Please can you introduce yourself to our readers?
Yes, of course. I’m Martin Campbell, the MD of Ormsby Street. We are the company behind CreditHQ, a free online tool that allows small businesses to address the issue of late invoice payment by checking the financial health of any customer or partner that they are likely to work with.
Cash-flow problems are something that plague most small businesses. How does CreditHQ help overcome this problem?
Cash-flow is a major problem for a vast majority of small businesses. Recent Ormsby Street data analysis revealed that the late payments pursued within the CreditHQ platform average £6,142, a significant amount for a small business to be owed from one company. Late payment of invoices impacts upon cash-flow, and in turn, has a ripple effect on a business’ ability to grow. So CreditHQ takes data from Companies House and from major credit data supplier Dun & Bradstreet, and uses that data to allow a small business to check the credit status, payment performance and general financial health of more than seven million companies. The CreditHQ Insight Engine explains what each piece of information means within the context of the relationship that a business has, and gives options on what actions might usefully be taken.
This means small businesses can review information quickly and understand what’s going on and what their options are, so that they can run their businesses efficiently and focus on growth. Because the CreditHQ platform is used by tens of thousands of small businesses, we are able to understand what works best to improve cash flow in all sorts of different circumstances and build that right back into the Insight Engine - bringing all the benefits of big data to any small business using the tool.
CreditHQ was selected by UKTI to represent ‘the best of British’ in Austin, Texas at SXSW. How was this experience?
It was a true breath of fresh air. SXSW is one of the most important events for startups and tech innovation in the US, and the place where so many tech firms seek to launch new products, new digital services or form new partnerships
I learned so much from speaking to investors and other start-ups at SXSW, but perhaps the greatest learning was about scaling a business. Investors are only interested in businesses which can scale. Any part of a business which isn’t well thought out, isn’t well defined, or is set up in such a way that it requires hiring lots of people in order to scale, just isn’t interesting to investors. So while this may seem obvious, many small businesses and start-ups focus too much on the here and now, without giving thought to growth and future expansion. The investors in SXSW pitch sessions focus in on this like sharks circling for blood! If the UK is going to have similar start-up success stories as the US, then we need to have the same laser focus on growth, and that means building it in from day one.
How did you find financial backing?
CreditHQ started life as a simple subscription product for Barclays Bank. But the products owners realised that there was potential for it to go a lot further, so I came on board to realise that potential for improving small business cash-flow. The scale of the opportunity is vast and we are quickly building on all the knowledge and data built up from delivering the previous product to Barclays SME customers.
I’ve brought together a new team around the product within a new company focused solely on this area and we’ve developed the next generation platform with a new business model which integrates multiple data sources and intelligently guides business owners to improve cash-flow. Our startup funding has come from revenue from the previous version of the product, but I’m pleased to say that this is gaining traction very quickly and we’re already bringing in significant revenue from the new product both here in the UK and abroad and we’re on a path of rapid growth through our second year.
What trap do you feel young entrepreneurs tend to fall into the most?
These days, the availability of fast and inexpensive services for everything from marketing to fulfilment and warehousing means that it’s easy to take a good idea and get a business up and running around it, but true resilient fast growing businesses have a structure and skills that can’t be replaced by online services and startup accelerators - a real business has to solve a real problem that people are already spending money on, and it has to remember that it’s not just a product - a business has stuff like administration, HR and finance! Get those wrong and the wheels come off pretty fast.
What’s the key to launching a successful tech startup?
Really good people - a cliché but it’s true. In this economy, people who can code are expensive, but the real trick is to find people who can understand what to code, and how, and why, and can work together towards business objectives. Successful tech businesses spend time solving business problems, not implementing the latest cool tech or trendy way to do coding.
Fill in the blanks with the first words that come into your head: If I were a … for the day, I’d go to the… and eat …
If I were a‘lone for the day, I’d go to the top of a big hill and eat a cornish pasty very slowly whilst looking at the view!!
What business lesson have you had to learn the hard way?
A small business leader’s ONLY job is to get the right people in place and help them get stuff done.
What’s next for Ormsby Street?
Italy, so I’d say pizza and gelato all round...