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Optimizer HQ: Elegance in Simplicity
The secret of Optimizer HQ’s success is the simplicity of its products, but this ambitious firm is aiming for nothing less than to influence entire industries. By Chris Farnell PEOPLE WANT ALL KINDS OF THINGS FROM THEIR TECHNOLOGY, whether they’re using it in their home life or to help run their businesses, or simply for fun. But one thing nobody has ever said is “I wish this technology could be a bit more complicated.” This knowledge is behind virtually everything Optimizer HQ does. “Our focus on simplifying technology has proved to be a real competitive advantage,” explains Manas Kumar, CEO of Optimizer HQ. “For instance, look at one of our most popular products, Swipe HQ. With Swipe HQ we wanted to create something that had all the functions of a banking product but without the banking experience, which is often unpleasant. So we wanted to simplify the interface, but also the pricing, avoiding the terminal fees, gateway fees and so on that always seem to pop up when you’re dealing with banks. If it was their way they’d charge you every time you sneezed, while Swipe HQ introduced a simple 2.75% charge per transaction for businesses, reduced to 0.9% for charities in New Zealand.” PROVIDING THE BEST TOOLS Swipe HQ is emblematic of Optimizer’s whole philosophy, but that’s only one of the projects the firm is working on. The company also offers a range of cloud computing tools such as Maxmail HQ, Texta HQ and Listwise HQ, as well as a comprehensive variety of security tools as part of their Locker HQ package. Yet Optimizer first set up shop in 2005 as a small boutique web design agency.
“We started out with a budget of $10 to buy a domain name and a month of web hosting,” Kumar remembers. “From there we got our first customers on board and began expanding the business, building our skill sets as we went to include other market sectors. A year ago we left web design behind altogether to move into the more sustainable revenue stream available in the software sector.” Moving into the software sector, Optimizer’s first product was an application called Maxmail, an email marketing solution for small business owners. It took off quickly. “Back then we were doing something like 300,000 emails,” Kumar tells us. “Now we’re dealing with something in the region of 8 million emails a month. From there we’ve developed apps for SMS, social media, mobile payment services and online security. We’re really positioning ourselves as a cloud technology company.” IT’S MADE OF PEOPLE However, while the business has focused heavily on simplifying technology and the ways its customers interact with it, Optimizer knows that even the most straight forward software will sometimes need the human touch. This, Kumar feels, is one of the most crucial factors in placing Optimizer HQ ahead of the competition. “Every company competes on features or price,” he says. “Here at Optimizer we’re providing all sorts of new innovations, but even the most radical innovation has a shelf life, and while we’re competitively priced there will always be someone who will find a way to undercut you.
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So we make a point of competing on customer experience, because that’s very hard for our competitors to emulate. We offer constant phone, email, forum and live chat support to all our customers.” There’s a lesson to be learned in the competitive advantage Optimizer has made out of its customer service – even when you’re working with technology, the most important element of any business is its people. “The one challenge that has existed consistently has been finding the right talent,” Kumar admits. “We’re constantly working to find people with the skills and ability we need on both a technical and non-technical level. Across the board talent is the biggest issue facing us right now. It’s a problem so severe that for many companies it can be a hindrance for growth.” To this end Optimizer HQ is engaged in a persistent recruitment drive throughout the year that involves a thorough system of internal testing to aid them in finding the people with the right stuff. The firm also boasts an internal professional development team dedicated to encouraging their existing staff to learn and grow, while an elaborate staff benefit programme makes sure that Optimizer’s existing talent stay on board. “The one underlying quality we’re adamant about for any of our staff is that they must be passionate about the industry and what we do,” Kumar says. “Their paradigm must be in line with ours. We look at their level of commitment, how many years an employee is willing to commit
to our company, whether they are trainable and especially for engineering we make a point of hiring fresh graduates because it’s easier to retrain them into our way of thinking.” AN INFLUENTIAL ENTERPRISE It’s a strategy yielding impressive results. Has the company’s customer base has grown, so has its staff, with the business growing from a small team of only nine or ten employees to over 45 over the last year alone. Perhaps part of the reason the company has been doing so well is that it seems to have hit upon a specific cultural moment, with a huge paradigm shift occurring slowly but surely across the fields of cloud computing, online security and payment technology. In the payment arena specifically, Kumar notices that the recent antipathy towards banks is driving businesses to look for alternatives. “The payments market specifically is undergoing a shift in the balance
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of power. It’s moving away from banks to companies like us who are providing innovative technology in the market place,” he explains. “Meanwhile, security is becoming more important every day, and both markets are powered by continuing growth in the cloud computing sector. Overall, these are very exciting times for all these industries.” But this is just the beginning of Optimizer HQ’s story, they have big things planned for the future. “We recently announced our intention to seek a public listing,” Kumar says. “We’re also opening up several new markets, and the impressive growth of the last 12 months is set to continue. Seeking a public listing felt like the next logical step. It provides a vehicle for our existing shareholders to see a return on their investment and it means we can raise more capital in future and make acquisitions to add to our portfolio.” If Optimizer HQ were any other business it would probably be satisfied with this. With expanding markets, a fast growing company and products that are riding the crest of the latest waves in the industry, nobody could pretend
Optimizer isn’t a firm with some pretty lush laurels to sit on. However, for Kumar this isn’t enough. “Optimizer is a company that is already successful in some ways,” he admits, “but we also want to be significant, to influence our industry and leave a lasting legacy. We want to really change our industry for the better, by pushing to deregulate some of the bureaucratic bottlenecks. With products such as Swipe HQ we want to give control back to the merchants and customers in terms of how they engage with the technology, and reverse the effects of banks convoluting the merchant space. We want to create a banking solution without a banking experience. We want to prove that this is possible.” If anyone can do it, we think Optimizer HQ can.
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