Steve and I have been asked quite a few times now about how we got the N’Tech funding and there seems to be quite a mixture of thoughts about the funding scheme and the size of business you need to be to apply. So I thought it might be useful if I wrote a little about our experience.
The Nottingham Technology Grant Fund is a funding program designed to support development of businesses working in Nottingham City Council’s priority sectors of clean tech, life sciences and digital content.
We first found out about the N’Tech grant through Antenna, where our business is based. We initially dismissed it because the minimum funding amount that could be bid for is £100,000 on a four to one basis. This meant that we would need to provide £80,000 of our own money to be able to apply for £20,000 of funding. As a small startup we know we couldn’t raise that sort of money.
However when Steve received an email encouraging us to consider applying, he decided to write back and ask if there was any way we could apply for less money. We knew receiving funding to help us hire our first employees would be a real boost for the business.
The response was that we could put in a bid using the small amount of money that we did have and then use our future revenue to fund the rest of the project. Since our “project” was to grow the company by hiring employees this worked well for us as we had always planned to plough our profits back into the business.
So we put together our bid. The application requirements are thorough and it’s important to have a strong grasp of your finances, your plans for future growth and exactly what your business’s unique selling point is. We found putting together the application and presentation to be a very useful experience. It really made us sit down and think through exactly what sort of business we are building, what direction we want to take it in and how much money we could reasonably expect to generate.
Our final pitch was for a £100,000 project to run over 2 years. This money would come from our previous profits, our future revenue and then the £20,000 provided by the grant. Over the first 6 months we would hire two programmers and then the grant and our own money would pay those employees over the next two years. Essentially this worked out as 20% of our employees’ salary being paid for by the grant for 2 years. This is exactly what we needed to make hiring viable. We were also reassured that if we were unable to meet our targets there would be no penalties and we would simply receive proportionally less of the money. This was a serious consideration for us as finding good quality programmers can be difficult and indeed it took us 6 instead of the intended 3 months to find a good fit for our first job opening.