Atlas Bar – all ready and waiting for my guests, the misfits
As you probably heard, edocr.com was acquired by Accusoft, Inc in March 2015. Over the years, many friends helped me to setup, launch and keep it growing, especially during the hard times. As a way of saying thank you to them, I held a party on 21st April 2015 at the Atlas Bar, Deansgate, Manchester.
We were blessed with the hottest day of the year (so far), and my guests enjoyed a Spring BBQ. As Techcelerate was shut down in early 2013, it was the first time most of us got together.
First to arrive was Angel Salazar, Founder and CEO of edeggs, a games company. In the case of Angel, I’m probably guilty of turning him from an University Lecturer into a Tech Entrepreneur. Angel immediately started pitching to me and the conversation led from wanting help to offering me help with introductions for UnifiedVU. Angel is struggling with managing staff and ever in need of external capital. He is also looking for marketing help to hit the hockey stick curve for his awesome app that help kids get fitter by getting them out of the bedroom.
Next to join us was Richard Francis, Founder and CEO of Makeurmove, a tech startup that is disrupting the estate agencies. Richard, the MBA drop-out from Manchester Business School built his business by tapping into Manchester Metropolitan University student talent (Plus.net did the same by plugging into Sheffield University), which allowed him to bootstrap. Since then he raised a number of angel rounds and made the business profitable. Now he is getting ready to raise Series A for that vital growth stage. Richard’s business has the highest customer rating among his competitors and he has a deep understanding of the market. I recently had the privilege to help him adjust his pitch and focus.
Both Angel and Richard have been occasional users of edocr.com and regular attendees of Techcelerate events.
It was great to welcome Rhys Jones, Mike Carter and Chris Haslam. I founded edocr.com as a result of a conversation with Rhys in March 2007 at the inaugural Open Coffee event I held in Manchester (Open Coffee was founded by Saul Klein). By April 2007, I incorporated edocr with Rhys as my co-founder. Later that month, Mike and Chris joined us. We remained a team until the alpha version was launched to the public in October 2007. It became tough when all three left me in 2008 as they focused on their respective companies (Mike and Chris are co-founders of Ixis and Rhys was still working on Accountis after it was sold to Fundtech). Rhys and I were competitors when I ran my first tech startup, ebdex. Since then, Mike and Chris has built Ixis into a sizeable business. Now a Deloitte Technology Fast 500 company. Rhys being a serial tech entrepreneur continues to work on many of his ideas, among them Bookry and Locly. I also worked with Rhys on CRMPlus, but gave up on it before it turned to another edocr.
Without them, I probably would not have started edocr.com. However, I’m still puzzled to this day on why did they join, why did they leave, and what would have happened if we stayed as a team. We had the talent pool to built edocr without requiring any external cash. Rhys, Chris and Mike were the back-end guy, infrastructure guru and front-end guy respectively. Rhys was (and is) such a nice guy, but very hard to communicate with, as he had interests in multiple startups. I believe Mike and Chris lost belief in edocr and perhaps in my ability to execute. During this period, we became one of the top 20 hottest tech startups of the UK and I toured Silicon Valley as part of Webmission08, which was organised by Oli Barrett. Whatever it was, thank you guys for helping me to create edocr.com.
Mike and Chris have the opportunity to build Ixis further through acquisitions, something we have often spoke of. They have already acquired one company. They will remain 100% focused on providing all services related to Drupal. Mike and Chris should also explore investing into few crazy startups. They’ve also dabbled with other ideas, and have sold various web assets in the past – the hobby projects! Two good guys to get to know!
L to R: Owen Yang, Lisa Layzell and Gillian Hunt
Some of the attendees were also paying customers of edocr.com, e.g. Lisa Layzell (Thinspace), Tony Bray (Intuitive Business Intelligence), Eric Masaba (Texxi), Micheal Jayson (Crowe Clark Whitehill), Rhys Jones (Accountis), Gillian Hunt (Escata), Andrew Threlfall (Malinko) and Stuart Scott-Goldstone (Aaron & Partners).
Lisa was the Founder and CEO of Thinspace, which she sold to Propalms. She runs Ridia Consulting, which specialises in building trading relationships with China. She runs the company with her brother Owen Yang who also attended the party. It was so good to see Lisa. I used to venture into Thinspace office (and Ixis office) quite a lot when we were both tenants at Sci-Tech Daresbury. Thinspace had an amazing thin client solution but struggled to hit main stream as a small business. They continually beat larger players such as Dell. I got to know investor, Amin Amiri through Lisa.
Eric, the man of mystery is the Founder and CEO of Texxi, which was recently recognised by Red Herring (Robert’s Wadaro was also recognised). One day, perhaps someone would write a whole book on Eric. The long story short is that he owns a patent which is breached by Uber, Google, Facebook, et al.
