Business Technology

David-Joseph Brown: Push the boundaries of what’s possible

10 min read

29 August 2012

Constant reinvention, a culture of entre-ployees, and the lessons from two economic collapses are what drives the CEO of Ve Interactive forward.

Name:

David-Joseph Brown

Role and company:

Co-founder & CEO, Ve Interactive Limited

Employee numbers:

80 at our London headquarters, 140 worldwide (and hiring!)

Growth forecast for the next three years:

2013 is well on track to grow over 300 per cent, based on natural growth from existing customers. Over the next three years I want to continue to expand our offering as a technology partner for our e-commerce clients, and become a global digital powerhouse that creates a return for all involved.

In under 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace:

We constantly innovate, to push the boundaries of what’s possible in e-commerce, to better serve our clients’ productivity. We plan and deliver maximum ROI by not only recovering abandoned transactions, but by getting shopping carts to their most efficient across all platforms. In other words, we help. Then we fix.

What’s the big vision for your business?

Our VeDataHub, (the engine of Ve, where all our software tools relate to each other, talk to each other and drive each other), tracked over £102bn of attempted transactions in June and is fast becoming the market-leading, standard choice for all major websites’ analytical and tactical decision-making needs. We’ve already had two world firsts recently; launching the world’s first e-commerce platform with integrated cart recovery software and the world’s first cart recovery app, so the big vision is to become the first globally-recognised data-driven solutions provider and therefore, the first choice for online businesses with global aspirations.

Current level of international business, and future aspirations:

We’re headquartered in London’s Tech City, but since our inception in November 2009 we have also opened offices in Boston (USA), Sydney (Australia), Stockholm (Sweden), Sao Paolo (Brazil) and Berlin (Germany). We also have six EU language desks in our London HQ, with over 17 languages covered by our tech integration team. We have additional international offices planned, to continue to grow our global presence and better understand key markets, as well as to be able to offer localised support to our clients. Watch this space.

Biggest career setback and what you learned from it:

In short, the economy. I began my career as an entrepreneur in 1997 and have already witnessed two economic collapses. 

It’s fair to say I’ve been swimming against the tide in all of my ventures and so I know just how restrictive a weak economy can be to a growing business. Equally, however, it also creates opportunity. 

It’s taught me that reinvention is the way to build the mother of all companies, as in taking an existing business model and constantly improving it to make it become an industry standard. Building a digital publishing company in New York City in 2001 also taught me everything I needed to learn about resilience. Against adversity and fuelled by the hard work of a lot of brilliant people involved, that company went on to become a multinational success.

What makes you mad in business today?

Disproportionate tax-rates that benefit businesses with monopolistic profits, but seriously damage the British economy. Google is a key example of a business that has the power to fuel the economy but is actually damaging it. From its UK profits of £395m FYE 2011, just £6m was contributed to the exchequer. 

Actions such as this and statements from the likes of Google’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, are clear indicators of how profitability towers above supporting this country’s economy in their list of priorities.

What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years?

Segmentation will turn much of the industry on its head. At present, online businesses struggle to measure how incremental the return gained from a paid service actually is. This means they are often paying for the same customer multiple times. 

With our VeDataHub capturing, processing, segmenting and acting upon millions of records every day, we intend on using this data to benefit the services we deliver to our client base and to help them further understand their online presence.

Can businesses in your sector/industry access the finance they need to grow? If not, what can be done to improve things?

It seems there is no viable facility for SMEs to secure the growth capital they seek. There are a number of issues within the market that restrict the supply of capital to SMEs, namely a banking preference for utility, traditional or property transactions and a lack of a dedicated allocation to funding SMEs, especially in the technology sector.

Ironically the technology industry is 11 per cent of UK GDP. Therefore in some cases, modification of a business model is necessary to adapt to the capital market situation.

How would others describe your leadership style?

Business at the speed of thought! Hard working and dedicated. Definitely entrepreneurial. I’ve been credited with having the ability to take a 35,000 ft view of a business and its direction. As a result I often get parachuted in by boards to advise other companies and I love doing that. So hopefully I’m helpful and strategic, but equally I don’t tolerate fools.

I have created a culture of entre-ployees at Ve Interactive. I want everyone within the business to feel they are building something and to know what he or she is aiming for and what can be achieved. I am told that our weekly staff meetings are a highlight.

Sector heads are asked to share an update with the rest of the company; I discuss all income and expenditure and then deliver a market share overview. Ideas are voiced and shared. This allows everyone involved to collectively get under the hood of the company and in this way they then get a clearer picture of what is needed to drive the company forward and how to best contribute to this push.

Along with the other Ve Interactive founders, I mentor four other businesses that have strong online elements. Ve staff share in the ownership of these businesses too, which is not only great for their long-term wealth, but creates opportunities for them to gain greater business acumen as well.

Your biggest personal extravagance?

Squeezing a snooker session in to my schedule whenever I can and sometimes when I shouldn’t. But then again – I find creative ideas flow when I carve this quiet time out. Possessions? My music studio and its Yamaha grand piano.

You’ve got two minutes with the prime minister. Tell him how best to set the UK’s independent, entrepreneurial businesses free to prosper:

The National Insurance that businesses pay on top of staff salaries restricts their growth, in our case adding £15,000+ of monthly cost that could otherwise be spent on hiring people and increasing productivity. My recommendation for this would be to extend the National Insurance holiday so more cashflow can be dedicated to creating new job opportunities and increasing productivity. 

The Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) could also be simplified. At present, registration and administration for the investee company is a significant burden, which makes them less likely to raise funds from high net worth individuals. This is a shame as there is often an added benefit of experience and industry acumen that accompanies the financial commitment.

Local authorities should introduce a business rate break for start-ups and growing businesses moving into new space. This would serve as some recognition for the additional employees we are bringing to the local area, who then go on to spend and entertain in the neighbourhood, therefore contributing to the local economy.