IntY: Mark Herbert
In eight years, Mark Herbert has expanded his IT startup InTy into a global operation with a quarter of a million customers.
Mark Herbert would have struggled to gain more experience in his chosen field before setting up IT firm IntY eight years ago. Involved in computers for much of his working life, Herbert went from building mainframes and PCs to witnessing the birth of the internet.
Herbert was running a computer consultancy with three colleagues in the mid-1990s when he realised that the growing number of small firms getting online created a new business opportunities.
“The internet was just starting to look like it was going to be very serious,” Herbert explains. “People wanted to start using email.
“I realised that what people needed was email at their desktops so I joined a company my brother was running, hijacked their development team and created this box, which was the InTy server.”
This piece of inter-family poaching helped Herbert set up IntY as a company in 1997, after the successfully selling a number of servers.
The Bristol-based entrepreneur then realised that small businesses, his target customers, also wanted email and virus protection as well as hosting. So he started selling the whole package, with instant results.
“Basically, we go to a company and say ‘if you want the internet, you can get it from us and we’ll look after it’. We provide the one ass to kick, because many small businesses are caught in a circle when trying to find who’s to blame when something doesn’t work,” Herbert says.
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Herbert claims that the funding of IntY wasn’t the biggest headache he faced in the fledgling days of the business. After a business angel agreed to provide investment in 1998, Herbert secured further funding five years ago when a venture capitalist ploughed £2 million into the venture.
Although much of this investment and subsequent profits have been eaten up by the continual research and development needed to keep pace with the fast-moving IT industry, Herbert feels that getting a foothold in the small business market has proved the biggest challenge.
“Marketing is more of a challenge than raising the money,” he says. “If you are passionate about an idea and can clearly describe it to someone, they can invest in that.
“The challenge is always taking the product to market and getting to the small business guy. It’s a big market, which is difficult to get to.
“You have to go on a trust relationship – you can’t just knock on the door and sell something. You have to be almost be referred to them by people who have used your service already.”
IntY now has a global presence, with nearly a quarter of a million users worldwide. The firm employs over 40 people and has been one of the UK’s fastest growing technology companies over the past two years.
The venture has certainly exploited a gap in the market, with small businesses finding it more essential than ever to have a reliable and easy internet and email service.
Herbert’s explanation is simple. “Email is so important to businesses, as important as the telephone, that we want to make email as invisible as the telephone. It should be there and it just works, you shouldn’t have to think about it.”