Malinko is an easy job scheduling & CRM software for small and micro businesses who have staff operating out in the field.
Below is the full interview that we have conducted with Mr. Threlfall regarding his start-up “Liquid Bronze” and their main product “MalinkoApp.com”;
1. What is it exactly that you do and what your “Malinko (a Liquid Bronze product)” is all about?
Liquid Bronze is a web-based application development company. We tend to deal with workflow issues and back office solutions. The systems we develop allow businesses to run more smoothly and collaborate more easily.
Malinko is the main product at the moment and is the reason we are in startup mode. It is a CRM & job scheduling system aimed at small and micro businesses who have staff out in the field.
2. When has “Malinko (a Liquid Bronze product)” been founded? And what stage is “Malinko (a Liquid Bronze product)” currently at?
As a company we have been in existence for 10 years, but the majority of that time we have been doing bespoke systems for businesses on a one off basis, with some support contracts in place. Malinko as a product has been in development for 3 years and is in its 3rd version.
It started life initially as a bespoke system for a company, but we felt it had wider application so have focused on it as a product to market. We have a small number of customers and are looking to grow the customer base substantially over the coming months.
3. What is “Malinko (a Liquid Bronze product)”’s business model and how does it work?
The model is to allow a short free trial. You can subscribe and pay within the package, and although we have got a number of processes at the moment that are manual – for instance we are tending to speak to people when they set up a demo – we are aiming to automate the process as far as possible so it is scalable. We have also recently set up a referral scheme.
4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?
There are 3 people in the team. The company is owned by Andrew Threlfall who is also a developer. Adam is a main coder and he met Andrew through a hack day. Antony works in sales. Antony was a client of Andrew’s and worked at the company for which Malinko was initially developed. He was brought on board just over a year ago with the intention of ramping up the number of customers. Antony understands the kind of problems small businesses are facing and how Malinko can help them solve them.
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 many CRM systems in the marketplace, but the difference between us and the other is the relationship between appointments and the customer database. The emphasis within the system is on showing lists of jobs for staff that are out in the field.
We have also added a survey system to Malinko so complex information can be collected from clients on a visit.
6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has “Malinko (a Liquid Bronze product)” achieved so far?
We are in the process of growing and expect growth to increase rapidly in the next few months. The development of Malinko has been alongside bespoke work we have done for clients, which has had the effect of slowing down growth.
We have recently had investment which has allowed us to focus on the development of the software. Milestones: We have integrated Malinko with TomTom devices; enabled file storage; opened up accounts globally.
7. Who are your competitors? And what is “Malinko (a Liquid Bronze product)”’s competitive advantage over them?
There are sector specific competitors such as Buckit.co.uk, Aworka, servicetask.com, serviceceo.com and more general CRM packages such as Salesforce, Sage CRM.
8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
The main obstacle is finding time to complete all the development we are planning. We have overcome this by finding an additional source of income, even though the company is bootstrapped.
9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?
There is a gap between what things within the system are complex to program and which things are simpler. For instance, handling one-off jobs is fairly easy, and there are lots of tools out there. However, we’re working with businesses that service their clients on a regular basis.
Having a good way to plan and manage repeating jobs or work that happens on a cycle such as maintenance work is a tricky thing, although this isn’t always appreciated!
10. Why are you going to succeed?
We have a clear strategy for development and have really good understanding of what makes a web-based startup fail or succeed. We have got a great team in place with clear roles and responsibilities.
We are part of the first round of nreduce program so have a community of likeminded organisations with which we can share our development ideas and focus on taking the product to the next level.
11. If “Malinko (a Liquid Bronze product)” succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?
We would like to integrate with a wide range of other apps. Initially, we are looking at integration with an accountancy application. Rather than create an app that does everything, we would rather have one that works well in what it is meant to do and works well with other quality apps as we feel this gives people a more flexible approach.
12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build “Malinko (a Liquid Bronze product)” based on?
