UK: SME/Columnists - Capital is the mother of invention.

UK: SME/Columnists - Capital is the mother of invention. - How a bright idea turned into a prototype.

by Sarah Gracie.
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

How a bright idea turned into a prototype.

If there is anything worse than trying to raise capital for a start-up business, it's trying to raise capital for a new invention.

Many people with a bright idea find themselves starved of capital in the early stages before their invention has been turned into a prototype.

Millipede Cables experienced this at first hand. The company was formed to bring the invention of a self-locking reusable cable by physics student Andrew Harsley to market. The cable ties anything from steel girders to fruit bushes and has a variety of potential applications in domestic, agricultural and industrial situations.

Harsley spent much of his university grant on buying worldwide patents, before seeking capital to build a prototype: the cable itself might cost a few pence but the moulds to make them cost hundreds of thousands of pounds. Initially, Harsley was successful in finding a UK plastics manufacturer that would develop a prototype in return for the first manufacturing contract.

But the early prototypes had design flaws and the manufacturer got cold feet. Millipede apparently had nowhere to go.

The company then turned to the US. There, it found a plastics manufacturer in Pennsylvania that was prepared to do its expensive R&D work in return for the US licence to produce the cables in specified materials for a specified period. This enabled Millipede to meet the next stage of the commercial process. And as Vincent Aylmer, one of the company's backers, says: 'I have no doubt that this product, when it reaches the market, is going to be immense. But, at this stage, you have to get the working prototypes. That's the battle. And that is what we have achieved by going to the States.'

Sarah Gracie is a senior writer at Venture Capital Report.

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