To help our aspiring entrepreneurs and future SETsquared Bristol members, we are showcasing a number of case studies demonstrating the breadth of tech and depth of success in SETsquared Bristol and what it takes to achieve.
We had a chat with A2Z Technologies Founder, Azir Razzak…
What is your idea/product?
A2Z Technologies is an IT support service business and from this, we have developed a specific HR platform, Luna HR, with the main aim of improving employee wellbeing and productivity in the work place. If you have happy staff, you have a better work environment. We provide the tools that not only help HR administrators to spend more time providing pastoral care but that will help people in their careers and self development, thereby removing admin headaches and overhead.
How did you enter SETsquared Bristol?
I was at a non-tech event and bumped into Nick Sturge, Engine Shed Director, where he did a speech about technology. We got talking and he suggested that I contact SETsquared Bristol to enquire about their business support services. I got in touch, and the next thing I knew, I had filled in an application, went for the interview, and was successful in being offered to join.
Prior to that, I had left my main job, after being employed and running my business side by side for 13 years. I started my business in a moonlighting capacity but as soon as I quit my employment, I have been focused 100% on the business. I took that step because the business needed to grow and I’d stopped enjoying my paid job.
How has SETsquared Bristol helped you?
SETsquared Bristol has helped my business by highlighting all the things I have not done and should have. I have built up my confidence in public speaking, and my own self-belief. I have found bits of everything useful, from the coaching and mentoring to workshops and events, and taken nuggets of information from various different people, mentors or courses. For example, in forming the management team, the incubator has helped me to think about how to do it, then how to resource. This has meant developing our values and being open about why we are doing what we are doing, as it is not just about making money, which means A2Z is scoped to make a difference.
Being in and around other people going through the same journey is one of the many benefits of SETsquared membership. When based in the shared office, I really enjoyed the shared problem solving, its one aspect of my job that I really love and was able to do that for others.
What business have you won so far?
We’re developing a platform for a research organisation, who are a competitor of yougov. We’ve recently won some HR work in the construction industry, we are in conversation with a school, we have some interest from a marketing agency and a car repair garage which is very random. This was a result of a chat I had with the mechanic who was struggling to keep on top of holiday and sickness.
Who is in your team?
I’ve got two off shore development teams in Bangladesh and a set of developers in the UK. My senior team includes James Millard, who is heading up operational side and looks after infrastructure in the cloud; Per Qvindesland, who has a Norwegian and South African back ground, is the head of devops and basically keeps the complicated systems running; Murat Sert, who is Turkish, heads up development looking after our off shore dev team; Lewis Tolman, our digital nomad working from exotic places in Far East, looks after the product road map. Ibrar Hussein and Thomas Driscoll work specifically with one of our clients looking after their IT infrastructure. Murat and James are based in our office at SETsquared, whilst Per works from Manchester. In total, there are between 13 – 20 in the team depending on workload including off shore developers.
With having a team spread across different places and time zones, I don’t oversee everyone’s work. They work together to solve problems only coming to me as the last stop to figure a way through for clients. The work:life balance is important and you should treat others how you wish to be treated. In our team there is mutual respect and understanding that everyone is an individual. We work flexibly, as long as delivery is there and when the tech goes wrong, there is a willingness and commitment to solve it. That is what I am seeing so I am happy, and I get a positive vibe from it all.
How much investment have you raised?
We’ve been self-funded all the way. At present, we are looking at an Innovate UK bid and we have other things in the pipeline.
What are your next steps?
It’s an exciting time in the business because we are working on rebranding and also the UI and UX within the platform, which has been neglected for some time. We are also looking at our technical debt versus reengineering some of the platform, which is resulting in some interesting conversations. There are a number of reasons for why this hasn’t been done until now: including work on our own projects and work with clients, as well as finances. Our vision is to work with clients who share our values that it’s not just about money.
My computer science qualification is a second degree. I had to leave my first degree course after one year as I had an accident on my right hand which means I now have a disability and as a result I am a one-handed typist, although most people wouldn’t know. I was right handed, and had to learn how to use my left hand to write for a short time, the whole experience taught me a lot about perseverance. You have to keep trying, and I motivate my team through that. I also do mentoring within the community in my spare time. For example, I met an electrician six months ago who wanted to set up his own business, I’ve helped him and he is now on the right footing to do that. Also I’ve helped a plumber get an apprenticeship which has supported their business too.