The company of the day is AspiraCon, based in Ireland. Their mission is to take the chaos out of project management. You will find below an interview with Colum Horgan, Co-founder and Director of Operations of AspiraCon. All the best to them and congrats for being the startup of the day!
Interview with Colum Horgan, Co-founder and Director of Operations of AspiraCon
How do you feel about being considered the most promising "Company of the Day" by Microsoft?
All the team at AspiraCon are really excited about this honour – When you’ve been working for a while building a company and a product, it’s great to get independent validation of your efforts. To get this recognition from Microsoft identifying AspiraCon as one of the most promising companies globally is a real thrill.
How would you describe your company's product and mission?
AspiraCon take the chaos out of Project Management. We know from hard experience that there is huge room for improvement in enterprise software that makes it easier, not harder for teams to manage complex activities.
What did you do before creating your company?
Where did the idea for this company come from? What was the genesis of the idea?
How did you get the idea? What s the genesis?
Two of us we set up AspiraCon and we were both senior managers in a multinational Telecoms software company. Our background was all about delivering complex projects. We had a mixed experience of the quality of enterprise software that was available to us. We found more often than not that the advantages of these tools were outweighed by the pain and effort in getting them to work seamlessly with other enterprise software systems. We would often turn to our internal developers to get the system working the way we needed rather than have to work around the inflexibilities of the tools that existed.
Through this process, we understood how important it is to build “joined-up” software that would be a pleasure to use rather than the painful experience some mammoth systems subject us to! When the multinational company we worked for moved out of town, we were clear that our opportunity had arrived. We hired some of the great software developers that had worked with us and quickly used the Microsoft platform to create great enterprise software in particular in the area of Project management, workflow automation and collaboration.
Impact of externals:
How did you fund the company? VC, Angel, Bootstrap? What is the chronology of funding?
When we were made redundant, we invested our own funds to seed the company. We also gained some matching funding from external investors. We have also funded some activities through related consulting income, utilizing our Project Management and SharePoint expertise.
Are you currently seeking funding? If so, what kind and how much?
We have developed the first release of our core product and it’s been very well received. The next major step is to develop international sales channels, probably through partnerships before investing further in building out the complete product roadmap. This next step will require external funding and we are currently actively seeking this investment.
What about the BizSpark Program? What do you think? Are you going to join? Why?
Cash is king for a startup and bizspark not just allows, but encourages you to look at the latest development and hosting solutions from Microsoft. This can be a great advantage for a startup. One of the benefits of starting afresh is that you can jump straight to the latest technology such as SQL Server 2008 and Sliverlight 2.This gives companies like AspiraCon an advantage over the traditional players with legacy offerings.
Product and Market questions:
Describe your offering. What do you sell and how do you sell it?
Project Collaborator provides a fully web-based solution for creating drillable project workflows that automatically builds project schedules. Offering a simple map-drawing user interface, in the background the tool is generating a database representation of your process, which gives the flexibility to analyze and re-use different process components.
What do you sell and how do you sell it?
Project collaborator is available as an on-premises server solution or as a hosted software as a service offering. One of its differentiators is that it was architected to couple directly to any of the major enterprise project management solutions including Microsoft Project Server and CA Clarity.
Do you have any Software IP? More specifically, is there something unique you are doing in the marketplace?
Yes, our web-based drawing technology is proprietary to AspiraCon. We integrate technologies in novel ways to create a solution that is intuitive and highly performant.
What would you describe as your "primary" market? Are there any secondary markets you service?
Our primary market is organizations trying to deliver complex projects. Our technology also has application for workflow automation.
Do you have a growth plan or strategy? Any plans for Internationalization?
International sales are our key next step. Project collaborator is all about handling large complex projects. This means that many of the organizations who benefit most will be the large international players.
How many employees do you currently have? How many software developers/engineers?
AspiraCon have 12 staff, including 8 developers.
Are you hiring? If so, what kinds of positions?
We hope to expand the technical and sales team some time in Q4.
What technology platforms are you building on? Why? (No taboos)
When we started the company, we had to make a decision on the major technology platform we would focus on. This was driven by the type of skill-set we’d need and the platforms we wanted to integrate with. In the end, our choice was to focus on the Microsoft platform as many of the integration points were with existing Microsoft enterprise solutions such as the EPMS. We develop in C#.NET, VB.NET using SharePoint , Team Foundation Server, dotnetnuke, Silverlight, SQL Server 2005 and 2008.
Are there any customers or clients you'd like share? References or quotes?
The customers that have been key in the early stage of the product development share our conviction the need for “joining up” enterprise software and are very excited by the new technologies that we are developing.
Do you have a role model or someone you have looked up to? If someone in particular, whom?
Steve Jobs – if it’s not heresy!
What were some of your previous endeavors before starting this company?
We have many years of hard graft delivering complex products internationally, but this is our first startup.
Do you have any advice for young software entrepreneurs?
The best advice we got, which we ignored to our cost is to do most of your product development on a piece of paper, show it to potential customers and only then start development. The market is so complex, that you’ve really got to be sure that you understand what real customers need before you invest in the development.
Where do you see opportunities today and in the future regarding the Software/Internet arenas?
We, like everyone else see the move away from the client and into the cloud. The only question is how quickly this will happen and how you make the user-experience better because the product’s web-based.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Our demo of Project Collaborator is available at http://www.aspiracon.com/Products/tabid/56/Default.aspx