Australian startup snapshot: Tap-To

B2B mobile app developer mulling move to US to find funding.

Tap-To is a Brisbane developer of B2B mobile middleware that helps businesses deliver forms and other documents to employees in the field. The startup is finding success abroad and considering a move overseas to the US.

The pitch

Tap-To lets a business compile digital versions of all its forms using a drag-and-drop interface in a Web browser and then publish them to the Tap-To mobile app. The system includes support for document revisions.

“There’s a lot of companies out there that do mobile forms,” Tap-To founder Paul Du Bois told Techworld Australia, “but that’s all they do. For us, it’s more about the business process.”

Du Bois said the interface is easy to use for non-IT people in the business. “If you know how to use [Microsoft] Excel, then you should be able to put together forms and documents pretty easily.”

Du Bois got the idea for Tap-To at his previous enterprise software job when he was visiting mining and construction sites.

“The average contractor that I saw on a mining site would have the front seat of his [truck] filled with paper,” Du Bois said.

“He’s got a whole bunch of health and safety forms he has to fill out any time he does anything,” as well as manuals and other paperwork, he said.

Selling it

Du Bois quit his job a year and half ago to develop the startup. Tap-To came out of private beta in November last year and has been on the market since December. The company has acquired about 250 business customers since launch.

Tap-To prices the service at $10 per device, with volume discounts for larger businesses.

While it wasn’t in the original business plan, Tap-To has numerous received requests to white label the product so customers can offer their own branded version of the app through the Apple and Google app stores.

“We’ve been moving quite heavily to the white label side because of the demand for it.”

Later this year, the company plans to add a way for customers to share and sell form templates to others in the Tap-To community. Tap-To will use an app store model, taking a 20 to 30 per cent cut of the price in the store.

The Tap-To mobile app currently supports Apple iOS and Google Android devices. The company plans to add Microsoft Windows Phone and Windows 8 in the future, and is “waiting to see what happens with BlackBerry.”

Funding it

Du Bois self-funded his startup; at first with his own money, and now with the company’s first three months of revenue.

Tap-To pitched its product to Australian investors last year, but the service’s B2B angle wasn’t “sexy” enough to get any bites, Du Bois said.

“We still need to do a round of investment at some point, but it’s looking increasingly likely we’ll have to go to the [US] for that,” said Du Bois.

“Australian investors seem to only want to jump on if it’s a sure thing and you’re past a seed funding phase.”

Tap-To is currently based in Brisbane co-working space, River City Labs.

“What the Labs has done is not only provide a place for people to come and work and learn from each other, but it’s really become just a hub [for the startup community].

"What really brought us here was the people [and] the access to mentors and events.”

Going global

While Tap-To is Australian, Du Bois said most of his customers so far are from the US and UK. “Last count, we’ve got about 20 different countries using it,” he said.

Tap-To may move its operations to the US, where Du Bois said he believes the company is more likely to find investors.

The company could move to Silicon Valley, New York or Boston, Du Bois said.

“There’s sort of a corridor forming between Boston and New York. New York has got a pretty vibrant startup scene and a lot of business-side companies seem to be gravitating there.”

Support for startups from the Australian government is “pretty terrible,” Du Bois said. “They’ve got great things like Commercialisation Australia which give grants, but all of its predicated on 50-50 [matched] funding.”

“You still have to come up with $250,000 on your own,” he said. “You really have to be at a certain level as a company to even remotely consider that kind of money.”

Du Bois added that he sees “a cultural problem” of a conservative “attitude toward risk.”

“There’s plenty of money in Australia,” Du Bois said. “It’s just that it seems unless you’re a blue-chip investment, people don’t really want [to invest].”

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If you’ve got a startup or know about a cool new Australian business, please email Adam Bender at adam_bender@idg.com.au or on Twitter (@WatchAdam).

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

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