Posts tagged #business-7

Diary of a Start-Up: Safetray Makes its Festival Debut

Diary of a start-up - Safetray makes its Festival debut
By Alison Grieve on Aug 27, 10 10:27 AM in Diary of a Start Up


My nails dramatically decreased in size during the month of July. I nervously nibbled as I awaited the first production units arriving from China, desperate for Safetray to play its own part in the largest arts festival in the world - a showcase in front of an international audience within my beloved hometown during Edinburgh's multiple festivals.

Leading up to the arrival I had been fed worrying snippets of information regarding the progress with the mould tool. The initial photographs were kept from me - Fearsomengine quite rightly deciding that a snapshot image of a mangled piece of plastic might be more upsetting than informative - and so it was a relief indeed to finally see (a fortnight ago) a physical embodiment of the Safetray looking actually rather handsome.

And so it was, at a stall in the glorious sunshine at Edinburgh's Foodies Festival in Holyrood Park, the very first Safetrays - hot off our production tool - were let loose on the general public; and what a reaction we received.

The most common reaction from people was the suggestion that we should go on Dragons' Den; the second was one of surprise that nobody had ever thought of it before.

A new reaction - limited to a handful of people, exclusively Scottish - was that Safetray is 'cheating'. A remnant of our Calvinist past, I imagine: if it makes our lives easier, it must be immoral. Curiously, I quite liked that perspective. Maybe it's the Calvinist Scot in me welcoming criticism.

The majority were overwhelmingly supportive and excited by the concept - especially those who were hospitality professionals. Our pre-order book was bulging by the end of the weekend, filled with trade buyers and consumers alike. With a few amendments to be made and our first substantial volume of the Safetrays only arriving in October, I was just sorry that we were not able to sell them on the spot.

An added bonus to Foodies was the amount of people who entered our competition: 'Should have used a Safetray'. The task? To be filmed recounting a tale of an accident involving a toppled tray. The prize for the most spectacular story was a bottle of Pol Roger Champagne, the winner of which is to be announced when we launch our retailing website with video-embeds via YouTube.

Over thirty people told us their stories. There were stories of A-list celebrities with food in their laps; a girl so fresh from a coffee spill accident that she was still wearing the bandages; red wine over a white shirt at a restaurant opening and an accident involving a customer being set alight with a toppled tray of flaming Sambucas. Yowzers.

We chose The Famous Spiegeltent to be the first venue to use the Safetrays in situ. One of only handful of its kind left in the world, this stunningly beautiful mirrored tent seemed a fantastic launch pad for our trays. Amidst acrobats hanging from ropes, strong men flinging scantily-clad ladies, jazz chanteuses singing their delicate standards and magicians turning doves into ducks, the Safetray made its own seemingly gravity-defying debut.

Glasshouse Events, who this year manage the bars in the Spiegel Garden, also work on the Golf Open, the Six Nations Rugby and The Grand National. It's exciting to think of the all events at which the trusty Safetray might be acting as a silent partner in service in the not too distant future.

Our final involvement in what has been a fantastic Edinburgh Festival for us was as finalists in the International Marketing Festival's Brands of the Future competition which took place at the Assembly @ Assembly Hall on the Mound.

I had felt slightly guilty asking friends and family along to what I thought would be a tedious morning of dry business presentations filled with cashflow sheets and buzz words from a bunch of poker-faced suits - not exactly a typical Fringe experience. It was, however, unexpectedly entertaining.

I found myself feeling utterly humbled onstage beside some truly inspirational Scottish businesses: the brilliant language website for children, GrowStoryGrow; fabulous tea house, Loopy Lorna's; parental godsend, Labels4Kids; the super-sexy bikers dream, Dakota Motorcycles; and, ultimate winners, the stylishly ethical Blue Marmalade.

Hosted by the personable and effortlessly funny Simon Fanshawe, the panel of judges included Bill Jamieson, Executive Editor of The Scotsman, and Graham Birse, deputy chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce.

It's easy to forget, when working so much of the time on my own, speaking to Fearsomengine mainly by phone, trying to fit more tasks into a day than I ever felt possible, that there are other ambitious (AKA completely stark raving bonkers) business men and women out there taking similar risks, becoming familiar with the same small hours and writing their own updated business plan and forecast for the forty billionth time.

And it's also easy to forget, in the middle of a festival famous for celebrating creative talent from all over the world, that we've got no small amount of talent and spirit right here on our very own doorstep.

 

Posted on August 27, 2011 .

