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Lucy Burnford: “UK tech businesses are well-placed to raise funds”

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Name: 

Lucy Burnford

Role and company: 

Founder of Motoriety.co.uk

Employee numbers: 

2

Growth forecast for the next three years:

We want to get 500,000 UK motorists using our site by mid-2014; and build a strong and trustworthy consumer brand. In three years time, our aim is to have a considerable market share of UK motorists, all benefiting from our system by saving time and money and adding to the resale value of their cars.

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

Motoriety.co.uk is the only website that automates all aspects of car ownership, maintenance and admin in one secure online space. Motorists can book-in at reputable garages and get all work digitally validated by garages back to their Motoriety accounts to build their car’s ‘AUTObiography’ or digital service history.

What’s the big vision for your business?

To transform the way vehicle ownership and maintenance is managed and to become the default platform for all motorists in the UK to manage everything to do with their cars.

We want motorists to think ‘how did we manage before Motoriety?!’, and we’d like our unique digital service history – called an AUTObiography –which documents everything from having a tyre changed to a major restoration, to be a widely referenced benchmark that replaces the current, misleading term: ‘full service history’.

Current level of international business, and future aspirations:

We’re a UK offering at present. There are 32m cars in the UK so we plan to to conquer that market and expand into complementary sectors, before we go global.

Biggest career setback and what you learned from it:

Motoriety is my second business. The first was a marketing agency for luxury food and drink brands which I set up and ran for ten years. As a young entrepreneur, I had a lack of commercial awareness. I didn’t understand how to define what I was offering in industry terms and I didn’t know how to articulate its commercial value. To me it was all just part of generating ideas and being helpful to clients.

It actually took a client – the former MD of a global drinks company – to point out that I was undervaluing my offering and there was a reason his teams were relying my business to develop and deliver marketing activities for their most premium and precious brands. It was a wake-up call. I had been too busy to step-back and realise I was offering a brilliant service at too low a price. Needless to say, clients didn’t love it when I refined and revised our offering and started charging accordingly! Fortunately they all stayed with us and paid-up. But if I had realised sooner, I would have grown the business far quicker.

What makes you mad in business today?

Business jargon that seems to permeate all meetings. I have lost count of the number of meetings where people say things like: “In terms of our overarching strategy, I think we need to realign our strategic pillars and focus on our core values.” It means absolutely nothing and it makes me cringe. The more a person speaks like that, the less value they actually add to the conversation. If you ask them to qualify what they’re saying with a real example, or as an action or a solution, they can rarely do so. Unfortunately, lots of large organisations are full of these people.

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

Digitisation. The Government has already said it wants a “digital by default” motoring sector – and that’s why they’ve taken the decision to get rid of paper tax discs after 93 years. We’re hoping to be at the forefront of that change as motorists realise running a car is far easier online.

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

I think UK tech businesses are well-placed to raise funds, as we’ve got a great attitude towards supporting start-ups. However for tech start-ups there needs to be a well-planned revenue model. I think it’ll get harder and harder to raise funds if your model is purely reliant on advertising once you have a large user base, rather than transactional revenue.

There are three areas that investors are hot for: tech, automotive and disruptive models. Fortunately, we fit into all three, so I’d hope that when the time comes to fundraise, we’ll at last get a foot in the (car) door, based on that fact.

How would others describe your leadership style?

Evolving! I’ve had no formal business training nor had a boss, so my leadership style has evolved organically. As a result, it’s far from perfect but I’m always learning. I certainly had a very loyal team when I ran my first business, so I was doing something right.

Your biggest personal extravagance?

I bought myself a Porsche 911 Carrera 4 when I was 29. It felt great to splash out on something so lavish and exciting with my hard-earned cash. Unfortunately, it came with a series of costly maintenance problems – but those experiences led me to develop Motoriety, so ‘every cloud…’!

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