The company, which was founded in 1997 and now has offices in Croydon and Las Vegas, the exhibition capital of the world, began life as a normal web site design operation, but soon evolved into a highly specialized web development company, which provides the web sites behind numerous major exhibitions. These allow the organisers to post items, exhibitors to enter information about their stands and products, and visitors to find out about the show.
The main weapon in ASP’s armoury is a ‘SHOWOFF’, a sophisticated, bespoke content management system (CMS), developed by the company, for the use of large scale exhibitions and conferences around the world, staged by the world’s leading event organisers.
Most people in business have used exhibition web sites, either as exhibitors to post information, or as visitors to plan their day, but the software that powers that web site is a very specialist area in which ASP has carved out a very successful niche, and is now heading for the next stage in its development with the help of crowdfunding finance from ArchOver.
With the crowdfunding sourced by ArchOver, the client is able to keep improving and providing more useful information and services to their clients. The crowdfunding solution meant that the business had reduced risk .
Says ASP CEO Arran Coole: “A single exhibition can have up to 6,000 exhibitors and hundreds of thousands of visitors, which means in the build up to, and during, the show or conference there is an enormous amount of activity on site. Our software has to manage this while providing everyone with the right information from the exhibitor and visitor databases.”
Adds Arran Coole: “Like all businesses, we need to keep improving and I wanted to offer our clients much more useful information that would help them make their event a success; particularly information they wouldn’t necessarily search for, such as the way people use the site, not just what they say. For example, what people are searching for, what they keep coming back to visit, what tweets are proving the most popular and so on. We would then suggest what they could do to make the most of that information.
“Obviously, developing new software requires hiring lots of developers and takes a lot of time during which we were making nothing back. This meant I had invested about £1m of our reserves in this development. While we are a successful company and we could afford it, when I talked about what we were doing at a meeting of the Association of Business Leaders and Executives, many of the other members pointed out that using this much of our reserves was adding an element of risk to the business that could be a problem if we hit an unexpected rough patch. So, I decided it would be prudent to take out a loan, just to de-risk our finances while we finish and roll out the product.
“I only wanted £200,000, so I had a range of options, and I as directed towards ArchOver by our virtual FD Sanjay Patel at the FD Centre after he had discussed our case with a Corporate Finance Specialist, Paul Goodman at Goodman Corporate Finance. Paul suggested that an ArchOver facility would be ideal for our needs after fully reviewing the data Sanjay had provided to him.
The ArchOver model suited much more than a bank loan, as the on-going administration will be much less and no personal guarantees were required. If I am borrowing money to de-risk my business, I don’t want to do that by risking all of my assets.Arran Coole - Director at ASP Solutions
“The other good thing is that it is a two-year interest-only loan, so we only have to pay back the principle at the end. With a bank loan we would have had to payback a 24th of the loan straight away and another 24th each subsequent month. It kind of defeats the object of having the money for a reserve.
“As ArchOver secures the loan against our debtor book so it insists we have to have credit insurance, which I found was a useful process to go through. It’s just another way of de-risking the business really.”