Our start-up of the week is a product spin-out company called FlowForma, which is focused on serving the 75,000 companies worldwide who use the Microsoft SharePoint collaboration platform.
“FlowForma is a business process enablement tool for the Microsoft SharePoint platform,” explains FlowForma founder and CEO Neil Young.
“Effectively, it empowers business analysts/power users to build out business process solutions across their organisations without the need for software development.
“If you can use Excel, you can use FlowForma.”
Young explained that the overall market for FlowForma’s product is the 75,000-plus companies using the Microsoft SharePoint collaboration technology platform worldwide on a daily basis.
“Initially, we are focusing on opportunities within the Irish, UK and EU markets but this will broaden over time as we scale.”
“I’ve worked in a variety of IT roles in the last 20-plus years, starting in an IT helpdesk and working into more combined IT/business roles such as Project Management and Practice Lead.
“Osvaldo Sousa, our chief product architect, has more than 20-plus years’ experience in software development and architecture.
“As a product spin-off company of Ergo, its CEO John Purdy has backed us from the beginning, he has a strong sales background and Mark Kenny, CFO of Ergo, has been a great advantage with his strong financial background.
“A very rounded team by all accounts,” says Young.
Young explains that the process behind FlowForma is collaborative from the very start.
“You take a business form used in the business [e.g incident management], get the right people from your business to sit down in a room with one of our analysts and discuss how it works – in FlowForma, we then start building out the steps of the process, the questions to be asked at each step and then build out any documents that need to be generated as part of that process.
‘There has been some really good Irish tech success stories, which gives confidence to the wider community’
– NEIL YOUNG, FLOWFORMA
“We play this back to the customer and work through this on a repeatable basis until we all land with a happy online solution that users can also access on-the-go via the mobile app.
“For a simple online form and process like this it may take a total of two days to go live – the more complex, obviously, the more time, but it is much quicker and a more effective process than our competitors,” he explains.
Business process enablement
“Our ultimate goal is to become a leading product player within the business process enablement space across the globe,” Young continues.
“For now, we’ll settle for 300 active customers within the next two years.”
Things appear to be going from strength to strength. FlowForma has just added its 40th customer and 30th employee.
“Things are going to plan – we’re ensuring to scale appropriately as we progress. We’re six months into our three-year business strategy – in approximately 12 to 18 months we’ll be investigating venture capital funding to scale the business even further.”
Having an experienced team has been invaluable to FlowForma’s ability to deal with challenges as they arose.
Challenges of being an intrapreneur
“I think the biggest challenge that impacted us was ‘double-jobbing’ – it’s hard enough doing one job well. It may be okay at the early stages when you’ve no customers but when you start transacting real cash and you can see the horizon, it’s time to stand up and put all your chips in!
“Working across two business units or part-time commitment to a new start-up at night while you do your day job just won’t cut it – you need all your energies focused to get there.”
Young says that the present time is probably the most active in the history of technology start-ups in Ireland.
“There has been some really good Irish tech success stories which gives confidence to the wider community.
“The Government just needs to keep driving support to these initiatives – we’ve found Enterprise Ireland to be a great source of support, not just financially, and the recent announcement of the Knowledge Development Box is another good sign of progress.”
Realism is key to the success of starting-up or spinning out in the case of FlowForma.
“We all start in different places and I’ve had the luxury of being an intrapreneur developing a concept inside the comforts of a larger trading business, so it’s all relative. Therefore, on that basis, the three pieces of solid advice I can impart are: firstly, create advocates for your product (paying customer ones, of course) – they will spread the word better than your best digital campaigns if they have had a positive experience with your product – they will want you to do well!
“You don’t have a product until you have paying customers, even if they are just paying for related services.
“And, finally, be realistic in your projections – set your proof points and hit them, this gives you credibility; when you are back in the room looking for further investment, this is what counts.”