The Entrepreneur: James Brooke, Amplience

Founder of the content marketing platform, Brooke explains how e-commerce is evolving and why, when hiring, it's best to recruit someone you don't know

Founder: James Brooke
Company: Amplience
Website: www.amplience.com
Description in one line: Digital content platform for online and omni-channel retailers
Previous companies: Detica, LBi, Sapient, Marchfirst
Turnover: £5m
12 month target: £8m

Business growth

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:

  • We are disrupting the $12bn customer experience management software market – which is a combination of content management, digital asset management and big data capabilities.
  • Our customers refer to this issue of big data and content as the big content challenge.
  • We sell the AmplienceOne Big Content platform as a Software as a Service (SAAS) proposition – customers get some powerful web APIs and tools, as well as a dedicated team to help them product fantastic content that drives sales.

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

Breaking into the US marketplace and winning leading brands such as Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford, Panasonic North America, Vince Camuto and Theory Helmut Lang!

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

Monthly recurring revenue (MRR), customer acquisition cost ratio (CAC Ratio) and, of course, cash burn!

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

We have customers in Europe (Wehkamp, Desigual, Ellos,to name a few), as well as in North America – Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs etc. We are actively growing our European footprint and investing heavily in North America.

Describe your growth-funding path:

  • Seed round: Feb 2009 – €500,000
  • Series A:
    • December 2010 – £2.4m
    • December 2011 – £2.1m
    • April 2013 – £3.5m
  • Series B:

What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

Apple’s iPhones and iPad.

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

£20m in revenue, with strong growth in the US and more than £5m in recurring revenue stateside.

Growth challenges

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

Preparing the business for the down round in 2011 – we went from four to two founders and from 20 to 11 staff. We had to re-pitch everything and re-build the technology.

What was your biggest business mistake?

Hiring people I knew, over looking for the best in the market. Sometimes you get to do both but it’s rare and the mistakes are very costly.

Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:

US and UK/EU visa regulations.

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

Hiring like they are a small company with big ambitions, rather than as a large company starting small.

How will your market look in three years?

E-commerce is moving in from the periphery to become a central component of the brand experience for pretty much all companies so digital content will come to intermediate ALL transactions in any channel.

Mobile is becoming the way that brand interactions happen and in three years time more than 75% of interactions will take place via mobile phones or wearable devices.

Data is driving business decision making, and automating large components of the customer experience, and I see this trend only continuing by driving more personalised experiences.

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

I have three tips:

  1. If you haven’t started, get on with it
  2. If you have, get your head down but enjoy the journey
  3. Play the long game and trust yourself

Personal growth

Biggest luxury:

Occasional business class travel.

Executive education or learn it on the job?

Some of both!

What would make you a better leader?

Telepathy.

Business book:

Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank

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