One of the many things I love about being a part of the Intuit Developer community is getting to dive deep into the background stories of developers and their innovative, solution-based apps. I then get the privilege of sharing those stories with other developers in our Intuit Developer Spotlight series.
The next group of developers that I had the chance to interview have a fantastic story. I’m excited to share how LOCATE Inventory has succeeded through the words of Nick Schiffelbein, Lead API Developer & CTO, and Kylie Schiffelbein, Lead UI Developer.
Behind the LOCATE Inventory Curtain
Nick and Kylie are two of the founding members of LOCATE Inventory, a company built by George Keliher and currently based in Orange County, California. Nick and Kylie are also in-laws. Their family-run business (which includes Nick’s brothers Zack and Jake and sister-in-law Kate) was conceived in 2014.
LOCATE is a scalable, cloud-based inventory management and manufacturing solution with ERP-level features for mid-sized businesses. Before LOCATE came to be, Nick and his brothers were introduced to the world of developing by their dad, who was the director of technology at a local community college. He taught them how to make web pages.
“From that moment on, I was obsessed,” Nicks says.
He and one of his brothers made their own world wide web, creating pages about books they were reading and converting their Encyclopedia CD to web pages. This obsession eventually led to a Computer Science degree and developing.
Kylie’s pathway to becoming a developer, however, was slightly different. She wasn’t a “techy” person and enjoyed arts and languages over math and science. Even so, she used her artistic side “to help design some of the first modules before passing them off to the developers to be wired up.” She also wanted to help develop them, but she says that was a “disaster.”
“Luckily LOCATE is filled with supportive, patient, and passionate developers who passed down their knowledge to me. Now, I develop and manage LOCATE’s UI,” she says.
Together, Nick, Kylie, Zack, Jake, Kate, and the entire team—15 people and their dogs—have produced a unique, efficient, and customer-first solution for inventory-based companies, one that syncs seamlessly with QuickBooks Online.
Why They Chose to Integrate with QuickBooks Online and LOCATE’s Benefits
Prior to developing LOCATE, the team had a consulting business for mid-sized, inventory-based companies using QuickBooks.
“This gave us first hand insight into their unique inventory and accounting needs,” Kylie says. “Throughout the years, we identified a gap in the ecosystem between inventory software for small businesses, and costly ERP systems. This gap was causing growing companies to leave QuickBooks before they were ready, so we built LOCATE specifically for these underserved businesses to benefit from enterprise-level features without leaving the accounting platform they know and trust.”
With the idea of giving their customers tools and resources that will grow with them, LOCATE offers dynamic workflows for nearly any product-based company, with a free mobile warehouse application, included integrations, and no data caps or tiered pricing.
One of their core values is “accounting first.”
“Instead of writing an inventory software, then tacking on an accounting integration, we built every workflow around our own internal ledger and chart of accounts,” Kylie explains. “This forced us to think about the accounting reaction to every inventory action, and ultimately allowed us to summarize the bulk of a company’s transactional data into a single, daily journal entry. That eliminates any unnecessary data in QuickBooks while retaining full visibility in LOCATE through detailed audit trails and internal accounting reports.”
As to integrating with QuickBooks Online, Nick notes that it’s the leader in small business accounting. LOCATE, which is built for the cloud on AWS, would allow their customers to keep their accounting platform and upgrade their inventory capabilities, which include:
- ERP-level features to QuickBooks with kitting, barcoding, tracking, drop shipping, outsource manufacturing, and wave picking
- SaaS software that will scale with each business, unlike traditional inventory software
- Independent API and UI, which allows users to customize it however they want
- In-house development and 24/7 support
More details are available on LOCATE’s QuickBooks App Store page as are 18 five-star reviews, such as the one titled, “Great Software – Very Robust”. It reads in part, “We have looked at several QBO integrated inventory systems and this one was by far and away the best and most robust. You can do so many different things with this software and the integration with QBO is seamless. Also, the support staff is extremely helpful and responsive.”
How Intuit Developer has Helped LOCATE, Where They’re Headed, and Some Advice
LOCATE posted some impressive stats in 2018: 100% customer retention, 1 million+ orders processed, and 350+ new features. And Nick says that the Intuit Developer team has been extremely helpful and supportive throughout their successful journey, starting at the very beginning when he and his brother Zack attended the QB Connect Hackathon in 2014.
During the Hackathon, they built “Babblework”, which he says they use internally to move data between Salesforce and QBO. When they had questions, a member of the Intuit Developer team explained the dependencies that were required and how to get everything working, information they were able to utilize when they integrated LOCATE with QBO.
“Intuit is always striving to improve their offering, making it constantly easier and faster to connect and get the information you need to achieve any goal you can dream up,” Nick says. “That personal touch has been invaluable when getting through tough coding situations or when things that should work just don’t.”
Kylie too considers Intuit Developer an “incredible resource.” The LOCATE team participated in the 2017 Small Biz App Showdown and says the Intuit Developer team has been their “advocates, our cheerleaders, and our advisors as we navigate a crowded market with a new app.”
When Nick was first developing their new app, he says he used Aurora, which was AWS’ new-at-the-time enterprise-grade MySQL compatible database offering. While he feels it has “scaled brilliantly”, he believes emerging technology is something that needs to be put in perspective.
“Blockchain, containerization, serverless infrastructure—these are all incredible technologies that have emerged in the last couple of years. However, with each new wave, I see the same mistakes being made. Businesses that are built primarily to utilize the new and exciting technology, rather than to solve a problem,” he says.
“It’s great to experiment with new technology and to learn all you can, but keep in mind that newer doesn’t mean better,” he continues. “Newer doesn’t mean it will solve all the problems you currently have, and it actually means new problems that nobody has had yet or solved for. My core principle with all LOCATE-related technology is ‘simpler is better.’ Don’t use 3 technologies when one proven one will do. With three servers, LOCATE fulfills over 13 million requests a week!”
Kylie espouses that same principle. “Bigger is not always better. We built an enterprise-level application from scratch with a team of five developers.”
Her advice for developers working hard to develop a successful app like LOCATE?
- Communicate, prioritize, and work together
- Believe in your product/solution and keep going even when you feel stuck
- Be a great partner
- Say ‘yes’ to opportunities
- Listen to feedback
- Be gracious
- Stay open minded
She also says, “If you have the chance to work with the Intuit Developer team, know that they are on your side and want to see you succeed.”
Kylie’s right. We do want to see you succeed, and you’re invited to contact us at any time with questions. And make sure you get the latest and greatest info always available in the Intuit Developer Blog, including such topics as Intuit’s increased number of sandboxes, OAuth Migration, and much more.
As I work on another post for the Intuit Developer Spotlight series, Kylie says the LOCATE team is working on a project of their own. “Our next major project is bringing LOCATE to partners and clients in other countries, specifically Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and Canada! We’re very excited to be going international, and we anticipate that LOCATE will be ready to set sail for foreign lands in April of this year.”
The Intuit Developer team will continue to watch—and support—their exciting journey.