We’ve worked with enough startups to be able to discern a pattern of perilous thinking that is our job, as consultants, to thwart. Many entrepreneurs – and we’re talking specifically about the entrepreneurs launching products that merge hardware and software – share a typical mindset.
Related: The Best Advice You’ll Ever Get
This tendency to want to build everything from scratch and to innovate around every single aspect of a product stems from passion for a product and its mission.
While passion is indispensible, it needs to be tempered with rational thinking. The ability to adjust focus and zone in on what’s critical will reduce risk and maximise chances of success.
Here are three pieces of advice we give start-ups that need a reminder to keep it simple:
1. Be rational, and repurpose
Entrepreneurs often want to make everything themselves. We remind people there are a lot of good products out there. It is important to know when not to reinvent the wheel. In many situations, it is okay to repurpose to save both time and money, which are both limited resources in the product development world.
Finding good partners – vendors, sources – is almost always a better move for a startup than building everything yourself.
We worked with one company that developed a product to disrupt the hospitality industry. They thought they needed to design a tablet from the ground up. That isn’t as crazy as it soundseems, because there are companies that will customise an off-the-shelf tablet design.
After laying out the development costs and risks, they decided to make a custom case rather than a custom tablet. The custom case fits around commercially available tablets and required a much simpler development process that saved considerable resources.
Choose your partners very carefully, because you’re going to be dependent on them. If at all possible, figure out a second source for the components. Have a backup plan you can execute if needed, and don’t let yourself be at the mercy of a single supplier. Be smart about who you choose. Do your due diligence to make sure they’re stable and dependable.
2. Keep it clean
Added features often make products harder to use, but entrepreneurs often struggle to limit their product features. Keep things simple and don’t add features until those features are absolutely necessary.
Development-wise, everything you add is another layer of design, testing, documentation and debugging. Any complexity – another colour, another button – will end up costing more money and more effort.
A product does not have to fulfill every user’s requirements right from the beginning. In a perfect world, an entrepreneur will launch a minimum viable product and then add more features and variants as you attract more customers. It’s more important for someone to be able to use your product without having to consult the user’s manual than it is to include every last feature that will appeal to every last customer.
Every time you believe something needs to be included, ask yourself why. Does the device really need an app? Does it really need to function on different platforms? Is that feature absolutely necessary?
It might help to strip functionality from the product and test it with consumers to see whether or not it still works. If the product still works, then it might be best to leave any extra features on the cutting room floor.
3. Kill your darlings
Aspiring writers are often advised to “kill their darlings,” meaning cut the self-indulgent phrases, paragraphs or chapters that sound pretty but don’t move the action forward. It is often the hardest thing a writer has to do. The same goes for entrepreneurs and startups.
Not every product needs to see the light of day. It’s important to know when to kill a product altogether and start over. At times, it is necessary to scrap a project and start over, even if a great deal of money, time and energy has already been spent.
When we started E Ink, the company that makes the electronic paper displays for Kindles and Nooks, we actually started out developing a signage product.
We put a lot of time and effort into building it. We got it through design and engineering and had even started shipping before we killed it. Had we been a little bit more honest with ourselves and a little more strategic, we would have killed it earlier and saved some money.
Look for early indicators that a product should be scrapped. If product development team members start to question the direction a product is headed, or if something just doesn’t feel “right,” it is wise to really consider whether or not to move forward.
You may have made some bad decisions, either because you didn’t have enough information or because you learned as you progressed. It is hard to do, but it could be time for everyone to sit down and decide to redirect efforts.
The silver lining: A lot of valuable learning comes from all of the above missteps. At E Ink, what we learned about production and development from the signage slip-up significantly informed our next moves.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
How TomTom Telematics Can Keep Your Business Moving Forward
Successful businesses need to find ways to improve their margins while still delivering excellent and efficient customer service. VDM’s CEO, Deon van der Merwe, explains why this wouldn’t be possible in his business without TomTom Telematics’ solutions.
