At MarketFinance, our whole team connects once a week for our (currently virtual) Townhall. Now that restrictions are easing and businesses are able to take stock of the past year, we invite a customer along to talk to our CEO, Anil Stocker. These fireside chats are an opportunity for everyone in our business to understand the challenges and opportunities that SMEs face.
Edward Belgeonne, CEO & Founder of Bantham Technologies, joined us recently via Zoom to tell us about the exciting work he’s been up to. With his fifth start-up business successfully in full swing, Edward has experience by the bucket load. Read on for his tips and advice on building an inspiring and innovative business.
The world of “environomics”
Bantham Technologies is a cloud-based platform that specialises in digitising data capture. What that means is they can help businesses send and share information from anywhere digitally, in real-time and securely. Their technology helps customers improve the efficiency of their operations, reducing time consuming and environmentally unfriendly paperwork.
So not only do they give back time to customers, they’re also helping them be more sustainable. Edward refers to this as “Environomics”. Customers that have employees working out in the real world, like engineers or healthcare workers, see an enormous benefit.
On behalf of their customers Bantham Technologies process over 1 million e-Forms every year. Each e-Form equates to around five A4 pages that used to be hand delivered back at the office. Bantham Technologies fully digitised the process, which meant they saved 5m pages of A4 paper that in turn saves 50m litres of water (the paper manufacturing process uses 10 litres of water per A4 page) coupling the carbon saving of 4g per page from this process and the carbon saving gained in fuel reduction, as field -based staff no longer had to travel back to the office, this provides a total carbon saving of around 6000 tonnes of carbon a year.
Each customer now gets a monthly report of the time, money, paper, water and carbon they’ve saved by using Bantham Technologies. For one of their customers, an NHS trust, they even created an integration that allowed the nurses to do a simple search for every patient they visited in real time. All patient information was automatically pulled and pre-populated in their e-forms on the NHS system. This extra time meant their nurses could do an extra 1500 visits per month or spend longer on home visits and improving care and patient outcomes.
Sticking to what you know can pay off
Edward’s has always been in the tech industry, taking new technology to the B2B sector but he once considered leaving all that behind and immersing himself in the environment helping to resolve the issue of plastic in our oceans. He remembered his Grandmother once saying “stick to your knitting” and so he found a way to tie his two ambitions together delivering environmental benefits by saving time, money and paper using his technology. In this case, following her advice has proved smart and hugely beneficial to healthcare workers.
When COVID-19 came along, the team decided to pivot. With movement controlled, their digitised technology came in especially useful. They decided to advance this further by developing Bantham Radar which involves applying AI to the data they collect and share. This allows businesses to analyse their own customer base and work patterns, meaning that informed improvements can be made to streamline operations.
With the NHS it soon became clear that the full benefit of Bantham Radar went even further. “It was designed originally to identify patient trends. Now it’s a backlog buster”, Edward explained. He told us that some NHS Trusts could take 5 years to get on top of the backlog of patient records because their human resources are thin. Bantham Radar is showing them how they can make a significant dent through automation, freeing up valuable time for clinicians and nurses.
Choosing between equity and debt
Edward told us that, as an entrepreneur, “you’re always thinking about if you’ve got enough cash to pay salaries and cover other outgoings”. Like any business owner knows, when you’re starting out you need a lot of cash quickly to support your initial growth. So Edward had to make a decision between debt and equity to get things moving.
In the past Edward has chosen the investment (or equity) route. For Edward, when you give over shares to investors, “the business becomes about entertaining 30 or 40 people in boardrooms”. This time he wanted to fuel the business engine in a different way to stay in control.
Initially he used his own money. “I was light of foot, not carrying baggage”, Edward told us. Then when it was time for a new cash injection, he went to his bank.
Traditional banks wouldn’t help switch the lights on fast
It might not surprise a small business owner to hear that his lender didn’t exactly come to the rescue when the business needed cash. Edward was frustrated by what he refers to as the “computer says no” response he got from banks. In his words, “if you have piles of cash in a space that’s not threatened in any way, they’re delighted to offer you money when you don’t need it”. Like many entrepreneurs, he felt let down that banks only cared about cash positivity and profit, rather than vision.
Edward told us that he looked into the alternative finance route via a broker because he was willing to consider a higher cost to get things done. He explained that Bantham Technologies had arrived at a point where they “wanted to switch the lights on fast” – and that kind of step up requires working capital.
“When I manage my cash, I run a daily sheet and I’m on it twice a day, for small and large payments”, Edward told us. His advice to small business owners is to micromanage their own cash in this way. He’s realistic about customer payments, saying that “cash coming in is always on a promise”. The bigger the company, in his experience, the more they’ll extend and take advantage of the relationship. Securing the right funding to manage long payments is crucial.
Having both a loan and an invoice finance facility from MarketFinance gives him the confidence to keep pursuing growth and progress. This access to cash allowed Bantham Technologies to get ahead with their remote software. “In any business, cash flow is the lifeblood. Cash is king”, Edward told us. Which is something we hear and say all the time at MarketFinance.
Edward’s a fan of our funding solutions because there are real people behind the tech. “The team understands if you need a different kind of support or approach”, he told us. Plus, entrepreneurs are short of time and being able to check the portal at any time he wants has been useful for him.
Edward is keen for this business to be his final foray in the entrepreneurial world. He told us that what’s most important to him is that he can “deliver a legacy for my family that’s more about making a contribution beyond good business. It’s contributed to saving lives”. Having overcome a serious illness himself, he wants more people to be able to have access to the care they need. And that means giving the health service better tools to help them give that care. We wish him the best of luck taking Bantham Technologies even further, and are thrilled to be part of his strategy.