iGAP2

Cauwill got accepted on to the Internet Growth Acceleration Programme (iGAP).

iGAP is an intensive management development programme aimed exclusively at high potential internet companies.

It’s a real interesting time at the moment and we got some challenges ahead so iGAP is coming just at the right time.

It’s happening over the next six months,according to the blurb iGAP will equip managers within the Irish internet industry with the practical tools needed to formulate aggressive international growth plans and scale their businesses.

The first introduction day is Wednesday where we get to meet all the other participants. I’m going to blog (and maybe tweet) the events  as they happen. As part of the introduction email Enterprise Ireland sent a word document with directions to East Point.. a word document!! All they really need is  http://directions.to/ei in their emails   🙂

A guide to winning the Seedcorn competition – Part 4

This post concludes the series.  Grab the Business Plan template [here] (word document) which has all three previous posts plus extra comments from the IntertradeIreland Cube document.

To summarize:

  • Make every statement count – be clear, be precise
  • Don’t be technical (after all it’s a business plan)
  • Make the job of reading the plan easier,  visually alert the investor to things they want to see
  • (Early Stage/Startup Companies) If you have paying customers this is a big deal..
  • Really make the executive summary stand out. Give the investor the motivation to read on.It really should be a self contained document that you can extract and it makes sense by itself.

Checklist:

  • Business Overview (what you do and why)
  • Size up the market opportunity
  • Industry Analysis
  • Describe the team
  • Explain the business model
  • Show Financial projections
  • Show Funding sources (and usage)
  • Exit
  • Appendices/Schedules

Personally, I want to wish all entrants for the InterTradeIreland Seedcorn competition the best of luck and cannot wait to see who gets selected this year both as regional finalists and overall finalists. Winning the investment really has helped Cauwill. Financially it helped out but the PR and confidence it gave was worth than the money – as a result we’ve had a great year, signed more customers and are now looking to take our 1 year old company to the next level!

Finally, if any one entering the competition wants to get in touch please feel to do so.

Regards,
Ronan.

A guide to winning the Seedcorn competition – Part 3

Part 3 of the guide covers: the Operations, the Key Risks, the Financials, the Funding and the very important Exit.

These sections really bring the plan to a close and it’s focused one major thing: Think Jerry Maguire – think “Show me the Money!”.

You need to show the money (twice).

  1. Money that company will make from the product year to year
  2. The amount of money the company will be turning over in 3 / 5 years

Remember you are inside the mind of an investor.. if they are going to but €MONEY into the company they will want to see a return of, say, 10 times €Money. You have to be realistic. You can’t sell an iPhone App to every owner of an iPhone. You’ll get a % (a two digit number if your lucky). Investors are very smart and will therefore spot any flaw.

The last section is “The Exit”. For us (and presumably others) this was a very short section – we clearly stated what we wanted to happen in 3 years. The investor wants to see an exit otherwise no matter how good everything is they won’t invest. Scroll down to see an answer investors like to see.

Tomorrows post will conclude the series and have a word document template with even more comment!

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A guide to winning the Seedcorn competition – Part 2

Part 2 of the Guide will cover the Product, The  Business Model and The Management.
These are big sections and require you to think long and hard. It requires getting inside the mind of an investor. This is tricky and the investors mind you get into might not be the investor that is reading your business plan. This is where a bit of luck comes into play. The seedcorn competition will try and match your business sector with an investor in a similar sector – it won’t be a perfect match.

Time to get inside the venture capitalist who is now looking at  your business that offers:

  1. a clearly specify the product or service
  2. a large potential number of paying customers
  3. at a price well above what it would cost to produce i.e making a profit (while delivering customer satisfaction)

What else do you need to let the investor know? You need a good business model. One that offers genuine choices of:

  1. Who is the target customer? Why was that target sector chosen?
  2. What is the product?
  3. How is the company planning to deliver the product and maximise margins?

I can’t stress enough that this needs to be in plain and simple English – no jargon!  Each of these points has to be obvious to the investor.

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A guide to winning the Seedcorn competition – Part 1

In a series of blog posts I’m going to share what Cauwill put into the Seedcorn Business Plan.  I (there is no I in team!!) didn’t write the business plan alone nor have I  put this guide together without a great deal of help from Ian. As ever Ian – a big thanks goes your way.

Don’t worry about cutting and pasting from the blog – with the last blog of the guide (Thursday)  I’ll be attaching a complete word document version of the guide with extra comments from InterTradeIreland. Feel free to ask & post questions – I’ll be happy to respond to them.

At a later stage I’m going to do the same for the regional and final presentations for fortunate companies that make past the business plan evaluation section of the competition. Let’s hope it’s you!