Diary of a Start-Up: The IP Minefield

Diary of a start-up - The IP Minefield
By Alison Grieve on Jul 11, 10 04:06 PM


This week I thought I should talk about the various steps that were required to protect not just Safetray as a physical product but also our brand, before we were able to start shouting from the rooftops.

I, like all inventors, had to keep my idea a secret right up to the point of patent application. Non-disclosure agreements (or confidential disclosure agreements) can be acquired from the IPO website and signed by anybody you need to discuss your idea with before you are otherwise protected.

I had several friends try to push me into telling them what I had invented. Facetious guesses ranged from 'cancer-free cigarettes' to 'the wheel' to objects of pleasure not appropriate for inclusion in a business blog.

A visit to ICASS (Innovators Counselling and Advisory Service for Scotland) to meet with Alan Garratt was my first step in learning how to protect my idea and the Safetray brand. A qualified and highly experienced mechanical and production engineer, Garratt was at that time responsible for innovators based in the East of Scotland.

He explained that the four main areas of intellectual property protection are patents, registered designs, trademarks and copyright.

Many innovators make the mistake of opting for the lengthy and highly expensive patenting process without realising the complexities of this system.

The majority of new product designs, no matter how unique and innovative in form, do not fulfil the patenting requirements set out by the UK-IPO (formerly the Patent Office). The four criteria an invention needs to meet in order to secure its patent are that it must be novel, involve an inventive step, be capable of industrial application and must not fall within one of the categories specifically excluded (software, for instance, can be patented in the US but not in the UK).

Several searches through some of the world's most extensive databases of patents assured us that nothing like the Safetray had ever existed. The closest thing to it was a patent from the early-1920s involving a strap nailed to the bottom of a tray.

It filled me with a sense of both pride and wonder to think that nobody had thought to advance the concept for almost ninety years. I ponder now how many other inventions there might be floating around, yet undiscovered and unclaimed, awaiting their recipient's flash of inspiration.

With our 'novelty' factor confirmed, patent attorneys, Haseltine Lake, entered into discussions with us to ensure our 'inventive step' was fully explained and justified in our application.

Just the other day, we received a positive report back from the IPO examiner stating that they hadn't found any documents that might hinder our application. It was a relief indeed.

I can't imagine how devastating it must be to plough the best part of a year and all your life savings (and more) into a project only to discover someone on the other side of the world has thought of it two months before you did, but there are numerous instances of that happening since the history of patents began.

Design registration is a cheaper, simpler way to protect a product innovation if the value lies in its appearance rather than its function. It's important to note that you cannot apply for design registration before you apply for a patent - a fact that was thankfully pointed out to me by Alan Garratt. Design registration is particularly useful if your product's distinction from your competitors is visual.

The iPod, for instance, uses technology that was known for many years before Apple produced its version but an instantly recognisable design combined with their weighty brand is what made the product both successful and immediately identifiable.

Which leads me to our branding - quite a project in itself.

With quotes for an outsourced logo design coming in at around a thousand pounds, we decided to combine the creative efforts of myself and Fearsomengine and come up with our own design.

One of the early front runners in our hunt for a logo was of a waiter (we called him 'Logoman') stepping (or running) out of a warning triangle whilst holding a tray.

Although we liked Logoman and chortled inwardly about 'thinking outside of the triangle', we decided that having a warning symbol on our logo might not induce quite the emotional responses we were looking for.

After endless debates and design files being sent backwards and forwards, the font was chosen by Fearsomengine, I then extended the cross in the 't' and placed a bottle and glass on it, and Fearsomengine created an overlap to make it look more contemporary. Using a white logo on a black background was chosen for its impact and ease of use within the hospitality industry.

We were all happy with the result - or perhaps just so sick of discussing it that we had no energy left to even look at other possibilities. Whichever it was, the logo was well received and didn't cost us a penny.

With the logo immediately plastered all over business cards and rapidly handed out at various meetings and events, I worriedly looked out the notes I had taken on trademarks.

One concern I had with registering the logo was whether 'Safetray' would be considered fairly self-explanatory. You can't register a trademark that literally describes the product.

For instance, my journalist friend was joking about inventing a bra for men the other day. If she were to turn her joke into a reality, under the current UK trademark rules she couldn't register 'male bras' for her brand name but she could probably go for 'moob tube'.

You are also prevented from registering a logo with an image that is too descriptive. Our Logoman, for instance, would have ended up being rejected.

