Freshbooks launches benchmarking features

Just a quick post to say congratulations to my friend and fellow mesh conference organizer Mike McDerment, the CEO of online-invoicing service FreshBooks. The company just launched a quarterly industry-benchmarking feature, which involves releasing aggregated data from the various industries that use its invoicing services, so that other companies in those industries can compare their vital statistics — how long it takes to get invoices paid, what proportion of revenue is recurring versus new, etc. As Mike explains in the video I’ve included with this post, this kind of info can be a very powerful tool for companies to use, particularly small and medium-sized businesses that are trying to gauge how they compare to their peers in the industry. Congrats to Mike and the rest of the team.

Freshbooks: 7 Ways It Almost Died

I’m a little late on this one because I’m on vacation this week, and my blogging and Twittering metabolism has slowed down, but I wanted to take note of a great post that my friend and fellow mesh organizer Mike McDerment wrote the other day, entitled “7 ways I’ve almost killed FreshBooks.” It’s a list of lessons that Mike has learned during his time as CEO and co-founder of the online invoicing company, and there are some definite pearls of wisdom in there. Among my favourites:

1. Thinking we had to move faster than we did

I remember back in 2005 feeling that if we did not blow our lights out and spend every penny we had on marketing “right now!” someone would obliterate us. I had this impending sense of doom for *years* based on our speed.

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Video interlude: FreshBooks on the road

As some of you may know, Mike McDerment — CEO of FreshBooks.com, the excellent online invoicing company based in Toronto — is a personal friend, and a fellow organizer of the mesh conference (about which more details should soon be forthcoming; cross your fingers). For some insane reason, he and a couple of the FB team decided to fly to Miami and rent an RV so they could do a road trip to Future of Web Apps and SXSW. And they created a blog for the express purpose of tracking their journey.

I’m not quite sure how to describe this venture, except that it seems a little like what might happen if you crossed Easy Rider and Hunter S. Thompson’s Where The Buffalo Roam with National Lampoon’s Vacation. Anyway, be sure to check out their adventures, and the videos they will be posting with various software superstars along the way. And to put you in the mood, I’m posting a video clip that they led off with — the incomparable work of Jack Rebney, who is also known as the World’s Angriest RV Salesman (Warning: turn down the sound if the kids are around).

FreshBooks and the tale of the Triscuits

My friend Mike McDerment, who co-founded and runs the online-invoicing service FreshBooks (and is also a co-founder of the mesh conference), is getting some well-deserved props for a simple gesture of kindness that he and the company extended to a customer in Fiji. It seems that this particular user read on the FreshBooks’ blog about some new crackers being available in Canada and posted a comment saying he couldn’t get them in Fiji. Two days later, he had a box sitting on his table, shipped to him by FreshBooks at the company’s expense. This kind of thing is not just nice — it’s great marketing. It’s the kind of thing people talk about, and blog about. It makes people feel good about your company. And it costs less than virtually every other kind of marketing there is. I’m surprised more people don’t make use of it. Nice going, Mike.

Freshbooks helps Amazon take on PayPal

I know there’s been a lot of Canadian flag-waving around here, what with my recent posts on Treehugger, Club Penguin and Webkinz, but heck, if I don’t wave it, then who will? In any case, there’s some news today about another Canadian Web 2.0 success story, namely Freshbooks — which (full disclosure) is run by my friend and fellow mesh organizer Michael McDerment.

As discussed in a post over at the Amazon Web Services blog, Freshbooks is one of a handful of partners that has been testing a new service called Amazon Flexible Payment Service. Mike’s partner Sunir explains more about the details of the testing they’ve been doing in a post at the Freshbooks blog, and Amazon has more details on FPS here, and Phil Burns says he is already working on integrating it with Facebook.

cash.jpgAmazon’s payment service (which Mike Arrington broke the news of here) looks to me like something that has the potential to become a real competitor to PayPal, a service that has many great features but has also irritated many users by being, well… inflexible. And at least at first glance, the pricing for FPS looks fairly competitive with PayPal and Google Checkout. Even Uncov seems to like it 🙂 FPS joins a stable of impressive services Amazon has launched over the past year or so, including its S3 storage business and the EC2 or “elastic computing in the cloud” business — which companies can effectively use as a virtual server farm.

As the AWS blog describes it:

In much the same way that S3 and EC2 allow developers to forget about leasing space in data centers, buying servers and negotiating for bandwidth, FPS shields developers from many of the messy and complex issues which arise when dealing with money.

There are no minimum fees and no startup charges, and any transaction fees are obvious and transparent to the user, Amazon says. As James Robertson notes on his blog, Google gets a lot of attention, but Amazon continues to roll out services that are inexpensive, useful and potentially even revolutionary with very little fanfare. Congrats to Mike and his team for getting in on the ground floor of what could be another winner.