DISCLAIMER TIME: There is no guarantee that if you follow the guide exactly that you will win the competition.. quite the contrary this business plan worked for us because it is OUR business plan. Your company business will be different to ours so your business plan will be different also. Things we left out, you may need to include. With that, we wish the best of luck.

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Mountain Biking with Ironmen

I did something daft this weekend. I headed off to the Ballyhoura mountain bike trails with a guy who just completed the ring of Kerry on a bicycle (Iano), a guy who also completed the ring of Kerry by bicycle and THEN proceeded to cycle home (which is Galway btw!) and another guy who does Ironmen competitions. My 16k (back and forth) commute pales in comparison to what these guys do! Needless to say they were all fitter than I and very used to cycling. The only other person who hadn’t done an ironman or a ring of Kerry was the ironman’s girlfriend but she was super fit nonetheless – she was to pass me out on several occasions 🙂

We arrived nice and early and got very cool rented Cube bikes from the centre for 40 yoyos. We were joined by another keen mountain biker who had done the Ballyhoura trails before so he was our lead and suggested we take the White trail – just 35km. The bikes were top class, very new, well serviced and well up to the task at hand – I therefore can’t blame the bike on nearly keeling over on some of the hills. I was wrecked after about 20km! Cycling up mountains is tougher than you’d think!

Apart from some steep climbs, the white trail is amazing! Some very fast parts, dark and spooky forests, long wooded boardwalks and fantastic views. The climbs might be tough but the downhill sections are just amazing and make up for the hard work getting up the hills. Speeding down a narrow track avoiding rocks really gets the adrenalin going 🙂

Because the scenery is so spectacular you might be lured into looking around but this is the biggest mistake you’ll make – it will only result in a crash – which will hurt! I came off a few times the worst when the pedal caught a rock and sent me flying! The other thing that will hurt like mad will be your ass! So here is my top-tip for mountain biking – wear shorts with (extra) padding!!

I’ll definitely be going back again – once my ass has recovered!

Iano brought his super-duper GPS watch which produces a map of of the trail.. (very cool). Note the steep climbs!

Enter Seedcorn 2010

InterTradeIreland All-Island Seedcorn Business Competition 2010

ONLY 6 WEEKS TO GO!

The countdown begins… take action and REGISTER NOW!

Are you an early stage/high growth company?  Do you need new equity funding to help your business take off?  Then this is the competition for you.

Don’t miss out on the chance to win a share of the €280,000 cash prize fund.  InterTradeIreland’s Seedcorn is the largest business competition for early stage/high growth companies in any sector on any part of the island.

Click here to register for the competition.  After registering, entrants are required to submit their business plan by1pm on Friday 17th September 2010.

For more information visit www.intertradeireland.com/seedcorn or contact us on 028 3083 4113 (048 from Ireland).

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!

Nokia n900

So we got to play with a Nokia n900 phone for the past week. Well, it’s not really a phone – It’s more like a small tablet PC!
Yes it makes phone calls, yes it sends and receives SMS’s but let me explain why it’s a Tablet PC and not a phone.

Under the hood the n900 has ARM Cortex-A8 processor with up to 1Gb of Ram and 32GB internal storage, 3.5mm AV connector
TV out (PAL/NTSC), Micro-USB connector, High-Speed USB 2.0 Bluetooth/WIFI/Integrated FM transmitter and the quickest Integrated GPS with A-GPS I’ve ever seen on a nokia. Not to mention it has a full qwerty keyboard, a good 5mp camera but unfortunately the device is let down a little by the dodgy touch screen. The stylus does improve the touch screen but not something I would use all the time so I’ve been left tapping the n900 a couple of times before I get the desired response. Anyhoo – that’s a lot of spec for just a ‘phone’ – this thing is capable of running XP for heavens sake!

The operating system, Maemo, is built on Linux so you get all the benefits of a Linux OS – It’s not every day you can open one can open an x-term on a phone and ssh into your cloud! sweet!

The user interface is pretty good – nice and swishy. Nokia have kept some of the Symbian look and feel (most notably under the main menu) but the rest of the system is what you expect from a modern phone, errr, tablet pc.

Here is a list of my favourite apps so far

  • Facebrick
  • TweeGo
  • Angry Birds
  • Stellarium
  • Hermes
  • Firefox
  • Foreca Weather Widget
  • rootsh
  • wifiEye

Some of the downsides:

  • The size & weight – it’s huge!
  • Nokia maps doesn’t have voice navigation!!!!
  • this is a development device and won’t really be use to the general public, it is however a big change for Nokia and I for one like the change.
  • the touch screen
  • battery life – 1 to 2 days tops