The idea was to create an online business matching service, which Sharon refers to as online dating for the business world.
“We save people time and money in sourcing their perfect match suppliers. Just enter your needs, and get matched,” she said.
“Unlike other marketplaces and search engines, Matchboard pre-screens all our suppliers and only highly rated companies make it into our ecosystem. Screening includes reference checks, demos/site visits and research, thus reducing the risk for our buyers. This is a unique selling point which not even Google, LinkedIn, freelancer.com or Airtasker can compete with.”
Founded in September 2012, Matchboard has grown significantly over the past six years with double-digit in profits six years in a row. The business has also expanded to the United Kingdom through a licensing model.
However, despite Matchboard’s success, it hasn’t been without challenges.
“The biggest challenge was finding a company to develop the matching platform I’d spec-ed out in a cost-effective fashion. I had resigned from my high-flying corporate role, spec in hand, and started combing through search engines to find the right web development company to turn my vision into reality.” she said.
“Seven out of 10 vendors I contacted never returned my inquiry, two clearly didn’t understand my brief, and one was way outside my budget. It was pure fate that I had planned a holiday in the “Startup Nation” (Israel), where I came across an entrepreneurial 20-person software development company, who offered to develop the Matchboard platform at cost and in exchange for the rights to use the source code in the domestic Israeli market.
“As a lean startup, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse and it proved the best decision I could have made. The Israeli vendor has been reliable, high quality and responsive to my needs, and I continue to partner with them today.”
Prior to Matchboard, Sharon lived and worked in five continents including New York and San Francisco and has more than 25 years experience in sales, service and outsourcing.
Sharon also speaks several languages and is an accredited Japanese and German translator. She is also a multiple award-winning entrepreneur and in 2018 was named Suncorp Innovator of the Year and was one of Australia’s Top 10 Woman Entrepreneurs.
Sharon is passionate about supporting other women in business. She says although there are biases against women when it comes to raising capital, there is in many ways a level playing field in the entrepreneurial world, with men and women receiving tremendous support from the Government.
“There’s nothing about being female that’s inhibited my progress. In fact, I think the scales are really starting to balance for the better. If we look at millennial entrepreneurs and business owners, the gender balance is actually even (according to a white paper published by NAB in 2017)! That is a very promising sign for the next generation, which I think we should be talking more about,” she said.
Sharon said the best part about being her own boss was the flexibility in working hours and less stress.
“Starting a business is like starting from a blank sheet of paper where you get to write the rules – so there’s no legacy boys’ club culture, no inflexible working hours, you define the values and policies that make sense to you as a woman.”
Sharon’s tips and advice for other startups:
- Make sure you have the right support structures in place to help you get through the tough times
- Pick the right time in your life for a startup, when you can afford to absorb some financial risk
- Sales and marketing skills are key to success. If you don’t have them, maybe you need a Co-Founder who does!
- Make sure customers actually want or need the product or service you are developing. Don’t make assumptions – listen, test and learn.
Naming a business can also prove challenging but for Sharon it was a no brainer.
“I come from a family of board game lovers – I was a competitive Scrabble player and my father an international chess master, hence the “board” in Matchboard. The business at its heart is about matching, so Matchboard was born.”