HOSTSEARCH: Thanks for giving us this interview - we appreciate it. Could you tell us about yourself and your role in IRUN?
GOPAL SAXENA: The IRUN product concept evolved out of the wealth of experience gained from years of complex website development. With our background of high-end development of websites for large companies, we were determined to offer the same level of quality and high levels of functionality to the small business as well. We realized that new tools were required for this. The flat, dilapidated web pages that existing website builders offer were just not good enough to attract customers. We wanted to empower the small business to build a top class professional e-commerce web site without having to hire expensive developers.
IRUN was established in 2002 and we spent the first 18 months in converting the concept into a saleable product. The SME market as our focus we decided that with the right product we might be able to dramatically impact how many SMEs do business online. The key was to make it profitable - which means making it hands off for us and easy-to-use for non-technical small business customers. At the end of 2003 we launched IRUN's ProSiteBuilder.
My role at IRUN is Chief Executive: directing day-to-day operations, long-term planning and vision-casting. I also take an active role in reseller sales and support - both for licensees and general resellers.
Additionally, I also work closely with our office in the UK in terms of business development. Our plans are to cover the European and Australasian markets in 2006 with a multi-language version of ProSiteBuilder.
HOSTSEARCH: Could you give us an overview of IRUN's products?
GOPAL SAXENA: IRUN offers two primary solutions. Typically smaller hosts, ISPs and designers take us up on our Hosted Solution due to the fact that we offer a very quick ramp up of only a few days, we do all the work and there's no infrastructure cost. After paying their set-up fee, we supply them with everything they need to be successful online, including a high quality website fully equipped with flash commercial and tutorials, their own customer management console, integration with their own payment gateway, and even print collateral. We're not just in the business of getting more resellers on board, but more so partnering with them to help them attract customers. We win only when they win - it's really that simple.
We also provide our hosted resellers with ongoing support via phone, trouble ticket system and specific/relevant marketing tips to help them become successful. The cost per customer per month can be as low as $3.
Reserved primarily for larger hosts, ISPs and registrars, we also offer a Licensed version of our technology which enables our partners to actually host the full application on their own servers, and in some cases even customize the technology to meet their unique needs or those of their target audience. We do all the work to get the technology set-up on their server, perform testing and final implementation for them if need be as well. Plus we supply our Licensed Partners will all the items our Resellers get.
In terms of pricing, it really varies based on the unique needs of the Licensee and how they anticipate using the technology. The benefit to Licensees is definitely on the residual payments as well as the flexibility involved in customization.
HOSTSEARCH: There are a number of website builders on the market. What are your product's particular strengths?
GOPAL SAXENA: I think our biggest strength rests in the experience of our partners. For example, both iPower and Homestore had actually licensed a well known website building technology before switching over to IRUN. IRUN offers a very high quality solution, not just your standard website builder.
What I mean is that most of our competition cannot tackle the 3 elements of what makes a successful small business website: design that inspires confidence, ease-of-use in terms of management PLUS high level functionality. When these 3 elements are in correct balance you have a recipe for a professional website that can be easily maintained by even non-techies. That's where we focus.
In terms of specific functionality, we offer some unique functions: eBay Auction Integration, Spam Filtering, PayPal Pro Integration - PayPal's new payment system, Bulk Upload which allows vendors to bulk upload their entire inventory step to their web store, and Order Management. I believe our templates are of a superior quality, giving small businesses the professional look they need to level the playing field with their competition. Ready made page layouts that enable simple point-and-click building are also an advantage.
HOSTSEARCH: How do you differentiate your products in a competitive market?
GOPAL SAXENA: We don't try to get resellers for the sake of resellers. Instead, our approach is to bring on quality resellers (or people who are committed to building a sizeable residual income) and then partnering with them to make their business successful. The way we look at it, we're only successful if our resellers are successful. Therefore, we go to lengths to ensure we're listening to them, addressing their needs and really making sure the technology is always progressing.
I think that resellers understand and sense the fact that we're in it for partnership, rather than seeing them as just another customer. That gives them the confidence that we're out for their best interests, which is really the case.
In terms of the technology, resellers do their research up front and realize the difference in quality that we offer. Most of them are really trying to differentiate themselves in the market place as it's becoming more and more saturated.
We also like to differentiate ourselves by offering our resellers a FREE demo of what their customer experience will be. That's the seller for us. Once resellers see for themselves what the technology does, the sale is easy.
HOSTSEARCH: Your web site states "IRUN is the Internet's most user-friendly private label website builder..." How did you establish that fact?
GOPAL SAXENA: Our focus from day one was to speak to the non-technical small business person. Everything we do with our technology revolves around making the process of building and managing the website as easy as possible. We've done a lot of comparisons, as have our customers and others in the industry. One of the recurring comments that keep coming up is how easy our system is to use, how intuitive it is in comparison to other products on the market.
To supplement the ease-of-use in the technology, we also go a step further in terms of incorporating Flash Tutorials (http://www.irun.com/take_the_irun_tour.asp) that a user can simply watch as they're doing work on their site.
Being in the tech industry for some time, we also have noticed that the number of actual support calls we receive is extremely low in comparison to industry standards which tells us that when it comes to ease-of-use we're doing a pretty good job.
HOSTSEARCH: What level of support do you provide?
GOPAL SAXENA: We offer phone, email and help desk support for standard resellers. For Licensees, we provide 24 hr support through a hotline to a live tech.
We get trouble tickets addressed based on levels of urgency assigned (usually within 24 hrs on average, if not immediately).
HOSTSEARCH: Your products are positioned from experience in web hosting. What advice would you give someone entering the web hosting business?
GOPAL SAXENA: If you're going into hosting, you must realize that the perception is that it is a commodity market, largely driven by price and price alone. To become competitive and build a long-term business, you really need to look at adding real world value to your customers. In other words, coupling your hosting services with other relevant services that will impact your customers. That's where web builders come in, because a web builder is a natural progression for hosting customers. They are coming to a host for website and email services. If a host can combine everything into one (hosting, website, ecommerce, webmail, marketing tools, etc.) they have that much better of a chance of significantly impacting their customers, building long-term relationships with them and making it more difficult for them to just up and go for price. No longer are you just competing on price, but value. Only when hosts - especially new hosts - realize this will they be successful in the long-term.
BUT, that being said, offering a web builder that is just run-of-the-mill will do little to turn the heads of your customers and not really bring in the profits you're looking for. You have to go for the best or your customers will go elsewhere.
HOSTSEARCH: What advantages are there for you being based in Canada?
GOPAL SAXENA: Nothing really - great talent, strong team. Other than that no real benefits specifically except that Canada has a strong reputation of developing innovative technologies. Unfortunately, we don't receive too many benefits otherwise.
HOSTSEARCH: Have your or your products won any awards? Could you talk us through them?
GOPAL SAXENA: No, we have only won awards for Custom Design - not for the technology itself - we've never applied.
HOSTSEARCH: What is the next big thing to hit the Internet in general and how will it impact people?
GOPAL SAXENA: The internet is all about communication and simplifying processes. I think that as technology becomes more advanced, bandwidth more widely available and affordable people will continue down this road (a la Skype, etc). I think for the next few years, we'll see companies amalgamating services into their current base offerings at affordable cost bundles that will address the many needs of their customers. This doesn't sound overly significant or exciting on the surface, but I think it will have wide-ranging effects across the board.
The impact for people will be more for less.