Doug More, CEO, Assure APM gives us an insight into why he came out of retirement to launch his tech startup Assure APM.
When did you launch the company?
Assure APM was founded in 2014.
What does your company do?
Assure APM provides advanced performance management of information technology. This is a unique range of services that are designed to give the customer more visibility and control of their IT systems.
Our software first of all establishes the ‘normal state’ of a company’s IT estate – from the software to the servers and everything in between. Once it has this it monitors for anything unusual or potentially problematic. APM automates the monitoring of the system in real time, down to a granular level. This means that if there is an anomaly or problem anywhere in the system, that may cause a degraded service for the user, it can pin point straight away where action needs to be taken.
This is a unique capability and a huge benefit as normally a forensic analysis of all the complex and interdependent elements of a corporate IT environment is required. This is a time consuming and resource intensive, expensive process. Businesses need their IT up and running 24/7, our technology is a fundamental solution to deliver more availability and higher quality availability.
It also provides information on the entire IT environment in layman’s terms so everyone from the IT professionals to the CEO will be able to understand exactly what the issue was and where it occurred.
We can customise our technology for clients, educate them on how to use it to its full potential, and provide ongoing support. We also provide short-term services to troubleshoot issues, run health checks, predict growth and model the impact of changes.
What is your target market - Who is buying your product / service?
We do business with both private and public sectors. We have done work for investment managers, local councils, private healthcare, central government and many others from a wide range of sectors. Our clients will have large IT infrastructure in place. Our client list includes Baillie Gifford, Scottish Government and Angus Council.
Why did you launch the company?
I was actually retired and just doing the odd bit of consultancy here and there. I was chatting to an old colleague who told me about the advances that had taken place in IT monitoring technology and a light bulb lit up in my head. I knew I could take this technology and use it to help overcome some age-old problems in IT. I knew I could make a difference for companies out there.
What is your background?
I have been in IT for over 40 years. I started out at the University of Edinburgh when the industry was in its infancy. I was part of the team that developed some of the very first wide area computer networks. After this I moved into IT management roles where I was involved in the design and implementation of a number of groundbreaking innovations. From there I moved into sales and then business management. I then spent a good number of managing businesses notably Workplace Technologies and I was the founder and Chief Executive at Stiell Networks.
What startup process did you go through?
When I made the decision to start Assure APM I was lucky in that I already knew a lot of people in the industry and particularly certain people I could speak to who might be interested in helping get the company off the ground. I made contact and sure enough they were interested and we set up the business together.
What process have you gone through to get to where you are now since startup?
I spent something like a year in an office in Rutland Square formulating the business plan, refining the concept and consulting with people in the industry, manufactures, consultants, ex clients. From there in December 2014 we formally launched the first iteration of the business which we brand FarrpointAssure. Then due to the initial success We quickly decided to move in more purpose-built premises in Semple street, in Edinburgh’s financial district, and to rebrand as AssureAPM, which I believe more readily reflects our specialism.
What are your plans from now to grow the business?
Organic growth through customer acquisition. This will mean more high quality employment and a step change in IT management for organistions who employ our technology.
What are your goals for your business?
We will continue to offer our unique technology and service to companies that need them – we believe this is relevant to all companies with any significant investment in IT infrastructure. I want Assure APM to immediately mean ‘IT control and visibility’ to companies when they see our name.
Did you get any start up support?
As I am fairly long in the tooth I know a lot of people in the industry I can turn to for advice and help. Beyond this I rely on my own experience and finance.
Are you getting any growth support?
No, we are self funded
Have you ever entered any competitions?
There is no other organisation doing what we do, we would love to enter competitions but at present (and we expect this to change) it would be a one horse race.
Have you raised funds to develop your business?
I am happy to say that we are entirely self-funded.
What kind of research did you do into the market?
I spent a year researching the industry. From US startups to previously failed technologies. I also researched the viability of companies with similar technology, their strategies and their clients. I researched through my personal contacts, client awareness and appetite for my proposed offering.
What are the three main challenges you’ve faced so far?
Initially we struggled to communicate to decision makers that we were not making false promises about what our technology and services could uniquely do. Unfortunately the IT industry has a bit of a reputation around undeliverable promises. Once we had successfully implemented and serviced our first clients we were able to demonstrate the value in Assure APM.
There have also been a few stressful moments in the past, I like to think that I thrive on it but I’m aware that those around me may not feel the same. I do try to make sure that we don’t take things too seriously and put my team at ease.
From a personal point of view I would say administrative paperwork, this is certainly not my forte. Luckily I have an excellent team surrounding me who help with such tasks.
Have you ever had to pivot or change direction?
We are always flexible, keen to innovate and approach problems differently. We learn from each client and solution and apply each new finding to our offering. But in terms of fundamentally changing or pivoting, tactically yes, strategically, absolutely not.
Have you ever approached a mentor or business leader for advice?
I am lucky in that I know a fair few business leaders and influencers and count some as friends. I am always listening to my peers hoping to pick up pearls of wisdom.
Who inspires you?
My inspiration is derived from a need to be innovative and different and to create great relationships with clients, suppliers, colleagues and staff.
What startup lessons would you like to pass on?
Communicate, communicate, communicate, and do not tolerate ambiguity. Do not cast you plans in stone, always have contingency and flexibility.
How can the Scottish startup/entrepreneur landscape be improved to help more businesses start up and grow?
I would like to see more tax break incentives for employment growth as well as help in subsidising industry specific training.