In just four years, VIA, the business telephony and communications specialist, has grown rapidly into a hugely successful business that turns over in excess of £1 million a year. Alex Tebbs shares the secrets behind their growth and some of the lessons they have they learnt along the way
"Edward and I were already working together at another technology company. We were always intrigued by the idea of starting out on our own. It is the only way to truly be the master of your own destiny.
"We spent a couple of months living together whilst working in Singapore and it was there we took the decision to go it alone. We had noticed how unified communications (UC) technology was evolving. During our research we didn't find a single company providing a unified, easy-to-manage hosted communications solution. We wanted to fill that void.
Building the business
"Last year, we turned over £1 million pounds and we expect that to double this year. It is a far cry from the long days huddled around my kitchen table, and it represents a fantastic achievement.
"We have designed and built our own portfolio of UC solutions to help businesses modernise communications and drive further efficiencies, including those wanting to encourage remote working. Our clients include the University of Warwick, the Association of British Insurers and Teach First, who have a workforce of more than 650 people.
"However, my personal highlight would be securing our first major deal with Oxford Computer Group, just a year after launching VIA. This was our first six-figure contract and I suppose it truly vindicated our decision to start our own business. It was quite a relief and the result of a lot of hard work. The sense that someone trusted you and the service you had built from scratch was intimidating yet very rewarding.
"There is a constant challenge to keep up with advancing technologies. The UC marketplace is still relatively young and it is important that we can quickly established ourselves as an industry leader. To do this, we constantly re-invest in our portfolio of services and work with our clients to create bespoke solutions that meet their needs.
"Separately, we decided to relocate the business from London to Nottingham in late 2014. Nottingham is fast becoming a technology hub due to the popularity of its two universities, which offer many technology and business-focused courses. Leaving London meant we could afford bigger premises. It also allowed us to recruit more developers who have helped us strengthen our portfolio of products.
"It is important to focus and stick to what you are good at. The temptation is to try and do everything for everyone to help generate new orders and revenue. However, this ends up hurting you in the long term. You will end up spreading yourself too thinly. We were lucky and realised this for ourselves pretty early on.
"We are communication experts in voice, video and recording so we focused on that. This has enabled us to become industry leaders in a very short time. We could have branched out into other hosted services, we had the infrastructure in place, but this would have diverted us away from our core focus.
Alex's top tips
- "Be prepared to make sacrifices: Our first year was more difficult than we could imagine. We ploughed everything into the business to make it work – we even sold our cars and moved in together to save money."
- "Stand by your products: To grow quickly you must have a product you're willing to stand by at all times – constantly reinvesting, improving and progressing."
- "Shout about your achievements: Whenever we secure a new deal we shout about it, whether sending out a press release or engaging on social media. It is easy for a start-up to get lost, so you must be prepared to make some noise!"