30/10/2007 - 22:00

Case study: Firmware navigates funding path

30/10/2007 - 22:00

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Raising money for a new business venture or product development can be a challenge, but East Perth-based software developer Firmware Technologies took a different approach to raising the $3 million it needed to develop and commercialise its new product.

Raising money for a new business venture or product development can be a challenge, but East Perth-based software developer Firmware Technologies took a different approach to raising the $3 million it needed to develop and commercialise its new product.

After six years in development, Firmware’s VisTime is ready to go to market, and its creators believe the product has the potential to revolutionise business communication.

VisTime is an online communications program that allows joint interaction, access and review of documents on an easy-to-navigate user interface.

Unlike other remote desktop meeting programs, VisTime is multidirectional, allowing all users to add files, comments and engage in an online chat forum.

With a wide variety of industrial applications, including mining, oil and gas, education, health, media and advertising, users located around the world can make instant changes on-screen to documents, images, videos and interactive 3D files.

Chief executive Jacques Blandin, who joined the company last April, told WA Business News the product has been extensively tested worldwide, with feedback from Firmware Technologies’ customer base helping to shape VisTime’s easy-to-navigate user interface.

“We wanted to focus on development, rather than taking it to market too early,” he said.

But the path towards commercialisation of the new product was a tough one, according to Mr Blandin.

“It’s hard to get new innovative product off the ground. People usually don’t want to see the product until its ready,” he said.

Looking to raise $3 million for the final development stage in early 2006, the company looked at a range of capital raising options.

It opted against venture capital, as it would have meant giving up a relatively large portion of the business in exchange for the funding.

After raising a portion of the funds through an information memorandum, Firmware turned to the Australian Small Scale Offerings Board (ASSOB) to raise the remaining $1.3 million.

Queensland-based ASSOB provides a platform for investment in unlisted companies to fund their growth and expansion, while allowing the companies directors to retain control over their business.

Mr Blandin said ASSOB presented the best option, allowing the company to raise funds in a fully regulatory compliant environment, at a fraction of the cost of launching a prospectus, while still retaining 95 per cent of the company.

“ASSOB provided us with the best environment and the most balanced environment to raise money,” he said. “We still had to comply with regulatory matters while not having to give away the farm.”

The funding allowed Firmware to employ a team of developers and programmers to complete the final stages of product development.

The company is now looking to launch its second wave round of funding to take VisTime through its commercialisation phase.

It expects to officially launch the product towards the end of the year.

Mr Blandin said developing any new product, and raising the capital required to take it to market, required a lot of perseverance and self-belief.

He recommends getting a good team of people and advisers on-board, as well as doing a lot of research from both product and marketing perspectives.

“Hold your product up against others in the market. Do your research, be prepared to change,” Mr Blandin told WA Business News.

“Especially in the early stages, be aware of everyone else in the marketplace. It’s a lot of hard work, it’s not an easy path.”

In addition to its professional product, Firmware will also release a limited functionality program for personal domestic use.

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