January 12, 2022•521 words
We make business tools for all ages. Creators of @ZAKOapp.
January 9, 2022•982 words
From a Planning Exercise for New Chip Accelerator (Early January 2022):
The "CRM for Very Small Businesses" market is in the billions and very sub-divided (i.e. firms under 20 employees). After Salesforce there are thousands of industry-specific solutions and nearly all presume access to desktop computing. Because these products are geared toward businesses where administrative and sales duties are parsed out between multiple people, communication channels like phones and messaging are distinct from the CRMs and Web Publishing systems that enable promotion and ordering at a distance. These tools have been moulded to the work routines of firms with 10-20 employees while mobile-first teams with less than 10 or less than 5 employees are not being served. Because these leaders wear every hat in a single day while on the job site or in the field.. their digital tool must also do everything. And since phone and texting are their primary activities, any viable business management solution must be built around these tools.
In the US there are approximately 6 million tradesmen, 80% of which are in firms with less than 10 people. Supervisor-to-Worker ratios for these groups are 1:4, therefore we see a market of roughly 1.2 million motivated team leaders in the US. Tradesmen in small firms make up about 1.2% of global population, so 1/5th would represent almost 188 million globally.
The closest market segment with the most similar needs are small independent farmers, primarily those operating in the Global South. The US has 3.2 million farmers. Farmers represent 2.25% of work population, 0.73% overall. Globally though, there are about 570 million farms and nearly 2.25 billion people who derive their livelihoods from farming. Assuming farmers make up 20% of global population with 1/5 acting as owners or supervisors, there is roughly 520 million potential buyers of a CRM-type system that helps manage relationships and information in a unified setting.
For Very Small Businesses, the needs for a CRM are simple enough that employee management activities can be united into one strong offering. This is based on the reality in the smallest firms that employees and contractors are somewhat indistinguishable from suppliers and clients who offer goods, services, labour and commitments that are commonly defined by debts and payouts.
Our differentiator is to take these insights, build up on the informal ways that people in the first 1/4 of the economy operate, and provide a "Value Exchange Engine" that is seamlessly accessed via conversations. This will provide the Internet with a missing piece of common commercial infrastructure - a source of truth for value provided via labour or delivered items. This service will be solution-agnostic and therefore be pinged by any service attempting to settle debt. By anchoring the creation and access to these records within conversations we are able to provide value in the way that many globally expect it to occur - within real relationships where accountability among friends, family, colleagues and regional residents exists.
January 9, 2022•58 words
January 9, 2022•1,443 words
Direct View of Image: https://i.vgy.me/o5sxJo.png
In the first quarter of 2022 we're playing catch up on some planning exercises that we attempted earlier in our journey. In early 2021 we just didn't have clarity about company purpose and market fit. Lots of testing ahead with our first target customers (Tradesmen and Small Farmers) but Customer Discovery activities have confirmed we're on the right path.
We were also waiting to develop our repository of planning templates until the right kind of tool could be found. For us, Whimsical is nailing the job to be done. Our real job wasn't to fill in a template, it was to create a living document that visitors could comment on without needing to sign in.
You can view our SWOT template <here>.
Below is the SWOT explanations as of Jan 9th 2022.
We have our foundation and business coaching in Canada and the US but our focus is on serving African and Indian markets. Immersion in the innovations driving these markets (e.g. "India Stack") will help us serve Canadian and American markets with competitive advantages acquired through overseas experiences. We help people manage personal and business conversations better than anyone. We can draw upon direct experiences in labour and construction sectors, which most tech founders don't have access to. Not requiring accounts is valued and users who already prefer SMS. Factors to nail the sale with Tradesmen is instant record-keeping on staff, contractors and suppliers. Nailing the sale with small farmers requires that we make the creation of record sets easy and shareable. Our Unique Selling Proposition is "one app for [almost] everything".
We need to improve our concept-testing-development cycle. We need to avoid bloating the app and losing reputation for messaging. People will see our combination of SMS and Web layers as a weakness. Also, Western investors and companies offering similar services may fail to see the similarities between Tradesmen and Farmers and Sole Proprietors globally. This will cause a perception that we will fail to capture the high-margin North American market. Also, ouir commitment to deploying solutions to the feature phones will not be understood in the west and perceived as low-profit endeavour. Turning the focus on the application toward social features and public actions (e.g. Posts & Homepages) will cause the skeptical core of global users to turn back towards SMS to ensure complete control of conversations and app data.
