25 Burst SMS
Alex Macpherson, 43, Brad Down, 45
- Head office
Sydney, New South Wales
- Year founded
Information and communication technology
In the early days of their business, Alex Macpherson and Brad Down were “not great” salespeople. It’s a concern many entrepreneurs can relate to but instead of continuing to poorly pitch their product, the duo decided to take a different approach and change the product entirely.
Burst SMS started life as a digital agency, however, the founders discovered pitching to clients was a “constant headache”, especially with a post-paid model. Through business expansion exploration, the two identified a “huge gap” in the business-to-business SMS market, and swiftly pivoted.
These days Burst SMS is a self-serve online business SMS company with annual revenue in excess of $5.5 million. The company’s services are aimed primarily at small and medium business clients, such as yoga instructors, dentists, and personal trainers.
The business model’s success has seen a number of competitors follow suit with similar offerings, which has meant the founders have had to keep innovating with new features to stay ahead.
“Some features we are including are advanced messaging automation through our Sequencer product, picture and video messaging, advanced link tracking, list segmentation and elastic search features to name just a few,” the founders say.
“We have taken on board all of the requests our 10,000+ clients have made and distilled them into a great plan.”
As the business grew, the founders encountered another challenge that often presents itself to early-stage companies. They were in dire need of a chief technology officer (CTO) based in Australia but the young company couldn’t afford top talent.
Macpherson and Down turned to outsourcing, a move they say was a “terrible experience” initially but eventually provided the business with a “world-class product”.
“We started outsourcing via India, which was a terrible experience and settled with a team in the Ukraine, which were excellent. These guys built the majority of the technology that allowed us to build the company to a profitable enough point where we could employ a highly experienced local CTO,” the two said.
“Once we had that firepower, we moved to a Philippines team to enable local timezone support and a superb quality of service.”
The two entrepreneurs readily admit they made “classic startup mistakes” early on, but the lessons from those mistakes turned out to be essential for the success of their business.
Selling a product when it is still in an idea stage is fine, the two say, and some of the best clients will come from the people who “pre-purchase” the product. These clients can also become your beta testers, claim the founders.
Along with selling ideas early, Down and Macpherson believe “no idea is unique” and that 10 other companies will likely already be doing it.
“If it’s good, somebody has already thought of it,” they say.
This makes it all the more important to invest in people, both financially and from a values perspective, say Down and Macpherson.
“Demonstrate sincere appreciation in view of the whole team when they do a good job. If they mess up, talk to them about it in private,” the two say.
“The better people you have supporting your vision, the better company you will have.”