Essensys is one of the more long-standing examples of a startup. The company was founded nearly a decade ago in November 2006 with the goal of providing a cloud-based platform for managing IT estates and assets in offices and across businesses.
The firm was set up by Mark Furness, Barry Clark and Bryn Sadler in London, and has grown to open another office in New York and employ 70 people across the UK and US.
V3 fired our spotlight questions at Furness to find out more about his company.
Why did you choose to establish Essensys?
I simply thought that pretty much all IT and communications service provisioning was a pain and always took way too long with too many people and processes in the way to deliver anything when it was needed.
By the time the IT team gave you what you asked for it was normally too late and not really what you wanted in the first place.
I thought that if you could enable user self-service and automate service delivery you could empower users to get what they need how and when they need it.
Tell us how you got your business off the ground.
We started the business with £7,000 so it was really a case of 'get paying customers' quickly!
That meant we had to be open to every revenue opportunity in the very early stages, even if that meant selling things to customers that were not really part of our core value proposition, such as hardware.
This much needed cash flow provided the investment capital for our wider vision. It was hard to not get side-tracked in the early days by the margins and become a traditional reseller so we had to stay focused and ensure that we reinvested every pound of margin into research and development.
What technology do you use?
We're a cloud business at heart. In fact, I think we were ‘cloud' before it became the big industry term it is today.
We run our own IP network to control the quality of the user experience from end-to-end and on top of that sits our orchestration software which is built using several languages including Java and PHP.
Are you based in an incubator or startup centre?
We're actually the technology platform that powers many incubators, serviced offices and innovation centres so we're very familiar with these environments.
What level of funding have you received so far?
Apart from our startup capital we had very limited funding, or more importantly, access to funding in the early days.
We had support from RBS via the Small Firms Loan Guarantee Scheme after a couple of years and more recently Barclays has provided us with a significant facility which we may use as we scale out our operations and/or acquire other companies to help accelerate our growth.
What challenges have you encountered to date?
Cash flow, customers, service, sales, people. You name them we've had them, as pretty much every growing business has.
Our biggest challenge, though, was actually when we had a long delay in getting our VAT number. That nearly pushed us under in our first six months!
What's been the biggest highlight of your business so far?
I think the moment our software was used in anger by a customer for the first time, back in October 2010. It took us nearly four years to develop. They absolutely loved it! It was a game changer for them.
What does your company do to relax or have fun after a busy day?
We're a pretty close-knit bunch so there's always a group gathered around the office bar and pool table at the end of the day.
What did you do before starting Essensys?
My very first job was as a professional drummer. But a year before I started Essensys I was working in a take-away in south London.
With £5 a week left over after I had paid all my bills I was living off cornflakes and the dream of starting my own company.
What are your favourite and worst things about running your own startup?
My favourite is the learning. It never stops. I literally learn something new every single day. The worst thing is when people don't work out. They're the really tough times for me.
If you could emulate the success of another startup, which would it be?
I've racked my brain trying to find a different answer but it's got to be Google.
Do you work remotely, in a shared environment or have your own office space?
We're in our own space in both locations. As many shared office operators are our customers we felt we couldn't be seen to favour one by being in their space.
Smart or casual?
I'm a smart/casual kind of guy these days. In the early days we were all in suits and then we had a casual period before going back to shirt and tie. Now, finally I hope, we've settled on casual.
I find with tech people ‘smart' can be a very subjective thing. Better to be casual and not be shocked by the comedy tie and Hawaiian shirt combo fail of your colleagues.
Coffee shop of choice?
I know I'll be slated by my lot as it's not some obscure hipster place that makes a flat white with penguin milk, but has to be Starbucks for me!
Beverage of choice?
I do love a good vodka martini, but if not a cold lager always hits the spot!
I love the Carlsberg Sports bar in The Casino on Leicester Square. Chicken wings, beer and football. Perfect!
Slack. It's a great way to be involved in wider company conversations without having to always contribute. It's so much more efficient than email for internal communications.
Do you benefit from startup communities and related networking?
Not really as we're almost a decade old now, so we probably just missed out on the benefit of these networks and communities.
Could the government and technology industry do more to support UK startups?
I think we're getting there in the UK now. It's a much better environment for tech startups now than it's ever been. But, of course, we should always be striving to do more.
If you want to take part in the V3 Startup Spotlight contact Roland Moore-Colyer.
Previous startups under the spotlight have ranged from cleaner-seeking iOS and Android app Hassle.com and social networking app 6Tribes, to gaming social platform gamesGRABR and cloud services provider Cube52.
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