EuroSmartz CEO Ian Schenkel likens UK business culture around start-ups to fishing spots: if you catch something great, you don't dare to tell anyone where you caught it...
Role and company:
CEO of EuroSmartz Ltd
Company turnover (and most recent ebitda/most relevant profitability metric):
A figure of $3.6m and 90.3 per cent profitability
Growth forecast for the next three years:
We see revenue growth settling to a steady 30-40 per cent per annum and this, we feel, is a conservative number. The app market is still growing exponentially and we have yet to see the mass uptake of enterprises adopting mobile devices and apps. The size of the enterprise app market is still unknown, but it could potentially dwarf the current revenue and sales of apps we have.
In under 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace:
We create innovative business apps for mobile devices. Globally, we were the first to:
Bring printing to the iPhone;
Enable PDF conversion on iOS devices;
Bring the concept of automatically suspending calendar notifications; and
Enable conversion of multiple files to a single PDF on a mobile.
What's the big vision for your business?
We have several new, innovative apps in the pipeline to be released later this year. We are also moving strongly into the enterprise app space and creating apps for enterprises that fulfil multiple functions and security requirements. With nearly five years experience of building business apps, we can offer enterprises an easy and safe transition to mobile devices so they see the returns from efficiency gains a lot quicker than if they embarked on a self-build process.
Current level of international business, and future aspirations:
We sell our apps globally and have translated them into more than a dozen languages. We also have staff members based in New Zealand as well as the UK to offer 24 hour customer service. All our customers are guaranteed a live response within one hour.
Biggest career setback and what you learned from it:
We started EuroSmartz in 1994 and launched a CRM solution, despite ploughing a lot of money. After five years of selling the solution, it did not come close to breaking even. It is a complete contrast to where we are today and there were countless lessons learned - the most prevalent of which was to never give up, there are always more opportunities out there. Also, always look back at previous mistakes and don’t make them again. Finally, pursue every opportunity with the same enthusiasm and vigour as if it were your first!
What makes you mad in business today?
The lack of opportunity and money that is available for fledgling businesses and new entrepreneurs! Equally, it is difficult for established and experienced entrepreneurs such as myself to find and help new businesses, despite the overwhelming desire to do so. I have yet to find a good way to connect with, and find, new businesses that need angel help and funding – something I am very interested in doing.
What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years?
4G will bring mobile business and connectivity to an unimaginable level. Having fast, on the move internet access will open new sectors of business, as well as enabling true mobile computing. The Cloud will be a major feature during the next three years because of 4G and the ready access to files. This means devices will get lighter and more efficient. Because of the ubiquitous connectivity 4G gives, we will have internet-enabled everything. This, combined with the concept of apps that has been adopted in the past five years, will give rise to significant opportunities to develop completely new and un-thought of ideas.
Can businesses in your sector/industry access the finance they need to grow? If not, what can be done to improve things?
In the UK we are behind the US in terms of the availability of money and the willingness to take risks and invest. TV programs like Dragons Den are not helping either! For the few budding entrepreneurs that I have spoken to, seeking finance is a scary and daunting prospect because they are led to believe they need to give away too much of their company and be put through the ringer just to get it. Most VCs and investors in the UK will not invest unless you have established revenue or orders. There is no culture of risk investment in the UK and that is stifling growth.
How would others describe your leadership style?
Encouraging and laid back. I believe you should employ people that are confident and able to do their job without being micromanaged. Managers who constantly pick at the way you do your job, or feel the need to micromanage and belittle you usually do so because they are not confident enough to do their own job - they do not want others to show them up and thrive. However, they are missing the big picture. If everyone you manage thrives and is striving for your job and to outshine you, it makes you an extremely good and effective manager that knows how to get the best out of people.
Your biggest personal extravagance?
Buying an Aston Martin.
You've got two minutes with the prime minister. Tell him how best to set the UK's independent, entrepreneurial businesses free to prosper:
Dave, when it comes to creating and starting new businesses you should encourage more of a risk culture in the UK. There are knowledgeable and clever people in the UK that would love to help small businesses get established and thriven - not just in terms of investing money but simply sharing knowledge. We experienced great national euphoria last year with the Olympics and should instil that same euphoria into business; business should be celebrated the same as it is in the US. Telling people that the fat cat culture is bad and bonuses are evil will only encourage the brightest business people to seek a less hostile environment in which to work, for example, the US. When was the last time you read a story in the US that being paid $130m for being the CEO of a successful company was bad?
I liken the UK business culture around start-ups to fishing spots; everyone tells you they caught great fish at one particular spot but refuse to tell you where and how they did it! In business, no one wants to share the knowledge they have because when everyone knows then you aren't special anymore. This attitude, however, is stifling the ability to establish and grow new and exciting businesses.