Entrepreneur Vision

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Andrew Michael


Andrew began his first company, Fasthosts, an online domain service, from his parents’ house aged just 17 and went on to sell this multi-million-turnover business for £61.5 million in 2006. He has since founded and built four online companies.

His latest venture is Bark.com an online tool that links consumers to local professionals across a range of services, from personal trainers to wedding photographers.

We spoke to him about what makes draws him to online companies and what lessons he has leant over the course of his journey from a room at his parents’ house to a successful Internet entrepreneur.

Could you tell us more about Bark.com?

Andrew: Bark.com is an online lead generation platform which helps connect customers to local service professionals. We operate across a wide-range of sectors, from gardeners and caterers to more obscure categories including a dove releaser. We make it as fast and easy as possible for customers to find local, reliable service professionals by doing all the legwork and providing multiple quotes for customers. We firmly believe that there is not another service that offers the breadth and quality of professionals that we do and because of that, we are very excited about the next steps.

How did your experience running Fasthosts prepare you for setting up Bark.com?

Andrew: The experience of growing a business from scratch put me in great stead for building Bark.com. I also love the fast paced environment of working online which I first experienced running Fasthosts, I learned that it is always changing and evolving, and you have to be able to adapt constantly. But it is so rewarding to see your original idea build, grow and manifest itself into a multi-million pound business.
Having a great team is essential in any venture. I am extremely appreciative of the work that goes in to launching a startup and maintaining its success, which is why I put a considerable emphasis on effective recruitment. You need to select talented people with the right ethos and then let them get on with what they do best, that’s when you see the most positive results.

What drives you to keep founding new companies?

Andrew: I think it’s just what I am passionate about; taking something small and growing it into something big. When it is your baby, so to speak, there is definitely an added motivation to make it a success and I am fortunate to have people around me who share that drive. Founding companies is what I have done since I left school and it is a challenge that I enjoy immensely.

What do you believe is the biggest indicator of a business’s success, besides financial gain?

Andrew: For me, a business is only as good as its customers. If they’re growing and giving you good feedback then you’re doing well, if not then you’ve got problems. We value feedback extremely highly and make sure we listen to both the buyers and sellers using our site, as their opinions are critical. If they don’t like the site then they won’t come back and repeat customers are much cheaper to service than new ones, so it makes sound financial sense too.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to set up their own business?

Andrew: A big thing for me is that you have to be prepared to take risks. Never be afraid to make the wrong call, as the worst decision you can make is doing nothing at all. While you should listen to others around you, it’s important that you ultimately trust your gut instinct. You have to be confident that you’ve got to a certain position because of your decision-making skills. Never give up if you fail the first hurdle, plan A may not work but do not be afraid of plan B, C and D – many of the most successful business and individuals have had to endure their fair share of rejection so you’ll be in good company! You also have to be extremely nimble and be able to adapt as things progress. Of course, you will lay a strategy and plan in place but this has to be flexible and open for negotiation.

How do you think the Internet has impacted on the business marketplace?

Andrew: The rise of ecommerce has dramatically changed the way people shop for both products and services. Customers no longer visit a photo studio to chat to a photographer, their first port of call is to view the website. Looking for local professionals now starts on Google, as opposed to the Yellow Pages and these businesses and individuals need to adapt to ensure they remain front of mind.
Bark is very much designed with this in mind and is aiming to bridge the gap between Google and local professionals to make it easy for Buyers and Sellers alike to find one another. The move from physical to online to mobile is ever growing and ultimately, the businesses that succeed are going to be those that can service customer needs whenever and wherever they want.

And finally tell us how you stay ahead in the business market?

Andrew: It is crucial to try and stay ahead of the curve in everything that you do to ensure that you’re offering your customers the best, and in our case most easily accessible, service possible – running a business without reviewing what else is happening in your sector is like trying to drive with one eye shut. I regularly review competitors to see how the wider industry is attempting to take things forward. I also make sure that I heed advice of those closest to me; not just my colleagues but my friends and family as they are the people who know me best and will be looking for services in the market.

