“Bunker App” is a web-based application that covers almost all processes during the lifetime of a project such as managing your projects easily, creating stylish invoices in a few clicks and organizing your workflow once and for all.
Below is the full interview that we have conducted with Mr. ‘St-Pierre’ regarding his start-up “Focus Centric inc.” and its flagship product “Bunker” app;
1. What is it exactly that you do and what “Bunker” is all about?
Bunker brings the power of multiple tools to Freelancers and small businesses to help them put more time working on their projects instead of stressing over proposal creation, managing projects, time tracking, invoicing and expenses.
Bunker basically covers almost all processes during the lifetime of a project.
2. When has “Focus Centric inc.” been founded? And what stage is “Bunker” currently at?
We launched in September 2011. Lots of key features were added in the following 6-8 months. We are now in the customer acquisition phase trying to get the word out as much as we can.
The product is mature, and we’ve got good feedback from our established customers. Integrations with accounting web app are currently in the work.
3. What is “Bunker”’s business model and how does it work?
Bunker is a SaaS (Software as a Service) using the monthly recurring model. We’ve priced our product for the solo freelancer and small businesses in mind.
The goal is to merge four distinct application into one with a simple pricing table. The plan is as follow Me:$5, Smal:$12, Medium:$20, Full:$50 per month.
4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?
The huge team at Bunker HQ comprises Caroline Mayrand and myself Dominic St-Pierre. We are a small team but an effective company.
We are both old-time freelancers, and Caroline is my wife, in fact. She is responsible of all social media aspects like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and marketing.
I do marketing and development. We hire some freelancers to get things done faster like graphic designers.
5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?
There are so much project management and invoicing app out there that we had to find something that would catch the attention. We’ve decided to build a product that would bring anything that a freelancers or small businesses would need during the lifetime of their projects.
Instead of having to purchase three or four services like one to prepare and maintain proposals, one to manage the project and team collaboration, time tracking, invoicing, you can use Bunker App with an affordable pricing and a complete business suite.
6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has “Bunker” achieved so far?
It is a difficult market, but a market with a huge amount of customers. We’re slowly getting there. The product was well received, and we were lucky to have good reviews.
It’s harder than what I thought. Getting traction and getting noticed across all those other apps is a long process. But we are working hard to get there.
7. Who are your competitors? And what is “Bunker”’s competitive advantage over them?
I’m not totally sure who is our competitor. Obviously, we cannot compare to Base Camp for project management and Freshbooks for invoicing. We are offering a combination of four main processes under a single app.
Since it was something we were in need of, we built it, after all we are still doing occasional freelance work. We did not do any kind of market research and did not try any tools before building it. We needed this. We’ve built it.
8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
Being a developer, marketing is certainly the thing that is the hardest. We’ve been doing a really bad move recently trying to improve our home page and finally get back to the old one. Those things happen. We give us the right to make mistakes.
When you are a small company, you cannot afford to make more than one or two costly decisions. Everything that you spend should be spent the right way. It’s part of the learning curve of running your own business I guess.
9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?
I’m not sure there is any. The tasks done by the product is clear. If you take a graphic designer who want to test the product, they immediately know that they have their proposal process cover as well as project management, time tracking, invoicing and so forth. Those things are all clear to freelancers and businesses.
10. Why are you going to succeed?
Our determination to succeed. Our customer services. The fact that we push new update almost every 5-7 days or so.
The fact that sometime we implement fixes the same day that customers ask for it. There are lots of great tools out there, and we want to be one of them.
We want to cause a change in the day to day workflow for freelancers. Help them put more time into their projects and make them happy when they use the product.
11. If “Bunker” succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?
We will do surveys and let our customers decide on what they would need to be added in terms of major functionality. Native mobile app comes to mind as well as native desktop time tracker.
We might also investigate the field of customer relations. We believe it’s valuable for our customers. However, we want to let our clients guide us choosing features that meet their needs.
12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build “Bunker” based on?
The primary reason was that we were in the need for that kind of app, and paying four different provider ~ $20 / month each was not really appealing. I already have in the past develop systems for billing and project management.
