20thSep 2011

Andy Heaton of enModus shares his journey from smart idea to winning significant funding 

enModus is a next generation home energy management company with a unique technology that will allow homeowners to monitor and control their home appliances cost effectively and help them to reduce their consumption.  In June 2011 this Bristol based start-up announced $1.6m funding from Andromeda Capital and without breaking stride, enModus founder and CEO Andy Heaton and his team stepped smartly onto the next leg of their journey to bring their products to market.

Along the way enModus has actively sought the wealth of support available to start-ups in the South West region. Their story highlights how, with a great idea, hard graft and an understanding of how to exploit your networks, it is possible to find valuable advice, support and funds to offset some of the risks inherent in the life of a start-up.

Investing time in your network

The idea for a low-cost powerline energy management solution first hit Andy in 2006, but back then the market wasn’t large or mature enough to do much about it.  So Andy sat on the idea and kept developing it, figuring out the product and a route to market.  By 2010 the game had changed for Andy and his idea, and he set up enModus with his own funds. 

The next step was to expand his network into the energy management sector so Andy hit every conference, seminar and workshop from Bristol to Edinburgh to map the landscape, make contacts and understand his corner of the smart grid world. 

He also joined two key networks in the region; Silicon South West and the South West Founders network who both offer informal networking opportunities for entrepreneurs and business owners.

“You need a big enough network of people in and around your space. You then automatically find yourself getting access to people who can help in lots of different ways.” 

SETsquared popped up on his radar while consulting for Xmos, another successful SETsquared company. So he contacted Entrepreneur in Residence, Greville Commins who introduced him to the Microelectronics iNet Director Rick Chapman.  Now he was plugged into two organisations committed to signposting practical resources across the region.

By March 2010 Andy was pitching a proposal to the Microelectronics iNet board. 

Finding valuable business support

Up front, the iNet helped enModus with a year’s subscription to SETsquared and with Greville acting as a sounding board, Andy honed his business plan. He also took advantage of the SETsquared Investor Readiness programme.  A seasoned entrepreneur and a strong people manager, Andy feels that the direct experience of the SETsquared team gives them credibility and authority, and working with them has introduced discipline and rigour into the way he scrutinises his plans. 

The iNet also supported the development of a new product and through their Review Board, introduced Andy to the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS ) and the Design Programme who were both able to offer timely expert technical advice and support through their networks. 

MAS advised him to carry out some early compliance research and introduced him to a company who are experts in the relevant standards legislation he needed. He used that insight while working with local product design company Brightworks, to ensure early compliance and save time and cash later on in the design process.

The Design Programme helped Andy find exactly the right partner to design the web application for his products.  He used their experience and inside knowledge to create the brief and find Bristol based digital design company Beef. 

Winning funds and influencing people

While enModus has been really successful in leveraging the network in the South West to gain valuable business and technical advice and support, Andy has also won external funding which has kept them on track. 

The Microelectronics iNet provided seed stage funding to support market research and a clear path for business planning.  A second wave of iNet funding helped them to engage Brightworks to develop a crucial ‘customer ready’ working prototype which helped enModus attract VC funding. 

Early on in December 2010 Andy also won £150k from a South West angel that allowed enModus to develop their hardware solution and expand their patent portfolio.

Working with the Design Programme gave rise to a further £5,000 voucher from the Creative iNet and that offset some of the design costs of their web application. 

“You have to be ready to spend 60 – 70% of your time fundraising. I spent 6 months knocking on doors, using and extending my network to get introductions, and I pitched the business plan to dozens of VCs before speaking to Andromeda.” 

Andromeda Capital has now given the company a boost with $1.6m of funding to get their products and services to market.  

In just 18 months Andy and his small team have successfully made the transition from a seed stage company to a fully fledged start-up and they intend to continue their relationship with SETsquared. Andy has just signed up for another year as a virtual member, to make sure he continues to get access to the advice, support and network opportunities that the SETsquared Business Acceleration offers him.