaller simpler businesses.

    • Remote Hosting:

    Having your software and server hosted and managed in a professional-grade data centre with lots of redundancy, by professional, qualified engineers is without doubt the most safe and secure option if you’re serious about safety and security for your system. This is a good option if you have business-grade Internet connectivity which is subject to minimal outages and speed problems. If your local Internet connections are not up to scratch then hosting your software and/or server outside your building will be painful. There are other benefits, such as being able to access your software using a range of platforms and devices but then again there can be added complexities when you want to do simple things like integrate with software on your local computer or do fancy stuff with printers and scanners etc.
    Remote hosting can be more expensive or less expensive than on-premise hosting, depending on the expertise level of your staff, Internet and other costs and what grade of server you already own.
    All in all a mixture of pros and cons depending on your situation. Remember that any software can be remotely hosted – not only the multi-tenanted browser-based variety. As an example, check out

    • Subscription Pricing:

    Often referred to as SaaS Pricing (Software as a Service) – this is where you pay as you use the software. It’s a bit like leasing a car and there is usually a minimum term, such as two or three years that you sign up for. It’s a Profit & Loss expense instead of buying a software license asset on the Balance Sheet of your business. An advantage of subscription pricing is that for full Cloud solutions, it’s clean & simple and includes all costs including software upgrades, hosting and support. A disadvantage is that you’re often locked into a payment plan and in the long run it can be more expensive than buying the software license outright in the first place.

At Enprise, we like to empower our customers with choices when it comes to their financial software solutions and our consultants are well equipped to help them in making the right choices for their businesses. Cloud or on-premise, local or hosted, up-front or subscription pricing – the choices are all there.

New Era for Enprise and DSQ

September 5, 2012

On September 21st at the Annual General Meeting of ASX-listed DSQ Holdings Limited, shareholders will vote on a proposal to acquire the Enprise Group of businesses. If accepted, this will effectively enable the back-door listing of Enprise where it will transform from being a private company to becoming an Australian-listed public company. DSQ Holdings Ltd will transform from being a publicly listed “cash-box” (with no business operations) to becoming the Enprise Group.

For me, the idea of DSQ and Enprise becoming one and the same is certainly an exciting prospect. I have always wanted to build an innovative, expansive and profitable public company and I have been extensively involved in both of these two businesses over the last decade, being a founder and director of both.

In the past, Enprise & DSQ have been successful in building up international software businesses which were then acquired by major American companies. In 2011, Enprise sold its EMS-Cortex business to Citrix and DSQ sold its Datasquirt business to LiveOps.

The new Enprise will maintain a strategy aimed at sustainable growth, running the business as a cash earner rather than a cash burner. Enprise is the perfect platform for growth with its extensive global channels-to-market for business management software.
Included in the proposed Enprise Group acquisition is a one third share in a great new start-up business called which is a specialized Cloud Hosting Service provider aimed at the SME ERP market. At present it offers automated provisioning of hosted MYOB EXO systems and is marketed through the channel of MYOB EXO resellers throughout New Zealand and Australia. This business is experiencing rapid early stage growth and is a perfect example of how the Enprise Group can leverage its existing channels-to-market to launch new opportunities.

Enprise Solutions
Enprise Solutions is a Platinum MYOB EXO reseller in both Australia and New Zealand. It has offices in Auckland, Hamilton, Melbourne, Sydney and Wellington. The business is experiencing considerable demand from customers in Australia and our two Australian offices which were established earlier this year are driving a significant portion of our growth. Enprise’s goal is to achieve full regional coverage of Australia and New Zealand within the next 24 months.

Enprise Software
Enprise Software is a Gold Certified Solution Partner for the globally-marketed SAP Business One ERP platform. Enprise’s solutions include the popular Enprise Job Costing and Enprise Rent packages, amongst others. Sales and distribution is via a global channel of SAP certified resellers. There is much growth potential in this business unit as new demand grows for Cloud-based and mobility solutions in addition to SAP’s exciting new in-memory HANA platform.