Eight Questions for the 'Final 8' - Rosemary Francis
In each of the eight days running up to the 2011 Shell LiveWIRE
Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, we will be profiling one of the
eight finalists to give you some background on their entrepreneurial
journey so far. Second up is Rosemary Francis of Ellexus.
To learn more about Ellexus visit Rosmary's Alumni page.
Can you give us some background on how your business got started?
My experience in the chip design industry gave me my idea for a tool
that would help to manage problems in large software products. A
colleague of mine had a poster that said 'don't fight the tools, the
tools will always win', meaning don't try to solve a problem - just find
a way around it. I decided that there should be a better way than that.
I started my business in February 2010 after speaking to a lot of my
friends, colleagues and other engineers about the idea and how to take
it further. I knew roughly what I wanted, but I didn't know how so I had
to go through a number of different options and designs before we found
What has been the biggest barrier you have overcome to get this far?
There have been so many barriers and I am really grateful to my team
and my friends for helping me through them. We have managed to get a
long way on a very small budget which, at times, has been painful, but I
am glad I haven't had to give up too much equity to get going.
A more subtle barrier I cope with daily is being taken seriously as a
young woman in an industry entirely run by older men. Being different
can work in my favour, but I have to decide whether a new contact will
be impressed or put off because I'm in charge.
How has Shell LiveWIRE helped you on your journey?
Winning a Shell LiveWIRE Grand Ideas Award gave us the money to go to
some of the largest industry conferences in the industry where we have
picked up most of our business. Without the money for that trip we
wouldn't have got so far so quickly.
What has been the best bit of advice you’ve received on your entrepreneurial journey?
The best piece of advice was about a friend's company. After retiring
from running his company he went back to improve his underlying
technology only to find a flaw in his calculations from 20 years
This wasn't a lesson in producing buggy products, but it showed me
how important it is to be customer focused, not technology focused. A
lot of technology companies get caught up in the details and fail to
listen to what their customers want. On the other side of that, I have
to manage customer expectations and not promise things we can't deliver.
It is a very fine line to walk and only time will tell which bits I
have got right and which bits I got wrong.
The other piece of advice which I think should be said to everyone
starting a business is what a friend said to me before I started:
“You are going to be very successful and make more money than any
of us, but you are also going to want to give up many times along the
way. When you feel like that just give us a call and we'll come over and
give you a hand.”
Which entrepreneurs do you look to for inspiration?
I look to my family and friends, many of whom run their own
businesses or invest in others. They are critical to my progress because
they are not afraid to tell me that I am wrong. There are many
entrepreneurs in the media who provide points of reference, but
Cambridge is also full of people who have set up and run successful
technology companies so I don't have to look very far to find inspiring
What are you most looking forward to at Shell LiveWIRE LIVE! 2011?
I am really looking forward to meeting the other contestants and I am
also looking forward to the judging process. I am interested to know
what they will want to know about me and my business. I hope the PR
surrounding the event will help us to improve our message, which until
now has been quite technology focused.
What will it mean to you and the business if you win?
Winning this competition would be amazing because it would give me
the chance to prove that women can lead in the technology industry and
it doesn't have to be boring. I don't have very many female role models,
but I think it is something that is very important to have. One day I
hope to encourage others to run their own businesses.
What do you think can be done to help entrepreneurs in the future?
Business has to start in schools. There are a few basic principles in
business that most people don't understand that could be worked into
the curriculum. For example, many of my friends don't understand that an
employee's salary is a small part of the cost of employing them or that
the cost of selling and distributing a product can be more than the
cost to make it. Business is often only taught as a university subject,
but many people start successful businesses without having a degree.
Shows like the Dragons' Den are great for showing that anyone can do it,
but the format is so edited that it can sometimes be hard to follow why
one company is worth investment and another isn't.
For full details on each of the eight finalists for the 2011 Shell
LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, please visit the 'Final 8' page.
You can watch the 60-second elevator pitch video submitted by
Rosemary as part of the Shell LiveWIRE Grand Ideas Award process in the
top right-hand corner of your screen.