Training & Education

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 GreenPath Announces 2015 Personal Finance Library Programs

GreenPath Debt Solutions, a nationwide non-profit credit counseling and education organization, is partnering with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), to bring free financial education to libraries across the country.

The “CFPB Community Financial Education Project” has matched up local non-profit credit counseling educators and public libraries to provide residents with free personal finance workshops.

GreenPath has scheduled more than 30 programs at libraries in six states (New York, Florida, Wisconsin, Georgia, Michigan, andTexas) in April, May and June. This initiative will provide consumers with reliable, unbiased financial information and tools at convenient public library locations.

“At GreenPath, we think it is vital to go into the communities we serve to provide personal finance programs,” said GreenPath President and CEO Jane McNamara. “These free library programs are another way we can help people better understand budgeting, credit reports, identity theft prevention, and more.”

SafetyPay Drives Inclusion in e-commerce for Consumers Without a Bank Account or a Credit Card

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SafetyPay a global solution for real-time payment, has been growing on the strength of its offering cash payments for online purchases, with the aim of serving a large portion of the population. Last year, cash transactions via convenience stores and banking intermediaries accounted for 45% of all company transactions. Furthermore, in the first quarter of 2016, growth came to 86% of the year before.

The process is simple. Consumers who decide to use this new method of payment pay in cash through bank intermediary or convenience store using a reference number issued via e-commerce channels by SafetyPay at the time of purchase. According to data of the Brazilian Federation of Banks, 40% of the country’s economically active population does not have a bank account. According to the World Bank, the same percentage of people without banking services is observed in the rest of Latin America (information from 2014). At the global level, the World Bank estimate is that 200 million people do not use formal financial services.

As a cutting edge company combining finance and technology (FinTech), SafetyPay is using its experience and knowledge in the area to conduct online and cash financial operations in 19 countries around the world. Recently the company launched new functionalities for already existing products and incorporated these solutions into its service portfolio. In addition, it signed new agreements throughout the region, for example, with Peruvian, Decolar, eDestinos and Azul Linhas Aereas, among other companies.

“We believe that solutions developed by companies like SafetyPay combining finance and technology are the fastest route to financial inclusion for the population that does not have access to traditional banking services. By investing in an alternative that makes it possible to purchase online, confirming payments in real time at convenience stores / banking intermediaries authorized in Brazil, without the need for a bank card or credit card, we have broken down barriers for anyone who wanted to buy but did not up until that moment have a safe and reliable way to make payment,” concluded Luiz Antonio Sacco, SafetyPay’s Chief Executive for Latin America.

The results have already begun to become apparent. In 2015, the company registered global expansion of 80.4%, and in Brazil, its growth was nothing less than 500%, driven by contracts signed with big companies, showing the enormous potential of the market that is being exploited.

Swan Global Direct Investigates how brands can Capitalise on Euro 2016 Marketing Opportunity

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Swan Global Direct have investigated how brands can capitalise on the valuable marketing opportunity the event brings with millions of fans worldwide tuning in.

Swan Global Direct trust that the Euro 2016 tournament will be the biggest platform for brands to make their mark in 2016 in the UK. The popularity of the sport will provide businesses with a unique opportunity to put their products in front of millions of consumers. The UK has a huge love of sport, with football ranking a clear first with both genders, 67% male and 33% female. Marketers must consider the female consumers during their campaigns to not alienate a third of their audience.

With many factors to consider, of the 1,000 consumers sampled in the UK, the largest proportion (48%) of those interested in football are aged 35-54, while 32% are 18-34 and 20% are aged over 55. This should impact the promotions that occur onsite at events, as it is reported 52% engagement will come from attendees of the live games. 93% will be engaging through television sources and for those with a sizeable advertising budget will need to create a captivating campaign to encourage social media engagement and benefit from 43% of consumers who will be able to connect with a brand through a simple hashtag.