A quick call to Alan Garratt assured me that so long as the extended 't' logo was stylised with the bottle and glass on top, it wouldn't matter that it was a safe tray called 'Safetray'.

Just to be sure, I used the IPO's Right Start Examination Service. This service allows you to have your trademark examined before you commit to submitting it. You still pay half the money up front, but it means you won't lose the whole lot if your application is unsuccessful.

I submitted the logo online and heard a few weeks later that it had met the requirements of the IPO. I was delighted.

I would always recommend using a patent attorney for your patent if you think you have a good chance of having it registered, but having learnt the process for trademarks - and receiving invaluable support from Alan Garratt at ICASS - my opinion is that expensive legal support for protecting your logo is unnecessary.

Besides, like a lot of the experiences through the Safetray journey to date, it was more of an adventure to learn how to do it myself.

 

Posted on July 11, 2010 .

Diary of a Start-Up: Pleasing Some of the People

Diary of a start-up - Pleasing some of the people, some of the time
By Alison Grieve on May 7, 10 11:20 AM in Innovation


I grew up in a household with a permanently revolving front door. It was a bit like living in the transit lounge of Heathrow Airport, with visitors from New Zealand, Romania, India, France, Canada and many others, breaking bread at our family's kitchen table.

This diversity of social interaction provided me with a patchwork quilt of influence and aspiration. It taught me the importance of tapping into to the knowledge and experience of others in order to broaden my horizons and deepen my understanding of how the world works.

It is a lesson that I have applied throughout my career but never more so than since embarking upon the Safetray project. This week I thought it might be useful to provide an overview of some of the people who have been played a big part in guiding me through the Safetray journey so far.

My first port of call after agreeing verbally to partner up with Fearsomengine was John Hughes at Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce. Contracted out to Scottish Enterprise, John advises high-growth start-ups on how to access the various funding routes and support mechanisms available.

I cannot emphasise enough how helpful John Hughes has been in putting us in touch with the right people. Meetings were organised with angel networks; seminars were booked with innovation giants; applications were completed for grants and loans - all with a healthy dose of encouraging enthusiasm. They talk about blue sky thinkers - John's thinking stretches to the ozone layer without a volcanic ash cloud in sight.

To me, an accountancy firm should be more to a business than simply a number cruncher. For that reason I annoyed Shaun Millican of Johnston Carmichael with a barrage of phone calls to ensure our place on his client list. I had met Shaun previously through the business network, Thrive For Business, and quickly established that he was the kind of player I'd want on my team. Choosing the wrong accountancy firm at an early stage would have been disastrous and it was not a mistake that I was willing to make.

I like working with Shaun because I always feel like I've had a bit if a mental workout by the time I leave his office. He is strict with us and tells us things that we don't always want to hear. Like all proper workouts, you know when it hurts that it's good for you.

There are a couple of investment guys who I have also found to be an invaluable source of expertise. As with so many things that I'd like to write about in this diary but am unable to for reasons of commercial sensitivity, I cannot reveal too much about their backgrounds or the purpose of our meetings. What I can say is that both these individuals have managed to ask questions that initially I didn't even fully understand, let alone have an answer for:

"What's your hedging strategy on currency exchange?"

Um...

"Who swallows the cost of a rise in oil prices?"

Erm...

It's all good stuff and helps to advance the business brain. Without being asked the difficult questions I would never have known that the answers even existed.

This project has consistently forced me further and further away from my comfort zone. I feel stretched and challenged, flexed and expanded. While the learning process has felt like a good workout, the wealth of support and expertise coming from the Scottish business community has felt like my supply of protein shakes to keep me strong and able to grow.

If there is one piece of advice that I would impart upon another start-up, it would be to seek out the major players from a variety of disciplines to put you through your paces. It will always feel painful but you'll emerge a stronger business person in the long term.

 

Posted on May 14, 2010 .

Diary of a Start-Up: If Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Diary of a start-up - Week 3: If necessity is the mother of all invention...
By Alison Grieve on Apr 11, 10 04:14 PM


The Observer Book of Invention describes the difference between invention and innovation as this:

'Invention is turning money into ideas; innovation is turning ideas into money.'

When I went for my first surgery with Scottish Enterprise in 2009, they asked me whether we had considered licensing our idea to avoid the pain of both manufacturing and the commercialisation of a new product.

Whilst I understood the benefits of a grab-the-money-and-run method of getting Safetray produced and out into the marketplace, I did wonder what that said about our national psyche.

Are us Scots completely incapable of producing and commercialising products ourselves? Do we really want to define ourselves as a nation of consultants and service providers all selling to each other?

