We recently managed to catch up with Happy Inspector Founder, Jindou Lee. During the interview, Jindou will be introducing us to Happy Inspector while sharing advice abut the business plan process and applying to an accelerator program. Happy Inspector is a graduate from the Australian StartMate accelerator program and the prestigious American 500 Startups incubation program. Happy Inspector is the 3rd in our series of interviews featuring Australian startups.
Happy Inspector looks to take every single inspection in the world that is done on pen and paper and make them paperless; using tablets/smartphones to automate the process. “Inspections” are super boring. However, the team and I get super geeked out solving this problem. We love it.
How did you come up with the idea for Happy Inspector?
Well, we sort of fell into it. The last business I co-founded was a mobile app studio, Mighty Kingdom. I also had some investment properties in US and Australia. They were managed by property managers who provided me hand written reports of their inspections. I asked them why they were not using technology and was shocked with their response. There was nothing great in the market and so begun our journey. We created Happy Inspector and then spun that out on its own.
What were some of the challenges that you faced starting a company?
There are a million little challenges that entrepreneurs face every single day. It never ends. For me, the biggest challenge was to transition away from the lure of “easy” money building apps for clients, to becoming a “single” product company. It’s difficult because I was broke for a really long period of time whilst we validated the business idea and struggled to find the right time to move away from building someone else’s dream to building my own. Something else that I found to be a challenge was the fact that we were from Adelaide. Don’t get me wrong, I love the city but the environment was not tech startup friendly at all. I remember trying to raise money very early on in Happy Inspector’s life and not one single person in the local Angel group was interested to put a single dollar in. In Silicon Valley, it’s a totally different story! the point I’m making is that being in the right place at the right time is very important.
You guys have taken part in both the StartMate accelerator in Sydney Australia and the 500 Startup program, what difference do you feel being part of an accelerator made to your company?
I can’t begin to explain how it’s helped us. A year ago, I had no clue about the startup tech scene. So, being part of Startmate and 500 Startups has literally “accelerated” our learning both as individuals and as a company. Would we have got to the same place without them? Sure. But it would have taken us 12 months at least. And we all know that 12 hours in tech could mean the difference between life and death!
What advice would you give to an entrepreneur looking to get their company into an accelerator program?
Hustle, hustle, hustle! Entrepreneurs need to have super thick skin and resilience that would make Pepe Le Pew look like a giver-upper! Read a lot about the accelerator you want to get into, find a way to meet people who are or have been a part of them (without stalking or being annoying) and then make your company look super awesome when you get a chance to pitch to the people that count. If you don’t get in, it’s not the end of the world. Because the most important thing is to make a successful company and you don’t need to be part of an accelerator to achieve that.
What kind of a role has mentoring played in your teams success to date?
I’ve been fortunate to have learnt from some of the best and most knowledgeable people in the industry whom I have deep respect for. Niki Scevak, Bill Bartee, Hamish Hawthorn from Startmate to name a few. And from the 500 family, Dave McClure, Paul Singh and George Kellerman. Those guys and many others provide a good sounding board, support and help when things get tough. They inspire me as well with their passion and dedication to their craft. One caveat though, is to take people’s advice with a grain of salt. Because something that did not work for someone else might work for you. Let your intuition be your guide initially and followed by your numbers, stats and metrics.
What advice would you like to give to an entrepreneur thinking about writing their first business plan?
OMG. If someone told me they were going to write a business plan I would slap them! I think business plans take too long to write and I would rather them get out the building and talk to customers. Find out what people want, why they want it, how much they want it. Before we did a single line of code for Happy Inspector, we spoke to 20 different customers and half of them were willing to pay for something we had not built. I’m not saying don’t plan your business, but use better tools like Eric Ries’ Lean Startup, Steve Blank’s Customer Development Methodology or the Business Model Canvas
A massive thank you to Jindou for taking the time out of his busy schedule to put down some great answers. We look forward to catching back up with Happy Inspector next year to see how things have progressed. In the mean time check out their site site. You can also follow them on twitter!