Cash call for online management tool

Tech tycoons crowdfunding £1m for software business

Ashley MarronFour Scottish technology entrepreneurs have launched a £1 million crowdfunding campaign to scale up their management software business.

Barvas, the latest product from MindGenius, will launch in October and its founders are selling 14.6% of the equity through Crowdcube to enable the business to expand sales in the UK and US, and to hire staff.

The new venture was founded by Ashley Marron, Derek Jack, Donald Maciver, and Jamie Rorrison.

Mr Jack and Mr Maciver were the brains behind the MindGenius suite of business productivity tools and Gael, which was sold for £20m in 2015.

Mr Rorrison led the development of a Skyscanner product that grew annual sales from£420,000 to £6m in two years.

Named after a picturesque village on the Isle of Lewis that was once home to one of its founders, Barvas is an online project management platform that supports all stages of a project from front-end planning to task management. It will be offered on a monthly software-as-a-service pricing model.

Mr Marron (pictured), chief executive of MindGenius, said: “We chose to crowdfund MindGenius in a bid to find investors who not only provide financial support, but will also add to our database of customers and contribute to, and benefit from, the overall success of the business.

“Initial uptake of the beta programme has been promising with over 1,000 users, plus significant interest from users of MindGenius.

“We noticed that 35% of MindGenius users were project managers and following active engagement with them we determined a need for a tailored, supportive platform that delivered an end-to-end project management solution.

“We want to ensure the viral impact of the product maintains momentum by driving investment into brand building and marketing in the UK and establishing a sales base in the US where we have identified a strong interest in this software.”

The minimum investment is £10, which includes a free one-year subscription to the software worth £108. The other investment levels range from £150 up to £50,000, which comes complete with a lifetime subscription for a team of five, and an expedition to the Isle of Lewis to explore the natural landscape that inspired the product name.

This is the first round of external funding for the company, which is expected to drive the business to a potential growth from £500,000 to £3.8m in sales over the next three years.

Mr Marron says: “An estimated 37% of projects fail due to inaccurate requirements gathering. PwC reported 41% of projects that fail are due to changes in scope mid-project. These statistics demonstrate the need for a platform that encourages a greater focus on the front-end planning of a project, to give projects the best chance of success.

“We have an existing sales channel of over 90,000 users within MindGenius. If we convert 2.5% of our database alone, we will meet our initial projections, not to mention tapping into the 2 million project managers currently in the UK.”

A survey of Scottish startups and senior advisers to the Scottish technology sector has revealed concern about the implications of the decision to leave the EU.  Eighty per cent of the 100 respondents said it was a “bad thing”.

Steve EwingDr Steve Ewing (right), programme manager at Informatics Ventures, which conducted the survey, said: “Overall, the results confirm what we were already aware of anecdotally – that the vast majority of Scotland’s start-ups do not want to leave the EU.

“The vote has created considerable uncertainty, with the potential for significant challenges to attracting and retaining talent and also to raising new investment which is a big issue for start-ups at the best of times.

“Looking closer in, the picture is somewhat more nuanced with most respondents thinking not much will change significantly over the next year or two and some suggesting a weaker pound may help boost exports.  As a group, entrepreneurs can be more flexible and less fearful of change – and these initial findings bear out a sense that opportunities may arise from the current situation.”

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