A Q&A with Myagi co-founder and CEO Simon Turner. The Melbourne-based startup, which offers a specialized online training platform for customer service and sales professionals, announced in late June the closing of a $500,000 Seed funding round from unnamed local and international investors. It was founded in 2013 by CEO Turner and CTO Tom Mcleod.
SUB: Please describe Myagi and your primary innovation.
Turner: Myagi is an online platform that networks training content from retailers and brands to improve customer service and sales at retailers. Product knowledge and training is so important for frontline sales associates to ensure a great customer experience, and Myagi allows brands and retailers to deliver it in an engaging and gamified application straight to the sales associate’s favorite device.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Turner: Our target markets are any retailers or brands that want to grow sales and improve customer service. Our SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) pricing allows retailers and brands of all sizes to use Myagi without any large upfront investment, and a low pay-per-click rate.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition, and what differentiates Myagi from the competition?
Turner: Myagi has a number of competitors providing learning management systems, such as Litmos, Mindflash, and Docebo, although they primarily target corporate environments. Myagi’s main competitor in the retail space is 3point5.com, a Salt Lake City-based platform that has had considerable success in the U.S. market, although it is a significant investment for any brand to work with.
We have a strong point of difference in our SaaS pricing model, which allows retailers and brands of all sizes to use Myagi without upfront investment, benefitting their business significantly. We also have significantly more flexibility in content, targeted training, and gamification, as well as features to get all learners to be part of the training process and record real-life learning experiences.
SUB: You just announced that you’ve raised $500,000 in Seed funding. Why was this a particularly good time to raise outside funding?
Turner: We completed our beta testing phase with some great results and feedback, and have a range of retailers and brands both large and small joining the network. Early traction allowed us to present a good business case to investors, and seek the funds that were needed to build out the platform ready for large-scale use.
SUB: How do you plan to use the funds?
Turner: Funds will be primarily used to develop the technology behind Myagi further, support our customer growth and develop partnerships and relationships with retailers, brands, and other retail technology providers.
SUB: Do you have plans to seek additional funding in the near future?
Turner: For the moment we are focused on building a strong, innovative, and customer-focused product, and the business to support its user growth. We understand the importance of raising funding as a startup, but for the moment our attention is on product, [and] working with our existing and new customers that are joining the platform every day to help them grow their businesses.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Myagi? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Turner: When I was 19, I started a business supplying products to the sport and outdoor retailers in Australia. We were always very focused on fostering a training culture in our retailers because of the boost in sales we would get, but with 1,500 retailers on our books, face-to-face training became very expensive and difficult to deliver.
We searched for ways to deliver online training, but could never find anything that matched the unique retail environment, and in talking to other retailers and brands I discovered there was a real demand for a platform that could be the one point for all sales associates to train on various brands and products.
SUB: What were the first steps you took in establishing the company?
Turner: I spent about six months conducting interviews with retailers, brands, and sales associates to establish exactly what platform and structure was needed, then set about finding the right team to build it. After a short search, Tom McLeod, Myagi’s CTO and Co-Founder jumped at the opportunity and we begun building Myagi.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
Turner: The Miyagi Prefecture in Japan is synonymous with teaching Samurai warriors their trade, and ‘Myagi’ is the way most people spelled it when we asked.
It really just started off as a working project title and people seemed to like the name so it stuck! Wax on. Wax Off.
SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?
Turner: We were lined up for a Commercialisation Australia grant that after a change in government meant that it was removed, which meant a large amount of time, work, and effort that went into this application process was to a degree wasted.
SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Turner: We currently generate revenue by way of subscriptions. Companies subscribe to a monthly plan that gives them access to the platform and a bank of classes—or clicks—to use in training sales associates in their stores, or at the retailers they sell to.
SUB: What are your goals for Myagi over the next year or so?
Turner: We are setting out to provide the retail industry with the best possible tools to help them boost customer service, improve the customer experience, and importantly for them, aid them in growing sales.
Myagi will establish more partnerships with retailers, brands and other retail technology providers allowing us to access many millions of users.