Interview with David Williams, Fishbowl

This morning's interview is with David Williams, CEO of Orem, Utah-based Fishbowl (, a provider of inventory management software for QuickBooks.

What does Fishbowl's product do?

David Williams: Our product is advanced inventory management software, which utilizes QuickBooks as the general ledger. It takes over all of the UI, and does the heavy lifting for anyone with inventory--wholesale distributors, light manufacturers, a little bit in the retail space, a little in the service space. Our emphasis and sweet spot is on the wholesale distributor and light manufacturer, who needs to keep track of inventory in multiple locations, who has over 300,000 unique parts, and has outgrown QuickBooks. The win for our customer, is they can stay on the QuickBooks platform, which is inexpensive and where you can hire people virtually any time who are familiar with the accounting software, while using Fishbowl to manage their inventory.

Does being just limited to Quickbooks limit the size of your market?

David Williams: Actually, it's been wonderful. There are seven million small and medium sized companies using Quickbooks as their accounting package. We virtually have an unlimited market. Of those seven million, according to Intuit, 40 to 50 percent of those users have some kind of inventory. However, Quickbooks just does simple inventory support, so for anyone looking to grow, to add a new location, or wants to do some light manufacturing or assembling, has to go to software outside of Quickbooks, to truly manage their inventory. It's been wonderful to ride this one horse, and we've chosen intentionally not to integrate with other platforms like Peachtree or Microsoft, or IBM small business, and instead, to really provide good integration for Quickbook susers. Intuit likes us because we've been fairly robust and sophisticated, and we can keep customers on the Quickbooks platform much longer than they had assumed. We often sell to mid sized businesses, who were looking for a high end solution in the $100,000 to $200,000 range, and can't believe they can just spend $15,000 to $20,000 with Fishbowl and stay with an accounting platform they like, and though they might have to jettison for something else. As a side note, we have some very large companies who are using us for standalone inventory management for them and to manage their capital assets. We've appealed to some very sophisticated companies who want a solution that is standalone, and has nothing to do with Quickbooks.

Where's the point where they start using your software, instead of what's just built into Quickbooks?

David Williams: For almost anyone with some inventory, Quickbooks is not sufficient. We sell to startups, to small companies, anyone with hundreds of inventory parts and who want to have accuracy with their inventory. Quickbooks is just not strong in that area of their software. Most of our customers are still using spreadsheets to manage their software, and sometime even yellow pads, and trying to figure out how to get an accurate count of their inventory.

How has the rise of software-as-a-service affected your firm?

David Williams: It hasn't affected us much. Although some people feel that's the way things are heading, most of our customers are more comfortable with the old fashioned loading of software on a server. Particularly in the wholesale, distribution, and manufacturing area, they're not as cutting edge as other industries They like to have a disk sent to them, to have their information in a database stored locally. We haven't felt a big push to move to that model. Although we are going to move toward being a bit more web-enabled, we are not going to be a true web application anytime soon.

How big is the company?

David Williams: We have 64 people, and started with just 6, five years ago. The lion's share of our employees are on the support/training side, with about half of our company on the post-sale and support side. Sales, product development, and testing is all done here. We build all our own code, test it here, sell it, and support it from one location.

Finally, where is the company nowadays and where is it going?

David Williams: We have fortunately grown through this tough economic time. For the longest time, we've had only one core product. In October, we are shipping a second product, in the maufacturing area. Fishbowl caters mostly to wholesale distributors, but our next product will be aimed at the higher end, for manufacturers who need more features and functionality, which they need to build, aseemble, and kit. We're really excited, as that's been two years in the making.