I started working with high-tech startups immediately after completing the Saltire Fellowship in December 2009, but it wasn’t until I got my second contract about this time in 2010 that I was confident I could make a job (or even a career) out of this. After all, working for companies that almost by definition have no cash is not an obviously winning strategy. Three years in, I thought it was time to reflect on what I’ve been up to.
Over 90% work has been directly with young companies.
- My first contract with ATEEDA still is ongoing, and it has been great to see the company develop through several rounds of investment with Archangels and a first $1m customer contract.
- Contemplate has grown from an idea to a company with a released product and customers amongst the UKs top ten banks. I worked with the founders to develop the product concept, identify the first customers, win SE support and ultimately bring in a CEO. Now I have handed my operational role over to the CEO and I remain involved as a Non Exec.
- I’m very excited about Cytomos, a company that has the potential to revolutionise cell analysis in research and diagnostics. Currently operating a SMART project, I’m helping to raise a seed round to get us to the point having a product ready to build.
- I’m delighted to have started work recently with a Proof of Concept project team at Strathclyde University, commercialising innovations in optical spectroscopy.
- Other young companies I have worked with include Loc8er, StreamFlex and Nuergy, and I have worked for university commercialisation departments at Edinburgh and Heriott Watt.
- I have also done a little work for Scottish Enterprise, LINC Scotland and Young Company Finance.
The associate model has been very successful with Ruth Stevenson, and we have worked together delivering market research into both startups and strategic projects. Last year I tried to extend this working with Fahd Baig but we didn’t really have the formula right and Fahd’s ambitions have now led him to working full time on a single project. I’m still excited about the potential that working with associates offers and I feel I have a much better understanding of what would be needed to make that work.
Another area I have experimented is using students to help carry out secondary research for projects. When this has happened it has been really quite successful, and I hope it has been a beneficial experience for the students as well as useful to my enterprise. It’s challenging making this work with the short timescales I usually have, but it’s something I hope to develop further.
Other highlights of the last three years include sponsioring the Saltire Foundation Aluminate Dinner, launching my first eBook “Equity – A Resource for Startups” in collaboration with MBM Commercial and Chiene+Tait Chartered Accountants and some of the feedback and interaction on this blog!.
There have been failures too. I’ve not got the associate model right yet, and getting additional resource when I need it is still a problem. We all worked hard to win a public sector framework contract but it hasn’t yielded any work – did we waste our time bidding or have we managed it wrongly? With hindsight, I haven’t put enough work into some of the proposals I have put in, or perhaps invested enough in the intellectual assets of my own business. I hope I can learn from these and not repeat them…
Developing Salient Point has been hard work, but it has also been a great experience. Recently I’ve been so busy working with young companies that I’ve not been doing a lot of development work on my own, but I hope that will be redressed in the coming months!
A huge thank you to everyone who has helped and supported me – watch this space!