In the most recent, he beat a field of 170 applicants to win the Dell Small Business Excellence Award in a program open to all small businesses, not just Dell customers. It had been running in the US for the past four years but went global this year.
The win will now take him to the international finals next month, where he will get to exchange ideas with company founder Michael Dell and be in the running to double his $25,000 national prize.
But the pace of these developments hasn’t fazed the 25-year-old who said he set up Task Retail when saw a gaping hole in the market five years ago and "went 100 miles an hour to fill it". That meant a marathon development process underwritten by his father of 15-hour days, seven days a week for four years, but the effort is now paying off.
The company exploded on to the market just 12 months ago with its groundbreaking POS system Xchangexec, a web-based solution that allows big companies to monitor every terminal, every transaction and every enterprise activity anywhere in the world in real time.
"I could be in my office now and sit and watch a sale being made in Germany and watch every key press that that operator is making on the point-of-sale terminal," he said. "No one else is doing this to the level we are, having all these devices all connected over the internet."
He said Xchangexec combined a whole series of functions it would otherwise require a dozen other companies to provide separately and also included alerts and a reporting package.
One of the most remarkable things about Daniel Houden’s feat in beating his big competitors to market with such an innovative system is that he left school as a self-described computer illiterate.
"I went to work in my father's cash register company," he said. "I could see our customers growing out of that type of solution so I taught myself from there and then started to develop this."
Mr Houden said the greatest advantage he had over the giant corporations that had previously dominated this market space was that he approached it with a totally different mindset and a determination to apply the latest thinking to an old industry.
"Point-of-sale is one of the largest and most established industries there is," he said. "It has been around since business started and every business has to have it."
Despite this, he said innovation had been lacking. "One of Australia’s biggest retailers is still using point-of-sale from the 1980s. What you find in this market is that suppliers are dragging a massive legacy. They have got their customer base on 10-year-old technology so they can't just stop one day and say, okay we're writing a brand new one. They might be able to make them look better but the core, the architecture, is incorrect.
"We have really embraced the latest Microsoft technology and we have worked closely with Microsoft to stay at the forefront of the technology and that is what has given us an advantage."
Mr Houden said the biggest challenge he now faced was to devise a strategy to tackle such a large and pervasive market. "We have been lucky to secure some extremely large contracts already so I have had a mentality of hunting the bears, rather than the rabbits,’’ he said. "If you get the bears then typically you can get the rabbits but it’s very hard to do it the other way around."
He said Task Retail would be kept busy for the next 12 months servicing existing contracts that include a hotel chain, the Retail Food Group, owner of brands such as Michel’s Patisserie, Donut King and Brumbies, and the Food Company Group, owner of Muffin Break and Jamaica Blue. Between them they account for 1300 stores around Australia.
But he said the company was planning its next big moves beyond that.
"We have an international expansion plan to get us into North America and there is also a massive opportunity in China that we're looking at," he said.
He said he was well aware much bigger companies would now be eyeing off his young company as a prime acquisition target but said he wouldn't be looking at selling any time soon. "There is a lot of interest around at the moment but we’re having too much fun to talk about that right now," he said. "It's not just a financial decision anyway. With any sale would come all sorts of terms and one of them would be me chained to a desk for five years. We have done all the hard work and now the snowball has started we’re just beginning to reach our true potential."
Another peninsula business, Incharge Group, also shone at the Dell Small Business Excellence Awards, selected among the 10 finalists for its corporate expense management systems. By automating the expenseclaim process the Frenchs Forest company said it had been able to save clients up to 75 per cent of claims-processing costs.
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