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Building a start-up? You need to think about your platform foundations

Scaling tech companies may be limiting themselves if they don’t focus on their underlying cloud platform, writes Terry Brown, associate director of engineering at Healx.

You’ve built your prototype, you’ve proven product market fit, the beta is out and there’s some buzz. What next?

Many start-ups will continue to add more and more features to attract new customers, but they are often building on a foundation that was put together rapidly to achieve their early purpose and may not be a fit for long-term scale, efficiency and operability.

Heed the lessons learned by others. CB Insights recently conducted post-mortems into more than 110 failed start-ups and landed on the top 12 reasons why they folded. They run the gamut, from running out of capital (38pc of victims) to burnout and failing to pivot. And while all 12 reasons are different, I can’t help but see a common thread running through them: rushing.

How could you not? You’ve got an amazing, original idea, and you need to bring it to market quickly. Rushing is ingrained in start-up culture.

But there is an alternative – one that even in 2022 too few start-ups consider: investing early in the underlying cloud platform.

More speed, more security, less haste

Many software start-ups today are operating in the cloud, and without early focus on the foundational and enabling aspects, they can easily be afflicted with security holes and IP breaches.

Innovation can also start to stifle because of early compromises made to achieve time-to-market over quality. It is at this stage that start-ups should take a solid focus on their cloud platform as an enabling device to solve some of these common pitfalls.

Shifting the mindset at this critical stage and focusing on platforms as a product enables start-ups to get the underlying building blocks of a cloud platform in place. This can generate huge economies of scale, as well as commoditising and automating core concerns such as security and compliance, delivery pipeline and improving developer experience.

‘Without this approach, you are leading your business down a path where mounting technical and architectural debt are likely to cause you pain when you least need it’

If you take one thing away from reading this article, please make it this: all software companies from the day they are founded need to be thinking about the platform, the underlying cloud services and architecture they are building on, how they operate at pace, with automation, with guard rails, and with effective delivery pipelines.

They also need to invest in developer experience – there is no good reason why a developer shouldn’t be able to go from idea to safely productionised pipeline in under 60 minutes. If your underlying platform doesn’t allow for that, you are hampering innovation.

Yes, often your chief priority will be delivering a working prototype to investors, even if put together with masking tape, egg cartons and all-night code sprints. But that should never be your only focus, no matter how close you are to that Series A pitch meeting.

If you invest appropriately in your platform and treat it as any other product, there is no reason why any of the above shouldn’t be possible while still chasing that market share and hockey stick slope that will see you funded.

The terrible irony is that without this approach, you are leading your business down a path where mounting technical and architectural debt are likely to cause you pain when you least need it. It says a lot that most of the more disruptive and common problems in software development arise from underinvestment in your platform.

Shift Left your thinking – and hiring

So many start-ups focus on product market fit, and in that compromise neglect to ask themselves crucial questions. What processes can be automated to save time for the precious staff we haven’t hired yet but soon will? What is painful in getting value to your customers? What are our go-to-market software risks that we are delaying addressing?

If you answer these ASAP, you are moving quality earlier into product thinking. This is the essence of Shift Left, a practice in the development world that pushes many of the aspects of quality such as testing, security and compliance earlier into the pipeline, where cost of identification and remediation are lower than if issues made it out to customers.

Shifting your thinking left to bring elements like security and testing into your pipelines automatically also requires a rethink in your hiring strategy, however. As you grow, a dedicated platform team will prove invaluable, and empower your software engineers to operate safely at scale and pace.

Another key benefit of focusing on your platform with a dedicated team is repeatability – and the efficiency that comes with it. You’re gaining a single, consolidated approach of how to scale up the whole operation, rather than individual teams solving the same challenges multiple times across the company.

The platform team’s role is pivotal in any tech start-up scaling quickly, and it becomes even more important in larger organisations with more people and more siloed teams.

This need will only grow alongside your business

Let’s take an example of how this works.

At Healx, we use artificial intelligence to discover new treatments for rare diseases. As we expand, our key ambition is to find more treatments for more conditions. But how do you go from looking at one condition at a time to 200? You can’t just scale up staff exponentially, because that’s incredibly expensive.

What if one of those human-intensive steps doesn’t require human intervention but can be automated? What if there is a wait time between steps because there is no effective pathway to sequence workflows so it requires someone to trigger a next step? What if validation of a step takes many hours, but ultimately follows the same process each time and could be automated?

This is where an effective platform team can work with key people to optimise and improve these elements to reduce human toil, increase automation and improve flow.

Time and again, we see excellent ideas and talented people fail because what should be critical inception and development stages are compromised by delivery date pressures and quality compromises that often dismiss the future and that are often self-imposed.

Investing in your platform as early as possible may feel like a premature optimisation, but you’ll be grateful when you find yourself able to keep scaling and operating effectively.

We have the tools and the know-how to make that commonplace in 2022. Let’s do so.

By Terry Brown

Terry Brown is associate director of engineering a Healx, a UK start-up working on AI-powered treatments for rare diseases.

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Culture

Top 10 Florida Cities Dominate The Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

Top 10 Florida Cities And Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

The Voice Of EU | Florida emerges as a hub for entrepreneurial endeavors, with its vibrant business landscape and conducive environment for startups. Renowned for its low corporate tax rates and a high concentration of investors, the Sunshine State beckons aspiring entrepreneurs seeking fertile grounds to launch and grow their businesses.

In a recent report by WalletHub, Florida cities dominate the list of the top 10 best destinations for business startups, showcasing their resilience and economic vitality amidst challenging times.

