Diary of a start-up: Contracts, moving offices and a crowdfunding campaign
In his latest diary instalment – the founder of Bikmo shares a month of firsts and seconds, including tips on saving cash with a DIY office fit and why crowdfunding offers more than just investment
The life of a start-up is full of ups and downs. There’s a big up when you’re talking to partners who are huge in sectors you love, then a steady decline as it takes meeting after meeting and call after call to get to the ink on paper stage.
Securing our first big contract
It’s all part of the process and something I’ve learned to expect. If you’re expecting busy people to drop everything and just concentrate on what you need then you won’t last long.
We got a contract signed with the Iargest European publisher in the action sports sector (press release to come soon), which opens up our platform and data to a huge audience. It’s a great landmark and a big up for the team.
Facing up to big responsibilities
However securing such a big contract brings with it a big responsibility in terms of what is expected of the team and the platform. It’s one thing if your site goes down, it’s another if you manage a site for a big partner with big traffic and the same happens.
Friends who have spent time in companies or incubators in San Francisco have told stories of huge websites and apps we love (Dropbox, Twitter etc.) struggling in their early years as their user numbers increase and they don’t have the systems to cope with spikes in traffic. Ok, so we’re not on that scale yet, but we have had some issues load testing in the past and we need to impress early on.
We’ve now tested, tried and poked with every possible combination to make sure our system is stable, backed up and mirrored in the event one server goes down (which, being honest it has recently). Plus, Jorj and Gavin have rebuilt the site, quartering the page size, halving the number of requests and cutting page load time down to an eighth of what it was – if you don’t understand, ask a techy mate, but it’s superb work.
Moving into our second office
When I started the company a couple of years ago, I was working part-time and spending every other hour getting Bikmo up and running. At that point an incubation space sprung up in Chester so I took an office and so the business started. We’ve come to the end of our time there, having grown to six and occupying two offices which didn’t work for us or them.
So it was time to embrace the new. If you’ve got a big budget then by all means get an interior designer in and burn a load of cash. We’d rather use our cash elsewhere though so after eight hours sanding and cutting then five hours lifting and shifting very heavy wood up five floors, we now have a bespoke attic office that cost less to fit out than a single desk and chair combination from a supplier we checked out.
It’s above a development agency we knew from some previous work and we’re occupying it with our mates from Soup Creative. We’re seven in total and there’s space for 12. Let’s see where 2014 takes us….
Raising a second funding round
We’re also raising investment. It takes a great team, long days, weekends and the best investors you can find to build a business in the tech sector. We’ve built our platform, got our first partnership contracts in the door and now it’s time to take our product to market.
The best experience with investors so far has been the added benefit rather than just the cash injection. They’ve opened up doors with big publishers, broadcasters and helped shape the technology Bikmo is now built on. Plus they’re the best sounding board for ideas, gripes, issues and elations, bringing more experience than a book could ever provide.
This time we’re crowdfunding. If you’re on this website, you’ll more than likely know what it’s about (but if you don’t – find out here). For us, what it allows us to do is enable anyone who believes in what we do and where we’re going (whether you’re a cyclist or not) to put in anywhere from £10 to £100,000. Also being SEIS/EIS compliant (check it out), it provides some tax benefits to individuals helping out young businesses grow.
It also generates interest in Bikmo. People investing are far more likely to tell their mates about Bikmo, which for us is the best marketing that money can’t buy. Plus imagine if you can help your friends and family and make money through what you’re passionate about – possibly better than any pensions around today…
And so you may see a bit more of us in the near future…. Games, events and perhaps the papers if we’re lucky.