Fiskl: Alina Lapusneanu, Shawn Vader and Monica Burian
Female founder Alina Lapusneanu on her start-up's mission to make small business owners' lives easier and sizing up the competition
Name: Alina Lapusneanu, Shawn Vader and Monica Burian
Company name: Fiskl
Location: Greater London
Date launched: 15/04/2015
Tell us what your business does:
Fiskl is a mobile and web software service that helps entrepreneurs manage their small business from their phone. The service enables instant intelligent receipt scanning, time and mileage tracking, and creating and sending quotes, invoices or expense reports – all from mobile devices.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
As small business owners in UK, we found a few aspects of managing our businesses particularly frustrating. Shawn dreaded the time spent on sorting his receipts and sending them to his accountant at the end of the tax year and I spent hours on tracking client time and sending out invoices in Excel at the end of each month.
Since we both loved to manage things on the go from our phones we looked for technological solution that would allow us to manage our businesses from absolutely anywhere. Nothing on the market matched what we needed so we decided to create own solution.
How did you know there was a market for it?
We used a combination of market research and very thorough competition research. We combed the forums and product reviews to see what the users of current services were really frustrated about. We also talked to accountants and small business owners to understand their main pain points.
What were you doing before starting up?
I was the owner of Sagitta Global, a mobile product consultancy, and former Vodafone senior executive, with 18 years of mobile industry experience.
Shawn is the owner of Adis Ltd., a software architect specialising in risk management software for investment banking (HSBC, RBS).
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Monica Burian is a recent MBA graduate, who previously had internships at Deloitte, Ernst and Young and Samsung Mobile.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
We’ve always dreamed of having our own businesses. Choosing a product idea has been challenging; we probably bounced around about 18 different and very good ideas before landing on a product we felt we could take to the market.
How did you raise the money?
We used our savings and our own expertise to build a very lean start-up in order to retain ownership. We carefully selected the technology platforms and looked for nearshore software companies and specialised developers, thus reducing the cost of development by about 70%.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
We offer users full access to mobile applications as well as a smart web dashboard with reports and analytics in a single package. The business also comes with a 45-day free trial period and a simple, affordable subscription-based price model (£7/user/month) so users do not have to worry about unpredictable costs.
We also have a referral rewards program and yearly subscription discounts.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Our biggest challenge has been building a very complex financial software product from scratch and on a very lean budget; from every pixel in the design to the server architecture, from testing our user’s needs to finding the right software team to develop mobile level intelligent scanning. We overcame all our challenges via sheer persistence in looking for solutions.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Our first breakthrough was managing to implement for the first time scanning and data extraction at mobile level (and not server level) which means users can scan and digitise receipts instantly and even offline. We are the only company in this space to offer users this feature.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
We would have three pieces of advice for entrepreneurs:
1. Choose your idea carefully and do your homework, both on the product and the market.
2. Think through your features and create your detailed design before starting any development.
3. Be resourceful, there are so many affordable freelance resources you can access globally: from design and graphics, to software developers, to marketing support.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
We would love to see Fiskl adopted and used by small businesses across the world.