This interview is continued from the 4/11/12 blog post Interview With Entrepreneur Of The Year Klaus Schauser (Part 1) ...
Could you give a few examples of the security measures and planning around ease of use that AppFolio SecureDocs has incorporated into the product?
All of the solutions available have user access based on regular passwords. What we found is that these days there are about 100 million PCs that are compromised with password sniffing malware so there is a high likelihood that your password is getting sniffed. Once captured by the malware it is shipped off to China, Russia, or some other place where people can login to those services and that is just not acceptable. So what we did was build two-factor authentication into the product so that not only does a user login with their personal password but they must also enter a code from their cell phone that we have sent them in a text message. It is very similar to what the more sophisticated banks are using these days. That was just the first thing, the next thing we pulled into our security was encrypting the data both at rest and during transitions. You can rest assured that the information will not get distributed. After security we wanted the product to be really easy to use and that was a great opportunity. We started with a lot of usability studies to look at how people use these types of products and we came up with a product that is so awesome people can start using it immediately without any training. Finally we wanted the product to be very fast so it feels like a local desktop application. The nice thing about modern browsers with java script and the new utilities available you can essentially create the illusion that this is on your desktop and you can click around in various folder and it looks like it is right there in front of you.
How do you think AppFolio SecureDocs will beat the competition that is already out there?
It is the focus on our core values; security, performance, speed as well as ease of use. With all the big players out there we shine in all of these different categories. The other guys got started a long time ago and therefore really have old legacy software that they are running on. We were able to make a very modern and new design that is much more compelling.
If you could give advice to new entrepreneurs, what do you think is the most important aspect of starting a company?
The most important aspect is finding a problem that customers really care about and then delivering a great product that solves that problem. In order to discover problems you must do market validation. Many people come up with an idea, build a product, go out to sell the product and then realize that nobody really cares about it. Most software companies fail because of a lack of customers wanting the product. You should spend your time up front doing the market validation to identify the problem, talk to and understand the customers, and understand the value that you will be providing. Steve Blank has a new book out called the Startup Owner's Manual, it is a great book that really describes his customer development process. Read the book, do market validation, and figure out how to solve a problem that customers really care about.