When TomTom Telematics entered the South African market in 2010, the local team took a deep dive into the different industry verticals they were servicing.
The more they got to know their customers, the more they realised a different solution was needed to address local conditions, and a subscription model was introduced whereby customers didn’t need to invest a large capital outlay into TomTom Telematics’ technology, but would receive the tech and software, including installation, at no extra cost, in exchange for a monthly subscription fee.
This model gives SMEs affordable access to TomTom Telematics’ solutions, but it’s had another benefit as well: As TomTom Telematics introduces new innovations, existing customers can benefit — without the costs associated with replacing all of their existing technology themselves.
An indispensable tool
For a transport and logistics business like VDM Group, which has more than 160 vehicles on the road, this means they have access to incredible new offerings, without needing to replace their TomTom units themselves.
“TomTom plays a critical role in our business,” says Deon van der Merwe, CEO of VDM Group. “It’s an indispensable tool in ensuring quality customer feedback and the management of KPIs for all supply chain stakeholders.
“Earlier this year, TomTom Telematics launched their New WEBFLEET product. We were very satisfied with what we had, and yet they still approached us and offered to replace all our existing units with new tablets, and they’re covering the installation costs,” explains Deon.
“New WEBFLEET is the result of TomTom innovating their product based on customer feedback from around the world, and the local team wanted to ensure we had access to the additional functionality and innovations that had been introduced.”
Seamless integration with your network
According to Deon, the new TomTom PRO 8275 units seamlessly integrate VDM’s fleet scheduling software with information they extract from TomTom, including individual vehicles’ standing time and arrival notifications.
“The software from TomTom is open API, which means that all our various applications can communicate and interact with each other,” he explains. “From a productivity perspective, we no longer need to manually capture any trip information.
In addition, we have every conceivable piece of data available that will assist us to run a leaner, more cost-effective fleet, enabling us to ensure that we are delivering on all our KPIs — particularly with regards to meeting our customers’ needs.”
VDM is a large transport business, but Deon believes the benefits for SMEs are as great, if not more so. “Many SMEs don’t have the back-office support that we do. The ability to capture and use this information without a team of admin specialists at your disposal is a huge competitive advantage for smaller businesses,” he says.
Offering you the competitive edge
VDM offers a specialised logistics service that creates custom-made options for clients. In order to ensure the most optimal and cost-effective solutions, while still ensuring top quality delivery, they need to consider special and complex individual customer requirements, from the point of origin to the point of destination, before finalising a customer-specific solution.
“We take into account a host of factors, including inventory carrying costs, volume requirements, product specific factors and route to market,” explains Deon.
“Road transport significantly impacts total supply chain costs, and if not managed properly, can have a severe impact on the sustainability of any particular channel. We try and manage this risk by continuously improving our service through innovative logistical solutions, the use of advanced technology, vertical integration and a team of passionate and talented experts.
TomTom assists in creating differentiators
“This focus has helped us to develop a market offering that includes dedicated and completely flexible inter-modal solutions, which is a big differentiator for us. TomTom Telematics plays a key role in our total productivity, helping us measure the performance of road transport across our supply chain.”
Deon believes that what you don’t measure you won’t know.
“TomTom provides updated fleet statistics that allow us to constantly benchmark our fleet against pre-defined route surveys and, in so doing, enables massive savings in fuel and total turnaround time.
Communicating via the WEBFLEET platform also helps us save time and creates a formal trail of correspondence with our drivers. I don’t believe it’s possible to successfully run a business like ours without a solution like this.”
Sasfin Continues To Support SME Growth
Sasfin’s equity stake in fintech lender Payabill set to enhance SME growth.
In another major step forward in supporting growth in SMEs, Sasfin today announced that it has acquired a strategic stake in fast-growing fintech lender Payabill.
Payabill, a 100% digital lending business, provides working capital and/or trade finance to small businesses. The collaboration between Sasfin and Payabill accelerates financing opportunities for customers.
Sasfin, South Africa’s leading business challenger bank, last year successfully launched its digital platform, B\\YOND, for SMEs.
