Iain Dooley created BenkoPhone when he realised that while most Australian business owners usually use two mobile phones, there was no virtual mobile number outside of the US/Canada that did voice, text and pictures on one number.
BenkoPhone provides a fully functional business mobile number in an app that you can use from any device, anywhere in the world.
“Not only that, but it’s backed by a cloud phone system with all the bells and whistles you’d expect like call queues, IVRs, voice menus, time conditions and more!” Iain says.
It all started when one of Iain’s clients needed a single point of contact to deal with both clients and field staff that worked for voice calls, TXT and picture messages that could easily be shared by a team.
“Virtual numbers in Australia were either voice and txt, or txt and mms, but not all three. I initially built the solution for his business, then realised that I wanted to use it too! I started mentioning it to others during sales conversations in addition to my existing products and people started buying it.”
BenkoPhone is an extension of Iain’s company, BenkoWorks does streamlines business workflows and supports remote work.
There were a few early challenges for BenkoPhone, as Iain explains:
“Since there are no vendors that provide a simple web-based connection to a virtual mobile number I had to build the infrastructure myself. This meant cobbling together multiple different services which made the sales and on-boarding process cumbersome,” Iain says.
“But the fact that I was still able to build customers steadily with good recurring revenue in spite of the ‘warts and all’ nature of the product only served to prove to me that the demand for the product was very strong.”
The BenkoPhone app is now live in both iOS and Android stores, and it’s also available for the desktop. Iain says this is a huge leap forward as it means that businesses can roll the solution out to larger teams with no friction.
“Team members just download the app and scan a QR code, then they instantly get a virtual mobile number in an app on their phone. Now we need now to get larger production runs on the hardware we use to make the telco side of things happen. We also need to streamline/automate the sign-up and on-boarding to make the sales process more “self-service” so we can scale up to hundreds of thousands of customers over the next 24 months.”
Iain has been a member of Fishburners since May 2011.
“It was my first introduction to what I would call ‘real networking’, where I learned the value of building relationships and got my first sense of what it was like to build a startup behind the veil of PR that dominates the media landscape,” Iain says.
“My business has changed since then, but I’ve maintained many valuable friendships from those early days and others that I have connected with since. Also, through the virtual membership in the Slack channel I’m always seeing opportunities for mentoring, grants and funding, as well as staying connected to big events and exciting new Aussie startups. So even though I’m ‘virtual only’ these days, I still feel connected to the community.”
Iain has some great advice for other startups:
“Sales fixes everything. I know people like to say ‘No it doesn’t! If your product sucks you won’t be able to keep your customers.’ But nothing lets you know your product sucks more than having to give people their money back because it can’t deliver what you sold them,” Iain says.
“I’m a firm believer in a ‘sales first’ mentality. Sales is the process of finding problems and providing solutions, so if your engineering doesn’t exist purely to deliver solutions that you’re selling, you have no way of knowing that you’re working on the right thing.”