Cauwill is One

It’s July 2010. Cauwill Technologies is one this month.

12 months ago we had a nifty piece of mobile technology, no customers, no money (except our savings) and no real idea what the future held. Leaving the safe* employment as a researcher in a university was one of the scariest decisions we had to make but it’s been all worth since we spun out the company. That’s not to say there hasn’t been bad days since spinning out – of course there has been! Someone told me recently the longer you are in business and the highs get higher and lows get lower.

Looking back over the year we certainly had some really great days, first customer, getting more paying customers, hiring staff and of course let’s not forget about winning InterTradeIreland’s Seedcorn competition as ‘Best Emerging’ Company!

We have learnt so much over the past 12 months and sitting in UL researching & lecturing seems like a lifetime ago. I think I would find it very hard to go back. I spoke to a mate of mine last weekend (whom I spent countless hours in the UL WAR lab trying to get a testbed to work) about leaving and the challenges/changes it has brought. He was adamant that I needed to leave and it was the best thing to do as it’s open a entirely new world. I couldn’t agree more. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. The only downside to leaving is the lack of a salary! Startups don’t pay well at all 🙂

So over the past 12 months what have we learnt? Here is a list in no particular order of some of the learnings.

    You have to be a little crazy.
    You need to love what you are doing otherwise you will grow tired of it. You have to give up a lot of things to follow this dream. You will have to be able to make, what seems like, crazy decisions to try better the company. Finally, you need to be able to calculate risk and act on it (it helps here being a little crazy!)

    You need a plan.
    It doesn’t have to be much, but you need a plan! Who are the customers? How many customers? Why do they need your service product? Why would they buy from you and not Joe down the road? How much will they pay for it? How do you get to them? Where do you want the company to be in 3, 5 years? How are you going to get there? How much money do you need? Where will it come from?
    I’m preparing a post about our Seedcorn business plan which may be of interest to people in Ireland.

    Make sure you have a partner.
    I was super lucky. Ian was in the same position/mindset. We worked together in UL for the past 10 years so we knew each very well. Cauwill wouldn’t be where it is right now if either did this alone. It probably wouldn’t have made it to one. Simple as that.

    Don’t ram technology down customers throats!
    We’ve learnt when talking to potential customers the secret is not to talk! Ask questions about their business, their needs, things that are hurting them in terms of time/money. If you have a solution for their pain they will be a lot happier to engage with you.

    Build Relationships & Communicate
    It’s important to go out and meet people. At times it’s hard but it has to be done. If you don’t do this how will be people be made aware of you and your product? Be active on the social networks, go to seminars, open coffees, trade shows, etc. the key is just to get involved. Some of this seems like it will go nowhere, and the majority of it will go nowhere, but on occasions some connections you make can lead to big things down the line. Some of these connections could lead to my next point.

    Build a network of mentors.
    Mentors = friends, colleagues, people in the shared office, maybe elite and trusted customers. You won’t be able to do everything and you’ll need people to talk to on a regular basis. You draw on their experience in business, marketing, PR, sales etc. to help you make better decisions. Note: you don’t want a bunch of yes ‘men’ either.

    Keep on top of things.
    This includes; market research (know what has happened, happening now, might/will happen in the future). Keep all your financial accounts in order from day one. Keep a track of every correspondence with {potential} customers – get a CRM package (onepagecrm, zoho, capsulecrm etc.) in place.

    Don’t spend all your time on development
    Can’t stress this point enough. Don’t spend all your time developing the mother-of-all-products. No-one will use it. You might get lucky but chances are you won’t. Listen to what your customers want and develop to their requirements. Release often and release early. Provide good great customer service and you’ll be on to a winner.

    Out source
    Know your weak areas and out source these tasks to people how can do it better than you.

*Safe; once you have a contract you get paid every month! Getting the contract is another matter altogether!

Ronan

Sharing my experience on startup, sport, linux, mobile phones, movies and some other random stuff.

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