Saturday, April 22, 2006

Selling OnLert to SMBs

Before I left, I had an interesting (albeit brief) chat about the strategy we have been using to sell OnLert. Presently, we have been cold-calling small Ottawa tech firms, and asking to speak with the webmaster. However, after our discussion I think it I will try a different strategy. The problem with our strategy is that the person we're presently talking too, probably doesn't have the authority to purchase our product, or really care. Instead we are going to try going to the owner of the business (or CTO if they have one). It will probably be more difficult to get there time than the webmaster, but (hopefully) it will be easier to sell to them.

Some other possibilities include collecting uptime stats on a large number of sites, and mailing them a follow up letter after they experience some down time.

Moving on

Yesterday was my last day in the office at niti.
One nice thing about Co-Op @ Waterloo is that it is a four month period. I'm not sure how things would have gone if it was much longer.
I think I've learnt a lot working at niti, albeit not what I was intending on learning, but that's often the most important stuff to learn.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

OnLert Launches!

So, we launched OnLert today. The initial plan had been for Chris to do telemarketing from about 10 to 4, but instead it we ended up with him doing some telemarketing from 12 to 2. No sales as of yet, one interested person who wanted to follow up with us. In addition to all of the stuff I'm planning on doing next week, I may also through in a little bit of telemarketing myself. Since I'm going to be back in Ottawa for a bit I e-mailed the local computer publication to see if they might be interested in doing an article on our new service.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


We were all prepared to launch onlert this morning, but a number of things went hay wire at the last moment.
The primary VoIP provider we are using miss assigned the toll free number we were using, resulting in calls bouncing between us and the other company double booked on that number (crazy!).
We also had a slight bug in our order system, but we've fixed that.
The new phone number still isn't being properly directed to our system, but hopefully we can get that all sorted by tommorow morning and start the telemarketing then.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Non Value Added Business

I run many different business, and it continues to surprise me how successful (relatively) my non-value added business that sells domains is. I don't (normally) sell any domain directly to customers, but I sell them to resellers instead.

My prices aren't great, the service isn't great, and its based (entirely) off another company. I haven't even bothered to upload a custom logo. The only different part is, my pricess (for resellers) are lower than what they can get if they sign up directly with this company directly, and most of its competitors. I add no value in this process, they pay me and I turn around and pay the company. The only advertising I've done for it includes posting to some random forums.

I originally started the business in an attempt to decrease my costs of accepting credit cards, simply by increasing my volume.

Note: by successful, I mean in volume, not in profit. Since my original goal was just increasing the volume of transactions, I decided to minimize my price. However, since the volume is now sufficiently large, I can take some cost saving measures with respect to how I handle the transactions, allowing me to make a small profit on each sale. I just have to go to the states briefly :-)

Saving on SSL

Its difficult to start a business, especially when you are student and have very little money.
As such, every expense is considered. With OnLert (a site monitoring service, between my co-founder and my self we allready have most of the resources necessary to start it. One of the things we were missing was a signed SSL certificate. Normally I just go with self signed ssl certificates. But if you are going to be selling your product on-line, you really need a signed ssl certificate.

Rather than shell out the big bucks ($20), we chose to save save save, and get a free trial SSL certificate from instantssl. This gives us 30 days to try and sell something to someone, at which point we will buy an SSL certificate. But, we figure, if after 30 days of trying to sell OnLert to people we have not sold a single copy, we probably won't be able to sell enough copies for it to be worth it.

For most of my other business, I wouldn't do something quite so sketchy, but with OnLert its a fairly simple product and our sales cycle should be fairly short.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Awhile back I had the idea to make an anti virus product that worked as a proxy server. Unlike quite a few of my ideas, this one actually made it all the way through to production.

What prompted me was some value priced radio advertising I purchased. I realized I didn't have any products to sell to the consumer market, so I looked back in my pile o' ideas and pulled out the first one I though I might be able to get done before the radio adds aired.

In the end, my revenue projections were a bit too optimistic and the whole thing used a bit too much bandwidth to be worth the advertising money I got from it, so its been shutdown for awhile now.

However, the firm I'm at right now has a program for ISVs to sell software running on there boxes. So, I'm going to dust it off, re-package it (so it runs on there boxes insted of my central server) and see if I can convince anyone that its a good idea to "Stop viruses before they get to your computer".

Sketchy Bulk Faxing

One of the few things sketchier then bulk faxing its self is trying to save on bulk faxing. Awhile back I acquired a list of fax numbers for Canadian business and figured I might as well give it a shot. Being the cheap person that I am, I decided to look into trying to do my bulk faxing with VoIP. The proper way to do it involves T.38, however almost every single provider that claimed to support T.38 later turned around a few days latter after my account got transferred from the sales group to the technical group who knew damn well they didn't support T.38. Instead, what I ended up doing was setting up spandsp and using txfax over a high quality connection. For the most part it actually worked (in the sense that the test faxes I sent got through, save one or two). However, the response rate was horrible, so I gave up on it a few months ago.

More recently , I've been trying to get it to work again. However, a number of things have changed since last time. For one, it would appear that the VoIP provider I used has gone far down hill in terms of quality and I can't actually get a fax through at all. However, a number of providers are now claiming to support t.38 (if they actually do is another matter), so that might be a possibilty. In the mean time, I'm using a sketchy company in Ottawa (protus) to do this for me instead. There prices are higher, but they actually work right now.

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