Blog

10 Years of Avanti
A look back at how it all began
By founder Gareth Connor

On the 26th July 2011 we began rolling out the very first version of Avanti to customers. It's hard to believe that 10 years have been and gone since then, it really has zipped by. A lot has happened in the years since - the good, the bad and the ugly - but let's go back to the very beginning.

Avanti's story goes back to 2009 when I finally sat down and made the conscious decision to begin the development of a new type of product for small businesses. I felt that there was an underserved number of small businesses who were being let down by the software industry. There were tons of entry-level accounting systems, there were many mid-level ERP or business management systems but in between there was very little. Once a small business outgrew bog standard accounting and invoicing features they had very few places to go that didn't start in the high 4 figures and also were way, way too complex. This had bothered me for some time but felt it was too big a task for a one-man bootstrapped start-up and so had, for well over a year, just dismissed the idea. But when an idea takes hold in your mind and just won't let you go, eventually you have to give in to it and find a way. And that's exactly what I did.

Avanti was a part-time sideline for quite a while and progress was slow. At some point I realised that if I didn't just bite the bullet and go all-in on this, it would just remain a hobby project that never was. That's a thing I've learnt over many years, and even more so over the last 10 years, that an idea is a very fragile thing which in the beginning can die easily. The start is the time to put all the effort and energy in and build momentum, get it over that invisible line from just being an idea that you're trying out and move it into something tangible as quickly as possible. A lot of the time we can tinker at the edges of something new when it really needs rocket boosters to get off the ground and once it's a few thousand feet in the air, it takes on a life of its own. Someone once told me that it's the difference between "trying" and "committing". I decided to commit.

It was hard, lonely work at first with my ever-patient wife my only supporter. I eventually got a lot of help from a university student who made a huge difference. Money was non-existant, it was bootstrapping to the extreme! We made mistakes continuously, we constantly had to downgrade what our first version would be and I worried we were diluting the original ideal. However I also took onboard the concept that it was often good to launch early, get customers and iterate on their feedback. To me this was a huge risk, I was worried that if we didn't launch with a feature set above the vanilla accounting systems that were out there that we'd be forever labelled as just "another" accounts system. Ultimately I was happy with the strength of the features we were going to launch with. Also this process of listening closely to feedback that we adopted from the very start has been at the heart of how we've developed the product since.

We entered into the pre-release phase in the last few months before launch with a number of early adopter customers. We were fortuitous that 3 other software companies had shut down or were sunsetting their small business software products around that time and we gained a good number of their users who were happy enough to wait for us to launch. The feedback was positive and after 3 months of fixing bugs and improving things based on what we had heard from customers, we set a date for release, 26th July.

A few weeks before we launched and still pretty stressed about getting it ready in time, my wife booked us a surprise week's Med cruise for my 40th birthday. I completely relaxed for a week and recharged myself for the task ahead. I remember it as an amazing time, full of holiday joy, anticipation and potential. The coming years seemed pregnant with possibility for the fledgling Avanti.

When I wrote the first lines of code for Avanti I was 37. Now we are here celebrating it's 10 year anniversary, I've just turned 50. Looking back, I realise just what a huge chunk of my life that's been devoted to this. It has been far from plain sailing. From those early days of seemingly unlimited potential, things have rarely turned out as planned.

Avanti is still not an industry powerhouse, we're still not selling 7 figures worth of software every year, we're still a very small software company in the great vastness of software and tech megaliths. Many have come a lot later to the market with huge VC money and grew 100 times our size in a fifth of the time. I can't claim to have steered the ship like Bezos or Branson. I've often been more Arkwright than Ellison. There are times that I've fallen out of love with the business, times where all we've done is tread water and times when the pressure and the problems seemed insurmountable. I doubt I'm different than most other people in business in those regards. However after 10 years we're still here, serving customers and continuing to progress. Our mission and vision hasn't changed and we're continuing to add value to the market and to our customers. We are still incredibly ambitious to become a major player in the market and we still believe in the power of our vision and the software we develop to help change the fortunes of growing small businesses.

As Avanti turns 10 we're pleased with the direction we're now heading. We've turned the boat around over the last year and gotten more wind into our sails. There's still a lot of work to do, but we've got a lot to be positive about. Our growth is speeding up and we have a lot of developments coming in the near future to bolster our product offerings and deliver more for customers.

I want to finish by giving a genuine, heart-felt "Thank You" to all Avanti customers and in particular those who have been with us and stuck with us through thick and thin over the many years, many of whom have been with us since Day One. Wow! To think that you've been by our side for 10 years is incredible and despite all of the ups and downs, the self-doubt and overwhelm during these years, to know that our original vision, to serve growing small businesses who need powerful and affordable business software, has been proven out.

Here's to another 10 years and beyond for Avanti and to serving your business.

Happy Birthday Avanti :OD