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Our First Year Trading - What a Ride!

Paul King
March 19, 2021

On the 19th March 2020 (1 year ago), we won our first paying customer - Mark Elwell.

It was three days after the start of the Coronavirus lockdown. David and I spent the week packing up office furniture to work from home while onboarding Mark and figuring out childcare. It was a crazy time!

Lockdown challenges

Thinking back brings lots of memories that you'd associate with an early-stage tech start-up. We spent late nights working, frantically building features as and when we needed them. Our software was rough around the edges and held together with bits of string. But it worked.

On top of everything was the uncertainty of Covid-19. Nothing like the Coronavirus lockdown had ever happened in our lifetime. So we didn't know what to expect.

🍀Luckily, we couldn't have found a better first customer. Mark knew our co-founder David from a previous job where they had worked together. So he was prepared to overlook some of the missing features (there were lots).

Honestly, he was a saint.

Thanks, Mark!

Mark believed in our vision, and that was enough for him. We are grateful to have found such a great early adopter to give us feedback. Mark was brutally honest but kind. Exactly what we needed. All start-up companies need feedback from real customers!

Mark Elwell runs asbestos surveying company, Summit Environmental.

Reaching milestones

In the year since we started trading, and 160 online demos later, we've achieved some incredible milestones: 

  • Found traction. Our software gained instant traction in the asbestos surveying industry.
  • We moved into other industries. We moved into other vertical sectors, including vent hygiene and fire dampers.
  • We went international. In our second month of trading, we won our first clients from New Zealand. We were officially an international company!
  • Found a strategic advisor. We enlisted the help of a fantastic strategic advisor (more on that another time).
  • We became profitable. Becoming profitable meant we had a successful business! 🥂 

Suffice to say; it's been an incredible year full of ups and downs. Mostly ups, though!

Becoming profitable

Reaching profitability was a significant milestone for the company.

In the beginning, David developed our product while I did freelance software development work. Moonlighting as a software developer kept the lights turned on but stretched our resources thin.

In mid-2020, we secured a Bounce Back loan, which meant I no longer needed to keep freelancing, and I could focus on sales and marketing. The volume of demos ramped up, and we were soon surviving on recurring revenue alone. Awesome!

It was fantastic to tell new clients that we were profitable and not going anywhere. We were officially here to stay.

And besides a small loan, we've been able to reach profitability by bootstrapping the company. So it puts us in a solid financial position if we decide to take on investment.

Finding our vision

⭐ Our "North Star" metric for Flow Mobile Surveying has always been the fast turnaround of reports. If our clients can deliver high-quality survey reports quickly, they'll have higher profits.

So we've been pretty clear on our vision for the product from the beginning.

But the last year has helped us refine our vision as a company too. David and I realised that we want to help out clients become successful, not just with software.

To help our clients succeed in all aspects of their business, we've started writing guides. These guides help asbestos surveying companies in areas like starting a business, outsourcing, and day-to-day operations.

You can check out our guides here.

Our goal is to become the most widely used asbestos surveying software with a legion of successful clients and supporters, then move into other industries like fire safety and legionella. But first, we'll focus on solving problems for the asbestos industry.

We made mistakes along the way.

You can absorb knowledge from every business book, but sometimes you need to make mistakes to understand the lesson. You need to learn how to walk before you can learn to run. 

We made the "classic mistake" of trying to disrupt multiple industries too soon: asbestos, fire safety, ventilation hygiene, legionella, you name it. We tried to do too much at once. It diluted our marketing message. 

It was clear that companies were unsure what our main focus was. We were confusing the markets we were trying to reach. We only had a finite amount of energy and attention, so we felt pretty overwhelmed.

Realising our mistake, we've refocussed on just one industry for now—the asbestos industry. With our co-founder David's credibility in the asbestos world and experience building asbestos reporting software, NexGen, this was always a sensible place to start.

  • Goodbye fire risk assessments 🔥
  • Goodbye legionella 💧

So we've said goodbye for now to these shiny but distracting industries.

Ultimately, we want to move into multiple industries, but we will focus on making the ultimate reporting tool for asbestos surveyors for now.

The future

Next up, growth.

Now that we're profitable, we're looking to grow our company. That means defining our culture and hiring a team.

We have a few options available to help us do this

  • Grow Organically.
  • Take Investment.
  • Debt Financing.

David and I will make a decision here that best serves our customers, product and business. We're excited to see what the next year brings.


In the last year, we've reached profitability, despite the challenges that lockdown has thrown at us. Our focus is on the asbestos surveying market, but we have dreams to tackle other industries too. 

We're grateful to our early adopters, who have helped us build a great product. A company can't get anywhere without its legion of supporters. We're eternally grateful. 🙏

Thank you to everyone who has helped us over the last year. Especially our first clients. A special mention to Mark Elwell and Ben Pickard. You believed in us when we just were two unknown brothers with software development skills and an idea.

Has this story got you thinking about your asbestos surveying systems and process?

Get in touch to see how Flow Mobile Surveying can help you reduce two hours of report writing into a single click.

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