Web & PHP gets some tips on launching a PHP startup

The Interview: Colin Hayhurst

Colin Hayhurst is the co-founder of StackBlaze, a PaaS startup based in the UK. We asked him what challenges face the would-be PHP entrepreneur in today’s risky economic climate, what he thinks of PHP 5.4, and why running a cloud outfit is one of the most difficult jobs around.

Q. You launched a PHP startup recently. What did it feel like to do that, and how have things been going since?

It’s been a fantastic experience and I’ve felt a whole lot more fulfilled than in any previous job. For me, you can’t beat working for yourself with other founders. It’s not that I’m a control freak, indeed many would say I’m the very opposite of that. It’s just that it sucks in so many ways to be slaving away being part of somebody else’s vision.

It’s been quite a climb to get where we are now, with our recent commercial soft launch of StackBlaze. Indeed nine months have elapsed since we started on the product development. My own involvement has not been as intense, until recently, as that of my co-founder who has handled almost all of the technical development. So the length of that time could have been more frustrating, but there was plenty going on in the meanwhile. Apart from all the commercial aspects of launching, we had a private alpha and private beta programmes in that period. I also worked part-time in another business, where my job was helping a portfolio of technology startups, until September 2011. We are really just starting on our adventure so we can expect lots of challenges and fun ahead.

Q. How hard is it to start a company in the current economic climate? How did you get funded?

The current economic climate makes it easier, in my opinion. Most ambitious startups are looking to disrupt current businesses, business models and markets, so in a downturn they have an advantage over established players. Startups have the advantage of being nimbler, having lower costs and no legacy to hold them back. Perhaps raising investment money is a little harder, but I don’t think it’s that much different for startups than in the past. Yes, it’s very tough if you are looking for capital in an established business, but for startups there have always been very few sources of good finance willing to take the necessary risks.

We were lucky enough to raise a small grant from the UK’s Technology Strategy Board. That was dependent on finding some match funding, in cash, which I was committed to doing. Since that grant expired I have been funding the business myself with proceeds from a previous venture. Now we have reached the point where we can bring in revenues from the product.


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