In our regular series, our Community Manager Daisy interviews new arrivals at Sussex Innovation about their business, why they joined, and their plans for growth. Today she chats with Roney Soloman and Jijo Olassa from Ignitho Technologies.
What is it that your company does?
RS: Today's technology landscape continues to evolve rapidly. Having recognised the importance of technology innovation as critical to business success, or even survival, enterprises are looking beyond pure-play IT services and traditional outsourcing models today. Ignitho is proving itself as a disruptive frontrunner in this scenario, taking enterprises from ambition to success in the digital economy.
Collaborating on methodology with a world-renowned thought leader from the University of Cambridge, we're rapidly gaining recognition as a market leader in Frugal Innovation for enterprises - the ability to do more with less. This is increasingly relevant in today's economic climate, where enterprises look to start small, learn quickly from experiences and then rapidly scale up based on initial successes.
Ignitho specialises in rapid prototyping and scalable solutions, focussing on driving digital innovation through web and mobile technologies, leveraging emerging technologies such as natural language processing, AR/VR and IoT where appropriate.
JO: Our disruptive new approach to technology innovation for enterprises drives efficiencies through an effective distributed agile delivery model. Our specific expertise lies in developing web and portal solutions which have a sizeable back-end component, often requiring the integration of diverse and even legacy technologies.
The three of us [the co-founders] previously led business units for the likes of Accenture, Mindtree, Cognizant and HP, and other senior professionals have joined Ignitho from companies such as Capgemini and Infosys; we deliver with the same rigour and approach to quality as these big industry players without the engagement overheads.
What sort of companies do you work with?
RS: We’re a B2B business so we work with enterprises or corporates. The value proposition which we have typically resonates very well with companies that fall in the mid-sized category, who have the same ambitions and requirements as the top-end players, but cannot afford the luxuries of huge budgets, unlimited resources or a suitably interested vendor landscape. Such mid-sized enterprises need to innovate the most to stay competitive and relevant to their customers, but at the same they don’t have the appetite to invest big money up front. Hence, they find frugal innovation particularly appealing. Ignitho's customers come from a variety of industries, including retail, travel, financial services, higher education, councils and charities.
What was the hardest thing you found about setting up the business?
RS: I think for us the initial bit was about making that jump, because all three of us were in very senior roles in the corporate world and this was a massive leap of faith.
JO: Each one of us has got about 20 years of industry expertise behind us with large corporates and had very well-paid roles, very comfortable lifestyles, but obviously we had that entrepreneurial itch too. Customers were telling us that they were looking for something which our current companies were not able to service or didn’t have the appetite to do. After discussing and debating ideas, our vision of Ignitho was strengthened with the help of our network of former CIO and industry experts in the UK, Continental Europe and the US. We identified the gap between what the vendors were able to provide and what the customers were looking for, which is the basis of Ignitho’s value proposition.
RS: The other thing which was very hard on us, was that we consciously took a decision not to go to an investor to fund us, we said we’d do it on our own - it's known as bootstrapping. We used our own funds to get our first customer and continue to build Ignitho on our own steam today. To get to our current revenue of £200k to £250k without any external funding, that certainly was hard.
And also, a massive success!
JO: Yes, absolutely. One thing which resonates well: the start-up model which we have, the kind of enterprise we are, is completely different to a traditional start-up. A start-up usually starts with a great idea and then they go about building a business around that great idea. We are a market first enterprise, where instead of just a great idea, we were in daily touch with a market which told us what it was looking for. So on the flipside, our biggest opportunity was the fact that we were market driven, we knew even before we started that there was a gap in the market and an appetite for what we were doing…Market first and not idea first, I think it’s a very different approach.
Is there any advice you’d give to someone setting up their own business?
RS: I think the one thing I would say is follow your heart. If you believe in yourself and you believe in your value proposition, nothing will stop you. That was the one thing which pulled us out of our comfort zone to make that jump from these big enterprises earning fancy salaries - we wanted to follow our hearts and pursue our dreams.
JO: Develop an ecosystem around you of like minded individuals. For instance, in our case, the three of us have come together as co-founders and together we have cherished every sweet victory and together made sacrifices. We could not have done it without each other’s support.
RS: So follow your dreams and find like-minded individuals, but not similar individuals, because if you can all do the same things, then there’s no point collaborating. You should all bring something different to the table.
So you two are very different then?
JO: All three of us are…The third guy is completely different from both of us, he’s the hardcore techie. I’m more the day-to-day guy so I look after what’s happening tomorrow compared to Roney who thinks about what’s going on 6 months from now. For example, Sussex Innovation was something Roney spotted - having those initial conversations was all thanks to Roney.
How did you meet?
JO: Roney and I worked together at the same organisation in similar roles. This meant that technically we were competitors, but we got along very well and had a healthy admiration for each other. It was a happy coincidence that our families also got on well. Vinoo came in because of course, as a technology company, we need a technology expert. I knew Vinoo through a mutual friend.
RS: Fortunately all three of us got the entrepreneurial itch at the same time and Ignitho was born.
Why did you decide to join Sussex Innovation?
RS: There are a few reasons. We wanted something that is not just a physical space but somewhere where we can have an ecosystem of partners that we can tap into. We saw that synergy from the senior level with people like Mike and Peter able to bring in business advice, as well as things Claire can bring in from a marketing and sales perspective, what Lucy can bring in through the Catalyst Team…The biggest thing is that as part of this business we are looking to create local jobs, and we saw the opportunity to engage with the University through you. Being on the University campus makes it easier for the students to make the jump from being in a classroom to working for a corporate enterprise.
So what does the future hold?
J: Our UK plans for 2018 are going to be specific to Sussex Innovation Centre. We hope to have a physical space and get at least 10 team members here, outside of our core leadership team.
R: Globally, in the next year, we’ll be getting close to about 100 people. In terms of revenue, we are experiencing rapid growth. 2017 was our second full year of trading and we have shown 100% growth year on year as compared to 2016. In about a year or a year and a half we are forecasting to get to £1 million, which seems to be kind of the magic figure to move into the next league.
Read more '5 minutes with...' interviews here. Roney will be speaking at the InnoFrugal UK 2018 conference in Cambridge on 27th March, alongside industry experts and thought leaders including Sussex Innovation's Mike Herd. Find out more about the event here.