Opgal is Unveiling the Thermal Security System of the Future

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The future of thermal security cameras became reality as Opgal Optronic Industries Ltd., a leading manufacturer of thermal imaging systems, announced that they will be unveiling their new Sii™ OP thermal security camera later this month. Based on Linux OS, the Sii OP is defined as the first thermal camera with a truly open embedded software platform, boasting an incredibly easy installation and a dedicated Software Development Kit (SDK) for seamless third party integration.

Security cameras have come a long way in recent years. Once the realm of traditional CCTV systems, more security projects these days are built around thermal technology due to the 24/7, all weather detection capabilities of these devices. The need for better target detection has created a demand for thermal cameras that will be able to integrate with end-point analytics software that facilitates easier target detection and tracking.

“With our growing line of Vumii® thermal imaging systems, we are always seeking ways to reinvent thermal imaging and bring new technologies to market,” stated Amit Mattatia, President & CEO of Opgal. “The Sii OP introduces new standards to the security industry, by offering a cost effective option and a truly open platform to system integrators and software developers alike. This is yet a further proof of Opgal’s ability to leverage its vast experience in creating game-changing products.”

Equipped with both thermal and HD visible-light channels for day and night surveillance, Sii OP meets global ONVIF standards to ensure interoperability of hardware and software products for easy integration to both existing and new infrastructures, regardless of manufacturer.

Sii OP will be available from Opgal via a growing network of solution providers and distributors in all major countries, and will be offered with pre-integration to some of the leading VMS and analytics software in the market. Opgal will unveil the Sii OP at the IFSEC exhibition to be held June 21-23, 2016 at the ExCeL London, UK convention centre.

FocusVision Acquires 24Tru and QualVu

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Adds Cloud-Based Asset Management to Growing Suite of Market Research Technologies.

FocusVision, the global leader in market research technologies, today announced the acquisition of 24Tru and QualVu. FocusVision’s commitment to providing world-class market research solutions coupled with white-glove customer service holds true as the company expands its product base. Both products offer immense value to FocusVision’s enterprise and agency clients.

24Tru enables the aggregation and organisation of all research content for efficient access to insights, video clips, images and entire reports. With 24Tru, Consumer Insights leaders can find, edit and share content in minutes and efficiently collaborate in online workspaces. Insights are shared in more engaging ways to bring the entire enterprise closer to the customer.

QualVu, the full-service qualitative research and insight arm of 24Tru, offers services for knowledge synthesis and integrated data delivery through the 24Tru platform. QualVu has led the online migration in qualitative research by leveraging video-based methodologies and data organisation services.

“The addition of 24Tru to FocusVision’s suite of quantitative and qualitative research solutions enhances the product options available to both FocusVision and 24Tru clients,” said Rodney Holm, VP of Product Development, FocusVision. “24Tru’s Research Intelligence (RI) technology allows users to find, edit and share their video, image and document assets. RI is the next generation of knowledge management, with the ability to ask questions of your data, collaborate with your stakeholders and connect the organisation with the customer.”

“24Tru and QualVu are valuable assets that closely align with our existing family of products,” said Jayme Plunkett, Chief Product Officer at FocusVision. “We are proud to integrate these solutions into the FocusVision suite of technologies.”

ID Card Centre Helping the Education Sector Get Ahead With Student ID Card Printing for Enrolments

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ID Card Centre has answered a plea for help from many of their customers within the education sector to help them with the busy and stressful enrolment period.

Each autumn universities and colleges have a new influx of 1000’s of students arriving on campus, merely days after enrolment has closed and courses assigned.  This generally allows just a matter of hours to print every single student ID card ready for collection on the first day of term.

Recognising that universities did not want to invest in purchasing lots of additional printers for just a few days a year, ID Card Centre have added to their rental offering to meet these needs.  Now stocking a wide range of ID Card printers covering different print and encoding processes to meet the unique needs of the user.