Like many ideas, it came about by accident. We were commissioned to devise a system for managing a customer database and job schedules for a recycling company. We realized that the app could have wider application and be used in many different contexts.
The product was in development but not gone to wider market for a couple of years when the decision was made to do a major sales push. This coincided with Antony joining the team – he had had previous experience of using Malinko as a customer of Liquid Bronze.
13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?
That things take longer than expected!
14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
Currently our sales process does not have a light enough touch, so in order to expand to the size we want we do not have enough sales capacity. Also, as we expand we will require more server space and the ability to handle a large number of users on the system at once, so we need to make sure the system is more robust
15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?
The system will enable businesses to become more organised and be able to see a complete job history on a single screen. Recording the information within a database means they can have ready access to historical information and we allow custom fields to give user the choice about what they want to record. Allows users to manage their team – reminders about professional training dates, driving licence check dates etc. Can store copies of documents against a client, job or employee such as copies of contracts, driving licences, signed work dockets.
Customized reports allow users to access powerful information from the system – record things such as sales pipeline, contract renewal dates or whatever specific information you need to record.Issues system gives you the ability to record a complete history of interaction with clients.
Exports to other systems prevents double entering of information
Web-based allows easy setup and no installation required with free updates and free backups.
Malinko is the most cost effective solution out there from only $8 per month with no setup costs.
16. How did customers/users find out about you?
We advertise on forums and through Google Adwords, but the trials with a higher conversion rate are those that found us through organic searches.
17. Who are your current customers/users? Who are your target customers/users?
We have a range of different users. These are from the following sectors in the UK: waste, maintenance contractors, cleaning, home help, electrical contractors. Our target users are cleaning companies and contractors in the USA and UK.
18. Where do new customers/users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?
Where do new users come from has been answered in Q16. What makes them try us is a question we are still trying to find out the answer to! We are working on optimising our website and are measuring the effect of the changes we are making. However, we have recently started on the Free Trial Dominator program and realise we have a lot to do! Come back to us on this one in 6 months.
19. What do your customers/users say about your product and/or service?
“good value, powerful and truly brilliant, first class, friendly customer service”
Phil Wright, Needham Electrical
“Malinko allowed us to record a range of defined fields against our customers, meaning we could record exactly what we wanted and know who we were talking to if they ever called again.”
“We were pleased when we realised that using Malinko not only meant we wouldn’t have to think about backing it up, Liquid Bronze worked with us to fit with our needs.”
“Malinko freed up our staff to actually get on with the job of managing the gritting process by automatically sending out updates to Asda every few minutes.”
“It’s absolutely brilliant, I just love it and I won’t change – no matter what!”
20. How are you going to scale?
We have made sure our technical platform, sales and support processes have all been thought about so that we can scale without too many headaches. We focused initially on the UK market and a specific sector. We are now moving to other sectors, and are selling to an international market.
21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?
A really great mobile phone app. We have had a mobile optimised view of our app for a long time, but you could only view and did not have offline access to information.
We have recently been working on this though! We have got a beta app just out in the Google Play store this week but we have got lots of things to do to improve it right now. We also need to get it up and running on iPhones.
22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?
We have already internationalized! Currently, Malinko is available across the world, but only in English. We are currently focusing on the USA as it is such a large market. We have got people in the USA & Australia using the software.
23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?
The size of the market varies from sector to sector. Our plans are to be the market leader in providing software to small contractors with a mobile workforce.
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?
No, we are not currently looking for more employees. We will hopefully employ more staff in the next 12 months and we anticipate this role will be sys admin. Everyone can contact us via our website: www.Malinkoapp.com
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?
We are bootstrapped currently and plan to initially scale organically. However we understand that investment may allow us to scale at a faster rate and take advantage of opportunities.
Potential partners or investors can contact us via the phone numbers listed at www.MalinkoApp.com
26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?
If you think you have got a great idea – get out there and validate it! There are loads of tools out there to help you measure things, make the most of them.