To be considered for the TSB’s Smart programme, businesses need to demonstrate an innovative idea which offers significant potential to help stimulate economic growth in the UK. Here, we ask cloud.IQ CEO James Critchley about the other factors at play in getting a grant.
Tell us a bit about your company and how you originally raised funds?
My business partner Paul Phillips and I set up cloud.IQ in 2012 and secured a £2 million investment from a fund manager. Using this original funding we were able to take digital marketing tools to market with the aim to give businesses of any size access to, ‘the big boy’s marketing toys’. We have started out by helping online businesses with tools to increase sales; the first converts 15-20 per cent of abandoned online sales, the second increases conversions by offering customers online assistance with an immediate ‘callback’ facility.
How did you find out about the TSB and what are the terms of the funding?
We’re based in one of the hottest tech hubs, the Shoreditch Accelerator, which gives us access to lots of relevant resources. Recently a member of the TSB gave a talk at our building and we thought it sounded like a great opportunity.
The grant is given on the basis that cloud.IQ will be monitored quarterly by the Technology Strategy Board over the next 16 months to ensure that we are meeting our targets and deliverables.
What did you have to do to apply?
The award is open every three months and involves an online application. We had to complete a number of sections with strict word count requirements while at the same time demonstrating how our innovative idea would benefit the wider society. After completing and submitting our entry, it was scored by the TSB assessors. It was four weeks later when we were told our submission was successful via a formal letter.
What do you think the TSB were impressed by in regards to you as a company?
The UK government has placed significant emphasis on supporting SME businesses in the belief that it is small businesses, not enterprise organisations, that will lift the economy out of the current downturn. I think the TSB recognised that we also believe SMEs have an important role to play in the recovery of the economy providing they are properly equipped. In just 12 months, we have launched a suite of apps for SMEs which have already delivered significant results in helping businesses convert more customers.
What was the plan for the money?
Our winning idea is to create an AppEditor, a web-based tool that lets a non-technical person build, publish and monetise web apps which can integrate email, voice, web, social and mobile technologies into innovative services.
Any plans to raise more funds?
If the right opportunity arises at the right time we’ll certainly try our best to continue to raise extra money to drive the business forward.
Any advice to small businesses looking for match funding, grant funding or indeed any funding?
When applying for funding, businesses should look at how their product or service can directly benefit society. How can their product be tweaked and adapted to meet this goal?
When we demonstrated to potential funders how our proposition could be used to help charities raise more donations, Bridges Ventures could really see the value of our idea. Equally, the fact that our apps can help small businesses increase revenues at a low cost, caught the interest of the TSB.
This obviously can’t be an exercise in window dressing – businesses need to be passionate about the cause they support. And the fundamentals of having a viable commercial product remain – investors will always want to see a financial as well as a societal return.
Further reading on business grants for UK small businesses
Further reading on the Technology Strategy Board (now rebranded as Innovate UK)