Gillian used to be a venture capitalist (Liverpool Ventures) and today she provides consultancy services via her firm Escata to younger businesses. Some of the attendees have pitched to Gillian when she was in the investment game. I even pitched edocr to Liverpool Ventures (not to Gillian) and they’ve asked me to find a syndicate partner. I remember pitching to Ed French (Enterprise Ventures) who suggested I change the model to sell books, a suggestion I refused to follow. As it was just me at the time (2008), I didn’t pursue the venture capital route.
Stuart Scott-Goldstone has been an exceptional friend since I met him during my MBA at Manchester Business School. From the very beginning of my entrepreneurship career, which started after the MBA, Stuart has been there with me. Whereas others have joined and later left when they got fed up with my endeavours, Stuart remained without ever asking what his ROI was. Stuart also provided the legal advice for both exists, Northern Tech Awards to GP Bullhound and edocr to Accusoft. In case you do not know Stuart, he is the Head of Corporate at Aaron & Partners, a legal firm based out of Chester. Stuart has acted on behalf of tech companies and investors both in Manchester and the North West, and far a field, and well known within the investment circle.
L to R: Dan Sodergren, Richard Francis, Stuart Scott-Goldstone and Martin Rue
I came to know Michael, who is the Managing Partner of Crowe Clark Whitehill during the hey days of Techcelerate. Michael’s team provided financial and accounting services to many of Techcelerate Members including Richard Francis (Makeurmove) and Richard Beaton (App55). Michael also provided financial advise in closing the deal with Accusoft. Crowe Clark Whitehill was a sponsor of Northern Tech Awards and Techcelerate for many years, together with Aaron & Partners. Many thanks guys.
L to R: Andrew Threlfall, Anish Kapoor (head shot), Richard Beaton and Martin Rue
Richard Beaton on the other hand is in the process of moving forward from App55, a payment solution similar to Stripe. It was really nice of him to join us.
Others from Manchester tech ecosystem included Dan whatshisname – sorry! Dan Sodergren, the so called marketing man of Manchester. Dan seems to have fingers in everything and was one time user of edocr.com. Dan and Ian Moss are co-founders of a new tech startup, Follogro, incubated by Up Accelerator.
L to R: Paul Rawlings and Duncan Stockdill
Paul Rawlings, another one time user of edocr.com was the Founder & CEO of Screach, and now the Founder and CEO of Deliverd, a food startup. Whilst Paul is on a mission to educate us to eat healthy meals, his fondness for alcohol seems to be increasing. Perhaps a chat for another day, Paul! Paul has done extremely well since he joined Jon Bradford’s Difference Engine, the UK’s first accelerator. Unfortunately, Jon could not join us. Jon and I go back a long way!
Duncan Stockdill pictured above is the co-founder and CEO of CapsuleCRM, which I’m a customer of. edocr had an integration with CapsuleCRM which allows leads to be automatically exported to Capsule for lead nurturing and closing sales. We’ve discussed many aspects of running a tech startup over the years and I have learned quite a lot from Duncan. CapsuleCRM is 100% self-funded and profitable with a great growth curve. I just wish he takes “marketing” seriously, which could really help to grow Capsule faster.
Both Richard Francis and Paul Rawlings helped me in deciding to exit from edocr, when I was quite hesitant with Accusoft. Thanks guys. At the end, it was the right decision.
Round we go: Anish Kapoor, Chris Haslam, Rhys Jones, Martin Rue, Ian Moss and Andrew Threlfall
Anish Kapoor has been a good friend when I needed advice on edocr.com and other attempts of mine. Anish is a co-founder of Telecity, co-founder & CEO of Yuuguu and just about to take up a new role with a venture backed (from USA) Manchester tech startup. He is a good and experience guy to know.
Andrew Threlfall is the Founder and CEO of venture backed Malinko App, a SaaS solution for carers. We also dabbled with integrating edocr and Malinko, but never managed to complete it. Andrew has been extremely busy since he raised funding from AXM Ventures.
Martin Rue is the Founder of Tweetdoc which he shut down. Its a product I loved very much. And to this day, I have not forgiven him for shutting it down. Martin is working on a new app called Yakk, a fun and easy way to learn languages. He needs to launch it without further delay. The longer you leave, the harder it gets as you constantly look for perfection.
L to R: Duncan Stockdill, Anish Kapoor, Tim Langley, Garry Partington, Ian Moss, Richard Francis, Manoj Ranaweera (aka me), Rebecca Stephenson and Ann Dornan
The party ended with Champagne been drunk with 5 mins to go before the Bar closed for the night. Anish wanted cheesy chips, but we never got there!
Tim Langley is the co-founder and CEO of CANDDi. Tim didn’t think much of edocr, but I am glad he joined us. Venture-backed CANDDi is growing slowly but steadily. I believe Tim is trying to develop it the way he wants with a long-term view rather than the short-term view of the investors. Some of the decisions you have to make as a CEO is not pretty.
