Boxed Ice’s application to Mini Seedcamp London 2009
Table of Contents
Originally published on the Server Density blog.
Every year Seedcamp runs an event for 20 companies selected from applications and interviews of hundreds to participate in a week of mentoring followed by an investment pitch, and subsequent seed investment in ~5 companies. However, they also run a series of smaller 1 day events around Europe called Mini Seedcamp. These involve a number of talks, mentoring sessions and may also lead to an investment or invitation to attend the full week later in the year.
Boxed Ice was one of the winners of Seedcamp Week 2009 but we also attended the Mini Seedcamp London on 20th April 2009.
Both Seedcamp events require an application and since the first Mini Seedcamp event (Zagreb) application deadline is coming up soon (27th Jan), I thought it would be interesting to post the Boxed Ice application from last year.
Things that have changed #
A lot of things have changed since the application was written. These include:
- Originally it was just myself officially involved. The company had not been incorporated at the time and Server Density, our server monitoring service, was only in early testing as a concept to see if it was of interest to anyone. But the important thing was the product was available and working. Boxed Ice Ltd was formed on 6th April a few weeks before the actual event, although after the application, and we now have several staff.
- We now have our server monitoring iPhone application released, with the very popular push notification alerts.
- We didn’t ever release a self-hosted version of Server Density, and have no plans to do so.
Boxed Ice Seedcamp Application #
These are the original questions and answers with no alterations. The questions may be different this year.
Education and work history (briefly!) #
I am currently in my second year of a law degree at University of Birmingham, due to graduate in 2010. I work part time as Senior Technical Strategist at London based internet company, eConversions, where I advise management on technical issues. eConversions employs 25 people in search marketing and web publishing.
Last year we generated over £100 million in sales revenue for our clients, launched vouchercodes.co.uk which now has millions of visitors per month and sold social business directory welovelocal.com to GCap Media, the UK’s largest commercial radio group. I was lead developer on the welovelocal.com project and responsible for the technical handover to GCap.
Prior to that, I ran my own software development company which I started whilst at 6th form college in 2005. The company, Olate, employed 3 staff who worked on our 2 commercial PHP software packages before being acquired at the end of 2007, partly by eConversions.
Tell us about your completed projects #
- cardsmart.co.uk – With eConversions overseeing the core development of the site, I was responsible for implementing the key functionality before handing over day-to-day development to one of our partners.
- welovelocal.com – As lead developer, I was responsible for the development of the site including working with large amounts of geo and business data to build a successful social business reviews site. This included setting up the server infrastructure and managing the technical handover when the site was acquired by GCap Media.
- olate.co.uk – The original website, olate.com, was started in 2003 as a project to learn PHP by writing my own and collecting other author’s web development tutorials in a central location. I developed an open source project (a download manager) then moved onto the first paid product, an ecommerce system that allowed other developers to sell and license their software.
Give us an impressive fact about yourself #
During my first year of 6th form in 2004, I was asked to write a book by the then relatively new publishing company, Packt Publishing. The book, titled Invision Power Board 2: A User Guide, was published in 2005. It can be purchased on Amazon.
What are you creating? #
We have developed a server monitoring application (written in PHP) that uses an agent (written in Python) installed on the remote server to report statistics such as load average and memory usage. This is then graphed and displayed through a web interface with the ability to configure e-mail or phone SMS alerts. Server administrators can therefore be notified when critical events occur and plan future capacity by comparing historical trends. The product is either hosted by us or can be installed on the customer’s own server. With the latter option, SMS alerts are still sent through our servers.
What gives you an unfair advantage and how will you sustain it? #
Current server monitoring products have poorly designed interfaces, are complex to set up, do not allow easy phone (SMS) alerts and tend to be very expensive “enterprise solutions”. Our product is tackling all those areas to try and do the basics right to create a product that does the one job extremely well. Just because a system administrator works on a command line all day does not mean they do not want a well thought out interface and easy configuration of their monitoring tools.
