Since the summer of 2008, we’ve invested in a number of start-up companies. We’ve been looking for businesses that compliment our own, and specifically where we could leverage our existing assets and benefit from the economies of scale. As I’ve mentioned before, we look for people with a unique idea, who are prepared to work hard and who can build the product/service themselves. All of the following companies met that criteria:
Clear Books Limited
Clear Books is an online accounting software service run by Tim Fouracre. He’s a chartered accountant, entrepreneur and programmer and has been working on the system for 6 months now. We’ve been beta testing it for our Fubra Accounts, and we’re really happy with its progress. The intelligent bank statement import feature has already helped us cut down the amount of time we spend book keeping from 10 days a month, to 2 days a month! We’ve also used it to complete our quarterly VAT returns, and our 6 monthly FSA regulatory reporting.
UMPC Media Limited
UMPC Media is a joint venture between Fubra, Matthew Dunham and Steve Whiteley. The company aims to develop a number of web based communities, mainly in the area of Ultra Mobile PCs. The first site in the portfolio is a forum about Dell Mini PCs called MyDellMini.com
Niggle specialises in providing customer feedback systems for businesses. They offer a comprehensive service which spans both the online and offline worlds, with everything from paper based postal feedback cards, to mobile / SMS and online feedback forms. In a recession consumers will be especially picky as to where they spend their hard earned cash, and we believe the best placed companies will be those that listen to their customers.
Bytewire is a games development company run by Dave Heward and Elliot Reeve. They are working on a number of online multiplayer browser based games, the first of which is a Mafia type game called Street Crime. The game has been running for just over a month now, and already has 2000 players!
Renegade Games Limited
Renegade Games is another games development company run by Pete Zaborszky. The company is in the early stages of developing a number of projects, so watch this space for more information.
Part of our strategy at Fubra is to invest a portion of our cash in business start-ups. In this post, I’m going to give you a few inside “secrets” as to our thinking when companies approach us for funding. If, after reading this, you think we sound like a good match then you should get in touch.
What we look for in an investment opportunity…
- An amazing unique product.
- Backed by a team of competent, motivated and hard working people who can deliver.
- The ability to build your product yourself. For web sites, this means you need a developer in your team as an equity partner. We’re not interested in ideas that someone else has to build, as costs will quickly escalate and we may as well do it ourselves.
What we can provide…
- Marketing assistance – We have a network of well over 100 websites, 6 million visitors per month and 3 million subscribers – so plenty of scope for cross promotion. We can advise on all aspects of online marketing e.g. PPC and SEO.
- PR assistance – We have an in-house PR team and press contacts database. Our sites regularly feature in the mainstream press; printed, radio and TV.
- Data mining – We have web spider experts who can help analyse and extract data from around the web.
- Hosting – We have racks in several data centres, including our own 14 rack private DC at our head office in Aldershot. We have also developed a hosting cloud infrastructure to help scale web applications to meet demand and this would be available to you.
- First line customer support – When your product takes off, we can integrate it into our support system and provide first line customer service.
- Office space – We have a 4000 sq ft office in Aldershot, which has a few rooms to spare.
- Mentoring and advice – Fubra has been around since 2000 so we know a thing or two about building web businesses. We would make this knowledge available to you as needed.
What we ask for, from an investment…
- A Realistic Valuation – You shouldn’t be looking to get rich from the investment round itself. The cash is there to help the business succeed, and that’s the point where you will be financially rewarded. How is your business worth half a million pounds with no sales or customers?
- Thrift! – You should keep your overheads as low as possible for as long as possible. Do you really need to hire a PR agency? If you’re product is that good it should sell itself. Can you justify paying yourself a “market” salary? If you are paid a full market salary, what risk are you taking to justify your equity stake?
- Hard work and delivering on promises.
It could be argued that now is a better time than ever to start up a business. While established firms are more focused on cutting costs than delivering new products, start ups can seize the opportunities they miss.