CORPORATE NEWSLETTER NEWSLETTER | ISSUE 3, VOL. 2 , JUL 2013 | NEWS.VCONNECTA.COM
THE FOUNDER’S DESK
Dear Reader, On behalf of the team at Vconnecta, thank you for choosing to read another issue of Vconnecta News, Vconnecta’s local distribution offline newsletter, where we bring you the latest news and content from the website development team here in Cork, Ireland. We’re pleased to report that the company has experienced another positive month of growth and developments as we move rapidly closer to our scheduled product rollout timeframe to take place later this year. In this issue, our head of product development John Webb has given a candid insight into the challenges the department encounters in bringing our range of mobile solutions across several different platforms. We also update you on our move into new office space within the Western Gateway Building, not far from the UCC IGNITE incubation facility where which served as a fantastic base for our first year in business. The team remains excited about the range of white label development projects it is currently exploring, while not losing sight of our core political canvassing application, Ecanvasser, which continues to improve by the day. As always, all the latest company news is published online at news.vconnecta.com, which we encourage you to visit to keep on top of the latest news during this exciting time of transition from the company. Wishing you an enjoyable August and best wishes from Vconnecta,
Founder and CEO, Vconnecta Ltd. E: email@example.com T: 0214205333
Are you really connected with Vconnecta? As our name implies, Vconnecta takes connectionmaking and reachingout very seriously. Our tool of mobile solutions allow politicians to streamline the connections they forge and maintain with constituents (their ultimate bosses), and we like to adopt the same approach to our social media management, where we curate a wide variety of channels to ensure that we can keep in touch with you no matter what network you’re most active or comfortable on. We maintain a full list of our active social media channels at news.vconnecta.com/socialmedia which we update whenever we’ve taken a new channel, such as our recently launched Tumblr and WordPress streams, online. While a lot of our content is syndicated around our network by IfThisThenThat, an automated syndication engine, we also personally curate our main networks and take a very proactive approach to monitoring social media engagement. Without further ado, here’s a whistlestop tour of our main social networks, where you can find Vconnecta content, the latest company news, and a wide variety of other content all coming from staff at our Cork, Ireland, headquarters.
Primary networks: Facebook, Twitter, etc We are particularly active in engaging and reaching out to both current politicians and white label users through our Facebook and Twitter pages. Corporate information, such as careers and jobs news, is most likely to be shared via our LinkedIn company profile, although we make an effort to publish the vacancy via as many other channels as is practical to ensure that you have the best chance of hearing about opportunities at Vconnecta. Our Pinterest board is currently used to pin some of the current output on this website, but we are working on a series of informative infographics which you can expect to see shared via Pinterest, and our other general networks, in the near future. If you’re interested in a specific corporate relations topic, such as Vconnecta’s approach to environmental sustainability, try checking our Slideshare page. We’ll be bringing you a series of product demonstration videos at our YouTube channel shortly which are currently in production.
Blogs If you’re a fan of following content creators on Tumblr and WordPress the newsroom RSS feed is piped through these services for you.
Images As a media resource, and for general consumption purposes, Vconnecta’s noreprofee image library is syndicated via sharing services Google Picasa, Flickr, and at our press Dropbox.
What’s on the way? We’re currently working on: ● An extensive series of product demonstration and feature demonstration videos. ● Podcast and audio content. ● Infographics about political canvassing, campaigning, etc. ● Lots more content to keep you up to date with the full extent of Vconnecta’s powerful mobile solution functionalities.
