How developers are solving big challenges for small business
One of the biggest challenges facing small businesses is maintaining a sustainable level of growth with only limited resources at hand. Any help in streamlining operations or finding efficiencies can have an immediate impact on a company’s bottom line. This is why it is so exciting that an increasing number of developers are rising to the challenge of solving small business problems.
At the Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Hackathon in Sydney on the weekend, more than 100 developers from Australia and New Zealand converged on the offices of Intuit to build apps that could help small businesses prosper. It was a tight field of 23 teams who spent two straight days wracking their brains and drawing on their collective experience to come up with amazing array of solutions.
“Small businesses don’t have the revenue to engage a developer,” says Oliver Dolk, a Software Engineering and Commerce student at UNSW and member of the winning team. “So the solutions have to be generic enough so most small businesses can use them but specific enough to solve a particular problem.”
A significant sweetener to the event was the opportunity for developers to access the APIs of sponsors Google, Telstra and PayPal, as well as cloud accounting software QuickBooks Online. With their hands on such impressive technology, developers were inspired to push the boundaries of what’s possible. Solutions ranged from helping small businesses to more easily manage their finances to being able to better store and categorise important documents.
The winning submission, Mobius, is a predictive supply chain management system that learns how to forecast and match supply and demand from via online accounting data. “We figured that small businesses are not always sure how much inventory to stock,” says Dolk. “If you have too much, you pay warehouse costs. If you don’t have enough, you risk losing customers. So we built a model to determine demand. We wanted to automate the process as much as possible.”
“The world of tech and business is rapidly favouring agility and flexibility,” says fellow winning team member and Biomedical Engineering and Computer Science student at the University of Sydney Celso Milne. “The rise of tech start-ups is a testament to this. Small businesses are pioneers of finding new ways of satisfying customer needs. So understanding what small businesses are doing is essential to maintaining the momentum of innovation.
“We want to give small businesses the tools large organisations already have, as well as the ability to capitalise on the power of big data science.”
It was this positive attitude that coloured the atmosphere on the day. The developers really empathised with the challenges small businesses face and wanted to do whatever they could to help. It was an ethos shared and fostered by the hosts Intuit Australia.
“Intuit Australia is really committed to powering the prosperity of small business,” says Vice President and Country Manager, Nicolette Maury. “This is why we encourage developers to develop solutions on our platform. The benefits go directly to our small business customers.
“This is the first time we’ve held the Small Business Hackathon in Australia as part of our flagship conference QuickBooks Connect so it was terrific to see so much talent in one room. I’m confident word will get out and more developers will discover how rewarding it is to help small businesses prosper.”
Another developer at the event, Elena Williams, was impressed with the quality of the actual hackathon. “The one thing that really stood out was the positive and proactive culture of all the QuickBooks people that I met and talked to,” she says. “This struck me as being really special. I am so proud to be a part of the first Sydney event.”
It’s reassuring to know that the digital era is fostering a generation of developers who not only understand small business but are doing everything they can to give them a competitive edge.