We are historically a nation of engineers, of ground-breaking scientists, of inventors who have shaped the world.

But none of these strokes of genius - from Dolly the Sheep to the advent of the television - would have been possible without the vision to communicate them beyond the confines of our shores .
In the context of Safetray, our product would remain dusty and bitterly abandoned on the shelves of an (un)fulfilment company's warehouse if we didn't have a clear and ambitious strategy for selling its benefits to the marketplace.

Having decided that licensing wasn't an option, we set about defining our value proposition.

The cost, danger and embarrassment of toppled trays very quickly became the three front runners for motivating the industry to engage with Safetray.

With our USP's down pat, I needed to find a way of putting ourselves in front of key industry players. After all, it's all fine and well to have slap-you-in-the-face USPs but if you don't back them up with sales activity, the words would remain redundant on a website that nobody ever looks at.

With this in mind, I trawled through the internet hunting for events that would provide the greatest amount of exposure.

I found the British Hospitality Association's website an invaluable source and I found the Hospitality Action Suppliers Forum advertised under their events section.

The nine-hundred pound price tag was not to be taken lightly at a time when we're watching every single penny, but with fourteen guaranteed meetings with key industry buyers, our decision to attend was a no-brainer.

In past sales roles that required getting in front of senior decision makers within major blue-chip companies it would sometimes take me six months of steadily chipping away, using every conceivable angle and lashings of ingenuity, just to get through to them for a two minute phone call, let alone finding space in their diaries for a meeting.

With a prototype in hand, we sat down at The Hatton on Thursday morning of last week, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the delegation of key purchasers in charge of multi-million pound budgets.

I had no real expectations beyond the event being something of a fact finding mission and a way of gauging the industry's reaction.

It was certainly that... and a whole lot more.

From the very first meeting onwards the response was overwhelming. On the basis of a one minute pitch - it's not a difficult product to explain - we had guys jumping in their seats and telling us that we had made their day.

A promise of putting us in touch with two major catering companies was made almost immediately and the tone of what was to be an exceptional day was set.

We had top buyers taking out their mobile phones and providing us with the personal numbers of MDs of the nation's biggest distributers.

We were given direct contact details for Operations Directors, Purchasing Managers and even CEOs.

We even had guys - substantial players in the industry - who I hadn't managed to get a pre-arranged meeting with coming up to me and asking to see the tray that everyone had been talking about throughout the day.

My favourite quote of the day was from a heavyweight buyer who was putting me in touch with the MD of their usual event rental equipment supplier:

"Use my name. Tell her I said that we need this in our business so she needs it in hers. It's non-negotiable."

The Sales Director of the Park Hyatt in Sydney - following a breakfast meeting arranged before the event - excitedly agreed to trial the tray in what is one of Australia's most exclusive hotels.

My head was buzzing by the end of the day and my book filled with the direct contact details for some of the biggest hospitality suppliers in Europe, as well as personal recommendations from some of their most important clients.

If Carlsberg did a day of selling...

I knew the second I thought of the idea that it was something special but it is easy to forget the excitement of that eureka moment when your head gets lost in financial forecasts of an imagined future and serial negotiations for loans, grants and support.

And I'm sorry to add, it's hard to keep up the momentum of ambition in a country so quick to focus on all the possible negatives.

Come on, Scotland, get it together and 'be a proud nation again'.

Connecting directly with the market has reminded me of all the reasons for inventing the tray in the first place and reconnected me to that intense feeling of excitement I had in Safetray's initial stages.

Invention may turn money into ideas but in the case of Safetray, the innovation part is looking more than a little bit juicy.

Posted on April 11, 2010 .

Diary of a Start-Up: The Path to Product

Diary of a start-up - Week 2: The path to product
By Alison Grieve on Mar 21, 10 09:02 PM


It seems a particularly relevant week to be talking about the multiple steps in our design process to have led Safetray to the stage it is at now.

If rumours are to be believed, our design process involved me scribbling down some sketches of an adapted food and drinks tray, sending them over to Fearsomengine and, BINGO, we had ourselves a revolutionary product.

How I wish it was that simple.

Fearsomengine were involved very early on in the design process. They wanted to have a look at a variety ways of stabilising trays before committing with certainty to my original idea of having some sort of solid retractable device that would slide in-between the fingers of service staff to provide the required support.

Our first focus group consisted of three waitresses who had worked in France, the States and the UK. We discussed how they picked up, carried and stacked trays. Actions they had repeated literally thousands of times in their lives were suddenly under scrutiny and their comments were fascinating.

