It was, Chris Strode admits,Â among the least proudÂ moments of his career.
After working forÂ Macquarie Bank as a softwareÂ developer for almost a decade,Â he was given his marchingÂ orders following â€œa few too manyÂ drinks at a work cocktail partyâ€.Â â€œI was basically pushed out of my jobÂ due to bad behavior â€“ but it was actuallyÂ a blessing in disguise,â€ explains Chris.
Indeed, he had found himself in aÂ situation most entrepreneurs can relate to.Â Heâ€™d just begun working for MacquarieÂ Bank as a freelance software developer inÂ 2002 and was preparing to send his clientÂ an invoice, when he became disappointedÂ with his options: between either a basic,Â unprofessional-looking Word invoice, orÂ an expensive accounting program.
â€œI thought Iâ€™d just go on the internetÂ and find an app to help me create anÂ invoice, but there was nothing availableÂ that worked the way I wanted it to. TheÂ accounting packages were expensiveÂ and fully-featured, but all I wanted wasÂ to create a simple invoice,â€ says Chris.
With few affordable, suitable options toÂ choose from, Chris did what any softwareÂ developer would do: he set about creatingÂ his own convenient invoicing app.
â€œThatâ€™s when I came up with the ideaÂ for Invoice2go, but I didnâ€™t have a lot ofÂ time, as my job was full on,â€ says Chris.
â€œLiterally the only spare time I had wasÂ during the commute to and from work;Â I was living with my in-laws in westernÂ Sydney and commuting into the city forÂ at least an hour each way, so that gave meÂ some time to play around with my idea.â€
Chris quickly recognised that hisÂ little idea â€“ a mobile app that helps soleÂ traders and small businesses manageÂ their cash flow through easy-to-useÂ invoicing, expense tracking and simpleÂ reporting tools â€“ had serious legs.
But it wasnâ€™t until his unceremoniousÂ firing from his comfortable job that heÂ was forced to see just how successfulÂ his idea could actually become.
â€œI was never sure if the business wouldÂ take off and I had a really good job, soÂ the hardest thing was how to get out.
â€œItâ€™s scary to let go of that regularÂ income. I kept waiting until the businessÂ was generating the same revenue as myÂ job, but I was under a lot of stress tryingÂ to manage my full-time job and tryingÂ to get the business off the ground.â€
As it turned out, being â€˜let goâ€™ wasÂ the best thing that could have happened.Â Today, the business that was bornÂ on a train commute over a decade agoÂ is worth more than US$100 million,Â after securingÂ US$35 million inÂ funding in 2014Â from two topÂ venture capitalÂ firms, AccelÂ Partners andÂ Ribbit CapitalÂ â€“ the backersÂ behind the likesÂ of Facebook,Â Spotify, DropboxÂ and Angry Birds.
â€œEver since thatÂ happened, it hasÂ been full steam ahead,â€ says Chris.Â While opportunities to secureÂ investor funding had come along manyÂ times before, Chris says he avoidedÂ that path for as long as possible.
â€œAt one point, there were 20 of usÂ working away. Weâ€™d lock ourselves inÂ a room every day and just kept buildingÂ and iterating until we had the productÂ right â€“ and we had to get it right onÂ multiple platforms, across Android,Â iPhone and the cloud,â€ he says.
â€œWe iterated so many times toÂ figure out the best subscription model,Â while also keeping on top of all theÂ functionalities people were asking for.Â With such an intense focus on creatingÂ the best possible product, we didnâ€™tÂ want that early pressure from investorsÂ to be profitable; we really wanted toÂ focus on getting that market set right.â€
This approach may have delayed theÂ businessâ€™ journey towards becomingÂ a $100 million success story, but ChrisÂ says staying small was the best decision.
It stayed that way until about fiveÂ years ago, when he hired his first staffÂ member. Today they have around 100Â employees and are sold in 50 countries.
â€œIt really doesnâ€™t matter where youÂ are located. I launched Invoice2goÂ out of myÂ in-lawsâ€™ spareÂ room, whichÂ wasnâ€™t veryÂ glamorous.Â We hire theÂ best peopleÂ we can find,Â whetherÂ theyâ€™re inÂ Palo Alto,Â Sydney,Â Jakarta or theÂ Philippines.
With the right idea, you can kickÂ something off from anywhere,â€ he says.
â€œFocus on building a nice product thatÂ people want to use and be persistent.â€Â Chris points out that Invoice2goâ€™sÂ biggest competitor isnâ€™t all that technical.
â€œOur biggest competitor isnâ€™t an app,Â itâ€™s the Word doc and pen and paper.Â â€œPeople donâ€™t want to pay big bucksÂ for a software program only to use 5Â per cent of the functionality; they wantÂ all their invoices tallied for the monthÂ or the year, and [to] have nice-lookingÂ branded invoices that make it super easy.
â€œThere are around 100 million smallÂ businesses worldwide, so weâ€™d like toÂ become the invoice solution for as manyÂ of those as possible. Thatâ€™s the goal!â€