The Entrepreneurs: Daniel Ball and Paul Ellis, Wax Digital

With a £7m business and a product used in over 90 countries, Ball and Ellis talk integrity, the danger of under-investing and knowing when to say no

Founders: Daniel Ball and Paul Ellis
Company: Wax Digital
Description in one line: Wax Digital is a global provider of cloud-based e-procurement software, delivering spend management solutions to large and mid-sized organisations in 102 countries worldwide, managing £23bn of spend annually.
Previous companies: Ball and Ellis met as colleagues at a marketing agency.
Turnover: £7m
12 month target: £9.5m

Business growth

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:

  • Delivering cloud e-procurement solutions to control spend, improve compliance and visibility and cut costs
  • Solutions spanning the entire purchasing lifecycle in a modular series, deliverable in isolation or as a fully joined up suite
  • Unique integration capabilities and network, thanks to our own Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS)

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

Growing a business successfully whilst maintaining an entrepreneurial culture and happy staff.

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

  • Customer support SLA numbers
  • Customer implementation numbers
  • Product development sprint milestones
  • Sales and marketing stats

To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?

We already have software deployed in over 90 countries, and we are focusing on significantly increased international penetration in Europe and the USA through a burgeoning partner network.

Describe your growth funding path:

We did one round of funding from a start-up VC and then bootstrapped from there! We recently did a secondary management buyout which has really focused the management team on moving the business forward at a different pace.

What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

The Cloud – it means simply that business users can decide to implement software securely without impacting on IT teams as all they need to access it is a web browser.

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

Beyond £15m in revenue with more than 40% of revenues coming from international sales both direct and through partners.

Growth challenges

What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?

Balancing client demands with the need to protect product integrity – which can mean saying no to work.

What was your biggest business mistake?

Focusing too closely on short-term targets at the expense of re-investment. Profitable growth is a mantra to us, but it’s vital not to under-invest to boost profits or you’re just storing up future problems.

Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most?

UK employment laws.

What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?

Embracing a business plan that puts growth before profits on the basis that this will be an easy corner to turn once the business reaches a certain scale.

How will your market look in three years?

E-procurement will become more commonplace in smaller organisations than it is today, helped by lower costs and game changers in performance through further development of artificial intelligence.

From a vendor perspective we expect significant consolidation, but also a move to a more networked approach to solution value, with increased interoperability between suite providers like ourselves and niche data and application providers that can be integrated to add value.

What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?

Enjoy what you do since you will be spending most of your waking hours doing it!

Personal growth

Biggest luxury:

Not necessarily the biggest, but the most important – iPhone.

Executive education or learn it on the job?

On the job.

What would make you a better leader?

Carving out more time to spend with people across the business.

What one thing do you wish you’d known when you started?

Expert advice is important, but go with your gut if you feel something is wrong.

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

  • Business app: Outlook
  • Personal app: LastPass

Business book:

Good to Great by Jim Collins.


(will not be published)