Launching a start-up is incredibly exciting, it’s often a leap of faith to pursue a passion that will pay dividends in the long-term.
The percentage of start-ups who make it is relatively small, Dr Paul D. Reynolds, Director of the Research Institute, Global Entrepreneurship Centre, suggests that every year, a staggering 472 million entrepreneurs start a new business. Yet the amount of businesses worldwide stays about the same, suggesting that for every success, there is a failure.
One of the most significant challenges is utilising ICT for operational performance to effectively support growth and consistent quality, whilst also controlling costs. During growth periods, many agile and flexible start-ups follow a traditional path of buying, building and resourcing services and people. This leads to the need for processes, training, and management, adding significant operational complexity.
The result has been witnessed countless times; the agile start-up is now less fun, slower, heavier and more chaotic. It has built its limitations and become far more internally focused.
This can, however, all be avoided. If a start-up scales and grows in the right way they can hold onto their entrepreneurial spirit for far longer, if not indefinitely. Leveraging the right technology partners can solve fundamental challenges and deliver huge benefits at critical times. Such partners need to understand the start-up space and have a shared vision, beliefs and common ethos.
Infrastructure Challenges for Start-Ups
New enterprises spend a disproportionate amount of time on implementing basic technology infrastructure. As a start-up, it is vitally important to remain frugal for as long as possible. However, utilising sound technologies that support growth, ensure consistent quality and security whilst remaining cost-effective is a significant challenge. In practice, most start-ups grow with whatever technology they started with and keep adding to it during various growth phases.
The tipping points are felt by incidents, like security, performance or technical issues. Many start-ups will continue down the same road they started down because that is what they understand.
Start-ups go through various technology stages early on, from ‘coping with what you have’ to using ‘freely available services’ and essentially adding more complexity with each user, customer or project. The issues tend to be compounded with growth and before long, the start-up needs to address technology and infrastructure challenges. Traditionally, the belief is that the best thing to do is have a technical person (the IT bod), thinking this is when the problems should end, but for many, this is where the real challenges begin. Essentially the start-up has no or little technology and infrastructure strategy, which doesn’t map to growth plans and fundamentally doesn’t support the vision of where they want to be.
Why Start-ups Should Use Cloud Infrastructure
The reality of a start-up is that whatever you plan to set out to do, you will end up doing a version of it; a variation of what you set out to do. In practice, this means that start-ups go through phases and evolutionary steps.
Cloud is a technology term and it means that you don’t own the service or infrastructure. Whilst this means different challenges, it offers significant flexibility, allowing start-ups to subscribe to services they otherwise may not be able to have, additionally, as new features or services are available, they can be turned on or off, tested, used, or discarded.
Cloud has an ironic association for many people who are ‘anti-cloud’ and prefer more traditional ways of working, yet they are fully reliant on web-based applications and services they happy use or hadn’t realised are cloud-native (banking, email, CRM). But for start-ups, remaining agile, keeping investments in fixed assets to a minimum; there is no real viable alternative. The reality is, however, that start-ups don’t need to have 100% of services cloud-based. If you already have assets, sweat them where you can. If you want to keep data backed up onsite, then do it. But be mindful, if you continue to go down a traditional buy and operate model, before you know it, you are on a path that can be very difficult to get off, not least because the skillset you employ to run traditionla assest are happiest doing just that.
When to use Cloud
Some things are free or very low cost – use them. Both Google and Microsoft offer basic ‘productivity’ services, like G-Suite and Office365, they are low cost and highly flexible solutions with lots of features and services. It makes sense to start using these as soon as possible, but be mindful of why they are free/low cost – they are the bait, you are the catch. The suppliers of those services know it’s harder for you to change technology than it is for you to start paying the full premium price. Many start-ups end up spending vast amounts on technology that worked for them at some point, but they have since grown out of it or evolved in a way that the technology is no longer the right fit.
But recognising when and how to use the cloud is a real challenge, it’s generally driven by cost, and the measures or business case for cost justification is difficult to measure, For example, let’s say you need a development server and a production server. Cloud can appear more expensive when you look over three years, so you can buy cheaper hardware and run a server yourself and you may decide to do just that, but you need to consider the total cost picture, which needs to include time and quality as well as a direct cost. Cloud services continually improve over time whereas purchased hardware is static.
