It's becoming more easier and faster to build websites online and one platform making sure of that is BaseKit. I caught up with the company's CTO and co-founder, Simon Best.
The full interview is below.
Could you quickly give us some background information about yourself? Tell me about yourself growing up?
Born in Wales, I was a very creative kid; sketching, painting, and always taking things apart and trying to put them back together again. I was about 5 when I had my first computer for Christmas – a ZX spectrum – and was soon hooked. Technology has always fascinated me, and I guess this is what started me on the path to be a founder of a tech startup.
How did you get into business? Were you exposed to entrepreneurship as a child?
I was exposed to entrepreneurship as a child via my dad, who had a hugely successful career with British Steel (now Corus), but it wasn’t until university that I was actually taught about business and entrepreneurship. I first went into business with my brother, joining his finance company to create a web application. After that, the tech startup became a growing phenomenon in the media, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do. From that point on I pushed my skills in both technology and business to get me there.
Who was your inspiration growing up and why?
From a technology point of view, I was inspired at a young age by the early computer game companies. These were some of the earliest examples of tech startups; young guys working on software that could quickly be picked up by thousands or even millions of users. At the time I didn’t appreciate the business acumen that must have made this happen. From a personal point of view, I’ve always been inspired by creative people, for example artists, designers, and architects. I have huge respect for people who build things from scratch with a combination of their own creative talent, and a healthy dose of blood, sweat and tears!
So tell me how the idea for BaseKit came about?
We know how expensive it can be for a small business to get an online presence. A web designer’s fees can be thousands just to get a website online. Then there are ongoing costs for hosting and maintaining the site. Add to this the pressure to stay on top of the constantly changing technologies like mobile and social. We wanted BaseKit to give small businesses a cheaper alternative that they could build and control.
What were you doing before you founded BaseKit?
BaseKit was originally created to help us to build more websites for less money. I had a web design agency that worked with local small businesses. We quickly recognized that these businesses were poorly served by current offerings, and that there was a huge gap in the market. We pulled all of our web technology skills together to build the first version of BaseKit to build sites for our client base.
What is BaseKit? What are you guys trying to solve?
BaseKit essentially makes it really easy and cost effective for a business to create an online presence. We do this by providing them with a product to put the power back in their hands, so they can create sites that are flexible and adaptable to technology changes. We think we go further than most website building tools as we also enable them to create visible, dynamic and future-proof web sites.
What was your biggest challenge during the starting up phase?
The biggest challenge was proving that we had the potential to turn BaseKit into a global business. This needs to be proved from lots of different perspectives, such as technology, team and market opportunity. You need to hire the right people to ensure that the important pieces of the product and business are progressing at the right time.
A lot of entrepreneurs oppose to working with family, how has it been working with your brother?
We have always had very different skills, with myself being the technical and product brain and Richard being the sales and marketing guru. These are very complementary skills, and in fact startups will often struggle if all founders have the same skills. If anything, the competitive relationship we have as brothers has helped to drive the business faster!
Tell me about Seedcamp, winning the competition and the opportunity it exposed the company to?
To describe Seedcamp, take Dragon’s Den, extend the 15-minute pitch to an entire week, with tens of investors and hundreds of mentors scrutinizing every part of your business. It was a nerve-wracking experience; a baptism of fire into pitching and selling the company to investors. It helped to put us firmly on the map in the tech scene in the UK, Europe and even as far afield as Silicon Valley. It ultimately led to the investments that have been essential to grow the company to where it is today.
You guys have been successful also in raising additional money, what are some of the key things that you have learnt from the raising money process?
Every stage of fund raising is different. In early stages, you need to convince potential investors about the vision, and that the founding team has what it takes to fulfill the opportunity.
Later stages are about proving that your business has the potential to generate revenue at scale. We raised the last round of investment with one distribution partner, and within one year we’ve grown to over 40 signed partners all over the world, with over 40,000 new paying customers coming on board every month.
What tips can you give to entrepreneurs looking to raise money to grow their start-up?
You need to do enough to prove that your team can start a business. Everybody has ideas, but you need to show that you can execute on those ideas. It’s also not just about the money – you should always choose an investor who will bring relevant expertise and experience, active participation in the business, and a network of useful contacts.
What are the most crucial things you have done to grow your business?
I believe that people are the most important factor in any business. The key to growth is to hire the right people at the right time, to bring momentum to the parts of the business that need to be moving fast. It’s easy to slip into the mentality of trying to do everything yourself, because ultimately every company does begin that way. It’s crucial to make the transition to a team mentality, and make sure everybody is pushing in the same direction.
Would you say the business has changed from the first initial idea?
The original BaseKit product was fairly technical, and we’ve worked hard to improve the usability of the product to make it accessible to a typical small business user. We’re always refining our marketing in order to maximize customer acquisition. In general, the overall vision has stayed rock-solid, but we’ve adapted along the way to grow the business as quickly as possible.
What would you say has been the highlight of your entrepreneurial journey so far?
For me one highlight at BaseKit has been the speed of our global expansion. It’s amazing to be involved in something that is pushing out across the World into many countries. We’re now localized in 10 languages and sign-up 40,000 new paying small business customers every single month.
What can we be expecting from your company in 2012?
We have some exciting product enhancements, including the ability to buy new items and functionality – like an App Store for your website. We’re currently busy launching the BaseKit Learning Centre, which will be a hub of information about how to run your business online. We’re targeting massive distribution in many countries, and we’ll have over 500,000 paying users by the end of 2012.
What three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
1. Don’t sit on your ideas, act on them today!
2. Get some early users and develop your product based on their feedback.
3. Collaborate with great people to give your business more speed and the best chance of success.