Posted on Wednesday 20 June 2012 by Ulster Business
This is particularly true in the science and technology sectors. Where this kind of regional change has been seen to work before, such as around San Diego, it has not been through one stream of support, but through the networked collaboration of the research, business and policy worlds.
Belfast-based GoReport is a current example of a startup that has been helped to accelerate its launch by the support of Northern Ireland’s innovation community. GoReport lets on-site professionals save time, gain market share and increase margins by streamlining the data collection and report generation process.
In the last few weeks, GoReport has become a new graduate of Springboard, a central programme of NISP CONNECT. CONNECT serves as an “honest, neutral broker” for catalysing leadership and entrepreneurship at the Northern Ireland Science Park (NISP), where GoReport is now based. At NISP, GoReport recently got battle-hardened by Springboard. Springboard gives three to eight weeks’ free support, particularly through coaching by one of NISP CONNECT’s “Entrepreneurs-in-Residence”.
GoReport was founded by Conor Moran who, like many entrepreneurs, based the idea on his own business frustration. Conor had worked as an engineer for 16 years in various sectors. This required the frequent production of reports following on-site surveys. But writing the reports after the real work was done was a painfully time-consuming process. So Conor wondered, like any engineer should, what it would take to build a tool to quicken the process.
At first, Conor developed the concept from the attic of his home, working on weekends and evenings outside his full-time engineering job. He eventually began to expose the concept to the local business support infrastructure, and the project gained steam.
Early on in the process, Conor met with Invest NI, who highlighted that mobile technology could be the best platform for the product. Soon after that the idea won Digital Derry’s SeedComp programme which, along with the generous support of its Digital Champion Mark Nagurski, gave Conor vital confidence to push forward.
Conor then took GoReport to E-Synergy, who boosted development with a “Mini Grant” that enabled the creation of a proof-of-concept for iPhone. E-Synergy then made an investment offer. Now Conor found himself able to quit his job and focus on his startup.
Making the jump to full-time entrepreneur, Conor knew he needed to be out of the attic, and no longer working alone. “I needed to network with technology experts,” he said. Conor found a home for the new business at the Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT), a high-specification knowledge industry facility at NISP, on Queen’s Island, Belfast. Discovering ECIT was serendipitous, as the project has been able to benefit from expertise in the same building that fits neatly with GoReport’s long term plans. And across the wider Science Park site, Conor has found a community with which he has already been in discussions about potential collaborations.
Over the last few weeks, Conor took GoReport through to graduation of Springboard, on-site at the Science Park. This benefitted the project not only with the domain expertise of an Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EiR), former CIO of BT Sinclair Stockman, but Conor also took the EiR’s advice of bringing potential customers along to give critical feedback. This helped to validate the product, and those customers even registered as beta testers for the next phase.
Only last year Conor Moran just had a novel idea about how to solve a real-world problem. But with the combined support of Northern Ireland’s innovation networks, the idea snowballed. Now, GoReport launches its first product into a beta test this month.