The first part of the January blog is somewhat repetitive yet again. 2012 was yet another successful year with decent revenue growth, the delivery of some great product enhancements and a brand new product, the ‘soon-to-be-renamed’ PleaseAuthor (see below for more detail)!
2012 revenue growth over 2011 was 32%. We remain profitable and retain a large cash balance which is still running at approximately 12 months of projected overheads. Given that we now employ more people and have recruiting plans, and thus have ever increasing projected overheads, this remains an excellent position.
Revenue in 2012 brought us a total of 25 new corporate clients and the revenue split remains approximately 1/3rd annual renewable (such as support and hosting, etc.), 1/3rd new business from existing clients and 1/3rd new business from new clients. We are particularly pleased with the new business from existing clients as it shows that PleaseReview delivers the benefits it promises!
The trend of Life Sciences being our largest sector continues with 77% of 2012 sales and, once again, North America is our largest market accounting for 74% of all sales.
2012 saw the release of PleaseReview v4.4 (associated with the PleaseAuthor v1.0 release – see below) and of PleaseReview v4.5. Key enhancements included the iPad module and a delegation module.
Last, but by no means least, we were finally able to release a new PDF plug-in. This new plug-in (which, as previously, only works with the ‘paid for’ versions of Acrobat) allows you to use the full range of Acrobat mark-up tools and have all annotations recorded and managed by PleaseReview. Thus you get the consolidation, the reconciliation report and other clever tweaks like the ability to specify the name of the annotation author on the consolidated PDF file (usually this is used to provide a generic name, like a company name, for the annotations). It is a major enhancement to our PDF review capability.
The new PDF plug-in was in danger of becoming a never ending saga for two reasons: (i) everything which could go wrong did, and (ii) new releases of Acrobat kept shifting the goal posts. It seemed every time we thought we had it in a position to release something would change and we were back to re-coding and re-testing. The experience has caused us so much pain that we will be investigating other options for PDF review which don’t include Acrobat.
Something else which caused us pain in 2012 was the focus on the UK market. In January last year I explained that we were recruiting a business development manager to focus on developing the UK market. We duly recruited and he has spent 9 months hammering away. Hammering away, it must be said, with strictly limited success. Despite creating some decent opportunities, it’s taking somewhat longer than expected to turn opportunities into sales in the UK. I’m not sure whether this is a ‘UK market thing’ or the economic environment or a bit of both. So, whilst continuing to work hard in the UK, it looks like we will be seeking this year’s growth from our traditional market.
2012 also saw the release of PleaseAuthor. Unfortunately, whilst there is nothing wrong with the product itself, the name is causing major confusion. It is clear we have committed a serious ‘branding faux pas’.
In short, both clients and prospects are confused between the differences in ‘structured authoring’ (the product formerly known as PleaseAuthor) and ‘co-authoring’ (i.e. the collaborative authoring part of PleaseReview).
In retrospect this is understandable. For those immersed in the technology and products (i.e. us) the difference is clear and distinctive. However, for those who aren’t so immersed it is really confusing! So, we have taken the decision to re-brand. Better do it now whilst the product is new and not established.
Other than the re-branding of PleaseAuthor, what does 2013 hold?
The economic outlook remains unstable with the fiscal cliff issues having been delayed and the European situation limps on with no end in sight. Furthermore the whole debate around Britexit (the UK leaving the EU or at least re-negotiating its relationship with the rest of Europe) simply adds to the excitement. Whilst all the media keep telling us that the uncertainty doesn’t help anyone, as far as I am concerned, it’s been uncertain for the last 5 years and it’s now the new normality. I’m not sure I’d believe anyone if they started telling me there was certainty. Life continues and so does business.
In fact, Gartner has just revised upwards its 2013 Worldwide IT spending growth forecast from 3.8% to 4.2%. Though they note: “although much of this results from projected gains in the value of foreign currencies versus the dollar. When measured in constant dollars, 2013 spending growth is forecast to be only 3.9%.” Still a forecast 3.9% growth in IT spending is a good thing as it means they are expecting corporate IT budgets to reflect this - meaning opportunity for IT vendors such as us!
Unfortunately, implicit in the statement, is a weaker dollar. This is bad news for us. We set our prices in US$, as that is our main trading currency. So, if the US$ weakens it means we need more of them to purchase every UK pound and Malaysian Ringit – our overhead currencies. However, most forecasters have the £/$ rate more-or-less unchanged for 2013 whilst the general opinion is that the Ringit will strengthen by ~5%. So, as the Ringit accounts for only a portion of our overheads, the overall effect will hopefully not be too hard on us.
So, we continue to be optimistic for 2013. However, we approach it as we approach every year, with caution. Despite this caution we are planning to expand and will shortly be recruiting and have plans for further recruitment later in the year. We go into the year with a strong prospect list and looking forward to v5.0 of PleaseReview which is due out at the end of Q2 this year.
On a personal note, having had a ‘year off’ from interesting physical challenges in 2012, I am hoping to be part of a team in the ‘6 Peaks Challenge’ in July (WaterAid 6 Peaks Challenge). The headline figures are:
- 50 miles to walk
- 20,000 feet to climb
- 1,000 miles to drive (with two sea crossings)
- 72 hours in which to complete it
It’s climbing all the tallest peaks in England, Wales, Scotland, Isle of Man and both North and South Ireland - all in 72 hours. We are expecting to have a team of six climbers and two drivers. It’s not set in stone yet as there are some issues we are discussing with the organizers but I’m hopeful we can secure agreement and help raise funds for a worthwhile charity! I’ll keep you informed.