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Case Study: BiBCOM Ltd - A Mentor's Case Study

Published: December 2007

(Left to right) Martin French, Mentor, Easa Taheri, Managing Director BiBCOM, Jonathan Dixon, SYIF, Rod Brew, SYIF.

Background
South Yorkshire Investment Fund mentor, Martin French, worked with the first case on a brand new pilot fund set up to specifically help South Yorkshire businesses pioneer new technologies.

The Seedcorn Fund has been established to test ways of financing innovative businesses to take new technologies to market and the first recipient is Sheffield based BiBCOM Ltd, with a £120,000 investment.

Martin helped Easa Taheri Oskouei, Managing Director of BiBCOM Ltd, the winner of Sheffield Business Award for 'Innovation through ICT,' 2006, through the trials of starting up a high-technology, high risk business with a combination of financial support provided by the Fund and Martin’s own business expertise.

The Idea
Every business hoping to secure Seedcorn funding has to demonstrate an innovative business proposal which embraces pioneering technologies and Easa’s idea fulfilled the criteria perfectly.

The funding helped Easa develop his BiB invention, a remote monitoring system working through mobile phone technologies, which allows the user to observe a remote location.

The original application was Baby-BiB, which allows parents to check on their children.

BiB is a software application, which works through a normal mobile phone but enables the phone to be used to transmit live video footage of the child and surroundings.

The video camera on the phone is activated via 3G technology, once the parent calls the handset from another phone. The caller can then both see and hear the child in real time.

BiB-Sense is also available as an extra electronic accessory that broadens the use of this technology in many other sectors, including sheltered homes and care centers.

SYIF Involvement
Easa made a direct approach to SYIF, aware that his business is the type of venture that the Seedcorn Fund is looking to back.

SYIF Investment Manager, Rod Brew, took care of the details. Taking into account Easa’s engineering background and his business plan to accelerate the growth of the company, together with the product’s great development potential and marketability, the company secured a Seedcorn investment of £120,000.

Further to the financial help from SYIF, Martin was appointed as BiBCOM’s business mentor to help Easa with development of the company’s managerial practise.

Martin has been on SYIF’s Mentorbank list for more than five years and has a high profile background in high technology industries from positions including general manager at Gent, the UK’s largest fire detection company and strategic business director at Norbain, Europe’s largest CCTV distributor.

Martin said: "My background placed me perfectly to help BiBCOM to evolve the product range into new markets and to maximise the company’s marketability."

"My priority at BiBCOM was to establish the right routes to market. It was immediately clear to me is that the company had a product which was suitable for a consumer market, but which also had potential for development into a very good business to business product."

"To put a framework in place enabling the company to diversify the product and reach new markets, I built lists of tasks that Easa is working towards. These tasks create a series of operational platforms to strengthen the BiBCOM business practises."

"Moving on from here, the primary assistance I can provide to BiBCOM is in helping to establish new key networks to deliver the product. This process has already begun."

"Initial networking comes via business contacts that I have provided, but the development of key contacts will accelerate and as long as Easa is proactive in maintaining networking practise, the company will develop a strong market profile."

The input that Martin has provided BiBCOM has placed the business in a strong position to secure early sales. In the meantime, the relationship between Martin and the team has gone from strength to strength and he has recently accepted a part-time executive role with them.

The Progress
The £120,000 Seedcorn funding has enabled BiBCOM to put real marketing measures in place and to launch the product with profile raising measures which will sustain growth, backed by a new website through which the product can be purchased and downloaded.

BiBCOM has now got the interest of many local authorities, which see the BiB products as a potential solution to communications problems in sheltered housing where there is no landline connectivity. BiBCOM has also fielded an expression of interest from a large northern local authority over agency rights and licensing of the product.

Martin said: "From a business to business perspective, recent developments in 3G technology mean mobiles are capable of considerably more than they are currently offering."

"BiBCOM offers exactly the sort of product they are looking for and from Easa’s point of view SYIF’s help in getting into these markets will give a much higher return for his product than by simply targetting retail sales."

South Yorkshire Investment Fund can provide seedcorn, loan and equity linked investments ranging from £15k to £2.5 million, specifically to help small and medium businesses meet the gaps in funding they need for growth and development.

Link to article on SYIF website



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