Interview: Jack Cairney, Founder of BeFound - How to launch a software company

Jack Cairney
Jack Cairney

SBNN caught up with BeFound founder and search marketing expert Jack Cairney. We talked about launching a small business, motivation, technology and of course search marketing.

The company recently launch their web app to help small business with be found online.
Hi Jack, lets start off with you telling us a little about yourself.

I was born in Aberdeen and studied at Aberdeen Uni so this is very much my home town. I’ve always had an interest in business, in fact I dabbled with it when I was in my teens, and of course it made sense to then go on to do a business degree. Online marketing is my passion – it’s great to be able to take a website that’s not performing too well and see it move up the Google rankings and hear that the company is getting alot more business through your efforts. It’s through doing this for many years that I realised there was a need for a new web app.

So tell us about the web app and how it works

The web app is called Befound. It gives you an instant understanding of your current online presence and guides you step by step to help you improve it. It updates you with website and social media analytics, brand mentions,recent reviews, keyword ranking, website audits and more. It teaches the user and gives them a much better understanding of what they need to do to optimise the company website, improve the rankings, use social media to their advantage and generally be found online. It also alerts the user in real time to any issues with their website such as it going down or being affected by malware.

So, in short, the app empowers your staff to build and consolidate a strong web presence, helping you to keep a step ahead of your competition and bring more paying customers to your site without having to pay a fortune to SEO companies.

One of my priorities in building the app was to make it is easy to use and affordable.

Is web marketing still an underutilised opportunity for small businesses?

Yes I believe so, strictly speaking, online marketing is not necessary for every business. However, if you neglect it you will miss out on an area of great potential. If you think that your business is doing fine without it, you should rethink this assumption. By not doing any online marketing, you are unnecessarily putting yourself way behind your competition, which could be disastrous. This problem will only increase in the future as online marketing becomes increasingly important. Online marketing can only improve your prospects, whatever line of business you are in, therefore I would say that it is definitely an area worth devoting some time too.

How did you go about building your product BeFound?

After a number of years creating marketing campaigns for small businesses, I found that there was a real need for a tool which both guided you step by step through the process of bringing customers to your website, and also helped you to bring your marketing teams together and to build and consolidate a strong web presence as a team.

When I began looking for a solution to this problem, I found that the software on the market was too complicated, expensive and difficult to use. I just couldn’t find that all in one affordable software I was after.

That’s why I started Befound.

After doing this, I went out looking for as much information as I could find which would help me. One thing which really helped was reading about other entrepreneurs and their experiences. For anyone who is starting a business, there’s a wealth of useful information out there in the form of interviews, podcasts, blogs, recorded talks, books etc.

All of this reading got me itching to get started. I began building a detailed list of features and wireframing some of my initial designs. I then went through the process of finding the right programmer to turn these designs into reality.

What advice would you have for anyone wishing to build an online piece of software – Or SaaS business?

If you have an idea, don’t spend lots of time thinking about it. Go out and take charge!

The first thing to do is to work out if the idea really has the potential to be turned into a successful SaaS company. The best way to do this is to talk to potential customers. Always base your ideas on what they want rather than on what you want. If you find that they don’t like your idea, you can either scrap it or use their feedback to improve it. Basing your thoughts on consumers’ wishes in this way will help you to understand both potential problems and potential opportunities.

The key is to put yourself in the consumer’s shoes whilst developing ideas, always asking whether the product provides enough value to them for them to be willing to pay for it. You can then test this by talking to them yourself. Although it might be tempting to outsource this process, if you do this you will not get a true unfiltered picture of the consumer’s thoughts. It is therefore best to take charge of the process yourself.

As long as you stay focused and work hard, success will be sure to come!

What technology / computer language did you use to build your site? What’s you best advise for someone who knows nothing about programming?

Befound was created using core PHP. However, it’s much faster to use a PHP framework. These have become increasingly popular in recent years, and have got much better over time. Examples include Phalcon, Zend, Symfony, CodeIgniter and Laravel. These can be used to build giant applications with much less effort than core PHP. Which framework you should choose will depend on your requirements.

You should read as much about building Saas applications as you can before hiring anyone, so that you know that you have chosen the right path. This will allow you to find the right freelance developer to create your application. Alternatively, you could find a co-founder who is technically minded and can build the application themselves. The other alternative is working with an agency, but this is not an option most would consider. The main problem with this option is that it would probably end up being about three times more expensive than hiring a developer.

It might seem confusing looking through all of the options, but the most important thing is to just make a decision. Even if it isn’t the best choice, at least you aren’t paralysed by indecision.

So where are you at with your business? Is it still in beta testing? or is it commercially available?

Yes after lots and lots of testing and bug fixing we are now commercially available. If you’re interested in getting more customers to your website then I would advise you go for the Managed SEO Package, which gives you a dedicated digital marketing expert who will collaborate with you to craft the perfect SEO campaign and improve your visibility.