(…Well, we’ve actually been back since July)
Two months of furlough came and went and we’ve been back since 1st July full swing getting ready for our product launch in about a month (hence the lack of time for any blog updates!). In between the busy-ness of getting things in place for that, as well as getting back up to speed, I think it’s helpful to reflect on what we learned during these past few months and look at what’s coming up.
As mentioned in my previous post, this time allowed for us to focus on ourselves, from taking online courses on the Science of Well-Being or Data Science, to learning how to play the piano or how to crochet or how to make kimchi, to staycations in our own backyards, and many other activities (some shown below).
However, the company didn’t sleep while we were developing ourselves, mostly due to the folks who weren’t on furlough to keep things ticking. And some major ticking it did! Here are some of the highlights of awesome things that have happened:
- Sales: We made a sale and drummed up several interested leads (some of whom have now converted to sales post-furlough!). This also includes a project with the Ecuadorian fishing ministry to help address their bycatch issues.
- Funding: We received an Innovate UK Covid-19 Continuity grant to help ensure our continuity and completion of our project and the Small Business Grant to support us with our business costs during coronavirus. These were massively helpful to us given that Covid-19 really impacted our sales projections and runway to survive. We were also able to rent out about half of our office to another really cool tech start-up, Bladebug, to help offset our costs while we weren’t in.
- Support: Received amazing mentoring and advice through the Maze X accelerator and got accepted to the EIT Food Accelerator Network. We’ve also just been accepted to the Innovate UK Global Business Innovation Programme Focus on Marine Robotics to Canada and have gotten connections with the Enterprise Europe partners in Portugal for our business development.
- Product: Our contract manufacturer was back up and running and getting fixtures in place for our first commercial-scale manufacturing. Also our Pisces shipping logistics were figured out.
- Science: Completed two scientific trials, one with reducing bycatch from Whiting and the other from Nephrops. We’re now analysing the results.
- R&D: Progressed the strategy and project plan for our next product development around ocean sensors
- Exposure: Referenced in 5 major media articles regarding our successful Bangor trial, were featured as part of the Explorer’s Club World Oceans Week, and were announced as semi-finalists to the Postcode Lotteries Green Challenge.
We also had a final calculation of our savings from taking furlough and taking cost cutting actions to our current spending which amounted to £102K just for these last few months, with more savings to come from reduced budget spends for the foreseeable future! This has helped extend our runway by about 2-3 months.
There were quite a few things we learned and did during this timeframe that we’ve learned and plan on taking forward. Being able to take a step back from the business as usual gave us some perspective on things that worked and those that didn’t, such as:
- Working remotely is possible (even for a hardware company). Yes, we had to make some adjustments and our product team goes into the office every once in a while to use our equipment, but for the most part, it can be done. We also set up good systems to ensure processes and communication work well (see previous post) and that people’s mental health isn’t sacrificed, but in a survey, all of us indicated we’d want to work from home at least twice a week.
- Company processes can’t be siloed. Kind of in line with the communication piece, we realised sometimes important information wasn’t getting conveyed to everyone necessary and sometimes only stayed within certain teams of the company, especially if you’re working remotely. This started happening more as new processes were needed in order to get ready for product launch. We are now changing our processes to try to mitigate this, including cross-team participation in meetings (when desired — open to anyone in the company), processes that ensure smooth handover between teams, and a live business plan that combines all the high level strategic plans and processes across the company that everyone has access to.
- Pause and reflect time is important. Coming back from furlough, it was easy to get caught up with back-to-back meetings, emails, and business-as-usual to try to get back up to speed again, but soon realising there was little room for anything else. Because of the forced stop during furlough, it allowed us time to reflect on what we wanted for our company and how we wanted to move forward. This was a luxury. Just by being given time, things became clear to us and we were reignited by a common vision. Doing nothing can do a lot. I now try to keep my Fridays clear of meetings, make meetings optional, and ensure I’ve blocked out time to reflect.
Next month we’ll be launching our product to market at commercial scale. I’m sure we’ll learn a few things along the way and make some mistakes that we didn’t plan for, but we’re excited about what’s coming next and will keep you updated!