This week V3 puts young technology entrepreneur Jack Barmby under the spotlight to hear more about Felicitas Media, the social media monitoring startup he founded after an idea he had during work experience.
Tell us more about Felicitas Media
Felicitas Media was set up to transform the way businesses currently communicate with their customers. It began life as an outsourced service where businesses could employ us to monitor their social media channels.
Our software would allow multiple people to collaborate effectively on Twitter, therefore better managing customer engagement.
Felicitas Media has now evolved and the software used by us will now be made available as an online web application called Gnatta so that companies can take business-to-consumer (B2C) communication in-house.
When was it started?
The idea came about during a work experience placement when I was 18, so 2009. I was trying to manage B2C communications using a mixture of Google Docs and Hootsuite.
After creating the makeshift web application, other businesses soon cottoned on to its innovative capabilities. They then started employing me to do the same for them.
The company then grew out of a university project which I began during my first year in 2011. Since then it has been going from strength to strength.
Where is it located?
The business is based in Bolton, in the same building as the company where I first developed the idea during work experience.
We are in a building which is home to various SMEs but it is not an incubator or a startup centre. However, it is nice having other businesses around because we can communicate and learn from each other.
How many people work in the business?
In the past year the number of staff has grown from 32 to 142.
Why did you choose to set up Felicitas Media?
The web application began life as a solution to a problem I was facing: managing the social interactions of an ever expanding business.
I had previously used a combination of Hootsuite and Google Docs and it was just failing to allow effective collaboration. Mistakes were being made.
So I wanted to create a web application which would solve this problem and would be scalable to cater for large and small businesses.
Tell us how you got your business off the ground
The business pretty much took off itself when other businesses saw how useful it was. We got approached by a leading parcel delivery service and it really progressed from there.
Getting the business off the ground has really been a case of perfecting the software and refining the business model.
What technology do you use?
It is a web-based application, so coding is the main technology we use right now. However, we are now looking into the analytical capabilities of the app, demonstrating to businesses where they see the most social interactions, how quickly they are currently responding, and how sentiment is changing as a result.
What level of funding have you received so far?
The whole project has been self-funded and we are lucky enough to be in a position where we are debt free.
Most of our revenue comes from the outsourced customer services model and social pay-per-click, but all the profits are then reinvested into perfecting Gnatta which we are confident will soon be the company's bread and butter.
What challenges have you encountered?
Initially the biggest challenge was time management. Balancing university studies with starting a business was always going to be difficult.
Second to that, it was being able to define what I wanted my business to be in one sentence, which took time and I am still refining my business goals.
It's always difficult to say no to opportunities at the beginning so a big challenge was staying true to my original vision and not getting side-tracked by other projects.
What's been the biggest highlight of your business so far?
There are constant highlights, but a big one was seeing my business grow to over 100 employees in less than six months. It was a huge milestone and a real testament to how much we are in demand.
What does your company do to relax or have fun after a busy day?
Staff engagement is really important to our business and having family values at our core was one of the key cultural goals I wanted to fulfil.
We have recently set up a house style system which is encouraging community spirit so that teams will get together after work and volunteer at a local charity together or play a game of football. It's really important to our business that everyone feels involved and part of a team.
What did you do before starting up Felicitas Media?
Felicitas is my first job outside university. I had undertaken work experience during summer holidays, but technically speaking this is my first job out of academia.
What are your favourite and worst things about running your own startup?
My favourite part of running a startup is being able to do what I love and see an idea that I had at 18 become a reality and grow before my eyes.
The worst part is needing to say no sometimes. Now that Felicitas is growing I need to start refining my business model and this means staying true to my original vision and not getting side-tracked.
While I am always open to ideas, sometimes you have to say no to opportunities which I know are a departure from where I see my business going.
Garrett Camp. I love to see someone who constantly strives to create great technology. As if StumbleUpon wasn't enough of a success, Uber is taking the world of transport by storm and he is a real example of putting good ideas into play.
If you could emulate the success of another startup, which one would it be?
Going back to Garrett Camp, it would have to be Uber. Finding a better solution to a common problem than anyone else - simple, easy and universally applicable.
Smart or casual?
Can I say smart casual!? Jeans, waistcoat and a blazer day to day.
Coffee shop of choice?
Takk in Manchester. I love the design of the place, uber-Scandinavian and a nice place to go, grab a bite to eat and do some work.
Beverage of choice?
Cup of coffee to wake me up in the morning!
The Alchemist in Manchester: great décor, killer cocktails, good rustic food, and a stone's throw from the Opera House.
Flipboard for sure. It's a great way to quickly consume news, business related and personal, while on the go.
Do you benefit from startup communities and related networking?
It is always nice to know that there is a peer network of other startups and entrepreneurs, but I get so much support internally from my staff and I find that they encourage me and challenge me enough to make sure we reach our full potential as a business.
Could the government and technology industry do more to support UK startups?
I think the past few years has seen a real investment by the government into UK startups and I think that this is really starting to pay off now as we emerge from the recession.
Government-funded bodies such as the Business Growth Hub and policies like Osborne's Northern Powerhouse signal to me that the government wants to champion startups and show the UK as a centre of business and innovation.
The technology industry itself will always help startups by championing the great and innovative. It is such a fast moving sector that the new is always supported.
However, in the longer term, when the hype dies down, this is where support is lacking, but I guess that's just the nature of the industry. You just have to keep being innovative.
If you want to take part in the V3 Startup Spotlight contact Roland Moore-Colyer.
Previous startups under the spotlight have ranged from cloud collaboration company Huddle, smart cities analytics company Future Decisions, cloud computing services firm Fedr8, to memory health app maker Memrica, public sector website developer DXW, software sequencing specialist Sparkl, and online mobile app builder Appsme.
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