What: Free online ‘dashboard’ for household bills
Founders: David Sheridan, Hugh Nimmo-Smith and Richard Lewis
Operating since: October 2015
“Our company, Onedox, provides a single online”dashboard” for all consumers’ household bills. As well as giving people a better record of what they’re paying, the service also provides automatic notifications whenever a better deal is available, inviting them to switch providers. In short, we hope our start-up will save people time and money.
We’re pleased to say we’ve got the platform up and running with very little capital. However, it is inevitable that we’ll eventually need much more significant resources for marketing and PR in order to secure customers.The site will be free for users, and we plan to earn introduction fees every time we help a customer save money by switching to a new supplier.
Is it better to first prove this commercial approach is viable with a small number of customers, then seek to raise significant investment? Alternatively, should we seek that investment prior to proving the revenue model?
Plenty of businesses have raised significant amounts of venture capital to draw customers in long before they’ve worked out how they’ll make money from them, but is this’ build it and they will come’ approach still a credible idea?”
The question of when to take Investment, or indeed whether or not to take it at all, is perhaps the most important question that every business has to grapple with.
I find it useful to consider this based on the stage of the business: proof-of-concept development, market validation, commercial execution and finally, the scale-up phase. At each of these stages, the risk profile for the investor is different. Each level of risk translates into a level of investor demand that should be reflected in the price that an investor is willing to pay. From an entrepreneur’s perspective, it is about how much of the company you’ll have to give away.
It sounds as though you’ve got your proposition to the stage where you are ready to take it to market. You will certainly find it easier to raise money if you can fund market trials and get to the next stage where you can show proof of market demand and proof of your ability to execute commercially.
We should not ignore the fact that funding is not always available and that investor appetite for risk tends to fluctuate. For this reason, I’d always advise businesses to engage with investors at each stage of the process, not so much from a “we need cash within the next three months or we are dead” perspective, but more from a “we are growing our business, we might take investment at some point and we are interested to know which investors out there share our vision” perspective. You will be surprised at what you learn through investing the time required to do this.
Finally, it is important to understand that by taking investment we are acquiring substantial overhead and relinquishing substantial control in our companies. My advice would be to think twice before taking money if you don’t absolutely need it. If you do need it and you can get it, you need to always consider your investors, their motivations, their constraints and their timeline and ensure that you invest the appropriate amount of time in carrying them along with you on the journey.