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Launching your own Software Company?

If you have ever attended a technology careers fair at the University of Warwick then the chances are you have met someone from the leading web solutions company bit10. A valued friend of the Department of Computer Science, bit10 often participates in department events, presents at open days and graciously provides its consultants to undertake guest lectures.

Founder & current managing director Alexander Craig, is actually a graduate of the computer science department and it was while undertaking his PhD here that the idea for bit10 was first seeded. DCS news visited Alexander to find out more about the origins of bit10 and also to discover what advice he might have for currents students thinking of launching their own company after graduation.

Alexander first arrived at the University of Warwick in October 1992 to begin a three year computer systems engineering course that combined electronics with software design. A fear of examinations and theoretical maths meant that Alexander was always orientated more to the practical coursework than the theory and he recalls endless hours working away in the department lab which at the time was affectionately nicknamed the “goldfysh” bowl. Unlike his fellow students who had been diligently undertaking interviews and lining up jobs for after graduation, Alexander has been more concerned with just getting through his degree and therefore had not given much thought to what he might do afterwards. Like many caught in the gap between education and work, Alexander eventually decided to stay on and do the masters.

Over summer before the course began Alexander was fortunate enough to be offered a placement working with a research group led by Professor Nudd focusing on performance evaluation of highly parallel systems. By the end of the summer a combination of hard work and a little luck allowed Alexander to convert his Masters funding into PhD funding and to begin his own research within the high performance group. Although Alexander never completed his PhD, it was during his research that he became involved in the development of distributed computing software built upon the rapidly evolving internet protocols of the late 1990’s. By the end of the second PhD year in 1997 Alexander was undertaking a number of freelance web development

contracts and had become convinced this was where he wanted to focus his attention rather than on continuing with the PhD research. From the freelance contact work bit10 was essentially born and over the next twelve years the company began taking on former Warwick graduates while organically growing its customer base to include names such as BT Global Services, Severn Trent Water, Jaguar Landrover and Universal Music Publishing. In 2004 bit10 moved to its current office on the University’s Science Park next to the main Warwick campus. This was some change from the small incubator unit they first occupied in early 1998 in the Barclays Venture Centre, just a stones throw away from the current DCS building.

To students thinking of following in Alexander’s footsteps he offers the following advice:

1) Always look at the bottom line, without money coming in to offset the overheads you won’t be in business for very longIt is really important to know exactly what it is your business is going to do and why it should be you doing it: what is unique about your offering that sets it apart from the competition?

2) Know your competition intimately and stay one or two steps ahead of them.

3) Know your route to market: it is one of the most critical areas to consider when launching a business and some incredible technology and ideas have failed to see the light of day because the designers were not clear on how it was going to get from the labs and on to the customers desktop.

4) Finally, Alexander also advises would be entrepreneurs to listen to any advice you can get. There is no such thing as bad advice, just bad decisions made on the back of it! But if you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

A special thank you to Alexander Craig for meeting with DCS. News to discuss his company, more information on which can be found at their website