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Moving forward and looking back

This is the fourth and last in a series of articles charting the progress of participants from HutZero, a new cyber security entrepreneur acceleration programme run by Cyber London (CyLon) and the Centre for Security Information Technologies (CSIT) at Queen’s University Belfast

In my recent blog post, I talked about market research and user feedback. For me, this feedback was crucial in securing funding – most notably, for a grant for research and development (R&D), which I then won in mid-December 2016.

There are other routes you can take, but applying for R&D grants is particularly effective for startups. These organisations, such as InvestNI and Innovate UK, exist specifically for startups and are only too willing to help.

You have to bear in mind, this approach is not a “free lunch”; applications take time and effort, and you will go through a couple of rounds of revisions. However, getting through this process is a big achievement and an early validation of your project.

So where did I end up? I walked into HutZero as your classic solo inventor, with a crudely functioning prototype, a brain, equal parts hubris and naivety, and almost no contacts.

In the months that followed, I built up a network of contacts, met potential users, was rebuffed many times and occasionally made a fool of myself. I re-tooled my idea in a way that is both more concise (so it knows the problem it is solving) but also more wide reaching (so it knows where it sits contextually) and melted down the original app to re-cast it as a web service.

In addition to the grant, I’ve built up some joint venture/partner relationships in both academic and commercial circles, and now have my web service in trial with one firm.

It’s still early days, but I already know my focus for the next 12 months. Turn a workbench idea into a business, polish the product and trial it with early adopters with an eye to raising more funds for a larger-scale expansion. From an innovator’s perspective, there are few paths that look more exciting than that.

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