“Sasfin has been investing in fintechs, building digital capabilities (such as B\\YOND) and working with third parties (such as XERO Accounting) for a number of years with the aim of adding value to our business and wealth clients. Payabill has made huge strides in giving businesses access to digital finance and we are thrilled to announce this investment,” says Sasfin CEO Michael Sassoon.
Payabill CEO Eli Michal launched the pioneering fintech start up in SA in 2017. Payabill settles suppliers directly for its clients and allows clients to select their own extended payment terms. “We are incredibly excited by the opportunity afforded to Payabill by having Sasfin as an equity and debt partner. Sasfin will provide access to new channels and much needed funding that enables us to support the growth of small business finance in South Africa,” says Michal.
Michal started the fintech as he “wanted to enhance access to finance for small businesses in South Africa. We all know that boosting small business creates jobs and enables growth. Traditional lenders have neglected this segment of the market due to the high costs associated with on-boarding and assessing these customers, as well as managing their credit risk. It made no sense to us that a retail consumer could get multiple forms of credit, almost instantly via electronic channels, but small businesses could not. They were being neglected. With this in mind, we set out to build a completely paperless, digital solution to address this market’s unique requirements.”
Currently, Payabill offers loans of up to R150 000 to businesses. The intention is that with the investment made by Sasfin, Payabill will be able to offer larger loans to SMEs in the near future.
The alignment of Payabill’s aims and Sasfin’s long-term focus on small business in SA made for an ideal partnership. “SMEs can now borrow digitally, via Payabill, and bank via B\\YOND from Sasfin – reducing admin and costs which often stifles small business growth. Both B\\YOND and Payabill are gaining meaningful traction in the SME market and there are a host of additional digital initiatives that we are working on to further help small businesses thrive,” says Sassoon.
“While Sasfin has always offered a trade and debtor finance solution, this was largely for more established businesses. The new offering speaks to smaller businesses that are passionate about growth, and our larger Trade and Debtor Finance offering will be there to support businesses that reach the next phase in their development,” says Sassoon.
Sasfin Holdings Limited (“Sasfin” or “the Group” or “the Company”) is a bank-controlling company listed in the “Financials: Investment Services” sector of the JSE Limited (“the JSE”). Sasfin and its subsidiaries provide a wide range of complementary banking, financial and related services.
Driving Your Business Growth Towards More Customers
Designed to help its customers get the most from their businesses through the right telematics solution, New WEBFLEET can help you reach your customers quicker, get more done, improve efficiencies, save costs and boost your revenues.
Europe’s highly regulated operating environment has made telematics ubiquitous in business. On the one hand, this means industries across the spectrum have become safer, more efficient and highly productive across the EU. On the other, it’s much harder to stand out from the crowd when everyone follows the same best practice standards.
“We don’t have those same stringent regulations in place,” says Justin Manson, Sales Director, Africa at TomTom Telematics. “Our clients have realised what a huge competitive advantage this actually offers them though.
“Locally, everyone understands the role that telematics plays in tracking what your drivers are doing right and wrong, and use it as a tool for encouraging good driving practices, but there’s so much more to this solution, and we’re making it our mission to help business owners really use it to their benefit.
“When deployed across the organisation to its full capabilities, a telematics system can radically improve productivity and workflow. Done correctly, a business can save up to 10% on its bottom line, and redeploy that cash into the company’s growth, thanks to drivers reaching customers quicker and getting more done. The right data also increases productivity and ensures better turnaround times.”
Thomas Schmidt, MD of TomTom Telematics, loves visiting South Africa for this very reason. “Because so many business owners aren’t using telematics to their full extent, there’s such a huge opportunity for us to assist businesses in their growth here,” he says. “We deliver a high-value stack of products that can change the way companies operate, and most importantly help them save money and make money. The challenge for us is educating our customers so that they understand what our solutions offer, and the incredible impact they can have on a business. We consistently improve these solutions based on customer feedback as well, making them very much from customers for customers.
