Life as a startup contains as much drama and intrigue as you would find in Lord of the Rings. According to CEO and Founder of Exceedence, Ray Alcorn, the quests for both are surprisingly similar. Dogged determination to find the ‘precious’, overcoming your foes and dealing with inner and outer demons. The achingly beautiful highs and the devastating lows, to finally emerge, victorious. It takes a special type of person for this quest, and it is not for the faint of heart.
The story of Exceedence has been a fairytale all of its own, blazing a trail in the Renewables industry. The company’s inception began in 2008 when Ray was running a research centre in UCC on marine renewables. Working with industry partners, he saw that many companies were struggling to raise finance as there was little confidence in their techno-financial models. Investors were unable to assess where risks would arise in the business and often the models themselves were inaccurate, either through mistakes or misinterpreting the process.
In 2011 at UCC’s HMRC, the software was developed by Dr Gordon Dalton. The company was founded in UCC Gateway and moved to The Entrepreneur Ship incubator at IMERC when the software was licensed in Autumn 2015. Their aim was to create a standardised approach that would allow like for like comparison of financial outcomes across different technology types in Renewable Energy projects. Their software is designed to assess a staggering 1,015 variables including parameters such as financial viability, wind speed to company location. This allows companies to reduce risk, save time, increase profitability, maximise resources and optimise the development of projects.
In less than 2 years, Ray and his team have amassed an impressive treasure chest of accolades and funding. In Dec 2015, Exceedence was awarded £90,000 sterling for the Wave Energy Scotland Stage 1 PTO Funding as lead company and in Sept 2016 were awarded a further £495,000 for a Stage 2 development. Jan 2016, Exceedence was selected by NDRC in their Catalyser Programme. This gave Exceedence an investment of €100k and access to their intensive 3 month mentoring programme culminating in a Liftoff pitch event in June. This funding helped them build their team, market presence and their message and taught them how to engage with customers and understand their needs.
Also in June 2016, Exceedence secured 100k ODINE Funding. They are the first Irish company to be selected for the Open Data Incubator (ODINE). This funding allows Exceedence to develop and offer a cloud based lite version of the Exceedence Finance software. The same month Exceedence was selected for Microsoft Bizspark Plus Support. Through the NDRC they will be supported for 3 years, with €360k worth of Azure credits and all the development and backoffice software they need to roll out a cloud based SaaS version of the Exceedence Finance software.
They have now sold more of their software and have a development relationship with paying customers such as Wavepower Ltd. These developments gave Ray and two other team members the confidence to quit their jobs in UCC and work full time for Exceedence.
A Merry Band
To realise your dreams, you usually need the support and strength of your fellow(ship). Ray’s merry band are a group of highly skilled and talented individuals who have decided to join Ray on his mission to help fulfill the dreams for Exceedence. The team is composed of Ray Alcorn, John Keating, Chris O’ Donoghue, Annicka Wann, Bichris Coupama and Anthony Sherlock.
Ray is CEO and Founder of Exceedence. He is a chartered electrical engineer, working in research and development of marine renewables, research and commercial career. In 2014 Ray went to part time work at UCC to found Exceedence and lay the groundwork to spin out from UCC and license the software. He cofounded the company with John Keating who is also the Director and has considerable experience in the renewable energy industry. John spent almost 17 years in commercial consulting with a heavy emphasis on renewable energy. Chris trained as a telecommunications engineer and he is the Principal Software Engineer for the Exceedence Finance software. Annicka is the Senior Project Engineer and she attained an MSc Engineering in Energy systems as well as a BSc in Business and Economics in Sweden. Bichris is the Business Developer and gained two Masters degrees in France, one in the management of biodiversity (Biology – Ecology) and one in business management. Anthony is Exceedence’s newest addition as ICT apprentice in Software Development.
Ray says the biggest issue Exceedence faces is trying to shift people away from what is the status quo. “So even though people are using something that’s broken (eg. using Excel as an analytical tool) and they know it’s broken, and they even know it’s inefficient, they are very reluctant to give that up and do something new. We are trying to level everybody the whole way along the supply chain. And that disruptiveness requires education and that’s our challenge.”
Sharing the Adventure
Ray’s enthusiasm for the industry and its potential is infectious, “I want to help more people generate projects and be successful. To create a lot more of these opportunities for other companies. The likes of the companies we share incubation space with, Dare Technology, Solo Energy etc. to make it much easier for them to raise the finance.’’
Sailing to Success on the Entrepreneur Ship
Since Exceedence relocated to The Entrepreneur Ship, Ray has already noticed many benefits to the move. “The advantages here are through colocation and we already have projects that we worked on with CIT and the Maritime college and with UCC MAREI. In fact some of our staff are ex UCC MAREI employees as well, including myself. The mentorship network is very good and you are also a relatively big fish in a small pond which is nice because we are very focused on what we do here and we are part of a cluster. We share funding programmes, we tell people what else is coming up and we invite people to various workshops and we try and learn from each other.’’
To date all their sales have been outside Ireland. Exceedence has a combined revenue from a range of consultancy projects (in particular Wave Energy Scotland which was 90k over 6 months) including NDRC, ODINE funding plus sales consultancy. This has generated about 300k in revenues from Sept 2015 to end 2016. Their obvious success in bootstrapping and making revenues in what is technically a seed round will help Exceedence scale with their software and increase sales.
As they continue on their epic adventure, their tale shows us that in real life the surest route to success is holding to your dream with the aid of your allies and forging those bonds. With these lessons, happy endings are real and achievable.
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