Meet the Chief Technology Officer


Hey Peter, tell us about Nettl... is the new network of neighbourhood web studios. Although Nettl is a new brand, it’s part of Manchester-based Grafenia plc and we’re the people behind the network.

While print is still a key part of the marketing mix for small business, our clients are increasingly prioritising web and digital media. We established the Nettl formula to help clients make the most of their budgets, by doing things in a different way to others. They seem to like the difference, which is nice. 

What are some of your favourite websites that have been built by the team at Nettl?

So difficult to choose. We've done lots of sites, which I think work really well, but I particularly like JDMapp - they do software for private jet charter and some of the imagery is beautiful. One of the cleverest we've done is for Food on third, which allows customers to order their lunch online, choose a pick up time and then syncs the order and payment with their in-store till.

How was Nettl funded during its initial stages?

We’re a public company and our stock is traded on the AIM market at the London Stock Exchange. We raised £1.75m in our IPO back in 2000 to fund the roll-out of studios. Since then we’ve actually returned over £12m to shareholders and we have no debt. We’ve funded the development of Nettl through cashflow.

What sets Nettl from its competitors?

It’s Nettl’s aim to demystify ecommerce and to help small businesses just start selling online. There’s too much mumbo jumbo and horror stories and a lot of businesses we speak to don’t know where to start. These days, their customers want to interact online, so we help businesses such as restaurants, salons and dentists add online booking to their websites. We also do complex things like synchronise stock between a retailer’s website and the till in their real shop. We’re excited about a new system we’ve built which allows small retailers to offer Click&Collect to their customers, at an accessible price.

In our industry, there’s a lot of time wasted in figuring out how to solve problems. These days, almost everything is achievable with software. The trick is knowing the fastest route and avoiding blind alleys. We’ve got a central team of developers and analysts – we call them the Nettl Geeks – and they try to solve common problems in advance. That means our local studios can help clients achieve what they want, using known, proven solutions, rather than blowing their budget trying to break trail through the snow.

Tell us about some of the places where we can hope to find Nettl in the future.

We have over 25 Nettl studios currently open or in training today throughout the UK and Ireland. Our aim is to have 75 by the end of this financial year and we’re looking to partner with design agencies who want to do more things web.

What website advice would you give to a young entrepreneur?

Just get started. I love the story of Zappos, the US shoe retailer who got bought by Amazon for a billion dollars. He launched a website to see whether people would buy shoes online. Instead of building warehouses and inventory management, he went to a local shoe shop, photographed some shoes and put them online.

When he got an order, he went to the shoe shop, bought a pair and dropped them off at a courier. When he got traction and volume he started automating things and negotiating with suppliers. He started small and grew big. Some folks start off wanting ‘the moon on a spoon’ and never get off the launch pad. Just get started and launch quickly. Refinement is for later.

We constantly come across bloggers who say that SEO is dead. What do you think?

Your site has got to be structured correctly for search engines to be able to understand it – that’s not going to change. But if you’re trying to do things to trick Google, then you’re almost certainly on the path to the morgue. Focus on humans not machines – make your site interesting, relevant, well-written, engaging and keep adding content. Get people to visit your site by doing newsworthy things, promoting it offline with print and direct mail and maybe even writing articles.

What’s the best thing you’ve recently seen on Youtube?

Definitely “Weiner Dogs Minions”. You can never get tired of watching Dachshunds in costumes

Complete this sentence: a website is a business’s …

...first priority. If they can’t find you online, they will wonder why.