Small business: Your business online - Jason Roberts

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Director Jason Roberts, Livelink Connect, a cloud-based email system an Icehouse graduate

Jason Roberts, director of Livelink Connect. Photo / Supplied
Jason Roberts, director of Livelink Connect. Photo / Supplied

Why did you start up Livelink Connect?

After several years spent as marketing director of a global sales company, I became increasingly frustrated by the ineffective presentation, transportation and tracking of our email communications. This technology was surely designed to make things easier?

There were still some major issues that bothered me about the wonder of the email medium.

1. Presentation: You wouldn't wear jandals and a t shirt to a business meeting - why did our emails have to look so bland or inconsistent with our brand identity and values? Did I really want my staff adding smiley faces and pretty flowers to their email footers?

2. Transportation: Emails were supposed to provide us with a sense of immediacy and efficiency in transporting files.

Why couldn't we send anything over a certain number of megabytes. Wasn't that the whole point?

3. Tracking: Perhaps the biggest email selling point - timeliness in sending as opposed to a few days in the post. Then why were we constantly calling recipients to check that they'd received important email communications? Why were we still at a loss to determine whether they'd received, seen, previewed or opened them? In order to improve sales closure, I needed to know when to follow up...

I began to delve further into the email enigma. The most common problems that became apparent in higher value, B2B and B2C sales processes were:

• The lack of effective delivery of your sales and marketing messages
• Messages often got lost in the inbox overload or redirected to spam folders
• People found it hard to send complex information, proposals and so on as file sizes were too large
• There was a distinct lack of personalization in standard email communications
• Emails themselves were not brand consistent. Employees edited and added their own footers with multiple fonts and embellishments.
• You never had any idea if your email actually was received or opened without using the dreaded 'confirm receipt of my email' message which is optional on the part of the recipient and therefore pretty unreliable

The more I thought about it the more I was convinced that this was a definite gap in the "email market" and a very feasible business. I convinced Craig, a trusted colleague, fellow "soccer dad" and I.T. genius to jump on board and help me address these problems and the rest is history.

Start up through the Icehouse

Livelink Connect was launched through the Icehouse Incubation Program in May 2010. Two years on, we now have a thriving business offering 'everything e-messaging' solutions. These include branded email wrappers, campaign email and reporting platforms, SMS, events, survey, CRM, sales integration, large file delivery tools, corporate gmail set-up, anti-virus and the list goes on.

How is it different from other products out there?

Our product offerings are different because they have been designed to address what is lacking in everyday email communications. We have found that most companies have to talk to multiple providers to address different facets of their email systems, for example, changing their on premise email to be cloud based, setting up brand compliant employee email signatures, designing and sending email campaigns or uploading and sending large files.

We provide specialist staff and simple yet sophisticated products which solve all of these problems with ease. Best of all, we are in New Zealand and can actually be contacted when our client's need assistance. No more sending a support email and wondering when you may get a reply.

Who are your main customers?

We have a variety of customers with hot spots for certain product offerings in certain sectors. For example, the financial services sector, where we have over 35 insurance related companies, focus much of their attention on branded employee email. It is a competitive market and with thousands of emails going out daily from each company, professionalism, personalization and timely follow up are important. In contrast, the retail sector prioritises campaign email that maximizes delivery, click through rates and direct response mechanisms.

How scalable is your business?

While most of our customers we personally meet, some products are self-provisioned and anyone in the world can sign up and use, though to be fair we still have more work to do here to really leverage the larger scale. We are still a young company and this has certainly been a focus thoughout our recent angel fundraising activities.

What are your aspirations? Would you ever looking at floating a business?

We want to be the 'go to' company for high end email communications and over time get to a point where a float option is possible, but right now dominating a few verticals and maximizing our client's "return on email investment" is our core intention.

What size is the business now?

We have just moved into an premises in the new Fort street. We are in rapid expansion mode and expect to have a million dollar business and approximately 10-13 staff by year end. We are roughly doubling our monthly revenue every six months.

How do you find the tech community in Auckland?

Auckland is small enough to find the right people, but large enough to have a whole bunch of exciting new ventures. Best of all, we have found the community to be surprisingly open minded. Technology moves at such a pace that we have partnered with other "out of the box" thinkers and are fast building a next generation "technology hub" where everyday email issues are solved and existing paradigms don't matter.

Is this your first tech business?

No, I had a text messaging reminder service around seven years ago that never really made it out of the starter blocks - which is part of the reason the next time round I needed a better business model around me - enter the Icehouse!

Tell us the stories of your family businesses. We are looking for a broad range of ethnicities. What makes you think your business will keep going for a number of generations?

- NZ Herald

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