It's been a long journey for James so far but one that he knew would always lead him to the next big thing and the next big thing was mobile. From joining IPC media at age 18 selling classified ads, to joining a 15 man agency in London and then a 5 man mobile content business in Sydney, all of this happened with him just being 21 years old. It was then that James decided it was time to start his own thing, He said "Mobile was booming in 2009 with both the iphone and android gaining traction in most markets – it just felt right".
James Connelly is the co-founder and managing director of Fetch Media - a mobile advertising agency.
I invited James onto YHP to talk to us about his journey so far, running a mobile advertising agency and some of the key things that he's learnt so far.
Below is the full interview.
Hi James, thanks for doing this with me, how are you doing?
No problem, Joseph, and I’m well thank you. I am currently sitting in my US office in sunny San Francisco.
Can you give us some background information on yourself? How did you get into business?
Sure, I’ve been running ‘businesses’ since I was in school, it has always been a passion of mine. When I finished college at 18, I realised that my best chance of running a successful business was to learn a trade and then set out on my own, so I joined the advertising industry as a graduate ( without actually graduating) at IPC Media. I was selling classified ads, which is a great learning ground for sales people and the launch pad for many successful entrepreneurs. I knew I had to get into smaller companies to pick up more business focused experience, so I went to a 15 men agency in London a year or so later and then a 5 men mobile content business in Sydney at 21, which was a great learning curve.
Who was your inspiration growing up and why?
Well, I had a few depending at what age…Early doors it was Ryan Giggs! My parents were most certainly inspirational for me throughout my life. Nowadays, as a young entrepreneur, I’m inspired by Zuckerberg and how he has achieved so much at such a young age, which I think is fantastic. Rupert Murdoch, Steve Jobs and Richard Branson are big names I’ve always been in awe of for successfully growing such strong businesses internationally.
Let’s talk about Fetch Media, tell me how the idea came about?
For me, it was as much about what I knew I could do well as opposed to just being a gap in the market. We’ve been fortunate for it to be both of these things and finally, a massive growth area. By the time I was 21, I had sold advertising, worked in a media agency and become a mobile marketing client. Mobile was booming in 2009 with both the iPhone and Android gaining traction in most markets – it just felt right.
What were you doing before you founded Fetch Media?
My last role was for a mobile content company in Sydney called Consumer First. I relocated there to run their media and product in the UK and US. It was there where I learnt the intricacies of mobile technology and how to apply it to marketing. It’s a great company and I’m still good friends with the chaps which founded it.
What is Fetch Media? What do you guys do?
Fetch is a mobile marketing agency. Our job is to help major businesses succeed in mobile marketing and advertising. We provide strategy, media planning & buying, creative and analytics. We are appointed by some fantastic brands including Expedia, Hotels.com, William Hill and Sony Music.
Take me back to the early days of running the business, what difficulties did you face?
Many! The early days when it was just me at Fetch, the clients were less willing to invest, so trying to get new clients was tough. It was a case of some serious cold calling! Hiring people was difficult too – we weren’t a super charged VC backed start-up and mobile wasn’t as big then so it was a tough sell, but it is paying off for those that took the plunge as we have since grown the most established firm in the UK!
What is your business model?
We have three different models: a retainer for those clients who require certain services on an on-going basis, a fee based model for a project we might do, and a commission model for the media side of our business so it is pretty performance based as clients will only increase spends if the media is working well.
What makes Fetch Media different from any service out there?
What makes us truly unique is our blend of both creative and performance related approach. Often in the marketing world, these two repel, but our team like to measure every single penny spent on advertising whilst also giving our clients some serious stand-out in the creative and planning we do. You often find agencies focused on the sexy stuff or performance – we do both and most often in unison.
What are the most crucial things you have done to grow your business?
Launching our first US office at the end of last year was a big one. It’s a huge market and there are so many businesses that need some expert advice on their mobile marketing. More recently, putting two industry heavy weights on our board has also been a catalyst for us.
Are you guys profitable?
Yes, we had an extended year one, which we managed to make a profit in. Our second year-end is almost upon us, and we are on track to deliver an increase of profit by over 350%.
Have you raised any money to build or grow the business or has it been purely bootstrapped?
100% bootstrapped and that’s something we’re proud of. We’ve had plenty of investors who have wanted to get involved and we feel that we have built a solid and sustainable business by going through the graft and growing organically. We’re now in a position where we can be more bullish. That said, it might not always be the case, but it’s been the best route to date.
Looking back to when you started the company, Would you say the business has changed from the first initial idea?
Yes, and I would expect the business to continue to evolve. I don’t like standing still. We’re innovators and we must keep moving forward. That doesn’t mean we’ll start selling trainers, of course!
What has been the highlight of your entrepreneurial journey so far?
This one is easy. We won three awards in November last year and collecting the final one, which was ‘The Best Marketing Company in Mobile 2011’ was definitely the highlight. It was so important to us because the whole team have worked so hard and it was the recognition we deserved. We were up against not only our closest rivals but some industry leading PLCs. We were also the newest company on the shortlist so it was brilliant fun – of what I can remember, anyway...!
What can we be expecting from your company in 2012?
Expect to see some more media firsts from our innovations, some more awards, a growing client list and a bigger presence in both the UK and the US.
What three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
Fail quickly! Not everything works out and everyone makes mistakes but nip them in the bud ASAP. Don’t make the same mistake twice and listen to your gut.