The journey of ProbityBooks.com started on a remarkable day – 1st October, 2015.
That day was Nigeria’s Independence Day and as most Nigerians do when they hangout, my friends and I could not stop blaming the leadership of the country for everything wrong with the economy. But we did something different that year, we made a commitment to be part of the solution to Nigeria’s problems.
For me, that commitment gave birth to ProbityBooks.com, a product that took another 2 years to develop from idea, to prototype, to a MVP. With the MVP, we did a beta launch to prove the product works and so began the journey of running this thing called a ‘startup’.
The surprising users’ stats that made me write this post.
I was recently pouring over the data of our users. Then it jumped at me how the last 100 days at Probitybooks has gone in terms of numbers.
Here are some of the numbers:
- Volume of sales: N15,102,768.81
- Number of customers or clients served: 317
- invoice generated: 219
- Expenses recorded: 435
- of product sold: 1,021
What is ProbityBooks and how I came about the idea?
ProbityBooks is simple & affordable cloud based business accounting for middle and small business enterprises in Nigeria to stay on top of their business. It helps them to create invoices, make sales, manage inventory and get real time insight of their business from anywhere and anytime, even when they are not on premises.
(the current homepage of probitybooks.com, after several changes)
As a baseline, the business goal for Probitybooks is a little audacious. We hope it will cater for 20,000 small businesses yearly (while we are still miles away from that goal, it drives everything we do today). As a techie who believes in process, our growth plan is to have a continuous retainable stream of paying customers monthly or yearly.
Why did we give a damn when there are “oyinbo” software in the same space?
We are not ashamed to say that ProbityBooks attempts to solve the same problem that Sage, Quickbooks, Freshbooks, Wave accounting and other popular foreign software are already solving. So, why do we give a damn and how do we hope to compete?
Let me tell you a story.
Before starting the parent company to probitybooks, I was business apprentice. Back then, one of our biggest challenges was with managing the company’s books. We could not afford an expensive accounting software nor hire a full time accountant. As a result, we would document our expenses in hardcover notebooks and I was tasked with balancing the books. So, when I started my own company it was the same challenge and evey end of the month became sleepless nights.
Unfortunately, everyone I asked for help had a similar problem even after they tried so many foreign solutions that didn’t really fit their business model. While my own challenge is invoicing, getting paid and tracking our expenses, others have challenge with inventory management – getting paid and tracking returned goods. So I said let’s build a solution to solve invoicing and Inventory as core feature.
The bottom line for us is that while these foreign solutions are good, they are not customized enough for businesses in Nigeria. And since we launched, we have proven this hypothesis as we have on-boarded a couple of business that were using foreign software and they now happily use our platform to support their clients. Some of our users also run multi-store operations and are leaving solutions like VendHQ behind to use our platform.
We also chose a simple pricing structure that suit each business need.
Here are some of the lessons I have learnt (and currently learning) in this journey
- Solve your own problem. Managing invoicing was a big problem I wanted to solve for myself. With probitybooks, we aim to help solve the problem for other business owners in Nigeria.
- Don’t wait until everything is perfect: After 2 year of “labouring” on our MVP, we took the bold step to test the market. This was a decision we could have taken earlier to help shape the direction of product development.
- In-house Tech team: if you can, NEVER outsource your technology. Our approach was to write every line of code from scratch so we can understand what each feature was designed to do and be able to adapt it to customers’ need, real-time. Today, probitybooks has 3 full-time software developers on pay roll.
- Seek help early: Recognise that you cannot get it done all by yourself. Get mentors or advisers in areas where you are weak (I’ll recommend this guide). Look for smart people that can help you, read their blogs and ask questions (hat tip to all helpful folks on Radar).
- Don’t say no to customers: Right now, we have a backlog of feature requests from customers; each request helps to make the product better in every way. That is why we never say no to their feature request. While I am at that, you should avoid pleasing everyone who makes a demand. Make sure that you build with the goal of your core customers in mind.
For example, we recently soft-launched an enterprise product, ProbityCoops – a cooperative management software for Fidelity bank by learning NOT to say no.
- Invest in PR: We have found out that PR is an effective way to give credibility to our startup. The day we got profiled on TechPointNG, it drove 7 trial signups. We are currently “investing” resources in paid editorial in leading national newspapers at the fraction of the cost it will take to make a ‘real’ newspaper ad.
(Our story made the Business section of BusinessDay newspaper and 4 other leading Nigeria newspapers, including Guardian newspaper – both print and online editions)
- Hack your growth (be data driven): Our first website design focused on getting free trials. While that is important, our growth consultant advised that we focus on turning the website to lead capture. This is because we noticed that most of the paid users require that we come to their office to come and do demo presentation and we end up closing 90% after the presentation.
Our new website design now focuses on getting people to either call us or message us. Initially, the phone number required people to copy it to their phone. With a simple hack, a user can click to dial the number to their phone when browsing the site on mobile. We also added a simple WhatsHelp code for phone and whatsapp call.
- Invest in content marketing: At the minimum, have a blog. Our goal with the blog is to create super useful resources – not just product info. if you are great at content, you can keep in touch.
- Believe in yourself: Last but not the least, you need to believe in yourself before others will believe in you. To put this in context, I used to have a regular business, which i divested from to focus on ProbityBooks. As a father with kids, I needed to prove this was a right move, not only to myself but to everyone who believes in me.
This mail really made my day, though we receive such accolades from time to time
- Take advantage of opportunity: Right now the rate of dollar to Naira keeps rising and Nigeria loses trillions of Naira yearly to buying foreign goods and services. This presents an opportunity for government and businesses to look inward to local alternatives. We believe there is no better time than now to launch ProbityBooks.
What’s’s Next for ProbityBooks?
This is our 100 day journey. Thanks for reading. Please spread the love.
You can help us shape what’s next for ProbityBooks. We hope you join us by signing up a 15-day trial account.