Getting Company Connecting off the ground with Interface Online. The Startup experience: Part Seven

Last week I wrote about the help I received attending the Highlands & Island Enterprise Pathfinder Accelerator. It helped me to shape the Company Connecting business by making me spend time on the direction of the business instead of just ‘doing’. The discipline of carrying out our ‘homework’, defining the company strategic was a painful and exhilarating experience.

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The Pathfinder came at the right time for Company Connecting, but prior to that we had been on quite a journey to get the idea shaped up into something tangible. We needed to research the data on IT companies, find a means of categorising the information and design a front-end to test out the ability to turn the data into something that people wanted. For me the data and the categorisation played to my strengths but designing a web front-end and search engine was something with which I needed help. I wasn’t sure where to turn until Elizabeth Pirie of Business Gateway came to the rescue. Elizabeth also introduced me to Investing Women which I wrote about in a previous article – so Elizabeth and Business Gateway have played a key role in the early stages of Company Connecting.

Elizabeth told me about Interface Online and it’s work with linking business’ with academic expertise in Scotland. This is a brilliant organisation which can make a huge difference to an early stage company with a limited budget. I discovered that I could apply for a standard innovation voucher which provides funding of up to £5,000 to work with an academic institution, as long as your project is accepted.

The Interface application form is straightforward, and it is worth spending a bit of time thinking through what it is you need and why this may be attractive to an academic institution. Interface issues the application to academic Institutions in Scotland, who review and consider whether it is suitable for their students or an academic. I received interest from three institutions each of which had its own strengths. It was then a case of deciding which University to go with. I selected Strathclyde University and met with the Strathclyde team to explain Company Connecting further so that they could check that the ‘project’ was a good fit with Strathclyde, and had sufficient innovation to satisfy the funding requirements. The meeting was successful and we moved to the next stage. There were several aspects to this stage i.e. reviewing the contract with Strathclyde, seeking legal advice on the ownership of the background and foreground Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), and completing a joint application to the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) for the funding of the work carried out by Strathclyde.  Part of the requisites of the application is that I had to joint fund the work, however it was acceptable that the Company Connecting part of the project costs was covered by work ‘in-kind’ i.e. work carried out by myself.

The funding application was then submitted and it was then a waiting game. To give you an idea of the timescales, I submitted the Interface application in late October, had my first meeting with Strathclyde University on the 20th November, completed the negotiations on the IP and contract, and the application to the SFC by the 10th December and received the go ahead from the SFC via Strathclyde University on the 15th January. Taking into account a week’s holiday in November and Christmas and New Year – that’s not bad going!

It was great to get the go ahead and begin to work on the prototype for Company Connecting. Strathclyde were extremely helpful with the application. Janine Capaldi managed the process and Dr. Martin Halvey was my partner for the project. The process also helped me to define what I wanted out of the Proof of Concept and what I needed to do to get the data into a shape that would be useful. Finally, we were moving forward to make Company Connecting a reality.

Next week I will talk about working with Martin and getting the Prototype up and running.

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irst published on Company Connecting May 2016

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StartupInnovation VoucherStrathclyde UniversityInterface OnlinePathfinder Accelerator