MD Ben O’Brien comments “Each year we are getting more and more requests for our rental printers as budgets are squeezed and our customers cannot afford to invest in their own equipment.  This year we have heavily invested in our rental stock, tripling what we had previously, so that we can meet our customer’s needs.  We also run a bureau service whereby we design and print the background of the ID cards ahead of time, this just leaves them to print the actual student data as soon as they have it, which saves them an incredible amount of time and also money.  Of course if they want us to manage the entire print operation then we can of course help with that too!”

Each printer is fully checked and cleaned before a rental and the firmware is upgraded ensuring that the customer simply needs to plug in, set up and start printing.

Consumables are offered on a use or return basis so any unopened printer ribbons and blank cards can be returned for a full refund.

How to Find and Define Your Marketing Voice

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Do brands really understand the importance of finding their own unique voice? Online marketing specialists, Brandlective, investigate whether todays brands have lost their identity and offer advice to help them rediscover their marketing voice.

When it comes to communication, people have grown lazy. Our readiness to communicate in depth and openly has diminished over time with the introduction of social media and instant messaging. This superficial, to the point communication is also becoming prevalent among brands – especially for those experiencing unprecedented growth, developing a unique way of speaking to their audience is slowly moving down their list of priorities.

However, Brandlective Communications are warning that to stand out in a competitive market taking the time to define a strong and consistent marketing voice is vital.

Tone of voice encompasses not only the words a brand chooses, but their order, rhythm and pace. This tone should be consistent across all written copy; making the brand instantly recognisable. Brandlective Communications believe there are a plethora of reasons why a well-developed marketing voice is beneficial in business. First and foremost, it paints a picture of the people behind the brand which is integral to building strong emotional connections to an audience. A brand is not a product, it’s the people and its success depends on the ability to communicate the values that lie at its core. Consumers want to know what drives the people behind the brand, what they stand for and how they live their lives. An effective marketing voice should promote desirable lifestyle choices, not just material things.

This isn’t to say that a brand’s tone of voice shouldn’t inspire people to buy products, quite the opposite. The narrative established from a defined tone of voice is an incredibly effective persuasion tool. Often, the way someone says something creates a stronger emotional response than the underlying statement. By recognising people’s sensitivity to language brands can mould their marketing messages to generate specific emotional responses.

Brandlective Communications understand it can be difficult to know where to start when shaping a brand voice. The firm state that a marketing voice needs to be a timeless entity, steering clear of fleeting trends and idioms that may date further down the line. Brands need to consider what they want their legacy to be and what it is they want to tell the world.

Reignite your purpose

Unsurprisingly, profit is a major driving force for brands, but rarely is a business created for profit alone. All businesses start off with a greater purpose, a desire for change and to add value to the world. Brands need to tap into the initial driving force behind their company and reignite their purpose, as these values with shape a consistent message and develop an honest and impactful brand voice.

Formality

Another area that brands constantly struggle with is the balance between informal and formal language. Whilst all brands want to appear approachable, using an informal voice can make certain brands seem unprofessional or out of touch. When communication is in writing, this balance is even more difficult to get right as people are unable to rely on body language or natural vocal behaviours to set the right tone. Only employing people who share the brands core values and understands its purpose is key to hitting the formality mark, Brandlective Communications suggest allowing them to write without restraint as the best course of action for finding an organic balance between a formal and informal voice.

Of course, even for brands that display an informal tone, there will be occasions when they need to pepper their marketing communications with more technical and professional language. Reading this type of content to a test group or someone with a limited knowledge of the business can iron out any confusing or alienating language that could be off putting to the audience.

Whether humorous, emotive or formal, Brandlective Communications believe the most important thing for a brand’s marketing voice to do is to tell a story. Having consistent themes and values running through all marketing content prevents chaotic information into a concise message that delivers strong emotional resonance that customers can relate to in a variety of ways.