A digital pioneer returning to Birmingham, entrepreneur Brian Donnelly launched technology firm Synapse in 2012 and is already achieving revenues of £1.3m as well as employing over 28 members of staff. He told BQ of his start-up journey with Synapse.

Based at the Innovation Birmingham Campus, Brian founded Synapse with a British team of highly experienced Silicon Valley veterans with extensive experience in data management.

The company helps make spreadsheets easier for its clients, which already boast a major UK bank and a global Swedish retailer.

Speaking to BQ, Brian described the company as allowing “business spreadsheet users to collaborate together to share one version of data. This saves them substantial time and cost and puts them in charge of managing their own business processes without recourse to IT.

“Companies large and small produce management reports manually using spreadsheets. Time and money is wasted as staff cut and paste data together.

“Synapse solves this problem – we automate your report production so you can get back to more productive work.”

After a career in Silicon Valley founding multiple companies and working with some of the world’s leading technology firms, he returned to Birmingham to launch Synapse.

He said: “I invested half a million of my own money from building my previous company in Silicon Valley. Then we enhanced this with circa £1m grant and bank funding.

“I returned because I wanted to build a great team here in the greatest city in the world for start-ups. Birmingham.”

Even the most experienced entrepreneurs need to seek advice when expanding their horizons and Brian was no different.

He said: “Aston Reinvestment Trust (ART) was extremely helpful with funding and providing a deep knowledge of the West Midlands community. The two SMART grants we’ve been awarded have been fantastically helpful too.”

When we asked Brian what his biggest challenge with Synapse was to date, he joked: “Getting great coffee – until we hired an in house former barista and purchased an espresso machine!”

He continued, telling BQ that the firm is now aiming to grow its revenues in line with its current growth strategy to rise from £2m in 2015 to £5m in 2016.

“The best thing about being a start-up is freedom from large company collaborative decision making and politics. The worst thing however is constant pressure to get enough cash in the early stages.”

In making sure Synapse was able to make its mark in the ever-challenging technology industry, Brian had to think of a niche idea to break away from the competition.

He added: “Millions of software companies provide products that business users are tired of adapting to.

“We, uniquely, allow business users to carry on using existing trusted spreadsheets whilst we eliminate the data quality and consistency problems related to them – in this way we free the business from reliance on intransigent IT and techies.”

To finish off, we asked Brian who his ideal customer would be, to which he replied: “We have customers ranging from small five person businesses to large British banks and Swedish retailers, but our ideal customer would be local to Birmingham and have a great sense of humour.”

Published: Business Quarter: 23 Jun 2015