I recently caught up with Brian Javeline, who is co-founder and CEO of www.MyOnlineToolbox.com. Brian recently made the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine and his company was named by Forbes as one of the Most Promising Companies in America. He has a great story and is using the services provided by MaximumASP to help build his business in some interesting ways.
Can you tell us a little about MyOnlineToolbox? How did you get started?
MyOnlineToolbox is a platform for contractors in home repair and remodeling. Contractors can manage the basics of their business such as estimating, invoicing and collections. But that is just the software side. MyOnlineToolbox is also a Business to Business to Consumer collaboration platform that connects contractors, subcontractors, suppliers and homeowners. I got started after I was selling my interests in www.InvestmentCafe.com, another collaboration platform that targets the private equity industry. I wanted to find an industry that was maturing towards internet based computing, mobile computing and collaboration. I then learned about a $150 Billion labor market that can never be outsourced, and one where the vast majority was running its business on paper. It was a natural opportunity.
MyOnlineToolbox has grown very rapidly. What’s your secret?
It is based on being ready at the right time. We began our schematics in 2005 and went through two permutations through 2007. Then the market started to slow. Luckily we were able to find a set of angel investors who saw our vision and were able to support us for a very rough economic environment. We launched the current MyOnlineToolbox product in mid 2008 just when our target audience was beginning to require and embrace online Software-as-a-Service solutions.
This your fourth successful business, what are some key learning’s you can pass along to our readers?
Let me clarify. This is my fourth venture, where two were hugely successful. The first was ACT Apparel Software that became an IBM Long Term Success Story. The third was InvestmentCafe that is still a successful company. In between the first and third was webTML, a rapid development tool for Java environments. The webTML venture did not get any traction, partly becuase of Allaire's Cold Fusion coming to market before us and also we released in early 2000 and I do not think we need to discuss how bad that timing was. What did come out of webTML demise was the birth of InvestmentCafe.com. And as far as MyOnlineToolbox contractor software is concerned, I rather say that we have been successful bringing the product to market. But I do have a ways to go in reaching goals of having over 25,000 customers.
MyOnlineToolbox provides Software as a Service (SaaS) to the construction industry, have you seen any unique issues in providing automation to a customer base that typically hasn’t used much IT?
I want to start to be ensuring readers do not think of our business as New Construction. In fact we target the repair, maintenance and remodeling markets. The uniqueness of our environment is ensuring the application side is as easy to use as possible. Our customers are introduced to MyOnlineToolbox by other contractors after hours, or when they are on the road. The challenge is to ensure that all application features are intituitive and ready to be used without any consulting. It is very hard to maintain an easy-to-start, easy-to-use environment as more functionality is added to the system.
What sort of features are important to you in a managed hosting partner?
It has to do with everything separate from the actual servers themselves since so much power is provided at a low cost. The value of the service relationship is critical. We wanted to have a company be proactive with all system issues. We wanted to have tools at our disoposal to monitor our performance. And most important is that we wanted a good relationship for when the unknowns appear. We have been with MaximumASP for about 2 years now, and we did have one of those strange issues occur that really tested how MaximumASP reacts when there is a problem. To be specific, our digital certificate security provider had a Denial-of-Service attack and it brought our server to its knees. MaximumASP was so proactive in helping us understand that issue, even though it really had nothing to do with them.
Why did you decide to host your business with MaximumASP?
We started with one of your competitors and everything was alright. The economy changed and they would not give us a reasonable option to downgrade to. We looked at two companies where we could start off much smaller with a much less financial budget and then be able to scale up when needed. MaximumASP gave us the compfort level that we could easily scale upwards as our business grows.