RCS standards will fully replace original SMS standards by mid-decade, ushering in a new era of rich text messaging experiences. Their capabilities will truly rival those of Web apps in terms of image quality and options for action and information sharing. Many apps will go out of view and off the app stores and services become subsumed by others and delivered via APIs via messaging. The growth of Kaios feature phones challenges conventional thinking that all mobile device use exists on a hierarchy towards large touch screens if income permits. Voice commands and other advancements combined with unbeatable battery usage means these phones are likely to emerge as "keys" for digital life. Facebook's original promise to internalize social experience does not match tomorrow's data privacy expectations and the gap can be filled by providing the basics centred around messaging. Enough pieces are in place now to build a system that endures and has the ability to endure like Windows and Urbit if it can achieve Linux-status. By creating a foundation in the simplest use cases and by valuing "lowest kilobyte transmission possible" our dominance can take deeper root than mid-market monopolies. Banking (traditional and crypto) are going fully mobile but in the flurry of enthusiasm to settle these frontiers one key piece of "Web Infrastructure" has been left undeveloped. ZAKO's Exchange Engine can provide a self-operating Ping-to-Pay service that acts as the source of truth for all systems attempting to confirm values owed between 2 or more parties.
WhatsApp is quickly rolling out business features for consumers and business operators but focus is on integration with Facebook Business Suite, causing enormous friction for access to functionality by regular consumers without desktop computing. Google and Samsung Messages will likely offer a business version of their default SMS app as soon as perception of the new market segment coincides with normalization of RCS. Our novel combination of on-devce texting experiences and web-based services may go against the policies of Google, carriers and governments, exposing ourselves to Play Store blockades or lawsuits. The trajectory of ZAKO to internalize all default phone applications and then common business functions now provided by various apps may cause numerous consortiums to undermine our efforts. We will be a direct threat to Kaios once they realize we are providing more convenient direct access to the dozens of functions they are trying to provide via an emerging app store. This may lead to being booted from Kai and the predictable need to provide an OS that can be an override for cheap phones in several years from launch once Android success is cemented.
December 11, 2021•430 words
In the book Play Bigger, by Al Ramadan, Dave Peterson, Christopher Lockhead and Kevin Maney, they share a story in Chapter 5 about Bullpen Capital and its efforts to bridge the funding gap for startups who aren't yet at Series A.
Bullpen Capital hosts a monthly pitching event they call Fullpen. One of the authors, Dave Peterson, regularly attends. He asks the following 3 questions of most companies who present in the Fullpen.
Today, London Street is in the Fullpen! Well, it's our first (pretend) visit. Here goes.
1. Explain like a 5 year old
People who own small businesses and use texting for everything frequently lose track of important information, dates and documents, costing them a lot in missed opportunities.
ZAKO is a simple tool for texting people and saving important information about each of your contacts.
Its main job is to help you create lists of people based on the different kinds of relationships you have. If you're a Carpenter, you might group people into "Upcoming Jobs", "Past Customers", "Leads", and of course "Family"!
Inside each conversation you can access a bunch of little tools that help your relationships grow, like Notes, Calculator, Reminders and a special tool called Counter that makes it easy to log quantities like Hours Worked or Hours Traveled.
In regular Pitchspeak, we'd also frame it this way:
Tradesmen and labourers use texting to coordinate EVERYTHING but.. their default SMS apps don't assist with managing relationships and information. Despite the limitations of these tools they continue to monoplize the small business messaging market due to their simplicity. ZAKO is a replacement for default SMS apps like Google or Samsung Messages. It brings the business functions of the phone into one app, centred around the activity of texting. ZAKO is made for the needs of the Mobile Proprietor.
2. If problem solved perfectly, what category are we in?
The category we are building is focused on Mobile Business Management. The simpler way to describe this category (in connection with the product type we're offering) is... Workbase. That's the best we've got right now, let's see if it sticks.
3. If we win 85% of the category, what's the size of our potential?
Okay, this is a tough one. We'll be tackling Dave's 3rd question soon in a separate post.
November 27, 2021•18 words
We're a Canadian company on a global mission to help small businesses start and grow.