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Featured Business: Scurri
Name: Rory O’Connor, CEO/founder, Scurri – an e-logistics company whose technology can be used by e-commerce merchants to manage the shipping of goods.
Employees: Six, with plans to double by the middle of 2014
Winner of the Irish Internet Association’s Dot ie Net Visionary Awards “This is the ‘One to Watch‘ Internet Start-Up of the year” category for 2012, County Wexford-based Scurri has a lot on its shoulders for the future. But, with a €600,000 investment secured in late 2012, the company is well on its way to proving itself. It plans to hire six staff by mid-2014 and another four before the end of 2014. These are in addition to its current full-time staff of six.
Established in 2010 by Rory O’Connor, whose professional background includes working at a strategic level in Waterford Crystal, the original idea behind Scurri was to develop a technology to bring transport companies and consumers closer together. As a consumer himself, O’Connor had noticed that the transport and logistics industry was quite low tech, so he set about making it easier for consumers to ship goods.
Through learnings gained on Enterprise Ireland’s iGap programme, such as operating a lean start-up in an agile environment, the company is always on the move in terms of improving its processes and offerings.
Scurri’s focus for 2013 is the B2B market and working directly with e-commerce merchants who have put value on the technology developed by Scurri to match merchants with transport companies.
Interview with Rory O’Connor
What was the inspiration for setting up your business?
I was surprised at the lack of transport companies on the web. Initially, the idea was moving pallets around for sites like DoneDeal. I got the idea based on my surprise at how low tech the industry is.
What have been the highlights to date?
Building something from nothing. I don’t see it as work. It’s something I do every day; it’s a challenge; it’s something you want to succeed in. Seeing six people employed gives some satisfaction.
How did you initially fund your business?
My own savings. Then I bootstrapped it by consulting, and then we got some funding.
Have you diversified your offering from your original focus or set up other businesses?
We definitely diversified from the original focus. I think that’s true with any start-up. You have an idea, you have investment if you’re lucky and, in most cases, the idea changes. Originally, the platform we built was to match consumers with small transporters; for a variety of reasons that didn’t work. We looked at B2B and they saw value in the software we had built.
What’s your favourite part of being a business owner/entrepreneur?
Bringing something from an idea to something that works.
How do you achieve a work-life balance?
I don’t see it as work. I do have a big family; they’re very important to me and I have a lot of support at home. Sometimes I feel I should spend more time on my own time, but there are things that need to be done.
Are you inspired by any business figures or success stories?
I am – lots of different ones for different reasons. I’m always looking to see what people have done and whether I can learn anything from it. Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, was on the iGap programme as a mentor and changed my whole perception of a start-up. I think Billy Walsh’s way of coaching our Olympic boxers – focusing each day on doing the best you can that day and keeping focused on doing the very best you can every day; if you continue to do that, day in and day out, you give yourself the best chance of meeting your goals.
What tools do you utilise that benefit your customers or that make running your business easier or more profitable?
Lean – the whole idea of taking lean manufacturing principles and applying them firstly to software and secondly to the overall business. We’re very focused on that. It’s one of our values and we apply it to everything we do.
Do you feel you know what your customers really want? How do you stay updated with this information?
It’s a hard thing to keep ahead of, and the only way is to talk to them. I spend all my time out of the office; modern communications mean I can stay connected. It’s the only way you can do it and, even at that, it’s difficult.
What has been the biggest challenge your business has faced?
We’ve achieved every little milestone: getting funding, broad sales targets. The biggest challenge is to make something that people want and need. When you’re building software, it’s very easy to build something people don’t need. It’s a daily struggle to build stuff that people really need, not what we think they need.
What do you think the biggest challenge to businesses in Ireland is at the moment?
I’m lucky in that people are investing in the industry we’re in. While it has been readily available in our sector, I know businesses with potential that are starved of credit.
What part of running a business comes to you naturally?
I think I’m particularly suited to start-up business. I love projects. I love putting a team together and tackling the problems.
What has been the best reward in running your own business?
To see things like winning the IIA “One to Watch”. To see the recognition – it’s not just for me, it’s for the team. To see people using your products, that first sale; and to see people posting good comments online – that’s very satisfying.
What was the main catalyst for growth?
Knocking on doors and getting the right partners.
How did you scale/grow your business?
We haven’t really scaled it to its potential yet and we’re not going to spend money marketing a product that’s not ready to scale.
How do you get ideas to further your business?
I’m never short of ideas; I just go through a scientific process of assessment. If we want to change something, we’ll generally do it small and see if it works. We actually have a huge bank of ideas; we brainstorm and have a creative process for that. If it doesn’t work, we stop and try something else.
What motivates you to stay running a business?
I don’t know, it just happens every day; I don’t see it as work. I feel there’s a drive there but I don’t know what it is.
What’s your vision for the future?
We have a clear vision and it hasn’t changed no matter how much our focus has shifted from consumers to businesses. It’s to make delivery simple through technology.
What obstacles to growth have you faced in the past?
It’s easy to have growth on a page – in a business plan. Actually doing it is difficult. In one way, we’re making our own luck by being fast and agile.
Do you have a mentor; do you find this has positively impacted on your success?
I’ve had various mentors at different stages. I’ve sought out my own mentors. For example, I knew our Chairman, Brian Patterson, from Waterford Wedgewood. He was CEO of Wedgewood and Chairman of Vodafone – he has a lot of experience. At one stage, we were doing work around customer feedback and sought advice from Jill Walker who was directly involved in the Net Promoter Score. If there’s something I need, I find out who could help and go as high up as I can. Surprise, surprise – a lot of the time people actually help. It works.
What’s the best business advice you’ve received?
Perception is reality. If you portray yourself as a small local startup, that’s how you’re perceived; if you portray yourself as a leading international company, that’s how your potential customers, investors and partners perceive you.
What’s your favourite motivational business quote?
“No plan ever survives contact with the enemy” – Carl von Clausewitz, Prussian army general.
What would be your advice to businesses starting out?
Test your concept as soon as you can. Find out if people really have a pain and focus on that. If they don't have a real problem to be solved (i.e. not high on their priority list), it doesn’t really matter, so move on and find something that is a problem for them. Don’t get stuck on proving that you’re right; accept that you’re probably not and work out what they really need.
What, if anything, would you do differently?
I would move faster – even though we move very fast.
Phone: +353 51 596 044
Interviewed by: Web Content Partners
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