Equally, just because you are monitoring the status of a server does not mean that you have many £1000s / $1000s to spend on “enterprise solutions”. We believe a good product can be created that does the required job, follows good usability guidelines and is reasonably priced.
How will you make money? #
The product will be licensed in the same manner as Fog Creek’s FogBugz product
- Hosted by us for a monthly fee based on the number of servers being monitored; or
- Hosted on your own server with a license fee based on the number of servers being monitored with ongoing (annual) support/update contract In addition, customers will need to purchase SMS credits to be able to send SMS alerts to phones either from the hosted version or the installed version. Whilst the profit margin on these would be negligible, bulk purchases would add up.
Why is this team the right one for this company? #
I believe I have a great deal of relevant experience both running my own software company and working within a larger organisation. This allows me to see things from several perspectives to effectively combine my business experiences with development skills.
If you are incorporated (as a company): who owns what, and what is the detailed funding history? If you are not yet incorporated: who will own what percentage of the company? #
The company is not yet incorporated. Forming a company immediately just results in more costs, particularly if you have little or no revenue and still have to pay monthly overheads such as payment processing. We are currently in private beta testing and once that is completed and the product is ready to launch, that will be the right time to progress through the incorporation processes.
I will own 100% of the company.
We are really impressed by teams that get stuff done. Please provide a URL (with login details if necessary) to a prototype of your product, or failing that to a video of a prototype of your product #
http://www.serverdensity.com includes screenshots and a 2 min video demo.
To date, what specific progress have you made in building your product/company (e.g. development milestones, feature additions, customer sign-ups, etc.)? #
The product beta was finished on 9 Mar and is now in invite-only beta testing at www.serverdensity.com. We have a small number of beta testers and just (18 Mar) conducted our first phone “beta feedback interview” with a user. Several more are scheduled for the coming week. Development started at the beginning of Feb 09.
What is the single largest competitive threat to your business that you can identify today? #
Big Brother and Nagios are the classic, open source server monitoring systems. Commercial providers such as uptimesoftware.com and nimsoft.comalso offer “enterprise” monitoring products. Hyperic (www.hyperic.com) could be considered the biggest competitor because they are starting to adopt more “web 2.0” style marketing projects such as cloudstatus.com. Our product is much more lightweight when compared to these. Simplicity is important, which seems to have been forgotten with the current options on the market. We believe the necessary functionality can be implemented to do the required job without generating a bloated product.
Planning for the worst is a key to great success. Think hard: what might go wrong? How can you minimize those risks? #
The most likely point of failure will be lack of revenue to allow breakeven. This is particularly the case if there are overheads such as monthly server costs or payment processing minimum fees. To avoid that, I have only spent a very minimum amount in order to develop and then test the product with beta testers before pushing ahead with incorporation and attempting to charge for use.
What do you hope to get out of the Seedcamp experience? #
My primary goal is to use it to raise awareness of the product by meeting people in the same industry, who are the main target audience for the product. Any discussion and/or offers for funding will be secondary.
Who are your main current or potential competitors as well as identified potential new entrants? #
See my answer to “What is the single largest competitive threat to your business that you can identify today?”
Does any founder have a conflicting future commitment? If so, what? Are any of you involved in other projects? #
Being in the 2nd year of my Law degree in the UK, I plan to complete the final year in September 2009 – June 2010. However, I believe this will have no affect on my ability to work on the company. I ran my software development company – Olate – for 3 years, 2 of which whilst in full time 6th form college. I have also been able to develop the product so far whilst at university full time. That said, there is an option to take a year out or leave the course completely if that becomes necessary. University is great but if it is a choice between that and running a successful company, I will choose the latter.
Does any actual or potential legal restriction or limitation apply to any team member which we should know about (e.g., non-disclosure, non-compete)? #
Apart from open source software, was any of your code written by anyone not on the team? #
Let us say you have 15 seconds to pitch your business. Can you describe your business? #
Easy server monitoring of your server’s health. Server Density tells you when things are going wrong.