Lead developer John Webb on taking Vconnecta mobile solutions to market Vconnecta wants to bring its selection of mobile solutions to as broad an array of deviceowners as possible so that they can take advantage of the powerful set of functionalities that come with any of our products. For our inhouse product team, led by lead developer John Webb (above), this means developing applications one by one for each major mobile platform, often using completely different programming languages, and adhering to a rigid rollout schedule that will see most of our flagship solutions released during the third quarter of this year. “All of Vconnecta’s mobile solutions are fully nativebuilt applications,” explains Webb, a Computer Science graduate of University College Cork (UCC). “While some of our competitors in the mobile space offer web applications – essentially websites embedded within what looks like a native phone application – Vconnecta always develops from scratch to ensure both the integrity of the data transmitted to the dashboard and the fastest possible experience for the user.” Webb uses a variety of different programming languages to build the applications, including Java and Objective C, and liaises closely with Vconnecta’s pool of test users to implement any tweaks and bugs that crop up along the lengthy product development cycle. “We have a basic team of about twenty test users who we poll every couple of weeks to get their 3
feedback about the products,” he explains. “A couple are politicians, so that we can leverage their experience in the area; others are people we happen to have maintained business relationships with and who are happy to drop by our office and offer their insight into how the product looks; and occasionally, we even do some testing ourselves, although we prefer to get an objective perspective wherever possible.” While a lot of John’s time is spent developing the actual applications, ensuring seamless integration between the application, the Cloudpowered dashboard, and complex overlays like voter registers and housing information is also a timeconsuming endeavour, as John explains. “We’re still implementing some final additions to the dashboard, which is where campaign managers and constituency office staff will be able to oversee the planning and execution of canvasses and leaflet operations remotely,” he said. “The proprietary community engagement API that ties data travelling between the dashboard and the actual mobile devices, which are roving around the canvass area, was developed inhouse, so we have the knowledge and expertise to improve it as best as we can.” “We’re confident that by the end of product rollout phase later this year we’ll have a truly intuitive and powerful set of mobile solutions to offer to the political and white label markets.” ● The Ecanvasser mobile political solution will be available for use with iPhone devices in mid to late August ● Android versions are expected to be available in September. ● White label solution rollout is set to follow a similar timeframe.
Vconnecta has a new home – come take a look! ast week, Vconnecta finalized its move into its new office space in Suite 2.03 of the Western Gateway Building at University College Cork. Although we’ve been working in our new space within UCC’s Gateway office environment for the past month, it wasn’t until we moved in the last of our deskware accessories that the move was officially complete – at least as we saw it.
Moving office is an interesting time of transition for any company, but particularly in the small business sphere, where the move is often the first serious change of geography for the business since the founder took the operation out of his basement or college dorm (Brendan would probably wish to clarify that Vconnecta has never actually operated from either!). In our case, however, the move was less than drastic. Our previous home, in the UCC IGNITE Innovation Center is less than a stone throw’s away from where we find ourselves now, and although the programme is nearing its official completion, we’re glad that we’ll be able to remain in close proximity to the many talented young entrepreneurs that comprised its third intake for at least a few weeks more. Although the Vconnecta team has cultivated many valuable friendships and developed some important business relationships during our time within IGNITE, the shift into independent office space exclusiveforus feels like a fitting move as we expand our team and look to the future with the launch of our political mobile solution, Ecanvasser, in just a few months’ time. After outfitting our new home with our company coffee maker, whiteboards, and other startup essentials, we decided toreach out to other companies in the building by circulating an open invitation to other businesses to drop by our new office and say ‘hi’.
The Western Gateway Building is full of other startups, not to mention the many laterstage technological companies dotted along its corridors. In addition to the IGNITE and Gateway incubation facilities, there are small businesses from across practically every imaginable sector of the economy clustered around UCC, not to mention some exciting research projects that intersect with our own field of interest (a mobile research laboratory is located directly across the floor, for example). We felt that by – literally – maintaining an open door to our office, we’d encourage others to get in contact with us, potentially develop our local contact base, and maybe even establish some lasting business connections that could come to fruition, in some sense, down the line. One of the first friendly to take us up on our invitation last week was consumer deals specialist and EU procurement expert Mike McGrath, the founder of business solutions provider Supply.ie, who sat 5
down for coffee and offered the team some valuable insights on how he has taken Supply.ie from a tiny startup to one of the country’s leading business to business sourcing experts in the space of a few years. By making contact with Mike, an experienced businessman who was located only a corridor’s walk from the office but who had (remarkably) never come into facetoface contact with our team, Vconnecta was able to establish another business contact in the building who will hopefully stop by for many more coffees, chats, and business discussions.
