Founder Richard Lockyer Consulting, Inc; co-founder MindFarm Apps, Inc. Solution Architect. Business Intelligence Reporting expert familiar with small business and non-profits Passionate about quality, and helping small-medium business make the most of the technology they can afford. My deployments have an ROI less than 12 months and add 2-6% of top line revenue STRAIGHT to bottom line.
I've been creating systems like this for 15 years now for a variety of clients.
I recommend Crystal Reports and a scheduling solution called Visual Cut by Millet Software.
With that combination you have the power to schedule reporting from any structured data source and create spreadsheets, auto-refreshing dashboards, alerts, etc. You can also apply it to your CRM to use for marketing via email, tweets or SMS.
Check them both out, the cost is very low and you then have a powerful tool set that is completely in your control. IF you'd like any help or detailed advice on this I'd be happy to schedule a call.
Having just completed a top notch Accelerator program I can tell you that even in the great programs not every company survives. Accelerators and their coordinators are a good resource for entrepreneurs who may be in search of additional opportunities.
That group of people varies greatly in terms of their liquid resources. Some have funds to reinvest while others have no cash at all, so it also depends on what you are looking for. Straight cash, versus a transition to silent partnership, for example.
Have you looked in to Crystal Reports at all? It has numerous advantages.
It will connect to all of the data sources you have including spreadsheets, and can integrate data from more than one source at a time. i.e. you may have most of your data in a spreadsheet, with some additional info in Access and a little more in ...
The Crystal Engine itself is available via API within certain SDK's. I know it's available in MS Visual Studio. It is also available in Java.
If you build your own solution using the API you can custom connect to each of your data sources and distribute the results however you need them - via email, ftp or file save - as pdf, excel, HTML, and so forth. You can even use the reporting tool as a Data Transformation Service by writing the results back to an ODBC database.
This platform is more than capable of reporting on data you've collected via your user interface such as clicks, time between clicks, undo, etc. Anything you want to track - as long as it's stored somehow.
I hope that helps. If you need further examples or details feel free to arrange a call, I'd be happy to help.
First let me state up front that I h ave a clear bias in this arena - I've been a Crystal Reports user (and Consultant) for years, and I swear by it.
Crystal Reports has excellent capabilities for accessing any structured data source, including the combination of multiple data sources in a single report.
Translation: IF your data is structured - as it is in your MySQL database, you're golden. It can also tie in supplementary data you likely have in spreadhseets, Access, etc. 'Structured' simply means that the data is stored in some kind of format (Database, spreadsheet, notepad, etc) which has a way of differentiating one data column from the next, and one row from the next.
Next you'd want to consider what programming tools you are using internally. It's entirely possible that the Crystal Engine is available to you within your SDK - MS Visual Studio for example. That would allow you to utilize the power of that reporting engine and build your own interface around it.
Of course, you also have the option of using the off the shelf Crystal Reports Writer. For report distribution and consumption you have similar options. (Crystal Report Writer is analagous to Adobe tools for creating PDF's - you need it to make the original, but subsequent distribution and consumption only requires a reader).
SAP has tools which support Crystal Reports viewing and distribution over a web environment, but may be over priced and over engineered for your needs. There are a number of 3rd party applications on the market that serve reports and deliverer them to your team on schedule or on demand in a number of formats (excel, pdf, web, etc.) and are extremely cost effective.
Naturally, there are other analytics solutions out there. I'm just advising you on the one which I have expertise with.
If this sounds like it might meet your needs and you want additional, more detailed guidance please feel free to reach out and arrange a call.
I was in your situation a few years ago. If you happen to live in Canada there are some excellent programs to help that are specific to someone who is a) receiving employment insurance; b) starting a mew business and c) has not yet started it.
If that's you set up a call and I can give you the quick run down on the Supported Employment Benefit Program and how it can make a huge difference in getting started.
It is completely dependant on the recipient. While one customer might dismiss visuals and charts, others get too overwhelmed with raw data in an excel type format.
Best practice is to make the possibility of both available and let the user decide.
Ideally users can choose between self serve (dashboard style) and receiving reports by email (or both) and in the format (data or visual) they prefer.
Even with multiple users this can be easily tracked and managed with the right delivery tools.
I consider myself to be a creative type. Not an artist by any stretch, but certainly creative.
I just spent 50 hours completing my comprehensive Business Plan and 2 year Financial Forecast in preparation for investors and other recipients. It's part of what needs to be done.
Hope that helps.
An additional option I've just used: Similar to a tech founder. I sought out and used a student from the local college's Programmer Analyst course. Work placements were part of their course and they actually needed these work terms to graduate. Of course, paid is preferable, but not required. This provided us not only a working prototype, but got us very close to our Beta release. From there, at the end of the work term we offered the student equity to continue on with us.
It worked very well, and I suppose isn't very different from taking on a technical founder. But in this case the student had additional benefits to performing the work (he gets to graduate) and was willing to do the work for less equity.
In our case all of this was possible because the technical requirements were simple enough to be within a new graduates skill set, of course.
I am a founder of a Startup about to launch our first product (mobile app). We looked at this very question. In the end we looked at the impact the decision would have on our company's valuation. Based on my initial, informal discussions with funders in my area (Canadian Atlantic Region) with single point of sale revenue a healthy technical start up is worth approximately 4-6X annual revenue whereas the same company with a subscription or SAAS model is worth 10x and up.
I would look at a startup call Introhive. They have a unique approach to this issue based on personal connections.
*Disclosure - I do not work for them but I have friends who do.