Small Business editor of the NZ Herald

Small Business: Going for growth - Mark Osborne, Roll

This week, Small Business editor Caitlin Sykes talks to business owners growth aspirations.
Mark Osborne, CEO of Roll.
Mark Osborne, CEO of Roll.

Mark Osborne is CEO of Roll, an Auckland-based startup firm that creates business and project management software tools.

What are your targets for growing Roll in 2016?

This year is all about figuring out how we're going to scale what we do. We've invested a lot of time into product development in the last few months and think we have something that really adds value. Now we need to get as many people as possible using Roll to manage their projects and business to prove that our value proposition resonates with the market. So it's less about the number of sales themselves - although we do have some pretty hefty sales targets - but more about proving we have a scalable business model, almost regardless of the cost to acquire our early customers. Further capital raising is also going to be on the cards this year, as well as global expansion and reducing our cost of customer acquisition.

As a startup the opportunities for growth can be very broad. What are some specific areas of opportunity you're looking at to grow the business this year and why?

One would be what's called the 'freelancer economy'. It's expected that 50 percent of the US workforce will be made up of freelancers by 2020, so it's a massively growing market that we think has a strong need for simple software solutions to help them to run their businesses and projects efficiently. We've already started targeting this market by launching our free-to-use Freelancer edition late last year, and we're planning to add some further paid features specifically focused on that group.

The other big opportunity we're focusing on this year is the growing desire of small businesses to get better visibility into how the business is performing. We see us being able to help them achieve this by bringing all the important data into one, easily accessible place.

On the other hand, what's a constraint you face when looking to grow the business, particularly as a startup where resourcing can be so tight?

As a startup, cash is obviously the biggest constraint. It means we have less time to achieve what we want to achieve so we can keep growing, and fewer people to do it with. That means focus and controlled experimentation are really important for success, along with a little bit of 'crazy' too. We have to be crazy enough to say 'hey let's give this a go', focussed enough to get whatever it is out there quickly, and controlled enough to measure its success and rinse/repeat until we find things that work.

What's the biggest lesson you've learnt as a startup owner about managing business growth?

It's understanding there's no silver bullet in the quest for growth. I think this ties in with the 'controlled experimentation' idea, because you can read every 'growth hacking' book or blog, understand every metric, reverse engineer every startup, but you still need to figure out your own path. Every business is different and every market/customer is different as well, so while you take onboard everything you read and what your mentors and advisors tell you, you can't leave any stone unturned on the quest for growth - and you also need measure everything you do.

- NZ Herald

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