November 6, 2018, by Jake Stanley
Spotting a Global Opportunity and Seizing It
Ingenuity19 is looking for the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators to create scalable social and commercial enterprises that can transform Nottingham, the UK and beyond.
We are looking for students, staff, graduates and early career researchers from across the University of Nottingham to come together and discover problems worth solving, and offer you the tools to create scalable sustainable solutions.
Today though, we heard from Jason Watkins about his story…
In the mid-nineties, I was lucky enough to become involved in a relatively new and emerging industry; The Internet, and I quickly became a relative expert in a number of areas. Today, almost 25 years later, its hard to imagine life or business without the internet. We have become dependent on it and most people reading this article won’t remember life before it. The industry now supports millions of jobs and generates billions of pounds but it’s only possible to be an expert in a fairly narrow window, even within a single subject matter like eCommerce, a topic I know reasonably well.
The framework on which the internet is built has grown exponentially, taking home dial up speeds from 14.4Kbps to home broadband speeds today of over 500Mbps (500,000 Kbps). The increase in internet speeds has led to a broader range of new opportunities and experiences in realtime Gaming platforms like Steam and Twitch, and TV entertainment platforms like Netflix and NOW TV.
While these examples may lie beyond the pockets of most Ingenuity 19 entrepreneurs, there are a bunch of new technologies that are now emerging into the mainstream tech and investor news. The new kids on the block, offer a fantastic opportunity to would be entrepreneurs looking for new ideas and new markets. Enter the Crypto Industry, the Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, AI & Machine learning platforms, Wearable Computing and Drones & Robotics. These are but a few of the hugely exciting sectors that either sit on top of or overlap the internet industry. These opportunities, while different from the mid-nineties, are to me, as exciting and as potentially rewarding as the eCommerce opportunities I pursued back then. Each of these technologies is still in its infancy but each will become a multibillion-pound industry in its own right.
Today it’s never been easier or cheaper to create an online business using a wide range of free platforms as well as promote that business to a global audience. You don’t even need to buy products as drop ship companies will handle this and the logistics of delivery for you. That said, it’s also never been harder as you compete with a million other copycat businesses all screaming a similar message at the same audience, an audience which has become inpatient, price savvy and has little time for poor user experience.
Without doubt, building many aspects of Kitbag.com would be easier today than back in the 90s, cheaper and far quicker, but driving traffic, building the brand into a £100 million business and differentiating our offering would probably be far more expensive and time consuming. Things in that regard have come full circle.
Railstons & Co Ltd (www.railstons.com) was originally created to provide consultancy around digital transformation and the impacts of digital disruption. Now located in the Ingenuity Centre, one of the first clients we worked with, almost four years ago asked us to help them improve the way in which their field engineers reported the results of Inspection and Maintenance works they had carried out. The time it was taking, the resources it was consuming due to errors, formatting and other inconsistencies was costing the company a small fortune and damaging their reputation for speed and quality.
We took a look at the problem and their industry more broadly and saw the impact that current as well as emerging technologies like AI, Machine learning, Drones the IoT and Wearable sensors would have as they converged together over the coming decade. The size of the global market opportunity ran into the tens of billions with over 50% of the market still using some form of paper-based process. We decided that there was sufficient potential for someone with a vision and a drive to build a sustainable business. We developed a platform (www.collabaro.com) initially to solve the client’s problem and we took a problem that often took two weeks and reduced it to less than a minute. Today that same process is real-time. Collabaro has since evolved into something far more powerful and is now something we are commercially taking to a wider market.
We took another client through a similar process and helped them to innovate as well as migrate their learning & development processes as well as their wider HR functions into another digital/mobile platform which has helped them to retain their Investors in People Platinum status, as well as provide a good framework that has been part of their success in achieving a Queens Award for Sustainable Development.
I think when it comes to advice about how to spot an opportunity, I start by trying to understand the application of a certain technology or technologies in real commercial terms on that market, the impact they will have and how they might evolve and ultimately converge. I then imagine what that application will look like and work backwards. Its certainly helped us solve two very different problems and create two very different opportunities.
It was important for Railstons & Co Ltd to diversify its client base early on. This gave us the resilience we needed as the business developed. Its key when working with future technologies to have vision and focus, but to also to keep an eye on the current risks within your control and provide strong leadership and direction to keep any financial exposure at an acceptable level. Attracting the right people is a key part of the jigsaw puzzle, as is culture. Good companies make this look easy. Building sustainability will enable growth and allow for any developments to be scalable when the time is right.
For us, that time is now.
Official Ingenuity 19 applications will be open in November.
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