James has a love for software which began during his time as a control systems engineer. Creating software that makes it simple for people to control machinery started an interest which later grew into a small software business.
James and his business partner Mark founded Aktura Technology in 2010. It started out with an SEO software product, and later grew into web development for local clients. During this time, working with a client uncovered a widespread bookkeeping problem. This grew into their next product, Silver Siphon.
Silver Siphon helped James win a grant from the Brisbane Lord Mayor’s Budding Entrepreneurs Program to further grow the business. It has since grown into a popular product.
James then founded Content Snare in late 2016 after discovering a bottleneck in web design. He is building a community around the product with a useful blog and Facebook group.
Can you tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge to make it happen?
In our web agency, we worked with local clients to build their websites or their own web based software. We’ve since moved out of websites to focus on software, in particular, Content Snare.
In the web design process, we found a pretty serious bottleneck in our business. Specifically, we struggled to get content and information from clients on time and in a format we could actually use it.
It was one probably the biggest pain for us at the time, and I couldn’t find a decent solution to it. But I’d always read so much about failed startups, where people built something only to find people aren’t willing to pay for it. This made me wary, so validation was really important in the beginning.
From a lot of networking – both locally and online – I had a few contacts which were happy to jump on a video call to talk through their business and processes. Those initial 15 interviews were invaluable. Based on the frustration in the voices of almost every single interviewee, it was pretty clear that people wanted a solution to this problem.
From there I started building an email list and a Facebook group to get web designers together to see if this problem was big enough to get people to sign up. We had a steady growth of both mediums through content marketing and a small Facebook ads budget.
Eventually, we allowed people to pre-purchase a year license to the software. At this point, the software didn’t exist. This was an attempt at validating if people would actually pay for something. We allowed 20 spots, and all were gone in under 2 hours.
That was the point where taking the plunge into this product made a lot of sense.
Can you explain your business model to us?
To start with, we’ve kept things really simple. It’s a monthly fee based on usage. So, the more projects you have open, the higher the subscription level.
It works because the larger agencies with more projects save more time than a freelancer with 1 or 2 projects. The more projects it’s used on, the more valuable it is.
Right now this is it. In the future, there will be some premium features, and we may change the model a bit.
Can you tell us what you are working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next year?
The biggest thing right now is acquiring new users across different agency types & sizes. Then we’ll be able to see how people are using it so that we can come up with ways to save them more time, or maybe even stumble on a totally different way to value-add. Only time will tell.
We’re also working on building our most requested features by the current users. We’ve put a lot of time into prioritizing an enormous feature list to isolate the ones that will add the most value to the businesses that use the product.
I’m most excited about making Content Snare our core business. For a long time, we’ve been spread over a lot of different projects. This includes 2 of our own software products (now 3) and building web apps for clients. I’m excited about Content Snare reaching a point where it can have all of our attention.
How do you make ideas happen?
Prioritisation is super important. Every idea I have or task that has to be done gets prioritised so that the important, time sensitive things get done first. Without doing that, you can end up doing a lot of stuff that just isn’t that important in the long run.
It’s also good to have some time set aside every week to just think. That could be going for a walk, meeting a business partner/mentor, or having a long shower – we all know that’s where the best ideas come from.
What role have mentors played in your business life?
To be honest, not enough. In the online world, I’ve always been skeptical of claims that people make, which has turned me off seeking mentors. That’s probably held me back more than anything.
Lately, I’ve started following a few people that are down to earth and great at what they do. Even just reading what they put out can provide another perspective on your own situation.
Online forums are also great. I’m a member of a couple where I can ask questions and have loads of experienced people weigh in with ideas and suggestions.
Can you tell us what a typical day looks like for you?
There isn’t really a typical day at the moment, because there’s so much to do with Content Snare. We’re in the middle of testing various marketing channels, so there’s usually a mix of research and setting up tests. There’s also working with the development team to prioritize and develop new features and creating product videos. I spend a bit of time in my Facebook group and helping Content Snare users.
I love the concept called daily theming where you work on a certain type of task each day.
Have you faced any challenges when starting or growing your business in Australia?
The Australian market can be a bit of a challenge purely due to size. We’re not a huge population, which means lower volume.
The startup and online business scenes aren’t as established here either. I’ve seen plenty of startups move to the USA to try to get more exposure, access to investors and the larger market.
The barriers are coming down though. Most of our users are based in the USA, totally by accident. Online marketing can get to just about anyone, anywhere.
Australia is awesome, so I don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon.
What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?
Build a community or audience first. I’ve seen businesses start by accident just because they had an audience of people screaming for content that someone put out.
With an audience, you can find out what their problems are, what they want and the language they use. This shortcuts everything.
What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?
Businesses typically end up with a greater reach as they grow, so the impact they can have grows as well. They can become a role model for other businesses to do the same.
It’s hard during the startup phase as you have to be so focused on growth, but later I think getting involved with causes is important.
What 3 Australians should we follow on Twitter?
Dan Norris – Online entrepreneur turned brewery owner. Solid marketer.
James Schramko – Great online marketer and business coach that’s very low on BS
Kelly Exeter – Author & podcaster. Super down to earth and doing great things
Do you have any opportunities for people to get involved with your idea?
For sure. We’re going to need someone to help test out different marketing ideas soon. An intern would probably be great for this.
We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups, what would it be?
Why do people go for funding straight away, without exploring other options?
What’s your favourite bar or restaurant?
Is there anywhere that sells Buffalo wings, awesome beer and tawny port? If so, that’s the place.