By Vickie Elmer
Monday, May 10, 2010; 10
As Jaya Pandey started sending out holiday cards in 2008, she combed through various e-mail accounts and files for friends' and professional connections' addresses. She looked in so many places that she turned to her husband, Ashish Jaiman, and wondered why something didn't combine all contacts into one database.
Her research after the holidays turned up existing programs built for one e-mail or operating platform. "I couldn't find anything that would go across platforms and solve this problem," she recalled. What she did find was a quote saying contacts synchronization would be the next killer app. In February 2009, she was in business in her basement.
Her company, CYNCZ, launched a beta version of a Web-based contacts synchronization platform a year later and already has two corporate clients set to license the technology. Yet in solving her holiday card and connections issue, Pandey created a problem familiar to many new small-business owners: How do you fund a start-up for its first one or two years as it develops product, customers, revenue and profits?
The answers for Pandey comes in waves. Her initial seed money came from her former company, a technical documentation company. "I tried to focus on both, but it was too much to do," she recalled. So she closed the documentation company and used what she'd earned on CYNCZ, which now operates out of space in Germantown set aside by Montgomery County as part of its Business Innovation Network.
Her husband was also in the early wave and her biggest supporter: "Because of him . . . I am able to take risks," she said. More recently, friends and family contributed capital too. CYNCZ is ready for an angel investor to step forward. "Now is the time we are getting short. We are stretching ourselves as much as we can," she said. "We need someone to invest in our company and take it forward."
She has been told that venture capitalists have tightened up and are no longer interested in funding "pre-revenue firms." She continues to network and meet them but also has applied for a Maryland state grant for promising start-ups and said officials are conducting due diligence.
One of her big lessons: "It's very easy to start a business, but very hard to keep on going." She is very careful with spending, and has hired her initial software development team in India because it is more affordable. The company's Web site also was developed there. Her network of friends and connections from India help, as does her willingness to develop new connections around the Beltway.
Already, Pandey and her chief operating officer have pitched CYNCZ many times. She's part of Mindshare, an elite tech start-up training and alumni group. Through that, she networks with many investors and venture capitalists, and also seeks advice outside its once-a-month sessions.
CYNCZ allows registered users to bring together contact information in their e-mail accounts, phones and social media (plus Salesforce and other customer relations management systems) on its Web site, and stores it as a backup service. The software can also be installed on iPhones, BlackBerrys and other smartphones, allowing users to merge accounts, creating one master contacts database. Early customer feedback has been very positive, and many refer friends to CYNCZ, Pandey said.
The basic service is free now, but it will become a subscription service in which users will pay $5 a month. The other source of revenue, Pandey said, is business-to-business, with companies licensing the product in revenue-sharing agreements and using it on mobile applications, phones or as part of a suite of products.
Pandey's plan calls for a launch in June, and signing up at least 15,000 users in the first six months. And she already is thinking about improvements: a business card exchange and contact tagging. She also has an idea for a second product for CYNCZ: a desktop social networking platform that brings together a customer's Facebook and Twitter pages, blogs and more.
Her forecast is to go from no revenue to $5 million in two years on a 1 million user base.
Until then she keeps going to business organizations and events, meeting new people and talking up CYNCZ. "Networking is something I try to do as much as possible," she said. "It creates buzz," and it may create a connection to an investor that will synchronize CYNCZ for success.