Earlier this year, we met with Tessa Court – CEO, Founder and Director of IntelligenceBank - an award-winning online information management company. The business allows clients to securely share documents and data with exactly who they want, and when they want to. It offers niche business apps including online board portals, virtual data rooms and digital asset management.
“The secret to our success is that we’ve got a single platform and we’re able to productize it”, explains Tessa. For example, one of our products is digital asset management so NAB use us to share and educate people about their brand guidelines and download marketing assets for various agencies. The reason they like our platform is because it looks and feels like NAB, but they can give ad-hoc access to people as required”. Another client is “a mid-tier consulting firm using us to manage their projects and intelligence around different engagements. Others use us as a board portal to streamline the online meeting process”.
Before IntelligenceBank, Tessa spent nine years on the Executive team at Hitwise, an audience measurement firm which was an internet startup at the time. As Head of Sales and Marketing, Tessa altered the price point of the product significantly, changed the sales strategy and expanded into the US, UK and Asia - driving sales 270% year over year.
After being with the company for nine years, she set up IntelligenceBank. At the time, her husband had a market research company with an extranet called IntelligenceBank. A few of his clients wanted all their market research on there so Tessa set to work, exploring what clients wanted from a marketing and market research perspective. “We built a platform which was good at managing documents and data in a really customisable way”, she says.
The company had a lot of early quick wins with big corporate clients like Suncorp and NAB – contacts that Tessa had built through her professional career. Having known and trusted friends to help build your product and give you feedback is crucial, but she insists, “It matters more when you sell to people you don’t know and who haven’t met you. That’s when you know you’ve got a good product”. Having a proven market fit earmarks you for success but being successful can come from following Tessa’s seven smart tips:
1. Optimise your website
“Every lead that comes to your website is like a golden nugget”, advises Tessa, “so make
sure your design, messaging and UI is optimised as best as it can”.
2. Be pitch perfect
“When I was raising capital, I didn’t have my pitch down, it was a mess”, Tessa explains.
To brush up her pitching skills, she took part in an investment enterprise program with
Springboard Australia and says, “It changed my life and how I approached raising capital
and thinking about the business”.
3. Don’t grow your business before you’re ready
Expanding too early, before you have the fit right for your product could spell disaster. “When we raised our seed money, I opened an office in New York but we didn’t have our product right”, reveals Tessa. Trying to expand the business in those early stages proved to be her biggest hurdle.
4. Question everything you do
When it comes to deciding on new ideas, features or products, Tessa borrows Richard Branson’s concept, ‘Simple Rules’. It’s three or four criteria you create, which means an idea doesn’t even get off the ground unless it meets that criteria. For example,
• Does it differentiate us in the market?
• Is anyone else doing it well?
• Can we make more money out of it?
“It’s a good way to weed out every idea and prioritise what’s most important”, says Tessa.
5. Find the right investor
Having recently raised $2m in investment, Tessa firmly believes that raising money is all about finding the right partner. “It’s really important you share the same values” she says. As a CEO, how you operate has to fit with your venture capitalist (VC). Being aligned with your term sheets is critical so that “nobody feels like they’re getting badly done by the other party, and it works for everyone”. Aligning timeframes is also crucial so if you think your business could take five years to be successful, you need to meet with VCs who have the same idea and aren’t expecting huge wins within the first year.
6. Evaluate your business
Measure everything you can and get feedback. Listen to your clients and customers – not just at the initial stages when you’re launching your product but through every step of the way.
7. Take time off
“I have a one day weekend where I don’t do work. I used to think if things are tough, you just power through but you’re exhausted and of no use to anyone”, admits Tessa. Taking time to regularly recharge your batteries is absolutely critical for those running their own business.