Elevator Pitch is a regular feature on Lifehacker where we profile startups and new companies and pick their brains for entrepreneurial advice. This week, we're talking with CEO Stephane Ibos from Maestrano.
In 128 words or less, explain your business idea.
Maestrano is a one-stop-shop for small and medium businesses that provides all the tools needed to run a company online on a centralised dashboard in an uncomplicated format. We are the first in the world to bring the cloud exclusively to SMEs, minus the technical effort.
We provide applications with a high level of integration so that in a few clicks our customers can efficiently build the enterprise system they need, at the price they choose. We offer a unique "pay-per-hour" system whereby SMEs can finally access the tools they need anywhere, anytime, at a fraction of the cost. Efficient systems are no longer the privilege of large corporations.
What strategies are you using to grow and finance your idea?
Maestrano's technical development is complete and the company holds a global patent and two provisional patents. Our revenues are constantly growing so we are now focusing on the expansion of our customer base internationally -- now standing at 1100 businesses since our commercial launch six months ago.
In order to grow, we have developed a partner program and we have already signed 35 partners internationally. This will widen our reach to large amounts of customers, completing our online marketing efforts.
We have been really pleased with the support Maestrano has had this year, including a $1 million investment from respected IT professionals including Ian Buddery and Gary Jackson.
What's the biggest challenge facing your business?
The biggest challenge to date for Maestrano is our ability to reach as many potential customers as possible. We are challenging a widely-spread belief that moving to the cloud is expensive, complicated, time-consuming and risky. We need to demonstrate that this is no longer the case, that Maestrano offers the best open source business platform applications on a single platform. Our biggest challenge is getting to word out there that we have created a one stop shop for SMBs.
How do your differentiate your business from your competitors?
There are two key factors that separate Maestrano from other cloud services.
Firstly, we offer our customers a pay per hour of use (15c/hr) rather than locking them in to monthly or annual contracts.
Secondly, we offer businesses a revolutionary technology allowing them to input their business data into an application that then transfers the information across all other applications, making all material interconnected on one single platform. We have made it very easy for businesses by giving them a quality solution without the costs, timeframes and heavy workload usually required to create a similar system.
What one phone, tablet or PC application could you not live without?
Definitely Skype. Lots of my friends and family live in Europe and it can be difficult to keep in touch just by email and Facebook. Being able to talk and see them is essential for me.
What's the best piece of business advice you've ever received?
I have been lucky enough over the years to receive lots of sound business advice. But definitely the best one was: "There is only one truth: the customer's truth". It's a simple but helpful quote when it comes to running a business. Without a customer, you don't have a business. And no matter what you think (or what the rest of the world thinks!), if your customers aren't happy, they will not use your service. Make no excuses, make it happen and happy customers will follow!
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