Starting a technology business to fund their own university

There is always a need for inspiration when it comes to launching a business, but for the team at Qriously it was something quite left field.

To find out what it is like to build a technology business on both sides of the Atlantic, and how its hoping to rise to the top of the ever-busier mobile advertising market, we met up with Kahler at Qriously’s London base.

From its offices in Angel, a stones-throw from Tech City, Qriously has spent the last year shifting around the building until an entire floor was commandeered.

It’s symptomatic of the way many start-ups grow, always on the edge when it comes to space and resources.

But for the guys who founded Qriously (Christopher Kahler, Abraham Mueller and Gerald Mueller), they know exactly where they want to end up – and how.

Having all studied at the same academic institution, the trio decided that they could come up with a better way of doing things. All they needed was the capital to do so – about $80 million in case you’re asking.

In order to fund their university, the three decided to found their own business and secure the money needed through entrepreneurial means.

Their start-up operates in the mobile advertising space, and replaces traditional ads with questions to generate location-based public sentiment.

Operating in a rapidly-growing and evolving market, Qriously has attracted the attention of global investors such as Accel Partners and Spark Capital. A funding round worth £2.3 million in May of this year provided the business with the firepower it needs to grow in the US and Europe.

It is also moving full-steam ahead with a new product called asQvertising, which it describes as a mobile advertising approach based around opinion targeting.

10 key steps for going it alone

Going the distance as a technology entrepreneur can be an arduous, and often lonely journey. Here, Menzies LLP’s Stephen Hemmings outlines a checklist for business owners venturing out on their own

Transforming a groundbreaking idea into a successful business proposition is the ultimate goal for many tech entrepreneurs and breaking away from the protective environment offered by incubators and accelerator programmes is a tempting pathway to success.

Nevertheless, in the early days it is important for tech entrepreneurs to temper their enthusiasm with a sound foundation of business management knowledge. Here are 10 key steps to running a successful business for go-it-alone tech entrepreneurs.

Step 1 – Have a plan

A three-year business plan and a clear strategy are essential for every tech entrepreneur. A good plan can be helpful in measuring whether the business is on track, along with identifying any potential opportunities or threats which should be acted on. Allowing the management team to have a comprehensive view of all aspects of the organisation is vital for the growth and protection of the business and its interests.

Step 2 – Use robust forecasts

Transforming a tech idea into a successful business proposition with longevity depends on having robust forecasts in place. Controlling spend in the early days of the business and preparing for future growth, especially in terms of people and resource, will help to ensure that the business doesn’t over-stretch itself in the future.

Step 3 – Lock in talent

In the crucial early stages of developing a tech business, retaining talent is important. With many tech entrepreneurs unable to offer large cash incentives to employees, business owners must think of other ways to attract and retain the right people. Attractive workplace cultures and business identities, along with employee ownership schemes, such as an Enterprise Management Incentive (EMI) scheme, can help reward key staff members in a tax-efficient way.

Step 4 – Plan for overseas trading

Overseas trading can offer a potentially-lucrative, untapped market for tech entrepreneurs. Seeking advice from organisations with international reach and planning for import and export operations are both useful proactive activities for new businesses. It is important to consider the practical and financial logistics of overseas trading – will a separate trading entity need to be set up? Or a new branch office opened? Are there any intellectual property implications? Should national tax regimes or licensing arrangements be taken into account?

Step 5 – Choose the right business structure

Adopting the right business structure can be beneficial for businesses in a number of ways. Internally, it allows management teams a greater amount of visibility and control over their organisation and to potential external investors, it gives the venture a degree of credibility and shows that an entrepreneur has control over their business.

Step 6 – Think of time as a resource

Many tech entrepreneurs want to do everything themselves, but is this the best way to spend their time? Would they be better off adding value to the business in other ways? For example, tasks such as pulling together cash flow and balance sheets can be outsourced to accountants for a fairly modest fee, freeing up time for entrepreneurs to work on more important matters; pushing sales or securing investment. It can also ensure that they do not miss out on opportunities to realise value, such as the claiming of R&D tax relief.

Step 7 – Keep an eye on costs

Managing cash is important for all small businesses and keeping the books in good order from the start is fundamental. Solid in-house accountancy practices not only allow accurate forecasting, but also mean budgeting for areas of extra spend, such as sales and marketing, can be well planned from the start.

Step 8 – Keep investors close

Tech entrepreneurs need to demonstrate to potential investors that they are in control of their business and that they offer a credible investment opportunity. Presenting a clear business plan and accurate financials can help reassure investors that the business is capable of hitting its targets.

Step 9 – Keep suppliers closer

Fostering strong relationships with suppliers is an essential part of growing a business. Having the right supply partners in place allows entrepreneurs to react rapidly to market changes and move quickly to act on opportunities that could benefit both parties.

Step 10 – Risk assessment

All tech entrepreneurs should carry out a risk assessment of their business model. Data protection and cyber security are two areas which could be at risk. Smaller tech companies often hold a large amount of data, making them targets for ‘spear-phishing’ activity. An annual ‘cyber essentials’ health check is a good way to minimise risk and also potentially reduce commercial insurance costs.

Stephen Hemmings is partner and head of the technology group at accountancy firm, Menzies LLP.

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter was the Editor for from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.

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