Richard Britton is the founder and Managing Director of CloudSense, a Cloud Computing business providing professional services and cloud based products to enterprises.
In this interview with Richard I got the opportunity to dig deeper on how the idea for CloudSense came about, challenges along the way, and advises for young entrepreneurs.
Hi Richard, Thanks for doing this. How are you doing today?
I’m very well thank you, and you?
I’m great Richard, thanks for asking. So how’s your day been?
It’s been a busy day as usual and I have spent most of it speaking with customers about how we can help them. It might sound trite to say it’s my passion, but it really does drive me every day. I know it has a place but I’m not the biggest fan of email, so I prefer to spend my time connecting with customers and prospects using other social channels and tools. Thanks to a tablet, smartphone and social networks, I find I can use my time between meetings really efficiently, and I’m never out of the loop.
Can you give us some background information about yourself?
Sure, I come from a technology background and prior to founding CloudSense I was Chief Information Officer of a large telecoms company. I got into this industry really from the management consultancy side of things and as my career developed I began to realise how vital technology is for business change, hence the founding of CloudSense.
Tell me how you initially got into business?
I have always been passionate about business and technology, and in fact did an MBA in Switzerland to give me the skills and knowledge required to progress. Having worked in the business world for most of my career, I had the technical grounding to start my own company but I was also lucky enough to seize the opportunity at the right time.
How did the idea for CloudSense come about?
At my previous role we had done a large project consolidating about 50 different business systems into one cohesive platform. We initially anticipated that this would take us around three to four years, but with the use of cloud technology and software-as-a-service it took 18 months. Seeing that such dramatic change was possible in such a small timeframe, I realised this was a big opportunity, and that technology was changing and I wanted to be involved with that change.
Tell me about the early days, what was the hardest part of starting the business?
The hardest part was making the final decision to go ahead and start the business. I enjoyed my last role a great deal, and taking the decision to start up a business in a recession was one I didn’t take lightly. But along with my business partners, the conviction and faith we had in this new technology meant that it was an opportunity we couldn’t let pass us by.
What is CloudSense? And what are you trying to solve with it?
CloudSense is a cloud computing consultancy and solutions provider, we integrate and manage companies’ cloud systems and build cloud solutions. To give you an example, we help News International manage the platform and process behind its readers’ subscriptions. This allows subscribers to far more easily tailor when and how they want their subscription delivered, both digitally and in print. This approach brings numerous benefits to News International and its customers.
Ultimately we are trying to help businesses meet the challenges presented by today’s digital economy and deliver an excellent customer experience. Our solutions can be set up quickly and with low up-front costs, two things that are incredibly important for businesses in the current climate and something that our customers really appreciate.
How have you been able to fund it?
The initial funding came predominantly from the business partners, but we also received industry investment to help maintain our initial momentum.
What sorts of advice do you having for entrepreneurs looking to raise money for their startups?
There’s no escaping the fact that it’s a difficult time to raise funds. But be persistent and have a clear strategy and vision. If you have the right idea and plans in place to exploit an opportunity, then raising money becomes a lot easier. Being resourceful and creative is a large part of being an entrepreneur, so don’t give up too easily: despite what plenty of people will tell you, it is possible to start a business in a recession.
Once you’re up and running, remember that without your customers you don’t have a business. They should be at the forefront of everything that you do. Keeping your customers happy is the key to long term success.
About the first few months, how excited were you, tell us about how those months felt, what happened?
The first few months were tremendously exciting as we began to see our business take shape and the character of the business started to emerge in earnest. As I said earlier, we had tremendous faith that cloud computing was about to take off and our first months certainly proved this. We were able to quickly set up meetings with a number of large companies and use these interactions to get the business moving. We’re still working in a relatively young industry, but we’ve got a very strong heritage having already worked with massive organisations like the BBC, News International and O2. Of course there’s been lots of hard work involved, but it’s hugely rewarding to see massive brands realising the value in your offering.
How did you initially get traction?
We work by showing clients what we can do before they commit to anything. As a result we were quickly able to show the benefits that cloud computing could bring and we won a number of pieces of work. These grew and we began to win more and more pieces of business from our existing customers.
This soon led to invitations from other companies asking us to show them what we could do. A lot of our growth was organic and this continues to be a strong driver of our business, which is particularly pleasing for us because it shows that we’re delivering on our promises to our customers.
What are the most crucial things that you have done to grow your business?
It has been really important for us to stick to the clear vision and strategy we put in place when we first started the business. This has allowed us to focus on delivering excellence through technology, which in turn has delivered the growth we were looking for. We have also been unafraid to bring on board new staff and this has also helped the business to grow and move into new markets. Ultimately I would say the quality of our people and products is paramount, and this has been a major reason behind our success to date. We only hire people who share our passion for customer service. We all put a lot of energy into upholding these standards, because we know it’s absolutely central to our business.
What would you say has been the highlight of your entrepreneurial journey so far?
Some of our major client wins have been great. But, honestly, I’d say that some of the fantastic feedback we’ve had from clients is definitely up there with my best moments. We knew we had a valuable proposition when we started the business, but to hear from our clients how much they value our work is what drives everyone at CloudSense to keep delivering.
We moved to our new offices on the first working day of 2013 and that was a great moment. We now employ over 100 people and we were bursting at the seams in our old space so we had to move. The new office is a sign of our ambition as a company, so moving there was a real highlight.
What should we be expecting from yourself and the CloudSense team for 2013?
More growth! As I said before we have moved to a new office to accommodate our growth to date, but quite deliberately it has plenty of extra capacity for what is set to be a busy 2013. We are looking to develop our operations overseas and expand into markets including the US, which we think is a huge opportunity for us. Plus we have lots of new business in the pipeline, so it’s an exciting time to be leading CloudSense!
Lastly, what three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
Have a clear vision, make the most of opportunities and hire the best people you can, because your people will make or break your business.