NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, England – Several weeks ago I asked readers of this column to fill in a short survey. The survey was focused on testing an idea I had for an iPad tablet computer stand.
This is a side-project; something I can do while I finish my PhD on energy harvesting. The feedback I got was great and really helped me to refine my idea. One problem cropped up though, and I guess it is the one all entrepreneurs face at some point – how to finance their idea.
Initially I was going to make the stand out of a material that required very little initial expenditure. However, that plan was dismissed after the first prototype and the results from the survey. So thanks to all of you who filled in the survey, and please make sure you read my next article.
As a result of your input I have determined that to make a really good stand I need to use materials that have a much higher start-up cost. However, given that I am still working full time on my PhD, taking a lot of external investment – coupled with a sizable chunk of my own money – seemed too risky.
All entrepreneurial activities involve a certain level of risk. However, I believe that successful entrepreneurs are actually quite risk averse. When starting a business I want to do everything I can to minimize the risk, or at least minimize the impact of that risk, and maximize the chances of success. The time constraints that come with being a full time PhD student mean accepting external finance would be a very risky thing to do, and would have serious personal financial implications should the business fail.
So, what is the alternative? It's called bootstrapping.
Bootstrapping is the term given to starting a business on a minimal amount of money and growing it organically, which in my case allows progress with no external investment. So all I need is a "Plan B" that costs next to nothing to start. The current aim is that the profits from this initial venture can then be used to make the iPad stand at some point in the future.
Fortunately I'm not alone in my quest for a plan to start a company. My friend, and now business partner, Leonie Cunnington shares the vision. As well as being in the midst of PhD on combined electrical engineering and neuroscience she has a cracking idea for a plan B. Between us, and a business advisor, we have come up with a plan for a brand new company.
I am not going to divulge any more right now. We have a couple of things left to do and then we are good to launch. So, for now, I ask for your patience. Be assured I'll post as soon as we launch.