“Anyone can buy a map for less than R100. Why invest in such expensive devices? The answer is because we’ve developed solutions that change lives. With the right data — and access to that data — you increase safety, simplify your business, drive efficiencies, increase your output and customer service, and ensure you are always productive and reliable — across the organisation. And that impact can be measured, and given a real ROI value.
“Imagine the impression companies that operate at that level make on their industries. They stand out from their competitors. There is so much room for growth in South Africa as we deploy these solutions.”
As an organisation, TomTom Telematics is focused on continuous growth and innovation as well, constantly learning from market conditions, its customers and industry needs to improve its product offerings.
The result is the launch of New WEBFLEET in February 2018. “We’ve increased the value we offer our customers,” says Thomas. “We’ve collated data from hundreds of thousands of customers around the world who gave us their feedback through surveys, and New WEBFLEET is a window into easy-to-use, smart fleet management that is a game changer for companies.”
“TomTom Telematics is in the business of helping businesses,” agrees Justin. “Our goal is help our customers master their challenges. The right data at your fingertips will help you change the way you operate. That’s our goal. How much cash is being left on the table in an organisation because of inefficiencies?”
Introducing New Webfleet
The smartest way to manage your vehicles and mobile workforce
TomTom Telematics’ state of the art Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) fleet management solution, with best-in-class user interface, is inspired by two decades of working together with customers to achieve more for better fleet management. New WEBFLEET is everything you need to manage your vehicles in the cloud, in real time. It allows you to monitor reports and dashboards, manage orders/workﬂow, and improve driving behaviour, safety and service, helping you save fuel and reduce costs.
Best-in-class user interface
- A future-proof platform with a completely renewed interface, based on the latest HTML5 technology and driven by continuous innovation.
- Simple and clean interface, with minimised clicks for faster working.
- Intuitive functionality, means it is more accessible for greater impact across your business.
- User rights management and state-of-the-art data handing ensures the highest level of data privacy and data security.
- Fast access to the right information.
Know where your vehicles are and where they have been. Different map options such as Google, Google Street View or satellite map are enriched with traffic information, giving you a more detailed view on what’s happening on the roads. Toggle between different types of information on the map such as traffic, addresses and areas and create specific views, so you only see the information you need.
New WEBFLEET’s dashboard gives an overview of performance at a glance. Up to 27 KPIs can be used to track the performance of vehicles, individuals, benchmark teams or give a simple overview. This helps you to track real-time performance against your pre-defined KPIs.
New WEBFLEET gives you instant access to the information that matters, meaning you can spot trends over time and use real-time information to make smarter and more informed decisions. You can instantly download or schedule reports to help you stay on top of everything — from fuel efficiency and legal compliance to quality of service.
Manage on the move
New WEBFLEET is optimised so you can manage your fleet on any device by entering WEBFLEET through a web browser or by downloading the WEBFLEET Mobile app on your smartphone.
Send routes direct to drivers
- Plan accurate routes in New WEBFLEET by adjusting multiple variables such as location, time of departure/arrival, traffic and vehicle type.
- Get a choice of alternative routes, as well as suggested fastest route with traffic.
- Customise your route by simply adding new waypoints, or dragging and dropping existing waypoints on a route. Then choose from guided or forced route* options.
- Send planned routes directly to a TomTom PRO driver terminal to keep your drivers on the right track.
Personalised Map views*
- Create your own saved map view to reach information you need fast.
- Switch between vehicle groups or areas, without needing to adjust the map filters and zoom levels. n
Many ways to customise WEBFLEET to suit individual requirements from personalised views to adding information to make what you see more informative on one page.
Plan a route the way you want it
Use multiple variables (including waypoints) to give fastest or most efficient routes.
Across different device types, allowing you to always stay on top of business.
Simple, clean and easy to administer
Toggle between views to get the right information to focus on the task in hand. Get the right information to the right people at the right time, keep data secure and in the right hands.
Send routes to driver terminals
In real time, ensure drivers follow or avoid specific routes.