Living in a sharehouse is a rite of passage for many Australians, but for Sydney-based entrepreneur John Bush, the pain of chasing up housemates for their share of the rent drove him to quit his accounting job to start sharehouse payments startup EasyShare, a Qantas-backed platform that has already processed $10 million worth of payments while in beta testing.
Founded in 2015, the EasyShare app was officially launched today on the App Store and Google Play after a two-year period of beta testing. The platform is designed to collect rent and bills from housemates and take care of these payments on behalf of its users.
“I myself was living in a sharehouse, and speaking to other sharehouse occupants there were so many ways that they paid their bills …you have bills on fridges or scribbled on paper around the house, bills in your inbox which never get paid,” Bush tells StartupSmart.
“I was the housemaster — the guy responsible for collecting [bills] from the other housemates.”
When Bush couldn’t find a payments platform that dealt with both the administration and payment sides of sharehouse finances, he was inspired to leave his accountancy job and build the solution himself.
The app uses NAB’s Connect platform to process direct debit and credit transactions and does “the splitting and paying [of bills] for you,”according to Bush.
Should you wait to take the plunge?
For Bush, making the transition from the corporate world of accounting to embracing startup life was a “scary” but rewarding experience.
“It was scary — I would recommend other founders do it, but I also have a fairly interesting view on it,” Bush explains.
While many entrepreneurs seek the startup world as a reprieve from the constricts of corporate culture, Bush says his time working in a corporate environment was crucial for preparing him for life as a founder.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say to do it [become a startup founder] straight out of university — I did my formative years [in an accounting firm] and had enough experience that I knew enough about payments to launch EasyShare. It was a really good stepping stone,” Bush says.
How EasyShare processed $10 million in payments in beta
Since being launched in beta mode and taking its first payment in 2015, EasyShare has now processed more than $10 million in bills and rent payments for its customers, according to Bush.
Bush says the key to getting traction, acquiring customers and processing payments while still in beta testing is simple: give the consumers what they want.
He says startups need to “acutely understand and speak to [their] customers” while in beta testing. For EasyShare, this approach has meant “engag[ing] with our customers to build our mobile apps”.
Rather than building a finished product that is launched in a polished, perfected form, Bush advises startups to launch with a simple minimum viable product (MVP), then let customers shape the rest of the product.
“Don’t build a product you and your team think is going to fly,” Bush says.
“Build an MVP then reach out and speak to the customers using it — that’s what we’ve done.”
Personally reaching out to customers was also key in ensuring EasyShare grew its customer base and volume of payment transactions while still in beta testing, according to Bush, who says that “being personable” as a founder is key to ensuring a startup’s success.
“If you actually speak to any of our customers, they’ve got my mobile and email,” Bush says.
“I’m not some kind of founder that emails comms through to our users … I’ve reached out to every single one of our customers,” he says. Bush says this approach gave EasyShare a “great base of people who were eager to help us shape and build the product”.
EasyShare is currently taking part in the Qantas AVRO accelerator, which is being run in partnership with corporate accelerator Slingshot. Bush says this has been vital in providing validation for the startup’s business proposition.
“Partnering with [Qantas] has been a really good opportunity for us and them to get together to accelerate [both of] our business growth objectives … I would recommend something like that for most founders,” Bush says.
EasyShare has seen 1000 users use the platform in its beta stage and is looking to boost that number to 35,000 users across Australia in the next 12 months, according to Bush.
The startup is currently in the process of closing a $1.5 million dollar seed funding round, having already secured an undisclosed amount of seed funding from Qantas, and will be using the latest raise to fund EasyShare’s global growth and further develop its payments infrastructure.
“We’re looking at two adjacent markets, the UK and the US. There are over 54 million renters in the UK, US and Australian markets — it [global expansion] makes a lot of sense for us,” Bush says.