PGi Acquires Powwownow, U.K.’s Leading Conferencing Provider for SMBs

PGi a global leader in collaboration and virtual meetings for over 20 years, today announced that it has acquired Via-Vox Limited, trading under the name Powwownow, one of Europe’s fastest growing conferencing providers focused on small and midsize businesses, for a cash purchase price of approximately $52.5 million USD, net of working capital. PGi funded the purchase through its credit facility and cash and equivalents on hand.

“Powwownow’s dominance in the SMB space in the U.K. makes it a valuable acquisition for PGi,” said Boland T. Jones, PGi founder, chairman and CEO. “The acquisition reinforces our strategy of expanding PGi’s customer base and identifying products that enhance our portfolio, while delivering meaningful revenue and earnings accretion that enable us to fund additional growth investments. Powwownow users will gain access to our award-winning web conferencing solutions, iMeet and GlobalMeet, to drive their businesses forward.”

The acquisition positions PGi as the second largest independent audio conferencing provider in Europe. Founded in 2004, Powwownow offers its customers conference calling with frictionless sign-up, simplified billing and a robust SMB go-to-market approach. Powwownow serves approximately 240,000 active users in the U.K., France and Germany and has a current projected annual revenue run rate of approximately $22 million USD.

”Powwownow’s unique brand and innovative approach to audio conferencing has yielded powerful growth in Europe, particularly the U.K. With its SMB focus and online model firmly in place, this acquisition provides PGi with a growing brand and a captive audience for its iMeet and GlobalMeet web products,” said Marc Beattie, senior analyst, Wainhouse Research.

Posted in Advice for SMEs


powwownow billboard 300x196 Powwownow

Posted in Advice for SMEs

Some Advice on Start up Pitfalls from Shawn Zvinis

Its with some sadness that start up, Tab is not going to see it to the New Year but the CEO Shawn Zvinis has learned a great deal and he shares the highs and lows of running Tab and some of the pitfall that other entrepreneurs should be aware of:

Tab: Startup To Shutdown

The mistakes an angel and accelerator-backed startup made and what we learned along the way.

Tab (previously Subscrib) was a web-based prepaid loyalty app that started in the basement of Campus London in late September 2012 by Shawn Zvinis, Christoph Sassenberg and Gary Luce.

The idea was simple: customers would open prepaid accounts at local shops and earn bonus credit by doing so. We would eliminate payment fragmentation and use the transactional data to automate retention and marketing for these shops. Best of all, customers did not need a smartphone, as we used their mobile number to create their account.

We raised seed money from a local angel investor early on, joined an accelerator and started to grow the team. We encountered a lot of issues that on their own we could have tackled, but together set us on a path to failure that we struggled with.

Our final metrics (at the time of writing this article)

Shops = 25
Customers = 832
Average Purchase = £4.13 ($6.61)
Average Cash Topup = £16.21 ($26.06)
Average Credit Card Topup = £29.06 ($46.64)
Total Topups = £53,811 ($86,571)
Total Transactions = 14,600

1. Building a Random Team

My previous startup did not see the light of day, even though I spent almost six months working on it, because I did not build a team. I thought I was a master of my trade and that I could do everything myself. It turned out that I was wrong about that.

This time around, I was adamant that I would build a team from day one — and that is exactly what I did. I found someone that I could work with, that had similar experience as me and most importantly was able to commit all of their time right away. Not long after that, I persuaded a German developer I knew to stay in London and not return home (after working at another failed startup), but to join us on our journey, as we felt we were executing quickly.

It was not until we started talking to institutional investors several months later, that we realised they viewed us as having no credibility in the space we were attacking and that no early traction, innovative approach or growing metrics would save us.

Investors wanted to see former payments, daily deal and retail executives as the team behind Tab—not three random guys trying their hand at “disrupting a crowded space”. It was not that this was a deal breaker for investors, but because of some of the other mistakes we made, it played a major part in the slow demise of Tab.

Key learning: be from the space or build a team of experts in the space you are attacking; if you can not find anyone to join you, your vision and plan may need rethinking or you need metrics that just can not be ignored.

2. Raising Too Little Too Early

As co-founders, we all had different (short) personal runways, which made money a real concern. Early on, we were lucky enough to meet an angel investor from the finance space that wanted to put the first money in to Tab. We thought this initial seed money would not only solve our cash-flow issues, but would also be a great signal for other investors and would allow us to build our first product.

It was clear that if we did not take this money, Tab would have never been more than a paper prototype — so we took the money. This started a proverbial time bomb that we would never be able to stop: we started taking small salaries that we relied on each month and exhausted our personal savings for anything else we needed. It also made fundraising and cash-flow a priority from day one.

Looking back, we should have continued working part-time until we had a simple digital prototype and early revenue before we raised any external funds. Further, the funds should have only been used for running experiments, marketing expenses and outsourcing the development of things we could not do ourselves.

While our first angel investor helped us get started, it was not a good enough signal for institutional investors, as they were looking for industry experts putting money in. It was also evident that we either needed to be a killer team that has done it before and raise a lot early and quickly, or have crazy traction and growth to get their attention.

Key learning: try to avoid raising a single penny until you have built a working prototype and have some (any) early revenue — and in a best case, revenue that can at least pay your overheads, so you can have the upper hand when negotiating with early investors. Also, raise more money than you think you’ll need and pinch pennies the whole way.

