Financial technology is a growth industry in the UK, so it is not surprising to see startups in this sector. This week we shine the Startup Spotlight on Ormsby Street, a developer of online tool CreditHQ.
The firm was founded by Martin Campbell, Stuart Dawson, Robert Drury and David Charles in January 2014, and has developed a web app to help small businesses address late invoice payment and cashflow by using data to understand the financial health of trading partners.
Ormsby Street is based in Old Street just off Silicon Roundabout in the heart of London's Tech City, and employs 11 people. CreditHQ was shipped in November 2014.
We fired off our spotlight questions to Campbell to find out more about his startup and CreditHQ.
If you want to take part in the V3 Startup Spotlight contact Roland Moore-Colyer.
Previous startups under the spotlight have ranged from cloud computing services firm Fedr8, to referencing app and cloud platform firm RefME, customer feedback system provider truRating, and social network data library digi.me.
Tell us what Ormsby Street does
We make CreditHQ, a free online tool that helps small businesses. CreditHQ takes data from Companies House and major credit data supplier Dun & Bradstreet, and uses that to allow a small business to check the credit status, payment performance and general financial health of more than seven million companies.
CreditHQ started life as a ‘credit score subscription' product for Barclays bank but was taken over by me and a team of other entrepreneurs, and we developed a next-generation platform with a new business model which integrates multiple data sources and intelligently guides business owners to improve cashflow.
Why did you choose to develop CreditHQ?
Late invoice payment and the attendant cashflow issues are among the biggest problems faced by small businesses, inhibiting growth and threatening survival.
But which small business owners have the time to go through huge volumes of data themselves? We wanted to offer a tangible solution to real-world business problems and challenges, bringing the benefits of big data to small business.
Tell us how you got Ormsby Street off the ground
It's a different story from many startups, as we took on the management of a product that already existed.
Myself and the rest of the management team realised that the potential for improving small business cashflow was vast and we could build on all the knowledge and data built up from delivering the previous product to Barclays' SME customers, and create an even better product.
What technology do you use?
Our core technology is based around the Microsoft Azure platform, and we deliver primarily into web and email channel, the most widely used environments for this kind of data, though we're increasingly integrating directly to other applications via APIs.
We're based in .NET and use relational and big data database storage platforms for our data storage and analysis of companies.
What level of funding have you received so far?
We've received £2.5m in seed funding, in the form of a legacy contract, and we're now generating revenue on the new product in several markets.
What challenges have you encountered to date?
The main challenge so far has been finding the team members with the best and most up-to-date skills.
As data is such an important part of our proposition, a good data scientist was imperative, and a team with digital engagement skills is also vital for a modern business.
The founding team has a strong track record of delivering products and growing businesses focused on software-as-a-service, so we've been able to build a big part of the team through contacts and previous colleagues.
What's been the biggest highlight of your business?
It was undoubtedly the launch of the next-generation version of CreditHQ, in November 2014. We'd planned to deliver the product using the agile methodology, and thus were expecting rapid evolution.
But seeing it in action and the team's ability to constantly update and refine it, made us realise we had really delivered on the promise of lean agile development, and we were able to respond to what we learned from customers and turn that into rapid growth.
What does your company do to relax or have fun after a busy day?
As we are based in Shoreditch, it is virtually compulsory to do beers/table football evenings on a regular basis.
But we also have regular bake-offs, with fierce competition to bring in the best homemade cakes, as well as some extreme team training events that have included learning the dark art of graffiti and how to sail a racing yacht on the Solent.
What did you do before starting up?
My first business was digital agency Baigent, which I developed into the leading UK digital agency in its sector before its sale to NASDAQ-listed software firm Convio.
When Convio's growth led to its acquisition by Blackbaud, I took on the role of director of strategy and innovation working at corporate acquisitions, strategic development and worldwide partnerships across all non-US markets, before founding Ormsby Street in 2014.
What are your favourite and worst things about running your own startup?
My favourite thing is that in our tight-knit team of very capable professionals, there's such a lot going on and we're able to move really fast to take advantage of new opportunities.
The worst thing, of course, is that there's no-one to do our admin for us, and that job falls squarely on me.
If you could emulate the success of another startup, which would it be?
That's a difficult one. In our own industry, DueDil are often quoted as the obvious guys to watch, and we're a year or two behind them on the growth curve, addressing a different market proposition, but, yes, we'd like to achieve that level of growth.
At the end of the day, though, making our partners successful and helping our customers run their businesses better is what we're focused on, so that's the success we really care about.
Do you work remotely, in a shared environment or have your own office space?
We have our own office space, which we love. But flexible working is also encouraged, with many people working from home at least one day a week and keeping in touch with the office via ‘Perch'.
Pat Hume, super-human tech sales leader who I had the pleasure of working with for a spell in my last role, taught me everything I know about commercial partnerships and the channel approach to sales.
Smart or casual?
Smart. Just because you can code doesn't mean that you don't have to be respectful of etiquette in the workplace.
Coffee shop of choice?
Fix on Whitecross Street, AKA conference room three.
Beverage of choice?
Latte before 10:00, double espresso after.
Omnifocus [a to-do tool], or, as my wife calls it: 'Oh, you're not writing that down as well are you?'
Do you benefit from startup communities and related networking?
Absolutely. There is so much to be learned from them. I also support tech startups in London's Tech City as a mentor at the Wayra accelerator, entrepreneur-in-residence at the Emerge Venture Labs, Google Campus and as a non-exec board member and adviser to several fast-growth digital companies.
Could the government and technology industry do more to support UK startups?
It could make things a lot simpler and more joined up. Given that Companies House and HMRC talk to each other it seems pretty silly to have to file with each separately, and can we line up what's allowable for VAT with what's allowable for Corporation Tax? Less paperwork, more business!
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