One app to run it all

No matter how big a business is, running it shouldn't be complicated.

(Left to right) Jan Pickard, Korak Kuhnert, Daniel Marcus founders of Magnetic Software.
(Left to right) Jan Pickard, Korak Kuhnert, Daniel Marcus founders of Magnetic Software.

In every company, there's a system to manage customers and tasks. Other systems provide for accounting functionality and human resource management. But most businesses tend to acquire systems that focus on a single vertical.

This means companies use three or four systems to manage their business platforms - one for sales processes, another for customer relationship management (CRM) and yet another for accounting and HR. It gets rather complicated.

Complicated problems demand simple solutions and the founders of Cape Town-based start-up Magnetic Software believe they have developed the simplest solution.

Magnetic personalities

Behind the start-up, there's Korak Kuhnert, who is responsible for code and technical intimacies of the software. In his previous professional life, Kuhnert managed multiple large-scale technology projects at banks and other large corporations. Teaming up with serial entrepreneur Daniel Marcus and product guru Jan Pickard, the trio developed Magnetic over the course of many sleepless nights.

"We were all accustomed to using a number of different platforms to manage the various business processes of our respective companies," recalls Kuhnert. "Many were unnecessarily complex and because they didn't talk nicely to each other, information was often lost during the life cycle of a sale or project. None of them did exactly what we wanted them to, and it was expensive to manage multiple platforms and provide training on each."

"A problem experienced by one is usually a problem experienced by many," reasons Marcus, "so we created an end-to-end platform that would manage all business processes in one application, which each of us then implemented in our respective companies."

"When the product got to a certain level and additional companies were signing up, we resigned from our well-paid jobs and shifted all focus to Magnetic," says Pickard.

Visibility and accountability

By providing accurate, real-time insights into how teams are performing, Magnetic is designed to simplify and unify business procedures, with functionality for CRM, sales pipeline, task and project management, time tracking, accounts and HR management.

"We have created a minimalistic, sexy and intuitive user interface that allows for quick adoption within teams, with very little time needed for training," notes Kuhnert.

Running Lean

The Lean/Agile Start-up methodology was popularised by Eric Ries and operates off the premise of a minimum viable product. A start-up must launch with the minimum that will keep users happy and build on the product in a live/operational environment based on user feedback. In this Lean Start-up model, businesses try to 'fail fast' (learn as quickly as possible) and improve their offering based on what their customers want, rather than spend years polishing a lovely white elephant created in isolation from, and unwanted in, the market.

"Visibility within organisations is imperative, and total transparency across administrative tiers is what sets Magnetic apart."

Magnetic integrates with other cloud-based services like Dropbox, Google Drive, Campaign Monitor, Microsoft Outlook and Softline Pastel to track customer interaction and opportunities, to manage and monitor tasks.

"Staff can now use one platform to manage their accounts and time, and every team member can be held accountable for tasks from a traffic/project management perspective," Pickard says.

Team leaders can add and track tasks using Magnetic - the platform enables communication and collaboration around these activities through global file storage, shared calendars and tasks.

An e-mail integration tool automatically builds and maintains a dynamic contact database. The accounting functionality aims at making short work of cost estimates, purchase orders, tax invoices and supplier invoices, all of which can be exported to an external accounting platform as necessary.

On the HR side, Magnetic can be used to create and manage performance reviews along with career development systems for employees. Strong SSL encryption protects all data.

"As a cloud-hosted product, we can attack the global market. But it also means the international guys can target our local market. We're constantly being measured against Silicon Valley companies like SalesForce, BaseCamp and Freshbooks," observes Pickard.

Contending on home turf with Chase Software, Magnetic operates in a heavily competitive environment that calls for constant innovation to maintain exceptional customer service as the company scales. "Because we target multiple verticals, we're also challenged with ensuring that our product remains as simple to use as possible," he says.

A problem experienced by one is usually a problem experienced by many, so we created an end-to-end platform that would manage all business processes in one application.

Daniel Marcus, founder and director of Magnetic Software

"The biggest lessons are learned from bigger challenges and we've learned to run lean," Kuhnert says. "Luckily, the three of us have been part of various start-up businesses in the past so we already know the 'running lean' philosophy and swear by it. In a tech start-up of our nature, sales are key. It's great to always be improving a product, but you need to push sales and get customers to buy into the current version of the product at the same time."

In its first five months after launch, Magnetic had more than 600 users active on the system. It's been on the market for just over a year now and the team is currently sourcing extra funding, which should be concluded in the next few months. "Our goal is to expand internationally and take on our overseas competitors, some of whom we are already competing with locally," says Marcus.

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