OPINION: Jody Bullen is a force to be reckoned with. Soon after being named 2009 business analyst of the year, he stepped away from a secure job into startup land, to create a software company designed around a problem that he knew all too well and had a solution for.
Tens of millions of dollars are wasted in New Zealand every year in failed projects, 70 per cent of those because of poor requirements planning. The first question that Bullen asked people about his idea was: "Can you see the value?", and it's a question he has kept asking.
Yonix is a startup success for several reasons, not least because its chief executive asks questions, sweats the detail and "delivers on spec". Even as a professional aiming to build a product to help his business analyst peers collaborate better, save time and budget, Bullen knows it isn't about convincing himself.
His first prototype was praised by his team and his clients as a key component in the project's success. They loved it, and they told him.
"I wanted to commercialise it, to grab the opportunity. The first thing I did was get three more people to look at it.
"My first question was: 'Do you see value here?' They did. That was my early advisory board."
Two of the three are shareholders now.
The next question was: "Where to from here?".
Creative HQ, Wellington's entrepreneur and innovation centre, was recommended and he fronted up with an idea plus feedback to date, and quickly turned it into a business plan. Bullen looked critically at what he was trying to pull off.
"How were we going to launch a SaaS [software as a service] product from what was effectively my bedroom? The day I was accepted into Creative HQ, I thought, 'OK, it's serious now'.
"No longer was it just me investing my time. Someone else thought the idea was good enough to buy into."
From then, it was full noise: seed investment within eight months; finding a team; building product; and getting customers. And he was out of the bedroom.
"Two things I think made the difference. One was going to Creative HQ. The second was getting my wife to sit with my advisory board early. They would talk about the business and she could listen. She didn't have to take my word for it any more."
A new house and a new baby compounded the startup sacrifice. The milestones kept coming, just never as soon as Bullen hoped.
Yonix is getting recognised by banks and local government as a tool worth having, but for Bullen and his family, the small day-to-day wins help them keep faith.
"I had to keep resetting expectations. It always takes longer than you expect. But that is the same for everyone; I have to sell this business to everyone, every day - inside and outside the company. They are all making sacrifices.
"But we're building something of value. We're creating something that will improve the way projects are run. Being business analyst of the year was an honour, but it was a reflection of the work I'd done for the last 10 years. Yonix is the same; we're building the foundations for the rewards later."
- Nick Churchouse is venture manager at Creative HQ.
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