Ankur Mohan, Founder & CEO of MarketXLS, moved from India to Galway in December, 2016 after winning the International Entrepreneurship Competitive Start Fund (CSF). MarketXLS make software that makes it easy to research, track and invest in stock markets. This is his advice from his experience of applying for the CSF:
2nd March, 2017
Freedom to work on something which did not feel like “work”
I always wanted to start my own company, but my exciting full-time job kept me going 9 to 5 for a long time. MarketXLS began as a personal project which I worked on during weekends and nights. I put together a little website and very soon I realized this product provided good value, and I could exchange it for a price.
The freedom to work on something which did not feel like 'work' and still kept me financially sound was the primary aspect that inspired me to take this full time. There is, of course, still a long way to go for this business, but I feel much more confident now than ever.
First year challenges
The challenges we faced were around procuring stock market data and around turning MarketXLS into a subscription-based product. Even though we had consistent sales to keep the business going, we could not enter into bigger deals with data providers by making larger investments in more accurate data. After on-boarding many customers on a plan that required regular support but only a one-time payment, we recognised that we needed to change our pricing model.
Enterprise Ireland’s CSF was hugely important to us in both these areas as it gave us confidence to get these challenges addressed, not only through finance but also by being supportive of the plans.
The CSF offered a ‘complete package’
The International Entrepreneur CSF programme was a ‘complete package’ of everything that was needed for MarketXLS to scale - the support to expand into the EU, the support to get the Visa (founder being from a non-EU country), the mentorship programme and, most importantly, the credibility that comes with a business being an Enterprise Ireland invested company. After the successful entry, we realised there was a lot more to the programme than what we initially anticipated, like being plugged into the community, great networking events, and fantastic learning opportunities for new entrepreneurs.
Getting the CSF has enabled us to make the product ready to scale by completing all the ground work that was necessary before we go after sales. The process is still ongoing, but we are making progress in the right direction. We could enter into data agreements with the major stock exchanges, and we invested in changing the product to support SAAS based pricing model. We also got help from an exceptional legal team to keep the business protected when we are ready to roll.
Advice on the CSF application
Clearly articulate how the CSF could help your business take the next steps. Having some existing customers or, at least, a great working prototype would increase the chances, I think. I would also say that, even participating in the process of applying may prove an excellent experience, as you find yourself provoked by questions which can lead to an even more refined business model.
Being good with numbers especially around market estimate, existing/projected revenue and costs should help as well.