Why does Graham Cooke decide he wants to leave his position in one of the biggest companies in the world to start his own business?
I spoke to Graham Cooke, an ex-Google employee about his latest start-up, QuBit - QuBit is a customer data platform which extracts and processes customer behaviour on websites e.g how much time consumers spend on a site, what triggers a purchasing decision etc.
Before starting QuBit, Graham worked on Google Analytics and their website optimisation programme.
Below is the full interview.
Can you give you some background information about yourself, were you the entrepreneurial type growing up?
You could say that! I started a record label while I was still at school and then started my first technology business at University. That was aimed at providing video streaming services into public spaces and I ran that until I started my job at Google.
Tell me how the idea for QuBit came about?
Me and my co-founders worked together at Google working on a range of products focused on using data to improve the effectiveness of websites. It was great experience but, after a few years, we all saw the potential to create a focused suite of products that could do this for companies directly – out of that thought QuBit was born.
What were you doing before you started the company?
We all worked at Google in the UK and US, working on a range of products like Google Analytics and their website optimisation programme.
What is QuBit?
QuBit is a customer data platform. We work with companies to extract a whole range of data about customer behaviour on their websites and then process this information to create actionable insight into how the site can be optimised to improve efficiency and conversions.
We have a whole range of products including OpenTag, our tag management system, Exit Feedback, our customer feedback collection tool, Behavioural Attribution, a tool to correlate visitor’s source of origin with their subsequent activity on the site, and Behavioral Analytics, which looks in detail at what people are doing on the site across multiple visits.
All of these products come together to create a set of data points that can give a new level of insight into online customer behaviour.
What is QuBit trying to solve?
We’re a big data solution for online marketers. Traditional analytics packages are limited by the amount of data they can collect and process. We use commodity storage and processing along with innovative algorithms to collect and analyse huge quantities of data about customer behaviour, generating new insights and opening the door to new efficienes and optimisation opportunities.
Talk me through the first few months of running the business? What would you say was the hardest part of starting the business?
The most important part of building the business has been to create the right team. From the very beginning we’ve put a massive focus on finding the right people and getting them on board. Being based in London is great for this as there’s a massive network of people with the right experience and skills, but its also a challenge as there’s a lot of competition for the right talent.
One of the biggest challenges has been to stay focused. Given the breadth of what we do it would be all too easy to get sidetracked into a whole range of different things, but we have a clear mission and objective and we’ve been single minded in targeting that.
How were you able to fund the business?
We all cashed in our Google stock to fund the business, but we’ve since secured substantial angel funding from a private investor.
Would you say the initial idea for the company, or that your business model has changed since 2010?
The idea has remained constant, what has changed has been how we offer that. To begin with we took on a lot of consultancy style engagements with retailers to help us build our understanding and product sets. We’re now moving into a much more product-focused stage of the business where we’re taking those learnings and packaging them into a set of technology products that companies can use themselves to access and act upon data.
What would you say has been some of the most crucial that you’ve done to build the company to this level now?
The most crucial thing we’ve done is to stay focused on the goals of the company. Last summer we realised that we were trying to do too much and to build too many products. We took the hard decision to prune back what we were doing so that we stayed focused on what was achievable and valuable to clients.
What’s been your most memorable moment so far on your entrepreneurial journey?
I don’t know if its been one moment, but there are lots of milestones that really stand out for me. Whether its winning great clients like the BBC or Arcadia or reaching the point where we’re now processing many billions of interactions and hundreds of millions of individual users each month. Starting a business is a process, not an event, so for me each individual milestone is just as important as any one single occurrence.
What pieces of advices could you give to aspiring entrepreneurs out there?
Make sure you bring on the right people. When I started my video business at University I was the only founder and it was a real struggle to deal with everything on my own. I started QuBit with three other great people and we’ve built on that team by hiring a strong and diverse team of people who can each add a lot to the business.
Stay focused. Know what you’re setting out to do and stay focused on that goal. Too many companies get sidetracked into ideas that are superficially attractive or promise short term revenues. Getting drawn into non-core business can quickly detract from your core goal and will cost you in the long term.
What can we be expecting from you and QuBit in 2012?
I think you can expect us to continue to launch new and innovative products that complement our core proposition, you can expect us to sign some more major name retailers and publishers and I think you can expect us to continue to innovate in our space.