Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Moonlighting as a Company Director......

...and so it begins! 3 years ago we were sat in the finest drinking establishment in central London, Walkers of Whitehall, in the 2 leather wing back chairs in an old bank vault. In these chairs our first business ideas as a duo, two friends from school and A-Level Computing, started to take shape. Our first idea was huge, it was a novel concept that would (and still has the potential) to shake up the entertainment industry for a night out in London. We left the pub after 8 hours of brainstorming through the day, the bar went from empty to packed to us the last patrons in there. We produced some Google docs together for a proposal of what we would plan to do, the software we would develop and the plan for how it could all work. There were several problems:
  • High Risk - The idea involved a high level of personal and financial risk and we would have to be involved in starting the business from scratch including obtaining funding.
  • Bad Timing - The recession was upon us, literally. Many people I knew had lost their job and I felt I had to fight for mine without additional distractions.
  • Location - I was about to move to New York for several months and Rich was living in Switzerland, what seemed like great ideas would have to be shelved.
About a year ago, we returned to the same pub and sat down to talk about potential future plans. At the time I was ready to leave my job for something new, and naturally the conversation progressed into ideas for the future. It was then we had the idea to create StackThread Software Ltd, unlike the previous idea for a start up this would be both risk free and involve minimal investment other than our own time. iPhone and smartphone technology was specifically something that we both found appealing and diverse enough from our day-to-day roles to be interesting to do in our spare time. This also gave us the risk free start up and access to a wide user base to try out working together and producing software. Application 1 was coined at this time, we thought it would take around 5 hours to develop, it has probably taken more like 12 full days and a total of 10 months to get the concept into a polished version.

The reason this took so long, wasn't down to the application development itself, but the other factors which if you aren't careful can stop a start up dead in its tracks. Specifically if you already have a full time job:
  1. Approvals - usually if the firm you work for is larger than medium size you are going to require compliance based approval from the firm first. This involves forms, questions and more forms. 
  2. Register a company - this is relatively easy to do in the UK, but the forms are very specific. We made several school boy errors on our forms - one date missed, one Ltd missed off the name on applying for a limited company form.
  3. Register with the Apple Developer Program. This isn't too bad if you can find a fax machine, the process took us around 10 days. In order to perform this step you need to have completed both 1 and 2. 
  4. Open a bank account. In order to do this you need to have done 1 and 2. We are still waiting for this step to complete, and still waiting for a phone call back from one bank who state they help businesses we asked for their help 14 days ago.
  5. Configuration - You're registered on the Developer Program yay! Not quite done yet, you have to setup the team give them the access required and also link in the bank account to the legal contracts etc. We're here now waiting for 4 to finish.
  6. Release the application - So now the main problem we have is we only got an on device version last week, so performance testing is ongoing.
  7. Tax - Still need to think about this.
So the company account is down £80, with the registration and company fees paid and we're not even sure if Apple will accept the concepts we have as acceptable applications. Still it's only £40 each!

The process we've been through has taught me several things that having always worked in large companies I'd definitely never have known or experienced. If you're planning to do a start up, pick something that you enjoy and can see your spare time going in to. Right now we have 2 nights a week on average coding over Skype and weekend meet ups every month in London or Basel. We also have our first international conference in Prague in 2 weeks. Laptops in the pub! The next part goes without saying, only go into business with someone you get along with. If you're doing application development you're going to be spending a lot of time talking and working together. You're going to be wrong a lot and right a lot too, balance and banter is key.

Our main aim is to have fun building high quality products and a business from nothing to a successful entity. For the first year our aim is to build a portfolio of iPhone and iPad based applications, potentially expanding out into web based solutions where necessary. We're already starting to see interest from people asking what we're doing and even interested in asking us to develop applications for them. All in all, it looks like it will be one hell of a year!!

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