From Orlando’s thriving market to Miami’s dynamic ecosystem, each city offers unique advantages and opportunities for entrepreneurial success. Let’s delve into the chronologically listed cities that exemplify Florida’s prominence in the business startup arena.

1. Orlando Leads the Way: Orlando emerges as the most attractive market in the U.S. for business startups, with a remarkable surge in small business establishments. WalletHub’s latest report highlights Orlando’s robust ecosystem, fostering the survival and growth of startups, buoyed by a high concentration of investors per capita.

2. Tampa Takes Second Place: Securing the second spot among large cities for business startups, Tampa boasts a favorable business environment attributed to its low corporate tax rates. The city’s ample investor presence further fortifies startups, providing essential resources for navigating the initial years of business operations.

3. Charlotte’s Diverse Industries: Claiming the third position, Charlotte stands out for its diverse industrial landscape and exceptionally low corporate taxes, enticing companies to reinvest capital. This conducive environment propels entrepreneurial endeavors, contributing to sustained economic growth.

4. Jacksonville’s Rising Profile: Jacksonville emerges as a promising destination for startups, bolstered by its favorable business climate. The city’s strategic positioning fosters entrepreneurial ventures, attracting aspiring business owners seeking growth opportunities.

5. Miami’s Entrepreneurial Hub: Miami solidifies its position as a thriving entrepreneurial hub, attracting businesses with its dynamic ecosystem and strategic location. The city’s vibrant startup culture and supportive infrastructure make it an appealing destination for ventures of all sizes.

6. Atlanta’s Economic Momentum: Atlanta’s ascent in the business startup landscape underscores its economic momentum and favorable business conditions. The city’s strategic advantages and conducive policies provide a fertile ground for entrepreneurial ventures to flourish.

7. Fort Worth’s Business-Friendly Environment: Fort Worth emerges as a prime destination for startups, offering a business-friendly environment characterized by low corporate taxes. The city’s supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives facilitate the growth and success of new ventures.

8. Austin’s Innovation Hub: Austin cements its status as an innovation hub, attracting startups with its vibrant entrepreneurial community and progressive policies. The city’s robust infrastructure and access to capital foster a conducive environment for business growth and innovation.

9. Durham’s Emerging Entrepreneurship Scene: Durham’s burgeoning entrepreneurship scene positions it as a promising destination for startups, fueled by its supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives. The city’s collaborative culture and access to resources contribute to the success of new ventures.

10. St. Petersburg’s Thriving Business Community: St. Petersburg rounds off the top 10 with its thriving business community and supportive ecosystem for startups. The city’s strategic advantages and favorable business climate make it an attractive destination for entrepreneurial endeavors.

Despite unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation, and high inflation, these top Florida cities remain resilient and well-equipped to overcome obstacles, offering promising opportunities for business owners and entrepreneurs alike.


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Culture

European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.


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China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending ‘Taikonauts’ To The Moon From 2030 Onwards

China Reveals Lunar Mission

The Voice Of EU | In a bold stride towards lunar exploration, the Chinese Space Agency has unveiled its ambitious plans for a moon landing set to unfold in the 2030s. While exact timelines remain uncertain, this endeavor signals a potential resurgence of the historic space race reminiscent of the 1960s rivalry between the United States and the USSR.

China’s recent strides in lunar exploration include the deployment of three devices on the moon’s surface, coupled with the successful launch of the Queqiao-2 satellite. This satellite serves as a crucial communication link, bolstering connectivity between Earth and forthcoming missions to the moon’s far side and south pole.

Unlike the secretive approach of the Soviet Union in the past, China’s strategy leans towards transparency, albeit with a hint of mystery surrounding the finer details. Recent revelations showcase the naming and models of lunar spacecraft, steeped in cultural significance. The Mengzhou, translating to “dream ship,” will ferry three astronauts to and from the moon, while the Lanyue, meaning “embrace the moon,” will descend to the lunar surface.

Drawing inspiration from both Russian and American precedents, China’s lunar endeavor presents a novel approach. Unlike its predecessors, China will employ separate launches for the manned module and lunar lander due to the absence of colossal space shuttles. This modular approach bears semblance to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, reflecting a contemporary adaptation of past achievements.

Upon reaching lunar orbit, astronauts, known as “taikonauts” in Chinese, will rendezvous with the lunar lander, reminiscent of the Apollo program’s maneuvers. However, distinct engineering choices mark China’s departure from traditional lunar landing methods.

The Chinese lunar lander, while reminiscent of the Apollo Lunar Module, introduces novel features such as a single set of engines and potential reusability and advance technology. Unlike past missions where lunar modules were discarded, China’s design hints at the possibility of refueling and reuse, opening avenues for sustained lunar exploration.

China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending 'Taikonauts' To The Moon From 2030 Onwards
A re-creation of the two Chinese spacecraft that will put ‘taikonauts’ on the moon.CSM

Despite these advancements, experts have flagged potential weaknesses, particularly regarding engine protection during landing. Nevertheless, China’s lunar aspirations remain steadfast, with plans for extensive testing and site selection underway.

Beyond planting flags and collecting rocks, China envisions establishing a permanent lunar base, the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), ushering in a new era of international collaboration in space exploration.

While the Artemis agreements spearheaded by NASA have garnered global support, China’s lunar ambitions stand as a formidable contender in shaping the future of space exploration. In conclusion, China’s unveiling of its lunar ambitions not only marks a significant milestone in space exploration but also sets the stage for a new chapter in the ongoing saga of humanity’s quest for the cosmos. As nations vie for supremacy in space, collaboration and innovation emerge as the cornerstones of future lunar endeavors.


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