Monday, February 26, 2007

Giving customers a real voice

Read any consumer facing Chairman or CEO annual report and you'll see the phrases: 'listening to customers' 'responding to and serving customers needs'..... or similar.
I once asked Andy Higginson, CFO of Tesco over a drink what the real driver of Tesco's success was. 'We genuinely and obsessively listen to customers and give them what they want'.
The Tesco listening takes lots of forms. Market research - sure. Polling in-store and out-of-store. Focus Groups. ...and of course the biggest voice of all, the ClubCard.

IMI - Instant Market Intelligence - was conceived of by Rob Keve back in 2004. TAG was an early investor and close friend of the business. My son-in-law, Jonathan Morris joined the business in 2005 and it has narrowed and concentrated its focus on a superb product (branded Fizzback) which enables real-time, actionable customer feedback via digital channels.
SMS via mobile phone is particularly effective for the growing list of clients who are using the Fizzback service. This enables consumers to feedback - in real time and ‘at the point of experience’ whilst the issues are still top of mind while using the service of the provider. The data is analysed and interpreted by Fizzback and presented to the management of the company in a variety of forms via a web interface.

We are announcing, this week an investment of Euro 4m by Advent in the business. This has enabled the technology to be developed further, to grow the team and will enable Fizzback to go to market confidently.

Clients already using or trialling the service include: National Express, First Capital Connect, Bourne Leisure Group, one of the National Health Trusts and and many other major players in health, financial services and retail are in the process of signing up.

Fizzback offers a significantly improved way of brands obtaining unsolicited and valuable customer feedback. Its likely to make a big impact on those companies striving for greater customer loyalty and improved customer experience.

This biz moves me ..and could move you too!

About September last year, Frederic Court of Advent asked me to meet an interesting company. The business, called 'The Moving Service' was much more than initally met the eye. Mark Cunningham and Keith McNeilly who know the consumer data market inside out have been developing the idea for a while.
Moving home is one of the most traumatic events in people's lives.
The proposition is simple: moveme.com makes it easy - and saves money in the process.
These days one needs to write about 27 different letters informing service providers (banks, credit cards, utlities, local councils etc) of change of address. Moveme does all of that. You need to get a new residents parking permit, find and organise the removal company. Moveme does that too. Get your mail re-directed .... yes, that too. etc etc.
The databases sitting behind the planner which moveme provides are extensive and have taken many months and an intimate knowledge of the moving process to construct.

What a simple and brilliant idea - all free to the customer.

Its also refreshing to see a new web business whose business model and revenue sources are so clearly defined and so large. U-Switch is proof of just one of the streams.
There are 3.4m house moves made in the UK alone - each year.

Accelerator and Advent have been joined by Brent Hoberman in seeding moveme and a series A will be underway soon.

If you are planning to move house anytime soon, sign up at www.moveme.com and see what I'm excited about. Of course, the site is in beta and comments for improvements will be consumed with relish!

Building a Business for the long term

I have been meaning to do a post on Jonathan Klein and Getty Images for some time. Its unusual to have a a kid brother as a hero but what Jonathan has done with Getty is a great example to anyone setting out to build a sustainable, valuable and widely respected business.
He and Mark Getty started out 13 years ago with an idea to build a global, sustainable business for the long term. A rare ambition these days. Most seek an 'exit' within 5.

Jonathan was the youngest ever director of Hambros Bank and Mark was part of his team.
They had no idea what kind of business it would be but had some clear criteria. Global potential, large margins, owning core assets (preferably intellectual property).
They saw that the digital age would herald a fundamental change in the way that imagery would be stored and distributed and set about acquiring stock-photo libraries. Starting in London with Tony Stone Images in 1995, they made dozens of acquisitions, integrating and consolidating and digitising the images as they went.
Getty Images is what has resulted.
Jonathan moved the company to Seattle some 6 years ago following the acquisition of Photodisc in Seattle and the company's listing on Nasdaq. Today it is listed on the NYSE and is valued at over $3bn. The stock has been volatile but not the company's earnings which have increased steadily every year.
Today, gettyimages.com serves an average of 3.2 billion thumbnails, 7.3 million visits and 4 million unique users in addition to an average of 175 million page views each month. Nearly 100 percent of the company’s visual content is delivered digitally.

Financial Facts

NYSE ticker symbol:


Revenues (FY 2006):

$807.3 million

Earnings per share (FY 2006):

$2.10 (fully diluted)

Net income (FY 2006):

$129.5 million

So much for the dry facts, but this is a personal post. One about Jonathan and the kind of business he has built. His vision is clear. His communication of that vision internally and externally is equally so. With a string of awards and a company which is universally admired, he has done a remarkable job.

The recent acquisition activity marks a restatement of intent following a difficult period where the street had marked Getty down as 'ex growth' and the share price had taken a whack.

I expect to see more from Jonathan and Getty!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Saul joins Index

It was announced today that Saul Klein has joined Index as a venture partner. Saul and Danny Rimer go back a long way since his Firefly days (back in 1996). They share the enthusiasm for European technology start-ups and the belief that very strong ideas are coming out of this part of the world. There is a vibrant , active and professional set of VCs and experienced angels available to support European entrepreneurs.
In some respects, the outward looking, international and multi-lingual European entrepreneurs have advantages over their US counterparts and I'd expect more 'Skypes' to come out of Europe in the coming years.

Now the hard bit ....of course, I declare my bias up front, but must add that Saul has extra-ordinary vision and his partnership with Index should be a powerful combination.
Read his thoughts on linking up with Index on his blog.