Opinion

Wandisco shows how flotations can be done

Congratulations to Wandisco CEO David Richards, who has just raised £45.5 million on an AIM flotation. The FT reported that this "provides cause for optimism in London's technology sector".
 
“I would point out that Wandisco is based in Sheffield, which is in Yorkshire,” Richards told Microscope. You’d have thought the FT would know that.

What tips would Richards offers to anyone thinking of starting a company that uses local talent to create software that helps the development teams at Hewlett-Packard, Walmart and Lockheed Martin to collaborate more effectively over the internet.
 
“You’ve got the right idea there, but those are all Wandisco clients now,” says Richards. Still, as he points out, this is a growth market. “We’ve had a 60 per cent increase in subscription bookings and 30 per cent sales growth it recorded last year.”

Why did you choose to float on AIM? Why shouldn’t people with a social media start up, to use one example, float their dot com start up on Nasdaq? Is there a better example than Facebook? Facebook’s shares were down on the first day of trading. Whereas yours were up by 20 per cent. Is that a sign you’re doing something wrong? Surely we should all follow Facebook. They’re the leaders aren’t they?
 
“It’s a great story for the UK technology sector,” says Richards. He says we have to be more realistic and less gung ho in the UK. AIM is the perfect vehicle in this case, he says. “I don’t think there will be any spectacular launches, but what analysts call a long tail of smaller companies.” Not always though. Analysts say that Wandisco offers the kind of growth that many mature UK tech stocks, like Sage, are not providing.
 
The trouble with social media is there’s so much repetition. But isn’t Wandisco a sort of techies’ social media?
 
“Wandisco helps developers, who often work on different time zones, to collaborate more purposefully,” says Richards. “Can I just say one thing about version control? That is absolutely one of our biggest selling points. We save companies thousands of man hours by track different versions of documents when several people are working on the same project online.”

What are the three pieces of advice you’d give to UK technology start ups?
 
Don't focus on creating a business plan that you think venture capitalists will like - they are not experts like you. Go with your gut instincts,” says Richards, “and if you haven't got gut instincts - forget it!”

Start-ups aren't for everyone, he warns. “Make sure your whole family is bought into the idea. If they're not it's just a pipe dream,” he says. And finally, be careful about over estimation. “Everyone, first time around, thinks they are going to solve world hunger by lunch time. Everything takes longer than you think.”

 

This was first published in July 2012

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