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ERP 2.0 Is Here to Conquer SMBs

Interview with Marc Kalman, CEO and Founder of BizSlate

Marc, Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Please tell us, what is Bizslate all about and what do you do?

Kalman: BizSlate Inc. is a Software-as-a-Service ("SaaS") that is revolutionizing the way small businesses manage their customers, vendors, orders, inventory, logistics, and their overall supply chain.  Established in October 2011 with a focus on helping small and medium sized businesses ("SMBs") solve real problems they face on a daily basis throughout their supply chain, BizSlate ERP is designed and developed under the collaborative efforts of a management team possessing small business supply chain expertise and a 17 customer steering committee comprised of small apparel, footwear, and housewares businesses ranging between $1 million and $200 million in revenue.

What are you launching ..... What is the biggest challenge you face right now in telling your story and winning over new clients?

Kalman: I am excited to announce the beta launch of BizSlate ERP, a SaaS that comes with a host of features designed to significantly improve order processing and supply chain management for small businesses.  BizSlate focuses on resolving the biggest issues that SMBs face, and which have not yet been properly addressed by other small business ERPs.  BizSlate helps people at businesses reduce unproductive time in front of a computer by improving accuracy, providing mobile access to real-time information for fast and important decisions, offering means of better collaboration, and incorporating extreme efficiency where businesses need it the most.

Who is your target audience and how do you intend to reach them? What is the biggest challenge you face right now in telling your story and winning over new clients?

Kalman: We help small distribution businesses up to $200M in revenue with100 employees or less, with the majority of our customers expected to have revenue less than $50M.  These businesses sell products and services to large retail chains and department stores, boutiques and specialty shops, and direct to consumer via online and catalog.

The biggest challenge we face with acquiring new customers is the fact that we are in beta.  It is typically an "early adopter" customer who is willing to give BizSlate Beta a try for running their company.  That said, we continue winning customers over incumbents such as Netsuite and SAP Business One during this phase.  I attribute this early success to our team's extensive knowledge of small business supply chain and operations, and working with our customer steering committee to hone in on what SMBs really need from an ERP on a daily basis.

I'd be curious to hear any general thoughts you have on market trends...

Kalman: I feel we are at the cusp of a wave where SMBs will leverage SaaS for core systems such as ERP.  It just makes sense for small businesses to take advantage of hosted solutions where possible.  Analysts across the board expect 20% compound annual growth for the SaaS ERP market, as it grows from approximately $1.4B toward domination of the overall $20B ERP market.  If you look at Gartner, Forrester and Aberdeen studies, they all show that small businesses are better off having an ERP than without an ERP.  SMBs demonstrate measurable improvements by reducing inventory costs, reducing sales cycles, improving collaboration and decision making, as well as improving customer relationships.  With small businesses being understaffed, employees working long hours, and each employee being responsible for up to 5 different jobs on a good day, it is essential for small businesses to invest in tools that maximize their ability to succeed, let alone survive in a global marketplace.  Software-as-a-Service gives small distribution businesses the opportunity to afford these enterprise class tools, provides a secure and redundant environment that is accessible from anywhere, and is the only clear non-disruptive option for keeping current with technological advancement.

What is the viral aspect of your product?

Kalman: Small businesses are hungry for someone to solve their biggest supply chain problems. We feel BizSlate offers something special. Something that no other ERP for small distribution businesses offers.   Other ERPs are either too complex and cost prohibitive, or if affordable they offer businesses little or no ROI.  It is not surprising that 50% of small distribution businesses continue using QuickBooks and spreadsheets even though they have clearly outgrown it and need something more.  Working with our customer steering committee, we've smashed the mold of old school traditional ERPs, and incorporate fresh ideas that coincide with the way small distribution companies operate their businesses.  We give them power...we give them efficiency...we give them intelligence...and we do this with a very easy to use, intuitive interface.  Word spreads fast when you finally solve the problems small businesses have been coping with for years.

How will you make money? What's the business model?

Kalman: We've created a model that is affordable based on a combination of price and need.  A one-person company can solve their distribution and operational issues for as little as a few thousand dollars a year.  As BizSlate's pricing is an annual subscription, the total cost of ownership is less, and becomes appropriately scalable as businesses grow and add employees.

Please tell us more about your product development steering committee. how do you compromise between commonality and differences? how do you get a consensus?

Kalman: Our customer steering committee is a classic example of crowdsourcing, where we use the wisdom of the crowd to aggregate large amounts of information in order to obtain the best roadmap for BizSlate.  We've also incorporated a touch of crowdfunding such that early steering committee members contributed funds toward development of the application.

Who are your competitors?