Ensuring the Outcomes with Cirro
Cirro addresses these key growth challenges by focusing on supporting start-ups through the various phases of growth. This allows start-ups to concentrate on the business, rather than running the infrastructure. Many start-ups are also software developers or have a major reliance on specific services, Cirro works closely with them to understand who they are and what they do.
A couple of examples:
Take Shrap as an example; Cirro provides the infrastructure for them as a managed service, but have also created test plans, researched technology options, and provided advice and guidance to them; which includes attending and presenting to potential investors. This allows them to have a greater focus on key aspects of infrastructure they otherwise wouldn’t have considered. It demonstrates our longevity of the relationship and instills confidence with investors. They are now better placed to focus on the end-to-end customer experience and to better measure cost v quality and to secure finance.
“Cirro is a trusted advisor and partner, we have a relationship based on shared values and trust, Cirro has the knowledge, expertise and contacts to significantly strengthen our operations, they help us consider options clearer, identify and mitigate risk, and design for scale.” Chris Forero-Slee, CEO, Shrap
Connectus is further forward than Shrap in terms of longevity and size of the operation. In reality, they are not a start-up as such, however, aspects of their business, like the VoIP solution they run, have similar challenges to those of a start-up; needing better scale, efficiency and compliance whilst maintaining service assurance. Additionally, they are ‘new’ to Cloud Infrastructure and therefore require advice, support, guidance and expertise to ensure uptime, and consistency to end-users, which on VoIP (Voice over the Internet), requires a very consist and well-performing environment, people tend to notice on conversations if there is a delay!
“Cirro has been one of our trusted technology partners for many years and runs our entire Cloud Platform on our behalf. For us, Cirro solves the challenge around how we deliver true SaaS delivery in the right way.” Duncan Shaw, CTO – Connectus
Start-ups who work with Cirro can move faster, maintain agility, lean on experts for advice and guidance and harness Cirro’s extended network to talk directly to Operators, SI’s, potential end-customers or other relevant 3rd parties. Cirro works with start-ups to support smarter growth, they focus on what they do best, to help you focus on what you do best. Allowing a business to use their best skills and experienced staff to do what makes them great in the first place.
Visionable has been established for several years, they have recently had significant investment and have several major opportunities within the healthcare sector and with major service providers. To grow and to capitalise on these opportunities, they need to work with supportive technology specialists as part of an eco-system that can help, guide, advise, validate and deliver specific outcomes that support them through various development.
Cirro Smart Growth
Cirro Smart Growth assists start-ups by working closely with them, whatever stage they are at, from early idea creation, right through to generating actual revenue, starting with market validation and proof of concept. Cirro uses a tried and tested validation process to help highlight the market potential and competitive positioning of your proposed product or service.
From there they will help provide real-world analysis, providing invaluable feedback during your early growth stages.
One of the first big obstacles a start-up faces is securing investment. Again, Cirro helps you out at this stage so you can keep your focus where it should be, on your actual concept.
At this point, start-ups will really start to focus on building a team. Getting the right people on board. As you grow, your business needs to be scalable and efficient. Having a cloud service that does the same, is essential to any start-up’s success.
On the other side, you need to design the ideal operational and process management that again provides scalability with a start-up’s growth. Using the right approach here will ensure a healthy cash-flow, profitability and good investor returns.
Of course, the ultimate measure of success will come down to profitability. The quicker a new organisation can generate revenue, the better.
Start-ups have always struggled to get the support they need from technology partners who tend to prioritize based on spend or size. Some, however, like Cirro, recognise the opportunity of supporting start-ups and helping to address fundamental challenges early on. The potential options available to start-ups from a technology perspective are immense, and so are the potential risks and costs. Cloud can offer significant flexibility if it’s understood and planned effectively, but Cloud is essentially a vast menu option of choice, too much for many. Public Cloud is designed to be everything for everyone and start-ups can find themselves locked into that provider. Additionally, there are very few ‘proven paths’ or practical best practice guides, making it a real gamble to get it right.
The danger is in getting it wrong from the outset because this sets difficult precedence which is hard to change.
Cirro supports major banks, large software houses, and global ISPs as well as UK SME’s and start-ups. For unbiased and simple advice, contact Cirro today to see how we can support your venture.