How UWSP helped me build my £50M business

Pictured (left to right): Dirk Schaefer, Nigel Shanahan and David Grindrod

Nigel Shanahan took his firm Rant & Rave from a start-up to a £50 million sell out in 18 years – all while based at the University of Warwick Science Park.

Here he describes how the support of the Science Park was key is the success of his company.

After 12 years working for IBM – which I really loved – I wanted to go out on my own and to start a company.

This was back in 2000, and the power of mobile technology was very much in its infancy but we realised the potential it had to allow companies to message customers and staff, and sensed there was a real opportunity.

In simple terms we were harnessing the power of mobile to allow customers to let brands know their feelings on their products or services, but also allowing brands to analyse that and to respond accordingly, thereby proving they are listening and that their customers matter, which is extremely powerful.

But I had had been with IBM since I’d gone through the graduate programme, so venturing out on my own was very much a step into the unknown.

I enrolled on the Teamstart programme at the University of Warwick which was designed for someone exactly like me – someone who had been in the corporate world but wanted to start their own company. They can be two very different worlds, and Teamstart was designed to help people make that transition, partly by re-applying some rough edges to us!

We had been very fortunate to attract £250,000 of funding in the early days, really, looking back, on the strength of a deck of slides, and venture capital followed as we grew.

We were based at the Science Park, and things were going well. I was, however, nervous about the venture capital aspect and was keen again to row our own boat but had never done anything like that before.

Again, at a key stage of our evolution, the Science Park proved invaluable. One of the team talked me through stage-by-stage in its entirety what would become a management buyout and we really progressed from that point onwards.

We started off at Binley which is one of the park’s incubation sites and did expand quite quickly, but at one stage we decided we actually needed less space. The flexibility the Science Park has built-in meant that simply was not an issue, there was a quick conversation rather than protracted negations, and we moved on.

Those two instances really underline the advantages of being at the Science Park. Issues – of any sort – are catered for, allowing the entrepreneurs to concentrate on building their businesses. That can be simple things such as post and office space, through to more complex issues such as attracting funding.

We then moved to a standalone building on the Science Park’s main site and in the three years before we sold, it meant we could really ramp things up and add to the headcount to allow that expansion to happen.

The offer we had from the Science Park evolved and the support was on-going and flexed to suit the different stages of our evolution, and without that help we might never have achieved the outcome we managed.