Zendit is a server software platform that offers users a new way to create, store and engage with digital content.
I invited its founder Kevin Bradshaw over to talk about the company, how the idea came about, changes made along the way and advices for entrepreneurs and much more.
This is our full conversation below.
Hi Kevin, How are you doing, great to have you on YHP?
Thank you! Delighted to meet you.
Could you quickly give us some background information about yourself?
Of course. Raised in Fife, now living in the US, I’m a serial, obsessive digital media entrepreneur. Started my first company in 1998, since have been involved in 4 other startups.
How did you get involved in entrepreneurship? Were you exposed to entrepreneurship as a child?
Not that I can really remember, other than the Young Enterprise program at high school. I’m from a pretty typical Fife family – Dad was in the navy, away a lot, Mum brought us up and worked too for most of my childhood. So, nothing really very extraordinary. My Auntie had a sweetshop, so I guess that was pretty entrepreneurial! (And quite excellent when you are six.)
So tell me about Zendit and how the idea came about?
Steve and I first worked together a decade ago at i-play. A few years ago, as Facebook was really growing, we felt there would be an opportunity to build another platform company, to explore a bunch of different aspects of the emerging “social cloud” – the complex mish mash of apps, websites and other services which we saw users engaging with.
What is Zendit and how does it work?
At heart, Zendit is a server software platform, upon which our partners create and operate two types of service – some that create a lot of social activity data (e.g. www.beerdog.com) and some that observe and analyze it (e.g. www.blether.co).
It’s much like any other platform – has various APIs, UI and other frameworks and an SDK – which abstract a lot of the complex, repeatable coding tasks needed to build highly scalable services which can be accessed via browsers, iPhone apps and so on. We just make it a lot easier to build the service, and much more cost-effective to run it. We can help monetize it too.
What is your business model?
We are paid for three things : developing or assisting with development of platform services, operating such services, and monetizing the data that the services create.
What makes Zendit different from any service out there? What problem does Zendit solve?
We like to think Zendit is very different because it allows a service creator to retain total control of their data and user interface versus existing social networks.
The best contrast we can make is probably with Facebook. Brands and others creating Facebook pages etc give a lot of valuable data to Facebook and effectively lose control of it. Their services are also very deeply entwined with Facebook’s UI. We basically break such a service apart and offer our partners much more flexibly of interaction with their users and much finer grain control over the data their users create.
What are the most crucial things you have done to grow your business?
Hiring people. The critical decisions are almost always related to hiring talent before the cash is visible to pay for it! We’ve done a good job of this – we are profitable and growing despite having had to date zero external investment.
Would you say the business has changed from the first initial idea?
In some ways yes – the way we talk about ourselves has changed quite a bit. But, really, I don’t think what we’ve set out to do – enable the creation of some very innovative new services – has really change that much since day one.
Who are your competitors?
That’s a bit of a tricky one – it depends on how fine grain the comparison should be J. You could say we compete with some very large networks such as Facebook, but really we complement them. You could say we compete with a few companies with cloud service development platforms (www.kickapps.com is a good example), but the way we’ve designed out platform is quite unique as far as we know at this time, so it’s hard to point out too many direct competitors.
What were you doing before you founded Zendit?
I’ve been in the US for almost ten years now, involved in a few different aspects of the digital content industry – from I-Play to Playphone to Limewire to Zendit – all of which in one way or another have explored the edges of consumer interaction on new digital devices or with digital content.
How have you been able to fund the business?
From the beginning we have been paid for our work by our partners.
What can we be expecting from your company in 2012?
Some great stuff! Look out for “The Beerdog” on the iPhone and a B2B social media brand monitoring service called “Blether” in a month or so.
What three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
That’s a good question. If you are already an entrepreneur, I guess I’d say, don’t worry about being utterly obsessed with what you do, it never did me too much harm.
If you aren’t, I’d say think very, very carefully about whether you really want make the product you are thinking of making or you just want to “be” an entrepreneur. Think about the effect it is almost certainly going to have on your friends and immediate family. You will be broke, probably for quite a long time! It’s only likely to pay off if you really love what you do. If you are not waking up at 5am every day, with nothing else on your mind than to work on it, maybe it’s not for you.