CreditorWatch’s founder on reaching 50,000 customers and lobbying for data transparency

CreditorWatch recorded a 42% increase in its customer base over two years on the way to reaching a major growth milestone, this month: 50,000 customers. Founder and managing director Colin Porter spoke to Dynamic Business about the genesis, success and future of the credit reporting bureau, which launched six years ago. 

DB: What was your motivation for launching CreditorWatch?

Porter: To provide SMES, which account for around 98% of operating entities in Australia, affordable and easy access to credit risk information. The duopoly that existed when we entered the market as a start-up meant it had been difficult and expensive for SMEs to obtain credit risk information. Plus, there wasn’t an avenue for them to report slow and non-payers. Consequently, SMEs were vulnerable to bad debtors. Our easy-to-use platform has provided SMEs with full transparency of late and non-payers, including the ability to monitor all of their customers and prospects so that they’re alerted as soon as changes occur that could affect how they get paid.

There are many examples of start-ups, globally, entering an established market and succeeding due to a fairly priced subscription based model for SMEs. While there are many reasons for our success to date, this was the kickstarter for us.

DB: What factors has fuelled recent customer base growth?

Porter: Increased product investment and the geographic expansion of our sales team – we now have offices in four capitals (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth) and recently launched our first regional office in Newcastle. An increased focus on marketing has also helped drive up brand awareness. There is also the multiplier or snow ball effect: as our customer base increases, more people talk about the service and natural gowth occurs.

DB: What growth ambitions do you have for CreditorWatch?

Porter: The core product, being access to credit risk information, has become comprehensive; however, we continue to source new data for our platform. For example, we have been pursuing government to release information about businesses that have fallen behind in their tax. In fact, by supporting the government in this undertaking, we’ve helped facilitate legislative changes for transparency of tax debt. In addition, we continue to analyse information to build a more predictive scoring model to predict business failure.

DB: Could government be doing more to protect SMEs from bad debtors? 

Porter: The recent government announcement regarding the disclosure of tax debt information will be a major win for SMES. We are currently seeking transparency of ANZSIC codes which would allow creditors to know what industry a potential customer is in and thus either limit their risk exposure or provide increased credit if their industry sector is in a low risk sector. This would be consistent with the Turnbull Government’s promotion of the need for big data and open data to help businesses and the economy.

See also: Data dungeon: the small business case for making ANZSIC code information available