3. Building a Not So Minimum Viable Product

In September of last year, we had lunch with a friend. He suggested that we should find a way to test our idea without writing any code. We were always talking “lean” and this was the opportunity for us to walk the walk. We took their advice and instead of building an app, we printed numbered business cards that we used to identify customers in shop and we printed a simple ledger that our first pilot locations used to keep track of balances and transactions—our paper prototype.

It went very well and in a few weeks we had more than 30 consumers using Tab to prepay for their coffees and pastries, and they used their identification card to pay for future purchases. It became apparent that it was very hard for shops to handle transactions this way and they almost begged us to build a digital version to make it quicker at the point of sale and reduce human error (which was appallingly high).

The problem was that we wanted all the bells and whistles from day one: payment processing, account profiles, multiple locations, transaction histories, email receipts and more. The result was that we ended up building something completely different than what we tested and we built too many features without validating they were needed. We had to quickly start customer development again and ended up rebuilding Tab from the ground-up, which took us another 8 weeks.

We should have quickly turned our paper prototype into a simple digital prototype — nothing more, nothing less. We could have then quickly iterated, skipping features that were not needed and building features that shops actually wanted (and would pay for).

Key learning: build early and as little as possible initially; talk to your customers and iterate your product. Each iteration should be the minimum input needed to generate the minimum output needed.

4. Focusing On an Accelerator Too Early

One of the General Partners at Seedcamp happened to be the first consumer to use Tab at our very first pilot location, the cafe at Google Campus in Shoreditch, East London. We got excited about the idea of being a part of Seedcamp and what it could do for us as a company: open doors, keep our ticking time bomb going and provide us with a stamp of approval for future fundraising.

We tried to join to Seedcamp twice (once traveling all the way to Portugal and once on home turf in London) and we were accepted the second time around. Each event needed our attention for around three weeks: one week to get prepared, one week of mentoring and investor demos, and another week following-up with everyone we met. In total, we spent at least 6 weeks of time devoted to getting in to Seedcamp that could have been used to talk to our customers and iterate our product (or lack of product in the first case).

We launched our first product the day we finally got accepted into Seedcamp, so we had no product validation at this point; we were not ready to start scaling in any shape or form. In hindsight, we should have spent those weeks solely on product development and iteration and applied to an accelerator only when we felt we were close to product-market fit and were ready to start scaling.

Seedcamp has changed me as an individual, and for that I am ever grateful for participating, but as a company we were not ready to reap the full benefits the programme had to offer.

Key learning: being in an accelerator is a full-time job. You should apply when you think you have product-market fit, you have early revenue and you are ready to put fuel on your startup’s fire.

Read the rest of the article here:-

Posted in Advice for SMEs Tagged Tab startups learning when a company fail |

Park Street fire destoys 3 houses Windsor

About 12 people were forced to move to temporary accommodation for the night owing to the fire’s close proximity to residential properties.

The upper floors of the building – the usage and owners of which are yet been established – partially collapsed along with the surrounding scaffolding.

Crews came from Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, London, Oxfordshire and Surrey to fight the fire, while police were required to manage crowds of onlookers.

Windsor Fire

Posted in Advice for SMEs Tagged #windsorfire |

The budget – you might say a positive one?

So this week saw Gorge Osborne present his budget and of course I was interested to see how it would affect small businesses and entrepreneurs.

There have been mixed reviews, some saying ‘failing obsession with austerity’ and others saying ‘moderately positive’, I think I am in the latter camp, of course there were no great announcements that shocked or excited me, but there was some good news for businesses. It wasn’t the entrepreneurial budget I may have been looking for but in a time where cutbacks and frugality are becoming ever more common, there were a few little gems given to us from George Osborne, giving SMEs something  to smile about (at least a little) for a while.

It started well, being billed as the “budget for people aspiring to work hard and get on” a good sign for all of us who work hard to achieve our goals.

And the good news for small businesses didn’t stop there; there was a fivefold increase in the value of government procurement budgets through the Small Business Research Initiative – a significant boost for small companies seeking to engage with the public sector.

Last year saw Powwownow take advantage of the National Loan Guarantee Scheme which allows businesses to access loans with a reduced interest rate. So it is great to see other business initiatives continue.

There were some other good announcements for small businesses, a new £2,000 a year employment allowance introduced for National Insurance contributions from businesses and a reduction in corporation tax will all help to loosen the belts of businesses looking to maintain or grow.

And these are just a few of the changes that will affect SMEs, but overall I think people should take away the positive aspects to the budget and if we continue to work hard hopefully the next one will be even better!

But I couldn’t finish without mentioning that it was a shame to hear that alcohol duty on the whole is set to rise, and I am not sure that a 1p saving on a pint of beer is really going to help anyone, but I guess at least it isn’t a rise!

Posted in Comments Tagged Budget 2013, business, SME, Tax |

Great piece of guerilla marketing from Durex

Always on the look out for some great guerilla marketing, i came across this from Durex today and it made me smile. Let me know if you find some great guerilla marketing

.durex with ribs 300x196 Great piece of guerilla marketing from Durex

Posted in Advice for SMEs Tagged Durex with ribs, guerilla marketing |