The BizSpark startup of the day is CogniDox, based in the UK. You will find below an interview with Paul Walsh, CEO of CogniDox. All the best to them and congrats for being the startup of the day!
Interview with Paul Walsh, CEO of CogniDox
Tell us who you are and your role in the company.
The company was incorporated by three founders in April 2008. Full-time employees are Paul Walsh and Vittal Aithal. Paul is CEO and looks after sales, marketing and anything else that needs attention. Vittal is CTO and in charge of product development and support. Our flagship product is CogniDox, a smart document management solution with integrated support for the product lifecycle. We’re based in Cambridge, UK.
What did you do before creating your company?
Vittal and Paul have worked together almost continuously since 1997. Companies we previously worked for are in the Silicon market. Our last company was typical – three thousand employees spread over a dozen sites on 3 continents and working on many projects in parallel. Typically, Paul would manage software development and Vittal would develop specialist tools to support development. In that way what we’ve done with tools was like running a small start-up within larger companies. We had our share of new ideas, but still had a user group to try things on.
How do you feel being the most promising ‘Startup of the Day’ per Microsoft BizSpark?
It’s a huge honor. We’ve looked at other previously selected companies and they are impressive.
What is your company’s mission?
CogniDox is web-based, document management software for high-tech product design, collaboration and knowledge transfer to customers and partners. It fits well with companies who work in the knowledge economy; generate lots of innovative R&D, and need to share their knowledge with others in the value chain.
Our market is Semiconductor, System-on Chip, Consumer Electronics and Embedded Systems. This is the sector we came from and we chose this niche because we knew it and because it allowed us to focus on a manageable number of leads.
We keep a list of example clients at http://www.cognidox.com/company/customers. It includes many world-leading Silicon companies ranging in size from ten to many thousands of users. We’re very proud they use us despite our small company size.
How did you get the idea for your company?
We had the opportunity to spin out certain tools under an IPR agreement and we could sell these to other Silicon companies. The source code in CogniDox would require a team of 15 developers and 2 years to write from scratch, and has a cost value of around $4 million. Our “parent” company (they own no equity) is still a customer.
Tell us about your funding history. Are you currently looking for funding? If so, how much?
The company is bootstrapped, funded by customer license fees and maintenance agreements. We’re not actively looking for funding. It takes time away from customer wins we don’t want to lose. If the right proposal came along, we’d consider it.
How many employees do you have? How many developers?
We currently have two developers and three employees. We have many years of software development already completed however.
Are you hiring? If yes, what are you hiring and where?
Yes, software developers but slowly and organically. It’s still early enough to consider the right joiners as founders, and we are more interested in people who understand what that means than “regular hires”.
Which platform are you building on? Why?
It’s a mixture of LAMP open source technology and .Net for Windows development. The choice depends on the ‘fit’ to requirements and of course what the users ask for. We like to partner with companies who sell complementary tools for Silicon and Software teams. We offer plug-ins to Enterprise software such as Salesforce and SugarCRM, and developer tools such as Perforce SCM. Recently, we added a Microsoft Office Word 2007 Add-in to our list of features.
Where do you see opportunities today in the Software/internet area?
Knowledge worker applications - the long-awaited dawn may finally arrive, and software will genuinely improve people’s productivity by giving back time currently lost to searching our information overload.
What do you think about the BizSpark Program?
We enrolled in the BizSpark Program in August 2009 and really appreciate benefits such as the ability to obtain licenses for Microsoft products to assist our development. Without the BizSpark program it's highly unlikely that we would have been able to fund development for MS Windows.
Do you have any advice for young Software entrepreneurs?
You will run out of money long before you run out of ideas. It’s fun to be creative, but even more fun to validate your ideas against real customers. Be prompt in customer support and do it with a smile - be seen as both knowledgeable and friendly. That way, the perceived risk of dealing with a small new company will be alleviated.
Who’s your role model?
We’ve been inspired by the strong entrepreneurial spirit around the Cambridge cluster. Our early role model was Hermann Hauser who has started many companies and brought the spirit of Silicon Valley to our region.
What’s the ONE THING you would like readers to take away from this interview
That knowledge management and collaboration is business-critical for R&D companies, and we have the best solution for the Semiconductor and Electronics market.