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United Data Ltd # 1 – Mark Morahan is back!

Note (1st October 07) – I have tone down the following article which was posted on 27th July 2007.

There has been numerous occasions when I wanted to write about Mark Morahan but have resisted the temptation. But this article (update: link no longer working) caught my eye. I came to know Mark through Morahan International, he set-up with few colleagues in 2003/04. Instead of talking about his previous business, lets look at his new business. One thing I can congratulate Mark on is about “never giving up”. Unfortunately or fortunately (depending on your view point) I have become bit like Mark, but in my case you get what you see. The purpose of this article is to review his new business and not the past business which I know very well of. So, let’s get on with it!

The new name of his business is United Data Ltd and the product is called ExDox. Mark is a great sales man, and a great persuader. I can criticise every sentence he has written on this job advert. But that would not help you or me.

According to Mark:

“When an organisation receives a structured document, such as an invoice, it has to employ data entry staff to copy the fields of data back into their accounts package. The cost of this is typically ?1 to ?5 per invoice. Until now, there has been no cost effective way of linking computer systems so that those invoices could be sent electronically. With the launch of ExDox ? in June 2007, that is about to change. An organisation just needs an internet connection and a piece of software called a ?connector?. It can then send and receive invoices electronically. The result: An organisation receiving 250 paper invoices per day would need to employ two to three people to complete the data entry. This same task can no be completed in minutes, simply by pressing a button. The cost? There is no capital outlay, organisations pay for what they use, which is 25p per transaction. This is cheaper than the stamp they use!”

I for one fully agree with Mark except for making it sounds so simple and the claim for being the first in the market place. Extracting data from a system is much easier than writing into. You could use data import/export facility built into accounting and financial systems as well as APIs. Most APIs were developed without any consideration given to data exchanges with trading partners. They were meant for simple exchange with spreadsheets and similar office applications. The other route is through the printer driver, which is gaining more attention. But printer driver technology only works one way. I for one would like to see more clarification on how ExDox intend to exchange documents. Other competitors in the market place for printer driver technologies includes Accountis and Transcepta, both proven with real customers.

In the case of ExDox, I have not yet seen any case studies. Given that it was intended to be launched in June 2007, most likely the deadline would have not been met, given my experience of software development. But in any case, I welcome another player to the market, especially one that has similar thoughts to myself. Based on my understanding, ExDox (whatever the name used now) would have taken more than 3 yrs to built. I can only congratulate Mark on surviving this long with his original idea. Most people would have given up way. But hey! that’s part of the startup scene.

Let’s look at the franchise model Mark continues to sell. The idea seems to be that you sell franchises to number of local businesses who would enroll customers on to ExDox platform. I assume they are on a revenue share model. The price for each franchise used to be couple of grand in 2005 but this may have gone up considerably (remember Mark is a great salesman!) by now.

Mark also states:

“We already have thousands of organisations across the country that will be MANDATED to join ExDox. Trials have shown that there is an 80%+ closing rate. The Partners role will be deal with those organisations that have been MANDATED to join. United organise the appointment for you. You will typically earn ?1,000 to ?5,0000 per annum for every mid and large sized organisations that you sign up to become a member of the ExDox network.
United will organise one to four seminars per month. Typically these will attended by 40 to 60 SME organisations to learn more about ExDox and to undertake training on how to use ExDox. Your role will be to present those seminars. You would get paid between ?1,000 and ?1,500 for every seminar.

Who can resist above! Great once above actually starts to take place. At this stage you are selling dreams. I understand that there are lot of “letter of intents”. But doing it for real, overcoming deployment challenges and those human beings at the other end is the nightmare scenario. Over optimism sometime could turn round to bite you, making people frustrated and wondering what happened to their investments.

Mark goes to say:

“After passing a three month probationary period you will receive an exclusive licence for your area. You will be given a limited company, which you will have a 100% shareholding. This will be yours to sell in the future. Your earnings will in excess of ?100,000 p.a. in 12 months or you will be below target. This figure will grow substantially in the next two years. You will be in at the start of a business opportunity that many have stated will be the fastest growing sector since the advent of the mobile phone industry? A significant shareholding in United Data GB Ltd, subject to reaching qualifying targets. The intention is to go public in four to five years. Those shares, if we reach our targets, could be worth seven figures.
A Regional Director will assist you in every conceivable way, in building your business.

And lastly:

“Who we are: A consortium of IT / document management & business services companies throughout the country formed United Data GB Ltd. We need other like minded people and companies to join us in this partnership. Your skills and attributes: Above all we want people who share our vision and want to build a business not just perform a ?job?? We especially welcome applications from people who have run their own companies and have exceptional communication skills.? Hungry to succeed.? Extensive experience of presenting to tier 1 organisation OR selling to the SME market OR within the training industry. ? Can work unsupervised, setting own targets and priorities.? No IT experience is necessary. This is a business services sale. Full training will be given. Apply via email to Mark Morahan with a covering letter stating your suitability”

From my point of view – history is history. No one else would dare attempt to franchise a document exchange hub. So, Mark is without any doubt a first in this!. I wish him all the best! I am for one like to see much more competition in this market place. I am a great believer of partnerships. Selling direct is hard, but convincing other companies to sell on your behalf is even harder. I will continue to watch the space with interest. Perhaps I will also do an article on Robin Colla and the team, the other startup to emerge from the past business.

Disclaimer: I have not reviewed the website, but will do on another occasion including introducing other personalities driving this initiative forward.

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