Creating a stronger brand through customer engagement One of Vconnecta’s founding principles is creating a stronger brand through heightened customer engagement. This commitment has manifested itself in many aspects of our operation, but particularly in the development of our flagship political mobile solution, Ecanvassser. Our inhouse development team has been working night and day to make the solution as intuitive and userfriendly as possible, but many of the solution’s key functionalities would not have been possible without the help given to us by test users. Having recently come through a business incubation programme here in Cork, Vconnecta is fortunate to have maintained relationships with many other companies in the small business sphere who have been both generous with their time andfrank in their feedback when asked to assess the product’s strengths and weakenesses.
When it comes to soliciting user feedback, Vconnecta has one guiding principle: we listen to anybody who has an opinion about the product. Our pool of test users has included both politicians (who are familiar with some of the unique constrains of operating in the public affairs environment) and nonpoliticians who have been able to offer valuable insights into nonpolitical aspects such as visual presentation, speed, etc. In fact, we have gone to great lengths to ensure that both usersets are extensively surveyed. Just last week we were priveleged to host a local Councillor in our Cork City office who was able to 6
offer us his perspective on why political campaign teams sometimes face difficulties in translating the policies they intend to communicate with the message that is disseminated on the ground, or why sometimes what’s heard on the doorstep is forgotten once the canvassers head home for the night. By recording his feedback (both textually and by voice recording), Vconnecta has been able to integrate a new core functionality into the application’s backend which will make using the Cloudpowered dashboard substantially easier for political actors. We have also been cognizant of the needs of some niche users of our products and made sure that any modifications that come online will appeal to both a broad subset of our client base and to more specific actors, wherever possible. To this end, we have instituted a ask and act policy at the office this week which is proving to be a powerful means of ensuring that all potential actions have the users’ needs firmly in mind when taking decisions on behalf of the company. Before undertaking any action that may have an impact on our external relations, staff must ask themselves: ● how would an unforgiving, external actor perceive this through the feedback process? ● Or better yet, we actually find an external party to provide us with feedback before we take the move.
Through carefully listening to the needs of our clientbase, Vconnecta ensures that it constantly stays in touch with the needs and demands of our clients.
It’s been another packed week at Vconnecta’s Cork, Ireland headquarters (so far!) as we continue to 7
work towards rolling out a truly outstanding set of mobile solutions which will make political and community engagement faster, easier, and more effective. Vconnecta’s development and coding team continues to work tirelessly towards finalizing the set of features that will be integrated into our mobile political tool Ecanvasser when it has its official product launch next month. We’re tweaking menus, streamlining the coding, and engaging constantly with both politicians and volunteer testers to ensure that the final product is as intuitive and userfriendly as possible. The team is also currently producing an extensive series of product demonstration videos to showcase some of these powerful features. While most of the videos will be available only to actual Ecanvasser customers through the support backend, we’ll also be releasing a number of videos through our public YouTube channel. A newlook website to better display the full breadth of Vconnecta’s development capabilities is currently undergoing final stage testing. The new website includes a number of new features that will make engaging with our sales and support teams easier than ever before. Functionalities that will be live with the site launch or shortly thereafter include a trial signup function, a request callback page, and a whole brand new site design. To mark the launch, Vconnecta is holding an informal reception at its Cork City offices which will be attended by a number of local startup companies. While we’re in design mode, we’ve also taken a look at the layout of some of our social media channels. Both our Facebook and Twitter page sport rejuvenated designs and some tighter crossintegration. We’re also continuing to add to the breadth of our social network by opening new engagement channels (such as social filesharing service Slideshare) to bring the news that there’s a new, faster, way to engage with communities to as wide an audience as possible.
Please follow us on both, or at any other of our official social media channels. Vconnecta management is currently engaging in preliminary discussions about holding an exciting event in Cork this September. While we’d love to tell you more about the big do, things will be kept under wraps under final logistics are confirmed. We’ll keep you posted when things are finalized.
