"All boards are on a crash course for digital-only," says BoardPro founder Brett Herkt.
The Covid-19 outbreak has seen boards meet more regularly - and inevitably via remote video chat.
The Auckland-based BoardPro boss says almost every board typically has a tech holdout who has previously resisted change. But now, even the dinosaurs are being forced to learn their way around Zoom - but that's only part of the art of a successful virtual meeting.
And more minutes are being taken as health and safety issues and insolvency loom as very real risks.
BoardPro helps boards manage and centrally share minutes, agendas, attached documents and annotations, and integrates with popular video chat services like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet.
Directors barely need yet another reminder that they're living through extreme times, but Herkt volunteers that a quarter of new meetings set up in his company's cloud-based service last week had "Crisis" or "Covid-19" in the title.
And while he can't see content, it's an easy guess that new spending isn't on organisations' agendas.
To wit, BoardPro has introduced a "freemium" model to court new customers at a time when cash is tight.
Herkt says 250 organisations signed up within the first week of the offer - or more than two months' worth in the times before Covid-19.
Customers usually pay $120 to $330 per month, depending on features, and Herkt concedes that is not great for his bottom line. (The BoardPro founder and shareholder says he is leaning against the wage subsidy, even if his company qualifies for it. He has a point of principle that it's not appropriate for high-growth tech companies - who are often prioritising customer growth over profit or even revenue - to claim it the subsidy.)
"The impact to the company is not immaterial – in effect it removes almost all our
revenue growth – but we know many organisations are going to be struggling to
survive in the wake of an extended lockdown." Industries that can't function from
home and not for profits struggling for donation dollars will be suffering - as well as
practical issues now with remote meetings – now is the time to support them."
He has also asked BoardPro's existing customers to help him by continuing to pay. For their trouble, they do get priority support, and first access to new features. And on that front, right now, Herkt's development team is 100 per cent focused on remote-working and crisis features - such as a new "Urgent Decision" feature for making critical decisions between meetings.
Herkt is hoping to convert at least 50 per cent of the freemium subs when the offer expires in six months.
When the Herald last caught up with the BoardPro boss, late last year, his company had just won a contract with NZ Rugby that saw 26 provincial unions, five Super Rugby franchises and the NZ Māori Rugby Board adopt its software.
Herkt said that gave his company 650 customers (600 of those in NZ) and 4000 monthly users - edging ahead of Diligent in the local market (the Auckland-founded Diligent was sold to a US private equity outfit for $943m in 2016).
Herkt is now definitely on his rival's radar. A Google search for 'BoardPro" returns search ads for Diligent.
But he says from his point of view, the two don't really compete. BoardPro targets small businesses and non-profits, and its founder says it lacks a number of the features that attract corporates to the more involved Diligent. But Herkt says his product is requires no tech smarts, and is a tenth of the price.
Once the Covid-19 dust settles, Herkt wants to raise $3 million through a Series A round.
The softly-spoken BoardPro boss doesn't immediately seem like the type to spearhead a startup or hold his own against private equity sharks, but he's been here before.
He was chief executive and part owner of Auckland ISP and data centre operator Maxnet, growing it from a $2m to $15m business before its sale to Vocus in 2012.
His track record helped him to attract a heavy-hitting board for the embryonic BoardPro. That board includes Bruce Sheppard and Kevin McFall, one of the co-founders of email security firm Mail Marshall, sold to US company NetIQ for US$45m in 2002.