Kinexus: Zubeir Mukri
Zubeir Mukri's deliberate approach, alongside business partner Chris Bint, has helped his email marketing firm flourish
The bursting of the dot com bubble at the turn of the millennium saw many entrepreneurs lose their rapidly accumulated fortunes. Many businesses, both large and small, felt that the internet had become a tainted, and mistrusted, source of income.
Not Kinexus. Founded at a tricky period for online businesses, in 2000, the progress of the venture has been cautious and sensible, compared with the breakneck speed of growth enjoyed, and then endured, by many contemporaries.
The business was created by work colleagues Zubeir Mukri and Chris Bint after the duo realised they wanted to cash in on companies’ increasing demand for web hosting and email access.
Initially set up as a web hosting company, Kinexus secured the contracts of several clients, allowing them to grow. But this growth wasn’t of a conventional business start-up – the founders decided that Kinexus should initially exist in ‘pilot’ form.
“Rather than prepare a business plan, approach investors and so on, we wanted to create a pilot of a small business and then look for investors,” explains Zubeir. “In the early days, it’s often hard to show investors what you can do. However, the pilot started doing so well that it took a life of its own.”
Kinexus was started with funding provided by the founders, with the first server, which now acts as a doorstop, purchased on a credit card. As the business gradually gained an income, the founders financed the business from earlier property investments.
Although the web hosting got the business off to a solid start, the founders realised that they could offer their clients more than internet and email services. Kinexus soon diversified into an email marketing provider.
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“We have a large client who initially sold ring tones. They collected email addresses and other details of customers for marketing purposes,” recalls Zubeir.
“They wanted to do some email marketing and asked us to design something for them, which we did.
“At first, it was very basic, but then we started looking at the marketplace and we discovered that there were many business interested in email marketing. We then started enhancing the solution in order to make it more attractive to other companies.”
The result was email iQ, an email marketing solution developed in-house around two years ago. The system allows organisations of all types and sizes to cost effectively perform email marketing themselves or tap into Kinexus’s resources. Users can send permission-based emails with Kinexus able to track who has opened emails and what links they’ve clicked on.
The concept was initially sold through word of mouth and telemarketing, but once clients started referring the service on to others, Kinexus began to flourish.
“The referrals were an assurance that we were offering the right thing and that clients were happy,” Zubeir says. “Now, we are getting to the point where we can do more of the same and media work. We are also doing much work on our search engine rankings. It is not such a black art to get ranked high.”
This methodical approach has seen Kinexus attract some big name clients, including IPC Media, the Mergermarket Group and Cromwell Hospital.
Turnover has steadily risen, with hopes that takings will double by the end of this year following investment in sales and marketing. Kinexus’ team has swelled to nine people, with the operation deliberately kept on a small scale to improve flexibility and responsiveness from the team.
“With the dot com bubble bursting, there were a lot of people thinking that we were just another short-term dot com story”, admits Zubeir. “Our greatest challenge is recruiting the right people who believe in Kinexus and email iQ. It’s about walking your talk. With the pilot we were able to do just that.”
“In London, you have to pay staff well because we are often competing for human resources with companies of all sizes. Like all small businesses, we need people who are multi-skilled and hands-on. We have been lucky in recruiting motivated individuals and talented web designers.”
Zubeir is upbeat about the prospects of his business. He cites several reports that suggest the email marketing industry is on the rise in the UK, with businesses such as easyJet, John Lewis and Tesco all using the tactic to boost awareness of their services.
Kinexus plans to continue its expansion, with alliances with other companies or in-house development of applications mooted in order to offer more comprehensive solutions.
“The marketplace is still immature in the UK, some players may go under, but I think there will be some consolidation in the marketplace,” says Zubeir.
“We now have the pilot – to scale the business upwards five or ten fold just requires more time and money. We’ve got the processes working, the procedures working and we know how to sell.
“Chris and I enjoy the challenges and have the passion to take the business to the next level. At first it was just Chris and I but now we have a responsibility to our employees because we don’t want to be another dot gone.”