Kalman: We effectively compete with Netsuite, SAP Business One, Microsoft Dynamics, and Sage.

How do you differentiate from your competitors?

Kalman: Historically, ERPs tend to start as accounting applications and move forward into order management and supply chain, which are not their core competencies.  BizSlate's management team has deep domain experience working with SMBs to help them improve their supply chain efficiencies in difficult and often time consuming scenarios.  We've combined this expertise with the knowledge and needs of our customer steering committee.  Every member of the steering committee has been involved in helping to design and develop BizSlate, making it the first enterprise ERP for SMBs written entirely from the perspective of the end user.  The end result is a system that is designed the way small distribution businesses operate, not based on out-dated accounting-based supply chain methodologies.

How does your technology differentiate from the competition and can you elaborate on the different technology deployed?

Kalman: After we lock down the feature requirements with our customer steering committee, we invest a considerable amount of time collaborating on the user interface (ui/ux).  Gauging customer reactions to BizSlate in beta, it seems we've been extremely effective blending extreme power and efficiency with easy of use.  Something small business ERPs have been lacking until now.

What business or technology could yours disrupt?

Kalman: BizSlate is changing the way small businesses feel toward ERP software.  Value can be affordable and without being overly complex.  Once we address the core issues, there is no limit to how we can leverage BizSlate ERP to help small distribution businesses.

Who founded the company, when? What can you tell me about the story of the company's founding?

Kalman: BizSlate was formed in October 2011 as the continuation of the vision I embarked upon when I co-founded my last company eZCom Software.  eZCom is a SaaS EDI provider that focuses on helping small businesses significantly improve efficiency and accuracy pertaining to their EDI relationships.  With a strong track record of helping SMBs improve EDI, we started receiving requests from our customers for help in key supply chain and operational issues for their non-EDI customers.  Based on customer demand and a review of the market, we embarked upon developing what is now BizSlate ERP.  In less than a year's time, BizSlate has been honored by launching at DEMO Spring 2012 in Silicon Valley and was selected as a finalist for Red Herring's Top 100 emerging tech companies of 2012.  The company has been written up in PCMag.com, Network World magazine, ChainLink Research, and a mention in The New York Time as an upcoming Netsuite competitor.  I see these as confirmations that BizSlate is on to something exciting.

As a company we remain focused on helping small distribution businesses succeed by challenging the boundaries of old school out-dated principles.  It is important for us to collaborate with our customers, as they know better than anyone what they need to solve their real and most pressing issues.

What is your distribution model? Where to buy your product?

Kalman: To learn more and discuss joining our beta team, businesses can contact us directly at 855-Biz-Slate or via www.bizslate.com/try. Qualified companies will receive up to a 40% lifetime discount in exchange for limited participation.  In the near future, BizSlate ERP is also expected to be available through VARs and the Intuit Marketplace.

What's next on your product roadmap?

Kalman: We have several innovative tricks up our sleeves planned that will continue improving the supply chain and operations of small distribution businesses.  While it's cool to connect ERPs to social media, there are far more pressing issues that need resolution first.

What else would you like to add?

Kalman: I would like to thank our loyal customer steering committee for their guidance and participation, as well as their trust and belief in our ability to deliver BizSlate ERP.  I would also like to thank our CTO Michael W. Park and everyone at BizSlate, whose tireless around-the-clock work with extreme passion toward our vision is creating an amazing solution.  And I must also thank my amazing wife Danielle and daughter Sydney, who have been patient and understanding while I am off saving the world of distribution.

Other information if applicable:

Partnerships, collaborations or affiliations:

Federal or state grants, contracts or awards received:

Market size being pursued: SaaS ERP is approximately $1.4B.  Analysts across the board are predicting 20% CAGR as SaaS eventually dominates the $20.3B overall ERP market.

Who are the likely competitors, direct or indirect? Netsuite, Sage, Microsoft Dynamics, SAP Business One

Is the company profitable?

Current annual revenue:

Website: www.bizslate.com

Twitter account: https://twitter.com/bizslate

Boilerplate here: The BizSlate Software-as-a-Service supply chain solution empowers small and mid-sized companies to compete on the global stage. BizSlate significantly reduces the cost of inventory, improves shipping timing and accuracy, and provides the monitoring and diagnosis of operational issues at a fraction of the cost of conventional enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions. To learn more about BizSlate, please visit www.bizslate.com.

More Stories By Xenia von Wedel

Xenia von Wedel, Tech blogger and VP of Socialradius/San Francisco-San Jose. She mainly writes about B2B solutions, social media and open source software. SocialRadius is a full-service social media marketing agency, serving clients in a variety of industries worldwide. The agency is focused on thought leadership content creation and syndication, social media outreach and strategy.