Being asked to write something about “running a start-up technology company” made me realise that I don’t feel as if I am running one yet. This could be for several reasons that are quite specific to me or it could be that it’s no different from any other start-up, which I suspect is the case.
Starting a technology company crept up on me over a period of 15 years. It began as a vague idea about a groups of friends and how to collect and share content; the result of living with a 15 year old daughter. Five years on this wholly theoretical concept had at least evolved into two Patent applications in the US and the UK. This was the year 2000 and I still only had a theory, which was impossible to build, but the underlying psychology and information science still intrigued me. During the next 8 years while my US Examiner read my patent in his second language, his first being Vietnamese, and repeatedly refused to grant it I continued to theorize while others built empires. Facebook, Flickr, Youtube: the technology was now there to build and deliver the product, so why not.
Through a friend I met a group of young people who had just completed their Masters at Napier University. It seemed relatively low risk to have them assess how to build what even three years ago seemed a very strange service. In hindsight it would have been easy to let go. The world led by Tim Berners Lee was educating us on the charms of the Semantic Web. We didn’t do semantic. Facebook was building groups of friends at an amazing rate, and we did do groups, how would we compete. The Examiner continued to be difficult.
But that group of young people decided it could be built and I decided to take on the examiner and one of those young people; Stephen. As it happened both those decisions turned out to be good ones. We went to appeal and won our US Patent, and Stephen turned out not just to be a great developer but also a designer, cost watcher and voice of sanity.
We have spent the last two years building the product and are weeks away from releasing it. Equally important we have also managed to understand who will enjoy it enough to pay for it, and how to get it in front of them. That was probably the hardest part. The market has now come round to our way of thinking. Social groups in the real world don’t consist of 200 people. They are much smaller and they are private. Our market not only still exists, but is readier to buy because of the competition.
I have funded the company myself and so have had the luxury of taking my time. I never considered the economic climate. The product doesn’t cost a lot and in theory at least gives enormous pleasure, so should sell in an economic downturn. But none of that was conscious. I just wanted to build it and I want thousands of people to use it.
In a few weeks you can store your memories at www.cuememories.com. We hope you enjoy the experience.