James Morris was working full time for the States of Jersey in employment relations when he had a lightbulb moment for a job evaluation software solution that could be sold to NHS Trusts in the UK. A graduate of the Digital Jersey coding course, he had a good understanding of how it could be done, but it wasn’t until he met software developer Will Beebe at a hostel in Milan, that the idea became a reality: ‘I think the coding course definitely gave me enough knowledge especially when I met Will for him to take me seriously enough, so it was a huge benefit to me that course. It gave me enough technical knowledge to bridge the gap between Will and clients.’
The two were 27 and both in full time jobs, and while James lived in Jersey, Will was in Seattle. It didn’t stop them, at the end of 2016 they formed Container Labs and started work on the product which they called Libra, in their spare time: ‘It took us a bit of time to work out how to run a business when we were eight hours apart and we learned a lot,‘ says James, ‘So it took us a while to finish Libra and work out how we functioned and it wasn’t really until the end of last year that we really got in our stride and this year we both went full time on Container Labs.’
Two years on, it’s not just them working full time in the business, there are eight others working part time on it too in both Seattle and Jersey. Their initial product, Libra is at different stages with around 18 NHS trusts, some are using it, others they’re working through the procurement process with. How did they find the actual process of setting up the business? ‘In terms of setting up the company here it was pretty easy,’ says James, ‘There’s a lot of support here, Digital Jersey, Jersey Business, so in terms of the stuff you have to do that was pretty easy. I think we had a steep learning curve on how to function between two different time zones, not many try to run a company eight hours apart, so that was tough.’
‘I find the tech interesting,’ says Will, ‘but we have a US entity and an entity in jersey and so you have to duplicate some things. So our employees in the States are employed from the US entity so I had to figure that out. There’s a lot more than coding to start a business and for me I knew I didn’t know things, but there is a lot and there is always so much, HR and payroll and what taxes you should do. It’s sad that there’s such a barrier because I think a lot of people have good ideas.’
You can read the full feature in October 2018 Business Brief
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