Fearsomengine got to work with a number of possible designs which were then debated ferociously between us.

We picked three of the strongest designs for Fearsomengine to adapt, modify and add the special magic which only they can do.

The much improved trays were then brought back to our focus group to watch them using them as they would in a hospitality setting.

Two hours and a dramatically smashed wine bottle later and we had picked our winner.

We had initially considered approaching existing manufacturers of the bog-standard trays in China to ask them to make modifications so that we could retrospectively attach our 'clever bit' but we knew that until our patent was registered, discussions with anyone in the industry could lead to their own brainstorm and possibly to our idea being snatched before we were protected.

An extensive IP landscaping exercise was conducted to ensure our product was sufficiently inventive to secure a patent and during that process we discovered several designers who had looked at the very same problem in the past.

We were however relieved to discover our invention could prove 'meaningful differences', changing the function and capabilities of trays in a way that was to that date unknown - a necessary requirement for anyone looking to secure a patent.

But with the knowledge that we were onto a winner came even greater levels of secrecy and in the end we decided to hold off any discussions with manufacturers until our patent application was finally registered at the beginning of this month.

A registered patent does offer some comfort in its protection but it would be inadvisable for us to shout from the rooftops quite yet. I had, once upon a time, believed that there must be some sort of Patent Angel who would swoop down on any copycats and carry them off to the Anti-Parasite Court to be sentenced and eliminated with immediate effect.

Even if you do locate copies, which you have to do proactively and on your own budget, you need strong legal presence globally and a lot of money to back it up.

And it's not as if copycat products come with business cards attached with Mr. Rip Off's name in bold and all their contact details found at pleasesendmetocourt.com.

The reality is that copies are almost inevitable once a product becomes commercially successful.

Deciding to manufacture the tray ourselves instead of using existing tray manufacturers with their distribution networks already established will at least buy us a little time.

Our client-ready prototypes will be with us by the end of this month to take round to excited hotel, bar and restaurant groups but we will need to make some big decisions about how we intend to satisfy the resulting orders.

We are still debating whether or not we should manufacture the 'clever bit' separately but, with a trusted manufacturer secured through Fearsomengine's agent in China, we are leaning towards getting the whole thing done in one place. This will save the inevitable time it would take to iron out any manufacturing glitches if we had to liaise between two separate factories.

With China producing some of the best reverse engineers in the world, Mr. Rip Off may well make his copies but we hope that a rapid commercialisation programme will minimise the damage and, with some pennies in the bank further down the line, we might just be able to hire that Patent Angel after all.

Posted on March 21, 2010 .

Diary of a Start-Up: An Introduction

Alison has been asked to contribute a weekly diary of her experiences of starting a new business for newspaper Business 7.

Diary of a start-up - Week 1: An introduction to Safetray
By Alison Grieve on Mar 16, 10 09:16 AM


I have often wondered, when reading articles about such occurrences as housewives inventing devices for monitoring domestic energy consumption, how it is that somebody with absolutely no background in design or engineering can simply come up with an idea, have it manufactured and then bring it to market with lucrative rewards to follow.

Over the next few months I will be writing this diary to explain the ways in which I became that 'somebody' and to outline some of the pains and gains I experience along the way.Perhaps at this point I should introduce myself. My name is Alison Grieve, a 32 year old single mother of twin boys living in Edinburgh.

After ten years of clocking up sales and marketing experience in Manchester, Australia and London, working for companies such as the QS Network and Lexis Nexis, I returned home to have my boys in 2004.

I set up my events business, Sine Events, in 2006, fitting in what work I could (often working well into the night) whilst enjoying life with my boys.

In the summer of 2009, at an event I was managing for a network of international law firms, I watched in horror as a waitress lost control of a tray laden with champagne, spilling the contents all over the delegation's table of carefully placed name badges, smashed glass strewn across the venue just moments before the managing partner of the host firm was due to arrive.

Not a good look. But, as it transpired, an inspiring one.

Fast-forward a few months - I was sitting, munching my lunch in an office in Edinburgh when the idea struck me.

Why was there no support for service staff on the underside of trays?

An item used extensively throughout the hospitality industry, carrying not only glass items but also sometimes piping hot liquids, was completely unsafe.

And so it was, a few moments of silent brainstorming over such things as how a flip-flop attaches itself to a foot (daydreaming - I knew it would serve me well one day) and the Safetray concept was born.

