I am often asked about how difficult it was to get IRAP funding for the TouchKeyword project. For me, it was a 15 minute pitch and a one page summary (see below). Sounds simple right?
My pitch to IRAP was probably the 63rd pitch I did. I stumbled through the first 10, started to hit my stride through the 20s and 30s and by the time I sat down with an ITA (Industrial Technology Advisor) I had the pitch polished like a like a banker’s first Mercedes. The point is that if you have not started pitching your idea/project to anyone that will listen, you should start. Now.
The one page summary was the product of 6 months of hustling. First by finishing in the Top 10 in Sencha’s mobile app development contest followed up by organizing several successful sessions of the Haskell Meetup group. Keep in mind these are things that I enjoyed doing, but being able to point to public social proof gave significant credibility to the TouchKeyword proposal.
IRAP wants to see some forward progress before they will invest in your project. As a general rule for a web product, you should have at least a thousand users and *something* you can demo.
When you approach IRAP, keep a clear thought in your head of their motivations. Their goal is to increase the number of technology related jobs in Canada. More jobs mean more tax dollars. More ‘clean’ tech jobs also means our economy can further diversify beyond our reliance on primary industries (forestry, oil, mining etc.) Make sure your proposal shows how their investment will grow your company and ultimately benefit the Canadian economy.
First a note: Avoid building something purely to get IRAP funding (or any other source of funding). Build something that you love, build something that solves a pain (or is Fun), build something that people want to use. If there is a particularly risky piece of technology you would like to add to your product that will propel it from good to great, that is the time to approach IRAP.
Here is exactly what IRAP is looking for in their words. Make sure your proposal ticks the following four boxes:
The key, as with all pursuits involving money, is to give enough time for the relationship to form. Start talking with your ITA now. Keep them informed of your progress and any milestones you hit. Make sure you are on your ITA’s radar at least quarterly. List of contacts for ITAs across Canada.
Without further ado, the original unedited IRAP proposal for TouchKeyword:
TouchKeyword is a keyword research application for the iPad. This app displays Google AdWord’s keyword data in an intuitive format making keyword research more accessible for users who are new to keyword research realm.
TouchKeyword was developed and co-founded by Jesse Heaslip and *SuperStar Developer*.
Jesse graduated from the Bachelor of Commerce program at the University of Victoria in 2005 and has since worked at Internet start-ups on three continents. He has extensive domain expertise in the Search field and currently works as Web Optimization Consultant at Juice Group in Vancouver.
*SuperStar Developer* is nearing graduation from the Computer Science Program at the University of Waterloo. He is currently the CTO at LocalCompanyX and is a Ruby and Rails consultant. *SuperStar Developer* built all back-end functionality as a Rails App on top of the Sencha framework.
TouchKeyword was entered into Sencha’s recent international mobile development contest and was selected as a Top 10 Finalist (winning $2000) from a pool of over 200 entries. TouchKeyword was the only entry from Canada to make the top 10. Details of the contest can be found at: http://www.sencha.com/company/press/dailycrossword-developed-by-cahit-guerguec-wins-sencha-touch-app-contest/.
From January 1st to March 31st 2011 TouchKeyword will be released and refined as an iPad app in Apple’s App Store. Our focus during this period will be on growing a user base and refining the algorithm based on feedback from users and the local search community. We will also be testing marketing messages through AdWords and Facebook ads.
Initial: After over 50 user interviews and completion of ACETECH’s Market Entry program an initial market of individual North American small business owners has been identified. The pain for this group is the cost of hiring a search professional to do their keyword research coupled with the high time costs involved with gathering a proper understanding of keyword research. TouchKeyword addresses both of those pains. We believe there are tens of thousands of small business owners that would be willing to pay a small price to receive more traffic from search engines.
A secondary market of search professionals has also been identified. For this market, the time required to perform keyword research is the biggest pain. TouchKeyword appeals to this group as a time saver and will also offer in depth and exportable reports that are suitable to be presented to clients.
TouchKeyword has potential as a takeover target by Google or a search company like SEOmoz or UnBounce.
TouchKeyword’s initial revenue model will be to tie the cost of use to the tool’s only variable cost, access to Google’s API Data. API calls cost 25 cents per 1000 units. TouchKeyword will reorganize this data and resell the data at a markup. Credits will be sold as an initial purchase (eg. 99 cents to download app with 25 credits) and as in app purchases once initial credits are used. An average transaction may only be for several cents. Our initial revenue model is based on the idea of scaling the product to a very large user base.
-Advanced Keyword Ranking Algorithms built using Haskell utilizing data from Google, Twitter, Facebook and/or Bing.
-Add feature that evaluates user’s site to ensure specific keywords are obtainable for that domain
-iPhone/Android/Tablet mobile versions
Jesse will primarily work at researching and developing the algorithms based on domain expertise and additional market research complimented by interviews with top professionals in the local Search community. Due to Jesse’s involvement with the search committee at the International Internet Marketing Association (IIMA), he has access to top local search professionals to aid in validating algorithms.
*SuperStar Developer* will primarily work at developing the mobile and mobile app versions of the TouchKeyword application for iPhone and Android markets. This will primarily involve development with the Sencha and PhoneGap frameworks.
Because of the volume and complexity of data in the search field, the back-end algorithm of TouchKeyword will be written with Haskell, a functional programming language. A third developer, a specialist in Haskell, will be brought in to complete this process. This third developer will be drawn from the pool of Haskell developers in the Haskell Meetup group that Jesse Co-organizes (http://www.meetup.com/vancouver-haskell-unmeetup)
Total Budget for project (April-June 2011)
$10,000 X 3 developers X 3 months = $90,000
Securing this budget would allow the co-founders to dedicate a larger portion of their time to the development and refinement of TouchKeyword.