Sidekick, as a company of 1 person, pivoted into a tech startup and created its own SaaS product during the years 2017-2019. The Sidekick Cloud Marketplace, launched at WebSummit in Lisbon, Portugal in 2017, was created to address the challenge of software discovery for businesses. As a small company tech startup, Sidekick leveraged assistance from Toptal, for design, financial and development assistance, when needed, to complete the project quickly and affordably.
For years, Sidekick found the challenge of staying up-to-date with the growing software industry to be difficult and ever-changing. The scenario was common, with IT staff always on a reactive standpoint when operational staff would suggest that they should use X software or Y solution. There was always a period of lag between hearing of a solution and fully understanding how it could be used within the organization. Furthermore, application knowledge within enterprise organizations is difficult to gain the visibility of ALL software solutions used within the business.
Sidekick created a survey within its network of over 250 professionals around the globe to validate if this challenge was shared and common. Fully 74% of the respondents agreed. 90% of those cases desired a more accurate view to solving this ongoing and ever-increasing challenge.
Sidekick secured private equity funding to test the assumption and deliver the product.
The cloud: scalable, standardized, smart
Knowing that an online intelligence solution needed to be as automated as possible from the outset, Sidekick architected the solution to scale massively via AWS services. The concept began to come to fruition when Sidekick developers created a solution to scrape html from websites and capture that data within a database. With 20 processes running per server, scaling up to 200 servers at a time, Sidekick was able to scrap the sites of over 140 Million websites in two days.
This data was then put through processes to glean standard pieces of information: name, addresses, product names, product details, categories, services, clients, client logo’s, etc. This information became structured and created the dataset for an interactive, organic, experience.
Sidekick marketplace was designed to be an interactive, suggestive exploration from the outset, with room to give companies their own storefronts, product pages, and localized sales contact details. Leveraging python, django and d3 for display information, Sidekick created a unique drillable choose-your-adventure of the software industry. Each vendor had their address information geolocated to give users localized contacts, product pages, relational information to view other customers of that software and activity stream where users could message with vendors or discuss categorized topics and let other subject matter experts assist. Furthermore, Sidekick watched activity and offered users suggestions of solutions to consider based on their behaviour.
Sidekick beat 99 other AI companies to be one of 16 companies to present at ElevatR 2018.
The delivery, challenges and learnings
Sidekick Marketplace entered the market in late 2017 and early user adoption earned initial revenue to support the concept. Growth and customer traction grew at 12% MoM and customer input begged for more interaction. Marketplaces are difficult scenarios where you need BOTH customers and sellers. While the vendor acceptance of the tool was cool at the beginning, the demand for more customers was paramount prior to subscribing. Customers were also curious about the solution but wanted more vendors active within the system.
As a company of 1 employee, this was the greatest challenge for the success of the solution: traction of both sides within the marketplace.
Ultimately Sidekick Marketplace failed to gain enough customer traction to be an operation success. Sidekick Marketplace was shut down early 2019 and the code and data is retained, awaiting new vigor to refresh the solution and better address the challenge.
There were tremendous learnings in this tech startup period for Sidekick. There are tremendously talented developers available around the world, and in our back yard. There are also companies that offer cheap development that end up costing far more and not delivering. Time IS money so pay for decent talent and get the work in a timely fashion.
While Sidekick journeyed through the experience of being a tech startup there were many ups and downs. While customer traction never grew to the point of profitability, running a technology business, being nimble, with incredible cost pressures, turned Sidekick into a better company. This has made Sidekick a better sidekick. We truly understand the pressures and concerns and stresses of business leadership when confronted with the realities of businesses that suffer.