Gareth James

Technology expert Gareth James shares the challenges of making his customer engagement start-up consumer friendly

Name: Gareth James
Age: 34
Company name:
Staff numbers: 5
Location: North West
Date launched: 13/12/13

Tell us what your business does: provides customer engagement-marketing technology, we make it easier for companies to engage with their users/customers.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

Whilst working at for 10 years and then The Hut Group, I continuously looked for a technology that would make it easier to carry out customer engagement and personalisation. I couldn’t find it so I decided to build my own as a product.

How did you know there was a market for it?

Firstly I knew that I would have bought my product in my previous roles and then because I have access to a very large network of businesses of all sizes I validated my ideas with them.

What were you doing before starting up?

I held the position of chief information officer for The Hut Group where I led the IT systems and development functions with responsibilities for all operational systems, information management and digital strategy. Previous to this I held the position of chief architect and international IT director for, I was also a senior member of the IPO team and responsible for all technology within the company.

I was there in the early days of (2000), where I built much of the technology that contributed to making it the UK’s leading price comparison site and then the largest technology IPO (2007) since Google.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

Yes – I saw the success of and remain close friends with the founder Simon Nixon. I admire what he has done and believe I can hopefully emulate his success.

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How did you raise the money?

I was a shareholder of, I sold my stake to raise funds to start the business. I also hold a number of non-executive roles that help me bootstrap the development of the business.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

Companies often do not implement customer engagement programmes due to the complexities of setting them up and integration challenges. Our first test was how to turn a traditionally complex marketing process into a business consumer product.

Using my experience in delivering consumer websites, we designed a system that simplifies the overall process whilst providing a great user experience.

We’re also trialing our own product; we decided very early on that we would use the customer engagement platform to manage how we engage the customers of

Describe your business model and how you make money:

We offer a monthly subscription with tiered access to the platform. There are no tie-ins and our customers are free to choose the tier that best suits their needs. We also offer an enterprise version of the software that can be customised as required, this works with a standard software license agreement.

What was your first big breakthrough?

When we sent out our first email communication to beta-testing prospects of, we watched in real-time people reading their email then clicking on the website. This very first prospect email delivered a number of leads and then customers.

Converting my own customers for the first time was very fulfilling.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

Talk to as many people as possible about your business. It’s good to get them to validate your idea but resist changing it too much (unless their suggestions add to the idea). No one will steal your idea. Getting feedback and having your idea validated is extremely valuable. Finally, launch as early as possible but not too early, get customers using it as soon as you have a viable product, you learn so much more from actual customers.

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

I would like to be busy with my 2nd or 3rd startup – I have too many ideas and not enough time.


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