The first thing I did was to call Fearsomengine.

I had seen them referred to in a number of articles about successful commercial products, such as Bladerunner, Uloop and Puffersphere, and had subsequently introduced myself at a networking event.

I was aware of a few product design companies at that time but Fearsomengine had the edge for me. They were young, dynamic, creating punchy intelligent designs and helping their clients to achieve considerable commercial success.

The meeting with Alan Suttie, founding director of Fearsomengine, was positive.

An old boss of mine used to say that the most important rule to be aware of when building business relationships was that 'people buy people'. That day, with non-disclosure agreements signed and witnessing Alan's eyes widen at the potential goldmine I'd outlined before him, I bought Alan.

He offered me three options: I could pay for their consultancy and retain all of the intellectual property; I could give them a percentage share of profits or I could enter into a joint venture agreement with them and hand over a percentage share of the company in its entirely.

I knew instinctively that a joint venture company was the right decision for me both financially and strategically but I would never, ever encourage anybody to hand over a chunk of their business -particularly one with such strong commercial potential - without giving considerable thought to what they are getting themselves into.

After phoning Jonathon Harris, editor of Young Company Finance, to ask him to recommend an appropriate law firm he pointed me in the direction of MBM Commercial. And so it began - a painful six months of legal negotiations to reach a deal that was both motivating for Fearsomengine but that left me with the level control appropriate to drive the company forward.

Although the percentage split was quickly established, the real difficultly lay in what our expectations were for what each party would bring to the table. It felt a bit like signing a pre-nuptial agreement - you have to continually focus on all the negatives rather the positives before you've even left the starting block.

Running in parallel to the legal negotiations was the work I put into being placed on Scottish Enterprise's High Growth Pipeline - a scheme established to provide advice, support and (for the lucky ones) funding opportunities.

I had originally thought that the process would be fairly straightforward. I was wrong. To get onto the pipeline you need to prove that you have export potential, that you won't be putting anyone out of a job in Scotland and that you have significant financial growth forecast.

The documents required to be compiled in order to enter the pipeline are extensive. I had to complete a full three-year forecast, a detailed business plan and had to be interviewed in a Dragons' Den style dissection of the business plan and our figures.

The challenge of detailing figures based entirely on an imagined future was not one that I had experienced before.

The research team at Scottish Enterprise were helpful in locating appropriate industry reports from sources such as Datamonitor and Mintel and provided a good foundation upon which to base my projections without sticking my hand in the air and plucking figures from the sky.

Although the process may have been a painful one, it did help me to gain a very clear idea of costs and timelines and highlighted the stages at which we would be most financially stretched.

Researching methods of easing early stage financial burdens, such as invoice financing through Bibby Financial, helped me to plan a realistic route through the gaping gaps we had forecast for the first six months of Safetray Products trading.

Finally, in December 2009, we were accepted onto the Growth Pipeline. The next stage was to gain the ever-allusive Innovation Support Grant - a grant available to high growth companies who develop some form of innovative product, process or service. Various forms, emails and stalker-esque behaviour later and we had our grant approved.

I am aware of the criticism that Scottish Enterprise have received regarding the allocation of such grants. I have given it some thought after going through the application process myself.

As a start-up in the current economic climate, there was absolutely no way that Safetray Products was going to receive any financial support from the bank.

Opening our bank account in the first place took a considerable amount of time and, even once opened, we were provided with no sensible way of accessing the £10,000 pot of money we immediately transferred into our account.

In fact, at the time of writing this we still haven't received the details of our digital or telephone banking which means that our only method of payment is to physically go into our branch to do a CHAPS transfer - with a charge of £24 for the privilege - or write a check. Anyway, I digress...

High-growth start-ups usually go hand-in-hand with high levels of risks. These are not risks the banks can immediately underwrite. Angels and venture capitalists might take those risks but not without taking a chunk of your business, sometimes with pretty aggressive terms attached, in return.

Scottish Enterprise can fill that gap in funding, making the difference between an innovation rocketing or nose-diving, but have got to justify every penny to the tax payer.

Innovation may be a risky area in which to invest, and it's well-documented whenever Scottish Enterprise make a boo-boo, but without them taking that (all-be-it bureaucratically) calculated risk many start-ups, including our own, could perish like seeds without water.

Now that I've bored you with a little of the legal and financial background I'll leave you for today but I'll return next time with details of the product itself, the initial stages of marketing and of how to keep a secret for six months while you wait for a patent to be registered.

Posted on March 16, 2010 .