Positioned number 3 in the top 10 UK tech startups in The Times back in March, Cocoon is an IoT innovator through and through. We caught up with Co-Founder Colin Richardson to hear about his entrepreneurial journey. What we got was a searing, honest and incredibly brave story of one team’s refusal to embrace the status quo.
I started working for large corporations in 2010, after exiting with a startup post university, and my professional life was comfortable, if not a little dull. But with no money worries, and weekends to myself, I sank willingly into my routine at the start of each working week.
Roll on 2013 and something of an epiphany.
I had been facing the daily grind of office politics with a smile, but it was forced, essentially clown paint for the benefit of others. I remained professional and determined, but that sycophantic smile covered the simple fact I hated working for someone else. It was time for something new.
With four friends from a previous tech startup, we set out to redesign home security, and in doing so to make millions of homes safer. Many homeowners across the world with a security system experienced the same problems of false alarms, pin codes and screaming sirens. Given that the tech was basically the same as when I was born, we had a blank canvas from which to work.
18 months ago we set about turning our vision for home security into a business, Cocoon. Here are a few things we’ve learned along the way:
Before you start-up:
Decide what motivates you
I love building stuff. That’s what gets me out of bed and helps me get another early train to catch another early flight. If you have that urge to ‘do it’ then go for it! It’s all about investing in something that makes you come alive, not going through the motions.
Talk to your loved ones
You are making a huge change that means financial and legal risk, and sacrifices to your lifestyle. That doesn’t mean only going out once a week but potentially living for a sustained period with virtually no income.
If things go badly then you could hurt more than just your pride, so support of the people who matter around you is crucial. With that, the desire to do what it takes to get things right, and not just a little bit of luck, you’ll achieve your goals. And everyone loves a goal machine.
Stamina and commitment
Starting a business is new and exciting, but it ain’t just for Christmas. Like a puppy delivered on December 25th, your responsibility goes way beyond that initial buzz so it’s of vital importance this is the right thing for you. Running a business isn’t suited to everyone, and it takes a huge amount of work. For some, the organised dynamic of full time employment and the security it brings could be the better option. If you decide to make this jump, you’ll need to live and breathe every element of your business. Any half-hearted attitudes, and you might just find shit everywhere.
What to expect
We’ve already touched on lifestyle but the pressure on it, at least in the short term, cannot be underestimated.
Unless you sell professional services, most startups don’t go cash-positive in the first 12 months. Software and hardware often take years and you’ll want to pay your staff first, so bonuses or ‘market’ salaries for the founders aren’t going to happen straight away.
Before you quit your comfortable corporate job, make sure you have enough cash in the bank to keep you going, pay your rent/mortgage and put food in your belly. The reality is hard, but it’s going to help you avoid stress or putting your business on hold, and if it works the rewards will ultimately be worth it.
Highs and lows
In the space of four months we grew a team from five to twenty, but you will experience peaks and plateaus.
Press coverage, praise and growth are motivators but you need to stay positive in the slow periods. It took Facebook 11 years to get where they are today, and if Google were a person it would nearly be old enough to drink. It will likely take years for you to achieve success so make sure you plan for that in your personal life.
It sounds obvious but expect the business to totally take over your life. So, whatever your thing, be it afternoons in the pub, windy walks or even Bikram Yoga, be prepared to say goodbye, if only temporarily.
You may well obsess over what you do and spend 70+ hours a week doing it. If you don’t love it then it’ll be hard to keep yourself motivated.