Let’s begin with some background about your company. How did it start and how has it evolved over the years?
Marketcircle started as a .com company in 1999. At the time, we wanted to provide a negotiation platform that businesses could use to negotiate deals, as it seemed to be the most common way people do business.
By the time we tried to get funding, the .com bubble had burst. We ended up doing consulting work for a number of years and as part of that work, we had long sales cycles which could sometimes take months before a deal was closed. We were offering systems that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, so it’s not a quick and easy sale.
We were having a hard time following up on deals and things were falling through the cracks. We needed a CRM and there wasn’t a product available for the Apple platform, so our choice was to either stay on Apple or switch to Windows and use a CRM type tool like Goldmine or Maximizer. We decided to build our own CRM for Apple, but at first it was more for ourselves than for commercial purposes.
With strong encouragement from Apple, we decided to turn our CRM into a commercial product. After a few years, the product income overgrew the consulting income. By 2007, we no longer needed to do consulting work because we started having more significant revenues from the CRM product, which we now call Daylite. Daylite is now used by thousands of small businesses in over 80 countries to manage customers, sales, and projects all in one place.
It was in our third pivot that we became a pure-play product company. In the beginning, Daylite was on-premise software. You had to buy the license and then install and run it on your own machines and servers. It wasn’t a subscription-based or a maintenance-based model. So, our fourth pivot, where we are now, was to turn Daylite into a SaaS product with a recurring revenue model for Marketcircle.
What differentiates Daylite from the other CRMs?
Daylite was built for macOS and iOS, which is a big and growing market today. But at the time, it was extremely rare to focus exclusively on the Apple market for a business productivity product. It allowed us to be different in the sense that it’s a native app rather than a web app. You can work with Daylite without an internet connection, and it will sync up when it does connect to the internet. We can do this with any number of devices.
When we started building Daylite, we looked around at other CRMs and we found out that a lot of them were failing because they were made from the top down, meaning for the benefit of managers rather than the benefit of the team. They wouldn’t use the product and the managers wouldn’t get the data to make the decisions.
We flipped that around by making a productivity tool first, and then built the CRM layers on top of that to help with follow up, scheduling, and communications.
What do you do to secure user information on your platform?
We have taken measures to ensure that all our communications and data at rest are encrypted. We went through the process of ISO 27 001 certification so we have safeguards in place in terms of how we operate our business to ensure we protect customers’ data. We hold regular audits to our staff in terms of the state of their computer, the state of their password management, etc. By doing so, we minimize potential attack vectors.
I think this is another trend that people will have to be more savvy about. The days of using the same password everywhere are gone, but people still do it. They don’t realize that email is not encrypted, that you should encrypt secure documents or important documents. They’re all learning these things as we’re talking.
We keep having to explain to people that if they send documents over email without encrypting them it means anybody can intercept and read them. I think people are becoming more aware of that and companies have to be more diligent about it, even if they are small, and especially if they are working remotely.
How have the last two years impacted your business?
The short answer is that we’re growing and optimistic for the future. The long answer is that at the beginning, many of our customers were affected. In the first pandemic lockdown, they thought they could handle it, but then when the second lockdown came in various parts of the world, what we typically saw with small businesses is that it was the killer for a lot of them because they expanded all their resources in the first lockdown, and in the second lockdown they didn’t have anymore, so a lot of them closed their shops and offices and our revenues really dropped.
But interestingly enough, although a whole bunch of customers left, we were able to get new customers to replace them. A lot of these new customers were either starting their businesses in the pandemic, which is pretty courageous, or they realized they have to become more efficient with what they are doing, which then led them to search for a tool like Daylite.
In 2021 Daylite has earned accolades from ratings and review services like Capterra, G2, Software Advice and GetApp for being a best-in-class CRM app.
The net effect is that revenues are higher than two years ago, but we had to work really hard for it. I am very proud of our team for accomplishing this.
What would you say are the main pillars of running an efficient team remotely?
One of the patterns that we see a lot is what we would call silos of information or duplicate information. For example, let’s say that you’re working with three other colleagues, and you’re not sharing data per se, but you have a customer, and you have some data about that customer on your computer. Your colleague has some data about them on their computer, and you don’t have a unified view. So, the next time you talk to that customer, you don’t have the full context because some of the information is elsewhere. It doesn’t make you look professional as a business.
So, one way to make a business more efficient is having that information in one place, including notes and other parts of the conversations you’re having or the deals and projects that you’re working on, so that everybody can speak to that customer in a unified way. That’s one way of improving efficiency.
Another way is when you have all your tasks in one system and you know what each person is doing and when they’re doing it without having to constantly ask for updates. That saves time and it’s one of the things that Daylite allows.
That unification of the information in one place allows you to have conversations with your customers without having to chase everybody right before a meeting to find out if they spoke to that customer and get an update of what’s been discussed. You look more professional, more confident, and hopefully you’ll close a deal more quickly and more effectively that way.
What can you tell us about your future plans?
We see an increasing usage of iPhones and iPads for more business. Previously, with these devices, you could only access a little bit of information, but what we’re noticing now with the bigger devices is that people want to be able to do even more heavy duty stuff on their devices. That’s one of the things that we’re working towards enabling.
There was a little bit of a dip in this trend when people were working from home and the desktop became more important again, but we were well positioned for that. Now that travel is resuming and life is coming back to normal, so to speak, we see people wanting to take some of those capabilities back into the mobile space.
How do you expect remote and hybrid work to impact your ecosystem?
I think that the last two years have accelerated the growth of distributed and remote work solutions. A couple of years ago, you wouldn’t think of having so many customer meetings remotely, but the pandemic forced us to do it and then we learned that we can actually be more productive if we do some parts of our work remotely.
I think there would still be face to face meetings because you can’t replace that relationship-building part remotely. It’s not impossible, but it’s difficult. Going to dinner with a customer or having some of that social time is not something you can replace with a video meeting. But the frequency of business travel and in-person customer meetings will drop. To me, it means businesses will have more flexibility to have their employees work from home more frequently.
The pandemic took us from spending 100% of our work time in the office to 100% remote work. What I’m seeing now is a trend towards 60-70% at home, and 30-40% in-person or in the office.
Of course, with such hybrid models, you need to be disciplined about where your data is. One of the toughest things that we saw people go through during the pandemic was the fact that they were so used to sharing information verbally, whereas now, they have to have some systems in place like Daylite to deliver the same information effectively and securely. I think that trend will continue.
At the beginning of the pandemic, we were very worried about small businesses surviving, but we learned that people are resilient. Yes, some small businesses will fall, especially those that had a lot of debt to begin with, but so many others come up. It shows the resilience of people and small businesses. I believe there will be more small businesses in the future than there are today, and our own success with Daylite demonstrates that.