Start-ups turn to SaaS to deliver new services

A trio of new and newish companies say SaaS is the way to go

Software-as-a-service turned out to be the unofficial theme of Connect New Zealand’s Springboard Showcase, held in Auckland last month. Nine innovative start-up companies presented at the event, which was a joint initiative by Connect New Zealand and the New Zealand Private Equity and Venture Capital Association.

Among the SaaS products presented were a solution for sharing information held in multiple systems via online communities; a web-based team management solution; and a new way of processing insulin tests.

Auckland and Christchurch-based Viisibility Systems’ software is used to build online communities, where companies share information held in multiple systems, both internal and external, with customers, staff, suppliers and other stakeholders, says chief executive Nick Shier.

Shier, who has a background is in supply chain management, noticed that many businesses had issues communicating with each other, because they used different systems, different processes and worked in different time zones, he says. Without a channel to talk to each other, many businesses have to rely on telephone, email and fax to share information.

“We wanted to come up with something that could tie it all together,” he says.

Shier looked around, but couldn’t find a solution. He decided in “the usual Kiwi way” that his company would build it, and when systems architect Adrian Beveridge came onboard, the ideas became reality. The company has been in business for two years.

Viisibility provides a website where information from different systems is uploaded and then standardised. The software can pull information from a range of systems, such as ERP systems, planning, accounting, manufacturing management systems or spreadsheets, he says. Users can then log in to find up-to-date information about their orders, dispatches, inventory or anything else they wish to share, he says. Different users have access to different information.

For Viisibility’s next implementation, it is pulling information out of SAP, Oracle, Glovia and MYOB, just for one customer, says Shier.

The product has a messaging service, which alerts the appropriate person if there are changes to information, for example changes to a production timetable. There is also a workflow layer, which prompts action from the receiver of the message, as well as a reporting tool, which pushes out daily reports to appropriate receivers.

It was clear to Shier from the beginning that SaaS was the ideal delivery model for the solution. “It had to be SaaS because it had to be modern, portable and low cost of operation,” he says.

The system is deployed at 16 sites in New Zealand, Australia and the UK, but it is being used in 20 countries by the companies’ business partners across the world, says Shier. Customers pay a monthly fee, regardless of the number of people that use the community.

Wellington-based start-up ActionThis offers a web-based solution to workplace inefficiency with its team management system. The user-friendly web application, which integrates with Microsoft Outlook, is focused on execution. It’s all about helping companies work smarter, “to get stuff done and go home early”, says chief executive Ed Robinson.

The solution assigns tasks, which Robinson calls “action items”, to team members, and follows through to make sure the tasks are completed. It looks at how the team as a whole is performing, and it also has an individual layer, where team members can see how they stack up.

ActionThis launched at the end of October, and thanks to a clever marketing campaign put together by Tim Howell, got off to a good start. Four thousand visitors came to the site in the first day, says Robinson. Since then the company has signed up customers “in the thousands”, and three quarters of the customers are from outside New Zealand, says Howell. After a 30-day free trial, users are given the option to start paying a monthly fee for the software and get access to more features.

“SaaS is a good candidate when you have got a product that is about connecting people, when people actually get more value out of it by working online,” Robinson says.

Insulin Technologies is a brand new company, formed earlier this year by five undergraduate students at the University of Canterbury.

Consisting of three final year mechanical engineering students and two commerce students, it has taken new insulin testing technology, developed at the University of Canterbury, and added a SaaS component to it. The result is a system called Mobolic.

Mobolic is a technology, a service model and a test protocol, designed to diagnose type 2 diabetes in a cheaper and easier way than the traditional, gold-standard euglycaemic clamp test, says Insulin’s chief executive, Kwan Lee. By using a mathematical model to do the same job as the complicated clamp test, Mobolic offers a solution that is 70% quicker and 75% cheaper, he says.

Mobolic tests can be carried out at any clinic. The patient comes in and a blood sample is taken, following the Mobolic test protocol, which involves injecting glucose and insulin, says Lee. The raw data is then sent over the internet to be processed. The technology uses a mathematical model to measure concentration changes in the human system, which it uses to determine the patient’s insulin resistance.

The clamp test takes 3-6 hours — it can take up to 8 hours depending in the patient — while a Mobolic test takes an hour at most, he says.

The company has secured funding for a validation study that will officially compare Mobolic to the euglycaemic clamp test and the clinical standard oral glucose tolerance test, says Lee.

Insulin Technologies aims to target a market which could be worth around $15 million, he says. Other potential markets include health insurance, pharmaceutical companies and the wellness market.

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Tags SaaSInsulincommunityDevelopment IDactionthisviisibility

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