Vconnecta’s Brendan Finucane answers your questions about startups
hough it’s clichéd, in truth it’s probably the long hours, and the fact that you’re never totally separated from your business — even on weekends! At this stage, I’ve built up a small team of assistants and interns to whom I can delegate some of the more timeconsuming duties,(marketing and white label development both take up a lot of our time), but there’s still an awful lot of legwork left to me. The hours can also be both unpredictable and antisocial at the best of times, and the combination can leave you feeling overwhelmed. But ultimately, for the freedom of running your own business, it’s worth itSince founding Vconnecta in 2011, Brendan has finished an undergraduate degree at University College Cork (UCC), progressed through a gruelling ten months business acceleration programme at the college, ‘pitched’ his idea at numerous investors, and even moved into his very own office in a hightech building in Cork City. As if that schedule wasn’t hectic enough, Brendan also remains extremely active in a number of local organizations – straddling both the business and political spheres – and is a regular fixture at small business and networking events, most recently addressing a women in politics luncheon held in Dublin. Here’s the best of what you sent in, with Brendan’s responses. Q: What is the hardest part about working as an entrepreneur? (John Tomlin, Co. Donegal, Ireland) A: Hi John, and many thanks for your question. Alt.
Q: Hi Brendan. Reading your biography, you seem to have a lot going on. As I’m looking at starting a small business myself, What tips can you give on time mangement? (Áine Foley, Co. Cork, Ireland) A: Hi Áine. Without doubt, the most important thing is not to overcommit, or at least to keep your commitments within reasonable limits. Be judicious in what you say you can and cannot do, and don’t commit to a project, or an event, if you’re not sure whether it can fit in your diary. When you’re starting a business and surrounded by lots of likeminded people, the natural tendancy is to spread yourself thin, but that’s definitely a mistake, and will lead to burnout sooner or later. I’d also advise making sure that you have at least one relatively free afternoon during the workweek to deal with unforseen eventualities, such as a printer breaking down, a major coding issue, etc. Q: Hi. I’m also studying Business Information Systems at UCC. What advice would you give to young graduate considering starting a business? Is it really a viable route at this age? Don’t we lack experience? (Conor Hinds, Iniscarra, Cork Ireland) A: Hi, Conor. The lack of expeience which you mention can be gotten over by having a team of experienced professionals to mentor and advise the company. Without that, I’d have to agree that it would be an uphill struggle. Is it viable? It depends on the idea, naturally. I think that if it’s a good idea it shouldn’t matter what age the founder, or founding team, is. I hope you enjoy the rest of the degree. Q: I’m looking at starting a niche online magazine in Shoreditch, London. The problem is that the rents around here are ferocious. Did you find having your own office a big advantage? It would be a lot cheaper to work from our flat! (Pete Pitchers, London, UK) A: Hi, Pete. I’m familiar with London rents and as you say they’re truly extortionate. I’m not a real estate agent, but perhaps you’d consider renting somewhere less central than Shoreditch? However, without knowing the specifics of your situation I can’t tell if that’s a viable option for you or not. In any event, I do believe that not working at home makes a considerable difference to your business, but that’s my subjective opinion. Others may disagree. I believe that it’s important to have a work location to go to, and to establish a clear delineation between your work space and where you go to earn a living. I try not to do any work after I leave the office where possible. Q: Salam, Brendan! I recently start a small graphics design company here in Cairo. Unfortunately, I have not found money yet to pay for other staff. Do you find it important to 10
work with others? (Ahmed Al Fitr, Cairo, Egypt) A: Hi, Ahmed. In a word, yes. Starting a small business can be a very lonely and isolating experience, and I believe it’s important to have someone, and preferably several other people, to share the burden with. Entrepreneurship is a difficult road to travel down, and anything that can make it more comfortable can only be a good thing. Q: Hi Brendan. Do you find networking valuable? I’ve attended a few ‘meet and greets’ and all I’ve ever come home with was a massive pile of business cards which I put straight in the bin! (John Duggan, Dublin, Ireland). A: Hi, John. As I answered above, it’s important to manage your time properly. I’d assess whether the networking event was likely going to be worth my time before committing to attend, but I haevn’t had very many disappointing experiences. In fact, I’ve only found networking to be beneficial. If you feel like a certain event isn’t adding value to your professional career, I simply wouldn’t attend. But there are many worthwhile groups out there, and I’d advise you to seek those out before dismissing the concept altogether.