A profile with JCurve CEO Chris King.
Australian software integrator JCurve unveiled last month its “simple and easy” version of cloud-based ERP suite NetSuite which it has customised for fast-growing small businesses. CEO Chris King spoke to BoxFreeIT about how JCurve’s three products would be sold, who would buy them and how they would compete against other cloud and desktop accounting software.
Below is an edited transcript of our conversation.
BoxFreeIT: Who are you targeting with JCurve?
King: We’re certainly interested in a large-scale rollout, so tens of thousands of customers. The simple bottom-end product (JCurve Go) is perfectly suited for small businesses who are small and want to stay small. You don’t have to be super aspirational to get the most out of high-quality software.
When people compare what we do – it’s more powerful, has more functionality than competitors – they may see themselves becoming a bigger company and they don’t want to have to upgrade systems several times in the next 10 years. They want to do it once and set themselves up.
BoxFreeIT: Do you see businesses looking at JCurve when they’re considering a new accounting program or will they be motivated by other reasons?
King: The slight difference with JCurve, unlike MYOB and Xero which are 100 percent accounting led, often our requirements come from front-of-house.
‘I need a better website’, ‘I need closer integration between my website and my backoffice’, ‘I can’t manage my inventory’, ‘I need to bill my time more effectively on projects’, ‘I need to integrate my payroll with my billing’. Continuous business improvement is really driving a lot of our purchases.
So we’re seeing a lot of requirement come from outside the accounting department and I think that’s probably because we’re a broader business suite than just an accounting package. We’re really marketing to the business owners and leaders.
That said, the vast majority of departments that contact us are accounting driven.
You could argue that if you just use an accounting product you’re still going to have the same inefficiencies in your business if you have multiple customer databases. We want a single customer database throughout the whole business and that’s when you start to drive real efficiency and integration between the departments and the data. A single database has to be the holy grail.
Next page: How easy is JCurve to set up and how does it compete with Xero and Saasu?
BoxFreeIT: Setting up complex business suites is a lot harder than a simple accounting program, though. I have heard about frustrated small businesses which had taken a year to install NetSuite. Do you see this as a major obstacle to buying JCurve?
King: That’s a phenomenon in the ERP market in general. There are two major pain points when changing to ERP. One is the implementation and two is the capital cost. We’re addressing both of those by making it more affordable to small business and making it as simple to migrate as possible.
Our two key success factors for the brand is, is it simple enough to migrate and not adversely affect the business? That’s why we’re doing the product development with the self-install wizard and the fast-start implementation packages which are all geared around making that transition as simple and as quick as possible.
BoxFreeIT: Will the accounting module (sold on its own in the entry-level JCurve Go package) be as easy to set up as Xero and Saasu?
King: I would say for a brand new start-up company you could be up and running in a matter of hours or days. For a company migrating from something else it is probably days and weeks. But this is not because of the software set-up, this is because of the change in people and processes.
It’s a different piece of software and it works slightly differently. So there’s a change from what you’re doing to what you need to do. We’ve made it as simple as we can from a software perspective and customisation and all of the tools available make it as simple as possible.
BoxFreeIT: Is that effort in implementation going to be an issue? Whether it’s the software or the people and processes, if it takes a long time to get started then it’s still going to count against you.
King: That’s why we are developing simpler and less complex products all the time like JCurve Go because the effort required to migrate is less when you are a small business. If we can enable you to migrate off whatever you’re doing and start using JCurve when you’re a small business then it’s got to be simpler and more cost effective than when you’re a medium sized business.
We get as many people who don’t migrate not because of the cost of the purchase but because the disruption and time they need is prohibitive. I think we have nailed the cost issue with our new products coming out. I believe we’ve absolutely got the right products for the market at the right price point. We have to work tirelessly on the simplification to migration.
We’ve got all the horsepower in the product that we need. We don’t need to code frantically to keep up with customer demand. I already have all the functionality that anyone could ever want. I have to get it out there and make it available to people.
BoxFreeIT: Do accountants get free access to their customers’ JCurve accounts?
King: Yes, we’ve got the accountant program which means any accountant or trusted adviser can get free access to any JCurve account to help their customers. So it’s not a financial impost on their licensing.
BoxFreeIT: How do JCurve and NetSuite relate to each other?
King: Let’s say that NetSuite is mid-market and above and we are lower mid-market and below. Whether that’s 10 users or 50 users, that’s to be debated.
BoxFreeIT: What about established cloud players like Saasu and Xero? How will you compete against them?
King: They are trying to make life simpler for everybody by providing tools to just manage your business or maintain the status quo. Then you’ve got what I call the small business products from MYOB and Live Accounts (MYOB’s cloud software for micro-businesses). My understanding is that they are and pretty much will always be small and micro-business.
BoxFreeIT: How do you explain (venture capital firm) Bain’s purchase price then? You can’t spend a billion dollars on MYOB and expect it to remain small business.
King: I don’t know. I don’t know how quickly the MYOB customer base will migrate to the cloud. But I’m assuming that the MYOB customer base, when they choose to move, they now have a choice and they are probably looking for something better. And that’s where we play very strongly because you’re going to get an Oracle-backed, NetSuite-backed ERP system for small business at a similar price point to a small business product for small business.
The difference with us is that we we are going to enable people to reach their potential.
Your software is not going to be a limiting factor in your growth. It’s massively flexible; you can grow from one user of financials only to 10,000 users of NetSuite, all in the same database. Then there’s the app store where you can bolt on additional pieces of functionality that the community is making.
BoxFreeIT: What about Attaché and other major players in mid-market accounting software?
King: The traditional players like Attaché, Pronto, they will be even further behind. Pronto and Attache have made the intermediate step of providing their channel partners with the ability to host their software for their customers either with Citrix or a native web interface.
If Citrix is involved then to my mind that’s the worst of both worlds. You have old school software and old school connectivity problems, two things that can go wrong. Whether those mid-tier products will make the migration, I don’t know.
BoxFreeIT: Saasu and Xero’s executives have said that accountants need IT skills to give better advice to their business customers. Is this something you see too?
King: Accountants who are more IT savvy are learning to implement JCurve and if you want a customised layer then they’ll do it for you. The accounting profession is becoming more into business architecture, system architecture workflow, how do we create sales orders, track inventory, etc.
Now we’re seeing this super IT business person who is the perfect person to take the company from A to B. An accountant can’t do it and an IT person can’t do it. Every hour you spend is creating value for the business in improving business processes not setting up the system.