The Entrepreneur: Fran Quilty, Conjura

Conjura is an ecommerce data specialist provider that makes data analytics accessible to companies of all sizes, no matter how big the challenge.

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Startups was founded over 20 years ago by a serial entrepreneur. Today, our expert team of writers, researchers, and editors work to provide our 4 million readers with useful tips and information, as well as running award-winning campaigns. We interview successful entrepreneurs from all over the UK, celebrating their achievements, hard work, and determination to get to where they are today. This article was authored by:

Founder: Fran Quilty
Company: Conjura
Website: conjura.com

Conjura helps consumer businesses of all shapes and sizes to connect an unlimited amount of data sources, automate analytics and data science all in a way that drives their performance. The company also works with digital retail businesses in the start-up/scale-up phase to help them make sense of their customer and operational data, to identify where growth opportunities lie.

Fran, CEO and co-founder of Conjura, talks to startups about business challenges, his short stint in the pharmaceutical industry, and how important data analytics are to a business's success.

The Business

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:

There are plenty of end-to-end data analytics platforms out there but what makes Conjura unique is the fact our data platform goes beyond just sales and marketing. Our solution acts as an operating system that helps Ecommerce companies manage their operations, merchandising, marketing, fulfilment etc. in a data driven manner.  While we can get into the minutiae, this information is served up in such a way that you don’t have to be a data scientist to make sense of it – and that’s very powerful.

We also have one foot in the investment world too and we help clients get their data stories straight ahead of funding rounds or mergers and acquisitions (M&A). This strategic data-led overview of business performance is often something that Senior Leadership Teams (SLTs) now want to review on a quarterly basis.

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

We’ve scaled up really quickly. Over the past 18 months, we've grown from around 20 to 58 people and brought in clients including Motorpoint, Cath Kidston, and Current Body. We’ve also been able to attract some big name non-execs during this period; what we’ve learned from Adele Cooper (ex-Google, Facebook, Pinterest) and Paul Gedman (ex-THG) has been invaluable in growing Conjura at pace.

How did you fund your business?

We started with a network of angel investors from across the UK and Ireland. These include senior execs from some of the top tech companies in the world, who quickly saw the potential in what we offer.

What numbers do you look at every day in your business?

Ironically, this is the sort of question we have from clients and prospects every week and actually, the types of numbers we’re looking at are not dissimilar. Most typically I’m interested in the numbers of weekly active users and commercial leads.

To what extent does your business trade internationally?

We’ve taken steps into the US market, we’ve got a couple of customers there at the moment. We’re definitely looking to expand further beyond the UK and Ireland.

Where would you like your business to be in five years?

As we tell our customers, you’ve got to think big on growth. So, I’m sticking to our guns and we want to be the number one ecommerce operating system globally within five years.

What software or technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

The Snowflake Cloud database has been the game changer for us. Its speed and competitive pricing have allowed us to bring our offer to the broadest set of customers. It’s just a fantastic product – and no, I’m not an investor!


Growth Challenges

What is the biggest challenge you've faced in business?

As per any B2B business, growing sales is always going to be our most pressing challenge. We’ve focused on diversifying our sales channels over the past twelve months and a lot of time and thought has consequently gone into demand gen strategies. We’re finding the balance between content-driven marketing channels, direct sales and partnerships.

What was your biggest business mistake and what did you learn from it?

I had a bit of a false start in my career. I started out in pharmacy but it soon became clear that there’s a ceiling that didn’t tally with my ambitions. While I was doing my PhD, I took a statistics course and, as a data nerd, that sealed it and I realised community pharmacy wasn’t where I wanted to be.

That said, I do wonder if Conjura would exist if I’d been embedded in the corporate world earlier? I’d probably have been more risk averse and that doesn’t sit well with the world of start-ups. Perhaps my dalliance with pharmacy put me in the right place, at the right time…

What one thing do you wish someone had told you when you started on your business journey?

You can never communicate too much. Regular communication is key, and don’t wait to be asked the question if a simple email update or short call will save you a lot of stress down the line.

How has the pandemic affected the market you operate in?

We’ve seen a huge acceleration in the digital economy on the back of the pandemic. Obviously, this means we were – again – in the right place at the right time.


Personal Growth

Did you study business or learn on the job?

I very much learned on the job. I was studying Pharmacy when my co-founder in Conjura, Aidan Corbett was doing his MBA.  However, it’s worked out well and Aidan has been a business mentor to me. I’m also indebted to our non-execs and advisors too for all the great wisdom they’ve imparted.

What would make you a better leader?

Being back in the office! There are benefits to remote working but it has made it that much harder to manage people and engage with the team. I often wish I had more time to spend with my colleagues, but as any leader in a start-up knows, the cadence of fundraising all too often pulls you out of the day-to-day.

One business app and one personal app you can’t do without?

For business, it has to be LinkedIn. The amount of networking, business development, and lead generation that comes through the platform make it indispensable. On a personal level, I’d say the Apple Podcasts app, I love podcasts and I’d also find it difficult to live without them. I do mix business with pleasure and I’d recommend Acquired as a must-listen for any founder.

Finally, what’s the most important piece of advice you would give to an entrepreneur starting a business?

Understand where your strengths are, no one’s good at everything. For me, that would be ‘product' and ‘sales', but ‘operations' aren’t necessarily my strong suit – and that’s okay. What’s important is the team and bringing in the right senior support to help you with those elements that aren’t your natural sweet spot.

Ross has been writing for Startups since May 2021, specialising in sustainable business and telephone systems. He also runs the successful entrepreneur's section of the website.

He's previously written for Conde Nast Traveller and the NME and is passionate about music, sustainability, and travelling. Follow him on his Twitter - @startupsross for helpful business tips.

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