Meet Sem Kokhuis, Owner and Solution Architect at Made with Pepper and, more recently, NowSquare, provider of white label content and proximity marketing tools for agencies. He shared with us the challenges he had to face while building his startup, marketing trends, future plans for his company, entrepreneurship advice and many more!
How did you come up with the idea for NowSquare?
It’s all about saving people time. Ever since I started with web development, I created content management systems to make websites dynamic. This was to save myself time, because customers could update their own content instead of calling me.
Ever since search engine optimization (SEO) became more popular, online businesses have become more aware of the importance of marketing. There has been an exponential growth in internet marketers. The goal of NowSquare is to help these marketers and technical partners by automating parts of their online business. They can offer their customers high-quality additional services with minimal effort.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to face as a startup entrepreneur? How did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge was to migrate from a service-based company, to a product-based company. This required investment of a lot of time and money, and I thank my family for making this possible. I had many loyal customers, and you know that when you tell them you’re stopping because you want to change your business model, you will lose them. You have to get out of your comfort zone to succeed, and there is a certain financial risk involved as well.
NowSquare is a very interesting and unique product. Could you please describe it?
It’s a niche product. The main difference from comparable services is that we sell the full source code. There is no vendor lock-in, and clients are free to build upon the source.
NowSquare combines two popular marketing tools: landing pages and Eddystone Nearby Notifications. Nearby Notifications are part of Google’s Physical Web, and are gaining a lot of popularity all around the world at the moment. That’s because they allow you to send messages to Android phones without an app. The system enables users to create these messages, together with content to show when people open a notification.
Why have you opted for a lifetime license model instead of a subscription-based one, especially as the trend is going in the opposite direction?
That’s the niche part of the business. With a subscription model you receive recurring revenue, but the customer always depends on you. By selling the source code with a license, you give people the freedom to run their business as they want, using their own pricing model, and we can focus on the product itself without dealing with end users. It’s a win-win.
What trends in location-based marketing services do you foresee in 2018?
The blockchain will have an impact on many industries. I already see start-ups targeting marketing services, and I think the next big thing will be “Proof of Location.” This will turn the advertisement model around. Instead of paying publishers to reach out to potential customers, you can pay potential customers yourself when they visit physical locations. With solutions like Eddystone EID beacons to provide a secure, non-spoofable way to guarantee a device is at a certain location, along with the blockchain for secure micropayments, I can see a new chapter for location-based marketing.
What future plans do you have for NowSquare?
At the moment, I notice an increasing demand for Eddystone beacon solutions. We’re working on improved solutions for that, and maybe when we hit a bigger market we can slowly grow the company.
Would you like to share a word of advice for other software and SaaS entrepreneurs just starting out?
It’s cliché, but keep focus and work in iterations. Rome wasn’t built in a day. You need to get a product out and improve it based on user experience. However, don’t get distracted by requests too fast. I also love this read from Intercom on product management: https://www.intercom.com/books/product-management.