Both CANDDi and Yuuguu had marketing co-founders. Both left soon after investment. Whilst not a co-founder, Tony Bray hired marketing talent before product launch for Intuitive Business Intelligence. I always thought marketing was so crucial for success. CapsuleCRM has no marketing officer. Different views – could have been an ideal topic for a Techcelerate event.
Garry Partington is the co-founder and CEO of Apadmi and Founder and CEO of Reality Mine. Garry is on a ball with spinning out startups from Apadmi. The rumour has it that he might start investing in startups outside his comfort zone. Garry has already worked out how much I would sell UnifiedVU for, in few years. He also came up with a better pitch than I could.
Its always great to invite Ann Dornan as she thinks highly of Techcelerate. These days, she Heads Innovation at Manchester Science Partnerships, where Angel’s company is a tenant.
Rebecca Stephenson works with Garry, and I know so little of her!
It was kind enough for John Leake to drop in after attending the opening ceremony of KPMG’s new offices. John runs Sci-Tech Daresbury with Paul Treloar, who could not attend today. Both Paul and John have helped edocr immensely. John has personally helped me during darker days – I will remember this gesture always John. edocr’s first office was at Sci-Tech Daresbury, which also provided us with grant funding at the beginning.
James Crawford also dropped in, who is the Managing Director of Touchpoint Change Consulting. Family friend Kusal Ariyawansa also dropped in. Kusal is a wealth manager.
Aldo De Leonibus, Co-Founder and CEO of Inventya attended with his co-founder David Thomas, who now works for Growth Accelerator. David and Aldo used to be tenant at Sci-Tech Daresbury. Other tenants included Lisa, Mike, Nirmal, Robert and Chris.
Nirmal Singh, the co-founder and CEO of TouchIP also attended. A startup founded before edocr but have never been launched yet. There is a very interesting story here. Nirmal has been growing a business he acquired few years back.
As Darren Earnshaw could not attend, Ben Higginbottom attended from Barclays on his behalf.
Fellow tenant, Robert Wakeling, Founder and CEO of Wadaro was also there. Robert used to be my lunch buddy and unsuccessfully tried to get me to write a business plan for edocr for years. Robert has worked extremely hard to make venture-backed Wadaro successful. I can smell an imminent exit.
Andy Yelland, who has done so much to improve the technology of edocr attended with Tricia. Andy was the co-founder and CEO of VisiDeck. He is a brilliant trouble shooter, especially in performance improvements. With a background in games development, Andy got us disciplined in code commitment and documentation.
Unfortunately, Alex Goldstone and Stewart Townsend could not attend. Alex has helped me so many times including when Amazon Web Services went down in April 2011. He got me to learn how to fire new Amazon servers. We used to skype 3 am in most days. I was gutted that Stewart could not make it. I helped Stewart during the early days of Sun (Microsystems) Startup Essentials with introductions and he helped both ebdex and edocr in many ways from sponsorships to servers. Pity both could not attend. I miss you guys!
Tony mentioned earlier is a co-founder and CEO of Intuitive Business Intelligence, which he founded with Ed Smith after meeting at Techcelerate events. Tony and Ian are cyclists. Kusal has also taken up cycling recently.
Garry Partington introduced me to Hugh Campbell at GP Bullhound who later acquired Northern Tech Awards. I introduced Ramaswarmy Iyer (who sold Cashtech to Fundtech), who flew into meet me, to Rhys Jones, who later acquired Accountis.
I believe above sums up everyone who attended, and how we are all connected.
Having written above, for the first time, I am realsing the true talent we have in the North West. These guys and girls are all taking risks to make things happen! And Techcelerate brought most of them together! Thanks to Sam Sethi, Ivan Pope, KPMG, et al for getting me to start Techcelerate in 2006.
People seem to have missed Techcelerate. Watch the space for Founders Dinners!
If any investors are reading this, check out Edeggs. Angel is looking for a seed round. Then Makeurmove. Richard is looking for Series A. Martin is not looking for any investment yet for Yakk, but if you are an angel investor, I would keep an eye out on his progress. He is one clever lad.
If you are looking for a payment engine similar to Stripe, look no further than Richard Beaton’s App 55. Ixis is also a mature business now worthy of an exit (or grow through their own acquisitions)
Looking for Angel Investors?
Quite a few of the attendees have dabbled with angel investment. At the top end, Paul Rawlings is becoming good at taking a punt. Tim Langley has invested in couple of tech startups. Rhys is more of a silent investor. It’s also worth speaking to Tony Bray, but getting money out might be harder. He got so fed up of finding worthy investments, which resulted in co-founding Intuitive Business Intelligence.