I know those domains well. I feel it can serve my clients. And I am a freelancer for years now, this is very satisfying to think I want to help my community.
13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?
Patience is the best quality an entrepreneur must work on. It’s difficult to watch success stories when you are working extremely hard and would like to be there as well.
When you have a small marketing budget, you must absolutely take the right decisions.
It’s probably there that the chance factor can do a difference. The amount of efforts needed to succeed is unbelievable.
14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
I cannot see. We are deployed on the cloud so scaling is done in 20 seconds if we are to get 1000 subscriptions per day.
I guess the problem will be the same as today, getting the words out about Bunker, getting traction and more customers.
If I had to pick something I would say cash flow like many other bootstrap start-up.
15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?
Bunker does lots of things for you. You can create a proposals, have your client electronically sign them. You can convert them to projects and start working alone or with your team.
Collaboration with the client is available while tasks are being completed, and finally, you can turn those projects into an invoices and collect payments. You don’t have to type anything while passing from a proposal to a project to an invoice. Plus we are so friendly.
16. How did customers/users find out about you?
Reviews and word or month are actually working well. We are continuously looking forward to finding ways to get some press.
Caroline is doing tremendous jobs on Twitter and Pinterest. Ad campaign on that market is very costly, so we are trying to be minimalist in those fields.
We’ve been promoted on AppSumo as well so it helped a bit.
17. Who are your current customers/users? Who are your target customers/users?
Mostly, small businesses and freelancers like small agencies, graphic designers, developers. People that have the need to manage projects before creating their invoices.
We have audio artists, writers as well Some use the full package.
Some use proposals and invoicing. We have customers from all over the world since we are handling all those languages and currencies. We’ve just added Thai recently.
18. Where do new customers/users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?
New customers come from reviews we’ve got so far. Since the reviews have been extremely good I think they are confident they should try the product.
We are counting heavily on the word of mouth, if our current customers enjoy the product and our customer services, they will spread the words to their peers.
19. What do your customers/users say about your product and/or service?
We’ve got good feedback from our customers. We are using User Voice so everyone can submit idea and feedback on how to improve Bunker.
We are really focused on what our users say and try to shape the product toward those ideas.
We are always pleased to discuss with our customers and know what pain points they have, so we can do our best to make Bunker more enjoyable to work with.
20. How are you going to scale?
Scalability was one thing that I wanted to fix from the start and not when we would need to. Having a scalable web app is tricky, we decided to deploy Bunker in the cloud.
I only have two buttons to push to get new server(s) running the app. Everything is scalable from the web app to the background processes, file storage. We are using AppHarbor as our PaaS and they use Amazon Web Services.
21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?
Looking at our User Voice forum, mobile apps are the most popular requested features.
We have launched a mobile web app that allow customers to manage their projects and invoices from their mobile device’s web browser. Integrations with popular accounting software are currently in development as well.
22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?
We are based in Quebec, Canada. We are used to make things bilingual here because English and French are the two official language.
Bunker is already localized in English, French and Spanish. We are also supporting a fair amount of languages and currencies for the generated invoices that the clients of our customers view.
23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?
I have high expectation for Bunker. There is a lots of freelancers and small businesses out there.
Once you tried a tool and appreciated the workflow you normally stick to it. I’m convinced that we can grow because of our offering and workflow.
Everything you need is covered by our product and it; you need something, simply ask.
24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?
We are not there yet. Bunker is currently not sustainable enough for the two of us as we speak. Though, we might have a chance to be fully dedicated to it shortly.
There is no full-time job available at this point. We are hiring freelance UX designer to make sure the user experience is top quality.
If you want to contact us, you can do it from our website.
25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?
To be perfectly honest, I kind of fear all those funding-related things. Probably, because I’m not familiar with the implication of such a process.
This is an aspect that I don’t really have an opinion on. I kind of like owning Bunker at 100% via my company, Focus Centric inc., But I’m not closed to any discussions.
26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?
Do not be afraid of failure, simply do it. If you have something in mind you will never know until you do it. Take your time before taking major decisions.