The Business Owner: Tim Carrigan, Opendesk

The entrepreneur gives us his tips for businesses wanting to export, and talks about the next generation workforce

The Business Owner: Tim Carrigan, Opendesk

Company: Opendesk
Founders: Tim Carrigan, James Arthur, Ian Bennink, Nick Ierodiaconou and Joni Steiner.
Location: East London
Proposition: Opendesk is a global platform for local making. You can use it to download, make and buy work space furniture. Opendesk has a global network of makers and a collection of furniture by a range of international designers. Because that furniture is designed for digital fabrication, it can be downloaded as a digital file and made locally — on demand, anywhere in the world. We call this “Open Making”
Size: 25 employees
Website: www.opendesk.cc

How is your business different from what’s already out there?

It’s our business model that sets us apart from other businesses within the same industry.

We design furniture centrally, and then partner with hundreds of small local manufacturers around the world – who make the items whenever someone places an order.

We do this by hosting design files for digitally fabricated products and then sending them on to a local maker.

How did you finance your business?

Through private equity and crowd funding.

What is the most important thing to keep track of in business and why?

The most important thing is keeping a close eye on cashflow and making sure the team are collectively pushing the vision in line with investor requirements.

What is the biggest day-to-day challenge you face?

Keeping the team on track and managing investor relations.

What marketing techniques do you use to attract new customers?

We focus our marketing activity on four main areas; top industry events, digital (PPC, SEO, social), content and PR.

Do you think it’s important for small businesses to export, any tips?  

Absolutely, but when the time is right.

We’re actually in a lucky position where only 12% of our audience is from our home market but that’s also a negative.

We are trying to focus on the market we’re based in, before we really push our promise internationally.

The tip I can give is; focus on your home market, learn from it, improve and then look further afield.

That will give you a foundation to be successful operating outside your natural locale.

That being said, whilst you should focus on your home market, you should have an expansion/export/international strategy in place from as early as possible so the activity you are building can be leveraged when the time is right.

What’s the business app you couldn’t do without?

Slack – it’s an app we use for our internal communications.

We also use it everyday, on an hourly basis, sometimes even more frequently.

Describe your company’s culture in three words:

People-first, iterative and innovate.

What would you like the government to do for small business?

Provide tax breaks when first incorporated (i.e 1/2 years) and provide free accounting support within that period.

Who’s your biggest small and medium enterprise hero?

Kano Computers.

What they are trying to achieve in the education space is inspiring.

It’s what the UK needs to focus on over the next decade and when it comes to the next generation of the workforce.

Where do you want the business to be in three years?

We’d love for distributed manufacturing, in all its forms, to be a clear choice for the general public.

With Opendesk as the key furniture solution to mass-produce

What’s your top tip for keeping it lean and making profit?

Test and iterate based on insights.

Profit can be made out of waste, and in a tech start-up you can easily spend many hours building, fixing and marketing features that are not wanted.

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