Have you ever noticed a hole in the market that you wish you could fill? How many times have you imagined an invention that would make your worklife a whole lot easier? You’re not alone. Kostis Mamassis, founder and CEO of Megaventory Inc., realized there was something missing in his industry and took action to change it. His passion and perseverance carried him through rough patches early in his entrepreneurial journey, and have greatly aided in his many successes today. In this StartupStories feature, Kostis sheds light on what new business owners need to do to stay afloat, and how to turn innovation into compensation.
Why were you inspired to start Megaventory?
I wanted to address a practical problem of my previous e-commerce business. I was running a diving equipment trading in 2004 and there weren’t any web-based systems to manage stock in real-time. So, we built our own from scratch and gave remote access to our suppliers to update their stock on our app.
How did your business get started? From the good, bad and ugly, what was your startup process like?
It all started when the decision to spin off and market Megaventory as a standalone product was taken. At the beginning, we were just two people working on the product as developers. I thought that sales would skyrocket by themselves but this never happened, obviously. Instead, what happened was that the development of the product was consuming all our time and money. We were acquiring customers at a very slow pace, but what kept us going was the love for the product itself and self-resilience; something every founder should possess. After three years the revenue could barely sustain us, so we kept on working on the product until a few key design and technical elements were in place. That milestone allowed us to acquire more customers and make our next hire.
What niche or hole in the market are you filling with Megaventory?
Just like us, there were thousands of other small businesses out there that understood the need for a web based app to manage their inventory, purchases, and sales. But, the available web-based apps were just a handful and the legacy solutions were just too expensive and heavy for the small business. Megaventory was one of the very first to offer an online inventory management system that ran on the browser, which, on top of that, was affordable and easy to use.
How much has your business changed from day one until now?
We started development in 2008 and onboarding clients in 2010. That’s ages in SaaS years, and the landscape has changed significantly. One example of this which speaks volumes is that for several of our important keywords, we used to rank in the top 5 results in the U.S. search engine results. This, of course, is much harder to achieve these days. The amount of competition entering the industry from 2011 to 2016 is double what entered the industry from 2005 to 2011 in terms of the number of companies.
Of course, the technology threshold has lowered significantly as well (hence the large number of new entrants) and this has translated in a largely false sense that it’s relatively easy to put together a B2B application. Despite the technological advances, it remains a challenge to create a reliable business software product. This is especially true when integrations with third party services come into play where the complexity escalates – and this is something we see much more these days compared to in the earlier times since we also bet on integrating Megaventory with other services.
What are your biggest challenges in marketing Megaventory?
A lot of heavyweights are in the industry and this drives advertising costs to really high levels. There are of course niches and specific parts of the advertising channels which one can tap but it takes hard work (and money) to discover, e.g. the countries which offer the lowest CPC (once that’s a known though marketing does start working on its own). Identifying the segments and channels which deliver the most ROI is also a challenge, especially if budget and staff to manage all of this is a concern. Quality content creation is also a constant challenge – especially when going against the aforementioned heavyweights. Automating to any extent any marketing effort in a budget-conscious approach is the overarching challenge of all this of course.
What types of marketing are most effective for your business?
There are few channels which we have found to work the best and some are not very well known. Quora and Wikipedia are good examples of tools which are tricky to benefit from but have untapped potential. As mentioned before going for specific markets is another often-quoted tool which has worked in our case. SEO is always a channel to count on – it may take months to see results but you do see them. Finally, guest posts are another channel we’ve put to good work even though it may be a hit and miss business even with all the experience our team brings in, in this respect.
What is the #1 lesson you learned since starting Megaventory?
Never give up, make small iterations, and choose your team wisely. When the team is small, your next hire is always a key hire; if it goes wrong it can make things messy!
If you won $50,000, how would you invest it in your business?
I would hire two more people.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own business?
Make sure you know how to do what you’re about to do in a very large extent – preferably you should be able to do 90% or more of it so that you just need to put the time doing it. If you need to educate yourself in a new technology and *then* do it, you’ll be running out of time (budget-wise, outran by competition, etc.) before you know it.
Don’t be afraid to put together something quickly to see if it works and come back to fix or improve upon it later. That’s the equivalent of picking up a loan from a bank and repaying it when the revenue starts coming in – only in technical (debt) terms. The hard thing here (as in spending money) is knowing where to spend your loaned resources – for example, which things to sloppily put together and which to get right the first time. No one but your experience can guide you in this however; hence the previous 90% tip. Also, make sure you have felt the pain of the problem you’re trying to solve. You frequently read this advice, but it’s so important it’s worth repeating.
Make sure you have felt the pain of the problem you’re trying to solve. – @megaventoryClick to tweet
What can we expect from Megaventory in the next year?
More integrations and better product consolidation – we plan to improve upon the core elements of the service and focus on our usability and interface elements to ensure the best possible experience for our customers – new and existing alike.
Kostis Mamassis is the founder and CEO of Megaventory, the online inventory management system that can help small businesses synchronize stock and manage purchases and sales over multiple stores.
To learn more about Megaventory, please visit megaventory.com.
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